What have we learned after the Champions League last-16 games?

Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 February 2018
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What have we learned after the Champions League last-16 games?

Here’s five things Arab News learned after the first legs of the Champions League second round…

PARIS ST. GERMAIN ARE CHOKERS: You may have just read that and thought “that’s a bit harsh,” but if ever there was a time to make a statement of intent against one of the established European greats, it was against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Zinedine Zidane’s team have endured a torrid time in La Liga and during the first leg of the tie barely got out of second gear. But the fact is they did not need to put on a display of brilliance to grab the 3-1 advantage they take to the French capital. PSG have long had designs of joining European footballing aristocracy, but on this evidence they will remain arrivistes for some time yet.

TOTTENHAM ARE DARK HORSES: Considering they may still yet finish outside the top four of the Premier League, it seems strange to view Spurs as possible winners. But on the evidence of their 2-2 draw against Juventus that is exactly what they are. The Turin team were second best by some distance in the first leg and were fortunate they went two goals up so early on. With Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli on form and as solid a defense as there is in Europe Mauricio Pochettino’s side is capable of going far in the competition.


DAVID DE GEA IS THE BEST KEEPER IN THE WORLD: If there is one thing most people can agree on, it is that this Manchester United side, packed full of exciting talent, is pretty dull to watch. The flip side of that, so the argument goes, is that Jose Mourinho sides tend to get the results they need — think Inter Milan against Barcelona in 2010. On Wednesday night United got a draw against a good Sevilla side in Spain. However, it was based less on a defensive masterclass and more on the heroics of de Gea. The keeper produced two great saves to keep out the hosts and not for the first time the Spaniard proved himself to be this bland, functional United side’s key man.


CHELSEA SHOULD DO EVERYTHING TO KEEP CONTE: Watching Chelsea stifle Barcelona on Tuesday night it was hard to fathom how the Blues were beaten 4-1 by Watford. No offense to Troy Deeney and Co. but Lionel Messi, Andres Inesta and Luis Suarez are in what is known politely as a different league and as formidable an attacking unit as you will find. But Antonio Conte set up the Blues perfectly, playing with Eden Hazard as a false No.9 when the temptation would have been to have Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud as a target man. Barcelona were restricted to just two clearcut chances all game and the hosts looked by far the more incisive side. That is all down to Conte and Chelsea would be mad to let him go, as appears likely, at the end of the season.


THE COMPETITION IS WIDE OPEN: With Real Madrid looking a pale imitation of their title-winning teams of the past two years, Barcelona looking far from their exciting, attacking best, Manchester City only having felt the nerves of a last four clash once and PSG seemingly on their way out, it is very hard to make a case for a clear standout favorite. Any side that makes it though to the last eight will fancy their chances and with good reason. It is not hard to make a case for any of the above or Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United ultimately lifting the famous trophy in May, and that is why it is the most watched club knockout competition in the world.

 


Pakistan beat Afghanistan in last over finish

Bangladesh's Mahmudullah, right, bats during the one day international cricket match of Asia Cup between Bangladesh and Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Pakistan beat Afghanistan in last over finish

  • Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6

DUBAI: Experienced batsman Shoaib Malik hit a six and a boundary to pull off a sensational last over three wicket win for Pakistan against a spirited Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Malik pulled the second ball of the final over by paceman Aftab Alam over the deep square leg boundary and then whacked the next to deep fine leg for a boundary as Pakistan pulled off a nerve-wracking win in 49.3 overs at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Pakistan, cashing a stiff 258-run target, were home and dry to start the Super Four Stage with a much needed win and now face arch rivals India in Dubai on Sunday.
Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6.
Pakistan were off to a disastrous start when opener Fakhar Zaman was trapped leg-before off the sixth ball of the innings by spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for nought.
Imam-ul-Haq scored a 104-ball 80 with five boundaries and a six while Babar Azam knocked an attractive 94-ball 66 with four boundaries and a six during their innings repairing the 154-run stand for the second wicket.
But both fell within the space of four runs as spinner Rashid Khan (3-46) brought Afghanistan back in the game with the asking rate getting stiffer, as Pakistan needed 42 off the final five overs.
Despite losing skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (eight), Asif Ali (seven) and Mohammad Nawaz (ten), Malik kept his cool to sop Afghanistan from posting their third straight win after beating Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the first round.
Earlier, Shahidi hit three consecutive boundaries in the final over off Usman Shinwari, but failed to get to three figures off the last delivery after Afghanistan won the toss and batted.
Shahidi finished with a brilliantly-paced 118-ball 97 not out, and added 94 for the fourth wicket with his skipper Asghar Afghan, who smashed five sixes and two fours in his 56-ball 67.
But it was Shahidi who held one end against Pakistan’s bowling in an innings which featured seven boundaries after left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz (3-57) had put the brakes on Afghanistan’s early progress.
Shahidi had added 63 for the third wicket with Rahmat Shah who scored a measured 36.
The total is an improvement by Afghanistan after scoring 249 and 255 in their previous two wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Pakistani fielders dropped four catches — three off debutant paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi who finished with 2-38.
India beat Bangladesh by seven wickets in Dubai and now meet Pakistan on Sunday, also in Dubai. Afghanistan and Bangladesh meet in Abu Dhabi on the same day.
Top two teams from the Super Four Stages will play the final in Dubai on September 28.