Real Madrid crash out of cup as Sociedad edge seven-goal thriller

The only consolation for Real might have been the display of the on loan, at Sociedad, 21-year-old Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard, who is beginning to live up to the hype after signing for Madrid aged 15. (AFP)
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Updated 07 February 2020

Real Madrid crash out of cup as Sociedad edge seven-goal thriller

  • Odegaard, on loan from Real Madrid but allowed to face his own club, scored the opener before the superb Alexander Isak hit two
  • Courtois’ replacement Alphonse Areola was at fault for at least one of the goals while Marcelo was typically unpredictable at left-back

MADRID: Real Madrid were knocked out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday as Martin Odegaard put on a creative masterclass against his parent club to lead Real Sociedad to a thrilling 4-3 victory.
Madrid conceded as many goals in 69 minutes as they had in their last 11 matches, torn apart at the Santiago Bernabeu by an electric La Real side, who deservedly advanced to the semifinals.
Odegaard, on loan from Real Madrid but allowed to face his own club, scored the opener before the superb Alexander Isak hit two to give Real Sociedad a remarkable 3-0 lead.
Marcelo and Rodrygo both scored late in the second half and while Mikel Merino also added a fourth for the visitors, a Nacho Fernandez header set up a pulsating final three minutes, in which Andoni Gorosabel was also sent off.
Ten-man Real Sociedad held on for a sensational win to progress to the last four while Madrid’s run without success in Spain’s domestic cup extends to six years.
The only consolation might have been the display of the 21-year-old Odegaard, who is beginning to live up to the hype after signing for Madrid aged 15.
On loan at Sociedad, the plan was for Odegaard to stay one more year at Anoeta but this glittering display, that earned him a standing ovation from the home fans when he went off, may well persuade Madrid to recall him early.
Their 21-game unbeaten streak comes to an end after an uncharacteristically careless performance in which a rotated side highlighted the importance of the likes of Casemiro, Raphael Varane and Thibaut Courtois.
Courtois’ replacement Alphonse Areola was at fault for at least one of the goals while Marcelo was typically unpredictable at left-back, a position the more dependable Ferland Mendy has made his own in recent weeks.
Eden Hazard is training again but the wait for his return goes on while Gareth Bale was again left out of the squad completely.
Yet Zinedine Zidane’s changes should take nothing away from Real Sociedad, who showed why they were pushing for a place in La Liga’s top four earlier this season, before a dip in form has seen them slip to eighth.
There were early warnings as Isak sped in behind but his shot was blocked by the diving Eder Militao and from the resulting corner, the Swede was picked out with a driven cross only to skew his finish.
Isak was involved in the opener too after 22 minutes, as his effort was saved by Areola, who then failed to readjust in time to prevent Odegaard firing through his legs.
Ander Barrenetxea had only come on at half-time but nine minutes into the second half, he had set up a second.
It was the first of two goals in as many minutes as the 18-year-old’s floated cross was met brilliantly by the acrobatic Isak, who then made it three shortly after, rifling in at the near post after the ball had deflected to his feet.
Marcelo had been the defender beaten but a wild five minutes saw the Brazilian make amends as he caught Alex Remiro off guard, also at the near post, with a driven shot from the angle.
Madrid had the momentum but remained two behind with 10 minutes left after Merino tapped in for La Real before Rodrygo kept hopes of a comeback alive by finishing off a Vinicius pull-back.
Even in injury-time, victory was not safe. Nacho headed in Karim Benzema’s cross with three of the six allotted minuets left before Gorosabel was shown a second yellow card.
Sergio Ramos might even have made it 4-4 but headed straight into the hands of Remiro.


Saleh’s hiring by Jets source of pride for Muslim community

Updated 16 January 2021

Saleh’s hiring by Jets source of pride for Muslim community

  • The New York Jets’ new head coach has families and community leaders excited in neighborhoods all across the US
  • The 41-year-old Saleh, expected to be formally introduced next week by the Jets, is the son of Lebanese parents and grew up in Detroit

NEW YORK: Robert Saleh has made history that extends far beyond any football field.
The New York Jets’ new head coach has families and community leaders excited in neighborhoods all across the country, celebrating the first known Muslim American to hold that position in the NFL.
That’s a source of great pride for a group that has been generally underrepresented in the league’s on-field leadership roles.
“It’s something that shows the growing diversity of our nation, the inclusion we’re trying to achieve at all levels of our society,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “And I think it’s a very positive sign.”
The 41-year-old Saleh, expected to be formally introduced next week by the Jets, is the son of Lebanese parents and grew up in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, which is home to the largest Muslim population in the United States per capita.
“I think he’s just a trailblazer for a lot of coaches who are Muslim, to let them know that they do have a chance to be a head coach,” said Lions offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, a practicing Muslim who has played in the NFL for eight seasons — including his first two with the Jets.
“He shows them you do have a chance to be a defensive coordinator, you do have a chance to grow up and have a job at the professional level,” Aboushi added. “As long as you’re professional and you’re passionate about it like he is, I think a lot of people will look to him as a trailblazer, as far as everyone feeling like they could do it themselves and it’s an attainable dream.”
After Saleh’s college playing career as a tight end at Northern Michigan ended, he got his start in coaching by working as an assistant at Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia before being hired as a defensive intern by the Houston Texans in 2005.
Then came stints with Seattle and Jacksonville before Saleh became San Francisco’s defensive coordinator in 2017, helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl last year with his No. 2-ranked unit. He was a popular candidate among the seven teams looking for a new coach this offseason, and quickly emerged as the favorite for the Jets job.
Saleh, known for his energy on the sideline and being well-liked by players, impressed the Jets during his first remote interview. He was flown in a few days later for an in-person meeting with Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, president Hymie Elhai and general manager Joe Douglas at the team’s facility in Florham Park, New Jersey.
After a two-day visit, Saleh left to meet with Philadelphia for its coaching vacancy — but the Jets knew they found their new coach. The team announced Thursday night the sides reached an agreement in principle.
“As a pioneer in the sports world, Saleh will serve as an inspiration to many young American Muslims,” Selaedin Maksut, the executive director of CAIR’s New Jersey chapter, said in email to The Associated Press. “In addition to the positive impact that he’ll have on Muslims, Saleh’s presence in the field and on the screen will remind the rest of America that Muslims are a part of the fabric of this nation and proudly contribute to society. It’s a step toward tearing down walls and building bridges.
“Welcome to Jersey, brother!”
Ahmed Mohamed, the legal director of CAIR’s New York chapter, congratulated the Jets and Saleh for what he called a “historic hiring in the National Football League.” He’s optimistic it’s a sign of increasing inclusion and recognition of the Muslim community.
“For all the Muslim youth who may be told they don’t belong or can’t do something because of how they pray, we hope that when they see Mr. Saleh on national television, they will say to themselves that anything is possible and will reach for the stars,” Mohamed said in an email to the AP. “We hope Mr. Saleh’s hiring opens the door for other American Muslims in sports.”
Saleh is believed to be the third Arab American to become a head coach in the NFL. He follows Abe Gibron, who led Chicago from 1972-74, and Rich Kotite, who coached the Eagles (1991-94) and Jets (1995-96) — both of whom also had Lebanese roots.
Saleh is also just the fourth active NFL head coach who is a minority, joining Miami’s Brian Flores, Washington’s Ron Rivera and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.
“Robert Saleh has made history on the field and off,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Friday night. “Now he’s knocking down barriers in our own backyard. Congrats, Coach!”
While Saleh’s focus will be on restoring the Jets to respectability and not necessarily being an inspiration, he has provided a path for others to someday follow.
“Any person in a new job, their first goal is going to be performance in their job,” Hooper said. “But I think a secondary consideration might be being an example to Muslim and Arab American youth around the country, that this kind of inclusion and respect for diversity is possible.
“But I don’t think he got the job because of his ethnic or religious background. He got this job because he’s good at what he does.”