Man City thrash Huddersfield in 3rd round of FA Cup

After winning five major trophies in 2023, Manchester City have their sights set on more silverware in the new year. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 January 2024
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Man City thrash Huddersfield in 3rd round of FA Cup

  • Chants of ‘Oh Kevin De Bruyne’ echoed around the stands when the 32-year-old replaced Julian Alvarez

LONDON: Kevin De Bruyne made his long-awaited return for Manchester City as the FA Cup holders thrashed Huddersfield 5-0 in the third round on Sunday.

Belgium midfielder De Bruyne had been sidelined since tearing his hamstring during City’s Premier League opener against Burnley in August.

He finally got back in action as a 57th minute substitute in City’s emphatic victory over the Championship strugglers at the Etihad Stadium.

Chants of “Oh Kevin De Bruyne” echoed around the stands when the 32-year-old replaced Julian Alvarez.

Pep Guardiola’s side were leading by goals from Phil Foden and Alvarez when De Bruyne was introduced.

De Bruyne’s arrival kept the momentum going as City netted three more times through Ben Jackson’s own goal, another Foden effort and a Jeremy Doku strike on his return from injury as a second half substitute.

Fittingly, Doku’s goal was set up by a deft lofted pass from De Bruyne.

City have stayed afloat without De Bruyne, but his world-class quality in midfield will be a key factor in their bid to retain the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

After winning five major trophies in 2023, City have their sights set on more silverware in the new year and their first step on the road back to Wembley could not have been any easier.

City famously thrashed Huddersfield 10-1 in 1987 in a match featuring three hat tricks.

While this wasn’t quite that brutal on Huddersfield, there was never any doubt City would progress despite the absence of Rodri, due his grandmother’s death, and the injured Erling Haaland.

Foden broke Huddersfield’s resistence in the 33rd minute, squeezing his shot in at the near post after Alvarez’s effort was blocked.

Alvarez nabbed in City’s second goal four minutes later, the Argentine stretching to tap in Rico Lewis’s pass from close-range.

De Bruyne had been on for just seconds when City scored their third as Oscar Bobb’s shot went in via a wicked deflection off Jackson.

Foden struck again in the 65th minute with a clinical low strike from 20 yards. Belgium winger Doku capped the demolition in the 74th minute, meeting De Bruyne’s sublime pass with a first-time finish.

Meanwhlie, Premier League strugglers Luton were held 0-0 by third tier Bolton at Kenilworth Road.

In their first top-flight campaign since 1992, Luton’s primary goal is survival and a draining replay was the last thing Hatters boss Rob Edwards needed.

Nottingham Forest were also given a scare by League One opponents as Nuno Espirito Santo’s men recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Blackpool.

Blackpool beat Forest in the third round last year when the Seasiders were in the Championship and almost repeated the trick at the City Ground.

Forest academy graduate Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel netted against his old club with a spectacular diving header in the 25th minute

Albie Morgan doubled Blackpool’s lead in the 27th minute, coolly converting CJ Hamilton’s cross at the far post.

But Nicolas Dominguez finished off Gonzalo Montiel’s cross in the 39th minute and Morgan Gibbs-White equalized from 18 yards in the 56th minute.

West Ham were held to a 1-1 draw against second tier Bristol City at the London Stadium.

Jarrod Bowen ran onto Lucas Paqueta’s lofted pass and slotted home in the fifth minute.

But influential playmaker Paqueta was forced off with an injury midway through the first half in a major blow.

And Tommy Conway sent 9,000 traveling City fans wild in the 61st minute when he fired the equalizer past Lukasz Fabianski.


Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League

Updated 36 min 57 sec ago
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Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League

  • Al Ain won the inaugural Champions League final in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016
  • Crespo had promised “hell” for Yokohama and thousands of fans in white robes and headdresses let off flares and chanted outside before packing out Hazza bin Zayed Stadium

AL-AIN, UAE: Hernan Crespo’s Al Ain steamrollered 10-man Yokohama F-Marinos 5-1 in the Asian Champions League final return leg to lift the trophy for the second time in their history on Saturday.
The hosts trailed 2-1 from the away fixture but two goals from Soufiane Rahimi, a Kaku penalty and Kodjo Laba’s late double ensured a 6-3 aggregate victory after Yokohama goalkeeper William Popp saw red just before half-time.
Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates’ most successful club, won the inaugural Champions League final in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016.
Harry Kewell’s Yokohama were attempting to become the fourth Japanese winners after Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers and three-time winners Urawa Red Diamonds.
The win will be all the sweeter for Crespo after the 2005 European Champions League final, when the ex-Argentina international scored twice for AC Milan before Kewell’s Liverpool came back to win on penalties.
Crespo had promised “hell” for Yokohama and thousands of fans in white robes and headdresses let off flares and chanted outside before packing out Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
With temperatures still hovering above 30 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) at the 8:00 p.m. kick-off, Al Ain were ahead after just nine minutes.
Yahia Nader’s sweet backheel wrong-footed the defense and tournament top-scorer Rahimi rifled a low shot into the net for his 12th of the competition.
Ken Matsubara had a fizzing shot tipped wide but Al Ain doubled their advantage in the 34th minute after Shinnosuke Hatanaka brought down Rahimi in the box.
After a VAR review, Uzbek referee Ilgiz Tantashev pointed to the spot and Paraguay international Kaku smashed it into the bottom right, sparking delirium in the stands.
Al Ain’s joy was doused as Yokohama’s Yan Matheus stole a bouncing ball from Kouame Kouadio, then turned the defender inside-out and finished left-footed to make it 2-1 and 3-3 on aggregate.
But the half — which stretched to an extraordinary 62 minutes — finished badly for Yokohama when goalkeeper William Popp felled the on-rushing Rahimi and was sent off deep into injury time.
After the restart, a depleted Yokohama lived dangerously when Hatanaka, under pressure from Rahimi, parried a deep cross onto his own crossbar.
The visitors were creaking and on 67 minutes, Rahimi picked up a rebound, rounded a defender and lashed it past substitute ‘keeper Fuma Shirasaka at his near post.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Yokohama, who also had Hatanaka stretchered off, and Togolese substitute Laba pierced their porous defense twice in another long spell of injury time.
Al Ain had already won bragging rights over neighboring Saudi Arabia, whose teams spent more than a billion dollars on players including Cristiano Ronaldo last year, with their Asian campaign.
Crespo’s side ousted Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in the quarter-finals before halting Al Hilal’s top-flight-record streak of 34 consecutive wins when they met in the semis.
With their victory, Al Ain also reach the new-look, 32-team Club World Cup, whose inaugural staging is scheduled for June and July next year in the United States.


Man United win the FA Cup after stunning Man City 2-1 in the final

Updated 25 May 2024
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Man United win the FA Cup after stunning Man City 2-1 in the final

  • United’s first silverware of the season deprived crosstown rival City of the first back-to-back English league-cup doubles
  • United also qualified for the Europa League next season

LONDON: Manchester United won the FA Cup after stunning defending champion Manchester City 2-1 in the final at Wembley on Saturday.
United’s first silverware of the season deprived crosstown rival City of the first back-to-back English league-cup doubles. United also qualified for the Europa League next season.
The final was a repeat of last year’s which City won 2-1, and Pep Guardiola’s team did not give up their trophy without a fight.
Alejandro Garnacho opened the scoring in the 30th minute after mistakes from City defender Josko Gvardiol and goalkeeper Stefan Ortega.
Kobbie Mainoo then added a second goal in the 39th to spark passionate celebrations from manager Erik ten Hag, whose job was under intense scrutiny going into the final.
United were in control at halftime but City piled the pressure on in the second half and eventually got back into the game through substitute Jeremy Doku’s long range shot into the bottom corner in the 87th.
By that point Erling Haaland had hit the bar, Kyle Walker had forced goalkeeper Andre Onana into two outstretched saves, and substitute Julian Alvarez missed the target from close range with only the keeper to beat.
It is United’s 13th FA Cup, one behind Arsenal’s record of 14. And it is Ten Hag’s second trophy in as many years at the club after winning the League Cup last year.
Players and staff embraced him on the field after the final whistle as the Dutchman managed to end a troubled campaign on a high.
Watching on were the United co-owners, Americans Joel and Avram Glazer and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe.
Speculation about Ten Hag’s future dominated the buildup, and it was widely anticipated he would lose his job regardless of the result after overseeing United’s worst league season in 34 years.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team and winning the cup,” he said before kickoff.
It was a very different story for City. After becoming the first English team to win four titles in a row, they were aiming to set a new benchmark by completing back-to-back doubles. City’s parade in Manchester on Monday to celebrate the historic league success will not include the FA Cup.
City dominated possession in the first half but United posed the more threatening attacks and took the lead through Garnacho.
The Argentine winger sparked panic in City’s defense when chasing onto a hopeful punt from Diogo Dalot deep in his half. Gvardiol was quicker to the ball, but his headed back pass went over the onrushing City goalkeeper Ortega to leave Garnacho with an open net to tap home.
If that goal benefited from luck, United’s second came from a slick attack, with Garnacho at the heart of it again when cutting in from the right wing and playing in Bruno Fernandes.
The United captain hit a first-time no-look pass to Mainoo, who coolly slotted past Ortega.
“It’s been a tough season with ups and downs. This is the only thing we’ve had to look forward to,” Mainoo said. “We knew we had to come together. The preparation for this game has been amazing. We’ve shown we can compete and win games.”


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

Updated 25 May 2024
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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.


Barcelona seek their first win against Lyon in Women’s Champions League final

Updated 25 May 2024
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Barcelona seek their first win against Lyon in Women’s Champions League final

  • The titleholders from Spain have a shot at a statement victory by finally overcoming the storied French club and winning their third European title
  • Lyon won five titles in a row from 2016-20, and hold nearly every Women’s Champions League club record

BILBAO, Spain: Barcelona have to find a way past the most successful club in women’s soccer if they want to build on their recent dominance.

Barcelona will play in their fourth straight Women’s Champions League final on Saturday in Bilbao against record eight-time champion Lyon, the nemesis they have never been able to beat.

The titleholders from Spain have a shot at a statement victory by finally overcoming the storied French club and winning their third European title — all within a four-season span.

Lyon, meanwhile, will be hoping to reclaim the trophy after not getting out of the quarterfinals last season and seeing the hype grow about Barcelona and their star players Alexia Putellas and Aitana Bonmatí, who have won back-to-back world player of the year awards.

“We are a team that has won a lot in the past. But we remain really ambitious,” Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor, the first woman to win the league as a player and coach, said on Friday.

“For me we are the best team in the world and will continue to be no matter what happens tomorrow. I trust my players. I know there is all the individual and collective talent needed to achieve this goal.”

Bompastor, who can become the first woman to win two titles as a coach, said it’s natural for rivals to be extra motivated to try to bring down Lyon, which will be playing in its 11th European final in 15 seasons.

Lyon won five titles in a row from 2016-20, and hold nearly every Women’s Champions League club record. The French side has won all four of its matches against Barcelona, including 4-1 in the 2019 final in Hungary and 3-1 in the 2022 final in Italy.

“This Barça is different from the one we faced in the final two years ago,” Bompastor said. “They have made new signings and each final brings with it a different story. It will be a totally different game tomorrow.”

Bonmatí said Barcelona have “grown a lot” since the first final against Lyon.

“I would say that we didn’t have any kind of experience, and physically, we were far off the big teams,” she said. “Now, we are probably one of the teams to beat out of anyone.”

Barcelona beat Chelsea for their first European title in 2021, and Wolfsburg for their second in 2023.

“We’ve had a fantastic season, playing great football, and the recent weeks have seen us on a great dynamic,” said Barcelona coach Jonatan Giraldez, who will leave at the end of the season to join US club Washington Spirit. “It’ll be a great final because I have no doubt at all that these are the two best teams in the world right now. To have the chance to add another Champions League means we can try to show we are still the best team in Europe.”

The club had nine players in the Spain squad that broke through with the nation’s first Women’s World Cup title last year. Barcelona also sent eight players to the semifinals of the inaugural Women’s Nations League, which Spain won in February.

Barcelona are trying to become the third team to win three European titles, after the eight by Lyon and four by Eintracht Frankfurt. They reached the final by overcoming a 1-0 first-leg loss to Chelsea at home in the semifinals. Lyon eliminated French rival Paris Saint-Germain.

Lyon have lost two of their goal scorers from the 2022 final in Turin — Amandine Henry and Catarina Macario. The other, Ada Hegerberg, had been nursing a injury but was expected to be fit to play on Saturday.

“Ada has resumed normal team training,” Bompastor said. “She could be available tomorrow.”