Champions Ahly drop more points in pursuit of 12th title

Champions Ahly drop more points in pursuit of 12th title
CAF Champions League title-holders Al Ahly dropped points for the second successive weekend when held 0-0 at home by Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria on Friday. (X/@CAFCLCC)
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Updated 09 December 2023
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Champions Ahly drop more points in pursuit of 12th title

Champions Ahly drop more points in pursuit of 12th title
  • The record 11-time African champions were expected to collect maximum points from the Group D match in Alexandria The result was a major boost for Belouizdad, who conceded an added-time goal to lose away to Medeama of Ghana last weekend

JOHANNESBURG: CAF Champions League title-holders Al Ahly dropped points for the second successive weekend when held 0-0 at home by Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria on Friday.
After an away draw against Young Africans in Tanzania six days ago, the record 11-time African champions were expected to collect maximum points from the Group D match in Alexandria.
But a defiant Belouizdad defense, backed by former Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi, contained an Ahly attack including Mahmoud Kahraba, Hussein el Shahat and South African Percy Tau.
The result was a major boost for Belouizdad, who conceded an added-time goal to lose away to Medeama of Ghana last weekend.
Medeama could not achieve back-to-back home victories, however, as they surrendered the lead in a 1-1 draw against Young Africans in Kumasi.
Jonathan Sowah, recalled after being ruled out of the Belouizdad match by suspension, converted a 27th-minute penalty for group debutants Medeama.
It was his third goal of the African campaign, and Ivorian Pacome Zouzoua also scored for a third time in the Champions League this season by equalising nine minutes later.
Ahly have five points, Medeama and Belouizdad four each and Young Africans two at the halfway stage of the mini-league. Group winners and runners-up qualify for the quarter-finals.
On a night when three matches produced only three goals, the best came from Cameroonian Jacques Mbe, which gave Etoile Sahel of Tunisia a 1-0 win over Al Hilal of Sudan in Rades near Tunis.
With just two minutes of regular time remaining, Mbe unleashed a thunderbolt past Ivorian goalkeeper Issa Fofana to earn Etoile their first points in Group C.
Petro Luanda of Angola, who play on Saturday, top the table with six points while Hilal, four-time champions Esperance of Tunisia and Etoile have three each.


Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests

Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests
Updated 23 sec ago
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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.


Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool

Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool
Updated 21 February 2024
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Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool

Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool
  • Just two points separate the top three in a fascinating Premier League title race as City moved to within a point of leaders Liverpool

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Pep Guardiola said Erling Haaland had “shut the mouths” of his critics after scoring the only goal of a nervy 1-0 win for Manchester City over Brentford on Tuesday.
Just two points separate the top three in a fascinating Premier League title race as City moved to within a point of leaders Liverpool, with third-placed Arsenal one point further back with 13 games to go.
Haaland was keen to make amends for a frustrating night in front of goal as City were held 1-1 at home by Chelsea on Saturday.
The Norwegian has only recently returned from a two-month injury layoff and Guardiola said he was also coping with the loss of his grandmother off the field.
But Haaland was more like his old self in front of goal when he raced onto Julian Alvarez’s pass to slot in his 22nd goal of the season 19 minutes from time.
“Top strikers score a lot of goals. Don’t criticize, he will shut your mouth. Sooner or later he is there,” said Guardiola.
“He was out for two months, he lost his grandmother, it is not easy for a human being.
“We spoke about the moment (missing chances against Chelsea), and I realized this later, but he didn’t say anything about the passing away of his grandmother.”
Kevin De Bruyne was left on the bench for the entire match as Guardiola revealed he has “niggles” in his hamstring.
The Belgian missed the first five months of the season due to a hamstring tear.
De Bruyne’s ingenuity was missed as City struggled to make their domination count despite enjoying nearly 70 percent possession and having 25 shots on goal.
The Bees were the last visiting side to win at the Etihad 14 months ago and had their chances to spring another huge surprise.
Frank Onyeka failed to beat Ederson when one-on-one midway through the first half before Ivan Toney sent a dipping free-kick inches over the bar.
The vast majority of goalmouth action came at the other end.
Oscar Bobb came closest to opening the scoring in the first half, on a rare start for the Norwegian youngster, when his effort was cleared off the line by Ben Mee.
Bernardo Silva also headed a glorious chance wide as Thomas Frank’s men held out until the break.
Liverpool and Arsenal’s hopes of a second unlikely gift from City in the title race in four days would have been raised by a quiet start to the second period.
However, City remain well in the hunt to become the first side ever to win four consecutive English top-flight titles for a reason.
One slip by Brentford defender Kristoffer Ajer provided the moment Haaland had been waiting for as he galloped clear on goal and kept his composure to score for just the third time in his last eight games.
“I’m incredibly proud. We didn’t give much away until the goal — which is a slip,” said Brentford boss Frank.
“I think they’re good enough. They don’t need that luck to get over the line!“
City should have extended their advantage, especially as goal difference could yet prove decisive in the title race.
Phil Foden scored a hat-trick when the sides met earlier this month in City’s 3-1 win in west London.
But the England international was denied twice late on by Flekken as the goalkeeper tipped over a blistering shot and then stood up well to block as Foden tried to go round him.