‘Sad’ Arsene Wenger defends Mesut Ozil after Atletico Madrid defeat

Mesut Ozil was a peripheral figure against Atletico Madrid. (AFP)
Updated 04 May 2018
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‘Sad’ Arsene Wenger defends Mesut Ozil after Atletico Madrid defeat

  • Diego Costa sinks the Gunners in semfinal
  • Ozil accused of shedding crocodile tears after Europa League exit

MADRID: Arsene Wenger was left devastated by Arsenal’s Europa League defeat to Atletico Madrid on Thursday but made a staunch defense of midfielder Mesut Ozil.
Ozil’s performance was heavily criticized by former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, who said the German had cried “crocodile tears” after the game, and was “not fit to wear the shirt.”
Diego Costa’s strike proved decisive at the Wanda Metropolitano where a 1-0 victory secured Atletico a 2-1 win on aggregate and a place in the final against Marseille.
Defeat ends Wenger’s hopes of leaving Arsenal on a high as his team missed out on a shot at a major trophy and squandered their last chance to qualify for the Champions League.
“I’m very sad tonight,” Wenger said. “Unfortunately you have to go through that — the game can be very cruel, sometimes very nice, but the suffering is very strong tonight.
“Looking at the chances over the two games the least we could say is we are very frustrated. The tie should have been over in the first game.”
It remains to be seen how another season outside Europe’s premier tournament will affect Arsenal’s search both for a new coach, and new signings, this summer.
“The club now has to think about what to do for next season,” Wenger said. “I think there are some good ingredients in our team and they will bounce back. With the right additions in the summer I think they can compete next year.”
Keown, however, was less optimistic and reserved a particularly harsh assessment for Ozil.
“He wasn’t fit to wear the shirt tonight,” Keown told BT Sport. “I’ve seen this a lot this season and it needs to be said. He needs to be dug out. We expect better from him.
“These are crocodile tears I’m seeing from the player. He’s not conning me.”
Keown added: “I bet he doesn’t play again this season. He’ll have some emotional breakdown and won’t play this weekend.”
When Keown’s comments were put to Wenger, he said: “I don’t agree with that. You will see that he gave a lot. It was a difficult team, physically very intense.
“I’m convinced that Ozil should not be criticized by anyone just because he did not score. We had plenty of opportunities and we lose as a team.”
Wenger also delivered an update on the fitness of Laurent Koscielny, who had to be carried off on a stretcher in the 12th minute after the defender went down, with nobody near him, clutching his left Achilles.
Arsenal and France now face an anxious wait.
“It doesn’t look very good, it’s his Achilles,” Wenger said. “You can always hope for a miracle in the scan but if he has a ruptured Achilles, his chances for the World Cup are non-existent.”
Costa was the star of the show, providing the tenacity and killer instinct Arsenal so desperately lacked.
“Costa came back here for nights like this,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “To be important, to lead from the front. This side needs an aggressive striker and that’s exactly what he is.”


Lewis Hamilton wins German GP as rival Sebastian Vettel crashes late on

Updated 23 min 16 sec ago
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Lewis Hamilton wins German GP as rival Sebastian Vettel crashes late on

HOCKENHEIM: Lewis Hamilton regained the championship lead in unexpected and dramatic fashion on Sunday, winning the German Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel crashed while leading near the end.

Heavy rain played havoc late on at the Hockenheimring as Vettel misjudged a basic entry into a turn and slid over the gravel into the barriers with 15 laps to go.

The four-time Formula One champion started from pole position and seemed in control. He was livid with himself, kicking the gravel in frustration as he stepped out his car.

His mishap opened the door wide open for Hamilton.

The British driver was fourth at the time of the crash, having started from 14th on the grid because of a hydraulic problem in qualifying.

“It’s obviously very difficult from that position and highly unlikely but you’ve got to believe,” Hamilton said. “I did a long prayer before the race. I wanted to stay collected, stay calm. The team did such a great job today. I kept believing and it happened so I manifested my dream today. A big, big thanks to God.

“Conditions were perfect for business time. When it rained, I knew I would have a good position.

“You never knew what was going to happen after the safety car. I hope this solidifies their belief in me, and I hope this solidified my belief in them. For those who didn’t know me before, now you do.”

Valtteri Bottas started and finished second on a great day for Mercedes, with Kimi Raikkonen taking third on a bad one for Ferrari.

Vettel’s incident led to a safety car coming out for several laps.

When the race resumed, with about 10 laps left, Bottas almost overtook Hamilton.

That did not go down well at a nervy Mercedes. Shortly after, Bottas was firmly told on team radio to “hold position” and not challenge Hamilton, who secured his fourth win of the season and 66th overall.

“As a driver a win is what we are after, when Seb went off I think there was a good chance,” Bottas said. “Taking positives, as a team it is a perfect result for us. We had a bit of a battle lap one after the safety car. I didn’t get past and I got told to minimize the risk but I understand. I think we have certain rules but it wasn’t clear enough. It was a moment in the race where I needed to stop.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff justified the team orders afterwards.

“It’s two things,” he said. “We didn’t have the quickest car and we need to prepare for the next races. It was still raining at the time and the fight was so intense. With the bad luck we had, we didn’t want to take chances.”

Raikkonen finished third after also having to comply with team orders, move over and let Ferrari teammate Vettel through. “I think we have certain rules but it wasn’t clear enough,” he said. “It was a moment in the race where I needed to stop.”

Ferrari were holding a one-two for a lot of the race, but had to settle for a third and a DNF. Rain caused havoc toward the end and provided a real test of the drivers’ mettle and skill.

“In the past, it’s been difficult in the rain and I was surprised with how the grip reacted,” said Raikkonen. “It didn’t really change an awful lot in the end. It was a tricky race. I had a problem with one of the lappers, the Sauber. It was a tricky race but we try next time.”