Jordan ready to unleash more shocks in Asian Cup second round

Jordan surprised everyone, possibly even themselves, by topping Group B. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Jordan ready to unleash more shocks in Asian Cup second round

  • Borkelmans' boys not finished with the giant-killing in the UAE.
  • Jordan beat both Australia and Syria in the group stage and are confident they can go far.

LONDON: They may have surprised a few fans and rivals, but Jordan insist they have not stopped with the shocks in the UAE.
Australia and Syria were the two teams widely expected to coast through to the knockout stages from Group B. But Vital Borkelmans’ team ignored the form book and beat both the Socceroos and Syrians, before the final game 0-0 draw with Palestine, to top the pool.
And having got a taste of giantkilling Jordan are after more.
“We tried to get a maximum nine points from the group stage, but we couldn’t. We are, though, grateful we got a point from the game against Palestine and that we have qualified as group leaders,” Jordan midfielder Abdel Rahman said.
“This is the fourth Asian Cup for (us) and we have managed to advance and keep a clean sheet in all three of our group stage games.
“The Jordanian team doesn’t fear any other team. We are a humble side and we respect any team that we play. We will strive to do our best in the next round.”
Borkelmens’ boys are yet to concede a goal in the UAE and that dogged defense will be key as to whether they can continue their run at a first Asian Cup title. They are yet to learn who they will face in the second-round clash in Dubai on Sunday but it is clear that along with the defense, the side’s passionate fans will also be key to their chances of making the quarterfinals.
“The fans (have been) great. I really hope they keep supporting us in the upcoming stages,” Rahman said.

The message of confidence is clearly permeating through the camp with Borkelmans saying his team fear no one. 

“I am happy, we got seven points and three clean sheets, something I would have taken before the tournament,” the coach said.

“We do not know our Round of 16 opponents yet, but I know that we have already started working. My players have a lot of confidence and they are positive.

“I hope we can do something in the next round. Indeed, every round we progress to, we will have the confidence to go even further.”


Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

Updated 17 February 2019
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Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

  • Defeat leaves Real in third, nine points behind arch-rivals Barcelona.
  • Girona had not won in the league since November.

LONDON: Santiago Solari insisted Real Madrid could still win the La Liga title despite a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Girona.
The capital club were coming off a five-match winning streak, but were not able to get past their relegation-threatened rivals at the Bernabeu, conceding twice in the second half after taking a 1-0 half-time lead.
Girona had not won in 13 matches in all competitions and were coming off six straight losses. The Catalan club had not won in the league since November and had entered the weekend one point from the relegation zone. So to say this was a shock would be understating the case, Real were on the up, and this was supposed to be an easy win to aid their slim title hopes and add to the momentum of their good 2019 form.
But Solari — clearly a “glass half full” man — claimed Real’s title charge was far from over. Asked if the title was lost, the Argentine, who took over the asked Julen Lopetegui in October, said: “Not at all, not at all, next week there is another match, our rivals, too. All the matches are difficult, as Girona have shown today, we have to keep winning to try to cut the gap.
“This is football and there is always a rival, in this case Girona, who played well.
“In the second half there was a lot of energy. Girona were forceful when they attacked and we lacked clarity. The fatigue is not only physical, it is mental, concentration. We come from a major bustle, many games with good results, and that may have happened to us at the energy level in the second half. It’s likely.”
The surprise defeat dropped Madrid to third place and left them nine points behind Barcelona, who edged Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday with a penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi. The result at the Nou Camp ended a three-game winless run for the Girona neighbors in all competitions.
Madrid had won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions, with the only setback a 1-1 draw at Barca in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. They had cut Barcelona’s lead from 10 points to six in recent rounds after seeing their arch-rivals go through a slump.
Solari made some changes to the starting lineup, leaving Vinicius Junior and Gareth Bale on the bench after they started midweek in the 2-1 win at Ajax in the Champions League second round clash.
Casemiro opened the scoring with a firm header from near the penalty spot in the 25th minute after a cross by Toni Kroos, and Girona equalized with a penalty kick converted by Cristhian Stuani in the 65th after a handball by Sergio Ramos inside the area.
Girona had a golden chance to equalize about five minutes before the penalty, when Aleix Garcia’s close-range shot went over the crossbar. The visitors moved in front with a 75th-minute header by Portu after Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois initially saved a shot by Anthony Lozano.
Portu had hit the post a few minutes earlier with a booming shot from inside the area.
Solari put on Vinicius Junior and Bale in the second half, but they were unable to save Real. Courtois made it to the area in a last-gasp attempt, but could not get enough on his header, sending the ball just wide of the post.
As if to emphasize the dire day, Ramos was sent off in 90th minute after receiving a second yellow card.