Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men

Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men
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Updated 28 November 2021

Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men

Virus-hit Portuguese team plays soccer with 9 men

LISBON, Portugal: Portuguese club Belenenses started a league match against Benfica with just nine players after an outbreak of coronavirus in its squad on Saturday. It was later called off just after halftime.
With two fewer players, Belenenses was soon trailing. Benfica scored all goals in the 7-0 win in the first half.
The referee called the match off just after the start of the second half. Only seven players took the field for Belenenses, which soon lost another player when one dropped to the turf, leaving them with only six.
The laws of soccer allow for games to be played as long as each team has seven players, including a goalkeeper.
Club president Rui Pedro Soares said that despite having a decimated squad his club did not ask for the game to be postponed.


Messi returns, Ramos scores and PSG cruise

Messi returns, Ramos scores and PSG cruise
Updated 24 January 2022

Messi returns, Ramos scores and PSG cruise

Messi returns, Ramos scores and PSG cruise
  • Marco Verratti put PSG ahead in the final minute of a sluggish first half, drilling home his first Ligue 1 goal since May 2017

PARIS: Lionel Messi returned, another marquee signing Sergio Ramos scored as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 4-0 victory over Reims on Sunday to restore their Ligue 1 lead to 11 points.
“We had a good game, we took three points,” said PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Earlier, Nice briefly cut the gap with a 2-0 win at Metz. But three of the teams just behind them lost.
Messi, returning from Covid, started on the bench while Kylian Mbappe returned to the starting lineup after a groin strain while Ramos made only his second league start of the season.
Marco Verratti put PSG ahead in the final minute of a sluggish first half, drilling home his first Ligue 1 goal since May 2017.
“It’s good that a player who doesn’t score often, does,” said Pochettino.
PSG upped the tempo after the break.
Ramos, who arrived from Real in the summer, scored his first goal for the club. The central defender reacted quickest to a loose ball from a PSG corner. After his first shot was parried by Predrag Rajkovic, the Spaniard reacted fastest again to slam home the rebound.
“I am happy to have played 90 minutes and I am personally happy because it is my first goal with PSG, I hope there will be many more,” said Ramos.
“It’s been three weeks since I started playing normally with the group,” he said. “We have the cup, we have the league, we have the Champions League, this is the best time to arrive in shape.”
Pochettino was happy with the goal.
“It’s good that he scored like Marco. He had a good game,” said the manager.
That goal brought Ramos level with Messi on one league goal this season, it also acted as the cue for Pochettino to send Messi on.
In the 67th minute, Messi set up Verratti for a shot that deflected off two defenders and into the top corner.
Danilo Pereira added a fourth as PSG matched their biggest league win of the season.
Earlier, Khephren Thuram’s goal set up a precious 2-0 away win for Nice as they saw off strugglers Metz to move back up to second place.
Khephren, the 20-year-old son of World Cup winner Lilian, opened the scoring in the 58th minute while a late spot-kick from Amine Gouiri completed the victory with a cheeky Panenka.
The three points lift Nice above their bitter south coast rivals Marseille, who are two points behind in third with a game in hand.
“We are still too far behind (PSG) to think about top spot. I’m more concerned by what’s coming up behind us,” said Nice coach Christophe Galtier.
“It’s about racking up the points and that can be tough when the opponent is fighting relegation.”
Strasbourg lost 4-3 at Bordeaux where Hwang Ui-Jo hit a hat-trick to lift the home team out of the bottom three.
Bordeaux, who had not scored in three league and cup games this year while conceding 10, hit three in the first 38 minutes but were made to sweat for their victory as their defense then leaked three goals.
“Hwang had a perfect game, he bailed us out on several occasions. He’s had some difficulties in the last few games, so I’m very happy that he’s back,” said Bordeaux’s under-threat coach Vladimir Petkovic.
“I am sorry that we let in three goals,” said Petkovic. “We had a very good first half but then the fear of winning the game took over.”
Rennes took an 18th-minute lead at another struggler Clermont with a goal by Baptiste Santamaria, but missed several other chances and paid in the second half.
Former Rennes player Lucas Da Cunha levelled in the 59th minute and Jordan Tell struck in the 70th minute.
Montpellier beat Monaco 3-2 to climb sixth.
Elye Wahi gave the home team a 13th-minute lead and Stephy Mavididi scored twice, the winner coming in stoppage time.
Wissam Ben Yedder and Vanderson scored for Monaco, who drop to seventh.


Newcastle United arrive in Saudi Arabia for training camp

Newcastle United arrive in Saudi Arabia for training camp
Updated 24 January 2022

Newcastle United arrive in Saudi Arabia for training camp

Newcastle United arrive in Saudi Arabia for training camp
  • Eddie Howe’s team do not have another Premier League game until they host Everton at St. James’ Park on Feb. 8

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United have landed in Jeddah for a warm weather training camp a day after registering only their second Premier League win of the season.

Last week Arab News revealed that the Magpies will fly to Saudi Arabia following the Saturday match at Elland Road, and Eddie Howe’s team would have landed in Jeddah buoyed by a 1-0 secured courtesy of a Jonjo Shelvey freekick goal.

Some fans were on hand to welcome the players and Amanda Staveley, who along with PIF and the Reuben brothers completed the takeover of the club in October.

The Newcastle squad’s schedule has been kept under wraps so far, but the team is expected to take on Saudi Professional League leaders Al-Ittihad in a training match behind closed doors on Friday. The team will return to the UK on Saturday, Jan 29.

Newcastle do not have another Premier League game until they host Everton at St. James’ Park on Feb. 8, with next weekend free due to them being dumped out of the FA Cup by lower-league Cambridge United earlier this month.

Prior to departure, Howe described the trip to Saudi Arabia as “vitally important” for his team.

“Going away will encourage unity,” he said. “It will be a work training camp — we will be training, working and playing a game. I want people to know we are going to be very active.”


Ziyech gem fires Chelsea to victory over Spurs

Ziyech gem fires Chelsea to victory over Spurs
Updated 23 January 2022

Ziyech gem fires Chelsea to victory over Spurs

Ziyech gem fires Chelsea to victory over Spurs
  • Third-placed Chelsea are now 10 points behind leaders Manchester City

LONDON: Chelsea kept alive their faint Premier League title hopes as Hakim Ziyech’s superb strike inspired a crucial 2-0 win over Tottenham on Sunday. Ziyech broke the deadlock with his dazzling long-range curler early in the second half at Stamford Bridge.

Thiago Silva’s header killed off Tottenham, who were furious that Harry Kane had a first half goal ruled out for a foul.

Third-placed Chelsea are now 10 points behind leaders Manchester City after ending a damaging run of four league games without a victory.

Chelsea had beaten Tottenham three times already this season without conceding a goal, including knocking their London rivals out of the League Cup semifinals.

Failing to do so for a fourth time would have been a hammer blow to the Blues’ bid to reel in City.

Chelsea won’t play again in the league until mid-February due to the winter break and their involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup.

But, for the first time since Dec. 26 at Aston Villa, Thomas Tuchel’s side tasted league success, giving them a much-needed boost at a time when their season was in danger of going off the rails.

Tottenham’s first defeat in 10 league games since Antonio Conte took charge was a blow to their challenge for a top four finish.

They remain in seventh, two points behind fourth placed Manchester United with two games in hand.

Tottenham fans let themselves down by throwing missiles at Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger in the closing stages.

Conte’s team had arrived at the Bridge on a high after Steven Bergwijn’s stoppage-time double earned a remarkable 3-2 win at Leicester in midweek.

But former Chelsea boss Conte had seen Tottenham swept away by a poor start in their League Cup first leg loss against his old club.

In a bid to neutralize Chelsea’s threat, the Italian switched Tottenham to a back four for the first time in his reign.

Yet Conte must have been fearing the worst after Chelsea made another lively start.

Romelu Lukaku hooked a decent chance over the bar from Mason Mount’s delivery before Callum Hudson-Odoi nodded Ziyech’s cross just wide. Ziyech’s swerving drive forced from 25 yards forced a parried save from Hugo Lloris.

Significantly, Silva, already booked for a foul on Bergwijn, breathed a sigh of relief when another foul on the winger went unpunished. Lukaku’s lack of confidence and touch were painfully clear as the Belgian striker kicked at thin air in an embarrassing failed attempt to convert Mount’s pass from eight yards.

Tottenham thought they had taken the lead against the run of play when Kane fired home from Ryan Sessegnon’s pass.

But referee Paul Tierney controversially disallowed it for a slight push from Kane that sent Silva sprawling theatrically as he tried to track the striker’s run.

Ziyech rubbed salt into Tottenham’s wounds as the Moroccan winger produced a moment of magic in the 47th minute.

Hudson-Odoi led the charge with a driving run and pass to Ziyech, who curled a sublime strike into the far corner from the edge of the area.

Ziyech almost followed his second goal in successive games with a third moments later when his rocket was palmed away by Lloris.

After his role in Kane’s disallowed goal, it was inevitable Silva would haunt Tottenham again and the Brazilian doubled their lead in the 55th minute.

Eric Dier’s foul on Hudson-Odoi conceded a free-kick that was questioned furiously by the Tottenham defender.

From the set-piece, Mount’s delivery was perfect for Silva to glance his header into the far corner.

Lukaku was denied a goal by Lloris’s fine save, but Chelsea had done enough to ease their winter blues.


Newcastle United find new hope from the old guard

Newcastle United find new hope from the old guard
Updated 23 January 2022

Newcastle United find new hope from the old guard

Newcastle United find new hope from the old guard
  • Jonjo Shelvey’s free-kick injects could be turning point in Newcastle’s fight against relegation as defense holds firm against off-color Leeds

LEEDS: It’s the sort of goal that exemplifies a season turning point: A scruffy set piece late in the game that, through a combination of indecisive goalkeeping and the hint of a deflection, squirms its way into the far corner. Whether it’s a slice of good fortune or a helping hand, they all count – and this one might count more than most.

Jonjo Shelvey’s late free-kick proved enough to seal all three points for Newcastle United against a strangely off-color Leeds at Elland Road and, although still deep in the relegation mire, it might well represent the first rung on the Tyneside club’s climb to safety. 

The gap to 17th is now down to a single point and next up is an Everton side without so much as one of those in five weeks. As the season heads into its latest international break, the ladder is beginning to look a little shorter.

Shelvey certainly understood the importance of the goal. As the net billowed almost apologetically in front of the home fans, he sprinted 60 meters down the pitch to greet the explosion of noise from the two-tiered away end. The delirium was repeated at the final whistle with players, many now shirtless, celebrating the three points as though they’d be presented by the queen.

“It’s massive,” Shelvey said after the game. “We will keep going and we believe we have enough to stay up. Everyone is in this together.”

Not that the omens before kick-off were particularly auspicious. The Newcastle fans being herded into the stadium through a concrete walkway from the coach park might have sung “Eddie Howe’s black and white army,” but it was hard to disguise the growing unease about his reign. The manager had presided over a solitary Premier League win since his November appointment – against fellow strugglers Burnley seven weeks ago - and had never previously emerged victorious from Elland Road.

Norwich’s win the previous evening, their second in succession, added its own pressure, as did news of Watford’s decision to part company with Claudio Ranieri after just 14 games in charge. It was difficult to understate the stakes for both club and manager.

The early phase of the game reflected the tensions. Leeds, shorn of several key players and far from safe themselves, immediately pressed Newcastle back and, finding joy out wide, fizzed a number of balls across the box. Their lack of an orthodox center-forward blunted their threat, however, and gradually Newcastle emerged from their low block to gain a toehold in the game.

The second half offered increasing promise. Newcastle were now dominating midfield, cutting the supply lines to the dangerous Raphinha and, although rarely fluid, countering in greater numbers. On 74 minutes, one such breakaway down the right resulted in Diego Llorente’s ungainly tug on Javier Manquillo 20 yards from goal and Shelvey did the rest.

Unlike the Watford game a week earlier, there were no late surprises and Newcastle were able to close out the game with minimal alarm and register a first clean sheet of the season.   

A very good day’s work, then, and perhaps significantly one that owed as much to the players Howe inherited from predecessor Steve Bruce as January’s expensive recruits.

As compact and composed as Kieran Trippier was, Shelvey, now in his seventh season at St. James’ Park, was the outstanding player on the pitch, gradually wresting control of the central areas and dictating play with smart, unfussy distribution. Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar, with close to 300 appearances between them, provided a central wall that Leeds rarely looked like penetrating, and Martin Dubravka, first choice since his arrival from Sparta Prague in 2018, made a crucial block to stem the early Leeds tide.

There remains considerable work to do at Newcastle on and off the park to turn one result into a season-saving sequence. 

With 17 games remaining, it’s clear old faces will  be required to make just as important a contribution as new blood. On that front, encouragement was in ready supply at Elland Road.


Mohamed Salah and fellow Arab stars must step up in Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages

Mohamed Salah and fellow Arab stars must step up in Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages
Updated 23 January 2022

Mohamed Salah and fellow Arab stars must step up in Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages

Mohamed Salah and fellow Arab stars must step up in Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages
  • Riyad Mahrez and Algeria in surprise exit amid mixed results for Arab teams and individuals

The group stages of the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations ended with two big surprises — the exit of defending champions Algeria and another of the favorites, five-time title-holders Ghana.

A record seven Arab nations started the tournament, but only four have booked a place in the round of 16: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and, most surprisingly, Comoros.

Morocco’s was perhaps the cleanest of qualifications, winning group C with seven points from two wins and a draw. The team looked to be on song and were led with distinction by Achraf Hakimi, who scored what may well be the best goal of the tournament so far against Gabon.

The Paris Saint-Germain player has been ably backed by Yassine Bounou, the excellent Sevilla goalkeeper,  especially in the opening match of the campaign against Ghana.

It was a match settled by a winning goal from substitute Sofiane Boufal, who plays for French Ligue 1 side Angers. Despite being benched in all three group matches, Boufal has shown his worth for coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s team.

Seven-time winners Egypt got off to a poor start with an awful performance in the 1-0 loss to Nigeria and after that scraped two narrow wins to progress to the knockouts stages.

Star forward Mohamed Salah, fresh from being nominated for the best FIFA men’s player award alongside Lionel Messi and eventual winner Robert Lewandowski, has often looked isolated and scored just one of Egypt’s paltry two goals at the tournament.

There seems to be a lack of understanding between the Liverpool star and fellow forward Mustafa Mohamed and Omar Marmoush, an issue that needs to be resolved before Wednesday’s clash with a formidable Cote d’Ivoire team.

Egypt recently took part in the FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar without any of their European-based stars, but the return of the players does not look to have improved the team visibly.

Another that has disappointed is Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny, and he and Salah have rarely been subjected to this much criticism from their own fans and media. Coach Carlos Queiroz has yet to find the right formula despite the two wins over Guinea-Bissau and Sudan.

Tunisia also were far from impressive, missing three penalties against Mali, Mauritania and Gambia on their way to scraping through the group stages by finishing as one of the best third-placed teams.

The missed kicks came from Zamalek’s Seif El-Din Al-Jaziri, Saint-Etienne’s Wahbi Al-Kharazi — who both partially redeemed themselves with one and two goals, respectively --  and captain Youssef Al-Masakni, who plays for Al-Arabi Club in Qatar and had recently recovered from testing positive for COVID-19.

The young Manchester United star Hannibal Mejbri, one of the standout players at the Arab Cup, was again expected to take center-stage, but has so far failed to replicate his performances in Doha.

The biggest shock of the tournament has been the exit of champions Algeria. Manchester City star and talisman Riyad Mahrez entered the tournament with expectations of becoming the historical top scorer for his country at the AFCON, equaling Lakhdar Belloumi’s tally of six goals.

However, Mahrez and his colleagues were humiliated in the group stage, gathering only one point from a draw and two losses. Algeria’s star man even missed a penalty in the comprehensive  3-1 loss to Cote d’Ivoire.

Lack of preparation for most teams has been a feature of the early part of the tournament, and Mahrez and rest of coach Djamel Belmadi’s squad have failed to adapt to the pace of the competition, perhaps due to their late arrival in Cameroon.

Incredibly Algeria’s defeat in their final group match, coupled with other results, helped unheralded Comoros become the fourth Arab nation to qualify for the knockout stages.

The scenes of celebrations that followed their sensational 3-2 win over Ghana — one of the results of the competition so far — will live long in the memory, and showed just what this tournament means to fans and players.

While the Pharaohs’ clash with Cote d’Ivoire is the pick of the round-of-16 matches, Morocco will have a somewhat easier confrontation against Malawi, while Tunisia, with a host of players missing after testing positive for COVID-19, will face a thankless task against Nigeria, arguably the tournament’s best team.

For Comoros, the party continues against hosts Cameroon on Monday. Whatever happens from now on, it has been an unforgettable experience for them.

Individually, stars such as Salah and Mahrez rarely caught then eye in the group stage. Instead, it is the Cameroonian Vincent Aboubakar, who plays for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Professional League, who has been one of the stars, grabbing five goals in the three matches to top the goal-scoring table.

But teams and individuals have a habit of strongly emerging throughout a tournament. A slow start often ends up being a prelude to a star turn in the knockout stages.

We await Salah and co catching fire in the coming days.