Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson faces spell on sidelines

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson faces spell on sidelines
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp comforts Diogo Jota as he walks off after being injured during their English Premier League match against Manchester City at Etihad stadium on Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 29 November 2023
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Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson faces spell on sidelines

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson faces spell on sidelines
  • “Both are out. Ali is a bit lesser, so we have to see,” Klopp said ahead of the Europa League visit of LASK on Thursday
  • “Diogo will take a little bit longer”

LIVERPOOL: Goalkeeper Alisson Becker and forward Diogo Jota are facing spells on the sidelines after sustaining injuries during Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City, manager Jurgen Klopp said on Wednesday.
Brazil international goalkeeper Alisson, who could miss the next five matches, appeared to sustain a hamstring problem late in Saturday’s match but managed to complete the game.
“Both are out. Ali is a bit lesser, so we have to see. Not day by day — he will not play tomorrow, not on Sunday, probably not the week after. Then it should be kind of OK,” Klopp said ahead of the Europa League visit of LASK on Thursday.
“Diogo will take a little bit longer. We don’t know exactly how long, but it’s a bit more severe. We have to see.
“Alisson is not as bad (as we thought), but still bad enough.”


UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table
Updated 26 February 2024
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UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table
  • Reigning champions Shabab Al-Ahli return to winning ways, while Al-Ain stay in second with win over Baniyas

Al-Wasl’s searing pace at the top of the standings continued, champions Shabab Al-Ahli returned to winning ways and there was more misery for promoted clubs during the ADNOC Pro League’s matchweek 14.

A first full schedule since late December — a lengthy pause for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup was extended by multiple weather postponements — began with bottom-placed Emirates Club and second-bottom Hatta suffering 10th defeats of the season.

Goals for Raniel, on 10 seconds, and Uzbekistan midfielder Azizbek Amonov helped Khor Fakkan prevail 2-0 against the latter, while rampant Wasl breezed past the former via the same scoreline thanks to efforts from nine-goal UAE forward Fabio De Lima and prolific South Korea center-back Jung Seung-hyun. They now lead the table by eight points.

Shabab Al-Ahi, meanwhile, had a trio of Brazil-born scorers to thank when they ended a two-match winless streak in their comfortable 3-0 victory versus 12th-placed Ajman. Also, a 94th-minute tap-in from promising youngster Josna Epifani Loulendo kept the 2023-2024 AFC Champions League quarterfinalists Al-Ain in the hunt with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Baniyas.

There was drama in Abu Dhabi when Mirel Radoi’s league bow for Al-Jazira ended in a 3-2 defeat to Alfred Schreuder’s rapidly improving Al-Nasr, featuring iconic striker Ali Mabkhout’s 96th-minute saved penalty. Also, Caio netted when Sharjah beat Ittihad Kalba 1-0 and Al-Wahda came from behind to down Al-Bataeh 2-1.

Here are Arab News’ top picks and a talking point from the latest action.

Player of the week: Igor Jesus (Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club)

It has been an eventful few weeks for Shabab Al-Ahli’s prodigiously talented, but injury impacted, youngster.

Months of speculation about a return to Brazil or a move to Europe’s major leagues looked to have been ended by this month’s announcement that Igor Jesus had gained Emirati citizenship. It has put the 22-year-old on a fast track to eventually represent the UAE senior side, which is a major boost following January’s disappointing round-of-16 exit at the Asian Cup.

On the pitch, the ex-Coritiba attacker has been rarely seen this term. Yet more knee problems had restricted him to just five league run-outs across 201 minutes, prior to Sunday’s visit of Ajman.

If anyone needed a reminder about Jesus’ residual ability, it came versus the Orange Brigade.

A precision-guided seventh-minute corner from UAE prospect Harib Abdalla was nodded home. Jesus would add an assist to his name in the second half when he played in Guilherme Bala, another naturalized Emirati/Brazilian, who did the rest with an adroit turn and impudent low finish.

The ice pack applied to Jesus’ leg showed caution when he was called off to the bench which included an instant debut for prominent Iran center midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi.

There is such youth and electricity among Shabab Al-Ahli’s attacking options. They must regularly spark to stand any chance of hauling back Wasl.

Goal of the week: Ahmad Nourollahi (Al-Wahda)

Ahmad Nourollahi’s garlanded career has contained many standout moments.

From representing his nation at the 2022 World Cup, to hoarding trophies with Persepolis and adding last season’s ADNOC Pro League crown to his resume at Shabab Al-Ahli.

Acrobatic scissor kicks, however, were not associated with him. That is, before, Sunday’s comeback triumph at Bataeh.

A hopeful cross from right-back Abdullah Al-Karbi was hung up towards the penalty box. There appeared little danger, at this point.

Nourollahi’s lethal combination of athleticism and imagination then sent the ball arrowing into the bottom corner, at the start of the second half. This would propel fifth-placed Wahda to victory, earned through impressive Uzbekistan winter recruit Khojimat Erkinov.

Coach of the week: Alfred Schreuder (Al-Nasr)

UAE football’s sleeping giant is showing signs of stirring.

Nasr have had the history, glamorous Dubai location and outstanding Al-Maktoum Stadium, plus a list of stellar previous players that includes Yohan Cabaye, Alvaro Negredo and Luca Toni. Yet even the hint of glory has eluded them for so long.

This might be changing under Schreuder. The former Ajax and Al-Ain tactician inspired a third win from their last five league run-outs at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

It came through a blend of ex-Benfica maestro Adel Taarabt, plus young stars Abdoulaye Toure and Moussa Ndiaye.

Nasr are now comfortably midtable in seventh, after flirting with relegation under Goran Tufegdzic.

It is now up to the club to provide Schreuder with the order required to create sustained success. With six permanent managers since October 2019, this is not guaranteed.

Assessing Al-Ain’s Asian outlook

Al-Ain are flying the flag for their nation in next month’s AFC Champions League quarterfinals.

No less than Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr await on March 4 and 11, in a West Asia side of the draw packed by three heavyweight Saudi Arabian challengers.

The task is a stern one if The Boss are to add to their 2002-2003 continental title. Certainly, it will require improvement from their last-gasp victory at Baniyas Stadium.

Those three points, however, came at a cost with leading 11-goal marksman Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba being removed through injury. There is no natural replacement for the Togo star within their ranks.

South Korea anchorman Park Yong-woo has gone deep into this tournament before at Ulsan Hyundai.

Steady progress under legendary ex-Argentine, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo has seen six wins accrued from their last seven matches in all competitions. The Boss are also second domestically, with a game in hand.

Crucially, Crespo must learn lessons from the February 2023 7-0 blitzing of his Al-Duhail side by holders Al-Hilal.


Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla

Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla
Updated 26 February 2024
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Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla

Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla
  • Madrid’s victory kept them eight points above Barcelona and nine clear of Girona, who play Rayo on Monday
  • Darwin Machis’ goal deep in injury time snatched Cadiz a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo in a meeting of two teams in danger of relegation

BARCELONA: Luka Modric leapt atop the advertising board, pumped his arms and joined the collective roar of the Santiago Bernabeu.

The veteran Real Madrid star, who has seen his minutes shrink this season, had just become the hero for the Spanish league leaders with a scorching winner after coming off the bench in a 1-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday.

The normally calm Croat was possibly shouting for more than joy as he celebrated just his second goal of the season. Perhaps there was a bit of vindication, of showing everyone — Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti included — that he could still decide games even in an increasingly young Madrid squad.

The 38-year-old Modric collected a deflection with one touch before unleashing a powerful strike from outside the area that grazed the post before finding the net in the 81st minute. Modric had gone on just six minutes before with the leaders stymied in attack without injured top scorer Jude Bellingham.

“It is what always happens. We never give up. We have shown it many times, that this is a part of Real Madrid’s DNA,” Modric said about his goal. “We knew that today it was important not to let points get away because Barcelona would have closed the gap and we couldn’t allow that. Our insistence throughout all the game bore its fruit.”

Modric has helped Madrid win five Champions League titles and the player won the 2018 Ballon d’Or award. This season, with Bellingham replacing him in the starting 11, he has mostly been the subject of speculation about whether his playing days in Madrid’s all-white are nearing their end.

“It is very difficult to leave (Modric) on the bench, but every day he is an example for the entire squad,” Ancelotti said. “It is in Luka’s hands to decide what he does next season, and we are just waiting for his decision. It is difficult to manage (a situation like his) and I understand perfectly what Modric may be thinking when he does not play because I went through it as a player.”

Madrid was heading toward a second straight draw after being held 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano in the last round of games. Another stumble would have given Barcelona reason to hope that it might just be able to mount a challenge after it overtook Girona for second place on Saturday.

Madrid’s victory kept them eight points above Barcelona and nine clear of Girona, who play Rayo on Monday.

This was the third game that Bellingham, the league’s top scorer with 16 goals, has missed with a left ankle sprain.

NICO SENT OFF

Nico Williams was sent off with two quick yellow cards to leave Athletic Bilbao with 10 players just before halftime in their 3-1 loss at Real Betis.

The Spain winger got his first card for a foul and compounded that by earning a second booking for his apparently sarcastic applause of the referee.

The loss meant Athletic failed to take advantage of Atletico Madrid’s 2-2 draw at bottom side Almeria on Saturday. Athletic remained in fifth place at three points behind fourth-place Atletico. Betis moved into sixth, seven points behind Athletic.

Chimy Ávila scored his first goal for Betis since joining from Osasuna in the winter transfer window to take the 13th-minute lead. Yuri Berchiche added an own-goal before Williams was sent off in the 40th.

Gorka Guruzeta’s goal gave Athletic some hope in the 52nd, but Betis midfielder Johnny Cardoso added a third with a strike from the edge of the area in the 67th.

In the first half, an assistant referee had to leave the match after she ran into a television camera and cut her head.

LAST-GASP EQUALIZER

Darwin Machis’ goal deep in injury time snatched Cadiz a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo in a meeting of two teams in danger of relegation.

Iago Aspas and Williot Swedberg gave Celta a 2-0 advantage before Juanmi Jimenez pulled one back for the hosts in the 66th. Rafa Benitez’s side was still eyeing a victory until Machis curled a shot in from the corner of the area just before the final whistle.

Celta, in 17th, remained the last team clinging to safety while 18th-place Cadiz was in the drop zone at three points behind.

“You think you have it in the bag, you are up 2-0, and they score two goals on plays we could have stopped, so it is obvious we missed an opportunity,” Benítez said. “We didn’t know how to manage those final minutes.”


Klopp savors his ‘most special trophy’ as Liverpool win English League Cup

Klopp savors his ‘most special trophy’ as Liverpool win English League Cup
Updated 26 February 2024
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Klopp savors his ‘most special trophy’ as Liverpool win English League Cup

Klopp savors his ‘most special trophy’ as Liverpool win English League Cup
  • Klopp: It is in my more than 20 years, easily the most special trophy I ever won. It is absolutely exceptional
  • Van Dijk might have produced the decisive moment but it was the efforts of a string of young players that had Klopp so enthused

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp just couldn’t keep the smile from his face.

It was deep into extra time at Wembley on Sunday and the English League Cup final against Chelsea was locked at 0-0. A penalty shootout loomed.

Yet, with tensions running high, Klopp turned to the Liverpool fans, savored the moment and produced that trademark toothy grin.

Perhaps he knew what was coming. That Virgil van Dijk was about to score a 118th-minute winner to finally break down Chelsea’s resistance and secure a record-extending 10th League Cup trophy for Liverpool.

Perhaps not.

“That would be cool if I could see goals coming. That would relax a lot of moments in my life,” Klopp said afterward — his voice hoarse, likely from the wild celebrations that greeted his eighth trophy as Liverpool manager.

Klopp is stepping down at the end of the season and this may well be his last Wembley final with the club.

He said he was simply taking it all in and enjoying watching a new generation of Liverpool players that may turn out to be his lasting legacy after he goes.

“I loved it ... What I see today is so exceptional, we might never see it again. Not because I am on the sidelines but because these things don’t happen in football.

“It is in my more than 20 years, easily the most special trophy I ever won. It is absolutely exceptional.”

Van Dijk, Liverpool’s 32-year-old captain, might have produced the decisive moment but it was the efforts of a string of young players, called upon to help ease Liverpool’s extensive injury list, that had Klopp so enthused.

Seven of his winning team were aged 21 or under.

Jayden Danns, aged 18, came on for only his second senior performance. Bobby Clark and James McConnell are both 19.

Their efforts meant that even without the injured Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold and more, Liverpool still triumphed.

“I got told outside there is an English phrase, ‘You don’t win trophies with kids,’” Klopp said. “I didn’t know that. Yeah right.

“Sometimes I’m asked if I am proud of this, proud of that. I don’t know. I wish I could feel pride more often. Tonight was an overwhelming feeling of ‘Oh my God, what is going on here?’ I was proud of everybody involved.”

Victory keeps Klopp on track for a quadruple of trophies in his final year with Liverpool as he looks determined to go out on a high.

His team is currently top of the Premier League and still in contention to win the FA Cup and Europa League. But even if Klopp cannot add those trophies to the full set he has already delivered, he provided Liverpool with another memorable day at Wembley.

Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, must wait for his first piece of silverware in English soccer after failing to lift trophies with Southampton and Tottenham before taking charge at Chelsea.

While he won three trophies including the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain, he is still to taste glory in England.

A first trophy at Chelsea would have eased the pressure after a troubled season in the league.

“If you ask the players how they feel, I feel the same. (It is) so disappointing, so painful,” Pochettino said. “I am a guy that (has) less time to win titles (than the players). They are younger than me, they have time. In football it is always about when you have the opportunity (you take it).

PREMIER LEAGUE

Sheffield United’s players showed the wrong kind of fight after suffering a 19th loss of the season to stay at the foot of the Premier League.

Pablo Sarabia’s 30th-minute header secured a 1-0 win for Wolves at Molineux in the league’s only game Sunday, but perhaps the most notable incident in the match was a clash between Sheffield United players Jack Robinson and Vinicius Souza.

The teammates pushed each other in a heated exchange that led to a VAR review.

Not that Blades manager Chris Wilder seemed too concerned.

“That happens at every club up and down the country, three or four times a year,” he said. “They were told about their responsibilities at halftime. We talked to the boys and they are fine and cool.”

Defeat left Sheffield United eight points off safety.

West Ham host Brentford on Monday.


Eddie Howe calls for Newcastle United ‘unity’ as Premier League struggles continue with Arsenal hammering

Eddie Howe calls for Newcastle United ‘unity’ as Premier League struggles continue with Arsenal hammering
Updated 25 February 2024
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Eddie Howe calls for Newcastle United ‘unity’ as Premier League struggles continue with Arsenal hammering

Eddie Howe calls for Newcastle United ‘unity’ as Premier League struggles continue with Arsenal hammering
  • The 4-1 loss sees the Magpies fall further behind in the race for European qualification
  • ‘There’s only one way for success, and that’s for the club to be as one,’ said Howe

LONDON: Eddie Howe has called for unity as Newcastle United’s Premier League struggles continue to derail their season.

The Magpies suffered a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates, with a Sven Botman own goal, Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka and Jakub Kiwior sealing all three points for the title-chasing Gunners. Newcastle scored a late consolation via former Arsenal man Joe Willock.

The result sees them fall further behind in the race to try and qualify for Europe again next season. And while criticism is building — the Magpies’ form since December is bottom six, rather than top six — head coach Howe has called for everyone to stick together, saying that is the only route to success.

“We need to stick together. There’s only one way for success, and that’s for the club to be as one,” said Howe.

“We know that our run of form has not been as consistent as we want it to be. Coming here I think we were unbeaten in five, so I don’t think it was all bad, but this defeat, we’ll have to take on the chin and we’ll have to come back stronger for it.

“I think Joe’s (Willock) cameo was excellent and I think again he showed exactly what we’ve missed from him and his qualities of attacking the box late and getting goals. Alex’s (Isak) return was a huge positive and hopefully improved for that 60 minutes. Apart from that I’m struggling to find too many more.”

Just the Premier League bottom three plus Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth have conceded more goals than the Magpies this season. The 45 goals already conceded this campaign, far outstretches the 33 they let in for the whole of the 38-game Premier League season in 2022/23.

Newcastle’s defensive record is a continuing concern for Howe, who says his coaches and his players are working to turn things around.

Howe said: “I mean, with every game that goes by and we concede goals, it’s a concern.

“Of course, we’re working on lots of things behind the scenes to try and improve that, but that probably wasn’t evident in the performance.

“I keep saying the same thing regarding conceding goals. It’s collective. Last year, we had that collective mentality that we weren’t going to concede. Even the game coming here last year, we were magnificent in collective defending from the front to the back. I don’t think we’ve lost the desire to do that. We’re just not as competent at the moment at doing it than we were. We need to refind that solidity.

“Of course, it comes from work on the training ground. I think it comes from a collective responsibility, really, and a focus to make that your priority. I think we have attacking players. I think we’ll have players always that will score goals and create moments for us that could win us games, but at the moment we’re sort of taking that away from ourselves by not defending properly.”

With European hopes hanging by a thread, attention now turns to the FA Cup, Newcastle’s only remaining hope for silverware. Howe’s men travel to Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers in the fifth round of the competition on Tuesday evening.

“As I said, in really, really challenging situations, the players have really stuck together. We have to do that now for Blackburn,” said Howe.

“We have to look at this as the biggest game of our season. And, yeah, there’s a lot resting on this next game.”


Foden strikes as title chasing Man City beat Bournemouth

Foden strikes as title chasing Man City beat Bournemouth
Updated 24 February 2024
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Foden strikes as title chasing Man City beat Bournemouth

Foden strikes as title chasing Man City beat Bournemouth
  • With Liverpool in League Cup final action against Chelsea on Sunday, City took advantage to close the gap in their game in hand on Jurgen Klopp’s side
  • Foden netted in the first half at Dean Court and City survived a rocky second half to win for the 13th time in their last 14 games in all competitions

BOURNEMOUTH, UK: Phil Foden fired Manchester City to a 1-0 win against Bournemouth as the Premier League title chasers moved within one point of leaders Liverpool on Saturday.
With Liverpool in League Cup final action against Chelsea on Sunday, City took advantage to close the gap in their game in hand on Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Foden netted in the first half at Dean Court and City survived a rocky second half to win for the 13th time in their last 14 games in all competitions.
Chasing an unprecedented fourth succesive Premier League title, Pep Guardiola’s men weren’t at their best on the south coast but displayed the resolve required to grind out a vital victory.
While Liverpool remain in pole position, City are hot on their heels after extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 17 games since losing at Aston Villa in December.
City head to Luton in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday before hosting Manchester United in a crucial league game next weekend.
Guardiola left Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, but City were quickly into their stride.
Foden flicked a pin-point pass to Erling Haaland, who swept toward goal only to misfire with a drive that whistled wide.
Bournemouth almost made Haaland pay for that miss when Milos Kerkez’s well-struck effort forced a fine save from Ederson.
But City were quickly back on the offensive as the live-wire Foden brought Bournemouth keeper Neto into action for the first time with a long-range blast.
It was a warning Bournemouth failed to heed as Foden put the visitors ahead in the 24th minute.
Haaland muscled his way into the penalty area and drilled a shot that Neto could only push out to Foden, who had the simple task of tapping into the empty net.
Foden’s 16th goal in all competitions this season was almost followed by a Bernardo Silva moment of magic when the City midfielder curled narrowly wide.
Bournemouth are without a league win in seven games since Boxing Day, but they recovered to give City a genuine scare.
Ederson saved well from Ryan Christie’s strike just before half-time and the Brazilian was called into action again immediately after the interval.
Justin Kluivert was given too much time and space outside the City area and the Bournemouth forward’s low drive was repelled by Ederson at full stretch.
After another narrow win against Brentford in midweek, Guardiola was again shifting uneasily on the touchline as Bournemouth grew in confidence.
Marcus Tavernier wasted a chance to equalize with a poor finish from Antoine Semenyo’s cross.
Tavernier was guilty of an even worse miss moments later, scuffing wide from 10 yards with the goal at his mercy.
Usually so unruffled, City were reeling for once, but Ederson preserved their lead with a superb save from Dominic Solanke’s header.
In his last action before being replaced by Julian Alvarez, Haaland’s powerful surge ended with a good save by Neto.
City were nervous right up to the final whistle, but Bournemouth’s Dango Ouattara squandered a good chance before Enes Unal’s header crept inches wide.