Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push

Manchester City’s Kyle Walker celebrates scoring their third goal with Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne in their Champions League match against Club Brugge at Jan Breydel Stadium, Bruges on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 October 2021

Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push

  • Pep Guardiola's side bounced back in style from last month's loss to Paris Saint-Germain
  • Cole Palmer, 19, bagged his first Champions League goal minutes after coming on as a substitute

BRUGES, Belgium: Manchester City delivered a dominant Champions League performance to sweep past Club Brugge 5-1 on Tuesday and re-emphasize their status as major contenders for a first European title.
Joao Cancelo gave City a deserved lead on the half-hour and Riyad Mahrez converted a penalty just before the break as Pep Guardiola’s side bounced back in style from last month’s loss to Paris Saint-Germain.
Kyle Walker added a third early in the second half and 19-year-old Cole Palmer bagged his first Champions League goal minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Hans Vanaken pulled a goal back to great delight from the home supporters but Mahrez capped a thumping City victory with his second of the night.
The win leaves City side with six points after three games in Group A, with the champions of England and Belgium to meet again in two weeks in Manchester.
Ederson returned in goal for City after flying direct to Belgium last week following Brazil’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers, while Jack Grealish replaced Raheem Sterling in the front three.
Viewed as the weakest team in a group also featuring 2020 semifinalists RB Leipzig, Brugge had surprisingly held PSG to a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the section at the Jan Breydelstadion.
City, facing Brugge for the first time, twice had the ball in the net inside the opening 15 minutes. Grealish’s lob was ruled out for a push on Clinton Mata, with Rodri’s tap-in disallowed for offside.
Phil Foden fired into the side-netting after running onto a long ball, the England international’s free roaming as a false nine constantly troubling Brugge.
It came as little surprise Foden created the opening goal for Cancelo, chipping a delightful ball over the defense that the Portugal defender poked through the legs of former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Stanley Nsoki chopped Mahrez down in the area late in the first half, the Algerian doubling City’s lead as he sent Mignolet the wrong way from the spot.
Mahrez nearly struck again before half-time but Mignolet beat away his first-time strike from Foden’s lay-off.
Walker all but put the match out of reach on 53 minutes when Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne combined, the latter rolling through for Walker to drill low past Mignolet.
Mignolet denied Foden with his legs as City continued to stream forward. Not even a spate of changes could check their momentum as Palmer scored three minutes after replacing De Bruyne.
No sooner had Belgium star De Bruyne walked off to warm applause from the home supporters than Palmer curled in from Raheem Sterling’s assist.
Mignolet saved well from Sterling after he escaped in behind the defense, with Ederson producing a sharp stop to turn away Charles De Ketelaere’s diving header.
Brugge refused to fold and Hans Vanaken steered in a consolation nine minutes from time, but the game finished as it started, with City flexing their muscle as Mahrez burst clear to complete the rout.


Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare

Updated 26 January 2022

Hakimi fires Morocco into quarter-finals after Malawi scare

  • Gabadinho Mhango gave outsiders Malawi, playing their first ever knockout game at the tournament
  • Hakimi drilled in the winner on 70 minutes to set up a meeting with Egypt or Ivory Coast in the last eight

YAOUNDE: Achraf Hakimi scored a brilliant free-kick to send Morocco through to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations after a 2-1 win over Malawi on Tuesday.
Gabadinho Mhango gave outsiders Malawi, playing their first ever knockout game at the tournament, a shock early lead with a stunning goal from 40 meters at Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium.
But Youssef En-Nesyri headed Morocco level in first-half stoppage time before Hakimi drilled in the winner on 70 minutes to set up a meeting with Egypt or Ivory Coast in the last eight.
That quarter-final was due to take place at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde but will be moved after a fatal crush outside the ground on Monday which killed eight people and injured 38.
As with the earlier match between Senegal and Cape Verde in Bafoussam, a minute’s silence was observed before kick-off and players of both teams wore black armbands.
Morocco, bidding for a second Cup of Nations title and first since 1976, fell behind on seven minutes when Mhango caught Yassine Bounou off his line with a superb long-range strike.
The Atlas Lions responded by creating a series of chances as Imran Louza stung the palms of Charles Thomu, who then did well to keep out Hakimi’s powerful free-kick and the follow-up from Louza.
Mhango dragged wide for Malawi after a terrific long ball from Micium Mhone, but the Flames found themselves under sustained pressure as Morocco captain Romain Saiss volleyed against the bar.
En-Nesyri prodded weakly at Thomu from close range before the Malawi goalkeeper tipped Hakimi’s low drive onto the post and then denied Sofiane Boufal with his legs.
Morocco were finally rewarded for their persistence on the stroke of half-time as En-Nesyri rose to power Selim Amallah’s deep cross past Thomu.
Hakimi appealed vociferously for a penalty in the second half when his cross struck the arm of Malawi defender Dennis Chembezi, but the Paris Saint-Germain star took matters into his own hands to secure victory.
His late equalizer against Gabon had secured top spot in the group stage, and Hakimi delivered again with another magnificent free-kick 20 minutes from time to end Malawi’s impressive run.


Favorite Medvedev, Tsitsipas target Australian Open semifinals

Updated 26 January 2022

Favorite Medvedev, Tsitsipas target Australian Open semifinals

  • The women's quarter-finals will wrap up with American Danielle Collins targeting a second Melbourne Park semi-final against giant-killing Frenchwoman Alize Cornet
  • Medvedev knows he needs to keep a lid on his temper, which was pushed to the limit in the last round under severe examination by serve-and-volley specialist Maxime Cressy

MELBOURNE: Title favorite Daniil Medvedev will need to keep his cool Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open after a mini-meltdown in the previous round.
Should the Russian second seed get past young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the night match on Rod Laver Arena, then the prize could be a last-four showdown with fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The women’s quarter-finals will wrap up with American Danielle Collins targeting a second Melbourne Park semifinal against giant-killing Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, and Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek taking on veteran Estonian Kaia Kanepi.
The men’s US Open champion Medvedev knows he needs to keep a lid on his temper, which was pushed to the limit in the last round under severe examination by serve-and-volley specialist Maxime Cressy.
“It was long and it was not easy, they were all tough sets,” said Medvedev after a tetchy performance where he clashed with the umpire, complained of bad luck and screamed “It’s boring!” at Cressy’s relentless tactics behind his big serve.
The US Open champion admitted he was relieved to come through the most severe examination of his title credentials so far.
“If I didn’t win the fourth set I would have been in a tough mental shape,” said Medvedev, the de facto top seed after the deportation of defending champion Novak Djokovic on the eve of the tournament.
He faces ninth seed Auger-Aliassime who took a confidence-boosting win against the 2018 Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic in four sets in the last 16.
“It’s amazing. It puts my belief even higher, I lost three times to Marin in the past, this is my first win against him,” the 21-year-old said.
Tsitsipas survived a late-night fright to reach his third Australian Open quarter-final where he has an afternoon encounter with Italian 11th seed Jannik Sinner.
Tsitsipas was staring at defeat 2-1 down before he clawed back to beat the 20th seed Taylor Fritz in five sets of classic punch and counter-punch tennis.
“It was an epic match. I gave everything out on the court today, I am very proud of myself with the way I fought,” said the 23-year-old Tsitsipas.
The 20-year-old Sinner made light of his debut on Rod Laver Arena to end the hopes of Australia’s Alex de Minaur in straight sets and reach the last eight.
“It was a tough test for me, because he’s an incredible player,” said Sinner.
Cornet has reached her first Slam quarter-final at the 63rd attempt, where she will face 27th seed Collins, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2019.
Asked what her goals were now after reaching a first quarter-final, Cornet replied: “Going further.”
“I mean, I’m not gonna stop now.”
Collins is climbing back up the rankings after “scary” surgery last year for endometriosis.
Her side of the draw has opened up nicely after second seed Aryna Sabalenka, third-ranked Garbine Muguruza, sixth seed Anett Kontaveit and former world number one Simona Halep all exited early.
“I think that all of us can appreciate each other’s toughness and tenacity and what we do,” said Collins of Cornet, with both known for their fierce competitive instincts.
Both the 2020 French Open champion Swiatek, who is just 20 years old, and Kanepi, 16 years her senior, will be in their first Melbourne Park quarter-final.
“When I had that French Open run, it was all pretty surreal,” said Swiatek.
“Right now I feel like I really have to work for it if I want to win another (Slam).”
Kanepi admitted she knew little about her opponent Swiatek.
“I haven’t watched her, I never played her, and I don’t know how her ball feels,” she said. “So we’ll see when I play her. I expect to play good.”


Juventus in 70m euro move for rising star Vlahovic: reports

Updated 26 January 2022

Juventus in 70m euro move for rising star Vlahovic: reports

  • Often compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Serb has 17 goals in Serie A this season
  • Juventus are ready to pay around 70 million euros for the youngster

ROME: Italian giants Juventus are close to signing Fiorentina’s rampaging 21-year-old striker Dusan Vlahovic, Italian media reported widely on Tuesday.
Often compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Serb has 17 goals in Serie A this season and Juventus are ready to pay around 70 million euros for the youngster as they seek to fill the goal gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo.
With only 18 months remaining on Vlahovic’s deal in Florence, speculation around his destiny has risen considerably.
In the summer Fiorentina held off interest from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid, while Arsenal are also said to be watching closely.
Juventus lost Ronaldo’s goals this season after he moved on to Manchester United and Vlahovic appears a good fit.
Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport said Juventus had offered just short of 70 million Euros ($79 million) while Sky Italia reported a global figure of 75 million euros.
Fiorentina owner Italian-American businessman Rocco Commisso offered Vlahovic an improved contract in October and insisted he would not be held to ransom when the player refused.
“Our annual turnover is around 75 million euros, so we can’t risk losing him on a free transfer,” Fiorentina director Daniele Prade said this week.
The fee would be the biggest in Serie A history for a winter break transfer.
The current record came when AC Milan paid 40 million euros to Brazilian club Flamengo for Lucas Paqueta in January 2019.
It has been a rapid rise to stardom for the 21-year-old, who went from cheering on Partizan Belgrade in the stands to making his club debut less than a month after his 16th birthday in early 2016, before moving to Italy two years later.
Described by his former Partizan Under-21 coach Milan Ristic as the biggest talent he has seen come out of the former Yugoslavia, Vlahovic has also become a fixture in the Serbian national team.


Mané scores but concern over head injury as Senegal into QF

Updated 25 January 2022

Mané scores but concern over head injury as Senegal into QF

  • Senegal won 2-0 against Cape Verde, which had two players sent off in the last 16 game in Cameroon
  • The Liverpool forward dragged himself to his feet and scored less than 10 minutes later in the 63rd minute

BAFOUSSAM, Cameroon: Sadio Mané got up from a horrible clash of heads that left him dazed on the ground, possibly with a concussion, to score a goal and help put Senegal into the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday.
Senegal won 2-0 against Cape Verde, which had two players sent off in the last 16 game in Cameroon’s western city of Bafoussam.
The second red card was dished out to Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha when he raced out of his area and tried to head a ball clear with Mané chasing it down. The players’ heads clashed badly as they both leaped in the air and Vozinha clearly sustained a concussion as he tried to get up afterward and ended up staggering around.
Vozinha left on a stretcher and wasn’t around to see the red card referee Lahlou Benbraham held up for him.
But questions will be raised over Mané being allowed to continue after he hit the ground face first following the collision and lay still on his back for a moment, clearly dazed, possibly with a concussion.
The Liverpool forward dragged himself to his feet and scored less than 10 minutes later in the 63rd minute when a corner kick floated over everyone and fell to him, and he sent a right-footed shot back across goal and in off the crossbar.
Mané was eventually substituted in the 70th minute, clearly struggling. It was more than 15 minutes after sustaining the head knock that appeared serious enough for him to be taken off immediately.
Senegal finished off nine-man Cape Verde with a second goal from a breakaway in injury time, when Bamba Dieng slid the ball past replacement goalkeeper Márcio Rosa.
Cape Verde was up against it from the 21st minute when Patrick Andrade was sent off for a tackle on Pape Gueye that earned him a yellow card first, then a red when referee Benbraham reviewed it on VAR. He had also sent off goalkeeper Vozinha after consulting VAR.
The two red cards for Cape Verde meant seven red cards have been handed out in the first five knockout games of the African Cup. Every last 16 game has had at least one sending off.
Mané’s injury again focused attention on soccer’s struggle to deal effectively and safely with concussions. The issue has been high-profile in recent years, with the game criticized for allowing players to play on after having sustained dangerous head injuries.
Concussion substitutes are being trialed in some leagues but are not available to teams at the African Cup. Mané could be ruled out of Senegal’s quarterfinal game on Sunday if a concussion is confirmed but there is also no mandatory recovery period for players.
Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha fought with team medics when they tried to help him off the field after the collision, insisting that he wanted to play on despite being unable to even stand properly. They eventually convinced him to walk shakily to the sidelines. The red card made certain he wouldn’t be returning anyway.
The African Cup action continued a day after a crush outside the stadium at the Cameroon-Comoros last 16 game left eight people dead and seven others in a serious condition, throwing a shadow over the rest of the continent’s top soccer tournament.
There was a moment’s silence at both games Tuesday and some players wore black armbands.


Watford hires Hodgson as manager in bid to avoid relegation

Updated 25 January 2022

Watford hires Hodgson as manager in bid to avoid relegation

  • The former England coach, Roy Hodgson, was hired by Watford on Tuesday
  • He will be tasked with keeping the team in the top division following their descent into the relegation zone

WATFORD, England: Roy Hodgson is back in the Premier League at the age of 74.
The former England coach was hired by Watford on Tuesday and will be tasked with keeping the team in the top division following its descent into the relegation zone.
Claudio Ranieri, a 70-year-old Italian, was fired on Monday after 3 1/2 months in charge, just days after Watford slipped into the bottom three for the first time this season.
Watford’s board has turned to Hodgson, another of world soccer’s most experienced managers. He has been out of work since leaving Crystal Palace at the end of last season, when he said it was time to step away from “the rigors of top-flight Premier League football” after 45 years of coaching and to spend time with his family.
Turns out the league’s oldest-ever manager just couldn’t stay away.
Watford is in next-to-last place, two points from safety but with two games in hand over the team in fourth-to-last place, Norwich, which handed Ranieri’s team a 3-0 beating on Friday that proved to be the end for the Italian.
Watford is in its first season back in the Premier League after a year in the second-tier Championship.
Hodgson is Watford’s third manager of the season, continuing the revolving-door policy at the club under its owner, Italian businessman Gino Pozzo. Ranieri had been Watford’s 15th permanent manager in the last 10 years.
Hodgson has experience in staving off relegation. When he took charge of Palace in September 2017, the team was in last place in the Premier League after losing its opening four games. Palace ended the season in 11th place and never finished lower than 14th under Hodgson.