Barca thump Real Madrid as ruthless Luis Suarez sticks knife into Julen Lopetegui

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. (AP) Photo/Joan Monfort)
Updated 29 October 2018
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Barca thump Real Madrid as ruthless Luis Suarez sticks knife into Julen Lopetegui

(Updates with league positions)
By Richard Martin
BARCELONA, Oct 28 : Barcelona forward Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as his side thrashed arch-rivals Real Madrid 5-1 on Sunday in a highly entertaining ‘Clasico’ which surely will signal the end of hapless coach Julen Lopetegui’s spell in charge of Real.
Leaders Barca opened up a one-point gap at the top of La Liga by condemning Real to their worst defeat in a ‘Clasico’ since Pep Guardiola’s side beat them 5-0 in 2010.
Barca’s Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring in the 11th minute following a slick team move and Suarez doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark by converting a penalty awarded after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR).
Real had looked lifeless in the first half but produced a courageous display after the break following a tactical switch from Lopetegui. They deservedly pulled a goal back through Marcelo and came close to grabbing an equalizer as Luka Modric struck the post and Sergio Ramos headed narrowly over.
Yet even without their injured talisman Lionel Messi, Barca soon reasserted their authority and ran riot in the final 15 minutes with two more goals from Suarez.
A header from substitute Arturo Vidal further twisted the knife into Real, who have lost their last three league games and are seven points behind Barcelona in La Liga in ninth position.
Barca now lead the standings on 21 points after 10 games, a point clear of Alaves, who won 2-1 at home to Villarreal. Atletico Madrid, who won on Saturday, are third on 19 points.
“This result is a reflection of our entire season, which has been a disaster,” Real midfielder Casemiro told reporters.
“It’s not about tactics or attitude, it’s everything. The players have to run more and fight more. We aren’t playing well and we can’t blame the coach, as the players are the ones who have to perform on the pitch.”
Real looked to be lacking in confidence from the start as Benzema hurriedly hammered a cross from Gareth Bale over the bar when he had plenty of time to bring the ball under control.
Barca, meanwhile, oozed belief and their opening goal was a joy to behold as Ivan Rakitic released Jordi Alba with a chipped pass and the Spaniard rocketed past Nacho, crossing freely into the area for Coutinho to turn the ball in from close range.
Further signs of Real’s nervousness came when Nacho misplaced a pass in the area to the feet of Arthur Melo and it took a magnificent flying save from Thibaut Courtois to beat away the Brazilian’s curling shot.
Barca did extend their advantage when Suarez slammed a spot-kick under the diving Courtois after being tripped by Varane, who was responsible for both goals Real conceded in their shock 2-1 home defeat by Levante last week.
Lopetegui rejigged his formation at the start of the second half, opting for a back-three by hauling off Varane for Lucas Vazquez and his side instantly improved, getting a foothold through Marcelo’s strike.

AGONISINGLY CLOSE
They were agonizingly close to finding an equalizer but Barca continued to look dangerous on the break and Suarez’s bullet header from a standing position killed the game off as a contest.
“We had 15 difficult minutes but we had a great performance,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.
“The first half belonged to us. They turned things around by playing fullbacks as wingers and we were caught out by it and suffered after their goal. Then we sorted ourselves out and took advantage of their risky approach.”
Uruguay striker Suarez completed his treble with a classy chipped finish while Chile international Vidal struck his first goal for Barca to further humiliate Real. (Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond and Ian Chadband)


Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 18 June 2019
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Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Tazkarti will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament

CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) host country Egypt has launched an online ticketing platform called Tazkarti, which will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament, which begins June 22.

Its aim is to combat ticket touts and black market sales for the continent’s biggest football tournament, and to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed at the price decided by the AFCON organizing committee. It is also a measure of the steps Egypt is taking to ensure that the tournament passes peacefully. 

Football stadiums have been almost entirely empty since 2011 because of security issues after long-time President Hosni Mubarak stepped down following national protests in which football fans played a major role, resulting in violent, often lethal, clashes with police and between rival fans.

In 2012, Port Said stadium witnessed a riot that left 72 Al-Ahly supporters dead after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters at the end of a Premier League game. In 2015, 19 Zamalek fans were killed and 20 injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds making their way into a Cairo stadium to attend a Premier League game. 

Those were just two of several incidents that meant authorities imposed a ban on people attending football matches or severely restricted the number of people that could do so.

Every AFCON ticket purchased via Tazkarti will be scanned at the stadium to ensure it matches the holder’s “Fan ID.” If it does not, the holder will not be allowed into the ground.

Tickets for matches featuring the Egyptian national team range from 200 to 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($12-$150), while other matches range from 100 to 500 Egyptian pounds ($6 to $30).

While those prices might sound affordable to outsiders, in a country where a doctor earns around $90 to $179 per month, many have found themselves priced out of the tournament already.

“I am a married dentist with three kids. If I want to attend a match with my family, I would have to pay 1,000 pounds ($60), (not including) transportation and snacks,” Dr. M. Sheta, who lives in Damietta, told Arab News.

“To book a cinema ticket nowadays ranges between 70 and 100 pounds and a good meal costs 100 pounds minimum. If I can afford that, then I can afford AFCON tickets,” said a housewife in Mansoura, who asked to remain anonymous.

Plenty of young Egyptians took to social media to express their displeasure with the ticket prices.

“This is a clear message that middle-class Egyptians are not welcome,” said Ahmed Zahran.

“I would rather pay a total of 10 pounds at any coffee shop and watch the matches there,” said Ahmed El-Tlabanty.

Some fans believe that the prices have been set high to discourage Ultras (the most passionate football fans) from attending.

An administrator of the “Ultras Ahlawy” Facebook group, while stressing that he hoped supporters “have fun watching AFCON,” asked Arab News: “Why would I pay 200 pounds to watch a match? I do not (make hundreds of pounds).”

Aside from issues with the high prices, people have also been widely critical of the technical performance of the new ticketing platform, which has been under pressure from high demand for Fan IDs.

“You guys are so disrespectful and unprofessional. I’ve been trying to reach out for more than two weeks and no one is answering — not on messenger nor the hotline. You made the whole championship experience the worst,” wrote Fatma El-Dardiry. “I called your customer service at least five times, placed three complaints and texted you on Facebook more than once. Now, the tickets of cat 1 and 2 for the opening match have already sold out.”