FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Morose Jose Mourinho and fantastic fans

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Things are looking pretty bleak for Jose Mourinho after a poor start to the season. (AFP)
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Updated 28 August 2018
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FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Morose Jose Mourinho and fantastic fans

  • Can Mourinho hold on to his job at Manchester United?
  • Carlo Ancelotti picks up where Maurizio Sarri left off at Napoli.

LONDON: After another action-packed weekend across Europe, here is what we learned about the beautiful game over the past few days.

FOOTBALL FANS KNOW HOW TO PAY THEIR RESPECTS

When a tragedy happens the vogue nowadays is to dash to Twitter, pen 140 characters with the obligatory RIP hashtag and then, some cynics might say, leave it at that. Not so in football, which once again showed everyone how it is done when you do not merely pay lip service. Genoa fans watched the first 43 minutes of their home match with Empoli in silence as a tribute to the 43 people killed when a motorway bridge collapsed in the Italian city earlier this month. It was the club’s first game since a 200-meter section of the Morandi bridge suddenly fell. Fans had asked for “a deafening silence of 43 minutes, one for each child, worker, student, father or mother who are no longer with us today.”



JOSE MOURINHO’S TIME AT THE TOP COULD BE COMING TO AN END

It was not just the the stark reality of the 3-0 scoreline so much as what happened before and after the chastening defeat Tottenham dished out to Manchester United. Before it, Jose Mourinho decided that playing Ander Herrera as a center back, a position he had never played in before in more than 300 games, was the right thing to do. Who knows why he did this, but you do not have to be a cynic to suggest that perhaps the United boss was making a point to his paymasters who refused him the defender he so craved this summer. After the defeat the Portuguese had a mini-meltdown in the press conference, reminding everyone just how many trophies he has won. You get the feeling he is not so much trying to hang on at Old Trafford but also to top-level football. Who would want to take him on after this?

SARRI WHO?

Napoli have offered the only real challenge to Juventus’ dominance of Serie A over the past few seasons. Not only that, but they have done so playing an exciting attacking game, which was all about flair over fear of failure. That was supposed to be over following the departure of the side’s coach Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea this summer. But there seemed to be little changing of tone in the southern Italians as they came from 2-0 down to AC Milan to win 3-2 this weekend. Not only that, but it was a far from flukey victory. Napoli finished with three times more shots as Milan (24 to eight) and four times as many on target (eight to two). New coach Carlo Ancelotti who, unlike his predecessor certainly knows a thing or two about winning top-level silverware, has certainly picked up where Sarri left off. Can Carlo bring glory back to Napoli?

ALL IS WELL AT REAL

With the departures of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane compounded by a failure, so far, to replace the former star player, there were worries that Barcelona would once again get one over their rivals Real Madrid on the domestic scene. Just two games in, however, and all seems well at the Bernabeu. Two wins from two under Julen Lopetegui has seen the Spanish giants play with freedom and flair. Saturday’s 4-1 over Girona saw Gareth Bales score once again and Karim Benzema bag a brace. All that with World Cup stars Raphael Varane and Luka Modric son the bench. The reasons to be optimistic are easy to see.

 


Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 54 min 13 sec ago
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Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

  • Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute
  • For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on

CAIRO: Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.

Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.

For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.

It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.

With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.

Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.

As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.

It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.

Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch Rais Mbohli out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.

Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.

Niang rounded an advancing Mbohli after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.

The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.

Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman telephoned Algeria’s interim president Abdelkader Bensalah to congratulate him on Algeria’s African Cup of Nations win, with Bensalah thanking the king for his phone call.