Gift-wrapped: Manchester City crowned champions

Manchester United's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (R) has this headed effort saved by West Bromwich Albion's English goalkeeper Ben Foster (not pictured) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and West Bomwich Albion at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, on April 15, 2018. (AFP / PAUL ELLIS)
Updated 15 April 2018
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Gift-wrapped: Manchester City crowned champions

LONDON: Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions on Sunday as Manchester United crashed to a shock 1-0 defeat against West Bromwich Albion.
City had moved within touching distance of the title with a 3-1 win at Tottenham on Saturday.
They clinched the silverware 24 hours later thanks to Albion forward Jay Rodriguez’s 73rd minute header at Old Trafford.
City captain Vincent Kompany led the celebrations, tweeting: “Champions! What a great feeling! So happy to be able to share another trophy with our amazing fans!“
United had denied City the chance to wrap up the title last weekend when they came from two goals down to beat their bitter rivals 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium.
But Jose Mourinho’s men still ended up handing the trophy to City with a lackluster display against bottom of the table Albion, who had won only three times in the league this season before this weekend.
“Manchester City, we won it for you” chanted West Brom fans at full-time as United supporters began jeering in frustration at their side gift-wrapping the title for City.
City manager Pep Guardiola is the first Spaniard to win the English title.
He and Mourinho are old rivals from their time in Spain when the United boss managed Real Madrid.
Mourinho was hardly effusive in his praise when asked about City’s success, but did concede they deserved to be champions.
“I have won titles. City were the best team, sooner or later they would get the points, so no dramas when the best team wins the league,” Mourinho said.
“I saw lots of people in the moon because we won against City. You could see the difference in the attitude to players compared to last week. We deserve to be punished
“But do not tell City they won title because United did not win, it is not fair on them.”
City are 16 points clear of second placed United, who can only take a maximum of 15 points from their remaining five games.
Winning the title with five matches to go makes City the joint earliest champions in the Premier League era — matching the achievement of the 2000-01 Manchester United team.
“Our Time. Our City. Premier League Champions 17/18,” City posted on their official Twitter account.
It is the fifth time City have been English champions and the third time in the last seven seasons.
City defender Benjamin Mendy, who missed most of the season due to injury, turned social media blue as he tweeted: “We are f*****g champions congratulations boys!“
Guardiola had planned a day of golf with his son Marius on Sunday, so the Spaniard might have learned of his first Premier League while on the course.
Speaking after the win over Tottenham, Guardiola admitted winning the title in England would be one of the greatest achievements of his glittering career.
He won three league titles with Barcelona and twice lifted the Champions League trophy during his Camp Nou reign.
The 47-year-old also took the German title three times with Bayern Munich, but he believes the unique strength in depth and physical demands of the Premier League makes this triumph among his very best.
He also conceded it was sweet to triumph in a country where some critics claimed his purist principles couldn’t flourish.
Guardiola and his players will have the chance to celebrate properly on Sunday when they host Swansea in their next fixture.
It was always a matter of when rather than if City would be champions after they led the way for most of the season.
Only in the last 10 days, as they lost to United and were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals by Liverpool, had City’s quality been called into question.
They gave a superb response with a swaggering win at fourth placed Tottenham.
Now, driven on by stars Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and David Silva, Guardiola’s men can focus on establishing themselves among the Premier League’s all-time great teams.
Some pundits are already ranking City — who at one stage this season won a record 18 successive league games — alongside Manchester United’s 1999 treble winners and the 2003-04 Arsenal ‘Invincibles’.
While it may be premature to place City in that rarified air, they could make a case by breaking the Premier League points record of 95 set by Chelsea in 2004-05.
 


India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

Updated 18 September 2018
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India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

  • India brace for Pakistan after surviving stern test against minnows Hong Kong
  • Usman Shinwari: Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high

DUBAI: As delirium sweeps the UAE ahead of the mouth-watering encounter between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, it seems one man — at least outwardly — is not as excited as the rest of the country and cricketing fans the world over.
India captain Rohit Sharma played with a straight bat when asked about the biggest clash in world cricket, set to take place today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. On his first Asia Cup media outing the 31-year-old seemed unconcerned by the impending showdown with their fiercest opponents, his focus instead on facing Hong Kong, who Sharma and Co. had a big scare against on Tuesday.
“Right now, we are not focusing on Pakistan as (first) we are playing Hong Kong,” Sharma said on Sunday. “Obviously we have to focus on that particular team but once we have finished that game we will focus on Pakistan and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
These are clearly the words of a man so media trained that by now he could easily be on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions he and his colleagues sometimes enjoy batting back with crafted clichés that speak of focusing on “one game at a time” or the like.
Sharma was clearly right to not take his eyes off the ball with Hong Kong — they are not here to merely make up the numbers, as their brilliant, battling performance on Tuesday illustrated. But at the same time, Sharma will be all too aware that as India skipper the one match you do not want to lead your side to defeat in is the one against Pakistan, regardless of competition and location.
Clearly India are not leaving Pakistan preparations to the 14 hours or so (sleep included) between the close of the Hong Kong clash and the toss prior to resuming Indo-Pak cricketing rivalry. To suggest they are would be naive at best.
A year on from Pakistan’s show-stealing Champions Trophy final victory over the old enemy in June last year, and a whole five years since the two sides met outside of an ICC or ACC event due to strained political relations, the appetite for the first of potentially three matches at this year’s Asia Cup is huge and one borne out of starved hunger.
Pakistan’s Usman Shinwari, fresh off defeating Hong Kong on Sunday, was more candid than Sharma.
“Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high, and every player dreams of doing well in this contest,” the fast bowler said. “I took three wickets (against Hong Kong), I hope that can be five wickets against India.”
Shinwari’s sentiments were echoed by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is absolutely clear on the levels of expectation that this fixture demands from fans on both sides of the border.
“The passion is always there,” said Sarfraz. “When you play against India everyone wants us to win as it’s against India.
“The fans say that whatever happens you have to win but as a captain I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India whose fans want them to win. It has happened in the past that any player who performs in the Indo-Pak match becomes a national hero.”
UAE cricket fans cannot wait for the clash. It took just a few hours for the first batch of tickets to be snapped up, the second bought in equally ravenous fashion. It has left a huge number of tickets now being touted across online marketplaces, social media platforms and, ultimately, will likely see the inflated resales being pawned outside the stadium on matchday too.
An expected 25,000 fans will swell the Ring of Fire, set to deal not only with cricket’s most fierce rivalry but also with all the unpredictability that will be thrown their way.
The famed traffic jams around Hessa Street, leading up to the stadium, and local entrances of Dubai Sports City will heave and efforts have been made to ease the burden of vehicles that will cart both sets of fans in and out of the area. Gates will open from 12p.m. local time, a whole three and a half hours before the first ball has been bowled. In an emirate where the last-minute rush is a daily fact of life, this will be not be an easy thing to execute but that, alongside the immense presence of volunteers and security, should prove welcome additions to the day’s running order.
This, though, is India vs Pakistan. Anything could happen.