FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Solid Manchester City, Brittle Bayern Munich and Missing Lionel Messi

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Messi will be out for a few weeks after breaking a bone in his right arm during Barcelona's win over Sevilla. (AFP)
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Updated 22 October 2018

FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Solid Manchester City, Brittle Bayern Munich and Missing Lionel Messi

  • City frighten rivals with dogged defence added to their attacking flair.
  • Lopetegui decision to leave Spanish national side seen in even darker light after awful start to the season.

LONDON: It was another eventful weekend across all the big European leagues, here is what we learned from all the results.

SOLID CITY

When you think of Manchester City, images of free-flowing, incisive, entertaining football — the very thing that we love the beautiful game for — doubtless pop into your head. That is what defined their record-breaking march to the Premier League title last season and has once again been in evidence this campaign. There is, however, another element that has been added to that seductive style: Dogged defense. Yes, Pep Guardiola’s side has now gone five league matches without conceding a goal. Admittedly Saturday’s clean sheet was secured against Burnley, but the one before was against title-chasing Liverpool. This is something that pleased the City boss, who said: “We are not giving away any goals, we are not even giving away chances … we have been solid.” The sight of City adding defensive solidity to their attacking flair will scare all of their rivals.

LOPETEGUI’S DODGY DECISION

We all make bad decisions, ones that almost as soon as they are made we regret. But some decisions prove to be worse than others, ones so bad that you wonder how they were made in the first place. We are obviously talking about Julen Lopetegui’s decision to quit as Spanish national boss to sit in the Real Madrid hot seat. The Madrid giants lost their fourth in five at the weekend and if he is still in the job by the time you are reading this then it will be a shock. It was not his call to leave the Spain side the day before the World Cup, but from the moment Lopetegui was given his marching orders in Russia things have gone from bad to worse for the 52-year-old. His exit paved the way for a disastrous tournament for the national team when they had the players to go far, if not possibly win the whole thing. Since that moment his reputation has not recovered — from hero to zero in four short months.

MESSI MISSING

One of the perennial questions of the past 10 years has been “how would Barcelona fare without Lionel Messi?” Well, for a short time at least, we can now find out after the Catalan club’s talisman suffered a fractured bone in his right arm during the side’s 4-2 win over title rivals Sevilla. Three weeks on the sidelines will see Messi miss six matches. The first a Champions League tie against Inter Milan, the second the all-important El Clasico against arch-rivals Real Madrid. The time for Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Co. to step up is now.

BRITTLE BAYERN MUNICH

The Bavarian giants may have won Saturday’s clash against Wolfsburg, but there remain clouds hanging over FC Hollywood. The side lived up to its moniker last week thanks to some bizarre comments from two men not known for being shy about letting people know exactly what they think. After a four-game winless streak, club president, Uli Hoeness, and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, both former players, accused the media of “outrageous, disrespectful and polemical” reporting and warned them of possible legal action. Nothing like a bit of measured talk after a few bad results …

 


Australia salvage a draw in second Ashes Test at Lord’s, stay 1-0 ahead of England

Updated 10 min 26 sec ago

Australia salvage a draw in second Ashes Test at Lord’s, stay 1-0 ahead of England

LONDON: Australia defied the absence of star batsman Steve Smith because of a concussion and more devastating spells of pace bowling by Jofra Archer to hold out for a draw in the second Ashes Test against England on Sunday.
Set an improbable victory target of 267 off 48 overs at Lord’s, the Australians quickly slumped to 47-3 but a fourth-wicket stand of 85 between Marnus Labuschagne (59) and Travis Head (42 not out) helped push them to safety.
Australia lost three more wickets in a five-over stretch to keep the match alive as the light faded, but managed to survive to 154-6 at the end.
Australia retain a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Labuschagne had an interesting day. He only found out he’d be playing as Test cricket’s first-ever concussion substitute when Smith was withdrawn from the team early Sunday after waking up with a headache and feeling groggy after being hit in the neck by an Archer bumper on Saturday.
Labuschagne came to the middle with Australia struggling on 19-2 after 5.3 overs and, off the second ball he faced, was hit on the grille of his helmet by another vicious delivery from Archer. The batsman dropped to the ground, was checked out by medical staff and required a new helmet.
In a blistering spell by Archer, balls flew past Labuschagne but he survived and looked more comfortable in the final session as England’s hopes began to dwindle at the home of cricket. He finally departed, somewhat controversially, when England captain Joe Root was adjudged to have got his fingers under a diving catch at midwicket from Labuschagne’s sweep.
It was Labuschagne’s second half-century in his sixth Test and he could stay in the team for the third Test starting Thursday at Headingley, with Smith’s availability in doubt.
With Australia currently holding the Ashes urn, the English need to win two of the final three tests to take it off their fierce rivals.
Archer’s performance at Lord’s on his test debut will give England real hope, though. He was a permanent menace, taking 2-59 off 29 overs in the first innings and then 3-32 off 15 overs in the second.
A day after flooring Smith with a vicious 92 mph delivery, the Barbados-born quick removed David Warner for 5 — his fourth straight single-figure score this series — and then Usman Khawaja for 2 to catches behind the wicket.
He peppered Bancroft and Labuschagne with missiles but they lasted until tea.
Bancroft (16) was trapped lbw by spinner Jack Leach early in the final session but England could only make further inroads when it was too late.
After Labuschagne’s departure, Leach removed Matthew Wade for 1 before Joe Denly produced a sensational one-handed catch at midwicket off Archer to take out Australia captain Tim Paine for 4.
Head, who was dropped on 22 by Jason Roy at second slip, persevered and Archer had to be withdrawn from the attack late on because of the poor light. He put his hat back on, and Australia’s players could breathe a sigh of relief.
Earlier, Ben Stokes brought up his seventh Test century before England declared their second innings on 258-5 — the same total the team was all out for in its first innings.
Stokes was unbeaten on 115 after hitting 11 fours and three sixes at the ground where he helped win the Cricket World Cup for England barely a month ago. Jonny Bairstow was not out on 30.
England resumed Sunday on 96-4 in its second innings and added 162 runs before declaring midway through the second session.