Barcelona beaten by Valencia in early blow for Setien

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action against Valencia’s Francis Coquelin during their La Liga match in Valencia on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 January 2020

Barcelona beaten by Valencia in early blow for Setien

  • Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez misses a penalty, hits the crossbar in the first half

VALENCIA: Quique Setien’s honeymoon period lasted less than a fortnight as he tasted his first Barcelona defeat on Saturday in his second La Liga game in charge after a 2-0 loss to Valencia.

Maxi Gomez’s strike and a Jordi Alba own goal at Mestalla handed Barca their fourth league defeat of the campaign, giving Real Madrid the chance to move three points clear of the champions at the top of the table when they visit Real Valladolid on Sunday.
Barcelona had most of the ball but their opponents had the best chances as Gomez missed a penalty and also hit the crossbar in the first half. Gabriel Paulista saw a third goal ruled out late on.
While performances under previous coach Ernesto Valverde were stodgy, he left a team that sat top of the table.
Setien promised a new style but despite dominating possession, Barcelona went nowhere with it and as Valencia grew in confidence, they ceded control.
“It should not take us long,” Setien had said on Friday, when asked how quickly his players could adapt to his methods.
Valencia climb to fifth and continue to improve under Albert Celades. This success came without their captain Dani Parejo and, largely, without star striker Rodrigo Moreno, who has been linked with a January move to Barcelona.
The hosts hardly touched the ball for the first six minutes, their fans whistling as they urged a more aggressive approach.
But the plan was to sit and absorb and it worked, with Barcelona unable to cut through or create a single clear chance.
And when Valencia did intervene, they were more dangerous too. With their first attack they won a penalty as Jose Gaya slipped past Gerard Pique and would surely have scored from eight yards before being brought down.
Pique was booked and, with Parejo absent, Gomez stepped up, only for his driven shot to be well saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, albeit with the help of half a yard’s headstart off his line.
Barca were riding their luck. Sergi Roberto’s header cannoned off Pique but fell just close enough for Ter Stegen, who parried a Gomez shot onto the crossbar and almost spilled another to Kevin Gameiro.
Referee Gil Manzano put his hands together as if to apologize after failing to play advantage when Ferran Torres was clear but the frustration of Valencia’s fans turned to ecstasy shortly after half time.
Pique’s flicked header landed at the feet of Gomez, whose driven effort took a cruel deflection off Alba and flew in.
Setien traded the patience of Arthur Melo for the physicality of Arturo Vidal and Rodrigo came on to a rousing reception.
Barcelona exerted some pressure and Lionel Messi led the way, hauled to the ground by Francis Coquelin and then denied by a brilliant Gabriel tackle. He fired past the post, headed wide and saw a curling free kick saved.
Yet just as a Barcelona equalizer began to feel inevitable, Valencia struck again. A quick throw caught Alba out of position and Torres did well to cut inside and switch to Gomez. He took a touch and curled into the corner.
Gabriel thought he had a third after volleying in from a corner but VAR persuaded Manzano there had been a push. When Messi ballooned a late free kick into the stands, Valencia knew their win was secure.


Five players out of French Open qualifying due to COVID-19

Updated 21 September 2020

Five players out of French Open qualifying due to COVID-19

  • The qualifiers will begin later on Monday, with the main draw set to commence on Sept. 27

PARIS: Five players have been withdrawn from the French Open qualifying tournament after two players and a coach tested positive for COVID-19, organizers have said.
The qualifiers will begin later on Monday, with the main draw set to commence on Sept. 27.
“The Roland Garros tournament directors can confirm that two players competing in the qualifying tournament have tested positive for COVID-19 and three others have confirmed close contact with a coach who has tested positive for COVID-19,” the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said in a statement.
“In line with tournament health protocols, the five players will not compete in the qualifying tournament and will self isolate for a period of seven days. In total, some 900 tests have been carried out since Sept. 17.”
Organizers did not reveal the names of those who had been pulled out but Damir Dzumhur said he had been withdrawn because his coach Petar Popović had returned a positive test.
“That’s why I can’t play at Roland Garros and I don’t have a chance to compete,” he wrote on his Instagram account.
“He didn’t get a chance to do a second test and we’re sure he was false positive because my coach has antibodies,” added the Bosnian, who reached the third round in Paris in 2015 and 2018.
The French Open will be held from Sept. 27-Oct. 11 after being moved from its usual late May-June slot.
The FFT is planning to allow 5,000 spectators per day following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country. It had previously said the claycourt major would permit a maximum of 11,500 fans per day.