Ronaldo scores twice as Real Madrid take control against PSG

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace to give Real the advantage in PSG encounter. (Reuters)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Ronaldo scores twice as Real Madrid take control against PSG

MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid came from behind to stun Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in the first leg of their heavyweight Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.
Ronaldo scored his 100th Champions League goal for title-holders Real from the penalty spot late in the first half to cancel out Adrien Rabiot’s opener for the French side at the Santiago Bernabeu, set up by Neymar.
The Portuguese star then turned the ball home from close range with seven minutes left before Marcelo secured what could turn out to be a decisive first-leg lead ahead of the return in Paris on March 6 and sent nearly 80,000 home fans into raptures.
“These days are to be remembered, and what better way to do it than with the character we showed,” Real skipper Sergio Ramos told Spanish television.
“We need to keep playing like that, with the desire to defend the Champions League. You can never consider Real Madrid to be dead and buried.”
Rabiot said PSG were plagued by familiar problems
“We always say the same things and we always get caught out in the same way,” Rabiot told beIN Sports.
“The problem is it’s easy to score eight against Dijon, or four goals in league games. It is in these matches that you need to be decisive.” “
The late collapse for PSG brings back echoes of the way they fell apart to lose 6-1 in Barcelona on their way to a humiliating exit at the same stage of the competition last season.
Neymar, in Barcelona’s ranks then, could not make the difference for PSG, who now have a huge job on their hands to turn the tie around.
Having looked set to come away with a precious draw, the defeat piles the pressure on coach Unai Emery, but for Real the outcome is an enormous boost for their boss Zinedine Zidane.
Under pressure himself with Real flagging domestically, he needed this win, and will earn praise for his substitutions, with Marco Asensio coming off the bench to set up each of the two late goals.
That was after Zidane had taken a risk by leaving out Gareth Bale, a key element in the side that has won three of the last four Champions Leagues. The Welshman’s place in the line-up was taken by Isco.
Emery went even further, dropping his captain Thiago Silva to make way for 22-year-old Presnel Kimpembe in the center of the PSG defense.
Real supporters chose an image of a famous fan in Rafael Nadal to adorn a display unfurled at the south end of the ground as the sides came out, hoping their team could draw inspiration from someone who has conquered Paris 10 times as French Open champion.
The hosts started well too, while Neymar struggled, slipping when one pass was aimed toward him, complaining as a Luka Modric challenge sent him to the floor and picking up a yellow card for a foul on Nacho.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, saw Alphonse Areola make a fine save from his net-bound shot after he had been released by Marcelo, and not long after that, in the 33rd minute, PSG scored.
Neymar could claim an assist, although it didn’t look like the Brazilian meant to help Kylian Mbappe’s low ball across the box from the right into the path of Rabiot, who swept home unmarked.
PSG had a precious away goal, but they could not hold their lead until the break as Giovani Lo Celso gave away a penalty for a foul on Toni Kroos.
Areola, having just made a superb save from Karim Benzema, could do nothing to keep out Ronaldo’s spot-kick.
The visitors had chances to go ahead again in the second half, Keylor Navas saving well from Mbappe and Sergio Ramos blocking bravely from Rabiot.
Emery then surprisingly took off Edinson Cavani and replaced him with Thomas Meunier, a right-back. But it was Zidane’s decision to send on Asensio that proved crucial.
In the space of three late minutes, Asensio saw one cross palmed out by Areola and then rebound into the net off Ronaldo’s thigh, before another assist was finished off by Marcelo, potentially finishing the tie in the process.


Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

Updated 18 October 2018
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Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

  • Lebanon have made it to their first Asian Cup since 2000 and are up to 77th in world rankings.
  • Oumari feels the Cedars have what it takes to upset a few of the big guns.

LONDON: While much of the focus ahead of the Asian Cup will be on defending champions Australia, who are one of the favorites, along with Japan and South Korea, Lebanon’s Joan Oumari is hoping his side can grab people’s attention and cause a shock or two.
The Cedars’ last appearance at the tournament came back in 2000 when they were hosts — this is the first time they have qualified for the tournament on merit.
Since their FIFA world ranking fell to 147 in 2016, Lebanon have been one of Asia’s most improved and in-form teams, with their ranking jumping to its current position of 77 — the highest in their history.
Drawn alongside regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Qatar and North Korea in Group E, it will not be easy, but Oumari, one of their star players, is convinced they can put on a show when the tournament gets under way in January.
“I think when we play and stay like we are now we can go far,” the defender told Arab News. “In football everything is possible and we have a great team.”
Oumari knows that just being back at the Asian Cup after a 19-year absence is already a victory for the nation of six million people.
“For sure it is a great thing for us as a national team, but also for all the people (of Lebanon),” the 30-year-old said. “I hope we will write history and get very far in this tournament.”
Oumari’s journey to play for the Cedars is an interesting, and not unfamiliar one in the recent climate of war, family displacement and refugees. His parents, both born in Lebanon, fled the country during the civil war of the 1970s, making their way to Germany, where Oumari was born in 1988.
Starting his professional career in the lower divisions, he gradually worked his way through the professional tiers of club football in Germany, playing for SV Babelsberg in the fourth division, FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt in the third tier, before making the step up to FSV Frankfurt in 2.Bundesliga in 2013.
Along the way he came to the attention of the Lebanon Football Association, and when the invitation came to join the Cedars in 2013, there was no hesitation in accepting and representing the country of his heritage, if not his birth.
“When I got the invitation from the national team for sure I didn’t have to think about it,” he recalled. “I was very proud to play for the national team.”
His debut in a 2-0 win against Syria in September 2013 did not go to plan, however, getting sent off late in the game. His next appearance would not come for almost two years after Miodrag Radulovic had taken over as coach.
“To be honest it was my decision not to play for the national team for these two years,” he said.
“The main reason was our ex-coach (Giuseppe) Giannini, because after he invited me to the national team I was on the bench and I am not used to flying all over the world just to sit on the bench.
“I am not a player who sits on the bench in my club and not in the national team. After Mr. Radulovic started at the national team the federation called me and convinced me to come.”
The change in fortunes for the Cedars since Radulovic took over has been remarkable, and as it stands they are one of the most in-form teams in Asia, going 16 games without a loss dating back to March 2016.
A friendly match with defending Asian Cup champions Australia in Sydney next month will be sure to provide tougher competition, but given their form they travel to Sydney confident of causing an upset.
While the Asian Cup is within touching distance, Oumari’s immediate focus is on club matters and trying to help his side avoid relegation. Having made the move to Japan’s Sagan Tosu, becoming the first Lebanese player to play in the J.League, Oumari has been in and out of a side that has struggled for consistency and currently lie 17th in the 18-team league.
“I hope that we can avoid relegation and stay up, that’s why I came to help the team,” he said.
One of his new teammates in Japan is Spanish World Cup winner Fernando Torres, and despite the team’s struggles on the field, Oumari is loving his time in Japan.
“It’s really nice here and I like it very much,” he said. “I am enjoying the time with my teammates after training. For sure Fernando (Torres) is a great football player and any football player can learn from him no matter which position you are playing.”