Paul Pogba leads Man Utd to winning Premier League start

Manchester United’s English defender Luke Shaw (L) scores United’s second goal past Leicester City’s Portuguese midfielder Adrien Silva at Old Trafford in Manchester. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2018
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Paul Pogba leads Man Utd to winning Premier League start

  • French star's third-minute spot-kick settled the hosts’ nerves
  • Luke Shaw sealed the points seven minutes from time before Jamie Vardy headed home a consolation

MANCHESTER: Paul Pogba assumed the responsibility of captain handed to him by Jose Mourinho to help Manchester United get off to a winning start in the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Leicester City on Friday.
Less than a month since Pogba scored in the World Cup final to help France lift the trophy, he was thrown straight into action by Mourinho despite just returning to pre-season training this week.
Pogba’s third-minute spot-kick settled the hosts’ nerves as United allayed some of the doom and gloom predicted by Mourinho after failing to land a series of targets before Thursday’s transfer deadline.
Luke Shaw sealed the points seven minutes from time before Jamie Vardy headed home a consolation for the visitors.
After a week in which Pogba has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with Barcelona’s interest piqued by the Frenchman’s frosty relationship with Mourinho after he was repeatedly dropped last season, the Portuguese showed his faith in the midfielder by surprisingly handing him the armband.
Mourinho has consistently complained in recent weeks over his lack of backing from the United board and also had a host of injuries and players lacking match sharpness after the World Cup to contend with.
United added only Brazilian midfielder Fred, teenage full-back Diogo Dalot and third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant to the squad that finished 19 points adrift of champions Manchester City last season.
But the hosts got a much-needed lift after just two minutes when Daniel Amartey was harshly adjudged by referee Andre Mariner to have handled Alexis Sanchez’s shot.
Pogba resisted the pleas of Sanchez to take the spot-kick and after a prolonged stuttering run up, dispatched his shot into the top corner giving Kasper Schmeichel no chance to repeat his penalty saving heroics at the World Cup for Denmark.
United failed to build on that positive start, though, as Leicester went onto enjoy the better of the first-half with £20 million signing James Maddison impressing on debut.
Mourinho was particularly annoyed to miss out on a series of center-back targets, including Leicester’s Harry Maguire who shone for England in Russia.
However, he can still rely on one of the world’s best goalkeepers as David de Gea put his poor World Cup showing behind him with a fine save to prevent Maddison levelling.
Fred had a debut to forget before being replaced 15 minutes from time and was lucky to even last that long when Mariner looked leniently on a kick out at Demarai Gray before half-time.
Both sides’ top scorers from last season, Romelu Lukaku and Vardy, started on the bench after their World Cup exertions and were introduced for the final quarter.
Vardy nearly made a vital contribution as provider when he outmuscled Shaw and picked out Gray in the middle who was denied by another fine save by De Gea.
Lukaku then passed up a golden chance when Schmeichel spread himself well to turn the Belgian’s effort over the bar.
Shaw, who himself has suffered plenty of criticism from Mourinho in the past two seasons, appeared to make the game safe when he fired low into the far corner to spark wild celebrations from his manager.
However, Vardy pulled a goal back deep into stoppage time when he stooped to head in after Ricardo Pereira’s cross came back off the post and United were forced to see out a nervy final few minutes to get off to a winning start.


Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

Updated 26 June 2019
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Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

  • The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy

RENNES, France: Tears were still flowing from Saki Kumagai’s eyes more than 30 minutes later.
With victorious Dutch rivals passing her on the way out of the stadium, Japan’s captain seemed to find solace in speaking about the penalty long after it cost her team a place in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup.
With Tuesday night’s game entering the 90th minute locked at 1-1, Kumagai’s outstretched left arm blocked the shot Vivianne Miedema had aimed into the right side of the net.
“It had my hand for sure,” Kumagai said. “It’s difficult to accept but it’s also sad. I know that is football.”
Referee Melissa Borjas pointed to the penalty spot and Lieke Martens netted her second goal of the game in the 90th minute to seal a 2-1 victory that sent the Netherlands into the quarterfinals for the first time.
“We have made history,” Martens said. “I’m not usually taking the penalties but I felt really good this game. I asked Sherida Spitse if I could take it and she gave it directly to me and I felt quite relaxed about it.”
The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy on Saturday after going one stage further than their Women’s World Cup debut four years ago.
“We were standing in the circle after the match and we were so happy, yelling at each other,” Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. “We were saying, ‘Let’s continue writing history.’“
It is journey’s end for Japan, which won the 2011 tournament and was the runner-up four years later.
The strength of the second-half display counted for nothing.
As befitting a meeting of the Asian and European champions, the game produced some of the slickest action of the World Cup. A backheel flick set up Martens to send the Dutch in front in the 17th minute and Yui Hasegawa equalized in the 43rd to complete a slick passing move.
But the post, crossbar and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal thwarted Japan’s pursuit of a winning goal.
“I think we lacked the clinical edge,” Japan coach Asako Takakura said. “We have to accept the result, we’re defeated, we’re very disappointed and for all the players I feel very sorry for them and frustrated.”
With the last Asian team eliminated, the Women’s World Cup will have a record seven European teams in the quarterfinals. Norway and England meet in Le Havre on Thursday and France takes on the United States the following night. After the Netherlands plays Italy on Saturday, Germany and Sweden will meet.
“It’s really tough to be here,” Netherlands forward Miedema said. “Sometimes it kind of feels like a Euros.”
That is a title already won by this team, thanks to Miedema’s goals in the final two years ago on home soil.
The fans won’t have far to travel for the World Cup quarterfinal, with Valenciennes around two hours’ drive from the Netherlands.
It will be another chance for the orange-clad fans who danced and sang their way in a convoy to the stadium on Tuesday to stamp their mark on this tournament.
They were certainly given a game to savor, and an audacious opening goal.
Martens flicked in the opener after evading her marker to meet a corner and send the ball through the legs of Yuika Sugasawa into the net.
Sugasawa had a quick chance to tie, only to hit the post. But Japan did equalize by completing an intricate move.
Hina Sugita squared across the penalty area to Yuika Sugasawa, who passed back to Mana Iwabuchi on the edge of the penalty area. After holding off Jackie Groenen on the turn, Iwabuchi slipped the ball through to Hasegawa, who was free to delicately dink a shot over Van Veenendaal into the corner of the net.
It was some way to make the most of a first shot on target for a team that failed to score in two of its three group stage games.
But parity nearly didn’t last long.
Miedema received the ball from Shanice van de Sanden but with only Ayaka Yamashita to beat struck straight at the Japan goalkeeper.
Van Veenendaal came to the rescue of the Dutch in the second half by denying Emi Nakajima as Japan chased the winner.
“Japan is a world class team and you saw that today,” Miedema said. “In the second half you can see they have loads of quality on the pitch.”