Liverpool ride their luck to cut gap on Man City

West Ham United’s Jarrod Bowen leaves the pitch after sustaining an injury during their Premier League match against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 March 2022

Liverpool ride their luck to cut gap on Man City

  • Defeat leaves West Ham still two points outside the top four
  • Pep Guardiola's men can restore their six-point advantage when they host Manchester United in a derby at the Etihad on Sunday

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool closed to within three points of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League as Sadio Mane’s goal secured a nervy 1-0 win over West Ham at Anfield.
Defeat leaves West Ham still two points outside the top four having played more games than all their competition for a place in next season’s Champions League.
But David Moyes’ men will rue a host of missed chances to salvage a point, which would have given City breathing space at the top of the table.
Pep Guardiola’s men can restore their six-point advantage when they host Manchester United in a derby at the Etihad on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp made mass changes to his side in midweek for an FA Cup win over Norwich which kept alive hopes of a historic quadruple of trophies for Liverpool.
The pursuit of City may be the biggest challenge as the Reds attempt to follow up last weekend’s League Cup win with three more trophies in the remainder of the season.
However, a run of seven straight league wins has at least enlivened a fight for the title after City looked set to cruise toward a fourth league win in five seasons at the turn of the year.
Restored to full strength, Liverpool roared out of the blocks and should have been in front within seconds when Mohamed Salah fired wastefully straight at Lukasz Fabianski with just the ‘keeper to beat.
West Ham were without the influential presence of Declan Rice in midfield due to illness, while Jarrod Bowen limped off early in the second half with a nasty looking injury.
Should Bowen be sidelined for a lengthy spell, Michail Antonio will be even more crucial to any remaining dreams of a place in the Champions League next season.
Antonio has only scored once in the Premier League in 2022 but showed signs of regaining his best form as he twice forced Alisson Becker to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Liverpool went in front on 27 minutes when Mane was in the right place to tap in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
Another Alexander-Arnold burst caused chaos in the visitors’ box moments later as Aaron Cresswell cleared off the line, while Salah and Luis Diaz had efforts blocked from point-blank range.
Yet, West Ham should have levelled seconds later when Alexander-Arnold cleared Pablo Fornals’ chip off the line before Ibrahima Konate and Alisson scrambled to block two follow-up efforts.
The Hammers are one of only two teams to beat Liverpool since April having edged a 3-2 thriller at the London Stadium in November.
And they should have come away with at least a point as they enjoyed the better chances after the break.
A last ditch challenge from Andy Robertson forced Bowen into slashing wide as Liverpool’s high line was repeatedly caught out on the counter-attack.
Manuel Lanzini had the biggest chance to provide another twist in the title race when the Argentine somehow side-footed over with the goal gaping 20 minutes from time.
Klopp took the brave decision to take off Salah with the game still in the balance 10 minutes from time, much to the Egyptian’s displeasure.
Antonio had another late chance to claim a point as he burst clear on goal only to be foiled by a combined effort of Robertson and Naby Keita as Liverpool held on.


Eto’o sorry for fan ‘altercation’ but slams Algeria ‘provocation’

Updated 58 min 38 sec ago

Eto’o sorry for fan ‘altercation’ but slams Algeria ‘provocation’

  • Eto'o released a statement in which he admitted being involved in a "violent altercation"
  • He only addressed his apology to "the public" however and made no gesture to the fan

DOHA: Former Cameroon star Samuel Eto’o apologized Tuesday for kneeing an Algeria supporter in the face but insisted he was the target of “relentless provocation” by the North African state’s supporters since a controversial World Cup qualifier this year.
The 41-year-old Cameroon federation president and ambassador for the Qatar World Cup flew into a rage after being approached as he left Brazil’s 4-1 win over South Korea in Doha on Monday night.
A video widely shown on social media showed the four-time African player of the year breaking free from people seeking to restrain him and kneeing the face of a blogger named as Sadouni SM.
The man fell back after being struck but has not reported any serious injury.
Eto’o released a statement in which he admitted being involved in a “violent altercation.”
“I would like to apologize for losing my temper and reacting in a way that does not match my personality,” said the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker.
Eto’o only addressed his apology to “the public” however and made no gesture to the fan.
Eto’o lashed out at Algeria’s supporters for their behavior since Cameroon beat Algeria on away goals in a World Cup qualifying playoff in March.
Algeria later complained to FIFA about the referee and initially demanded a replay.
“I pledge to continue to resist the relentless provocation and daily harassment of some Algerian supporters,” Eto’o said.
“I have been the target of insults and allegations of cheating without any evidence,” he added.
He said Cameroon fans at the World Cup had also been “harassed and pestered” by Algerians.
“The scenario of Algeria’s defeat was cruel but perfectly in line with the rules and ethics of our sport,” Eto’o insisted.
All of Algeria’s appeals have been rejected and Eto’s said that Algerian authorities must now act to halt “this unhealthy climate before a more serious tragedy occurs.”
The African football legend was surrounded as soon as he left the 974 Stadium where the round of 16 match was played.
Wearing a blue baseball cap, he is seen allowing selfies with some fans before he was approached by the Algerian.
Eto’o handed his mobile phone to a man before surging at the blogger to deliver the blow with his knee.
Sadouni SM said in a video posted online Tuesday that his camera and microphone had been “smashed” in the incident.
“He hit me,” the man adds, pointing to his chin.
“I did all that for Algeria,” Sadouni SM says in the video.
“I am at the police station now for the inquiry.
“This video must be shared. As Eto’o is a celebrity I am afraid they will cover up the inquiry, but I trust the Qatari police,” he added.
Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee has not commented on the incident. Eto’o toured Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana in August to promote the World Cup.
The former international has a history of fiery outbursts, receiving a three-match ban in 2010 for headbutting an opponent while playing for Inter.

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Dutch flier Dumfries dazzles ahead of Argentina World Cup showdown

Updated 06 December 2022

Dutch flier Dumfries dazzles ahead of Argentina World Cup showdown

  • The Inter Milan defender provided two assists and scored the third goal in a 3-1 win to help set up Friday's quarter-final clash with Argentina
  • The Dutch will need to find a way of stopping Lionel Messi

DOHA: Denzel Dumfries had a slow start at the World Cup but the Netherlands wing-back hit his stride in spectacular style in the last-16 match against the United States.
The Inter Milan defender — one of the breakout stars at last year’s Euro 2020 — provided two assists and scored the third goal in a 3-1 win to help set up Friday’s quarter-final clash with Argentina.
The Dutch will need to find a way of stopping Lionel Messi as the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner continues his quest for a maiden World Cup title.
But coach Louis van Gaal will be hoping that his side can expose gaps behind the Argentina defense on the counter-attack, for which Dumfries and fellow wing-back Daley Blind will be crucial.
The pair assisted each other’s goals in the victory over the Americans as Van Gaal’s 3-4-1-2 formation paid dividends.
“He is (important). He got a lot of criticism in the first games but we know what he can do and he showed it today,” midfielder Davy Klaassen said after the last-16 tie.
“In this system the wing-backs are really important and if you see them assisting each other today, this is what you want.”
Kylian Mbappe is the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals, while other wingers to impress include England pair Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka and Brazil’s Vinicius Junior.
Wide players have been more important than usual in Qatar, according to Arsene Wenger, now FIFA’s football development chief.
“The sides with the best wingers are those who have the best chances to win because the game is changing toward the wings,” said Wenger.
“Teams are blocking the center, and attacks are going toward both sides.”
The Netherlands’ width comes from Blind and Dumfries, with Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo starting in a narrower front two ahead of Klaassen.
The positives of that system were best shown by their opening goal when a sweeping 20-pass move was finished off by Depay from Dumfries’ cut-back.
“In that goal you see all the facets of the system that we play,” said Dumfries.
“We really attack the spaces and change sides really well. It was a fantastic team goal. This is where you see the core of the system being executed.”
The Netherlands labored at times in the first round but still finished top of Group A after wins over hosts Qatar and Senegal and a draw with Ecuador.
“We knew before that we could play better. In the group stage we didn’t lose but we felt that we could play better,” said Dumfries.
The three-time runners-up are hoping to peak at the right time in their bid to win the title for the first time.
“We’re growing in the tournament, we’re improving every game and this was another step,” said captain Virgil van Dijk.
“We came here with one goal and that’s to become world champions and we have to win every game and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Dumfries, who is named after US film star Denzel Washington, impressed at the Euros with his first two international goals in the group stage.
Those performances helped him earn a move from PSV Eindhoven to Inter Milan and he has often been linked with a switch to the Premier League.
“I play for a very beautiful club in Italy and I’m very proud that I can play for Inter,” said Dumfries.
“I’m not focused on anything other than the national team.”

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Neymar returns as Brazil brush aside South Korea to reach World Cup quarters

Updated 06 December 2022

Neymar returns as Brazil brush aside South Korea to reach World Cup quarters

  • Vinicius Junior opened the scoring inside seven minutes before Neymar added another from the penalty spot to move to 76 goals for his country
  • Richarlison’s brilliant goal made it 3-0 and Lucas Paqueta added another before half-time to leave South Korea shellshocked

DOHA: Neymar returned from injury to help inspire Brazil to a 4-1 victory over South Korea on Monday as the favorites cruised through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
The world’s most expensive player had sat out his team’s last two matches with a sprained ankle suffered in their first game in Qatar, a 2-0 win over Serbia.
But he came back for this last-16 tie as Tite’s team clicked into gear and delivered an ominous message to their rivals, at least before easing off in the second half.
Vinicius Junior opened the scoring inside seven minutes before Neymar added another from the penalty spot to move to 76 goals for his country, leaving him just one away from equalling Pele’s all-time record tally.
Richarlison’s brilliant goal made it 3-0 and Lucas Paqueta added another before half-time to leave South Korea shellshocked.
Paik Seung-ho pulled one back but by then Brazil were thinking about Friday’s quarter-final clash with 2018 runners-up Croatia.
The five-time World Cup winners had not scored four goals in a knockout game at the tournament since 1998.
Here they played at times with the joy associated with the Brazilian national team, the players coming together to celebrate each goal by showing off their dance moves and their coach even joining in.
If they finished playing within themselves, their first-half display was superb and a fitting tribute to the great Pele.
The Brazilian legend had said he would watch the game from the Sao Paulo hospital to where he was admitted last week amid ongoing treatment for colon cancer, and supporters in Doha’s Stadium 974 unfurled a banner with a get well soon message to him.
All of it was a chastening experience for Son Heung-min and South Korea, who have still never won a World Cup knockout match outside their own country.
Tite made 10 changes to the Brazil team after rotating his squad for the 1-0 loss to Cameroon which came after qualification for the last 16 had been secured.
Danilo also returned from injury at left-back, while Eder Militao was the only player to keep his place and shifted across to right-back.
With Alisson Becker back in goal and Thiago Silva and Marquinhos playing too, this was Brazil’s first-choice defense but their forward quickly put the tie to bed.
The opener came from their first shot on target in the seventh minute as Raphinha burst away from Kim Jin-su on the right and his ball across goal came to the feet of Vinicius who coolly picked his spot.
They then won a penalty as Richarlison was caught by Jung Woo-young and Neymar duly beat Kim Seung-gyu — his last six goals for Brazil have now all come from the spot.
Alisson was then called into action to tip over a vicious long-range effort from Hwang Hee-chan, but Brazil then scored their third in style just before the half-hour mark.
Richarlison juggled the ball on his head three times just outside the area before laying it off to Marquinhos and then continuing into the box to get on the end of Silva’s pass which he slotted home for his third goal at this World Cup.
Paqueta then got their fourth nine minutes before the break with a first-time finish as he connected with a Vinicius ball held up from the byline.
They could have added more in the second half had they not taken their foot off the pedal, although Raphinha was denied on more than one occasion by the goalkeeper.
Korea though deserve credit for keeping going and they were rewarded inside the final quarter-hour as substitute Paik brought down a headed clearance and sent in a ferocious shot from 25 meters that brushed off Silva to beat Alisson.
The Brazil goalkeeper was then taken off for the final 10 minutes to be replaced by Weverton, while Neymar was also withdrawn with Tite’s mind on Croatia.

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Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Updated 05 December 2022

Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals

  • Mario Pasalic struck the winning penalty after Dominik Livakovic had saved three of four Japanese penalties as Croatia won the shoot-out 3-1
  • Ivan Perisic had pulled Croatia level in the 55th minute of normal time following Daizen Maeda’s opener for Japan just before the break

DOHA: Croatia reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Monday with a dramatic 3-1 penalty shoot-out win over Japan after a tense last-16 clash ended 1-1.

Mario Pasalic struck the winning penalty to send Croatia through after Dominik Livakovic had saved three of four Japanese penalties.

Ivan Perisic had pulled Croatia level in the 55th minute of normal time following Daizen Maeda’s opener for Japan just before the break.
Croatia now face either Brazil or South Korea in the last eight and continued midfield icon Luka Modric’s stay at his fourth and likely final World Cup.
Japan’s bid to reach the last eight for the first time in their history came to a crushing end after another display of the sort which saw off Spain and Germany on their way to topping Group E.
However they could not claim one more big European scalp in the shape of the 2018 finalists and go home in the second round, as they did four years ago, after having three of their penalties saved.
Japan could easily have been ahead within three minutes when Shogo Taniguchi glanced a header wide from point-blank range, and 10 minutes later Daizen Maeda came close to turning in Junya Ito’s brilliantly placed low ball from the right flank.
In the meantime Perisic had let off a shot from a tight angle which led to a goalmouth scramble, but had Croatia scored they risked the goal being ruled out for what looked like a clear push on Takehiro Tomiyasu.
Bruno Petkovic then wasted a great opportunity in the 25th minute, strolling through almost unopposed onto a long through ball only to dawdle and fail to get a pass off to Andrej Kramaric who was charging into the box.
Kramaric was then too slow to latch on to Perisic’s dangerous flick-on and from there Japan took control, and the lead.
Daichi Kamada had already blasted over after a superb passing move when in the 43rd minute Maeda fired in the opener after Ritsu Doan’s cross was knocked down by Maya Yoshida.
Japan looked the better team and ready to inflict more damage but out of the blue Croatia’s most dangerous player Perisic levelled the scores with a bullet header from Dejan Lovren’s deep cross.
Almost immediately afterwards Wataru Endo responded by having a good strike tipped over the bar by Dominik Livakovic, before Shuichi Gonda pulled off the save of the match to keep out Modric’s beautifully-struck, dripping shot.
Modric was replaced nine minutes into the first half of extra-time in which Japan had the best chance, Kaoru Mitoma’s effort well tipped away by Livakovic.
With penalties drawing close, one final chance fell to Modric’s replacement Lovro Majer, who dragged his shot wide, but his team prevailed in the shoot-out to end the Blue Samurai’s entertaining adventure.


Saudi Arabia set to host 2027 Asian Cup after India withdraws bid

Updated 05 December 2022

Saudi Arabia set to host 2027 Asian Cup after India withdraws bid

  • Bids from India and Saudi Arabia had been shortlisted by the AFC’s executive committee in October
  • The 2023 Asian Cup will be played in Qatar after China withdrew as host

KUALA LUMPUR: Saudi Arabia is set to host the 2027 Asian Cup after India withdrew its bid.
The Asian Football Confederation issued a statement Monday saying the All Indian Football Federation had withdrawn from the host selection process. No reason was published.
The bids from India and Saudi Arabia had been shortlisted by the AFC’s executive committee in October and the final decision was expected to be made at a regional congress in February. Saudi Arabia is now the only candidate to host the 2027 tournament.
The 2023 Asian Cup will be played in Qatar after China withdrew as host. Qatar, which is hosting the ongoing World Cup, has already staged the Asian Cup twice.
The Saudis started their World Cup campaign in Qatar with a stunning 2-1 upset win over Argentina, but didn’t advance to the knockout stages after back-to-back losses to Poland and Mexico in Group C. Argentina topped the group and then edged Australia in the Round of 16 to qualify for the quarterfinals.

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