Real Madrid exact revenge on Man City to reach Champions League semifinals

Real Madrid's German defender Antonio Rudiger (L) scores the winning penalty past Manchester City's Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson during the penalty shootout at the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium. (AFP)
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Updated 18 April 2024
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Real Madrid exact revenge on Man City to reach Champions League semifinals

  • City had not lost at home in the Champions League since 2018 but the holders were held at bay by a heroic defensive effort by the 14-time European champions
  • City’s defense of the competition came to an end after Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic saw spot-kicks saved by Madrid’s unlikely hero Andriy Lunin

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Real Madrid exacted revenge on Manchester City to reach the Champions League semifinals 4-3 on penalties after withstanding a barrage at the Etihad on Wednesday.

Rodrygo gave the visitors an early lead before Kevin De Bruyne hit back for the holders to leave the match level at 1-1 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate.

However, City’s defense of the competition came to an end after Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic saw spot-kicks saved by Madrid’s unlikely hero Andriy Lunin.

The Ukrainian, who has deputized this season for the injured Thibaut Courtois, had been at fault for City’s early opener in a thrilling first leg but more than made amends.

City had not lost at home in the Champions League since 2018 but the holders were held at bay by a heroic defensive effort by the 14-time European champions despite having 34 attempts on goal.

Madrid were blown away by an early City blitz in a 4-0 defeat at the Etihad 11 months ago as Pep Guardiola’s men went on to win the competition for the first time.

City also edged a semifinal first leg thriller 4-3 on home soil two years ago only to be stunned by a late Madrid fightback in the return leg.

This time Carlo Ancelotti’s men flipped the script with an assured start that was rewarded in the opening goal.

Jude Bellingham plucked the ball out of the sky with an immaculate touch to set Real roaming down the right.

Vinicius Junior picked out the unmarked Rodrygo and he tapped in the rebound after his first effort was parried by Brazilian international teammate Ederson.

If City were slow to warm to their task they quickly had Madrid penned against the ropes but failed to land a telling blow for 76 minutes.

Erling Haaland failed to score for a fourth consecutive clash between the sides but has rarely come up closer than when his looping header came back off the crossbar and left Bernardo Silva no time to adjust to turn in the rebound.

Lunin was forced to turn behind De Bruyne’s shot from outside the box and the tenacious Antonio Rudiger deflected Jack Grealish’s effort into the side-netting.

The Madrid goalkeeper saved two more from Grealish at the start of the second half before Guardiola sacrificed the England international for the extra pace of Jeremy Doku.

That proved an inspired change as Rudiger failed to deal with a Doku cross and presented the ball perfectly for De Bruyne to smash into the roof of the net 14 minutes from time.

De Bruyne should have turned the tie around single-handedly as he then blazed a glorious chance over.

However, City’s dominance of the ball and territory did serve to sap Madrid’s energy as their lethal counter-attack was largely subdued after the first half.

Guardiola made another big call as Julian Alvarez replaced Haaland for extra-time.

But the Argentine was no more effective at picking holes in the mass ranks of Madrid defense as it was Real who had the best chance of the extra 30 minutes.

Rudiger sliced over with a clear sight of goal after staying forward from a rare Madrid corner.

But the German defender was still to have the decisive say as he slotted in the final penalty of the shootout.


Iordanescu challenges Romania to make ‘history’ at Euro 2024

Updated 21 June 2024
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Iordanescu challenges Romania to make ‘history’ at Euro 2024

  • Romania powered to a 3-0 win against Ukraine in their Group E opener on Monday
  • The Belgians slumped to a shock 1-0 loss at the hands of Slovakia

COLOGNE, Germany: Romania boss Edward Iordanescu urged his team to make “history” at Euro 2024 as they bid to seal a place in the last 16 with a victory over Belgium.
Iordanescu’s side will be guaranteed to reach the knockout stage if they follow their impressive win against Ukraine with an even more surprising success when they meet star-studded Belgium in Cologne on Saturday.
Romania powered to a 3-0 win against Ukraine in their Group E opener on Monday, while the Belgians slumped to a shock 1-0 loss at the hands of Slovakia.
Inspired by their first win in a major tournament since beating England at Euro 2000, the Romanians have their sights set on making the competition’s knockout stage for the first time in 24 years.
“It would mean history. It would be a fantastic example for what football and sport means in Romania,” Iordanescu said on Friday.
“After the first game, the whole country was behind our team. It really helped our people. I can feel happiness and hope for all Romanians. That motivates us even more.”
Belgium wasted a host of chances to score against Slovakia and were denied a late Romelu Lukaku equalizer by a controversial VAR decision.
Iordanescu knows Kevin De Bruyne and company will be desperate to make amends against Romania as the talented underachievers fight to avoid another flop at a major tournament.
“Obviously the opponent is amazing. But we are going into the game trying to win it. Why not get the points that would mean qualification?” he said.
“We have to keep the context in mind. They are number three in the world, with great players, and they really need to get a result.
“That is a really difficult challenge for us. We are waiting for it. This is the Euros, the best players and coaches. These are incredible experiences.
“We have to elevate to another level. We have to be very exact and very efficient.”
Ukraine’s 2-1 win against Slovakia on Friday raised the prospect of all four teams having three points heading into the final round of matches if Belgium beat Romania.
Iordanescu acknowledged a draw would be a good result against Belgium as he insisted his players would not lose focus after their memorable start to the tournament.
“The qualification is the most important thing for us. If a point would be enough, then we would take it,” he said.
“Of course we had euphoria on the pitch (after the Ukraine game). That needed to be enjoyed, then we relaxed and started preparing for tomorrow’s game. It is a new challenge.”


Ukraine beat Slovakia 2-1 for a comeback win at Euro 2024

Updated 21 June 2024
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Ukraine beat Slovakia 2-1 for a comeback win at Euro 2024

  • The win got Ukraine back on track after losing 3-0 to Romania in their opening game

DUESSELDORF, Germany: Roman Yaremchuk scored as Ukraine came back from a goal down to beat Slovakia 2-1 on Friday and strengthen their hopes of reaching the Euro 2024 knockout stages.
The win got Ukraine back on track after losing 3-0 to Romania in their opening game.
Slovakia took the lead in the 17th minute with a header from Ivan Schranz, who also scored the only goal in their surprise 1-0 win over Belgium four days earlier.
Oleksandr Zinchenko crossed low for Mykola Shaparenko to score Ukraine’s first goal of the tournament in the 54th.
Shaparenko played his part in the second goal, too, sending a long pass over the top for Yaremchuk, who controlled the ball with his first touch and then prodded it past goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.


Georgia and the Czech Republic desperate to get off the mark in Group F

Updated 21 June 2024
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Georgia and the Czech Republic desperate to get off the mark in Group F

  • Türkiye and Portugal are the other two teams in Group F and play later Saturday
  • Georgians and the Czechs were praised for fighting hard in their opening games

HAMBURG: Georgia and the Czech Republic are desperately seeking a win as they meet in their second game of Euro 2024 in Hamburg.
Kickoff is at 3 p.m. local time (1300 GMT) on Saturday.
Türkiye and Portugal are the other two teams in Group F and play later Saturday.
Georgians and the Czechs were praised for fighting hard in their opening games but didn't get any points as Türkiye beat Georgia 3-1 and Portugal beat the Czechs 2-1 on a stoppage-time goal from Francisco Conceicao.
A win for either team would boost their chances of qualifying for the knockout rounds. The losing team wouldn't be eliminated for sure just yet because of the rule that some third-place teams can qualify.
A draw would leave Georgia needing an upset win over Portugal in their last game, and the Czech team needing the same against Türkiye.
Meanwhile, Georgian fans were involved in a brawl in the stadium ahead of the Türkiye game.
Georgia’s midfielder Otar Kiteishvili has been on an individual training program separate from the rest of the squad and was an unused substitute in the loss to Türkiye.
Moreover, Czech coach Ivan Hasek played down fitness concerns around captain and midfielder Tomas Soucek, saying he has been in full training. “I think everybody will be ready to start tomorrow,” he said.
Striker Patrik Schick, of Czech Republic, is set to play his 40th game for his country and his next goal will be his 20th. Five of his international goals to date came at the last European Championship.
"Getting out of the group should be the goal, but the most important thing now is to put on a good show. We are still in the development phase and this tournament will help us to become even stronger in the future,” said Georgia’s coach Willy Sagnol.
“I’m not nervous because football has given me everything and hard moments are something that I enjoy...Tomorrow is a great opportunity for me,” said Czech midfielder Antonin Barak.


Fulfilling dreams and finding new friends: fans camp out at Euro 2024

Updated 21 June 2024
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Fulfilling dreams and finding new friends: fans camp out at Euro 2024

  • “In 1990 I was with some friends in Italy at the World Cup there and it was so funny and I said at that time, okay, I will do it again,” Harald Goerz, a Germany fan from Aachen told Reuters

STUTTGART: International rivalries have been put to one side in a campsite in Stuttgart as fans from various nations live in motorhomes next to one another and share the common joy of following their team at Euro 2024.
While the action intensifies on the pitch, the fans are making new friends, sharing drinks and creating a festival atmosphere in a unique holiday that could end next week or next month.
“In 1990 I was with some friends in Italy at the World Cup there and it was so funny and I said at that time, okay, I will do it again,” Harald Goerz, a Germany fan from Aachen told Reuters outside his rented motor home.
“In that time I met my wife, we have been married for 32 years. And last year we had the idea to start this traveling with the German team around Germany to all their games.
“That was ever my dream, I said to her if any time a new European Championship or World Cup is in Germany, then we will do that.”
Harald’s wife Martina, sitting beside him in her Germany jersey, said they would make a photo album of their journey across the country that has taken in Munich and Stuttgart so far and then on to Frankfurt next to show their family.
“We want to have a photo album... for our grandchildren to show them: Look. When I tell our daughter about it, she watches it herself, she lives in Cologne, and she will say: ‘That’s amazing, it’s a shame I couldn’t come with you’. She is crazy about football too.”
Germany have two wins from their opening two matches, the second a 2-0 victory over Hungary at the Stuttgart Arena, which is a five minute walk from the campsite.
However, there was no animosity from Hungarian fans also were camping out.
“It’s amazing. That’s the word... after the game we came here and we just sit in the ‘pub’ and drink with the Scottish fans and they are the best,” Hungary fan Tamas Szucs said, camping with his friend Zsolt Kiraly who he met five years ago and now travels with for international matches.
“We had some German fans here, we said to them well done, good job.
“Everyone is friendly,” he added.

’NO SCOTLAND, NO PARTY’
The Scottish fans are proving to be popular at this tournament with thousands having made the journey. At the Stuttgart campsite, groups made their way separately on the long journey from Scotland but are already one big family.
“We left Glasgow 10 days ago and drove 24 hours solid to get here. And the three guys here, they fell right out the bus. They didn’t stop drinking for 24 hours. 80 cans of beer in 24 hours,” Scotland fan John Gilmour said as his fellow fans cheered and raised fresh bottles of beer.
Scotland were part of the last Euros but that one had COVID restrictions, so for some fans it has been their first real chance to see their team at a European Championship since 1996.
“This was my dream,” said Tony, a Scotland fan who lives in Blackpool, England.
“When I was younger I can remember the football but I was too busy with children. So this time was my dream. I wasn’t missing it. And I brought my son. He was born during Euro 96, so I managed to get him here as well.”
There will be more Scottish arrivals in Stuttgart ahead of their crucial Group A match against Hungary on Sunday, with both teams needing a win to be in with a shout of reaching the next stage.
The chant of “No Scotland, no party” will be heard right across the campsite and the city this weekend.


Cristiano Ronaldo back in action as Portugal and Turkiye look for second straight win at Euro 2024

Updated 21 June 2024
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Cristiano Ronaldo back in action as Portugal and Turkiye look for second straight win at Euro 2024

DORTMUND, Germany: Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal play Turkiye in their second group game at the European Championship. Both countries opened Group F play with a win, with Portugal beating the Czech Republic 2-1 and Turkiye defeating Georgia 3-1. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. local (1600 GMT) in Dortmund. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

  • The 39-year-old Ronaldo lost his place in the Portugal team at the World Cup in 2022 but he looks to be as guaranteed a starter as ever under Roberto Martinez, who took over as coach after the tournament in Qatar. Ronaldo is captain and played the full game against the Czechs, though didn’t score.
  • Portugal encountered a Czech Republic team which sat back and defended in numbers in Leipzig. Turkiye is unlikely to do that, given its strength in attack, so expect Ronaldo and company to have more space going forward.
  • Arda Guler is the one to watch for Turkiye. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder from Real Madrid scored one of the goals of the tournament against Georgia — a long-range screamer into the top corner — to take Ronaldo’s record as the youngest debut scorer at a European Championship.
  •  Turkiye is playing a second straight game at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion. Its fans turned the stadium into a sea of red against Georgia and look sure to outnumber the Portuguese support on Saturday.
  •  Portugal or Turkiye will guarantee a first-place finish in the group with a win in Dortmund and if Georgia-Czech Republic is a draw in Hamburg earlier Saturday.
(AFP)

Team news

  • Portugal’s entire 26-man squad has been in training so Martinez again has some tough decisions to make, given the strength in depth of the group. Joao Palhinha is pushing for a return as the anchorman in midfield.
  • İrfan Can Kahveci missed the win over Georgia because of injury and has yet to return to full training with Turkiye.

By the numbers

  • Ronaldo will look to add to his record 14 goals in European Championships. That is five more than his nearest rival — Michel Platini, whose nine goals all came in the same tournament (1984). It will also be Ronaldo’s record-extending 27th appearance at the Euros.
  • Portugal won all 10 of its qualifying games for Euro 2024 and then its opening group game. The team has also beaten Turkiye in each of their last six competitive matches, and in all three of their meetings at the Euros.
  • By starting against the Czechs, Portugal defender Pepe became — at 41 years and 113 days — the oldest player to feature in a European Championship.
  • By beating Georgia, Turkiye ended a run of losing its opening match in each of its last five appearances at the Euros.

What they’re saying
“We’re expecting a completely different game. Turkiye have better players (than the Czech Republic) and they will want a different kind of match.” — Portugal forward Diogo Jota.
“Even in bad weather, they were at the stadium for us and were so loud. With them, we feel like we are playing with 12 men.” — Turkiye defender Ferdi Kadıoğlu on his team’s loud and passionate fans.