Premier League’s ‘fab four’ dominate Champions League quarter-finals

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s second goal in their 3-1 Champions League win over Bayern Munich. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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Premier League’s ‘fab four’ dominate Champions League quarter-finals

  • For the first time in a decade the Premier League reigns supreme, providing half of the Champions League quarter-finalists for Friday’s last-eight draw
  • Liverpool were the last to book their ticket, with a hugely impressive 3-1 win away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, joining Tottenham and Manchester City in beating German opposition

LONDON: Brexit, what Brexit? All four English entrants are still in Europe.
For the first time in a decade the Premier League reigns supreme, providing half of the Champions League quarter-finalists for Friday’s last-eight draw.
Liverpool were the last to book their ticket, with a hugely impressive 3-1 win away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, joining Tottenham and Manchester City in beating German opposition, while Manchester United’s miraculous comeback against Paris Saint-Germain will live long in the memory.
“It had to be Liverpool ensuring a Fab Four from England were touring Europe,” wrote Henry Winter in The Times.
Not since 2008/09 has the Premier League, or any other league, enjoyed such a privileged position in Europe’s premier club competition.
Despite record broadcast deals bringing in billions from around the globe, English clubs have been out-thought and outplayed at Champions League level over the past decade.
The 2009 final, that saw Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona defeat a much-fancied Manchester United in Cristiano Ronaldo’s last game for the English club, kicked off a decade of dominance for La Liga. That was thanks, in no small part, to the magic of Lionel Messi at Barcelona and Ronaldo during his nine years at Real Madrid. Between them, those clubs have won seven of the past 10 titles.
“In the last decade Spanish teams controlled everything. It is good for us. For English football it’s incredible,” said mow City boss Guardiola after his side’s 7-0 mauling of Schalke on Tuesday.
Madrid may have been dethroned as kings of Europe, but Messi and Ronaldo still pose the greatest threat to a first Premier League winner since 2011/12.
Messi gave a masterclass as Barca thrashed Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday. The previous evening, Ronaldo, 34, showed why Juventus paid 112 million euros ($127 million) for a veteran last summer, with a hat-trick to break Atletico Madrid hearts.
The Premier League may not have Messi or Ronaldo but it has a collection of stars, from Virgil van Dijk to Paul Pogba, Harry Kane to Sergio Aguero.
They also have each other. The constant grind of a top six vying every season for just four Champions League places allows nobody to rest on their laurels, on the pitch or off it in the recruitment process.
Chelsea and Arsenal could also reach the Europa League last eight on Thursday.
The two landmark victories of this round were Liverpool and United going to two very different European powerhouses — traditional giants Bayern and nouveau-riche PSG.
But those clubs are hampered by a lack of domestic competition that has seen an aging Bayern go stale and PSG fail to handle the pressure when an opponent is not easily knocked out and hits back just as hard.
“England 3 Germany 0. Three matches against Bundesliga opposition for Premier League teams, three victories,” wrote Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail, who went on to refer to the recent trend of promising players leaving the youth programs of England’s richest clubs to find regular first-team football in the Bundesliga.
“Maybe there is a reason young British talent finds it easier to get a game here than they do at home. This isn’t a vintage season for German football. Munich are top of the league again but unless Liverpool caught them on an off night, look very ordinary.”
Crucially, the Premier League now also boasts not only money, but world-class coaching that has been given time to build.
Guardiola is in his third season as City manager, Jurgen Klopp in his fourth at Liverpool and Mauricio Pochettino near the end of season five at Spurs.
Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the outlier, just three months into a temporary reign. But the Norwegian’s impact has shown the talent at the club, despite Jose Mourinho’s struggles.
Liverpool showed the way last season as the first English finalist for six years, before falling at the final hurdle to Real.
Klopp took extra satisfaction because the victory in his homeland on Wednesday confirmed the progress being made to make the five-time European champions serial contenders again.
“It’s massive, a big step for us — a big, big, big one for us,” he said. “We will see what we can do with it, but it is still a fantastic sign that we again set a mark for LFC, for this wonderful club, that we really are back on the landscape on international, top-class football.”


Green triple-double fuels Warriors’ comeback win

Updated 19 May 2019
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Green triple-double fuels Warriors’ comeback win

  • The Golden State Warriors rallied for a 110-99 victory over the Trail Blazers in Portland
  • The two-time defending champion Warriors trailed by as many as 18 in the second quarter

LOS ANGELES: Draymond Green exploded for a seventh career playoff triple-double Saturday as the Golden State Warriors rallied for a 110-99 victory over the Trail Blazers in Portland and a 3-0 lead in the NBA Western Conference finals.
The two-time defending champion Warriors trailed by as many as 18 in the second quarter, but with Green driving them they produced another dominant third period to seize control of the contest and the series.
No team has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win an NBA playoff series. The Trail Blazers will try to fend off elimination when they host game four on Monday.
Green scored 20 points with 13 rebounds and 12 assists, keeping the Warriors afloat in the first half before superstar Stephen Curry came alive with 21 of his 36 points after the interval.
“There aren’t many guys in the game that can (affect both ends of the floor),” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Green beforehand. “Draymond can do both.”
His intensity was on display on both ends of the court, and on the sidelines as he exhorted teammates to keep pushing.
Klay Thompson added 19 points for the Warriors, who were again without injured star Kevin Durant.
“All my teammates, my coaches have been telling me, ‘Draymond, get to the hole, be aggressive,’” Green said of his mindset.
“We’ve got guys out there, Steph, Klay and those guys who draw a lot of attention, so it’s on me to do my job and come through for those guys.”
CJ McCollum led Portland with 23 points. Damian Lillard, relentlessly double-teamed by the Warriors, added 19 points.
Center Meyers Leonard, making just his third start of the season, finished with 16 points.
Leonard made the most of his opportunity early, connecting on five of seven shots from the field in the first half on the way to 13 points.
The Trail Blazers, energized in front of a rowdy home crowd at the Moda Center, quickly built a 10-point lead before the Warriors trimmed it to two — 29-27 — at the end of the first quarter.
But the Blazers kept the pressure on, stretching the lead to 18 in the second quarter.
A steal by Lillard produced a thunderous dunk from Leonard, then Portland’s Seth Curry stole the ball from his superstar brother Stephen and raced for a three-pointer that made it 60-42 with 2:28 remaining in the first half.
Portland took a 66-53 lead into the locker room, but the Warriors responded with a monster third quarter, using a 22-6 scoring run to take their first lead of the game, 77-76 on a layup by Kevin Looney — assisted by Green.
Golden State out-scored Portland 29-13 in the quarter to lead by three heading into the final frame.
The Warriors pushed the lead to 11 with 4:51 remaining and the Trail Blazers wouldn’t get the deficit below eight from there.