Liverpool, Manchester City take first-leg lead in Champions League clashes

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Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring their first goal during the Champions League quarterfinal footbal match against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain. (Reuters)
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Liverpool's Luis Diaz scores his side's third goal during the Champions League quarterfinal first leg football match between Benfica and Liverpool at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 06 April 2022

Liverpool, Manchester City take first-leg lead in Champions League clashes

  • Both City and Atletico have reached the Champions League final but have never lifted the trophy
  • Benfica, playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 after eliminating Ajax in the last 16

MANCHESTER, LISBON: Kevin De Bruyne scored the only goal to give Manchester City a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday.

After a tight 70 minutes, City finally found their way through Atletico’s tough rearguard helped by Phil Foden's vision. Just 79 seconds after coming off the bench, Foden slid in a fine throughball and De Bruyne raced through to fire in a low shot from a tight angle.

“We knew it was going to be pretty tough to create some opportunities,” De Bruyne said. “The first half was tight, but we didn’t give anything away and in the second half had a couple of chances. It was good that we took one.”

Both City and Atletico have reached the Champions League final but have never lifted the trophy.

Atletico played their usual cagey game as coach Diego Simeone had promised.

The first half was played at a slow tempo with City controlling most of the ball but, despite having all of its outfield players in the final third at times, being unable to create openings.

De Bruyne and Joao Cancelo both had efforts deflected wide and Aymeric Laporte missed the target with a header.

Ilkay Gundogan shot well over and Rodri had a long-range effort blocked before De Bruyne had a penalty appeal turned down and John Stones also missed.

“It is very hard," De Bruyne said. “They played almost five at the back and five in midfield, it is very hard to find the spaces.”

It was not until the second half that the hosts tried to inject more pace into their play. That did open the game up slightly and Atletico almost capitalized with a couple of breaks from deep. Antoine Griezmann wasted one opening with a poor pass and Marcos Llorente chipped tamely at goalkeeper Ederson from another.

However, City also began to threaten more as Gundogan had an effort deflected wide and Laporte went close with a header.

City appealed for another penalty for a push by Reinildo on Sterling but it was not given. That proved Sterling’s final involvement as manager Pep Guardiola took him off in the move that changed the game.

Foden, who came on alongside Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus, teed up De Bruyne for the goal.

Foden created another chance for De Bruyne soon after following a tricky run to the byline but this time Atletico had enough players back to block.

“The way we played was good because we didn’t give anything away,” De Bruyne said. “You need to be calm and patient, try to find the balls and the spaces because they were compact.”

Diaz stars on return to Portugal in Liverpool's victory

It just had to be Luis Diaz.

The Colombia winger was the last player Benfica supporters inside the atmospheric Estádio da Luz wanted to see race onto a throughball and produce an emphatic finish to complete a 3-1 win for Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.

After all, Diaz was playing for Porto, Benfica’s big rival in Portugal, until he was signed by Liverpool in January. No wonder he was whistled by home fans — and even targeted with objects thrown from the stands — as he wheeled away in celebration following his crucial third goal in the 87th minute.

It was a brilliantly taken goal, too, as Diaz latched onto Naby Keita’s deflected pass that split Benfica's defense before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting his finish into the unguarded net from a tight angle.

“He got a nice reception, didn't he?” Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson said, smiling. “It was a good finish for him and a really important goal for us. It gives us a two-goal cushion, which makes a difference.”

Diaz, who was jeered whenever he touched the ball, played a big part in Liverpool’s second goal, too, when he nodded down a pinpoint long pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold to allow Sadio Mane to tap home from close range in the 34th. That built on Liverpool’s opener scored by Ibrahima Konaté — the center back’s first for the club — off an outswinging corner from Robertson in the 17th minute.

Benfica, playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 after eliminating Ajax in the last 16, could easily have been further behind by halftime as Liverpool pressed high and was much sharper with its passing. But the hosts took the game more to the six-time European champions in the second half and Uruguay striker Darwin Núñez capitalized on a mistake by Konaté to pull a goal back in the 49th.

Konaté blotted what was otherwise a strong defensive display by failing to clear Rafa Silva's cross from the right. The ball went through his legs and landed at the feet of Núñez, who took a couple of touches and delivered a composed, sidefooted finish beyond the sprawling Konaté and into the bottom corner.

There were a few more rocky moments for Liverpool — in one of them, goalkeeper Alisson Becker was almost dispossessed on the edge of his area by Silva — before Diaz’s strike ensured Jurgen Klopp’s team would clinch a fifth straight win in all competitions.

“Coming here and winning an away game in the Champions League is tough," Klopp said. “Benfica fought for their lives. We gave them a little bit too much but they deserved the goal as well."

Still, the Reds passed the latest test in their bid for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies, with the semifinals now in sight. They have already won the English League Cup, are in the semifinals of the FA Cup, and are one point behind leader Manchester City in the Premier League.

Klopp even took the option of bringing off star attackers Mane and Mohamed Salah in the 61st minute, perhaps with the league showdown against City on Sunday in mind.

City also will go into that game on the back of a win in Tuesday's other quarterfinal, 1-0 over Atletico Madrid.

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

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

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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Aggressive England beats Pakistan by 74 runs in 1st test

Updated 05 December 2022

Aggressive England beats Pakistan by 74 runs in 1st test

  • England leads its first test series in Pakistan in 17 years 1-0 
  • Multan and Karachi scheduled to host the remaining two games

RAWALPINDI: England showcased its masterful approach of aggression in test cricket with a superb 74-run victory over Pakistan in the final session of the first test on Sunday.

Needing 263 runs with eight wickets in hand on Day 5, Pakistan was dismissed for 268 against the reverse swing of James Anderson (4-36) and Ollie Robinson (4-50) — losing its last five wickets for just 11 runs after tea.

Jack Leach had the last wicket of Naseem Shah, trapped leg before wicket after England delayed the second new ball for well over an hour with Anderson and Robinson doing the damage with the old ball.

Pakistan succumbed to the relentless attacking field settings of England captain Ben Stokes before Robinson and veteran Anderson sliced through the lower order after Pakistan was placed at 257-5 going into the final session.

Robinson had earlier ended the nearly four-hour defiance of one of the four Pakistan debutants – Saud Shakeel – in the second session to a brilliant diving catch by Keaton Jennings as the lefthander top-scored with 76.

England had posted an electrifying 657 and Pakistan responded with 579 to concede a 78-run lead on a grass-less wicket where seven batters from both sides scored centuries.

England made a bold declaration with another rapid 264-7 in just 35.5 overs on Day 4 and set Pakistan a challenging target of 343 in four sessions.

England leads its first test series in Pakistan in 17 years 1-0 with Multan and Karachi scheduled to host the remaining two games.


England subdue Senegal to book France clash in World Cup quarters

Updated 05 December 2022

England subdue Senegal to book France clash in World Cup quarters

  • Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane put Senegal to the sword with a pair of clinical finishes before half-time
  • Bukayo Saka added a third, but it was Jude Bellingham’s prodigious work-rate and burgeoning quality in possession that allowed England to turn the tide

AL KHOR: England set up a titanic World Cup quarter-final against holders France as Jude Bellingham’s masterclass inspired a 3-0 win against Senegal in the last 16 on Sunday.
Gareth Southgate’s side survived a nervous start at the Al Bayt Stadium before Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane put Senegal to the sword with a pair of clinical finishes before half-time.
Bukayo Saka scored England’s third, but it was Bellingham’s prodigious work-rate and burgeoning quality in possession that allowed them to turn the tide.
Bellingham set up Henderson’s opener and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was involved again when England captain Kane bagged his first goal in this World Cup.
Kane has now netted 11 times at major tournaments, overtaking Gary Lineker as England’s all-time top scorer in those competitions.
But at the tender age of 19, it is Bellingham who has emerged as England’s driving force.
He is the first teenager to assist in a World Cup knockout stage game since 1966, having already announced his arrival on the global stage by netting his first England goal in the 6-2 rout of Iran in their group opener.
Just two years after he was playing in the English second tier with Birmingham, the precocious Bellingham was totally unfazed against Senegal in the biggest game of his life.
England will need another command performance from Bellingham if they are to extend their stay in Qatar beyond the last eight.
Eyeing a third successive semifinal appearance at major tournaments, England will return to the Al Khor desert on Saturday to take on the red-hot Kylian Mbappe and company after France brushed aside Poland 3-1 on Sunday.
Euro 2020 runners-up England have won only one of their last eight meetings with France, who pose a significant threat to their hopes of winning a first major title for 56 years.
The depth of attacking talent available to Southgate could be crucial and, defending his decision to drop Marcus Rashford for Saka despite the forward’s double against Wales, he boasted “we have an embarrassment of riches in all areas of the pitch.”
After a rocky opening when they passed too slowly and looked anxious at the back, England hit their stride to show why Southgate has such confidence in them.
Fuelled by the incessant drumming from their vibrant fans, African champions Senegal initially showed no fear as they tested England’s composure with a high press.
Senegal squandered a golden opportunity to take the lead when Harry Maguire gave the ball away and Boulaye Dia’s volley deflected off John Stones into Ismaila Sarr’s path, only for the Watford forward to blaze over from close-range.
Preying on England’s nerves, Sarr harried Saka and Dia seized the loose ball, forcing a good save from Jordan Pickford with a fierce drive.
That proved the turning point as England snatched the lead against the run of play in the 38th minute.
Bellingham sprinted onto Harry Kane’s incisive pass into the Senegal area and clipped a precise cutback into the path of Liverpool midfielder Henderson, who guided his low strike past Edouard Mendy from 12 yards.
Henderson’s goal served as a jolt of adrenaline that coursed through England as they doubled their lead seconds before the interval.
Bellingham was the catalyst with his well-timed tackle and a crisp pass to Foden, whose perfectly-weighted lay-off allowed Kane to race clear for a clinical finish.
England strolled through the second half and, repaying Southgate’s faith, Saka put the result beyond doubt in the 57th minute.
Foden made a dynamic run down the left and Saka reached his cross to flick a clever effort over Mendy from close-range.


Giroud and Mbappe guide France past Poland and into World Cup quarter-finals

Updated 04 December 2022

Giroud and Mbappe guide France past Poland and into World Cup quarter-finals

  • Mbappe’s lethal strike in the 74th minute killed off any prospect of a Poland comeback and he netted again at the death to move to nine goals in just 11 World Cup appearances
  • The threat of Robert Lewandowski was snuffed out by the French defense although the 34-year-old Poland captain did get the consolation of scoring a stoppage-time penalty

DOHA: Kylian Mbappe set up a history-making goal for Olivier Giroud and then scored two himself as holders France eased into the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a 3-1 win over Poland on Sunday.
Giroud’s opening goal a minute before half-time was his 52nd for his country, allowing him to pass Thierry Henry and become France’s all-time record marksman.
Mbappe’s lethal strike in the 74th minute killed off any prospect of a Poland comeback and he netted again at the death to move to nine goals in just 11 World Cup appearances, the second-most for a French player at the tournament.
At the other end the threat of Robert Lewandowski was snuffed out by the French defense although the 34-year-old Poland captain did get the consolation of scoring a stoppage-time penalty.
France, though, march on to the quarter-finals and remain on course to become the first team to successfully defend the World Cup since Brazil 60 years ago.
France were overwhelming favorites against a Poland side who had limped through the group stage, but the memory of their exit from Euro 2020 served as a warning.
France had been 3-1 up and cruising in that last-16 tie against Switzerland only to concede two late goals and end up losing on penalties, with Mbappe missing the crucial spot-kick.
Mbappe returned on Sunday as one of nine changes following their inconsequential defeat by Tunisia, with goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris also returning to win his 142nd cap.
That saw him equal the record for most France appearances held by Lilian Thuram, whose son Marcus came off the bench here.
It was a history-making occasion for France but what coach Didier Deschamps wanted above all was a routine victory and progression to the quarter-finals.
The sky should be the limit for a French side led by Mbappe, but it is not just him.
Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann were lively in a strong start amid a hushed atmosphere at Al Thumama Stadium.
The fans were happy to sit back and be thrilled as the big screen at one point showed that Mbappe had reached a top speed of 35 kilometers per hour.
France’s pace and pressing was too much for Poland as Przemyslaw Frankowski gave possession away, leading to Dembele crossing to the back post for Giroud to somehow put the ball wide.
Poland, who have not won a World Cup knockout match since 1982, recovered from a tentative start to almost go ahead in the 38th minute as Lloris blocked a shot by Piotr Zielinski and Jakub Kaminski’s follow-up was stopped on the line by Raphael Varane.
Those misses proved crucial as France seized the lead a minute before half-time.
Patient build-up play ended with Mbappe having a glance as he received the ball just outside the box before playing in Giroud who took a touch and finished into the far corner.
Poland were left to chase the game in the second half and they sent on Juventus striker Arkadiusz Milik to support Lewandowski for the final half hour.
However, their attack was simply no match for France, who picked off Poland to make it 2-0.
A Griezmann clearance was brought down by Giroud and he released Dembele whose ball into the middle was controlled before being blasted home by Mbappe.
It was an emphatic finish and was followed by another of a similar calibre from a Thuram assist in stoppage time.
Only Just Fontaine, who scored 13 in 1958, has scored more World Cup goals for France.
Lewandowski then pulled one back right at the end, converting a retaken penalty that was awarded for a handball by Dayot Upamecano.