Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich's Leroy Sane celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 December 2021

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

MUNICH: Barcelona will not play in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time in 18 years after a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Wednesday ensured the Catalan club was eliminated from European soccer’s premier competition.
Barcelona drops into the Europa League playoffs after finishing third in Group E, thanks to Benfica’s 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the other game of the evening.
That ended a Barcelona campaign which would have been unthinkable in the club’s heyday with Lionel Messi up front and Pep Guardiola as coach from 2008 through 2012. The group stage began with a 3-0 loss to Bayern at the Camp Nou and got worse with a 3-0 defeat and 0-0 draw against Benfica. Barcelona scored only two goals in six games, both against last-place Dynamo, and conceded nine.
“We start a new era, from zero, from here, to work hard and to recover Barca and to put Barca in the place that we deserve, that is in the top of the Champions League,” coach Xavi Hernández told broadcaster DAZN. “This is our reality. We are out of Champions League, we are in Europa League, but this is not the place of Barcelona.”
The five-time European champion last failed to make the Champions League last 16 in 2003-04. That season, Barcelona missed the Champions League entirely and played in what was then the UEFA Cup, thanks to a poor Spanish league finish the season before.
Defeat in the snow in Munich will deepen Barcelona’s already overwhelming financial problems as it misses out on lucrative prize money and exposure for sponsors. Sitting seventh in La Liga means Barcelona may not even qualify for next year’s competition.
“We need to work hard, many things that put Barcelona in this situation. But this is our reality. I cannot say anything else,” Xavi said. “We need to win Europa League, work hard for recovering points in La Liga, win the cup, win the Super Cup, this is what Barcelona deserve ... We will try to work hard. We have many injuries. Maybe we can sign some players now in January. Let’s see.”
Unlike the hammer blow of Barcelona’s 8-2 loss to Bayern in August 2020, this time the German champions calmly took their time dismantling a Barcelona team which only registered two shots on target.
The first goal Barcelona conceded Wednesday was one of fine margins, with goal-line technology required to show Thomas Müller’s looping header had crossed the line before Ronald Araujo belatedly attempted to clear.
The second was a simple goalkeeping error as Marc-André ter Stegen let Leroy Sané’s speculative long-range shot bounce off his arm and in. That left Xavi’s team 2-0 down at halftime and needing either its own stunning comeback or a similar feat from last-place Dynamo against Benfica.
The deficit worsened in the 62nd minute when Alphonso Davies, the Canadian left-back whose pace had caused problems all game, cut the ball back from the touchline for Jamal Musiala, who applied a simple finish from within a crowd of Barcelona players.
Playing at home in an empty stadium because of new pandemic-related restrictions, Bayern was already assured of qualifying as the group winner and finished with six wins from six games, matching Liverpool and Ajax on a perfect record this season. Coach Julian Nagelsmann told DAZN his team could have scored “more than three” goals against Barcelona.
Bayern is the only German team in the round of 16 after Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Wolfsburg all fell short in the group stage. The last time that happened was 2017-18.
Besides the shock of not qualifying, Barcelona may have to deal with an injury for Jordi Alba after the full-back limped off with an apparent thigh problem.


Gamers8 launches $3m PUBG MOBILE World Invitational

Gamers8 launches $3m PUBG MOBILE World Invitational
Updated 8 sec ago

Gamers8 launches $3m PUBG MOBILE World Invitational

Gamers8 launches $3m PUBG MOBILE World Invitational
  • Hopes high for hometown heroes Team Falcons to reach final

RIYADH: Gamers8 enters the fifth and final phase of its calendar as the second annual PUBG MOBILE World Invitational gets underway on Thursday live from Boulevard Riyadh City.

First introduced in 2018 by world-famous video game developer Lightspeed & Quantum, PUBG MOBILE has since gone on to become a global gaming phenomenon. It is published in over 200 countries and downloaded over a billion times, with 50 million daily active users and an envious status as the most watched mobile esports game on the planet.

Over the next nine days, elite PUBG MOBILE teams will enter the state-of-the-art arena and battle it out for their share of the $3 million prize pool. Split into two parts, the main tournament — running for three days beginning today — welcomes 17 regional champions and one homegrown representative, with $2 million in waiting for the victors. The objective is to parachute onto the remote island and remain as the last player or team standing — competing alone or in teams of two or four to secure victory and glory.

Ahmed Albishri, chief operating officer of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “Gamers8 thus far has been nothing short of remarkable, captivating attendees, inspiring audiences, crowning new champions, and making dreams come true for the latest generation of world-class Esports competitors. This journey has, however, by no means reached its conclusion because, as promised, PUBG Mobile has made its way to Riyadh for the biggest esports and gaming event on the planet.

“Expectations are understandably high among players, teams, and fans alike, not least due to the unprecedented success of the competitions held recently. And crucially, all the foundations are in place for the second PMWI to emulate the success of late while etching its place in esports history.”

Heading into week one of the main tournament, hopes will be high for hometown heroes Team Falcons, who have regularly competed throughout Gamers8 — reaching the final of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege — and now go up against 17 of the world’s best. Meanwhile, the Afterparty Showdown — the week two tournament taking place from Aug. 18 to 20 — will see teams competing for the remaining $1 million on offer. The Afterparty Showdown lineup will comprise the top five teams from week one, alongside six teams chosen from different regions, and one given a special invitation to compete.

James Yang, director of PUBG MOBILE, Global Esports, commented: “This year’s PUBG MOBILE World Invitational is set to be the biggest and best yet. This is our second annual world invitational, and we are excited to bring a new format of the event to the region which showcases the unique community spirit that PUBG MOBILE Esports and its talented teams have created.”

With the world’s best teams set to compete in front of a live crowd at the PMWI, fans around the world are excited for the event kickoff. Fans in Saudi will be able to enjoy the thrilling gameplay and electric atmosphere live and in-person from Boulevard Riyadh City. Alternatively, the event is being live streamed on official Gamers8 channels.


Saudi sports minister meets with OIC's Secretary General in Turkey

Saudi sports minister meets with OIC's Secretary General in Turkey
Updated 11 August 2022

Saudi sports minister meets with OIC's Secretary General in Turkey

Saudi sports minister meets with OIC's Secretary General in Turkey

TURKEY, Konya: Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has met with the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the sidelines of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games where Saudi athletes are representing the Kingdom in Turkey, state news agency (SPA) reported.

The prince discussed preparations for the next session of the Conference of Ministers of Youth, which will be hosted in Jeddah in September with Hissein Brahim Taha.

They reviewed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation between the OIC, the Saudi Ministry of Sports and the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF).

Taha praised efforts of the ISSF, under the leadership of Al-Faisal, in enhancing the capabilities of youth and sports in the Islamic world.


Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic
Updated 11 August 2022

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic
  • Williams didn’t specify an actual retirement date but is expected to compete next week in Cincinnati before traveling to the US Open, which starts on Aug. 29

TORONTO: Serena Williams, who said this week she will soon call time on her storied tennis career, departed the WTA Toronto Masters for the last time Wednesday with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Belinda Bencic.

The second-round defeat by Switzerland’s reigning Olympic gold medallist was hardly unexpected, with the 40-year-old Williams competing in only her third match of 2022.

Bencic fired eight aces and broke Williams twice in the first set and once in the second, advancing on her first match point after 78 minutes.

But as Bencic herself said in the post-match interview on court: “Tonight is about her.”

Williams’s farewell on-court interview was threaded with emotion.

“I love playing here, I’ve always loved playing here,” she said, choking up as fans who cheered her throughout the match called out their appreciation.

“I wish I could have played better tonight, but Belinda was playing so well.”

Williams, who turns 41 next month, had beaten Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz on Monday for her first singles victory since the 2021 French Open, 14 months ago.

But it sent shockwaves through the sport when she revealed in an essay in Vogue magazine and an Instagram post on Tuesday that “the countdown has begun” to her retirement from the sport.

Williams didn’t specify an actual retirement date but is expected to compete next week in Cincinnati before traveling to the US Open, which starts on Aug. 29.

She has lifted the US Open title six times, including her first Grand Slam triumph at the age of 17 in 1999.

“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours,” said Williams, who remains one shy of the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court.

“Like I said in my article, I’m terrible at goodbyes,” she said, her voice breaking.

“But, goodbye,” she said, then adding with a laugh “Toronto.”

“I’ve always had an amazing time here on and off the court,” Williams said. “I’ve had some really good matches and some really cool wins.

“It’s been a joy playing here all of those years.”

Williams’s match was preceded by a video tribute played for fans. Before she left the court she was presented with jerseys from the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs — and with a child’s version of the same for daughter Olympia.

In explaining that she was “evolving away” from tennis in the Vogue article, Williams said she wanted to focus on family life and new business ventures.

Her appearance highlighted a day that saw US teenager Coco Gauff — who says Williams was “the reason why I play tennis” — overcome 13 double-faults to battle past Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and into the third round.

Gauff beat Rybakina 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/3) while world No. 1 Iga Swiatek — who beat Gauff in the French Open final this year — sailed past Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-2 in 55 minutes.

Gauff lost out on four chances to close out a straight-sets victory as a quartet of match points came and went.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, aided by Gauff’s service struggles, had looked as if she might pull off another marathon victory after squeezing past Marie Bouzkova in the first round only for Gauff to finally prevail.

Swiatek, in contrast, needed just 55 minutes to advance. The top-seeded Pole, with six titles this season, saved six of the nine break points she faced.

“From the first practice I played here I felt really good,” Swiatek said.

Defending champion Camila Giorgi made it to the third round with a 6-3, 7-5 defeat of Belgian Elize Mertens. Spanish fourth seed Paula Badosa lasted for just 13 games before retiring as she trailed 7-5, 1-0 against Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.


Kyrgios stuns top-ranked Medvedev at Montreal Masters, Alcaraz ousted

Kyrgios stuns top-ranked Medvedev at Montreal Masters, Alcaraz ousted
Updated 11 August 2022

Kyrgios stuns top-ranked Medvedev at Montreal Masters, Alcaraz ousted

Kyrgios stuns top-ranked Medvedev at Montreal Masters, Alcaraz ousted
  • Both players were coming off weekend title wins, Kyrgios at the Washington 500 on Sunday and Medvedev at Los Cabos, Mexico, on Saturday

MONTREAL: Nick Kyrgios broke twice in the final set as he rallied to topple world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in the second round of the ATP Montreal Masters on Wednesday.

Australia’s Wimbledon finalist beat Medvedev 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 6-2 to produce his second career upset of a reigning No. 1 after ambushing Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014.

Kyrgios produced his usual on-court antics, complaining about a high bounce, hitting a ball into the stands to draw a warning and bickering with his player box in moments of tension.

But after gathering his formidable resources, the 27-year-old ranked 37th finished off the match in exactly two hours.

“This is our fourth meeting and we know each other well,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t go in looking at the rankings, just the guy in front of me.

“I had a clean objective today — play a lot of serve and volley and execute better.

“Hopefully I can keep this rolling and keep on winning. Medvedev is a machine — he’s No. 1 for a reason.”

Both players were coming off weekend title wins, Kyrgios at the Washington 500 on Sunday and Medvedev at Los Cabos, Mexico, on Saturday.

Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 15 matches to improve to 29-7 for 2022.

Medvedev lost for the 11th time in 2022, but by reaching the final at Los Cabos — where he lifted his first trophy of the season — he is assured of taking the No.1 ranking into his US Open title defense later this month.

He was barred from Wimbledon as the tournament excluded Russian and Belarussian players over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Second-seeded Carlos Alcaraz, who like Medvedev enjoyed a first-round bye, fared no better in his opening match.

American Tommy Paul spoiled the Spaniard’s Canadian debut with a 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (9/7), 6-3 victory.

The unseeded American converted his fifth match point to seal the second-round victory in three hours and 20 minutes.

Alcaraz came into the event with two prestige Masters 1000 titles from Miami and Madrid and holding a 42-7 record this season.

But the 34th-ranked Paul claimed victory on a volley winner after holding off the Spaniard’s charge from 5-2 down in the third set. The American stayed in the match as he rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the second set to start his comeback surge.

“It was nice to finish this match at the net,” said Paul, who fired 36 winners to Alcaraz’s 33. “I did a lot of things well today.

“I played a good level of tennis, comfortable tennis. I’m happy to get through and now have to recover for tomorrow.”

Fourth seed Casper Ruud backed up his defeat earlier this season of Alex Molcan, beating the Slovakian 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 in just under two hours.

The Norwegian with three trophies so far in 2022 had to work to win the opening set after dropping serve as he tried to close it out leading 5-4.

It eventually took a tiebreaker for Ruud to prevail. He sealed his third-round place in straight sets for his 36th win of the season.

“It’s always a tough fight against him,” Ruud said.

“He’s very fast and can give everyone problems,” he added of the player coached by Novak Djokovic’s former mentor Marian Vajda.

Elsewhere, Italian Jannik Sinner needed three sets to get past Adrian Mannarino 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 while Alex de Minaur lined up an all-Aussie Thursday match against Kyrgios by defeating Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (7/4), 7-5.


Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown

Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown
Updated 11 August 2022

Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown

Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown
  • Inter Milan, Juventus, Roma and Lazio have all made interesting moves, meaning that the race is likely to be as open as last year’s, which went down to the wire

MILAN: AC Milan have their Serie A rivals snapping at their heels ahead of their title defense, with the big boys bolstering their squads over an eventful summer which has left the league with no clear Scudetto favorite.

Stefano Pioli’s side kick off the new season against Udinese at the San Siro on Saturday as teams gear up for a 15-match sprint between now and the World Cup in Qatar.

Inter Milan, Juventus, Roma and Lazio have all made interesting moves, meaning that the race is likely to be as open as last year’s, which went down to the wire.

Milan have lost Franck Kessie to Barcelona but brought in free-agent striker Divock Origi and spent €35 million ($36 million) on promising but unproven forward Charles De Ketelaere.

Inter, meanwhile, started the summer with a bang by bringing back Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea but were beaten to the punch by Roma and Juve respectively for key targets Paulo Dybala and last season’s best defender, Gleison Bremer.

The loss of Bremer to their biggest rivals was a blow for Inter, the inability to strike a deal with Paris Saint-Germain for the sale of Milan Skriniar holding up the purchase of the Brazilian from Torino and allowing Juve to bring in a sound replacement for Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini.

It dented the enthusiasm among fans who had thought Simone Inzaghi’s team would strengthen to the point of being hot favorites to retake the title but are newly worried about the financial stability of the club’s Chinese owners Suning.

Juve have also brought in star names Paul Pogba — now out until September with a knee injury — and Angel Di Maria, and are going after Leandro Paredes, Filip Kostic and mercurial attacker Memphis Depay.

However, Sunday’s 4-0 friendly thrashing at the hands of Atletico Madrid was exacerbated by old boy Alvaro Morata’s hat trick and has caused murmurings about the future of coach Massimiliano Allegri, who needs a big campaign after finishing 16 points behind Milan last time out.

There has been some worry among Milan fans over the low-key nature of their team’s transfer moves, as well as the fact that the club didn’t renew the contracts of directors Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara — the architects of Milan’s recent revival — until the last minute.

Supporters are waiting for the American investment fund RedBird’s purchase of the club to go through, with the closing of the €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) deal with current owners Elliott due to be completed in late August or early September.

Meanwhile, both Milan clubs are still sweating over the fate of their new San Siro stadium development, with a public debate expected in September decisive to the project’s fate amid significant hostility from some local residents.

A source at Inter confirmed to AFP last month that should the debate go against construction and the project be blocked, the two teams would move it to a former industrial site in working-class Milan suburb Sesto San Giovanni, where the recently re-elected mayor has repeatedly said there will be no bureaucratic hurdles put in the way of a new ground.

Fixtures

Saturday

AC Milan vs Udinese, Sampdoria vs Atalanta (both 1730), Lecce vs Inter, Monza vs Torino (both 1945)

Sunday

Fiorentina vs Cremonese, Lazio vs Bologna (both 1730), Salernitana vs Roma, Spezia vs Empoli (both 1945)

Monday

Verona vs Napoli (1730), Juventus vs Sassuolo (1945)