THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Peerless Paul Pogba, hapless PSG and sloppy City

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Paul Pogba was in imperious form against the Swiss side. (AFP)
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Updated 20 September 2018
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THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Peerless Paul Pogba, hapless PSG and sloppy City

After the first round of Champions League matches we look at the main talking points from club football’s biggest competition.

PSG WILL NOT WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THIS SEASON

This is the one tournament the French club want to win, they are virtually assured of winning 
Ligue 1 year after year and in the glamor stakes the French top-flight does not quite cut it. Qatar has thrown a lot of cash at the capital club and in return PSG have some great players to thrill the fans — Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe make one heck of a front three. But while they have great individuals they do not have much of a team. The side’s 3-2 defeat at Liverpool highlighted everything that is wrong about the moneybags side, the attackers allowed to drift wherever they want, without much purpose and end result. The scoreline flattered the French side, make no mistake about it, Liverpool won at a canter. PSG get away with it in French football, but come the tough examinations in Europe they will get found out time and again.


POGBA SENDS A MESSAGE TO MOURINHO

If reports are to be believed it would seem Jose Mourinho has a fairly frosty relationship with Paul Pogba. It has been rumored that the Frenchman is keen to leave Manchester United and that the Portuguese boss would not do much to persuade him to stay. But on the evidence of Pogba’s performance in United’s 3-0 win at Young Boys in Switzerland Mourinho would be well advised to do everything in his power to keep the midfield maestro. The 25-year-old dominated the clash and showed exactly why he is, on his day, the best midfielder on the planet. He scored twice, to now give him four goals in six matches, having managed six last season for the club and nine in the previous campaign. His opener at Young Boys saw him make a run from midfield to near the area before a brilliant left-foot finish soared into the back of the net. Mourinho praised his captain after the match and will doubtless set about trying to prise that sort of performance from his main man week in, week out.


CITY ARE LESS THAN SLICK

Having coasted to the Premier League title last season, breaking numerous records along the way, City were favorites to win the Champions League this year. But one game in, a shock defeat at home to Lyon, and there appear to be cracks in the side. The 2-1 loss was a huge shock and for once the slick passing and ability to create chances galore were noticeable by their absence. Once they fell behind, Pep Guardiola’s men looked as if they could not think on their feet, unable to work out why they were not brushing aside a team that have failed to challenge for the French title for several years. It is only one match, but as starts to a campaign go, it could not have gone much worse.

 


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 22 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparkling form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.