Joselu inspires Real Madrid comeback with ‘heart’ to beat Bayern, reach Champions League final

Joselu inspires Real Madrid comeback with ‘heart’ to beat Bayern, reach Champions League final
Real Madrid's Spanish forward Joselu celebrates scoring during the UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and FC Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 8, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2024
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Joselu inspires Real Madrid comeback with ‘heart’ to beat Bayern, reach Champions League final

Joselu inspires Real Madrid comeback with ‘heart’ to beat Bayern, reach Champions League final
  • Record 14-time winners Madrid produced a sensational comeback with Joselu netting in the 88th and 91st minutes
  • Spanish champions Real Madrid face another German side, Borussia Dortmund, in the Wembley final on June 1

MADRID: Real Madrid produced a spectacular comeback with “heart” against Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League final on Wednesday with Joselu striking twice in the dying minutes, earning them a 2-1 win to progress 4-3 on aggregate.

Alphonso Davies smashed the visiting German giants ahead in the second half but record 14-time winners Madrid produced a sensational comeback with Joselu netting in the 88th and 91st minutes.

Spanish champions Real Madrid face another German side, Borussia Dortmund, in the Wembley final on June 1, after they stunned the team they call their “black beast.”

“It’s something magical, there’s no explanation,” said Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, revelling in another electric night in the Spanish capital.

Journeyman striker and back-up option Joselu, on as a late substitute, wrote his name in Madrid’s history books with his last-gasp brace, giving Europe’s comeback kings another night to remember.

“(The comeback) was with feeling and with heart, as the coach told us — you have to win games with heart,” said Joselu.

Madrid had enjoyed the better of the match but it seemed Davies’ superb strike had set up a repeat of the 2013 all-German final in London.

Instead Joselu consigned Bayern to a first trophyless season since 2012, his first goal coming after a handling error from Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who had superbly kept Madrid at bay until that point.

“(Before that) there were world class saves after world class saves, but that can happen, it’s football,” said Bayern defender Matthijs de Ligt.

Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel made three changes from the first leg, benching veteran Thomas Mueller and Leon Goretzka but the hosts dominated the opening stages.

Neuer produced a superb double save to stop Madrid nosing in front, tipping the electric Vinicius Junior’s effort on to the post and then saving Rodrygo’s follow-up.

Bayern’s Serge Gnabry limped off injured with Davies replacing him before England captain Harry Kane’s first flash of danger, but Andriy Lunin pushed his vicious volley around the post.

Neuer palmed away a Vinicius free-kick as the teams ended a high-intensity, relentlessly frantic first half level.

The second period was just as fraught, with Davies’ cross deflecting onto the roof of Lunin’s goal.

Vinicius was unplayable down Madrid’s left and Rodrygo prodded his low cross agonizingly wide of the far post.

The 38-year-old Neuer made superb saves to deny both Brazilian forward again before the hour mark as Madrid ratcheted up the pressure.

However just as in Munich, when Los Blancos were at their strongest, Bayern pounced.

Canada international Davies cut inside from the left and smashed a shot beyond Lunin into the far top corner after 68 minutes.

Madrid thought they had levelled moments later through Nacho but after a VAR review the strike was ruled out as the defender had grabbed Joshua Kimmich’s face before shooting.

Tuchel took off Kane, still chasing the first trophy of his career, in the final stages to try and hold on to victory but it slipped through his fingers as Madrid produced more indelible European memories.

Ancelotti, sacked by Bayern in 2017, has kept Madrid’s squad players engaged and committed to the cause all season and it paid dividends at a crucial time.

Neuer, who had been sublime to this point, fumbled what appeared a simple Vinicius strike and substitute Joselu gratefully bundled home from close range.

“We had one foot in London, we saw ourselves going through to the final,” lamented the goalkeeper.

With Bayern reeling Madrid struck again, decisively. It was Joselu once more, the striker on loan from second-division side Espanyol, turning home after Antonio Rudiger cut the ball back to him.

The goal was ruled offside but officials overturned the decision after review, and after nearly 15 minutes of stoppage time, Madrid earned the chance to go for their 15th Champions League trophy.

“There have been a lot of times we have looked dead and buried, but we have that mentality of never say die,” said Real midfielder Jude Bellingham.

Bayern were left raging at full time after De Ligt netted but play had been stopped beforehand for an offside flag against Noussair Mazraoui.

“I don’t want to say that it’s always the referee’s mistake with Real Madrid, but that made the difference today,” grumbled De Ligt, saying play should have been allowed to continue.

“It’s bitter, completely bitter,” said Tuchel.


Eriksen keen to look forward after Euro 2020 trauma

Eriksen keen to look forward after Euro 2020 trauma
Updated 58 sec ago
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Eriksen keen to look forward after Euro 2020 trauma

Eriksen keen to look forward after Euro 2020 trauma
He eventually resumed his career after being fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, making his return to international duty nine months later
“For me personally, everything more than one game is improvement, but it’s been a goal since the beginning to come back to this level,” Eriksen said

STUTTGART, Germany: Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen said his traumatic collapse in his team’s opening game of Euro 2020 is not a moment he regularly thinks about as he prepares to make his first appearance at the tournament since.
Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest three years ago and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator in front of a stunned Copenhagen crowd during a 1-0 loss to Finland.
He eventually resumed his career after being fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, making his return to international duty nine months later.
The Manchester United midfielder played for Denmark at the 2022 World Cup and is in line to start their Euro 2024 opener against Slovenia in Stuttgart on Sunday.
“For me personally, everything more than one game is improvement, but it’s been a goal since the beginning to come back to this level,” the 32-year-old Eriksen told reporters on Saturday.
“It’s been three years; a lot of things have happened in the meantime and so honestly I don’t think about it on a daily basis.
“It’s not something I overthink. I’m just looking forward to playing football and I think about the positives.”
The shocking incident further united a close group as the Danes reached the semifinals of Euro 2020 before losing 2-1 to England after extra time at Wembley.
Denmark will face England again in Group C this time along with Serbia.
“I think those are great memories and of course it started very negative and very pessimistic but later on everything got more optimistic and we got more free,” said Eriksen, capped 130 times by Denmark.
“But it’s been a lot of years since then and we’re just going to focus on the games now.”
Rasmus Hojlund’s seven goals in qualifying helped Denmark top their section above Slovenia on head-to-head record, but the Manchester United striker has scored only once in his past eight internationals.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand played down any concerns over the youngster’s lack of recent goals for his country.
“It comes in phases. Sometimes you have this period where you score a lot of goals,” said Hjulmand.
“But thankfully Rasmus always makes a big impression in every game. He’s dangerous and he’s fully motivated but he always makes a difference, which is the most important thing.
“The goals will come and sometimes you’re gonna have to fight more for the goals and other times they’re just gonna go in every time you kick.”
Benjamin Sesko, who earlier this week extended his RB Leipzig contract until 2029, will be the main threat Denmark must try to neutralize.
The highly-rated 21-year-old led Slovenia with five goals in qualifying and finished his first Bundesliga season with 14 goals in 31 games.
“Sesko is very fast and he has a great left foot. It’s a player we know and it’s a player we’ve analyzed a lot because he is significant for Slovenia,” said Hjulmand.
“Sesko is a big star and a young attacker. We are ready for him.”

Spain romp past Croatia in opener as Yamal makes Euros history

Spain romp past Croatia in opener as Yamal makes Euros history
Updated 10 min 32 sec ago
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Spain romp past Croatia in opener as Yamal makes Euros history

Spain romp past Croatia in opener as Yamal makes Euros history
  • The three-time European champions have often been accused of being toothless in attack during recent major tournaments
  • Morata broke the deadlock in the 29th minute with his seventh Euros goal

BERLIN: Spain made a dream start to Euro 2024 as Alvaro Morata scored in a statement 3-0 victory over Croatia in Berlin on Saturday, with Lamine Yamal becoming the youngest player in the competition’s history.
The three-time European champions have often been accused of being toothless in attack during recent major tournaments, but produced an eye-catching display at the Olympiastadion to cut apart a disappointing Croatia.
Morata broke the deadlock in the 29th minute with his seventh Euros goal, moving joint-third on the all-time list alongside Alan Shearer and Antoine Griezmann.
Fabian Ruiz added a second shortly afterwards with a wonderful individual strike.
Yamal made his mark with the assist for Dani Carvajal to effectively kill the game as a contest on the stroke of half-time, while Croatia striker Bruno Petkovic missed a late penalty.
This repeat of last year’s Nations League final, won by Spain on penalties after a 0-0 draw, suggests La Roja are capable of contending for a record-breaking fourth European Championship title.
World Cup semifinalists Croatia, though, have it all to do if they are to reach the knockout phase for a fifth consecutive major tournament, with games against Albania and holders Italy to come in a difficult Group B.
Luka Modric, so often their inspiration, was substituted midway through the second half by coach Zlatko Dalic.
Spain boss Luis de la Fuente named an exciting starting XI, including wingers Nico Williams and Yamal.
The Barcelona starlet, 16 years and 338 days old, beat the previous record for youngest player at a Euros held by Polish international Kacper Kozlowski, who played at Euro 2020 at 17 years and 246 days old.
Croatia enjoyed the vast majority of support from the stands, with their fans holding up one huge banner during their national anthem, reading “When we get going, heaven and earth will burn.”
But Croatia started slowly, as Spain dominated possession in trademark fashion.
Spain also showed their increasing versatility under De la Fuente with their first goal, as one excellent through ball from inside his own half by Ruiz sent Morata clean through and the captain made no mistake with a cool finish past a stranded Dominik Livakovic.
Ruiz put Spain in total control just three minutes later, jinking past two Croatia defenders inside the box before shooting through the legs of Josip Sutalo and into the bottom corner.
Croatia almost pulled one back immediately as the game started to echo the end-to-end nature of the two teams’ thrilling last-16 clash at Euro 2020, won 5-3 by Spain after extra time.
Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon got down quickly to keep out Marcelo Brozovic’s shot and Lovro Majer could only find the side-netting from the rebound.
Croatia continued to create chances, as Josko Gvardiol’s cross-cum-shot narrowly avoided both Ante Budimir in the center and the far post.
But full-back Carvajal, who scored the opening goal in Real Madrid’s Champions League final triumph over Borussia Dortmund earlier this month, put the game to bed in first-half added time.
Yamal collected the ball after a corner was cleared and curled a delicious cross into the middle for Carvajal to stretch and stab home on the volley.
Croatia tried to press forward early in the second period but left spaces for Spain to exploit and Yamal was denied another record for youngest Euros scorer when Livakovic produced a fine save to turn away his low effort.
Marc Cucurella, a controversial selection by De la Fuente at left-back, made a goal-saving block to prevent Josip Stanisic giving Croatia hope.
Substitute Petkovic thought he had pulled one back late on when he tapped in after his penalty was saved by Simon.
But the goal was ruled out by VAR for encroachment by Ivan Perisic as Spain added a clean sheet to an almost perfect outing.


Hungary coach Rossi blasts ‘passive’ flops after Euro defeat to Switzerland

Hungary coach Rossi blasts ‘passive’ flops after Euro defeat to Switzerland
Updated 15 June 2024
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Hungary coach Rossi blasts ‘passive’ flops after Euro defeat to Switzerland

Hungary coach Rossi blasts ‘passive’ flops after Euro defeat to Switzerland
  • Rossi’s side failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing as dark horses with a lacklustre display in Cologne
  • “We had a tactical misunderstanding. We didn’t cope and have time to press them. The first half was very bad. We were too passive,” Rossi said

COLOGNE, Germany: Marco Rossi slammed his Hungary flops after their Euro 2024 campaign started with a dismal 3-1 defeat against Switzerland on Saturday, warning it may be “impossible” to defeat hosts Germany in their next match.
Rossi’s side failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing as dark horses with a lacklustre display in Cologne.
They were rocked by first half strikes from Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer, who both netted their maiden international goals.
Barnabas Varga’s second-half header gave Hungary hope, but Breel Embolo came off the bench to net in stoppage-time in his first international appearance since 2022.
“We had a tactical misunderstanding. We didn’t cope and have time to press them. The first half was very bad. We were too passive,” Rossi said.
“Switzerland are very experienced, with quality players all over the pitch. Against teams at this level, you run the risk of doing bad things. They made the most of our mistakes.”
Taking his share of the blame, as well as lambasting his players, Rossi said: “I’m not looking for guilty people. I’m the coach and need to take my responsibility.
“We had some short-comings in individual performances. There aren’t many strategies to stop individual mistakes.
“It’s hard to say anyone did well apart from two or three performances.”
Hungary’s defeat leaves them three points behind title contenders Germany and second placed Switzerland in Group A.
A loss against Germany on Wednesday would be a hammer blow to Hungary’s hopes of making the last 16, and Rossi admitted he is not confident of upsetting the odds.
“We play Germany in four days. I dare anybody to bet one Hungarian forint on us. As of today that looks impossible,” he said.
“Germany are a different team than the last Euros, they proved it against Scotland. In my opinion they are the biggest favorite of the European Championship.”
Switzerland have only lost one of their last 15 matches in all competitions and a win against Scotland in their next game on Wednesday would send them into the last 16.
There were 22 passes in the build up to Duah’s opener, the third-longest passing sequence leading to a goal at the Euros since 1980.
It was a welcome result for Swiss boss Murat Yakin, who had been under pressure after a rift with his players over tactical issues during the qualifying campaign.
“I trust myself. I have a strong team which is fundamental. We need mutual trust, so it is a satisfaction when we get a result like that. We can reach important goals,” Yakin said.
“We have prepared for three weeks and the players have the right spirit. I have a role in creating this atmosphere.
“I like to play chess. Yesterday I had a victim who lost twice to me. I like to compare football to chess and we got our tactics right.
“We used that formation for a particular reason. We surprised Marco Rossi at the beginning maybe. You have to make the most of our qualities.”
Scotland will be fighting to stay in the tournament when they face the Swiss and Yakin urged his team not to underestimate Steve Clarke’s men.
“It is a completely different game next Wednesday. It will bring more confidence to our game but we have to play better against Scotland,” he said.
“We have a lot to improve. The second half of the match didn’t go very well. We conceded too many chances.”


Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours

Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours
Updated 15 June 2024
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Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours

Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours
  • Zidane was wearing winter gear as he waved the ceremonial starter’s flag
  • The temperature was a chilly 15 degrees celsius with plenty of rain forecast until Sunday

LE MANS, France: French football great Zinedine Zidane acted as starter to get the mythic Le Mans 24 Hour race on its way at 1400GMT on Saturday.
Ahead of the 62 cars split into three categories on the grid lies the ultimate test of motorsport endurance — for the 186 drivers, their cars, mechanics and last but not least the crowd estimated at 250,000.
One major unknown for the 92nd edition was — despite being mid-June — the weather.
Zidane was wearing winter gear as he waved the ceremonial starter’s flag — a French tricolor with ‘24’ embossed in gold on it — handed to him by French soldiers who had abseiled down with it from a hovering helicopter.
The temperature was a chilly 15 degrees celsius with plenty of rain forecast until Sunday at 1400GMT when the winner will take the cherished chequered flag after around 350 laps of the iconic 13.6kilometer Sarthe circuit in the west of France near the medieval town of Le Mans.
There was nothing ancient about the gleaming machinery setting off led by the elite category Porsche Hypercar, in pole after qualifying on Thursday.
Ferrari are the defending title holders after claiming the centenary edition 12 months ago.
The Hypercar class is the most open in almost three decades with no fewer than nine different constructors presenting 23 cars.
In the early stages, Ferrari’s number 50 car led from the team’s 51 car, which won last year. A Porsche was in third.
Ferrari’s Formula One team principal Fred Vasseur predicted a close race.
“The fight is very, very tight, lot of good drivers.
“Twenty-four hours with this weather, very, very tight, we are just focused on ourselves.”


German police shoot to death an Afghan man who killed a compatriot, then attacked soccer fans

German police shoot to death an Afghan man who killed a compatriot, then attacked soccer fans
Updated 15 June 2024
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German police shoot to death an Afghan man who killed a compatriot, then attacked soccer fans

German police shoot to death an Afghan man who killed a compatriot, then attacked soccer fans
  • The 27-year-old Afghan citizen first attacked a 23-year-old compatriot with a “knife-like object”
  • The man later attacked a group of people watching the soccer game between Germany and Scotland

BERLIN: German police shot to death an Afghan man after he fatally attacked a compatriot and later wounded three people watching the televised opening game of the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in eastern Germany, police said Saturday.
The 27-year-old Afghan citizen first attacked a 23-year-old compatriot with a “knife-like object” in Wolmirstedt, a small town about 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Berlin, on Friday evening, police said. The victim later died of his wounds.
The man later attacked a group of people watching the soccer game between Germany and Scotland in the yard of private house, injuring three German men, two of them seriously, police said.
Police said the assailant, still armed with the same object, also attacked officers called to the scene. Two of the officers shot and wounded the man, who died soon after in a hospital.
Police said the motive for the attacks was unclear. The Interior Ministry in Saxony-Anhalt state, which includes Wolmirstedt, said police had increased their presence across the state. The soccer tournament is taking place in cities across Germany and runs through July 14.