Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool

Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool
Manchester City's Erling Haaland, right, duels for the ball with Brentford's Christian Norgaard during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Brentford at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
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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.


Xavi to remain Barcelona coach: club to AFP

Xavi to remain Barcelona coach: club to AFP
Updated 24 April 2024
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Xavi to remain Barcelona coach: club to AFP

Xavi to remain Barcelona coach: club to AFP
  • The 44-year-old decided on his dramatic change of mind after a day of meetings

BARCELONA: Xavi will remain as coach of Barcelona, the Spanish giants told AFP on Wednesday, despite having announced in January that he planned to quit at the end of the season.
Spanish media reported that the 44-year-old, who had signed a contract extension until 2025 last autumn, decided on his dramatic change of mind after a day of meetings with club president Joan Laporta and sporting director Deco.


Kewell’s Yokohama beat Ulsan to reach Asian Champions League final

Kewell’s Yokohama beat Ulsan to reach Asian Champions League final
Updated 24 April 2024
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Kewell’s Yokohama beat Ulsan to reach Asian Champions League final

Kewell’s Yokohama beat Ulsan to reach Asian Champions League final
  • Yokohama will host Al Ain in the first leg of the final on May 11, with the return being held in the UAE on May 25

YOKOHAMA: Harry Kewell said his Yokohama F-Marinos players can “handle any pressure” after beating Ulsan Hyundai 5-4 on penalties on Wednesday to set up an Asian Champions League final against Al Ain.

Former Liverpool and Leeds forward Kewell’s side came through a pulsating semifinal that ended 3-3 on aggregate to reach the Champions League final for the first time.

Trailing 1-0 from last week’s first leg in South Korea, Yokohama scored three goals in the opening 30 minutes in Japan but then conceded twice and had a man sent off before halftime.

Goalkeeper William Popp saved from Ulsan’s Kim Min-woo in the shootout to hand Yokohama the advantage in constant driving rain, before Carlos Eduardo converted the decisive spot kick.

Kewell, who took over as Yokohama coach at the start of the year, said he told his players that “the hardest games you will play are semifinals.”

“I said: ‘Nothing easy in this game’,” said the Australian.

“You are going to get pushed to the limit where I believe you can handle it.

“I think it showed them tonight, they believe now they can handle any kind of pressure.”

Yokohama will host Al Ain in the first leg of the final on May 11, with the return being held in the UAE on May 25.

Al Ain beat Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal 5-4 on aggregate on Tuesday to reach the final.

Yokohama looked certain to join them after a barnstorming start to the second leg but two goals for Ulsan and a 39th-minute red card for defender Takumi Kamijima cranked up the tension.

Ulsan laid siege to the Yokohama goal but Kewell said his players grew in stature as the game went on.

“The players were composed, they were confident,” he said.

“They were getting stronger and stronger as they got closer to the final whistle.”

Ulsan, who had already booked their place in next year’s 32-team Club World Cup in the US by winning the semifinal first leg, were looking for their third Champions League title.

“My players kept going until the end,” said coach Hong Myung-bo.

“It’s unfortunate because we had a lot of chances to score in both the first and second legs.”

Yokohama took the lead in the 13th minute when a defensive mix-up between Kim Young-gwon and Hwang Seok-ho allowed Asahi Uenaka to streak through and score.

Anderson Lopes added a second in the 21st minute, firing home a left-foot shot from just inside the box.

The home side kept up the pressure and Uenaka notched his second of the game on the half-hour mark when he slipped his marker and curled a shot past goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo.

But just as it looked like turning into a rout, Ulsan hit back when Matheus Sales headed home direct from a corner in the 35th minute.

Moments later, Ulsan had a penalty and Yokohama were reduced to 10 men when Kamijima was red-carded for a handball as he slid in to make a tackle.

Substitute Darijan Bojanic, who had come on in the 34th minute, made no mistake from the spot.

Kewell admitted Yokohama “rode our luck at times” as they held off Ulsan but said his players “deserved everything they got.”

“We’re going to enjoy the final,” he said.

“You don’t get a chance to play many finals in your career so when you do, enjoy it and play the way that you’re born to play.”


Haaland ruled out of Man City’s crucial trip to Brighton

Haaland ruled out of Man City’s crucial trip to Brighton
Updated 24 April 2024
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Haaland ruled out of Man City’s crucial trip to Brighton

Haaland ruled out of Man City’s crucial trip to Brighton
  • Haaland missed City’s 1-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley
  • City boss Pep Guardiola insisted Haaland’s injury was not serious

LONDON: Manchester City’s Premier League title bid has suffered a blow after Norway striker Erling Haaland was ruled out of Thursday’s crucial clash at Brighton.
Haaland missed City’s 1-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Saturday due to a muscle injury sustained in the Champions League quarter-final exit against Real Madrid last week.
City’s leading scorer, who has 20 Premier League goals this season, is yet to recover and will not make the trip to the Amex Stadium as the champions look to close the gap on leaders Arsenal.
City boss Pep Guardiola insisted Haaland’s injury was not serious, and he could come back into contention in time for Sunday’s game against Nottingham Forest.
While Haaland is sidelined, Guardiola was boosted by England internationals Phil Foden and John Stones getting the green light to face Brighton after their own fitness concerns.
“Erling is not ready for tomorrow, the other two, they are ready,” Guardiola told reporters on Wednesday.
“I know it is not a big issue, but he is not allowed for this game.”
As a gripping title race approaches the final furlong, third placed City are four points behind leaders Arsenal, who thrashed Chelsea 5-0 on Tuesday.
Guardiola’s men have two games in hand on Arsenal and have played one match less than second placed Liverpool, who face Merseyside rivals Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday.


Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead
Updated 24 April 2024
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Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead
  • The destiny of the title remains in Man City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand

LONDON: Kai Havertz and Ben White scored twice as Arsenal thrashed Chelsea 5-0 on Tuesday to surge ahead in the Premier League title race and ramp up the pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City.
Leandro Trossard was also on target in a record win over Chelsea for the Gunners, who move three points clear of Liverpool and four of Manchester City.
The destiny of the title remains in City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand.
Liverpool have also played one fewer game than Arsenal and are in action at Everton in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.
However, Mikel Arteta’s men’s goal difference advantage now looks unassailable should it become decisive in the title race.
“We have made our people very proud, it is a big derby for us and I know what it means,” said Arteta.
“We started the game really well but didn’t convert all our chances — we were a bit sloppy in certain areas of the pitch.
“In the second half we were much more disciplined and created chances and were ruthless in front of goal.”
Chelsea and Arsenal’s title rivals were dealt a huge blow before kick-off as the Blues’ danger man Cole Palmer was ruled out due to illness.
Palmer has scored or assisted nearly 50 percent of Chelsea’s Premier League goals this season and his presence was badly missed by the visitors.
Despite enduring a disappointing first season under Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea had been unbeaten in eight consecutive league games prior to their FA Cup semifinal defeat to Manchester City on Saturday.
But they were blown away by an Arsenal side keen to reaffirm their title credentials after losing their last home game to Aston Villa.
“So difficult (a) result and performance (to accept) because it is not nice to see your team playing like this from the beginning of the game,” said Pochettino.
“Today we didn’t compete against a team fighting for the Premier League. We need to be aware we need to compete in a different way.”
The hosts flew out of the blocks and were in front inside five minutes.
Trossard only ended up at the Emirates after Arsenal were gazumped by Chelsea in the battle to sign Mykhailo Mudryk in January 2023.
The Belgian has proved to be a far more productive signing and smashed in his 15th goal of the season at Djordje Petrovic’s near post.
Petrovic redeemed himself for a mistake at the opening goal with two brilliant saves to turn away Havertz’s low effort and a deflected shot by Trossard to keep his side in the game before half-time.
The Serbian briefly held Arsenal at bay early in the second period with saves from Declan Rice and Havertz.
However, the floodgates opened once White curled in Arsenal’s second after Chelsea failed to clear a corner on 52 minutes.
Havertz scored the winning goal in a Champions League final for Chelsea during his three years in west London, but he never performed consistently to the level he has found in recent months under Arteta.
Martin Odegaard’s stunning through ball was met with the finish it deserved as Havertz smashed high past Petrovic.
His next finish was more subtle as the German international fired in off the post from Bukayo Saka’s pass for his seventh goal in his last 14 club games.
A night for forget for Chelsea was summed up when White’s attempted cross flew into the top corner from another sensational Odegaard pass.
Defeat leaves Chelsea still in ninth, three points adrift of the European places.
Next up for Arsenal is what appears their toughest hurdle remaining away to Tottenham in Sunday’s north London derby.
Should Arteta’s side prevail at the home of their fiercest rivals, City will likely need to be perfect in their final six games to retain the title.


Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension

Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension
Updated 23 April 2024
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Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension

Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension
  • “We are enjoying our way together with Villa fans, the club owners, management and this great group of players that we are proud of,” Emery said Tuesday
  • The field of candidates for the jobs at Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern is shrinking

DUBAI: Ahead of a summer when three of the biggest jobs in world soccer are up for grabs, Unai Emery became the latest top coach to decide to stay put.
The Aston Villa manager extended his contract until 2027 on Tuesday to stay in Birmingham at a time when Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern Munich all have looming vacancies.
In recent weeks, candidates Xabi Alonso and Julian Nagelsmann took themselves off the market by committing their futures to Bayer Leverkusen and Germany, respectively.
Emery was reportedly on the radar of Bayern and Barcelona after establishing himself as one of the shrewdest coaches in the sport with his work at Villa over the past two seasons.
Having taken over a team that were in danger of relegation in October 2022, he has guided Villa to fourth in the Premier League and into the semifinals of the Europa Conference League.
“We are enjoying our way together with Villa fans, the club owners, management and this great group of players that we are proud of,” Emery said Tuesday.
“Ambition already is, and must always be, the motto of this project.”
The field of candidates for the jobs at Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern is shrinking.
Alonso was the favorite for Liverpool and Bayern, having played for both teams during a storied career. But he announced last month that he would remain at Leverkusen, the team he has gone on to lead to their first German title at the expense of Bayern.
“This is the right place for me to be, to develop as a coach,” Alonso said.
Nagelsmann, fired by Bayern last season, was a contender to return to the German giant until last week when he extended his contract with the national team through to the 2026 World Cup. He was also considered a possibility for Liverpool, which faces the daunting task of replacing Jurgen Klopp at the end of the season.
Klopp said in January he would step down after a trophy-laden spell of more than eight years on Merseyside.
Alonso seemed like a natural fit as an ex-player who has made a remarkable start to his coaching career with Leverkusen.
Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim replaced Alonso as the favorite for the Liverpool job, while Roberto De Zerbi has impressed at Brighton.
Bayern need a replacement for Thomas Tuchel, who is stepping down at the end of the season. His reputation has taken a hit after failing to win the title this year, but he could yet walk away a Champions League winner after leading Bayern to the semifinals of European club soccer’s elite competition.
The Champions League trophy could yet see Tuchel in the running for one of the other two top jobs available this summer.
Barcelona need a new coach after Xavi Hernández said in January that this would be his last season.
Speculation that Emery was on the Catalan club’s radar had increased in recent days.
Emery’s reputation has only grown since taking over from Steven Gerrard when Villa was above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Emery, who joined from Villarreal, led Villa to a seventh-place finish and qualified the team for Europe for the first time since 2010. Villa did not say at the time of his appointment in 2022 how long his original contract would run.
The 52-year-old Emery has won four Europa League trophies — three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal — and won the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain.
He previously coached in England with Arsenal from 2018-19.
“We are thrilled and are building a sporting operation around Unai to support him with a view of returning Aston Villa, a co-founder of the English Football League as we prepare to celebrate our 150th anniversary, to its historic levels of greatness,” club chairman Nassef Sawiris said.