Immobile fires Lazio past Celtic and to brink of Champions League knockouts

Immobile fires Lazio past Celtic and to brink of Champions League knockouts
Lazio’s Ciro Immobile celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during their Champions League, group E, match against Celtic at Rome’s Olympic stadium, on Nov. 28, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 28 November 2023
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Immobile fires Lazio past Celtic and to brink of Champions League knockouts

Immobile fires Lazio past Celtic and to brink of Champions League knockouts
  • Italy forward Immobile struck twice in the final 10 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome
  • Immobile’s double was a rare high point for Lazio who are 11th in Serie A

ROME: Ciro Immobile shot Lazio to the verge of qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League with a late brace in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over eliminated Celtic.
Italy forward Immobile struck twice in the final 10 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to move Lazio top of Group E, two points ahead of Atletico Madrid who are at third-placed Feyenoord later on Tuesday.
Lazio will be through to the next round if Feyenoord lose to their Spanish opposition as the Dutch outfit are four points behind the new group leaders.
Immobile’s double, which took his all-competitions tally for the season to seven, was a rare high point for Lazio who are 11th in Serie A.
“When a team goes through a difficult period, your personal situation should take second place,” assured Immobile.
“When I was on the bench, I just tried to see how I could help my team. We now need to find in the league the enthusiasm that we show in the Champions League.”
Defeat in the Italian capital confirmed Celtic’s exit from Europe’s top club competition.
Brendan Rodgers’ side will finish bottom of Group E following the defeat which left the Scottish champions with a single point from their five group matches.
Veteran striker Immobile broke the deadlock of a tense match in the 82nd minute when Gustav Isaksen’s shot was deflected right into his path with only befuddled goalkeeper Joe Hart to beat.
And the 33-year-old made sure of the points three minutes later, taking down Isaksen’s pass and shrugging off the Celtic defense before rolling home a neat finish.
Any hope of a Celtic comeback was finished once referee Halil Umut Meler denied their appeal for a stoppage-time penalty following a review of the pitch-side monitor.


Besiktas club scraps promising footballer’s contract over dating app profile

Besiktas club scraps promising footballer’s contract over dating app profile
Updated 21 February 2024
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Besiktas club scraps promising footballer’s contract over dating app profile

Besiktas club scraps promising footballer’s contract over dating app profile
  • Turkish Super Lig club announced on X that they had ‘amicably parted ways’ with Emirhan Delibas
  • 21-year-old player denies that the Bumble profile is his, and labels account ‘fake’

BEIRUT: Promising Turkish footballer Emirhan Delibas had his contract terminated with top-tier club Besiktas after he was reportedly discovered to have created a profile on the Bumble dating app.
Images circulated across social media showed that Delibas’s age on the verified Bumble account was 24, meanwhile his age as per Besiktas’s records is 21. The profile also showed the player posing in the club’s jersey.
News around Beskitas terminating the contract of their academy player surfaced late on Monday shortly after the blue-ticked account was spotted and went viral across social media.
The Super Lig club announced on X that they had “amicably parted ways” with Delibas, who has denied that the profile is his and labelled the account “fake.”
The rising star made two senior appearances before leaving but had progressed through Besiktas’ youth academy and represented them at various age levels.
“We have parted ways with professional football player Emirhan Delibas by mutual agreement. We wish Emirhan Delibas success in his future career and present it to the public,” the club said on X without announcing the reasons.
Turkish media reports said that the player posted on his Instagram: “I reject the slanders made by fake accounts and would like to state that my loyalty to my team cannot be questioned.”
Commenting over the incident, Emirati football fan and lawyer Salem Al-Hammadi told Arab News that nowadays a footballer’s behavior, on and off the field, was related — and important.
“A player’s behavior is linked to his contract on the field through his commitment to training and performance, and off the field, if he commits to a healthy lifestyle, through having healthy food and not staying up late,” Al-Hammadi said.
A player influenced fans and the club’s reputation, and this imposed an obligation on footballers not to behave in a way that could harm their club’s reputation, he said.
“This is what we have noticed through political problems, for example. All players’ actions off the pitch are monitored by their fans (on social media) and have a direct impact. So, players must pay good attention to their behavior, and clubs have to include all matters in the contracts,” Al-Hammadi said.
Meanwhile, retired Lebanese footballer and coach Ibrahim Hassan said that when he played football in the 1970s and 1980s social media didn’t exist, so such matters did not impact players or clubs.
“Nowadays, any tiny detail matters and it could strain the relationship between a footballer and his club or fans. It’s true that footballers are human beings, but eventually they are considered public figures who need to be attentive, as any unacceptable or misbehavior on social media could be devastating … anything they post or do could jeopardize their contracts,” said Hassan, who recalled a number of incidents involving footballers who were terminated or punished for supporting Palestinians amid the Gaza war.
However, football fan Jad Maroun believes that players have a right to some “private and family life,” especially on social media. “Players are independent humans who also have the right to express their views and not be punished twice, by clubs or fans … I guess Besiktas’s decision to terminate the player is harsh and unfair,” Maroun said.
Delibas has also represented Turkiye at U-17, U-18 and U-19 level.


Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests

Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests
Updated 21 February 2024
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Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests

Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests
  • “Given current developments, a successful continuation of the process no longer seems possible,” Hans-Joachim Watzke said
  • Fans had littered pitches with tennis balls and chocolate coins, attached bike locks to the goals and released toy cars onto the field to signal their opposition to the deal

FRANKFURT, Germany: The German Football League (DFL) on Wednesday dropped a huge cash injection deal with investors for a share of Bundesliga media revenues after widespread fan protests, a U-turn hailed by fanclubs as a “success” for supporters.
“Given current developments, a successful continuation of the process no longer seems possible,” Hans-Joachim Watzke said in a statement on behalf of the DFL’s board.
Fans had littered pitches with tennis balls and chocolate coins, attached bike locks to the goals and released toy cars onto the field to signal their opposition to the deal.
The protests interrupted matches over the last weeks, leading referees to even threaten to abandon games.
In December, German clubs voted by a two-thirds majority in favor of the plan to “secure long-term and sustainable success.”
In exchange for eight percent of future TV rights, the league would receive an immediate investment, said to be close to one billion euros ($1.1 billion), to help market and promote the Bundesliga internationally.
Despite excellent stadium attendances and a lucrative domestic TV deal, international interest in the Bundesliga lags behind that of England’s Premier League or Spain’s La Liga.
But Germany’s powerful fan clubs say the investor process lacked transparency and ignored supporters’ wishes.
German football has a notable commitment to fan control and involvement via a “50+1” rule which restricts the degree of influence an external investor can have over a club.
The rule is incredibly popular among German fans, many of whom value it more than success on the field.
Hailing Wednesday’s decision, fan group Unsere Kurve said the “comprehensive, but very peaceful and very creative protests were ultimately the key to success.”
German football was being tested by the protests, “even if a large majority are in favor of the necessity of the strategic partnership,” Watzke said.
“Fan groups are causing major clashes, which are increasingly jeopardizing game operations... and thus the integrity of the competition,” said Watzke, who also serves as CEO of Borussia Dortmund.
Under the circumstances, the completion of the deal “cannot be guaranteed,” he said, adding that the decision to drop the investor tie-up was unanimous.
A similar proposal which sought to sell off a higher percentage of the TV revenue for a larger fee failed to get the necessary majority when put to a vote in May last year.


Atletico’s Griezmann suffers ‘moderate’ ankle sprain

Atletico’s Griezmann suffers ‘moderate’ ankle sprain
Updated 21 February 2024
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Atletico’s Griezmann suffers ‘moderate’ ankle sprain

Atletico’s Griezmann suffers ‘moderate’ ankle sprain
  • The French forward was hurt during Atletico’s 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan in the Champions League

MADRID: Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann is out injured after sustaining a “moderate” ankle sprain, the Spanish club said Wednesday.
The French forward was hurt during Atletico’s 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan in the Champions League last 16 first leg clash Tuesday and Diego Simeone replaced him after 78 minutes.
Spanish reports say the forward will miss Saturday’s visit to Almeria in La Liga and is a doubt for the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg against Athletic Bilbao on February 29.
Griezmann is expected to be fit for the second leg against Inter Milan on March 13.
The 32-year-old has been Atletico’s key player this season and has 18 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions.


Olivia Moultrie scores twice and the US women rout Dominican Republic 5-0

Olivia Moultrie scores twice and the US women rout Dominican Republic 5-0
Updated 21 February 2024
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Olivia Moultrie scores twice and the US women rout Dominican Republic 5-0

Olivia Moultrie scores twice and the US women rout Dominican Republic 5-0
  • It was the sixth victory for the US under interim coach Twila Kilgore
  • Argentina and Mexico played to a scoreless draw to open Group A play

CARSON, California: Olivia Moultrie scored twice in her first national team start and the US defeated the Dominican Republic 5-0 on Tuesday night in the inaugural CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup tournament.

Moultrie, 18, making just her third appearance with the national team, scored her first goal in the seventh minute when she stretched to tap the ball across the goal line.

Lynn Williams added a goal off a pass from Midge Purce in the 30th minute to make it 2-0 in the US team’s first game of the year.

Purce also fed Moultrie for her second goal in the 59th minute. Moultrie, who plays for the Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League, is the third-youngest player to score multiple goals in a game for the US.

“I’m pretty ecstatic right now. I was just so happy to be on the field tonight, to have the opportunity to start is amazing,” Moultrie said.

Jenna Nighswonger scored her first goal for the US on a penalty in the 86th minute to make it 4-0.

Alex Morgan, who was brought into the team earlier Tuesday, came in as a second-half substitute. Morgan was a roster replacement for Mia Fishel, who tore a ligament in her right knee in practice a day earlier.

Morgan, who normally wears No. 13, wore Fishel’s No. 7 because of CONCACAF rules.

Morgan converted a penalty kick in stoppage time to wrap up scoring. It was her 122nd international goal.

It was the sixth victory for the US under interim coach Twila Kilgore, who took over when coach Vlatko Andonovski departed the team following the Americans’ disappointing finish at the Women’s World Cup last summer.

Kilgore will coach the US until May, when Emma Hayes, currently coach of Chelsea, takes over. Purce said Kilgore did a good job of making sure everyone was on the same page.

“I think that we’re playing against a low block so it gives us an opportunity for a lot of creativity,” Purce said. “And we have a lot of creative players on the front line. So it really fun. It was a fun day.”

Korbin Albert, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, also made her first start.

Veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn, the captain for the match, was also a late addition to the roster because Alana Cook sustained a minor knee injury. It was Sauerbrunn’s 216th cap.

The Dominican Republic clinched a spot in Group A with a 1-0 victory over Guyana on Saturday. Kathrynn González scored the lone goal early in the second half.

Gonzalez, a Pennsylvania native, came in as a second-half substitute against the US.

Earlier Tuesday at Dignity Health Sports Park, home to Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, Argentina and Mexico played to a scoreless draw to open Group A play.

There are three groups of four teams in the tournament, with matches in Carson, San Diego and Houston.

The US play Argentina on Friday night in Carson.


Ratcliffe acquisition of Manchester United minority stake completed

Ratcliffe acquisition of Manchester United minority stake completed
Updated 21 February 2024
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Ratcliffe acquisition of Manchester United minority stake completed

Ratcliffe acquisition of Manchester United minority stake completed
  • Ratcliffe: To become co-owner of Manchester United is a great honor and comes with great responsibility

MANCHESTER, England: British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s acquisition of a 25 percent stake in Premier League club Manchester United has been completed, putting an end to a 15-month saga.

The $1.25 billion deal, in which the INEOS chairman will also invest $300 million into the club’s infrastructure and take charge of their soccer operations, was struck in December and its final approval was mainly a formality.

“To become co-owner of Manchester United is a great honor and comes with great responsibility,” Ratcliffe said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This marks the completion of the transaction, but just the beginning of our journey to take Manchester United back to the top of English, European and world football, with world-class facilities for our fans.

“Work to achieve those objectives will accelerate from today.”

The ownership deal had to clear regulatory hurdles, including Premier League and Football Association approval which were both given last week.

Ratcliffe’s purchase ended more than a year of uncertainty after majority owners, the Glazer family, said in November 2022 that they were looking at strategic options for investment into the club they took control of in 2005.

The American family will retain a majority stake in the club but Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group will take control of football operations.

“I would like to welcome Sir Jim as co-owner and look forward to working closely with him and INEOS Sport to deliver a bright future for Manchester United,” executive co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement.

VOTING RIGHTS

Ratcliffe has agreed to purchase 25 percent of the team’s class B shares, largely held by the Glazer family, which holds most of the voting rights, and up to 25 percent of its class A shares, which are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Ratcliffe will inject a further $300m for investment in infrastructure at Old Trafford that will acquire him a further 3 percent share later this year.

The deal makes him the largest individual United shareholder. His company Trawlers Limited was used for the purchase.

The 71-year-old Ratcliffe, who grew up a United fan, told reporters recently that ownership in the club was the most exciting endeavor of his life.

The Glazers have been heavily criticized by fans who blame them for a steady decline in the fortunes of the 20-time English league champions who are currently sixth in the standings.

While many United supporters had hoped the Glazers would sell the club in full, Ratcliffe’s investment has been welcomed.

Since the Christmas Eve deal, Ratcliffe has brought in right-hand man Dave Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc, who join him on the board.

United have also appointed Manchester City’s Chief Football Operations Officer

Omar Berrada to become chief executive.