Real Madrid must regroup quickly after defeat ahead of El Clasico clash, says Santiago Solari

Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele in action with Real Madrid's Dani Carvajal during the clubs' Copa del Rey encounter. (Reuters)
Updated 28 February 2019
0

Real Madrid must regroup quickly after defeat ahead of El Clasico clash, says Santiago Solari

LONDON: Santiago Solari wants his Real Madrid players to pick themselves up and forget about their midweek Copa del Rey defeat to Barcelona as they prepare to face their bitter rivals again in the league tomorrow.
The Catalan giants cruised to a 3-0 victory at the Bernabeu to wrap up a 4-1 aggregate win on Wednesday and will be full of confidence going into the game at the same ground, especially as they have won 10 of their last 17 matches at the home of Los Blancos, which is now being dubbed “Camp Bernabeu” by the media because of Barca’s recent success there.
Madrid haven’t beaten Barcelona in their last five matchups at any venue, and their last win was in the Spanish Super Cup final in 2017.
Despite this, Solari was upbeat about his team’s chances in the second El Clasico of the season — the first resulted in a 5-1 win for Barca.

“We are upset. It was a hard blow,” he said. “In football you have to pick yourself up quickly because we have another difficult match ahead of us.”
Things could have been different on Wednesday if young forward Vinicius Junior, seen as Madrid’s next star after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, had not missed many clear chances in a first half in which Madrid dominated and deserved at least a goal.
The 18-year-old Brazilian was the home side’s best player, creating many scoring opportunities, but was not able to capitalize.
“He will get better with time,” Solari said. “He will mature.”
Vinicius Junior’s teammates were quick to show their support for him.
“We have to score when he creates the chances, but we can’t blame a single player for the loss,” midfielder Casemiro said. “When we lose, we all lose. When we win, we all win.”
Ernesto Valverde celebrated his 100th match in charge of Barcelona on Wednesday, and has a chance to strike another double blow with a repeat result in his 101st on Saturday, by knocking Madrid out of contention in the title race for good.
But despite winning so comfortably, the Barca boss wants his side to be even better to ensure they get the result, which will take them 12 points clear of Madrid.
“Saturday’s match has the same importance as before and we will have to improve to win here again,” he told Spanish media.
Afterwards, he compared the game to his side’s recent goalless draw with Lyon in the Champions League.
“I think we come out of the game strengthened, but we also have things to improve. Curiously, in Lyon we had 25 shots and didn’t score a single goal and they were talking about us being a crisis,” he said.
“It was a game of two halves. In the first they were better and we weren’t great because they pressed us in certain areas and our rhythm was really slow.
“We lost the ball in bad areas and it could have cost us a goal. It was not a well-rounded game from us, I have to admit.
“We didn’t get close to their goal. But in the second half we played with more determination.
“Today we scored three goals but didn’t have many chances. Other times, it is the other way around.”


Refugee swimmer Mardini rising fast after fleeing war

Updated 21 July 2019
0

Refugee swimmer Mardini rising fast after fleeing war

  • Mardini’s time was more than 12 seconds slower than that of reigning champion Sarah Sjostrom and 47th overall
  • Mardini famously competed at the Rio Olympics under the refugee flag

GWANGJU, South Korea: Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who almost drowned at sea fleeing her war-torn country four years ago, heaved a deep sigh after failing to set a personal best at the world swimming championships on Sunday.
Representing FINA’s independent athletes team, the 21-year-old looked up at the giant scoreboard and winced at her time of 1min 8.79sec in the 100 meters butterfly heats in South Korea.
“I’m not very happy actually,” Mardini told AFP.
“I had some problems with my shoulder but I’m back in training. I still have the 100m freestyle and I’m looking forward to that.”
Mardini’s time was more than 12 seconds slower than that of reigning champion Sarah Sjostrom and 47th overall, but she has come a long way since risking her life crossing from Izmir in Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos in the summer of 2015.
Thirty minutes into that treacherous journey, the motor on their dinghy cut out and the tiny vessel, carrying 20 people rather than the six or seven it was designed for, threatened to capsize.
As the only people who could swim, Mardini and her sister Sarah jumped into the water to push and pull the stricken dinghy for over three hours until they finally reached the shore.
“I arrived in Greece in only jeans and a T-shirt,” said Mardini, who also swims in the 100m freestyle later this week. “Even my shoes were gone.”
Mardini famously competed at the Rio Olympics a year later under the refugee flag.
“In the beginning I refused to be in a refugee team because I was afraid people would think I got the chance because of my story,” said Mardini, who now lives with her family in Berlin.
“I wanted to earn it. But then I realized I had a big opportunity to represent those people — so I took the chance and I never regretted it,” she added.
“Rio was amazing. It was really exciting to see the reaction of people to the team. Now I’m representing millions of displaced people around the world and it really makes me proud.”
It is a far cry from life back in Syria, where rocket strikes would often shake the pool she trained at in Damascus.
“There were bomb attacks sometimes that would crack the windows around the pool,” said Mardini, who has addressed the United Nations general assembly and whose story is set to be told in a Hollywood movie.
“We were scared the whole time.”
Fellow Syrian Ayman Kelzieh was also forced to flee the country before competing at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
Returning to Korea five years later, the 26-year-old now owns a fistful of national swim records, including the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly.
“When the war started I had just moved to Damascus and I couldn’t get back home to Aleppo,” said Kelzieh, who now lives on the Thai island of Phuket.
“But even in Damascus bombs sometimes even went off at the swimming pool we trained at,” he added after taking a poolside selfie with his idol, South African star Chad le Clos.
“There were even attacks at the hotel I stayed in — I was lucky.”