FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Morose Jose Mourinho and fantastic fans

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Things are looking pretty bleak for Jose Mourinho after a poor start to the season. (AFP)
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Updated 28 August 2018

FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Morose Jose Mourinho and fantastic fans

  • Can Mourinho hold on to his job at Manchester United?
  • Carlo Ancelotti picks up where Maurizio Sarri left off at Napoli.

LONDON: After another action-packed weekend across Europe, here is what we learned about the beautiful game over the past few days.

FOOTBALL FANS KNOW HOW TO PAY THEIR RESPECTS

When a tragedy happens the vogue nowadays is to dash to Twitter, pen 140 characters with the obligatory RIP hashtag and then, some cynics might say, leave it at that. Not so in football, which once again showed everyone how it is done when you do not merely pay lip service. Genoa fans watched the first 43 minutes of their home match with Empoli in silence as a tribute to the 43 people killed when a motorway bridge collapsed in the Italian city earlier this month. It was the club’s first game since a 200-meter section of the Morandi bridge suddenly fell. Fans had asked for “a deafening silence of 43 minutes, one for each child, worker, student, father or mother who are no longer with us today.”

JOSE MOURINHO’S TIME AT THE TOP COULD BE COMING TO AN END

It was not just the the stark reality of the 3-0 scoreline so much as what happened before and after the chastening defeat Tottenham dished out to Manchester United. Before it, Jose Mourinho decided that playing Ander Herrera as a center back, a position he had never played in before in more than 300 games, was the right thing to do. Who knows why he did this, but you do not have to be a cynic to suggest that perhaps the United boss was making a point to his paymasters who refused him the defender he so craved this summer. After the defeat the Portuguese had a mini-meltdown in the press conference, reminding everyone just how many trophies he has won. You get the feeling he is not so much trying to hang on at Old Trafford but also to top-level football. Who would want to take him on after this?

SARRI WHO?

Napoli have offered the only real challenge to Juventus’ dominance of Serie A over the past few seasons. Not only that, but they have done so playing an exciting attacking game, which was all about flair over fear of failure. That was supposed to be over following the departure of the side’s coach Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea this summer. But there seemed to be little changing of tone in the southern Italians as they came from 2-0 down to AC Milan to win 3-2 this weekend. Not only that, but it was a far from flukey victory. Napoli finished with three times more shots as Milan (24 to eight) and four times as many on target (eight to two). New coach Carlo Ancelotti who, unlike his predecessor certainly knows a thing or two about winning top-level silverware, has certainly picked up where Sarri left off. Can Carlo bring glory back to Napoli?

ALL IS WELL AT REAL

With the departures of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane compounded by a failure, so far, to replace the former star player, there were worries that Barcelona would once again get one over their rivals Real Madrid on the domestic scene. Just two games in, however, and all seems well at the Bernabeu. Two wins from two under Julen Lopetegui has seen the Spanish giants play with freedom and flair. Saturday’s 4-1 over Girona saw Gareth Bales score once again and Karim Benzema bag a brace. All that with World Cup stars Raphael Varane and Luka Modric son the bench. The reasons to be optimistic are easy to see.

 


Tiger Woods-led US golfers deny Els’ dream to win Presidents Cup

Updated 15 December 2019

Tiger Woods-led US golfers deny Els’ dream to win Presidents Cup

  • Crushing loss for Ernie Els’ young Internationals who led for the first three days
  • Tiger Woods becomes the most successful Presidents Cup golfer in history

MELBOURNE: Tiger Woods’ United States produced a stunning turnaround to deny the Internationals a first Presidents Cup in 21 years Sunday, dominating the singles on a tense final day that went to the wire at Royal Melbourne.
Veteran Matt Kuchar was the hero, with his winning putt on the 17th in the penultimate match enough to ensure victory, sparking wild celebrations from playing-captain Woods, who set the tone by getting the first point on the board.
It was a crushing loss for Ernie Els’ young Internationals who led for the first three days of the biennial match play event but failed to deliver the killer blow against a more experienced and accomplished US team.
They went into the 12 singles matches with a 10-8 lead but the tide began quickly turning with Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson among those racing to big early leads with the scoreboard swathed in US red.
When Webb Simpson beat South Korea’s An Byeong-hun, the US went 15-12 in front and needed just half a point with the Internationals leading in two of three matches still in play.
Australian Cameron Smith grabbed one more point by beating Justin Thomas, ensuring a nailbiting finale with Kuchar’s heroics on 17 ensuring there was no way back Els’ team.
“I trusted all my 11 guys. I trusted them implicitly. I told them from the very get go. They went out there and got the points we needed. We fought,” said Woods.
“Even the points we lost, we were making them earn every one of them, and this Cup wasn’t going to be given to us. We had to go earn it, and we did.”
It was a remarkable comeback. No side before had rallied to win on the last day after trailing for three days, further cementing the reputation of Woods, who went undefeated in his three matches.
US President Donald Trump, an avid golf fan, immediately paid tribute on social media.
“Congratulations to Tiger and the entire US Team on a great comeback and tremendous WIN. True Champions!” he tweeted.
The playing-captain, in his ninth Presidents Cup, set the tone from the front, going out first in the singles and winning 3 and 2 against battling Mexican Abraham Ancer.
In doing so he passed Phil Mickelson to become the most successful Presidents Cup golfer in history with a 27-win, 15-loss and 1-tied record to his countryman’s 26-16-13.
It was the United States’ 11th victory in 13 editions of the event. One was drawn with the lone International win coming in 1998, also at Royal Melbourne.
Woods nailed a birdie on the second after a stunning approach shot to take an early lead and although Ancer fought back, Woods’ putter was running hot and he was two up through 10.
The 15-time major winner was striding around Royal Melbourne on a mission and nailed a monster putt on the 16th for the 3 and 2 win.
At one stage the Americans were ahead in nine matches, and world number five Johnson ensured a second point, crushing Li Haotong 4 and 3.
It ended a difficult first Presidents Cup for a Chinese player who was overlooked for the opening two days and never looked at ease.
Patrick Reed’s caddie was banned after shoving a fan on Saturday as tensions boiled over after the controversial American’s penalty for improving his lie in the Bahamas last week.
The former Masters champion turned to his swing coach to carry his bag and it worked wonders as raced six up through seven against Taiwan’s CT Pan in a scintillating display in front of taunting fans.
Pan woke up and won three in a row but it was in vain with the American winning 4 and 2.
The US were on a roll with Tony Finau earning a valuable half point against Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who looked to be on track for a win after going four clear through 10.
South Korea’s Im Sung-jae was a bright spot. Despite being just 21, the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year again showed his huge potential by comfortably beating US Open champion Gary Woodland.