Chelsea’s Kerr puts Australia on verge of Tokyo Olympics

Australia's Samantha Kerr (C) takes a penalty kick during the women's Olympic football tournament qualifier match between Australia and Vietnam. (AFP)
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Updated 07 March 2020

Chelsea’s Kerr puts Australia on verge of Tokyo Olympics

NEWCASTLE: Chelsea striker Sam Kerr scored twice as Australia moved within a game of booking their ticket to the Tokyo Olympics after thrashing Vietnam 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff on Friday.

The home captain got the ball rolling with a driving header on 10 minutes after a pinpoint cross from Ellie Carpenter, and then converted a penalty in the second half.

History was always on the Matildas’ side, with Australia winning all seven previous matches against the Vietnamese, scoring 37 goals and conceding none.

And with Europe-based stars Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Emily Gielnik and Chloe Logarzo all making the trip back to play, Vietnam faced an ominous task.

“I thought we controlled the game, we were not as sharp as we would have liked to be at some points, but 5-0 and a good performance from a lot of the girls,” said Kerr.

After Kerr’s opener, Logarzo poked in a second from close range before they spurned a flurry of chances. Emily van Egmond finally nodded home a third from a Steph Catley cross for a 3-0 half-time lead.

Vietnam showed in their qualifying campaign that they have firepower up front and speed on the flanks, and they created chances but were not able to convert.

Defender Clare Polkinghorne got Australia’s fourth from close range before Hayley Raso was brought down in the box and Kerr stepped up to complete the rout in front of more than 14,000 fans in Newcastle, north of Sydney.

The return leg is in Vietnam on March 11. Vietnam’s women footballers will play it behind closed doors, football authorities said.

The game will be held in the Cam Pha stadium in northern Quang Ninh province.

A statement released by Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) said the match organizer decided not to open ticket sales to the public “due to the complicated development of COVID-19 outbreak.”

“Spectators should not come to the stadium area ... avoid large public gatherings, to ensure effective prevention of the outbreak,” according to the statement.

VFF General Secretary Le Hoai Anh said that “only accredited people can attend the game.”

Vietnam suspended all sporting competitions in the country in February in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

All games in the season-opening round of Vietnam’s top football division V.League 1 will be played behind closed doors.

However, Vietnamese authorities said the country’s inaugural Formula One race would go ahead as scheduled on April 5.

Real Madrid aim to put crisis behind them

Updated 31 October 2020

Real Madrid aim to put crisis behind them

MADRID:  Real Madrid will be hoping to leave their sticky patch behind them when they play Huesca in La Liga on Saturday, with an early six-point lead to preserve over Barcelona.

The resignation of Barca’s club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has overshadowed what has been a dramatic week for Madrid, who barely salvaged a 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Trailing 2-0 with three minutes left, Madrid were facing a defeat that would have squandered the momentum gained from last weekend’s Clasico win at Camp Nou.

A late double from Karim Benzema and Casemiro ensured Zinedine Zidane’s side snatched a draw that felt like a win but to consolidate that positivity, they cannot afford another slip this weekend.

“The team is what it has shown, it’s about a reaction,” said Zidane. “The first half was very good, we played well. The pity is we conceded the first goal, but we continued to think it was possible, even at 2-0.

“That showed the character of the team and I’m very proud of them. We are not happy because we want to win, but we must be happy with the performance.”

Madrid play a Huesca side that is yet to win this season, as they followed four consecutive draws with a 4-1 loss away at league leaders Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Zidane could also hand Eden Hazard his first start since August, after the Belgian came off the bench in midweek.

That was Hazard’s first appearance of the season as he tries to overcome his latest injury setback, which the club have only described as a muscle injury.

“It’s good. I’m here to play football,” said Hazard on Wednesday. “After two or three months off the pitch, I’m so happy. I just want to play football, that’s why I’m here.”

On the last-gasp draw in Germany, Hazard said: “We showed great character, to be 2-0 down with five minutes to play, I think we could have scored one more, I could have scored one more, but I missed. It’s not three points but it feels like a victory.”

Zidane was determined to give Hazard time to recover fully and he believes the club will have to be cautious.

“He’s just started playing. It is his first game after a long time away,” said Zidane. “The plan was for him to try to play but little by little is what we have to do.”

A Madrid victory against Huesca could send them back to the top of the table, above Real Sociedad who are the only team to have retained top spot in consecutive rounds so far this term.

Real Sociedad play away at Celta Vigo on Sunday, just before third-placed Granada host Levante and struggling Valencia play at home to Getafe.

If Atletico Madrid win their two games in hand they will go top, with Diego Simeone’s side away at Osasuna on Saturday.

Barcelona, who beat Juventus on Wednesday, also have two games in hand but are seven points off the lead. Their new era without Bartomeu begins in La Liga away at Alaves on Saturday night.