Sloppy Liverpool tumble again in loss at Brentford

Sloppy Liverpool tumble again in loss at Brentford
Brentford's Yoane Wissa scores their second goal. (Action Images/Reuters)
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Updated 02 January 2023

Sloppy Liverpool tumble again in loss at Brentford

Sloppy Liverpool tumble again in loss at Brentford

LONDON: Liverpool lost more ground in the race for a top-four English Premier League finish when it lost to Brentford 3-1 on Monday.
Sloppy defending cost Liverpool twice in the first half, prompting angry boss Jurgen Klopp to substitute key defender Virgil van Dijk at halftime.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pulled one back but Bryan Mbeumo killed off Liverpool as Brentford beat the visitors for the first time since 1938 in all competitions.
Brentford rose from 10th to seventh in the standings. It was two points behind Liverpool.
Ibrahima Konate’s own goal gave the Bees the lead and Yoane Wissa’s header just before halftime put them in control.
Wissa, the replacement for Ivan Toney, the Bees’ 13-goal top scorer, had two goals ruled out for offside before he scored in a breakneck first half.
Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez added to his growing catalogue of wasted opportunities in front of goal. He was slipped in behind by Mohamed Salah and took the ball around Bees goalkeeper David Raya and rolled it toward goal, only for Ben Mee to arrive in the nick of time to slide in and block.
At the other end, Wissa sent Mbeumo clean through on goal but the latter’s shot was well saved by Alisson. However, from the corner, Brentford took the lead when the ball ricocheted off the knee of France World Cup finalist Konate and squirmed past Alisson.
Mbeumo’s corners continued to cause the visitors problems and Wissa put two of them into the net only for both goals to be chalked off.
However, the winger made it third time lucky four minutes before halftime when he buried a superb header from Mathias Jensen’s cross. Alisson got a hand to the ball and scooped it out but referee Stuart Attwell’s watch buzzed to confirm Wissa finally had his goal.
Klopp had seen enough of the shambles at the back and replaced Van Dijk with Joel Matip as one of three halftime changes.
The luckless Nunez managed to find the net shortly after the restart after breaking through one on one with Raya, only for VAR to pull him up for offside.
Moments later, Liverpool made one count, Oxlade-Chamberlain glancing in a header from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s tempting cross.
They pressed for an equalizer but Raya did well to keep out a Fabinho shot and Konate headed wide.
Brentford ended their hopes six minutes from time after Mbeumo brushed off a feeble challenge by Konate and tucked away the third.

Mauricio Pochettino handed task of rebuilding Chelsea

Chelsea have hired Mauricio Pochettino as manager on a two-year deal with the option of another year.
Chelsea have hired Mauricio Pochettino as manager on a two-year deal with the option of another year.
Updated 29 May 2023

Mauricio Pochettino handed task of rebuilding Chelsea

Chelsea have hired Mauricio Pochettino as manager on a two-year deal with the option of another year.
  • The Argentine will take charge of a club that finished 12th in the Premier League
  • Pochettino's man-management skills will face a severe examination at Stamford Bridge

LONDON: Mauricio Pochettino is back in the Premier League with the tough task of putting the pieces back together after Chelsea's disastrous first season under their new ownership.
The Argentine will take charge of a club that finished 12th in the Premier League despite an eye-watering outlay of more than £550 million ($678 million) on new players under Todd Boehly's consortium.
Pochettino made his name in management by making the most of meagre resources at Espanyol, Southampton and particularly during a five-year stint at Tottenham.
Eighteen months at Paris Saint-Germain delivered the first silverware of the 51-year-old's career -- the Ligue 1 title and French Cup -- but he never appeared comfortable managing the egos of a star-studded squad before leaving in July 2022.
Pochettino's man-management skills will face a severe examination at Stamford Bridge as he tries to succeed where three managers have already failed under the new regime.
Thomas Tuchel, who led Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2021, was unceremoniously sacked by co-owners Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, of private equity firm Clearlake Capital, just seven games into this season.
At the time Chelsea sat sixth in the Premier League and few could have forseen the calamity that would follow the German's departure.
Graham Potter lasted less than seven months at Stamford Bridge, even though Chelsea paid more than £20 million to snatch the Englishman from Brighton.
Even worse was to follow as club great Frank Lampard returned as interim boss only to oversee six successive defeats in his first six matches.
All three bosses have faced the challenge of hands-on owners and a bloated squad.
Experienced defender Thiago Silva confirmed last month that the club had to extend the dressing room to accommodate a group of more than 30 players.
A major clearout is needed at the end of the season to give Pochettino a more manageable squad to work with and instill a team spirit that has been sorely lacking.
Chelsea's huge spending over the past 12 months may mean he has limited room for manoeuvre in the transfer market.
The Argentine faced a similar challenge at Tottenham, when the club punched above its weight to finish in the top four of the Premier League four times under his leadership.
The Blues' spending is under scrutiny due to financial fair play controls but much of their outlay was with one eye on the future.
Wesley Fofana, Benoit Badiashile, Enzo Fernandez, Mykhailo Mudryk, Carney Chukwuemeka, Noni Madueke, David Datro Fofana, Malo Gusto and Andrey Santos are all 22 or younger.
Chelsea have been ridiculed for putting some of those players on eight-year contracts, but the club's ownership are betting on Pochettino's record with young talent to prove them right.
He produced impressive results at Tottenham, helping turn young home-grown talents such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli into household names on a budget.
"I can't speak highly enough of him. He's a fantastic manager, a fantastic man," said England captain Kane, during their time together at Spurs.
"You just want to perform for him, work hard for him, win for him. He's very passionate. You can tell sometimes he wants to be out there himself, putting in tackles, running about.
"You respond to that. On nights like that, big occasions, you just want to do him justice."
Before appointing Pochettino, Spurs had only finished in the top four of English top-flight twice in 24 years.
He also inspired a run to the club's first-ever Champions League final in 2019 and Tottenham's struggles since his departure have led to a clamour from fans for his return.
Pochettino's reputation appears to be untarnished by his indifferent spell at PSG, given the French giants' struggles on and off the field this season.
Should he turn Chelsea's motley crew back into Premier League contenders, his status as one of the world's leading managers will be restored.

Tunisia carry Arab hopes into knock-out stages of 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup

Tunisia carry Arab hopes into knock-out stages of 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup
Updated 29 May 2023

Tunisia carry Arab hopes into knock-out stages of 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup

Tunisia carry Arab hopes into knock-out stages of 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup
  • Despite a 1-0 loss to Uruguay, the North African team qualified to the Round of 16 of the competition taking place in Argentina

There will be an Arab team in the knockout stages of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup, but Tunisia made it through by the narrowest of margins and will take on Brazil in the second round on Wednesday.

At the end of the group stage, the North Africans were the fourth of the four best third-placed teams to go through, edging out France courtesy of a slightly better goal difference after both finished on three points.

It shouldn’t have been so tense. Earlier on Sunday, Tunisia were heading for a 0-0 draw against Uruguay in Group E that would have been enough.

In the 92nd minute, however, captain Ghaith Ouahabi handled in the area and Franco Gonzalez scored the only goal of the game. While it was a deserved win for the South Americans, it was a bitter pill to swallow, not least for Ouahabi, who had been a standout in the backline. A late booking meant that the defender would miss the Brazil match, but he will be relieved that his team are not now on their way home from Argentina.

After full-time, the players had to wait for the result from Honduras and France. If Honduras won, it was all over for Tunisia, and the Central Americans took an early lead as the Europeans went down to 10 men. It looked ominous, but then France came roaring back to lead 3-1. The problem then was that if they scored one more, then they would be going through. It did not happen, but it made for a stressful few hours.

Earlier, both Uruguay and Tunisia knew that a draw would be enough for both, and the Arab team, who had sat back for the most part in the 3-0 win over Iraq three days previously before showing some clinical finishing, were always likely to employ similar methods against Uruguay. The South Americans made most of the running and had 12 attempts on goal by the half-hour, though that did not do enough to trouble the in-form Dries Arfaoui in goal.

At the break, the young Carthage Eagles were happy with the way it was going and were also starting to put the Uruguay backline under a little pressure, though Fabricio Diaz should have opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time, left unmarked at close range with just the goalkeeper to beat, but scuffed his shot. 

Uruguay’s dominance was not quite as pronounced after the break even if they did have much more of the possession and many more chances.  If there was a feeling ahead of the game that the two teams would be happy to play out a goalless draw, that was not the case as the game reached the latter stages.

Both were trying to get the goal that would give them second place and, in theory, an easier game in the next round. It almost came in the last minute of normal time as Alan Matturro headed against the bar. The offside flag had been raised but it was close.

And then Uruguay was awarded that late penalty as Ouahabi handled. After Gonzalez scored, there was just not enough time for Tunisia to come back. They just had to wait and hope that France and Honduras drew or the Europeans picked up a narrow win.

There was no such waiting for Iraq. The last time the Lions of Mesopotamia participated, they defeated England on their way to a fourth place, but this time the Arab team was as good as out at the earliest stage.

It started with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Uruguay with the South Americans taking advantage of defensive mistakes to take control of the game. The performance against Tunisia was better, and Iraq had the better of the first half. Unfortunately, the team’s lack of cutting edge meant that chances were not taken. Tunisia gave a lesson in clinical finishing after the break and ran out 3-0 winners. That ended any realistic chances of getting out of the group.

On the face of it, a 0-0 draw with England is a decent result. The Three Lions had already secured their place in the second round but had four excellent chances before the break, including a penalty from Liam Delap that was brilliantly saved by Hussein Hassan.

This was a better performance from Iraq though and they asked questions, especially after the break, but once again the absence of a goal scorer proved costly. No goals in three games tells its own story. 

Tunisia still have another chance to write theirs.

4 things to look out for as Celtics and Heat set to make NBA history in game 7

4 things to look out for as Celtics and Heat set to make NBA history in game 7
Updated 29 May 2023

4 things to look out for as Celtics and Heat set to make NBA history in game 7

4 things to look out for as Celtics and Heat set to make NBA history in game 7
  • Winner of the dramatic Eastern Conference playoffs will face the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals

In the most dramatic of circumstances, the Boston Celtics have forced a game seven showdown against the Miami Heat with last-second heroics from Derrick White to win game six of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

With the series now tied at 3-3, both teams are poised to make history as they strive for a spot in the NBA Finals.

With only a fraction of a second left on the clock, in a must-win game for the Celtics, Derrick White’s fast sprint from the inbound spot resulted in a jaw-dropping lay-in off Marcus Smart’s missed three-pointer, securing a thrilling one-point victory for the Celtics.

Celtics defy odds, on brink of immortality

Game seven presents an opportunity for the Boston Celtics to make history by overcoming a 3-0 deficit, a feat that has never been achieved by any of the 150 teams in the history of the best-of-seven series. If they can defeat the Miami Heat, it will mark their second consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals.

In the previous Eastern Conference semifinal round, the Boston Celtics also faced a game seven against the Philadelphia 76ers, and Jayson Tatum delivered an exceptional performance, setting an NBA game seven record by scoring 51 points and leading his team to victory at TD Garden. It is worth mentioning that Tatum has an impressive track record in seventh games, having won five out of six games throughout his career. His only loss came against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

Heat’s rise from underdogs to dominant force

On the opposing side, the Miami Heat find themselves on the verge of scripting a historic milestone of their own as the first eighth seed to reach the NBA Finals.

Their stunning playoff journey commenced in the play-in tournament, where they suffered an initial setback against the Atlanta Hawks. However, a fourth-quarter comeback against the Chicago Bulls in the play-in tournament secured the Heat’s position as the eighth seed. This underdog status ignites their determination to defy expectations and achieve the unthinkable.

Leading the charge for the Miami Heat, Jimmy Butler is renowned for his playoff heroics and ability to thrive under pressure. Despite three consecutive losses, Butler displays confidence in his team’s ability to win the series and reach the finals, embracing the responsibility to elevate his performance and inspire his teammates.

Passionate Boston fans could prove decisive for Celtics

Game seven promises to be an intense battle, set to take place in the electric TD Garden in Boston.

The Celtics hold the advantage, having emerged victorious in the last three home games against the Heat, and they will be playing in front of their passionate fans who are renowned for their unwavering support.

The thunderous roar of the crowd could provide the Celtics with a psychological edge as they strive for victory.

Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic await in finals

While the Celtics and Heat strive to secure their tickets to the NBA Finals, the Denver Nuggets, victorious in the Western Conference, eagerly await their opponent.

This season, the Nuggets embarked on a historic journey, reaching their first-ever appearance in the finals. Led by the exceptional Nikola Jokic, the reigning Western Conference MVP, or Most-Valuable Player, and a two-time NBA regular-season MVP, the Nuggets have showcased dominance in the Western Conference Finals, sweeping LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers.

Jokic’s incredible performance this past season includes a record-breaking eight triple-doubles, surpassing the longstanding record set by the legendary Wilt Chamberlain. With his sights set on claiming his first NBA championship, Jokic’s focus is unwavering.

Game seven, the two most thrilling words in the sport, is set to make history in the Boston TD Garden, regardless of the outcome, whether it is a victory for the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat.

No mega-spend this summer for Newcastle: Eddie Howe

No mega-spend this summer for Newcastle: Eddie Howe
Updated 29 May 2023

No mega-spend this summer for Newcastle: Eddie Howe

No mega-spend this summer for Newcastle: Eddie Howe
  • Magpies have secured Champions League qualification next season, but Financial Fair Play will be a factor in their transfer moves

LONDON: Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has warned there will be no big transfer spend this summer, with Premier League Financial Fair Play, or FFP, rules biting hard.

While some quarters expect the Saudi-led Magpies to splurge — much like Chelsea and Manchester City — in the transfer market this summer, Howe admits Newcastle are working to much tighter guidelines than their top-end rivals.

And Howe has revealed that without Champions League football — Newcastle finished fourth to return to the competition for the first time in 20 years — the spend in the next window would have been even less.

“We had discussions last night — those discussions did take place,” said Howe in relation to a transfer summit with the club’s ownership group.

“I don’t think a budget is ever outlined because there’s always so many variables to it, but we certainly know where we stand.

“Is the budget big? Well, when you’re (sitting) in my shoes, it’s never as big as you want it to be. Financial Fair Play, as I always say, will impact what we do this summer. Certainly, without Champions League football, it would have been very difficult for us to have done much in the transfer market at all. The fact we have that has given us a bit of a lift.”

Howe knows he will have to strengthen if the Magpies are to fight on four fronts next season, evidenced in the club’s labored, end-of-season 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

Howe said: “It was a tough game, a really tough game.

“The conditions were difficult, it was very hot, I can vouch for that from the side of the pitch. I thought we did really well first half. We were a real transitional threat and should have been ahead at half-time. We missed some really good chances, and the second half was tough. Chelsea came into it and made some really good substitutions, with high-quality players coming onto the pitch. We’re probably pleased to get a draw in the end.”

Trading — selling players — and producing products from within the club’s own academy will help Newcastle along the way. In truth, they likely need to do more of that as things progress. One player who might end up saving the club a lot of money is 17-year-old Lewis Miley, who made his debut in West London. Miley hit the bar late on with a strike from the edge of the box.

“Lewie is a really exciting talent,” said Howe. “He should be pleased with how he did when he came on. It’s a tough environment to come into for your first Premier League game, but he could have nicked it. He’s a very good finisher, so it wouldn’t have surprised me to see that go on.”

Goalscorer Anthony Gordon is one who proved a pricey buy in the last window — and only on Sunday did he really show any justification for Howe’s $55-million winter outlay.

“I was really pleased for Anthony. I thought he played a different role due to the injuries we had in that area of the pitch. I’ve brought him on in that position a few times, in running, and I think he’s done okay there so I decided to trust him with that role from the start,” said Howe.

“He didn’t let me down — I thought he was really good and had some really good moments in that first half. He probably tired a little bit in the second, but I’m really pleased that he scored and hopefully that will give him a big lift going into next season.”

Varner wins LIV Golf DC, Torque takes team title

Varner wins LIV Golf DC, Torque takes team title
Harold Varner III of RangeGoats GC wins his first LIV Golf individual title. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf)
Updated 29 May 2023

Varner wins LIV Golf DC, Torque takes team title

Varner wins LIV Golf DC, Torque takes team title
  • The 32-year-old shot a final-round 4-under 68 for a one stroke victory over Branden Grace.

POTOMAC FALLS: In his 11-year professional career, Harold Varner III has won individual trophies in Australia and Saudi Arabia. With his RangeGoats GC, he celebrated a LIV Golf League team trophy earlier this year in Singapore.

But the 32-year-old resident of North Carolina had never won on American soil until Sunday, when he captured the LIV Golf DC trophy with a final-round 4-under 68 for a one stroke victory over hard-charging Branden Grace.

In winning on the outskirts of the nation’s capital on Memorial Day weekend in front of the largest crowd to attend a LIV Golf tournament in the US, Varner becomes the second different RangeGoats player to win this season, joining good friend Talor Gooch, who won back-to-back titles in Adelaide and Singapore.

“Very special,” Varner said. “I’ve never won in America. It’s my favorite country.”

Varner did not get to enjoy a champagne celebration with his team, though. The Spanish-speaking Torque GC won for the second time this season, shooting a final-round counting score of 9 under to finish at 27 under, beating the South African Stinger GC by three shots, with the RangeGoats taking third.

“It’s good, but at the end of the day, I really wanted to celebrate with the RangeGoats,” Varner said. “That’s my team.”

Varner produced several clutch moments Sunday at Trump National Washington D.C., none bigger than his hole-out from the bunker for birdie at the par-4 11th to take the lead. His tee shot at the par-3 15th set up another birdie to give him a two-stroke lead.

But Grace, who lost in a playoff to Dustin Johnson two weeks ago in Tulsa, birdied two of his last three holes, including his final hole, the par-4 second, to tie Varner at 11 under. “I played flawless all day,” said Grace after his bogey-free 6-under 66, the only bogey-free round in the field this week. “Nice to make a putt like that when it matters.”

At the time, Varner was about to play his second shot at the par-5 18th. His 6-iron from 197 yards landed on the front edge of the green and settled 40 feet from the pin, setting up his two-putt birdie for the win.

“I knew exactly what I had to do, when I had to do it, how I have to do it,” Varner said. “I love that. That’s why you play, that moment.”

Varner’s victory prevented Torque from sweeping both trophies. Torque’s Mito Pereira led Varner by one stroke to start the day but wasn’t as sharp as the previous rounds en route to shooting 71 to finish third.

Even so, his lengthy eagle putt on the par-5 13th was a key moment in Torque’s tight battle with Stinger GC, which was looking for its second consecutive team win after claiming the title in Tulsa.

“My irons weren’t very good today,” Pereira said. “Happy to finish third and obviously wanted to win. But we won as a team, so that’s pretty sick, too.”

David Puig, the 21-year-old from Spain and LIV Golf’s youngest player this season, provided Torque with its best counting score, a 6-under 66 that tied Grace for the low round of the day. Sebastián Muñoz added a 70 to tie for fourth on the individual leaderboard.

The win moves Torque to third in the season-long team standings behind last year’s champions, 4Aces GC, and Stinger GC. But Torque Captain Joaquin Niemann likes how his team is performing going into the second half of the 14-event season.

“We won already two times and obviously the more important win is the last one of the end of the year,” Niemann said, pointing to the Team Championship. “I think this is good to prove to all the other teams that we are the team to beat.”

As for Varner, his plans to celebrate his first win in the U.S. include a round of golf on the Monday holiday with his friends at a municipal course.

“I love playing golf,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing. I’m going to play tomorrow. It’s going to be awesome.”

Here are the standings and counting scores for Sunday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf DC. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title. 

1. TORQUE GC (-27): David Puig 66, Sebastián Muñoz 70, Mito Pereira 71 (Rd. 3 score: -9)

2. STINGER GC (-24): Branden Grace 66, Charl Schwartzel 70, Louis Oosthuizen 71 (Rd. 3 score: -9)

3. RANGEGOATS GC (-19): Harold Varner III 68, Talor Gooch 71, Wade Ormsby* 73 (Rd. 3 score: -4) *Reserve

4. CRUSHERS GC (-15): Bryson DeChambeau 70, Charles Howell III 70, Anirban Lahiri 71 (Rd. 3 score: -5)

5. MAJESTICKS GC (-14): Henrik Stenson 71, Laurie Canter 71, Lee Westwood 72 (Rd. 3 score: 27)

6. 4ACES GC (-14): Pat Perez 71, Peter Uihlein 71, Dustin Johnson 73 (Rd. 3 score: -1)

7. CLEEKS GC (-10): Graeme McDowell 71, Martin Kaymer 71, Bernd Wiesberger 71 (Rd. 3 score: -3)

8. IRON HEADS GC (-9): Scott Vincent 69, Danny Lee 72, Kevin Na 72 (Rd. 3 score: -3)

9. FIREBALLS GC (-8): Carlos Ortiz 70, Abraham Ancer 74, Sergio Garcia 74 (Rd. 3 score: +2)

10. HYFLYERS GC (-8): Cameron Tringale 70, Brendan Steele 71, Phil Mickelson 76 (Rd. 3 score: +1)

11. RIPPER GC (-7): Matt Jones 69, Marc Leishman 72 , Cameron Smith 72 (Rd. 3 score: -3)

12. SMASH GC (+2): Brooks Koepka 70, *Kieran Vincent 72, Chase Koepka 72 (Rd. 3 score: -2) *Reserve