FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Magical Lionel Messi and morose Jose Mourinho

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Lionel Messi got his season off to a goal-scoring start with a brace against Alaves. (AFP)
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Lionel Messi got his season off to a goal-scoring start with a brace against Alaves. (AFP)
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Lionel Messi got his season off to a goal-scoring start with a brace against Alaves. (AFP)
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Lionel Messi got his season off to a goal-scoring start with a brace against Alaves. (AFP)
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Updated 21 August 2018
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FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Magical Lionel Messi and morose Jose Mourinho

LONDON: After an action-packed weekend of football across Europe, here is what we learned from the top divisions of the football-mad continent.

REDS AND CITY LOOK A CLASS APART

Both Manchester City and Liverpool have two wins from two and both have barely broken sweat. Before the season kicked off it was predicted that this pair would battle it out for the title and so far neither has done anything for anyone to question that. City were simply devastating in their 6-1 demolition of Huddersfield — a victory so clinical and simplistic in its execution that it seems safe to say that Pep Guardiola’s team have got better over the summer. Benjamin Mendy back and fit is as good as a new signing, and a look at their subs bench — Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane — is enough to make anyone wince. It is much the same story for Liverpool. The Reds barely got out of third gear in their 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, a place where good sides will go and leave with nothing this season. It was an ominous result and one that bodes well for Jurgen Klopp’s men.



SERIE A IS NOT LA LIGA

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus debut was not what the Portuguese star would have wished for. The Old Lady may have won, but that fact it was a very tight game — the Bianconeri were forced to come from behind before a last-minute winner gifted them a tense 3-2 win against Chievo — and he did not score would have doubtless left Ronaldo less than ecstatic. The match was perhaps a little taster of what the 33-year-old can expect. Serie A has far more tighter matches than in Spain and defenses are harder to breach. Clearly Ronaldo has the talent to shine in Italy, and in Juve he is at the best club. But if he is expecting to find it as easy as he made it look for Real Madrid he had better think again.



NEW SEASON, SAME MESSI

There is very much a changing of the guard feel to Barcelona this campaign. Andres Iniesta has gone and the side has a different feel to it than the ones that have dominated the domestic scene of the past 10 years. But newly installed as captain Lionel Messi did more than enough to suggest that he will pick up any slack left by club legend Iniesta. Harshly criticized at the World Cup, the Argentine ace got back to doing what he does best: Scoring goals. Messi got a brace in Barca’s 3-0 win over Alaves and in doing so netted the Catalan giants’ 6,000 top-flight goal — he also got their 5,000th eight years ago.



MOURINHO NEEDS TO LIVEN UP

If you have spent your entire managerial career squeezing the life out of football, is it any surprise when football then squeezes the life out of you? Ever since he arrived at Old Trafford the Portuguese boss has looked miserable. He always sees himself as the victim, a mentality that is as telling as it is perverse. Just two games into the season and United are a club in crisis and a lot of that has to do with Mourinho’s mentality. While he did not get the central defender he craved in the summer, he would do well to remember that he signed the two center-backs that played in the 3-2 defeat at Brighton. More moaning and being morose will neither help him nor United. It is time for Jose to smile.

 


Warriors beat Trail Blazers in overtime to reach NBA Finals

Updated 23 min 25 sec ago
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Warriors beat Trail Blazers in overtime to reach NBA Finals

  • The two-time defending NBA champions reach the title series for a fifth consecutive season
  • The only other team to reach five straight NBA Finals was the Boston Celtics

LOS ANGELES: Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both posted triple-doubles to power the Golden State Warriors to a 119-117 overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers and into a fifth straight NBA Finals.
The two-time defending NBA champions reached the title series for a fifth consecutive season with the triumph in Portland, sweeping the Blazers in four games in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.
The only other team to reach five straight NBA Finals was the Boston Celtics, when they went to a record 10 in a row from 1957 to 1966.
The Warriors will battle for the title starting on May 30 against either the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors, aiming to become the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers of 2000, 2001 and 2002 to three-peat as champions.
Curry and Green became the first teammates in league history to have triple-doubles in the same post-season game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Curry finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, while Green had his second straight triple-double — posting double digits in three key statistical categories — with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
Fittingly, Curry and Green combined on the game-winning basket in overtime, Curry feeding Green for a three-pointer that pushed Golden State to a 119-115 lead with 39.6 seconds left in overtime.
The Trail Blazers had led 69-65 at halftime, and built the lead to 17 in the third quarter.
But Golden State, playing without injured superstar Kevin Durant as well as DeMarcus Cousins and veteran Andre Iguodala, chipped away, scoring the last nine points of the third period to close within 95-87 and knotting the score at 104-104 on Curry’s layup with 4:34 left in regulation.
Both teams had a chance to win in regulation, but Curry traveled before draining a three-pointer that didn’t count and Lillard was unable to get through in traffic as time expired with the score tied 111-111.
Portland star Lillard, playing with painful separated ribs, finished with 28 points while unheralded Meyers Leonard led the Trail Blazers with 30 points and 12 rebounds.
CJ McCollum added 26 for the Trail Blazers, but it wasn’t enough for a team that had fended off elimination twice in their second-round series against the Denver Nuggets.