Gareth Bale ‘raring to go’ for Wales after Real Madrid uncertainty

Wales’ Gareth Bale during training on Thursday for the Euro 2020 qualifier against Azerbaijan. (Reuters)
Updated 06 September 2019

Gareth Bale ‘raring to go’ for Wales after Real Madrid uncertainty

  • The 30-year-old scores two goals in the 2-2 La Liga draw at Villarrea to end a scoring drought

LONDON : Gareth Bale says he feels more settled after a turbulent period at Real Madrid and is “raring to go” as Wales prepare to take on Azerbaijan in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Friday.

Bale looked set to leave Real in a big-money move to China in the transfer window, only for the Spanish giants to pull the plug at the last moment.

The 30-year-old ended a scoring drought stretching back to March with two goals in the 2-2 La Liga draw at Villarreal on Sunday but was sent off in stoppage time.

“The transfer window has closed,” Bale said on Thursday. “I don’t think mentally it affected me but I had not played for four to six weeks. “It was nice to be back on the scoresheet (for Real Madrid) and now I am fit and raring to go.”

Real teammate Thibaut Courtois suggested in an interview earlier this year that Bale was often isolated from the rest of the squad and was called the “golfer” due to his passion for the sport.

But Bale said he was happy with the moniker, adding: “I am a golfer. People make a lot of it, but I enjoy it and it keeps me calmer on the pitch.”

The Wales forward said not being picked by Harry Redknapp at Spurs “for a year” was a harder time in his career.

“I just kept my head down and worked hard in training,” he said. “If you want answers you maybe need to ask Real Madrid.”

Wales trail group leaders Hungary by six points, with a game in hand, and are three points adrift of Croatia and Slovakia in the race for a top-two spot.

Wales boss Ryan Giggs was pleased with Bale’s contribution on Sunday and said: “When he scores he tends to get on a roll.”

Giggs revealed that Ben Woodburn is likely to be missing against Azerbaijan due to illness but confirmed that the rest of his squad are fit and available, including Daniel James.

Manchester United’s new signing from Swansea has scored three goals in four appearances for the club so far this season.

Former United winger Giggs has not been surprised by James’s start to life at Old Trafford.

“He’s at the right club — a club which loves wingers,” Giggs said. “We’ve all seen what he’s capable of in the last eight or nine months and he’s going to get better and better.”

Mongolia, North Korea post wins in World Cup qualifying

Mongolia and North Korea both started the second round of Asian World Cup qualifying with wins on Thursday.

Mongolia, ranked 187th in the world and playing in the second round of qualifying for the first time, beat Myanmar 1-0 in Ulaanbaatar. Amaraa Dulguun scored the lone goal in the 17th minute of the Group F match. North Korea defeated Lebanon 2-0 in Group H with Jong Il Gwan scoring both goals in Pyongyang.

The winner of each of the eight groups and the four best second-place teams will advance to the next round.


Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Updated 20 January 2020

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”