Jamaica defy France but Sweden, Netherlands win openers

Jamaica’s Khadija Shaw in action with France’s Wendie Renard during their match on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 July 2023

Jamaica defy France but Sweden, Netherlands win openers

  • France have never lifted the World Cup despite the strength of their women’s domestic league and were defied by a battling Jamaica in the Sydney rain in front of nearly 40,000

SYDNEY: Perennial underachievers France were held 0-0 by Jamaica to make a frustrating start to their Women’s World Cup campaign on Sunday, but Sweden and the Netherlands both won by slender margins.

France have never lifted the World Cup despite the strength of their women’s domestic league and were defied by a battling Jamaica in the Sydney rain in front of nearly 40,000.

Herve Renard’s France, one of the pre-World Cup favorites along with holders the US and England, hit the woodwork late on and had more possession and chances, but Jamaica refused to fold.

The Jamaicans only made their Women’s World Cup debut in the previous edition in 2019 and lost all three games, so this point was a precious first in the competition for them.

“I would say it’s the No. 1 result we have had so far, men or women — I would put it there,” coach Lorne Donaldson declared.

The only sour note was the dismissal in injury time of star striker Khadija Shaw for a second yellow card. She will miss their second game of the tournament against Panama as a result.

The Jamaicans, ranked 43 in the world to France’s five, celebrated wildly at the final whistle and defender Deneisha Blackwood was paraded in the air.

“You’re playing a team like France who are just fantastic. I mean, just looking at the rankings, you would say that result on this stage has to be No. 1,” Donaldson said.

In the first match of day four of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, Sweden were given a scare by South Africa before winning 2-1.

The third-ranked Swedes fought back from a goal down and conjured up the winner in the 90th minute through Arsenal defender Amanda Ilestedt, much to the relief of their fans in miserably wet conditions in Wellington.

A goal early in the second half by Hildah Magaia — in which she suffered a match-ending injury — had given South Africa hope of an upset in front of 18,317 spectators.

But that was soon canceled out by Barcelona star Fridolina Rolfo before Ilestedt’s late intervention, heading home from close range for a hard-fought victory.

Italy face Argentina on Monday, also in Group G, while, Brazil play Panama in the same group.

Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson said “nerves and tension” were behind a shaky start to their World Cup campaign.

“It’s OK to be nervous but you need to have the courage to still make that pass,” Gerhardsson said.

The Dutch, losers 2-0 to the US in the final four years ago, had less trouble against debutants Portugal in the New Zealand city of Dunedin.

Defender Stefanie van der Gragt scored with a powerful header on 13 minutes with what turned out to be the winner.

The Netherlands now face the US on Thursday in a rematch of their final, with Group E supremacy at stake.

Sunday’s match in Dunedin, played in front of a crowd of nearly 12,000, saw the Dutch have more of the ball but Portugal threatening on the break.

Portugal’s first shot of the game finally arrived in the last 10 minutes but the Dutch were ultimately fairly comfortable winners.

Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

Updated 24 April 2024

Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

  • The destiny of the title remains in Man City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand

LONDON: Kai Havertz and Ben White scored twice as Arsenal thrashed Chelsea 5-0 on Tuesday to surge ahead in the Premier League title race and ramp up the pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City.
Leandro Trossard was also on target in a record win over Chelsea for the Gunners, who move three points clear of Liverpool and four of Manchester City.
The destiny of the title remains in City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand.
Liverpool have also played one fewer game than Arsenal and are in action at Everton in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.
However, Mikel Arteta’s men’s goal difference advantage now looks unassailable should it become decisive in the title race.
“We have made our people very proud, it is a big derby for us and I know what it means,” said Arteta.
“We started the game really well but didn’t convert all our chances — we were a bit sloppy in certain areas of the pitch.
“In the second half we were much more disciplined and created chances and were ruthless in front of goal.”
Chelsea and Arsenal’s title rivals were dealt a huge blow before kick-off as the Blues’ danger man Cole Palmer was ruled out due to illness.
Palmer has scored or assisted nearly 50 percent of Chelsea’s Premier League goals this season and his presence was badly missed by the visitors.
Despite enduring a disappointing first season under Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea had been unbeaten in eight consecutive league games prior to their FA Cup semifinal defeat to Manchester City on Saturday.
But they were blown away by an Arsenal side keen to reaffirm their title credentials after losing their last home game to Aston Villa.
“So difficult (a) result and performance (to accept) because it is not nice to see your team playing like this from the beginning of the game,” said Pochettino.
“Today we didn’t compete against a team fighting for the Premier League. We need to be aware we need to compete in a different way.”
The hosts flew out of the blocks and were in front inside five minutes.
Trossard only ended up at the Emirates after Arsenal were gazumped by Chelsea in the battle to sign Mykhailo Mudryk in January 2023.
The Belgian has proved to be a far more productive signing and smashed in his 15th goal of the season at Djordje Petrovic’s near post.
Petrovic redeemed himself for a mistake at the opening goal with two brilliant saves to turn away Havertz’s low effort and a deflected shot by Trossard to keep his side in the game before half-time.
The Serbian briefly held Arsenal at bay early in the second period with saves from Declan Rice and Havertz.
However, the floodgates opened once White curled in Arsenal’s second after Chelsea failed to clear a corner on 52 minutes.
Havertz scored the winning goal in a Champions League final for Chelsea during his three years in west London, but he never performed consistently to the level he has found in recent months under Arteta.
Martin Odegaard’s stunning through ball was met with the finish it deserved as Havertz smashed high past Petrovic.
His next finish was more subtle as the German international fired in off the post from Bukayo Saka’s pass for his seventh goal in his last 14 club games.
A night for forget for Chelsea was summed up when White’s attempted cross flew into the top corner from another sensational Odegaard pass.
Defeat leaves Chelsea still in ninth, three points adrift of the European places.
Next up for Arsenal is what appears their toughest hurdle remaining away to Tottenham in Sunday’s north London derby.
Should Arteta’s side prevail at the home of their fiercest rivals, City will likely need to be perfect in their final six games to retain the title.

Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension

Updated 23 April 2024

Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension

  • “We are enjoying our way together with Villa fans, the club owners, management and this great group of players that we are proud of,” Emery said Tuesday
  • The field of candidates for the jobs at Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern is shrinking

DUBAI: Ahead of a summer when three of the biggest jobs in world soccer are up for grabs, Unai Emery became the latest top coach to decide to stay put.
The Aston Villa manager extended his contract until 2027 on Tuesday to stay in Birmingham at a time when Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern Munich all have looming vacancies.
In recent weeks, candidates Xabi Alonso and Julian Nagelsmann took themselves off the market by committing their futures to Bayer Leverkusen and Germany, respectively.
Emery was reportedly on the radar of Bayern and Barcelona after establishing himself as one of the shrewdest coaches in the sport with his work at Villa over the past two seasons.
Having taken over a team that were in danger of relegation in October 2022, he has guided Villa to fourth in the Premier League and into the semifinals of the Europa Conference League.
“We are enjoying our way together with Villa fans, the club owners, management and this great group of players that we are proud of,” Emery said Tuesday.
“Ambition already is, and must always be, the motto of this project.”
The field of candidates for the jobs at Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern is shrinking.
Alonso was the favorite for Liverpool and Bayern, having played for both teams during a storied career. But he announced last month that he would remain at Leverkusen, the team he has gone on to lead to their first German title at the expense of Bayern.
“This is the right place for me to be, to develop as a coach,” Alonso said.
Nagelsmann, fired by Bayern last season, was a contender to return to the German giant until last week when he extended his contract with the national team through to the 2026 World Cup. He was also considered a possibility for Liverpool, which faces the daunting task of replacing Jurgen Klopp at the end of the season.
Klopp said in January he would step down after a trophy-laden spell of more than eight years on Merseyside.
Alonso seemed like a natural fit as an ex-player who has made a remarkable start to his coaching career with Leverkusen.
Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim replaced Alonso as the favorite for the Liverpool job, while Roberto De Zerbi has impressed at Brighton.
Bayern need a replacement for Thomas Tuchel, who is stepping down at the end of the season. His reputation has taken a hit after failing to win the title this year, but he could yet walk away a Champions League winner after leading Bayern to the semifinals of European club soccer’s elite competition.
The Champions League trophy could yet see Tuchel in the running for one of the other two top jobs available this summer.
Barcelona need a new coach after Xavi Hernández said in January that this would be his last season.
Speculation that Emery was on the Catalan club’s radar had increased in recent days.
Emery’s reputation has only grown since taking over from Steven Gerrard when Villa was above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Emery, who joined from Villarreal, led Villa to a seventh-place finish and qualified the team for Europe for the first time since 2010. Villa did not say at the time of his appointment in 2022 how long his original contract would run.
The 52-year-old Emery has won four Europa League trophies — three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal — and won the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain.
He previously coached in England with Arsenal from 2018-19.
“We are thrilled and are building a sporting operation around Unai to support him with a view of returning Aston Villa, a co-founder of the English Football League as we prepare to celebrate our 150th anniversary, to its historic levels of greatness,” club chairman Nassef Sawiris said.

Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

Updated 24 April 2024

Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

  • The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said
  • French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts

LONDON: A soccer agent sent a threatening email to a senior director at Premier League club Chelsea FC, demanding a six-figure commission over the transfer of French defender Kurt Zouma, prosecutors told a London court on Tuesday.
Saif Rubie sent an email to Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea’s director of football under former owner Roman Abramovich, in May 2022 after Zouma’s transfer to West Ham from Chelsea the previous year.
The 45-year-old has pleaded not guilty to one charge under the Malicious Communications Act and his trial at Southwark Crown Court began on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Arizuna Asante said Rubie – whose name appeared on court lists as Saif Alrubie – told Granovskaia that he and his partners were owed 300,000 pounds ($373,000) over the deal.
Granovskaia gave evidence on Tuesday that Chelsea received a total of 29.1 million pounds, which included 4.1 million pounds that was paid to Zouma as a “termination payment.”
In an email to Granovskaia, Rubie said: “I’m sure you’ve heard the story about your other friend Kia when he owed me money for a year and how he ended up paying it.
“Wouldn’t want you to be in the same situation just because you have a personal issue with me.”
Asante told jurors that was a reference to an incident involving soccer agent Kia Joorabchian, who was allegedly accosted in a restaurant and had his watch taken before he was faced with demands for money at his office in 2008.
Granovskaia said on Tuesday that she had a “vague recollection” of having previously heard of the alleged incident involving Joorabchian when she received Rubie’s email.
Asked how Rubie’s email made her feel, Granovskaia said: “It made me feel very nervous, it made me worry and it made me feel threatened.” She added that she thought “I might be faced with some people demanding money from me.”
Granovskaia said in response to questions from Rubie’s lawyer Matthew Radstone that, before the email, Rubie “never threatened me, either on paper or in person.”
She also said she was not aware that Joorabchian had not mentioned Rubie’s name when he reported the alleged incident to the police.
The trial is expected to conclude next week.

Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’

Updated 23 April 2024

Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’

  • Ten Hag admitted after the match his team had “got away with it” but played down any notion of embarrassment
  • “The comments are a disgrace“

LONDON: Erik ten Hag says the media reaction to Manchester United’s performance in the FA Cup semifinal against Coventry was “a disgrace,” robustly defending his side’s achievement in reaching a second straight final.
United surrendered a 3-0 lead at Wembley on Sunday and were saved from a humiliating exit in extra time only by a VAR intervention, which ruled out a goal for offside in the final moments.
They eventually scraped through against the Championship side on penalties to set up a re-match of last year’s final against City.
Ten Hag admitted after the match his team had “got away with it” but played down any notion of embarrassment.
But he has been widely criticized, adding to speculation he is on borrowed time at Old Trafford.
Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton said the performance would “cement his sacking.”
But Ten Hag was in defiant mood on the eve of United’s Premier League match against bottom side Sheffield United on Wednesday.
“You asked the question: ‘Is it embarrassing?’ No, the reaction from you was embarrassing,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“It is the comments. Top football is about results. We made it to a final and we deserved it not only by this game but also the other games.
“We lost control for 20 minutes, we also had bad luck, 3-2, 3-3. We were very lucky in the end, it is clear. Penalties was very good and we made it to the final, it is a huge achievement. Twice, in two years, is magnificent. For me as a manager, four cup finals in four years.
“The comments are a disgrace.”
United, winless in their past four Premier League games, are in danger of missing out on a European spot next season after a poor campaign.
They are already realistically out of the race to qualify for the lucrative Champions League but still have the Europa League and the Europa Conference League to aim for.
“We have to win every game, we know that,” said Ten Hag. “That’s what United stands for and that is our approach, go from game to game but we have to qualify for Europe and we now have two opportunities — in the league and the FA Cup final.”
Ten Hag said he would work closely with newly appointed technical director Jason Wilcox to determine the future direction of the club.
Wilcox, 53, has left second-tier Southampton to take up the job at Old Trafford with immediate effect.
“We have to form a partnership, which is very important,” said Ten Hag. “We are a little bit behind in the process so we have to catch up and we will go and speed up the process.”

New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight

Updated 23 April 2024

New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight

  • Uruguayan coach, whose side travel to Al-Fayha on Thursday, achieved dramatic last-gasp win over fellow relegation battlers Al-Riyadh at the weekend

RIYADH: Leonardo Ramos, the new Al-Tai manager, believes the club’s victory in his debut match could be vital to secure Roshn Saudi League football next season.

Ramos oversaw a dramatic 2-1 win for the Hail club at 10-man Al-Riyadh on Friday in the capital courtesy of a Khalid Al-Shuwayyi own goal 12 minutes into injury time.

The win lifted Al-Tai, who had gone four games without victory prior to the Uruguayan’s arrival, out of the relegation zone and into 14th place in the 18-team league.

“I know that every player in the team needs to bring his best abilities on the field, so the reason for my presence is my experience in ensuring this happens,” Ramos said. “Certainly, the ultimate goal is to play with greater performances and to improve the level and position of the club in the table. The win benefits this.

“The league is definitely approaching the end faster than I would have liked, but I think we can help the players a lot,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of games before I came here, and game by game we’ll have more vision. We were so happy because this was our first game together — and we are happy to have improved our position in the table. We have gone up in the table and that’s important.”

Al-Tai’s opener on Friday night at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh came from Bernard Mensah in first-half injury time. Al-Riyadh saw Abdullah Al-Khairbari red-carded just after the interval but equalized through Abdulhadi Al-Harajin. This came before Al-Shuwayyi watched in horror as a cross ball trundled into the net off his shoulder deep into stoppage time.

Ramos, 54, who earned eight caps for his country as a player, previously managed Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabian football in 2018 and was most recently in charge of Montevideo City Torque in his home country. He replaced Romanian national Laurentiu Reghecampf as Al-Tai manager.

Next up for Ramos and Al-Tai is a trip to Al-Fayha on Thursday, with kickoff at 6 p.m. The club then conclude their campaign with matches versus Al-Khaleej, Al-Raed, Al-Fateh, Al-Hilal and a final-day-of-the-season clash with fellow relegation battlers Al-Okhdood.

The Roshn Saudi League bottom five spots has Al-Hazem last on 16 points, followed by Al-Okhdood on 24, Abha and Al-Riyadh on 25 — with the former in the drop zone due to a considerably inferior goal difference — and then Al-Tai on 26 points. With the standings so tight, Ramos knows exactly what is needed now.

“For sure we need to continue working on improving performances,” the Uruguayan said. “I believe we played an outstanding match (against Al-Riyadh), although there were times that we lacked the rhythm, team spirit, and overall performance. Most of the time, we played on the sides and at the back, and we did not move progressively enough towards the opponent’s goal.

“However, we showed determination and desire to win, and we made some changes in the second half of the match to improve the result and achieve the victory, which we succeeded in at the end. I am very happy to work with the players, and the club overall, and achieving the victory was a great result.”