Guardiola’s faith in Jesus bodes well for major clash

Gabriel Jesus vies for the ball with Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal during the Champions League match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England. (AP)
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Updated 09 August 2020

Guardiola’s faith in Jesus bodes well for major clash

  • Brazilian player says he uses his compatriot Ronaldo as a benchmark

LONDON: The performance of Gabriel Jesus in Manchester City’s 2-1 Champions League victory over 13-time winners Real Madrid has given manager Pep Guardiola great heart as he seeks to end the club’s quest for the coveted crown.

The 23-year-old Brazilian made light of the absence of talismanic striker Sergio Aguero and followed up his impressive display in the last 16 first leg win by the same scoreline in Madrid with a match-winning contribution at the Etihad on Friday night.

Guardiola’s side face Lyon next Saturday in Lisbon in a one-off quarterfinal after the French side eliminated Juventus.

City with all their firepower might be seen as favorites but recent history suggests otherwise with Lyon having beaten them 2-1 in Manchester and then drawn 2-2 at home in last season’s Group stage.

The club’s record goalscorer Aguero — who was an unused substitute in the first leg back in February — is undergoing treatment for a knee injury in Barcelona.

Guardiola, though, feels that Jesus’s performances has given an extra pep in the team’s step after a disappointing defense of their Premier League title.

He believes with the confidence gained by Jesus in getting the better of the Spanish giants this can be a launching pad to at last triumph in a competition they have failed to shine in in the past despite the enormous investment by the Abu Dhabi owners. Their best showing is the 2016 semifinals under Guardiola’s predecessor Manuel Pellegrini.

“He’s (Jesus) the man of the match for these two games, he was decisive for us,” said Guardiola in the warm afterglow of the victory.

“He helped us when we suffered in the bad moments. He is the best guy in these situations.

“Gabriel always helps us through more than goals but for a striker it is important to score.

“Big players have to show in the biggest stages in the big games and he showed it twice against the kings of this competition.

“It was a big step forward for him to show: ‘Here I am, I can win games by myself.’”

Jesus, who has scored six Champions League goals this season, after netting four each in his previous two campaigns, says he uses his compatriot Ronaldo as a benchmark.

“His quality is different from me but I have to work to be a great striker,” Jesus told BT Sport.

The City manager is also emboldened ahead of the Lisbon trip with the assured display at the back — so often this season seen as thir Achilles heel. It is an area which Guardiola has invested in already bringing Dutch international center-back Nathan Ake to the club from relegated Bournemouth this week.

“The most important thing tonight was we didn’t make mistakes behind,” he said.

“We have suffered for that in this competition before.

“We were incredibly stable behind.”

Guardiola — who guided Barcelona twice to the Champions League trophy but failed to repeat the success with Bayern Munich — said beating Real is significant for everyone at the club but will count for little if they falter now.

“It is important,” he said.

“For Real Madrid to beat a big team in the last 16 is normal.

“For us, if we are going to be champions we have to beat these teams. “If we think that (beating Real) is enough we will show how small we are.

“We don’t have a lot of presence in Europe so it is so important for the club, for all the workers at the club and for our supporters.”

Guardiola, though, cautioned against taking Lyon lightly.

“I just spoke with the scouting department about Lyon and they told me to be alert,” said Guardiola.

“The big clubs lift the titles. Real Madrid reached the final three times in a row and this shows we can do it, but we have to see how we recover.

“Last season we played Lyon twice and we could not beat them. We have to be calm.”

The remainder of the competition will be played in Portugal with the semifinals scheduled for August 18/19 and the final on Aug. 23.


Davis, Lakers beat Nuggets to take 3-1 lead in West finals

Updated 25 September 2020

Davis, Lakers beat Nuggets to take 3-1 lead in West finals

  • Game 5 is Saturday, when the Lakers can reach the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: The Los Angeles Lakers are a victory away from returning to the NBA Finals — and only another comeback from 3-1 down by the Denver Nuggets can stop them.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points, LeBron James had 26 and the Lakers beat the Nuggets 114-108 on Thursday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
Davis got the Lakers off to a fast start with his scoring and James helped them finish it with his defense, forcing Jamal Murray into some late misses after the guard had kept the Nuggets in it with an array of high-difficulty baskets.
James added nine rebounds and eight assists, and the Lakers had 12 offensive rebounds for a whopping 25-6 advantage in second-chance points.
Game 5 is Saturday, when the Lakers can reach the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade.
The Nuggets will be facing elimination for the seventh time in the bubble. They were down 3-1 against Utah in the first round and climbed out of the same hole against the Los Angeles Clippers in the West semifinals.
But they couldn’t come back in this game, getting within one point in the opening minute of the fourth quarter but constantly turned back from there by a key stop or rebound by the Lakers.
The Lakers have 16 championships, one behind Boston for the most in NBA history, but they haven’t played for one since winning their most recent title in 2010.
The Lakers started Dwight Howard at center and he had 12 points and 11 rebounds, helping put Nikola Jokic into foul trouble.
Murray had 32 points and eight assists, but Jokic finished with just 16 points and seven rebounds.
Davis scored 27 points in Game 3 but the 6-foot-10 forward acknowledged that his two-rebound performance was “unacceptable.” He came out much more aggressively Thursday after the Lakers played from behind much of the last game.
With an array of short jumpers, Davis made his first six shots before anyone else on the Lakers made a basket. Then Howard scored on consecutive follow shots before James followed with his first two field goals.
Murray kept the Lakers from getting too far away with a 7-for-8 start. He followed his acrobatic layup around James with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the half with a pair of free throws that cut it to four, before the Lakers took a 60-55 edge to the locker room.
The Nuggets shot 59% in the first half but the Lakers had an 18-2 advantage in second-chance points.
The Lakers seemed to be taking control when Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined for a flurry that pushed the lead to 11 with under 4 minutes remaining in the third, but Michael Porter Jr. hit two 3-pointers late in the period that cut it to 87-84 going to the fourth.
TIP-INS
Lakers: Howard hadn’t started in any of his 10 postseason appearances and didn’t play much at all in the last round, when the Lakers went small to match up against the Houston Rockets. He made two starts in the regular season. ... Caldwell-Pope scored 13 points and Rondo had 11.
Nuggets: Jerami Grant scored 17 points and Porter had 13.
THOUGHTS FOR TAYLOR
James had the words “We want justice” written next to Breonna Taylor’s name on his sneaker. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said the news a day earlier that a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for the Black woman’s shooting death hit the players hard.
“It’s heartbreaking, and you know, there’s really no silver lining to it. It’s a reminder of, it’s not just — it’s hard for Breonna Taylor, her family, and everybody that was invested in this,” Vogel said.
“But it’s just a reminder of all the other acquittals when unarmed black men are being killed, and it’s just something that’s hit us hard. Just a reminder that, you know, how important it is for all of us to vote and to be educated on all the potential police reform bills that are out there, and just play our part and do everything we can to help affect change.”
MILLSAP’S VOTING LOCATION
The Nuggets announced a partnership between forward Paul Millsap and DeKalb County to make the CORE4 training facility in Chamblee, Georgia as a general election voting center. Millsap, wearing “Vote” on his jersey during the restart, is the founder of the facility that will be open for early voting from Oct. 12-30.