PSG beaten at home in French league for first time this season

Arnaud Kalimuendo scores their second goal past Paris St Germain's Gianluigi Donnarumma in a Ligue 1 match on March 19, 2023, at the Parc des Princes in Paris. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 March 2023

PSG beaten at home in French league for first time this season

  • Marseille  won 2-1 to end Reims’ 19-match unbeaten run and cut PSG’s lead to seven points with 10 matches left

PARIS: Arnaud Kalimuendo scored against his boyhood club as leaders Paris Saint-Germain were beaten 2-0 by Rennes in their first home loss in the French league this season on Sunday.

The win ended PSG’s 35-match unbeaten run in the league at the Parc des Princes.

Marseille later won 2-1 to end Reims’ 19-match unbeaten run and cut PSG’s lead to seven points with 10 matches left.

The 21-year-old Kalimuendo joined PSG’s youth system when he was 9 years old and signed with Rennes last summer looking for more playing time away from the armada of PSG stars. Kalimuendo was under contract with PSG until 2024 but spent the last two seasons on loan at Lens.

Rennes, who had already prevailed in the corresponding fixture in Brittany two months ago, made the most of PSG’s passivity and relied on goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s decisive saves to produce a clean sheet. Karl Toko Ekambi scored Rennes’ first goal.

PSG looked slow and lethargic, relying in vain on the skills of Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.

Mbappe had two good chances to break the deadlock in the first half but the France star was denied twice.

Mandanda stopped Mbappe’s chipped effort in the 26th minute. The former France ‘keeper then blocked Mbappe’s shot from Messi’s deep pass with a superb reflex save in the 40th.

Rennes waited patiently and took their chance at the stroke of halftime when Benjamin Bourigeaud picked out Toko Ekambi behind the defense. The Cameroon forward controlled the ball with a delicate touch and beat Gianluigi Donnarumma with an angled shot.

PSG players were whistled off the field by some fans, and things got worse when they returned from the locker room.

Kalimuendo made it 2-0 in the 48th after PSG clumsily gave the ball away in midfield. He did not celebrate his goal.

PSG pressed harder as it tried to pull one back but made too many technical mistakes and was vulnerable to counterattacks, with Rennes having the best chances after the interval.

Mandanda was decisive again 10 minutes from time to firmly parry away Marco Verratti’s shot that looked bound for the goal.

PSG are out of the Champions League and the French Cup, meaning they have just the league title left to focus on. Chasing a European spot, Rennes moved up to fifth place in the standings.

Marseille in the hunt

Second-place Marseille’s hard-fought victory in the Champagne town marked their eighth straight away win.

Marseille forward Alexis Sanchez scored twice against Reims, including a superb curled free kick, after Folarin Balogun put the hosts in the driving seat.

Reims pushed hard for an equalizer in the second half and Marseille goalkeeper Pau Lopez made several decisive saves to keep his team ahead. Marseille was lucky not to concede again as the hosts hit the woodwork twice.

Ben Yedder hits 80 mark

Wissam Ben Yedder scored his 80th career league goal for Monaco in a 2-0 win at 10-man Ajaccio as the Principality side got back to winning ways in the top flight.

It was Ben Yedder’s 17th league goal this season. The France striker put the hosts ahead in the 26th minute before Krepin Diatta sealed Monaco’s win with seven minutes left.

Ajaccio was forced to play with 10 players for most of the second half after Cyrille Bayala was sent off for a reckless tackle on Caio Henrique in the 51st minute.

Fourth-place Monaco had picked up only one point from its previous three matches.

Ben Yedder became the third player in Monaco’s history to score 80 league goals for the club after Delio Onnis (157) and Lucien Cossou (97).

He scored from a rebound from close range following a free kick from Henrique. Monaco was then in control against a poor Ajaccio side that was punished by Diatta on the counter and remained in the relegation zone.

Wahi's double

Montpellier’s revival under coach Michel Der Zakarian continued as the Mediterranean club came from behind to beat Clermont 2-1 and moved to 11th place.

Montpellier are now unbeaten in six matches, including five wins, since Der Zakarian returned in February.

Montpellier had a chance to take the lead in the 13th minute but Stephy Mavididi hit the post. Saïf-Eddine Khaoui then gave Clermont the lead before the up-and-coming Wahi turned things round, first with a header then a precise shot. Wahi has 12 league goals, his best tally over a single season.

Nice stay unbeaten

Seventh-place Nice extended their 11-game unbeaten run but were held to a 1-1 draw by Lorient.

Bamo Meite scored the first goal of his professional career to give the visitors the lead before Gaetan Laborde put the teams level.

Strasbourg beat Auxerre 2-0 to end a three-game winless run and Brest drew 2-2 at Troyes.


Nkunku helps Leipzig defend German Cup title

Updated 03 June 2023

Nkunku helps Leipzig defend German Cup title

  • A year after scoring a second-half goal which sent the 2022 final to penalties, Nkunku broke the deadlock after 71 minutes
  • "When you win something like this, then you just have to celebrate -- and that's what we'll do," Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer told Germany's ZDF network

BERLIN: A Christopher Nkunku-inspired RB Leipzig won their second straight German Cup title on Saturday, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in Berlin.
A year after scoring a second-half goal which sent the 2022 final to penalties, Nkunku broke the deadlock after 71 minutes, his low shot taking a deflection and into the goal against the run of play.
A shellshocked Frankfurt, who had the better of the second half looked to equalize but Leipzig scored again, Dominik Szoboszlai sweeping in an Nkunku pass on the counter.
After featuring in four of the past five German Cup finals, Leipzig’s second title in two years firmly establishes themselves alongside Borussia Dortmund as challengers to Bayern Munich’s throne.
“When you win something like this, then you just have to celebrate — and that’s what we’ll do,” Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer told Germany’s ZDF network.
Frankfurt captain Sebastian Rode said Nkunku’s goal was the turning point, telling ZDF “we just didn’t have the power in behind” after the strike.
The victory spoiled Frankfurt manager Oliver Glasner’s farewell, with the Austrian leaving the club at the end of the season, one year after taking them to the Europa League title.
Despite the victory, the immediate future is uncertain for Leipzig, who could lose several stars including Nkunku, Szoboszlai and Laimer in the summer.
Sporting director Max Eberl confirmed a possible exit for Nkunku, telling German TV “it could be” the France striker’s last match for Leipzig.
Pre-game, the match had been billed as a clash of conflicting ideologies in German football.
In one corner, nouveau riche Leipzig, playing in just their 14th season, against the tradition of Frankfurt, one of only four clubs remaining from the first Bundesliga season in 1963-64 guaranteed to play in next year’s top division.
The Frankfurt stadium announcer played into the conflict just before kickoff, saying “tradition can’t be bought,” a direct jab at the Red Bull-owned Leipzig.
Unbeaten in their last 11 cup games, Leipzig burst out of the blocks, Werner latching onto a Dominik Szoboszlai pass just four minutes in before blasting straight at the ‘keeper.
Leipzig dominated possession but Frankfurt caused problems on the counter, France striker Kolo Muani probing a defense missing the commanding presence of the suspended Josko Gvardiol.
The best chance of the first half fell to Nkunku in the shadows of halftime, the France striker cannoning the ball into the side netting past the outstretched fingers of Frankfurt goalie Kevin Trapp.
Fresh from extending his deal in Frankfurt by one year until 2026 on Friday, 2014 World Cup winner Goetze grabbed control of the game early in the second stanza.
The veteran of four German Cup final wins, two with Dortmund and two with Bayern, put Kolo Muani through on goal with a perfect threaded path before forcing a desperate close range save from Janis Blaswich.
With a Frankfurt opener looking likely, Leipzig scored against the run of play, Nkunku’s shot from the edge of the box taking a sharp deflection of defender Evan Ndicka and into the net.
Frankfurt made multiple changes pushing for an equalizer but Leipzig scored again, Szoboszlai hammering in after a sweeping counterattack with five minutes remaining to seal the win.


Barcelona win Women’s Champions League with stunning comeback against Wolfsburg

Updated 03 June 2023

Barcelona win Women’s Champions League with stunning comeback against Wolfsburg

  • “We didn't make it easy for ourselves,” Barcelona and England defender Lucy Bronze said in a pitchside interview after securing her fourth Champions League crown
  • Fridolina Rolfö capped the fightback by calmly firing the winner into the far corner of the net after a mix-up in the Wolfsburg defense in the 70th minute

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands: Midfielder Patricia Guijarro ignited a stunning second-half comeback as Barcelona overturned a 2-0 deficit to beat Wolfsburg 3-2 and win their second Women’s Champions League title on Saturday.
“We didn’t make it easy for ourselves,” Barcelona and England defender Lucy Bronze said in a pitchside interview after securing her fourth Champions League crown.
She won it three years in a row with Lyon.
Fridolina Rolfö capped the fightback by calmly firing the winner into the far corner of the net after a mix-up in the Wolfsburg defense in the 70th minute.
Guijarro is one of 15 Spanish players, including Bonmati and four other Barcelona teammates, who renounced playing for Spain last year, citing differences with their coach. They have not played since their participation in this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand are in serious doubt.
Wolfsburg led 2-0 at the break thanks to goals from Ewa Pajor and Alexandra Popp.
But Barcelona kept believing they could win, easing the pain of last year’s final when the Catalan team never recovered after Lyon scored three times in the first 35 minutes. Barcelona lost 3-1.
“We have grown up. We didn’t break down,” Guijarro. “We have improved from last year.”
Bronze added: “We were never worried about scoring three goals.”
Barcelona earned their second league crown — the first was in 2021 — from their fourth final since 2019 in front of 33,147 fans at PSV Stadium, a record crowd for a women’s game in the Netherlands.
Guijarro’s double in the 48th and 50th minutes swiftly overturned a first half in which Wolfsburg’s pressing play and clinical counterattacking earned two goals.
First, the Barcelona midfielder slammed the ball into the roof of the net in the 48th. Aitana Bonmatí then made room for herself on the right before crossing for Guijarro to head past Merle Frohms for the equalizer. Guijarro was named player of the match but wasn’t satisfied until Rolfö sealed the win.
“I thought, two goals, we needed more. We needed to keep going,” she said.
It was a remarkable turnaround for coach Jonatan Giráldez’s Barcelona in a thrilling match.
Wolfsburg took the lead inside three minutes when tournament top scorer Ewa Pajor robbed Bronze of the ball close to the Barcelona penalty area and fired a powerful shot that goalkeeper Sandra Paños touched but could not stop from flying in. The goal improved Pajor’s tally in the competition to nine.
It was a rocky start for Bronze, who returned to the Barcelona lineup for the first time since she was injured in the semifinal first leg against Chelsea and underwent knee surgery.
Wolfsburg doubled their lead when veteran forward Alexandra Popp ran into space between two defenders and headed a cross from the left by Pajor past Paños from close range in the 37th. Popp equaled Ada Hegerberg’s record of scoring in four finals.
Wolfsburg goalkeeper Merle Frohms made sure her team went into the break without conceding by racing off her line in stoppage time to smother an effort by Salma Paralluelo.
But she couldn’t stop Barcelona’s onslaught after the break.
“It really hurt,” Wolfsburg coach Tommy Stroot said. “We did so many things right. We were so close to have a big sensation here tonight, to win the title.”
With Barcelona leading and the minutes ticking down, Giráldez brought on two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who has recently recovered from an ACL injury. Barcelona’s vocal fans in Eindhoven roared as Putellas replaced Bonmatí.
It was Putellas who accepted the trophy from England coach Sarina Wiegman after Wolfsburg players formed a guard of honor for their opponents as they walked up to collect their medals.

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Ageing hero Ibrahimovic to leave Milan at season’s end

Updated 03 June 2023

Ageing hero Ibrahimovic to leave Milan at season’s end

  • "Tomorrow (Sunday) evening after the final game of the season... AC Milan will say goodbye to Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a brief ceremony," Milan said in a statement
  • The veteran striker's representatives would not comment when asked by AFP if he would retire once leaving Milan

MILAN: Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s time at AC Milan is coming to an end after the Serie A club announced on Saturday that he would say his farewells following their last match of the season against Verona.
“Tomorrow (Sunday) evening after the final game of the season... AC Milan will say goodbye to Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a brief ceremony,” Milan said in a statement.
“AC Milan would like to thank Zlatan for the magnificent time that we have spent together.”
The veteran striker’s representatives would not comment when asked by AFP if he would retire once leaving Milan.
However Italian media report that Ibrahimovic could join Monza next season, which would reunite him with former Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi and his right-hand man Adriano Galliani.
Former Italian prime minister Berlusconi, who sold Milan for 740 million euros in 2017 after three decades of glory and bought Monza for a relative pittance the following year, took Ibrahimovic to Milan on loan from Barcelona in 2010.
The Swede won Serie A that campaign, which had been Milan’s most recent league title until pipping local rivals Inter Milan on the final day of last season.
Ibrahimovic was a key figure in Milan’s resurgence to the top of Italian football after his return to the club as a free agent in late 2019, helping to bring them back from the doldrums and eventually win the Scudetto last season.
He has hardly featured for Stefano Pioli’s side this term after being plagued with injuries, returning in February following surgery on his left knee in May.
In July he signed a deal which netted him around one million euros ($1.02 million) in fixed salary, with large bonuses linked to appearances and achievements.
But the 41-year-old has only started one match and netted once for Milan this season, a 3-1 win at Udinese in March in which he became the oldest goal scorer in Serie A history.
He then picked up a calf injury in a pre-match warm up in April and will end his Milan career sidelined due to the knock.
Milan sit fourth in Serie A ahead of Sunday night’s match at the San Siro and are assured of Champions League football next season.
They lost to Inter Milan in the Champions League semifinal last month.


Ilkay Gundogan double secures FA Cup for Manchester City over United at Wembley

Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan lifts the trophy as he celebrates with his teammates after winning the FA Cup. (Reuters)
Updated 03 June 2023

Ilkay Gundogan double secures FA Cup for Manchester City over United at Wembley

  • Pep Guardiola’s men completed a domestic double at Wembley
  • Only Inter in Istanbul in a week’s time now stand between City and historic treble

LONDON: Manchester City are one game away from a historic treble after Ilkay Gundogan scored twice to beat Manchester United 2-1 in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s men completed a domestic double at Wembley and can become just the second side, after United in 1998/99, to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season should they beat Inter Milan to become European champions for the first time on June 10.
Gundogan scored the fastest goal in FA Cup final history after just 12 seconds.
United levelled on 33 minutes through Bruno Fernandes’ penalty after Jack Grealish was harshly penalized for handball.
But the City captain, in what could be his final game for the club on English soil with his contract expiring at the end of the season, volleyed home the winner six minutes into the second-half.
“Everyone knows the FA Cup is the most beautiful domestic club competition in the world, so to win this trophy again and complete the double is amazing for us,” said Gundogan.
“We have a chance to do something special and win the treble and we do not want to let this opportunity pass us by.”
The first ever major final between the Manchester giants had the most explosive of starts.
Most of the 83,000 crowd were still taking their seats from the pre-match festivities when Victor Lindelof’s headed clearance sat up perfectly for Gundogan to volley home a stunning strike after just 12 seconds.
That appeared to set the tone for the Premier League champions.
Rodri headed into the side-netting moments later before Erling Haaland failed to get a clean connection on Gundogan’s enticing cross.
United were barely able to get across the halfway line in the first half hour, but got the break they needed to get back into the game.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s header back across the City box brushed the arm of Grealish and referee Paul Tierney was instructed to review the incident by VAR.
Despite City’s protestations, Tierney pointed to the spot and Fernandes coolly sent Stefan Ortega the wrong way.
The Portuguese’s celebrations in front of the City fans were met with a flurry of objects thrown from the stands, one of which struck Lindelof.
City boss Pep Guardiola was also showing his fury at the officiating as VAR did not intervene seven minutes before half-time when Kevin De Bruyne was wiped out by Fred inside the area and no penalty was awarded.
At the other end, United passed up a great chance to turn the game around before half-time when Raphael Varane fired high and wide at the back post from a corner.
Having fought so hard to gain a foothold, United were made to pay for another slow start in the second-half.
Gundogan was the goalscorer again as he fired home from De Bruyne’s free-kick.
But more questions will be asked of whether David De Gea remains the right man to be United’s number one goalkeeper after the 32-year-old Spaniard’s sluggish attempt to keep it out.
De Gea did at least make a big saves to keep United in the game from De Bruyne and Haaland, while Gundogan was denied a rare FA Cup final hat-trick by the offside flag.
United rallied in a tense finale as Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho flashed efforts inches off target.
The ball came back off the City bar in a goalmouth scramble deep into stoppage time.
However, the Red Devils could not find the goal to deny Guardiola an 11th major trophy as City boss and protect the unique legacy of Alex Ferguson’s great side 24 years ago.
Only Inter in Istanbul in a week’s time now stand between City and matching the greatest achievement English club football has ever seen.


No alternative to Bayern sackings, says ex-president Hoeness

Updated 02 June 2023

No alternative to Bayern sackings, says ex-president Hoeness

  • "The overall development was simply too unsatisfactory" Hoeness told newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung
  • Hoeness revealed "nobody" at the club was consulted about the decision to fire coach Julian Nagelsmann in March

BERLIN: Former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness said in an interview published on Friday the club had no alternative but firing chief executive Oliver Kahn and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
Hoeness explained the club needed to take action, with news of the sacking becoming known just moments after Bayern won their 11th straight Bundesliga title.
“The overall development was simply too unsatisfactory” Hoeness told newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, referring to the club’s poor second half of the season.
Nine points ahead of Borussia Dortmund at Christmas, Bayern entered the final round of the season two points behind.
Their 2-1 win over Cologne in the last match of the campaign, along with Dortmund’s 2-2 draw against Mainz, meant they won the title on goal difference.
Bayern sacked Kahn and Salihamidzic on Thursday, but did not tell the players or make the news public until moments after the full-time whistle.
Captain Thomas Mueller found out in a post-match interview, after putting on a t-shirt commemorating the win.
Hoeness, who played for Bayern before running the club in various capacities for decades, revealed “nobody” at the club was consulted about the decision to fire coach Julian Nagelsmann in March.
“Even Herbert Hainer (Bayern president) was informed far too late... and something like that simply doesn’t work.”
While saying that Salihamidzic “remained a good sporting director,” Hoeness said former goalkeeper Kahn had not done enough work in the sporting department.
“Oliver had defined his role for himself in such a way that he largely stayed out of sports. Yet sport is the main task.
“Our product is football” the 71-year-old added.