FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Cam Newton on the up as Manning lives off past glories

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Cam Newton has been on fire recently. (AFP)
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Updated 30 October 2018

FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Cam Newton on the up as Manning lives off past glories

LONDON: As Gridiron grinds toward the playoffs, we take a peek at what happened in Week 8 of the NFL.

MANNING AND WINSTON OUT IN THE COLD

The New York Giants’ love affair with Eli Manning is heading for an acrimonious divorce. His latest outing this weekend, in a 20-13 defeat to the Redskins, was the latest in a long line of ineffective performances spanning two seasons. Surely it will not be long before coach Pat Shurmur benches him. The worrying thing for the Giants is the lack of depth — who would replace him? Alex Tanney hardly inspires confidence. The same problem seems to be emerging at Tampa Bay, too. Troubled Jameis Winston had a shocker at the weekend, throwing for four interceptions, before being replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who led an 18-point fourth-quarter drive that nearly rescued the Buccaneers. Manning and Winston might well find themselves in the NFL wilderness sooner rather than later.

BROWNS' MISERY

The sacking of Todd Haley and Hue Jackson at the Cleveland Browns was always on the cards. Anyone who watched this summer’s “Hard Knocks” series, which focused on the fractured franchise, could see how toxic their relationship was. Gregg Williams is an uncompromising coach, but his approach is exactly what the Browns need right now. His biggest job is going to be keeping Baker Mayfield on the roster, and he will hopefully use the very promising quarterback better than his predecessors did. After a lot of summer promise, it is about time the Cleveland Browns had a winning season, for the first time since 2007.

TIGHT, DRAMATIC DIVISIONS

We love a competitive division in the NFL. It is no fun when one team completely decimates its divisional rivals — this season think the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, (again) — so we are loving the battle unfolding in the NFC East and North divisions. The East has stuttering reigning champions, the Eagles, being pushed all the way by Washington and Dallas, while in the North, who ends up in the playoffs is anyone’s guess with any of the Bears, Vikings, Packers or (dare we say it) the Lions still in the mix. While the likes of the Chiefs and the Saints are practically cruising toward the January shake-up, we will be glued to what happens in those two divisions over the next three months.

A NEW NEWTON

Cam Newton should be very grateful to Norv Turner at the moment. The Carolina Panthers’ offensive coordinator has been instrumental in getting his career back on track. The man who came to fame calling plays for the Cowboys during their heyday in the early 1990s is helping Newton reach a new level as a quarterback. The Panthers are not a nailed-on playoff team, but with Turner’s instructions in his ear, Newton could drag this underachieving Carolina side back into this year’s post-season. And fans will get to see a great player back at his best — win-win.

 


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”