Ten Hag loses first game as Man Utd manager to Brighton

Ten Hag loses first game as Man Utd manager to Brighton
Cristiano Ronaldo walks off the field at the end of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Brighton at Old Trafford stadium, Manchester, England, Aug. 7, 2022. (AP Photo)
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Updated 07 August 2022

Ten Hag loses first game as Man Utd manager to Brighton

Ten Hag loses first game as Man Utd manager to Brighton
  • Pascal Gross struck twice to put the Seagulls in command
  • Boos rang out around Old Trafford at the half-time whistle

MANCHESTER: Erik ten Hag said Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence will improve Manchester United after a dismal start to his reign in charge as Brighton recorded their first ever victory at Old Trafford with a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Any hope of a fresh start for United after a miserable 2021/22 season was wiped away within 45 minutes as Pascal Gross struck twice to put the Seagulls in command.
Alexis Mac Allister’s own goal gave United a foothold in the game, but they rarely looked like getting back on level terms, showing the scale of the task lying ahead for Ten Hag.
The former Ajax boss left Ronaldo on the bench after he only returned to pre-season training last week.
Ronaldo is reportedly seeking an exit from Old Trafford to play Champions League football this season.
But without the five time Ballon d’Or winner, United had no focal point to their attack as Christian Eriksen started in an unfamiliar role as a false nine.
“It’s clear to see we were better in the middle with Eriksen back and Ronaldo up front,” said Ten Hag after Ronaldo came on eight minutes into the second half.
“If he was available, I would’ve played him. Cristiano is now 10 days in team training. That’s too short for 90 minutes. That’s the reason we didn’t start him.”
The outcome could have been very different had Bruno Fernandes not blazed over a glorious chance on six minutes.
But Brighton, who beat United 4-0 when the sides last met in May, quickly settled into their passing rhythm.
Graham Potter’s men have lost two of their best players during the transfer window, as Yves Bissouma joined Spurs and Marc Cucurella moved to Chelsea this week for a club record fee in excess of £60 million ($72 million).
But it did not show as Brighton exposed the same flaws in United’s wide open midfield to pick apart Ten Hag’s men with ease.
“It’s not easy because as the transfer fees suggests they were two really key players,” said Potter.
“In any team you miss good players. We have got a good group, they are ambitious, they are not perfect, but they give everything and when you’re a coach it gives you a chance.”
Danny Welbeck, who United discarded back in 2014, was a constant threat in behind the vulnerable defensive pairing of Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez.
Welbeck created the opener as he ran off Maguire and laid the ball across goal for Gross to slot into an unguarded net at the back post.
The German midfielder now has six goals in 12 appearances against United, as he was again in the right place to take advantage when David de Gea could only parry Solly March’s shot across goal.
Boos rang out around Old Trafford at the half-time whistle, with the home fans not only restless about the state of their side on the pitch.
The club shop was forced to close before kick-off by a protest against United’s owners, the Glazer family, on the day Avram Glazer made a rare appearance in the directors’ box.
Ronaldo’s introduction early in the second half at least lifted the noise levels inside Old Trafford, which in turn roused United into a response.
Marcus Rashford failed to build on his encouraging pre-season form as Robert Sanchez produced a stunning save to block the England international’s effort from Ronaldo’s pinpoint cross.
Sanchez quickly undid that good work to give United a lifeline 22 minutes from time.
The Spanish international flapped at a corner under pressure from Diogo Dalot and then slapped the ball into his own net off the unfortunate Mac Allister.
But an expected siege on the Brighton goal never materialized as the visitors comfortably saw out the closing stages for a famous win.


Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations
Updated 35 sec ago

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic set new bar for next generations
  • Here we are, 20 years later, and Federer wound up with 20; Djokovic has 21; Nadal leads with 22

LONDON: Here is one way to look at what Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the now-retired Roger Federer accomplished: The group known as the Big Three of men’s tennis accumulated so many Grand Slam titles — 63 in all — that it seems unlikely anyone will reach the standards they set.

Not anytime soon, certainly.

Here was another way to think about things as the professional level of the sport began its post-Federer life on Saturday, following the last match of his career: What he and the other two members of that distinguished trio, along with Serena Williams, managed to do was demonstrate that it is possible to dominate for decades, not merely years, at a time.

And the 41-year-old Federer, for one, thinks up-and-coming players can learn from the way he and the others of his era went about it, from their self-belief and attitudes about setting goals to their training, nutrition and other methods of ensuring longevity.

He laughed when relaying a conversation with Bjorn Borg, who is the captain of Team Europe at the Laver Cup, about what life was like back when he was winning his 11 major championships from 1974 to 1981 before retiring in his 20s. During an interview with The Associated Press this week, Federer recalled a conversation in which Borg talked about getting one weekly massage and maybe the occasional hot bath during his time on tour.

Federer’s massage routine over his quarter-century as a player?

“Every day, probably. Sometimes I would get tired of them, so I would say, ‘Can we skip a day today?’ You know what I mean? I will not miss those. I mean, I loved my massages from time to time, but come on; number 1,423 gets a little bit like, ‘Jesus. I’d rather do something different,’” Federer said, then added through a self-aware grin: “Complaining at a high level here.”

When Pete Sampras won the 2002 US Open in his last match, he collected his 14th Slam trophy, two more than any other man in the history of tennis to that point. Indeed, there were those who wondered at the time whether that mark would ever be broken.

Seems quaint now. Here we are, 20 years later, and Federer wound up with 20; Djokovic has 21; Nadal leads with 22. The latter two are still adding to their counts: Nadal, 36, won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June; Djokovic, 35, won Wimbledon in July.

“No. 1, it’s easier nowadays to run through different surfaces. Pete only made one semi at the French. Borg never went to Australia. ... And,” Federer said, “it was less professional back in the ‘70s.”

Federer also made this point: He, Nadal, Djokovic and Williams, and the rise of social media, all contributed to a change in the paradigm of Grand Slam importance vis a vis other tournaments and made chasing those records — and talking about chasing those records — more widely accepted and matter-of-course.

“It’s a different world now,” Federer said.

In bygone days, he said, “It was not about records. This whole record thing started, I’d say, with Sampras wanting to surpass the 12 of (Roy) Emerson. This is what set up this generation that we see with Novak and Rafa right now. For me, I don’t remember much, when I came up in the ‘90s, about all these records. I remember Pete was kind of chasing them, but I was not aware of it. They just said, ‘Oh, you play like Pete, so you’re going to be ‘the next Pete Sampras.’ I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’”

With that, he rolled his eyes.

Then Federer continued discussing Sampras: “I don’t even remember how many Slams he had at that time. I don’t even remember where he passed that record. It was a big moment, I’m sure, but I, a historian of the game, don’t really remember it.”

Players have changed. Media coverage has changed. Fans’ attention has changed.

“We behave different, in the process, as well, and we are driven in a different way. I don’t think you were planning years ahead: ‘OK, I have 10 years ahead, so let’s break it down. What do I have to do to achieve such a thing?’ Back in the day, it was ‘OK, what are we playing next week?’” Federer said. “I just think it’s different and that’s why I think we’ll see more successful players in the future and they’ll be able to play longer, because they’ll maintain their bodies.”

For the current crop of new talent, including US Open champion and No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz, who is just 19, or French Open and US Open runner-up Casper Ruud, who is No. 2 at age 23, the example is there.

Now the question is: Can they follow it?

“They brought it to a whole different level and showed that anything is possible. Just imagine if one of the three was not there, how many the two other ones would have. They would probably be close to 30. ... It gives young players like myself and the younger generation inspiration to see how well it’s possible to play,” Ruud said. “I don’t think that record will be broken, ever, but let’s see in the future. Anything can happen.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime, a US Open semifinalist at age 21 last year, agrees that having something to aspire to is helpful.

As is having role models, which Team World vice captain Patrick McEnroe pointed out the Big Three are in terms of sportsmanship and the “way the game is actually played on the court.”

“Now the younger players are training hard, always trying to improve, being more and more professional,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It does raise the bar of the level and the competitiveness of the sport, which I think pushes the sport forward.”


Portugal cruise past Czechs as Dalot bags brace

Portugal cruise past Czechs as Dalot bags brace
Updated 25 September 2022

Portugal cruise past Czechs as Dalot bags brace

Portugal cruise past Czechs as Dalot bags brace
  • Portugal lead Group 2 on 10 points, two ahead of Spain who were stunned by Switzerland 2-1 at home on Saturday
  • Ronaldo failed to improve his record tally of 117 international goals and was left with a bloodied face after a clash with Vaclik early in the game

PRAGUE: Defender Diogo Dalot scored twice as Portugal eased past the Czech Republic 4-0 in Prague on Saturday to get within a point of reaching the UEFA Nations League play-offs.
Portugal, who won the first edition of the Nations League in 2019, lead Group 2 on 10 points, two ahead of Spain who were stunned by Switzerland 2-1 at home on Saturday.
Portugal host Spain next Tuesday in their final group game.
Dalot opened the scoring on 33 minutes as he nutmegged Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik from a cutback provided by Rafael Leao.
Dalot sprinted down the pitch, passed the ball to his right and dashed into the box to pick up Leao’s pass from the left following a cross narrowly missed by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bruno Fernandes made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time as Mario Rui found him facing Vaclik with a low cross from the left.
A minute later, the hosts squandered a penalty kick as Patrik Schick fired over the crossbar after VAR spotted Ronaldo handling the ball inside the box.
Dalot added a second as he stunned Vaclik with a low left-foot shot from outside the area on 52 minutes.
Second-half substitute Diogo Jota headed home a late fourth from close range following a corner and Ronaldo’s glancing header that found him at the far post.
Ronaldo failed to improve his record tally of 117 international goals and was left with a bloodied face after a clash with Vaclik early in the game.


Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on
Updated 24 September 2022

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on

Djokovic makes stylish return at Laver Cup as Federer watches on
  • Djokovic showed no signs of rust as he played for the first time since winning the seventh Wimbledon crown
  • The 35-year-old's dominant victory over Tiafoe put Team Europe 6-4 up at London's O2 Arena

LONDON: Novak Djokovic made an impressive return after two months out of action as the Team Europe star thrashed Team World’s Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3 with Roger Federer cheering him on at the Laver Cup on Saturday.
Djokovic showed no signs of rust as he played for the first time since winning the seventh Wimbledon crown of his remarkable career in July.
The 35-year-old’s dominant victory over Tiafoe put Team Europe 6-4 up at London’s O2 Arena, with Djokovic set to return to court with Berrettini for a doubles match against Sock and Alex de Minaur on Saturday evening.
Djokovic, a 21-time Grand Slam champion, missed the US Open in September due to his unvaccinated status, leaving him to take an enforced break from competitive action.
He was quickly back in the old routine against US Open semifinalist Tiafoe as he broke in the fourth game and again in the sixth to take the opening set in just 23 minutes.
Djokovic went for the kill as he landed yet another break in the first game of the second set and cruised to the finish line with Federer waiting to congratulate him at courtside.
Federer said a tearful goodbye to tennis late on Friday night when the 20-time Grand Slam champion and doubles partner Rafael Nadal were beaten by Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
The 41-year-old announced earlier this month that he would retire after the Laver Cup due to the knee problems that had kept him on the sidelines since Wimbledon in 2021.
Federer’s fitness issues meant he could only play one doubles match, so Matteo Berrettini was called into the Team Europe squad to replace the Swiss legend after the last game of his incredible career.
With Federer watching on, Berrettini proved a capable deputy as he defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (13/11), 4-6, 10/7 in Saturday’s first game.
The 26-year-old Italian, who finished as the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up, had to dig deep to hold off a spirited challenge from Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old Canadian rising star.
On the first day of his life after tennis, Federer could have been forgiven for following Nadal’s example and heading off for a well-earned rest.
But Federer showed his passion for tennis is unlikely to fade anytime soon as he sat courtside to support Berrettini with the rest of the Team Europe squad despite the post-midnight finish to his emotional finale.
Federer, who was involved in setting up the Ryder Cup-style Laver tournament, had said “we can all party together” as the 17,500-crowd raised the roof with their acclaim for one of the sport’s all-time greats after his final match.
There was an inevitable hangover at the O2 Arena as the atmosphere during Berrettini’s clash with Auger-Aliassime struggled to live up to the great man’s swansong.
But Federer looked relaxed as he mimicked Berrettini’s clenched-fist celebration as the Italian took the first set after Auger-Aliassime saved five set points in the tie-break.
Auger-Aliassime was unfazed by losing that 75-minute opening set and levelled the match in the second set before Berrettini finally closed out the victory in the first to 10 points ‘Laver Breaker’.
In the day’s second singles match, Team World’s Taylor Fritz beat British world number eight Cameron Norrie 6-1, 4-6, 10/8.
Norrie was only playing because Nadal had opted to pull out of the rest of the tournament after the Federer doubles match for what organizers said were “personal reasons.”
The Spanish world number three has been struggling with an abdominal injury while his wife is heavily pregnant.


Egypt considers bid to host 2036 Olympics

Egypt considers bid to host 2036 Olympics
Updated 24 September 2022

Egypt considers bid to host 2036 Olympics

Egypt considers bid to host 2036 Olympics
  • If successful with its bid, Egypt would become the first African or Arab nation to host the Olympics

CAIRO: Egypt is planning to apply to host the 2036 Olympic Games, sports minister Ashraf Sobhi said on Saturday during a reception for IOC president Thomas Bach in Cairo.
“President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has given his permission for Egypt to put itself forward as host for the 2036 Olympics,” Sobhi said.
If successful with its bid, Egypt would become the first African or Arab nation to host the Olympics.
“Egypt has solid sporting infrastructures and if it can host the Olympic Games, it will be historic,” Bach said during a joint press conference with Sobhi.
An Egyptian official announced earlier in the month that Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia were in talks to jointly host the 2030 World Cup.
Egypt staged the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, as well as last year’s handball world championship during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Barca confirm injuries for defensive duo Araujo and Kounde

Barca confirm injuries for defensive duo Araujo and Kounde
Updated 24 September 2022

Barca confirm injuries for defensive duo Araujo and Kounde

Barca confirm injuries for defensive duo Araujo and Kounde
  • Araujo was taken off inside the first minute of Uruguay's 1-0 loss to Iran
  • Kounde lasted just 23 minutes of France's 2-0 Nations League win over Austria

BARCELONA: Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo suffered a thigh-muscle tear while on international duty, his club said Saturday, while confirming Jules Kounde also had a thigh issue.
Araujo was taken off inside the first minute of Uruguay’s 1-0 loss to Iran in a friendly on Friday night. Kounde lasted just 23 minutes of France’s 2-0 Nations League win over Austria on Thursday.
The central defenders will miss their countries’ next match and are likely to be unavailable for Barcelona’s first games when club football resumes.
With the Clasico approaching on October 16, Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez may need to construct a new defense for upcoming fixtures, including a reprieve for Gerard Pique, who has been largely frozen out.
Since he was registered to play for the Catalan side, following his summer switch from Sevilla, Kounde has become a key part of Barcelona’s rear guard, often used at right-back. Spanish reports suggest he will be out for at least three weeks, although the club did not specify a recovery time.
The international break has been problematic for Barca. Memphis Depay suffered a hamstring injury with the Netherlands in their 2-0 win over Poland on Thursday. Frenkie de Jong was substituted for precaution in the same match.