Paul Pogba leads Man Utd to winning Premier League start

Manchester United’s English defender Luke Shaw (L) scores United’s second goal past Leicester City’s Portuguese midfielder Adrien Silva at Old Trafford in Manchester. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2018

Paul Pogba leads Man Utd to winning Premier League start

  • French star's third-minute spot-kick settled the hosts’ nerves
  • Luke Shaw sealed the points seven minutes from time before Jamie Vardy headed home a consolation

MANCHESTER: Paul Pogba assumed the responsibility of captain handed to him by Jose Mourinho to help Manchester United get off to a winning start in the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Leicester City on Friday.
Less than a month since Pogba scored in the World Cup final to help France lift the trophy, he was thrown straight into action by Mourinho despite just returning to pre-season training this week.
Pogba’s third-minute spot-kick settled the hosts’ nerves as United allayed some of the doom and gloom predicted by Mourinho after failing to land a series of targets before Thursday’s transfer deadline.
Luke Shaw sealed the points seven minutes from time before Jamie Vardy headed home a consolation for the visitors.
After a week in which Pogba has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with Barcelona’s interest piqued by the Frenchman’s frosty relationship with Mourinho after he was repeatedly dropped last season, the Portuguese showed his faith in the midfielder by surprisingly handing him the armband.
Mourinho has consistently complained in recent weeks over his lack of backing from the United board and also had a host of injuries and players lacking match sharpness after the World Cup to contend with.
United added only Brazilian midfielder Fred, teenage full-back Diogo Dalot and third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant to the squad that finished 19 points adrift of champions Manchester City last season.
But the hosts got a much-needed lift after just two minutes when Daniel Amartey was harshly adjudged by referee Andre Mariner to have handled Alexis Sanchez’s shot.
Pogba resisted the pleas of Sanchez to take the spot-kick and after a prolonged stuttering run up, dispatched his shot into the top corner giving Kasper Schmeichel no chance to repeat his penalty saving heroics at the World Cup for Denmark.
United failed to build on that positive start, though, as Leicester went onto enjoy the better of the first-half with £20 million signing James Maddison impressing on debut.
Mourinho was particularly annoyed to miss out on a series of center-back targets, including Leicester’s Harry Maguire who shone for England in Russia.
However, he can still rely on one of the world’s best goalkeepers as David de Gea put his poor World Cup showing behind him with a fine save to prevent Maddison levelling.
Fred had a debut to forget before being replaced 15 minutes from time and was lucky to even last that long when Mariner looked leniently on a kick out at Demarai Gray before half-time.
Both sides’ top scorers from last season, Romelu Lukaku and Vardy, started on the bench after their World Cup exertions and were introduced for the final quarter.
Vardy nearly made a vital contribution as provider when he outmuscled Shaw and picked out Gray in the middle who was denied by another fine save by De Gea.
Lukaku then passed up a golden chance when Schmeichel spread himself well to turn the Belgian’s effort over the bar.
Shaw, who himself has suffered plenty of criticism from Mourinho in the past two seasons, appeared to make the game safe when he fired low into the far corner to spark wild celebrations from his manager.
However, Vardy pulled a goal back deep into stoppage time when he stooped to head in after Ricardo Pereira’s cross came back off the post and United were forced to see out a nervy final few minutes to get off to a winning start.


Spain’s Marc Gasol on verge of rare NBA-World Cup double

Updated 15 September 2019

Spain’s Marc Gasol on verge of rare NBA-World Cup double

  • The 34-year-old proved his enduring quality by saving Spain in Friday’s double overtime victory over Australia

BEIJING: Spain’s Marc Gasol is one victory away from a rare feat — winning the NBA crown and a Basketball World Cup in the same year.

Only Lamar Odom, a double winner in 2010 with the US and the Los Angeles Lakers, has ever managed that, according to basketball’s governing body FIBA.

Now the center Gasol, who played a key role in the Toronto Raptors’ run to the NBA title, is on the verge of joining him in the history books.

The 34-year-old proved his enduring quality by saving Spain in Friday’s double overtime victory over Australia to set up a World Cup final against Argentina on Sunday in Beijing.

He had 33 points, six rebounds and four assists after stepping up when his country needed him most.

Gasol, who also lifted the world crown with Spain in 2006, said he was less interested in his personal landmark and more motivated by what it means for his country.

“I just cherish every moment for what it is,” the three-time NBA All-Star told FIBA. “I don’t try to double up. I want to give the maximum for every occasion.

“It is two completely different situations. I’m going to give my best to win a World Cup for Spain.”

BACKGROUND

Outgoing champions Team USA won their final match at the Basketball World Cup — but it was still their worst finishing place in the tournament’s history.

Gasol admitted that playing matches every other day in China soon after a long NBA season was tough.

“I knew that committing to the national team this summer would not be easy physically because we were so lucky to stretch our (NBA) season and get away with a championship,” he said.

“But it’s completely worth it.”

Few predicted a Spain-Argentina final.

But quarter-final defeats for reigning two-time champions the US and title favorites Serbia left the door open for the remainder of the field.

Argentina were convincing 80-66 winners over France in their semifinal with their 39-year-old talisman Luis Scola propelling them into the showdown with Spain.

Scola finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and two assists, and was given a huge ovation when he stepped off the court near the end.

Argentine coach Sergio Hernandez said there was no secret ingredient to Scola’s success, even as middle age approaches.

“He works so hard,” said Hernandez, explaining how Scola had locked himself away in his own training camp at the start of the summer.

“He was in his house, in the middle of nowhere, for 14 weeks in a row,” said Hernandez.

“He made a basketball court and was there was a basketball trainer and a physical trainer.”

Argentina’s only previous World Cup success came as hosts in the inaugural edition in 1950.

Also on Sunday, Australia, who led for long periods against Spain, play France for bronze.