Haaland hits five as Man City ease into Champions League quarters

Haaland hits five as Man City ease into Champions League quarters
The pictures combo shows Manchester City's Erling Haaland's five goals, which broke the club record for most goals in a season (39), held by Tommy Johnson with 38 goals in 1928-29. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 March 2023

Haaland hits five as Man City ease into Champions League quarters

Haaland hits five as Man City ease into Champions League quarters
  • City are yet to go all the way in the Champions League, but they have never had a striker of Haaland’s quality to make the difference in the latter stages before
  • At just 22 he now has 33 goals in 25 appearances in Europe’s premier club competition

MANCHESTER: Erling Haaland equalled a Champions League record with a five-goal haul to ease Manchester City into the quarterfinals at RB Leipzig’s expense as a 7-0 win for the English champions secured an 8-1 aggregate victory on Tuesday.

Haaland also set a new club record for goals in a season of 39 in the process as Pep Guardiola’s men reached the last eight for the sixth consecutive season.

“My super strength is scoring goals,” said Haaland. “A lot of it is being quick in the mind and trying to put it where the goalkeeper is not.”

City are yet to go all the way in the Champions League, but they have never had a striker of Haaland’s quality to make the difference in the latter stages before.

At just 22 he now has 33 goals in 25 appearances in Europe’s premier club competition.

“Firstly, I’m proud to play in this competition, I love it,” added Haaland. “Five goals! To win 7-0 is amazing.”

The weather was more akin to Haaland’s homeland on a snowy night in Manchester, but City did not freeze under the pressure and kept their Champions League dreams alive.

The tie was delicately balanced after a 1-1 draw in eastern Germany three weeks ago, but a Leipzig side depleted by injury never looked like a match for their star-studded opponents.

Guardiola had kept Kevin De Bruyne in reserve for Abu Dhabi-backed City’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in the Premier League at the weekend and on his return to the starting line-up, the Belgian was back to his best.

Ilkay Gundogan should have opened the scoring after just three minutes from De Bruyne’s inviting cross.

Haaland’s searing pace then created a chance out of nothing from Nathan Ake’s long ball, but Janis Blaswich raced out from his goal to block.

Leipzig did have cause for complaint over two controversial calls that had a massive impact on the game before half-time.

Firstly, VAR spotted a handball against Benjamin Henrichs that led to a penalty that neither the City players nor the crowd even noticed.

Haaland fired low to Blaswich’s left to maintain his perfect record from the spot for City with his sixth penalty of the season.

Two minutes later it was 2-0 as Haaland teed up De Bruyne, who smashed a shot against the bar, and then showed his speed and strength to power home a header from the rebound.

Leipzig could have been gifted a route back into the tie when Ederson sprinted from his goal to wipe out Konrad Laimer.

But rather than send the Brazilian goalkeeper off, Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic did not even award a free-kick.

Any doubt over the outcome was ended with the final action of the first half.

Ruben Dias rose highest to head Jack Grealish’s corner onto the post and Amadou Haidara’s attempted clearance ricocheted off Haaland into the net.

Gundogan’s classy finish into the far corner four minutes into the second half rubbed more salt into Leipzig’s wounds before Haaland started rewriting the record books.

Firstly, he hammered home at the second attempt after Blaswich parried his initial header to match Tommy Johnson’s record of 38 goals for City in the 1928-29 season.

Haaland set a new mark with still three months of the campaign to go when he snaffled up another rebound after Blaswich saved from Manuel Akanji.

In the process, he moved level with Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano’s record of scoring five goals in a Champions League game.

But Guardiola denied his star striker the chance of another record as he replaced him with Julian Alvarez with 25 minutes remaining.

“I told him I would love to score a double hat-trick, but what can I do,” said Haaland.

Instead, it was left to De Bruyne to have the final say as he curled a superb strike into the top corner in stoppage time.


Spalletti confirms he’s leaving Serie A champions Napoli and taking year off

Spalletti confirms he’s leaving Serie A champions Napoli and taking year off
Updated 30 May 2023

Spalletti confirms he’s leaving Serie A champions Napoli and taking year off

Spalletti confirms he’s leaving Serie A champions Napoli and taking year off
  • In his second season at Napoli, the 64-year-old Spalletti coached the team to their first Serie A title in 33 years
  • Former Barcelona and Spain coach Luis Enrique is reportedly being considered to replace Spalletti, as is former Napoli coach Rafael Benitez

NAPLES, Italy: Luciano Spalletti has confirmed he is leaving Serie A champions Napoli and will not coach next season.

“I need to take a year off. I’m a bit tired and I want to be with my daughter Matilde,” Spalletti said on the sidelines of a transfer market symposium on Monday.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis revealed on RAI state TV on Sunday that Spalletti requested a sabbatical year.

“He’s a free man. After 50 years in the film business, when someone comes to you and says, ‘I’ve given my all, a part of my life is ending, I still have a contract with you but I would prefer to take a sabbatical year,’ what do you do? Do you stand in his way?” De Laurentiis posed. “You’ve got to be generous in life. … He’s given a lot and I thank him for that. Now it’s only fair that he does what he wants to do.”

In his second season at Napoli, the 64-year-old Spalletti coached the team to their first Serie A title in 33 years. They won with five rounds to spare.

Spalletti still has one more match with Napoli against Sampdoria on Sunday, after which the team will be presented with the Serie A trophy — their third in club history after Diego Maradona led the team to the 1987 and 1990 titles.

Spalletti becomes the second coach in three years to leave a team that has just won the league — after Antonio Conte parted ways with Inter Milan after the 2021 title.

Napoli sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli — the man who overhauled the squad by signing Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Kim Min-jae — is also reportedly leaving and could join rival Juventus.

The Serie A title was the one big trophy missing in Spalletti’s career after previously managing Roma and Inter Milan and winning the Russian league with Zenit St. Petersburg.

“Sometimes you leave someone you love,” Spalletti said. “A city like Naples deserves much more than the norm. … You’ve got to ask yourself if we’re still up to the task or not. And since I don’t think that will be the case, I’m taking a step back.”

Former Barcelona and Spain coach Luis Enrique is reportedly being considered to replace Spalletti, as is former Napoli coach Rafael Benitez.


Romarinho, Faisal Fajir voted Roshn Saudi Pro League players of the week: Sofascore

Romarinho, Faisal Fajir voted Roshn Saudi Pro League players of the week: Sofascore
Updated 29 May 2023

Romarinho, Faisal Fajir voted Roshn Saudi Pro League players of the week: Sofascore

Romarinho, Faisal Fajir voted Roshn Saudi Pro League players of the week: Sofascore
  • Both players were rated 8.4 for their performances by Sofascore

RIYADH: Al-Ittihad’s Brazilian forward Romarinho and Moroccan attacking midfielder Faisal Fajr of Al-Wehda have been voted Roshn Saudi Pro League players of the week for round 29. 

Both players were rated 8.4 for their performances by Sofascore.

The team of the week included Al-Batin goalkeeper Meshaal Huriss, defenders Ahmed Hegazy and Ahmed Sharahili from Al-Ittihad, as well as Mohammad Salem from Al-Raed.

In the midfield category, Al-Hilal’s Saud Abdulhamid and Juan Pedroza from Al-Batin joined Romarinho and Fajr. 

Mohammad Al-Qahtani from Al-Hilal, Leandre Tawamba from Al-Taawoun and Igor Coronado from Al-Ittihad were all voted in the striker’s category.

Four players from Al-Ittihad made the team of the week for round 29 as they clinched the Saudi Pro League title after defeating Al-Fayhaa 3-0. 

The wait to crown the league’s top scorer goes on for another week, as Abderrazak Hamdallah at Al-Ittihad sits on 20 goals, while Odion Ighalo from Al-Hillal has 19 goals.


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.


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.”