City draw first blood against Liverpool with Community Shield win

Manchester City's Argentinian defender Nicolas Otamendi controls the ball during the English FA Community Shield football match between Manchester City and Liverpool. (AFP)
Updated 04 August 2019

City draw first blood against Liverpool with Community Shield win

  • Raheem Sterling gave City a first half lead before Joel Matip grabbed a late equalizer
  • In the shoot-out, City keeper Claudio Bravo saved from Georginio Wijnaldum

LONDON: Manchester City fired the first shot in their battle for supremacy with rivals Liverpool on Sunday as they snatched the Community Shield with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win after a 1-1 draw at Wembley.
Raheem Sterling gave City a first half lead before Joel Matip grabbed a late equalizer for Liverpool in the annual curtain-raiser to the English top-flight season.
In the shoot-out, City keeper Claudio Bravo saved from Georginio Wijnaldum, with Gabriel Jesus driving in the winning kick after successful efforts from Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
The jubilant celebrations from City’s players and fans showed inflicting an early psychological blow on Liverpool was a moment to savour, regardless of the supposed warm-up status of the glamor friendly.
“An incredible final from both sides. We had real good moments, but in the last 15 minutes we were exhausted and they had chances to win the game,” Guardiola said.
“It was a good test for both teams. It’s nice for the players to realize what they will face this season.
“At this level the difference is nothing, just one penalty. The first title of the season is ours.”
With City installed as favorites to win the title for a third successive season and Liverpool expected to present the strongest challenge to Pep Guardiola’s side, their meeting on the eve of the season was a window into what to expect this term.
After pipping Liverpool to last season’s Premier League title with 98 points to their rivals’ 97, City went on to complete an unprecedented domestic treble by adding the FA Cup to the League Cup they won earlier in the campaign.
But Jurgen Klopp’s men didn’t dwell on that painful near-miss as they won the Champions League just weeks later.
On the evidence of this hard-fought contest, which featured both flashes of quality and signs of rustiness, there will little to separate the two teams as they go head-to-head for the major prizes once again over the next 10 months.
Retaining the Community Shield trophy they won 12 months ago would improve City’s belief that they can repeat last season’s remarkable silverware haul, but Liverpool could take encouragement as well after they finished strongly enough to have won.
The only dark cloud for City was an injury to Bayern Munich target Leroy Sane, who limped off in the 10th minute holding his right leg.
City’s victory was a well-time riposte for Guardiola, who this week hit back at Klopp’s claim that the champions live in a transfer “fantasy land.”
Guardiola gave a debut to Spain midfielder Rodri, who joined from Atletico Madrid for a club record £63 million (69 million euros) in the close-season.
And the 23-year-old’s composed passing and physical presence showed why City’s financial muscles have been flexed again.
Sterling hadn’t scored in his last 10 appearances against Liverpool in all competitions, but the England winger ended that drought in the 12th minute.
Kyle Walker’s high pass to the far post caught Liverpool appealing in vain for offside as Kevin De Bruyne headed on to David Silva.
Silva flicked toward Sterling and his close-range effort was just strong enough to escape the grasp of Reds keeper Alisson Becker and trickle over the line.
Much improved after the interval, Liverpool were inches away from equalising when Virgil van Dijk’s half-volley crashed down off the crossbar onto the goalline before City scrambled clear.
Salah was by far Liverpool’s most menacing player and he twisted away from the City defense before firing a fierce strike that cannoned off the outside of the post.
Guardiola had his head in his hands in frustration when Sterling again ran clear on goal without scoring as his hesitant stumble allowed Alisson to save at his feet.
City paid for that miss when Liverpool deservedly equalized in the 77th minute, Van Dijk helping on Jordan Henderson’s free-kick before substitute Matip headed in from close-range.
Walker’s incredible overhead-kick clearance then repelled what looked to be a late Salah winner, setting up City’s shoot-out triumph that stood as the opening salvo in what looks set to be a season-long feud.


Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

Updated 25 August 2019

Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

  • When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain

NEW YORK: During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.

Did it again a little while later.

And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: Just blisters.

“A minor thing,” Djokovic called it. “Like anybody has ... Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.”

When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.

Carballes Baena has an overall career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments, 1-1 at Flushing Meadows, where he made his debut a year ago and lost in the second round.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his past 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the past five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men.

He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.

“More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,” Djokovic said. “So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.”

And while many would attribute Djokovic's success to his ability to return serves, say, or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments — such as saving two match points along the way to edging Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final last month — there's something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality.

That's the way Djokovic can cover a court, which is why the state of that right foot is actually a rather big deal.

His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is "the base of everything" and "the most important thing."

"It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you're looking for as a tennis player," he explained. "How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy and precision?"

Watch Djokovic during a match, and you'll see him change direction in a heartbeat, twist and turn, contort his limbs, slide — on clay, on grass, even on hard courts — always getting to the right spot at the right time.

He attributes his strength in that area to the flexibility of his ankles and is grateful he used to participate in another sport while growing up back home in Serbia.

"I credit my childhood spent on the skis. I used to spend a lot of time skiing," Djokovic said. "That had an effect as well, with kind of coordination and changing movement from one side to another. Even though they're different sports, in essence, you're using some major muscle groups and joints and stuff like this in most of the sports."

It is Djokovic's right elbow that gave him the most trouble a couple of seasons ago.

He missed the last half of 2017, including that year's US Open because that arm was bothering him, then wound up having surgery in February 2018. It took some time for Djokovic to get going after that. All's good these days, though.

"Novak had a couple years where he didn't seem like the same guy," ESPN's John McEnroe said. "Now he's back with a vengeance."

Only 1½ months have passed since Djokovic edged Federer in that classic title match at the All England Club.

Not a lot of time to savor the victory. Not a lot of time to rest a weary body.

"This sport can be a little bit 'cruel,'" Djokovic said, using fingers to indicate air quotes, "when it comes to, I guess, marveling or celebrating your own success. You don't have that much luxury of time to really reflect on everything because the season keeps going."