Man City stroll into FA Cup quarters, Leicester crash out

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne, left, attempts a goal as Bristol City's Tomas Kalas tries to stop the ball during the English FA Cup fifth round soccer match between Bristol City and Manchester City at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol, England, Feb. 28, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 01 March 2023
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Man City stroll into FA Cup quarters, Leicester crash out

  • Leicester were booed off by angry fans after Blackburn ended the Foxes’ bid to reach a second FA Cup final in three seasons

LONDON: Phil Foden struck twice as Manchester City eased into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 3-0 win against Bristol City, while 2021 winners Leicester suffered a shock 2-1 defeat against second tier Blackburn on Tuesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side were never in danger of a giant-killing in the fifth round tie at Ashton Gate thanks to Foden’s brace and a late strike from Kevin De Bruyne.
City will hope for another boost on Wednesday when Premier League leaders Arsenal, two points ahead of the champions, face Everton in their game in hand.
De Bruyne returned after missing two games through illness, while Kalvin Phillips started for only the second time since joining City from Leeds last year.
City took a seventh minute lead when Riyad Mahrez crossed to the far post, where Foden fired into the roof of the net.
Foden doubled City’s lead after 74 minutes as Julian Alvarez flicked toward Foden, who produced another clinical finish past Max O’Leary.
De Bruyne got the visitors’ third from long-range in the 81st minute to ensure the smoothest of nights for the six-time FA Cup winners.
Leicester were booed off by angry fans after Blackburn ended the Foxes’ bid to reach a second FA Cup final in three seasons.
Brendan Rodgers led Leicester to the club’s first ever FA Cup triumph in 2021, but Rovers punished woeful defending from the Premier League side to shatter their hopes of emulating that run.
With Leicester 14th in the top-flight, just three points above the relegation zone, Rodgers made six changes to the side beaten by Arsenal at the weekend and paid the price for his gamble.
Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side, fourth in the Championship, are into the last eight for the first time since 2015.
Rovers took the lead when Tyrhys Dolan curled home from the edge of the area in the 33rd minute.
Sammie Szmodics made it 2-0 to Blackburn seven minutes after the break following good work by Sam Gallagher.
Kelechi Iheanacho netted from Harvey Barnes’ pass in the 67th minute, but Blackburn held on.
Manor Solomon scored for the fourth time in four game as Fulham beat Leeds 2-0 at Craven Cottage to make the last eight for the first time since 2010.
Fulham, who have exceeded all expectations to climb to sixth place in the Premier League this year, took the lead through Joao Palhinha’s superb 25-year curler in the 21st minute.
Palhinha’s strike came after Georginio Rutter thought he had scored his first goal for Leeds when he tapped home after Marek Rodak had palmed the ball into his path.
But referee Chris Kavanagh ruled it out for a foul in the area and VAR did not intervene.
Israel forward Solomon, on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, finished off Leeds in the 56th minute, curling in from the edge of the area after playing a one-two with Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Fulham can still dream of a first FA Cup final appearance since 1975.
But it was a first defeat for new Leeds boss Javi Gracia, whose side won 1-0 against fellow strugglers Southampton in the Premier League last weekend.
Brighton won 1-0 at second tier Stoke to reach the quarter-final for the third time in the last six seasons.
The Seagulls, who beat holders Liverpool in the fourth round, remain in the hunt for a first FA Cup final appearance since 1983.
Brighton landed the decisive blow in the 30th minute when teenage forward Evan Ferguson met Kaoru Mitoma’s pass with a close-range finish.
Among the four remaining fifth-round ties on Wednesday, League Cup winners Manchester United host West Ham, while Tottenham travel to Sheffield United.


Archer makes international return as Pakistan put England in to bat

Updated 12 sec ago
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Archer makes international return as Pakistan put England in to bat

  • Jofra Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in England World Cup win in 2019
  • Haris Rauf, Shadab Khan are included for Pakistan, who are looking to build on their win against Ireland

BIRMINGHAM: Jofra Archer was named in the England side for a first home international in nearly four years as Pakistan put the hosts into bat in Saturday’s second T20 international at Edgbaston.
Fast bowler Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50 over World Cup in 2019.
However, the 29-year-old’s return could be a timely boost ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United States next month.
“Excited for Jofra, long road for him but looks great and looks fit,” said England captain Jos Buttler.
Liam Livingstone is also included on his return from injury, meaning there is no place for Sam Curran.
Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan are included for Pakistan, who are looking to build on a 2-1 series win over Ireland earlier this month.
The first T20 of the four-match series was washed out on Wednesday.
England: 1 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 2 Phil Salt, 3 Will Jacks, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Pakistan: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Saim Ayub, 3 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shadab Khan, 6 Azam Khan, 7 Iftikhar Ahmed, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Amir


Xavi says Barcelona president will have to explain why he won't continue as coach

Updated 49 min 47 sec ago
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Xavi says Barcelona president will have to explain why he won't continue as coach

  • “These have obviously been tough days, but my conscience is clear,” head coach Xavi said
  • The 44-year-old said that he will now “take a break” from coaching

BARCELONA: Xavi Hernández said Saturday that he is leaving Barcelona with “a clear conscience” that he did his best after the club decided to part ways with the former player, but that it will be up to president Joan Laporta to explain why he is going.
“These have obviously been tough days, but my conscience is clear,” head coach Xavi said.
“I have been here two-and-a-half years. It has not been easy. But I think that we can feel proud of the work we have done.”
In his first news conference since Barcelona announced on Friday that Xavi would not finish the final year of his contract, the 44-year-old said that he will now “take a break” from coaching.
His last game in charge will be at Sevilla on Sunday.
Xavi’s departure comes just one month after he had walked back a previous decision he made in January to leave the club this summer. In April, he said that he had changed his mind because the team was playing better, and he believed it could bounce back from a trophy-less campaign.
Laporta had publicly celebrated Xavi’s commitment to stay at that time. But last week the president was reportedly displeased when the head coach spoke openly about how the club’s poor finances would impede them from competing with fierce rival Real Madrid.
Neither Laporta nor any club official has said why they wanted Xavi to leave, and the head coach did not shed any light on the circumstances of his exit either.
“The president told me his reasons for why he thinks the club needs a change, and I can only respect that. I am a club man,” Xavi said. “We shook hands, hugged and wished one another the best. From now on I will be just another fan.
“He will have to explain his motives.”
Xavi’s only previous coaching job was at a Qatari club before Laporta brought him back to take over at Barcelona in November 2021. He led the team to the Spanish league title last year, their first major trophy since Lionel Messi left, and signed a one-year contract extension in September.
But Barcelona struggled to compete this campaign and they will finish the league a distant second to champion Madrid.
Spanish and German media speculated that former Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick would become Xavi’s replacement.
Whoever arrives will inherit a team with young talents Lamine Yamal, Pau Cubarsí and the injured Gavi Páez but with very limited financial resources to sign new players.


Former Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney appointed Plymouth manager

Updated 25 May 2024
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Former Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney appointed Plymouth manager

  • Move to Argyle is the fourth managerial role of Rooney’s coaching career
  • Former football star was sacked after just 83 days in charge of Birmingham earlier this year

LONDON: Former England and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney was appointed as the new manager of Championship side Plymouth on Saturday.
A move to Argyle is the fourth managerial role of Rooney’s coaching career, which has so far failed to live up to his stellar playing days.
“Taking this role at Plymouth Argyle feels like the perfect next step in my career,” said Rooney in a club statement.
“This is an opportunity to be part of an exciting project. I look forward to helping to build a squad of players to play expansive football — and to entertain the Green Army.”
The 38-year-old was sacked after just 83 days in charge of Birmingham earlier this year.
Rooney won just two of his 15 matches in charge of the Blues, which contributed to their relegation to League One.
He previously had a short spell with former club DC United in Major League Soccer.
But United’s all-time record goalscorer did thrive in difficult circumstances during his first job at Derby as the club entered administration.
“Throughout the interview process, Wayne showed himself to be a passionate, intelligent, and knowledgeable candidate with an appetite to prove himself and develop his managerial career,” said Plymouth chairman Simon Hallett.
“His ambitions and aims match ours perfectly and we feel he is the perfect candidate to provide the exciting and attacking brand of football that we all like to see and help us achieve the club’s mission.”
Plymouth narrowly avoided relegation in their first season back in English football’s second tier for 14 years, finishing 21st in the Championship.


Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open

Updated 25 May 2024
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Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open

  • “There is a good chance that it will be my last French Open,” said the Spaniard
  • Nadal has 22 Grand Slam titles

PARIS: Rafael Nadal said Saturday that it is likely he is appearing at the French Open for the final time but cautioned it was “not 100 percent certain.”
“There is a good chance that it will be my last French Open, but I cannot say that I am 100 percent certain that it will be the last,” said the Spaniard.
Nadal, who has won the French Open 14 times and will celebrate his 38th birthday on June 3, faces world number four Alexander Zverev in the first round in Paris on Monday.
The Spanish legend has racked up 112 wins in 115 matches at the tournament since his title-winning 2005 debut when he was just 19.
He has 22 Grand Slam titles — second only to Novak Djokovic’s 24 on the all-time men’s list — but his career has been plagued by injuries.
Nadal has played just four tournaments since January last year after suffering a hip injury and then a muscle tear.
As a result, his ranking has slumped to 276 in the world and comes into the French Open unseeded.


Al-Hilal stars Mitrovic, Neves praise new Saudi lifestyles

Updated 25 May 2024
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Al-Hilal stars Mitrovic, Neves praise new Saudi lifestyles

  • Mitrovic: ‘I’m really happy. My family is happy. The club is amazing. So far, it’s a great experience’
  • ‘A lot of players from Europe call and ask how can they get here’

LONDON: Football stars Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ruben Neves have praised their moves to the Saudi Pro League, speaking highly of their new lives in the Kingdom.

In an interview with Sky News, the two Al-Hilal players — who left Fulham and Wolves, respectively — discussed the lifestyle differences between England and Saudi Arabia.

Last year, more than 23 European players moved to the Kingdom’s top football league in a major coup for Saudi sporting administrators.

“After seven years in England I think the first thing was the sun. I never had summer sun in my life,” Mitrovic said.

“It’s been different you know, different culture, different football, the mentality of people as well, but so far I’m really happy.

“My family is happy. The club is amazing. So far, it’s a great experience and looking forward to more years.”

The Serbian international praised the privacy and laid-back way of life in Riyadh. “The people here are crazy about football but you have a bit more privacy here. We live on a compound, we’re a little bit more isolated, and people from Europe and around the world live there you know, the life is really nice,” he said. “You wake up, have breakfast, a little workout, then recovery in the pool in the sun.”

One difference from the European training standard is that clubs in the Kingdom train in the evening, avoiding the midday heat.

Neves told Sky News that Al-Hilal’s regime gives him more time to spend with his family. “It’s a bit different to the routine from Europe here because of the weather, of course,” he said.

Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves, center, says that Al-Hilal’s regime gives him more time to spend with his family. (AFP)

“We train most of the time after 6 p.m. I like it because I can spend the day at home relaxing. I can take the kids to school, I can pick them up from school, and I can be a little bit with them before I come to training. We have a lot of things to do here because it’s a big, massive city, so we are enjoying it.”

Though both players said the Premier League is the world’s best, they believe that the SPL is not far behind — and is on par with some European leagues.

Mitrovic expects more major European signings during the summer transfer window this year.

“Any of the big names is going to have a big impact and would be welcomed with open hands,” he said.

“A lot of players from Europe, you know they call and ask how can they get here. A lot (of calls), trust me.”

Neves hailed the dedication of Al-Hilal fans. “When you play at home the stadium is always full, 30,000 people. The difference I felt here from England is that when we go to play away the stadium is mainly our fans,” he said. “We have fans all around Saudi, so that feels really good for us.”