Showing posts with label Sport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sport. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

SPORT: Messi hits four as Barca maintain perfect start

SPORT: Messi hits four as Barca maintain perfect start

Barcelona's forward from Argentina Lionel Messi (C) celebrates after scoring with Barcelona's defender from Spain Aleix Vidal<br />during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona against SD Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 19, 2017. PAU BARRENA / AFP

Lionel Messi added four more goals to his soaring early season tally as a much-changed Barcelona maintained their 100 percent start to La Liga by routing Eibar 6-1 on Tuesday.

Paulinho and Denis Suarez also netted for the second consecutive game as Barca stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to seven points over Real Madrid, who host Real Betis on Wednesday.

"That Messi scored four goals now isn't news," said Barca boss Ernesto Valverde after the Argentine's 43rd career hat-trick.

"He has done it so many nights, in so many games. To keep repeating it is the most difficult thing.

"He is an extraordinary player. I have run out of words for him."

Messi played in a more central role as Valverde heavily rotated his side for the first time since taking charge with Luis Suarez dropping to the bench among six changes from Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win at Getafe.

And contrary to their fortunes last season, Barca's back-ups proved Valverde can take the luxury of resting some of his star names with Paulinho particularly impressive on his first start.

Messi opened the scoring in nonchalant fashion from the penalty spot on 21 minutes after Nelson Semedo had been felled by an ungainly challenge from Alejandro Galvez.

Paulinho's 40-million-euro ($48 million) signing from Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande was one of a series of moves that drew stinging criticism for Barca's board following Neymar's world-record departure for Paris Saint-Germain.

However, after coming off the bench to score the winner at Getafe, Paulinho powered home his second Barca goal from Denis Suarez's corner seven minutes before half-time.

Paulinho also played his part in Barca's third with a cute dummy that freed Messi and, when his shot was parried by Marko Dmitrovic, Denis Suarez fired home the rebound.

Sergi Enrich reduced the arrears when he capitalised on some sloppy Barca defending to slot home David Junca's cross.

However, Messi quickly restored Barca's three-goal lead with a lovely measured finish from the edge of the box.

The five-time world player of the year completed his hat-trick just after the hour mark by prodding through Dmitrovic's legs from Paulinho's pass.

And he added his 12th goal in just eight games this season three minutes from time after a neat one-two with Aleix Vidal.

Anger fuels Zaza

Barca lead second-placed Sevilla, who host Las Palmas on Wednesday, by five points with Valencia now just a point further adrift as they moved up to third thanks to Simone Zaza's seven-minute hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Malaga.

By contrast, a fifth straight defeat to start the season sees Malaga slip to bottom of the table and plunges coach Michel into further danger of becoming the second La Liga boss to be sacked this term.

"I am tremendously proud of the performance of the players. It is a joy to be able to enjoy it with our fans," said Valencia coach Marcelino.

Santi Mina got the rout started after just 17 minutes with a neat header from Carles Soler's cross.

Zaza then completed his first ever hat-trick with three clinical close-range finishes between the 55th and 62nd minute before substitute Rodrigo rounded off the scoring.

And the former Juventus striker shrugged off a bust-up with Marcelino after being dropped for Saturday's 1-1 draw at Levante.

"I didn't have anything to prove," Zaza told BeIN Sports Spain.

"What happened on Saturday is already forgotten, I think it is normal that a player is angry when he doesn't play."





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SPORT: Aiteo Group reaffirms commitment to NFF deal

SPORT: Aiteo Group reaffirms commitment to NFF deal

NFF President Amaju Pinnick (right) with Aiteo Group DMD Francis Peters

Oil and gas outfit, Aiteo Group yesterday disclosed that it remained committed to its sponsorship deal with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), which started on May 1, 2017.

Reports yesterday disclosed that the company was not happy with the way the NFF was treating the relationship, citing the poor visibility of the prime competition, Aiteo Cup, which was formerly known as Challenge Cup.

But in a statement yesterday, Aiteo denied the reports, saying, “the multi-billion sponsorship deal was a management decision meticulously taken upon due consideration of its benefits to the development of football in Nigeria, tremendous social capital and unifying effect on every stratum of Nigeria endeavour.

“The deal is effective for five years and we have no plans to renege on our decision. We hereby assure our valued stakeholders and Nigerian public that all aspects of the NFF pact, which includes paying Nigeria national team coaches will continue to run without hitches for the agreed five-year term. In line with best practice, we will review annually, to bring even more value for both parties and our stakeholders.”

The statement added that as the official naming rights sponsor of the Federations Cup, now Aiteo Cup, Aiteo will continue its funding of the tournament.





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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

SPORT: James hits first Bundesliga goal as Bayern go top

SPORT: James hits first Bundesliga goal as Bayern go top

Bayern Munich's Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez celebrates during the German First division Bundesliga football match between FC Schalke 04 and FC Bayern Munich in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany, on September 19, 2017. PATRIK STOLLARZ / AFP

James Rodriguez scored his first Bundesliga goal on Tuesday to help Bayern Munich top the table for the first time this season following a 3-0 win at Schalke 04.

The Colombian was involved in all three goals after winning the penalty which Robert Lewandowski converted for the opening goal before his deft chip saw Arturo Vidal fire home.

After five games, the victory in Gelsenkirchen put defending champions Bayern top for the first time, but Borussia Dortmund can regain the lead if they win at Hamburg on Wednesday.

The away win was a boost for Bayern who confirmed Tuesday that goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer had undergone another operation on his left foot and is out until January.

"That wasn't so easy, but at the end we managed to dominate," said Neuer's replacement Sven Ulreich, who now finds himself as Bayern's first-choice goalkeeper after wanting to quit in the summer.

"Of course it's a tough situation for the team and Manuel, but we hope he'll be back soon."

Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti rotated the squad with James on the right wing as one of six changes from the side which beat Mainz 4-0 on Saturday.

James won a penalty on 23 minutes when the video assistant referee confirmed his cross had been knocked away by the hand of Schalke defender Naldo.

Lewandowski dispatched the penalty for his sixth goal in five games.

James, who signed a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid in July, then fired home on 29 minutes when Corentin Tolisso's pass found him with acres of space in the area.

It was a sublime chip over the Schalke defence from James which was then drilled home by Vidal on 75 minutes.

Leipzig stumble

The win left Bayern two points clear at the summit while Augsburg are up to third, with 10 points, after their shock 1-0 home win against RB Leipzig.

Austria midfielder Michael Gregoritsch scored Augsburg's winner after only four minutes in Bavaria, but Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl paid the price for making nine changes as his team played poorly.

Belgium striker Divock Origi, on loan from Liverpool, scored his first goal for Wolfsburg in their 1-1 draw at home to Werder Bremen before Fin Bartels equalised.

Origi showed his pace to win a foot race for the ball and stabbed home on 28 minutes as Wolfsburg's new coach Martin Schmidt, who replaced the fired Andries Jonker on Monday, picked up a point.

Earlier, Brazil striker Raffael scored two second-half goals as Borussia Moechengladbach climbed to seventh after their 2-0 home win at home to Stuttgart.

It was Stuttgart's first game since captain Christian Gentner suffered multiple facial fractures and concussion in a collision during Saturday's win over Wolfsburg.

Gladbach's Raffael opened the scoring by finishing the move he started with a superb 57th-minute goal after releasing Nico Elvedi on the wing and firing home the Swiss right-back's cross.

Stuttgart defender Dennis Aogo gave away a penalty when he held Belgian forward Thorgan Hazard back in the area and Raffael slotted away the spot-kick on 74 minutes.





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SPORT: Boos can make Bale better - Zidane

SPORT: Boos can make Bale better - Zidane

Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale runs for the ball during the UEFA Champions League football match Real Madrid CF vs APOEL FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on September 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane believes the harsh treatment meted out to Gareth Bale by his own fans at the Santiago Bernabeu can push the Welshman to greater heights.

Bale bounced back from jeers as Real opened their Champions League campaign with a 3-0 win over APOEL Nicosia last week by scoring just his second goal of the season in spectacular fashion in a 3-1 victory at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

"It is part of a player's career, but at times it is good to note that you are not doing things well," said Zidane on Tuesday ahead of the Spanish champions' La Liga clash with Real Betis on Wednesday.

"I am not speaking just about Gareth, but in general. It happened to me and I think it is good because you want to react and do better in the next game."

Zidane has consistently pleaded for patience with Bale, who missed four months of last season through injury, and failed to win his place back in the side for the Champions League final in June.

And despite a full pre-season, Zidane believes it is still some time before Bale will hit top form again.

"I have always said we need to have patience with him," added the Frenchman.

"We know how good he is if he is completely fit, but he will need time and we will see that.

"It will still take more time to see the best of Gareth, but he is already doing very well."

Zidane has the luxury of welcoming back Cristiano Ronaldo for the visit of Betis after he completed a five-game domestic ban for pushing a referee in the Spanish Super Cup.

"We are happy that he is back and I hope it is the last time that we don't have him," said Zidane.

"Cristiano is happy because what he likes is to play and be with his teammates."

Zidane also repeated he is set to become the latest member of the Madrid side that has won back-to-back Champions Leagues to extend his contract with the club.

"The issue of the renewal is done, but that doesn't mean anything," added Zidane, whose current deal runs out at the end of the season.

"What it is important for me is the day-to-day. I don't look further ahead than what I am doing each day."

Marcelo, Isco and Dani Carvajal have all extended their deals at the Bernabeu to 2022 in the past week.





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SPORT: Neuer out until January after foot op - Bayern

SPORT: Neuer out until January after foot op - Bayern

Bayern Munich's German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer poses during a photo shooting for a FC Bayern Munich sponsor in traditional bavarian clothing in Munich, southern Germany, on September 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GUENTER SCHIFFMANN

Bayern Munich have confirmed their Germany goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer will be out until January having undergone another operation on Tuesday after again fracturing his left foot.

The 31-year-old had only returned at the end of August after fracturing the same foot in April.

He suffered the fresh injury in training on Monday as Bayern prepared for Tuesday's German league match at Schalke.

"The fact that Manuel Neuer has suffered a new injury means we are all very sorry for him", said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"The operation went optimally and that is the most important thing now.

"Manuel will be available for us again, back at his old strength, in January."

This is Neuer's third operation on the same foot in six months after minor surgery for a toe injury in March and then again in April after initially fracturing his foot.

Neuer's latest injury blow sparks concerns about Germany's skipper nine months before the World Cup kicks off.

He last played for Germany in a World Cup qualifier in October 2016.

Neuer will miss Germany's key World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland in Belfast on October 5, where a win will book the holders' place at Russia 2018.

With Neuer out, Barcelona's goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who deputised when Germany won the Confederations Cup in July, is set to fill in for the world champions.

Neuer's Bayern understudy Sven Ulreich will now take over for Munich until the winter break at the end of December.

Neuer will miss Bayern's remaining Champions League group stage games, including their key away match at Paris Saint-Germain on September 27.

He will also miss their league and cup double-header against RB Leipzig at the end of October and away Bundesliga match at current leaders Borussia Dortmund in early November.

Neuer's Bayern and Germany team-mates quickly rallied around.

"You will come back stronger, my friend," wrote Bayern winger Franck Ribery on Twitter, while Thomas Mueller, Jerome Boateng and Robert Lewandowski offered a 'get well soon'.

Germany star Toni Kroos offered "you'll be fit again soon".

Bayern confirmed Neuer underwent the operation at a clinic in Tuebingen, south-west Germany, by head surgeon Ulrich Stoeckle, who has inserted a plate in his foot.

Stoeckle has previously treated stars Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and David Alaba.





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SPORT: Man Utd fans urged to drop 'racist' Lukaku chant

SPORT: Man Utd fans urged to drop 'racist' Lukaku chant

Manchester United's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on September 17, 2017. Manchester United won the game 4-0. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF

British anti-discrimination group Kick It Out on Tuesday called on Manchester United fans to stop a "racist" chant about striker Romelu Lukaku.

The 24-year-old arrived from Everton in the summer for a fee that could reach £90 million ($121 million, 101 million euros) and has quickly become a popular figure among supporters, netting seven goals in as many games.

Lukaku already has a chant in his honour but the song, to the tune of the Stone Roses' "Made of Stone", refers to the size of his penis, using a stereotype about black men that has led Kick It Out to call for action.

"Kick It Out is aware of footage of alleged racist chanting by supporters of Manchester United that emerged on Wednesday," said a spokesman for the group.

"The lyrics used in the chant are offensive and discriminatory. Racist stereotypes are never acceptable in football or wider society, irrespective of any intention to show support for a player.

"We have contacted Manchester United regarding the issue and will be working closely with them and the FA (Football Association) to ensure that it is addressed swiftly."

A United spokesman said: "We are seeking advice from the relevant bodies. Manchester United has a zero-tolerance (approach) towards all forms of discrimination."

Scott Patterson, a season-ticket holder who runs the The Republik of Mancunia blog, called the chant "drivel that belongs in the 1980s".

"It's a cheap and insulting stereotype that has no place in this day and age," he posted.





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SPORT: Barca lower Dembele recovery time after operation

SPORT: Barca lower Dembele recovery time after operation

Barcelona's French forward Ousmane Dembele (L) and Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi leave the field after the Spanish Liga football match Barcelona vs Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE

Barcelona hope record signing Ousmane Dembele could be back in action in three and a half months after successful surgery on a torn hamstring in Helsinki on Tuesday.

"Dembele was successfully operated on Tuesday to repair a ruptured biceps femoris in his left leg," Barca said in a statement.

"He is expected to be out for three and a half months."

The Catalan giants feared their record 105 million-euro ($125 million) signing could be sidelined for four months after suffering the injury attempting a backheel in Saturday's 2-1 win at Getafe.

It is the first major injury of Dembele's career and Barca boss Ernesto Valverde admitted a more experienced player may have picked up on signs all wasn't well before completely tearing the muscle.

"He doesn't have experience of recognising small niggles or more explosive moves that can mitigate these type of things," Valverde said on Monday.

"A backheel is the most aggressive move for the hamstring. Possibly a more experienced player wouldn't have done it."

The 20-year-old may have paid a heavy price for missing most of his pre-season preparation as he went on strike from training at Borussia Dortmund to try and force through his dream move to the Camp Nou.

He will be sidelined for the rest of Barca's Champions League group campaign and faces a race against time to take part in the first Clasico of the season against Real Madrid on December 23.





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SPORT: Ox right to pick Liverpool, says Klopp

SPORT: Ox right to pick Liverpool, says Klopp

Liverpool's English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (R) reacts with Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson at the final whistle in the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on September 9, 2017. Manchester City won the game 5-0. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has reassured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that he has not made a mistake in swapping the Emirates for Anfield despite a lack of game time.

The 24-year-old left Arsenal in a £35 million ($47 million, 39 million euros) deal on transfer deadline day but has so far been restricted to just 57 minutes in three substitute appearances, having previously started all four matches for the Gunners and also two for the national team.

The England international is set to make his first start on Tuesday in the League Cup at Leicester.

"I thought it made complete sense for Alex to change club and to come here," said the Reds boss. "He has settled in perfectly. He knew at least all the England players and a few others.

"He is a really nice lad so it is easy for him to settle into a new team. He knows the situation.

"He played all the games for Arsenal from the beginning and now he comes here and is on the bench so it looks, 'Oh, not the best decision', but it is long-term thing.

"We want to use him and to prepare him also. It is all good from this side at the moment."

Klopp dismissed suggestions Oxlade-Chamberlain's development had been stunted at Arsenal.

However, he hoped to bring out more in a player whom he believes was still growing under Arsene Wenger's leadership.

"A new start is very often a kind of relief, that's how it is," he added.

"You are in a situation with your old club - and I don't say this about Alex specifically -- and you accept it and it is difficult to make the next step.

"Arsenal changed a lot since Arsene is there. I am sure they didn't always play with three at the back and with wing-backs and so Alex played in different positions when he was there.

"It is the highest quality if you can play in different positions in the Premier League. That says a lot about you."

Klopp will also give first starts of the season to third-choice goalkeeper Danny Ward and midfielder Marko Grujic among a series of changes as he juggles four matches in 11 days.





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SPORT: Rio Ferdinand launches bid to become pro boxer

SPORT: Rio Ferdinand launches bid to become pro boxer

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 1, 2013 shows former Manchester United English defender Rio Ferdinand gesturing during the English FA Cup quarter-final replay football match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London. Former England footballer Rio Ferdinand is due to announce on Tuesday he is going to try and become a professional boxer just two months away from his 39th birthday, according to the Daily Telegraph. Ferdinand, who won 81 caps and made over 300 appearances for Manchester United, is an avid boxing fan and has said spending time boxing in the gym has helped clear his head after losing his wife and the mother of his three children Rebecca Ellison to breast cancer in 2015./ AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK

Former England football captain Rio Ferdinand confirmed Tuesday he will train to become a professional boxer with the ultimate aim of challenging for a title belt.

The 38-year-old former Manchester United star, who retired from football in May 2015, is taking part in online betting firm Betfair's "Defender to Contender" project and will be training with former WBC super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall.

Ferdinand will be seeking to qualify for a British Boxing Board of Control licence before starting training and competing for a title belt.

"Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body," said Ferdinand. "I have always had a passion for it and this challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what's possible.

"It's a challenge I'm not taking lightly -- clearly not everyone can become a professional boxer -- but with the team of experts Betfair are putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible."

Ferdinand, who will also work with personal trainer Mel Deane, added on Twitter: "It's happening... Can't wait to get started with the team @betfair have put together, @richiewoodhall and @meldeane #DefenderToContender."

The ex-West Ham, Leeds, Manchester United and QPR defender, who currently works as a pundit with BT Sport and the BBC, will hold a press conference in London on Tuesday.

Woodhall, a former Olympic bronze medallist turned Team GB trainer, believes Ferdinand has the ability to turn professional.

"In all honesty, I think Rio can definitely box as a professional given time," he said. "He has natural power in his right hand, is extremely fit and is very enthusiastic to learn, which is encouraging.

"Style-wise, he's very raw and I'll have to develop this which will take time but he has all the natural ingredients, height and reach advantages over boxers in his weight division and definitely has potential to win a title in the future."

Ferdinand's love of boxing is apparent on social media, with a picture on his Twitter profile showing him draped in the WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight title belts of his friend Anthony Joshua.

The Londoner, who won 81 caps for England, was in attendance when Joshua defeated Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in April and posed for pictures with the Olympic gold medallist.

There are also several videos on his Instagram page showing Ferdinand training with the gloves.

Former Sheffield United midfielder Curtis Woodhouse won the British light-welterweight title in 2012 after swapping football for boxing, while cricketer Andrew Flintoff won a one-off bout, of modest standard, against American Richard Dawson, having been mentored Barry McGuigan.





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SPORT: United's Herrera says pressure on big-spending City

SPORT: United's Herrera says pressure on big-spending City

Ander Herrera PHOTO: Man United

Manchester United's Ander Herrera says "favourites" Manchester City face intense pressure to win the Premier League after their summer spending spree and trophy less campaign last season.

The Manchester clubs are joint top of the table with exactly the same record -- 13 points from five games and a plus-14 goal difference.

United won the Europa League, League Cup and Community Shield in Jose Mourinho's first campaign at the helm but finished a disappointing sixth in the league.

City ended third in the Premier League after a fine start under Pep Guardiola petered out in an ultimately trophyless campaign.

Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City spent the most of any Premier League club during the summer transfer window -- £215 million ($290 million, 242 million euros) while United splashed out more than £140 million.

"Man City have spent the biggest amount in the Premier League so they are the principle contenders for the title," said Herrera.

"We will try to be there as well. We have quality as well and we will fight for every title. But I think because of the money they have spent they are the favourites."

The United midfielder, who has struggled for time on the pitch this season, added: "We won three titles last season and City didn't win anything. They are under pressure.

"They are obligated to win titles. We won three last season so they have more obligation than us. But you know when you play for Man United, winning is an expectation and an obligation but I like that obligation to be honest."

United kick off their defence of the League Cup against Burton Albion on Wednesday, when Sergio Romero may get his first run out of the season in place of the ever-impressive David De Gea.

Herrera believes De Gea is the best goalkeeper in the world but says United need to win trophies in order to ensure they keep the player, who has frequently been linked with a move to Real Madrid.

"Of course I can see him staying here for more years. How good is David now? We need to win titles to keep him with us. That is what we did last season," he said.

"Real Madrid are going to talk about it every summer because he is the best 'keeper in the world. But we don't think we are far from Real Madrid. We won three titles last season, the only English team to do it," he added.





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SPORT: Banned Rooney gets lift to training

SPORT: Banned Rooney gets lift to training

Everton's English striker Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on September 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF 

Everton striker Wayne Rooney was given a lift to training on Tuesday after he was banned for two years for drink-driving.

The 31-year-old was disqualified from the roads for two years and ordered to perform 100 hours of unpaid work as part of a 12-month community order by a judge on Monday after he pleaded guilty to drink-driving.

Rooney, wearing a black baseball cap, arrived at the club's Finch Farm training complex in the passenger seat of a black Range Rover to prepare for the club's League Cup tie at home to Sunderland on Wednesday.

The former England captain issued a statement following his court appearance in which he apologised for his "unforgivable lack of judgement in driving while over the legal limit. It was completely wrong".

Stockport Magistrates' Court in northwest England heard Rooney was almost three times over the legal limit when he was stopped driving a Volkswagen Beetle on September 1.





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SPORT: Dressing room fight between Neymar, Cavani after Lyon game revealed

SPORT: Dressing room fight between Neymar, Cavani after Lyon game revealed

Paris Saint-Germain forwards, Edinson Cavani and Neymar, had to be separated in the dressing room, after their 2-0 win over Lyon in Ligue 1 on Sunday night.


The two players were involved in an on-field spat over set-piece duties.

Cavani and Neymar argued over a penalty during the second half. The Uruguayan, who is PSG’s usual penalty taker, won the tussle but saw his spot-kick saved.

According to L’Equipe, tensions rose further in the dressing room afterwards.

Cavani left the pitch immediately after the full-time whistle, not joining the rest of his team-mates in waving to the club’s supporters.

He waited in the dressing room for his teammates to arrive and then reportedly stopped Neymar in his tracks, telling him in Spanish that he was unhappy with the club’s new poster boy’s attitude.

According to witnesses, Neymar responded before Cavani stood up and went face-to-face with the Brazilian, only for club captain Thiago Silva and Marquinhos to intervene.

Cavani is said to have showered and left through a back door, avoiding the mixed zone at the Parc des Princes, within 20 minutes of the final whistle.




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SPORT: Eagles beat Ghana 2-0, qualify for WAFU Cup semis

SPORT: Eagles beat Ghana 2-0, qualify for WAFU Cup semis

Super Eagles’ Afeez Azeez (right) challenging two Malians during their WAFU Cup Group A game at the Cape Coast Stadium, Ghana… yesterday. PHOTO: GHANASOCCERNET.COM

Nobody gave Nigeria any chance of survival after two tame draws had put them at the precipice. But the Super Eagles yesterday stunned the Black Stars of Ghana with two quick goals in the early minutes of the second half of the WAFU Cup last group game held at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium.

Tony Okpotu and Peter Eneji were the heroes as the Salisu Yusuf led team put up a gallant fight to leave the hosts gasping for breadth.

Nigeria showed their intention early in the game when they took the attack to the hosts, but the Ghanaian defence, marshaled by Emmanuel Ampiah, Amos Frimpong, Sarfo and Atinga ensured that goalkeeper Joseph Addo was not troubled too much by the ambitious Nigerians.

Before the game, Nigeria knew that they needed to win the game to be sure of making it to the semifinals and when the news came that Mali were leading Guinea 1-0 in the other game of Group A being played simultaneously, it became even clearer to the Eagles that they had to do everything possible to subdue the Black Stars.

Ghana had another script though, as they ensured that the Eagles were limited to potshots from afar in the first half.

However, the complexion of the match changed in the early minutes of the second half with Okpotu and Eneji scoring two quick goals in the 53rd and 56th minutes to steady the Eagles’ flight to the semifinals.

Nigeria took the lead when Okpotu showed great strength to hold his marker off to get on the end of a through ball and hit the top of the roof with a thunderous shot.

Three minutes later it was 2-0 through another thunderous 20-yard strike from Eneji.

With Mali and Guinea ending the other Group A game 1-1 at the Nduom Sports Stadium, it leaves Ghana top of the standings with six points, followed by Nigeria with five points.

Guinea and Mali ended with two points apiece in third and fourth place respectively.





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SPORT: Ronaldo back for Real, Deulofeu in for Dembele

SPORT: Ronaldo back for Real, Deulofeu in for Dembele

Real Madrid's forward from Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League football match Real Madrid CF vs APOEL FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on September 13, 2017. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

Barcelona begin a four-month stretch without injured club record signing Ousmane Dembele, but will be expected to sweep aside Eibar to continue their 100 percent start to La Liga on Tuesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo returns from a five-match ban for Real Madrid 24 hours later at home to Real Betis, whilst Atletico Madrid face a daunting trip to Athletic Bilbao.

Here, AFP Sports highlights five things to look out for in this midweek's fifth round of La Liga fixtures.

Dembele opens door to Deulofeu
Dembele's prolonged absence hands Gerard Deulofeu a chance he could only have dreamed about when resigning for his boyhood club in June.

At the time Deulofeu was seen as able deputy to back up a front three of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

But the 23-year-old has already enjoyed over three times as many minutes in his second spell at Barca than his first due to Neymar's departure and Dembele's misfortune.

Deulofeu now has the chance he craved of a run in the Barca side until the new year and could even cement his place in the Spain squad for next year's World Cup if he turns his potential into consistent performances.

Eibar reboot for Suarez
A Suarez was back on the scoresheet for Barca at the weekend, but it was Denis who netted off the bench as Luis endured another 90 minutes to forget.

The Uruguayan has scored just once this season having rushed back from an expected month-long knee injury layoff in just two weeks.

Suarez looks slow, cumbersome and miles off the player who scored 59 goals two seasons ago.

The visit of Eibar could be just what he needs to reboot, though, as he has bagged five in five games against the Basques and scored in all of his last four matches against them.

'Persecuted' Ronaldo returns
"I hope it is for the last game this season," said Zinedine Zidane at the prospect of missing Ronaldo for Sunday's vital 3-1 win at Real Sociedad as the European champions got back to winning ways in La Liga.

The World Player of the Year's "persecution", as he described his ban, is over as he will be free to make his first league appearance of the season against Betis on Wednesday.

His absence was most keenly felt in profligate Madrid displays in dropping points at home to Valencia and Levante.

Ronaldo showed Real what they were missing with a double against APOEL Nicosia last midweek.

But his enforced absence could yet benefit Madrid as it did last season when a delayed start to the campaign through injury meant a fresher Ronaldo hit top form in the final months of the season, scoring 10 goals in the Champions League from the quarter-finals on.

Are Atletico for real?
A trip to Bilbao is often a litmus test for whether Atletico can mount a serious title challenge.

It was after victory at San Mames in their title winning campaign in 2013/14 that Diego Simeone admitted for the first time his side could beat Madrid and Barca to La Liga.

Atletico's unbeaten start to the season will be severely tested over the next week with Sevilla and Chelsea also visiting the Wanda Metropolitano.

However, already trailing Barca by four points, Atletico can't ill afford that gap to grow if they are to maintain hope of a serious title charge.

Mel or Michel next for the chop
Luis Zubeldia became La Liga's first managerial casualty of the season after just four games in charge of Alaves without a point or even a goal.

Malaga are the only other side yet to register a point and Michel could be next to go with another defeat at Valencia on Tuesday.

Pepe Mel's position at Deportivo la Coruna is also in danger should the Galicians fail to get their first win of the season by inflicting more pain on Alaves.

Fixtures

Tuesday

Valencia v Malaga (1800), Barcelona v Eibar (2000)

Wednesday

Leganes v Girona, Athletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid (1800), Deportivo la Coruna v Alaves (1900), Real Madrid v Real Betis, Sevilla v Las Palmas (2000)

Thursday

Villarreal v Espanyol (1800), Celta Vigo v Getafe (1900), Levante v Real Sociedad (2000)





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SPORT: Neymar-Cavani penalty spat a 'war of egos

SPORT: Neymar-Cavani penalty spat a 'war of egos

Paris Saint-Germain's Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani (R) speaks with Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar (C) during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on September 17, 2017.  CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP

Brazil's media on Monday dubbed the spat between Paris Saint-Germain stars Neymar and Edinson Cavani over who should take a penalty kick during their victory against Lyon "a war of egos."

Newspapers in Brazil, always hungry for Neymar news, dived into the tussle in which the recently signed PSG superstar tried to take the ball from his Uruguayan teammate on Sunday. Cavani kept the ball but had his shot saved in what was ultimately a 2-0 win.

"Neymar and Cavani argue again," O Dia's headline read, referring to another penalty incident during PSG's 6-2 win over Toulouse on August 20 -- Neymar's first home game with the French side after transferring from Barcelona.

"The result allowed Neymar's team to remain leaders but what caught the attention was the poor understanding between the Brazilian and Cavani," O Globo daily said.

Ledio Carmona, a commentator for Sport TV, which broadcasts Ligue 1 games, said Neymar risks estranging himself from his new teammates if he keeps "playing selfishly."

"I think this throws a bit of a shadow, it shows an overly individualistic side. If other situations like this happen the situation could degrade," he told AFP.

Globoesporte.com went further, calling it a "war of egos."

"It's clear these two players don't get on," the site said.





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SPORT: We will beat Nigeria the way we beat Algeria, Chipolopolo legend boasts

SPORT: We will beat Nigeria the way we beat Algeria, Chipolopolo legend boasts

Nigeria’s Victor Moses (right) fights for the ball with Zambia’s Joseph Musonda when both teams met at the South Africa 2013 African Nations Cup. The Chipolopolo will host the Super Eagles in Ndola in a Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier…October 9. PHOTO: AFP.

Zambia legend, Mordon Malitoli is hoping the Copper Bullets will cause a major upset and beat the Super Eagles in October’s World Cup qualifier in Uyo.

The former Nkana FC and RoPS defender, who was a key member of the Zambian squad that lost 2-1 to Nigeria in the final of the 1994 African Cup of Nations, was very positive about the Chipolopolo’s chances against the Super Eagles after they picked up an away win in their last group match against Algeria.

“I think we should believe that we can beat Nigeria. We have a good mix of youth, local players and foreign based players,’’ Malitoli told Fazfootball.com.

“This is very good because these are players that want to prove that they can represent the country well. “The same way we beat Algeria, we can beat Nigeria. The players just need to believe that they can overcome and then it will be done.

“Let the players not be intimidated by players in top clubs. Remember that we won the Africa Cup of Nations against big teams with star players. We will have to fight as a unit to beat Nigeria,” he said.

Zambia lost 1-2 to the Super Eagles when both teams met in the opening round of matches in Group B of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers last October.





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SPORT: Aiteo Group threatens to review deal with NFF over alleged poor derivatives

SPORT: Aiteo Group threatens to review deal with NFF over alleged poor derivatives

NFF President Amaju Pinnick (right) with Aiteo Group DMD Francis Peters

Barely five months after the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) celebrated two sponsorship deals with Aiteo Group, an energy company, the oil and gas outfit is considering its options following alleged poor derivatives from the agreements.

The NFF and Aiteo Group in April signed a N2.5 billion Federation Cup sponsorship deal that will see the competition run without hitches for the next five years. The deal conferred on Aiteo Group the right as titleholder for the competition, which was promptly renamed AITEO Cup.

The parties had earlier reached an agreement that placed the responsibility of payment of national team coaches’ salaries on Aiteo Group, a move celebrated by Nigerian football enthusiasts because it was seen as the permanent solution to the NFF’s perennial inability to pay its coaches.

The FA Cup deal ensures that Aiteo underwrites the costs of the organisation of the competition, which encompasses the costs of organising the competition from the round of 64 to the men and women’s finals, solidarity support to Football Associations of the 36 States and the FCT, expenses and indemnities of match officials, support to participating clubs, media, branding/activation and prize money to winners.

On its part, the NFF is expected to provide, through different activations, visibility for the Aiteo Group, especially during the Federation Cup competition and matches of the national teams. But the oil and gas outfit allege that the NFF has not lived up to the agreements. A senior AITEO Group official told journalists last week that the company was reviewing its partnership with the NFF because it is not satisfied by the way the federation is ‘handling things.’

Pleading anonymity, the Aiteo official said: “They told us that the Aiteo Cup will be a media event, which means the competition will be widely publicized. But it is almost coming to an end and the newspapers and broadcast media seem not to know what is happening.

“We have not seen the programme for the competition. In fact, the NFF only informed us of the quarterfinals’ draws a few hours before the event. There is no plan for anything … things are not done that way. We are talking of more than N5 billion sponsorship that has been made so difficult for us to leverage on. If this NFF continued this way, we will be forced to review our relationship with them.”





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Monday, 18 September 2017

SPORT: Liverpool's Ox set for first start in League Cup

SPORT: Liverpool's Ox set for first start in League Cup

Liverpool's English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on September 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF 

Liverpool take on Leicester City in the pick of the English League Cup ties this week as manager Jurgen Klopp seeks to eradicate the frustrating defensive blunders dogging his team.

Other all-Premier League ties pit struggling Crystal Palace against Huddersfield, West Brom against Manchester City, Bournemouth against Brighton, while Manchester United face Burton Albion in a low-key start to their title defence.

Liverpool, United and the other teams in European competition only enter the draw for the League Cup, called the Carabao Cup this season after its new sponsors, at the third-round stage

Klopp's Liverpool started the season brightly but have stuttered over the past week, with a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City followed by frustrating draws against Sevilla in the Champions League and Burnley in the Premier League.

The manager is set to make changes for Tuesday's match at Leicester, handing midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who joined on transfer deadline day from Arsenal, his first start for the club after three substitute appearances.

"It is a fantastic opportunity for Alex because since he has been (here) it has been difficult to train on different things because of game after game after game," Klopp said at his pre-match press conference on Monday.

"There is no rush but we are in this three-game-a-week rhythm and during the international break he was with the national team.

"But it is a long-term project so I have no problem. We sat together with him and the analysts and showed him how we want him to play in this position and that position."

Leicester themselves are looking to kickstart their season after a disappointing start that sees the 2015-16 Premier League champions languishing in 15th place but striker Jamie Vardy, who has a groin problem, is a major doubt.

Also on Tuesday, Roy Hodgson's Palace play Huddersfield at Selhurst Park after a 1-0 defeat to Southampton saw them become the first Premier League side to lose their first five games and fail to score.

Burton face the daunting task of a trip to Old Trafford on Wednesday, 11 years after they held United to a 0-0 draw at home in the FA Cup before losing the replay 5-0.

Burton boss Nigel Clough hailed the "transformation of the club since the last time we played them as a part-time Conference side", when he was in his first spell as Burton boss.

"We are only one league behind them after 11 years," he said. "It's remarkable how far we have come. The one outstanding memory of the game last time at the Pirelli was when they brought on (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Wayne) Rooney after 60 minutes.

"I think the tie has financially helped the club to build a solid foundation."

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Arsenal take on Doncaster Rovers at home and Chelsea host Nottingham Forest.





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SPORT: PSG win again but tensions simmer between Neymar, Cavani

SPORT: PSG win again but tensions simmer between Neymar, Cavani

Paris Saint-Germain's Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani (L) and Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar react during the French Ligue 1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lyon (OL) on September 17, 2017 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE

Paris Saint-Germain kept their perfect start to the season going on Sunday, but the 2-0 win over Lyon also laid bare certain tensions in their all-star front line.

PSG were leading 1-0 at the Parc des Princes when they won a penalty with 10 minutes remaining for a foul on Kylian Mbappe, making his home debut.

Having already scored three times from the spot this season, Edinson Cavani assumed the responsibility would once again be his.

Neymar tried to get the ball from the Uruguayan but it was Cavani who eventually took it. And his effort was brilliantly saved, Anthony Lopes tipping the ball onto the bar.

"The penalties are taken by a couple of players, one is Cavani and the other is Neymar. There needs to be a gentleman's agreement on the pitch to decide who takes the penalties," coach Unai Emery admitted later.

"We will sort things out internally for the next time, because I think they are both capable of taking them, and I want the two of them to mix up who takes them."

Those comments, and the fact Cavani was unsuccessful from the spot, suggests Neymar will get his chance in future.

The Brazilian had previously tried and failed to grab the ball from Cavani when a penalty was awarded in the 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne last month. Cavani scored that time.

Earlier in Sunday's game, the duo disagreed over who should take a free-kick with the match still goalless. Dani Alves intervened to give his compatriot the ball on that occasion, and Neymar's strike was saved.

"They are two great players. They want to score goals. There are no problems between them, everything is fine," insisted PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe.

Most coaches would envy the embarrassment of riches at Emery's disposal.

The 'MCN' front line of Mbappe, Cavani and Neymar has cost the capital club 466 million euros ($557 million, £411 million) but now the coach has to somehow keep them all happy.

Cavani scored a remarkable 49 goals in all competitions last season and already has nine this season -- it would have been 10 had the opener against Lyon not been credited as a Marcelo own goal.

But Cavani, who previously lived in the shadow of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has seen PSG commit the two biggest transfer fees in history to sign Neymar and Mbappe.

And 222 million-euro man Neymar has come to Paris to be the main man after spending four years in Lionel Messi's shadow at Barcelona.

"This victory has exposed tensions between Neymar and Cavani," said sports daily L'Equipe on its front page on Monday.

The 'MCN' scored eight goals between them in their first two matches together against Metz (5-1) and Celtic (5-0), but Sunday was less encouraging.

Cavani saw very little of the ball, while Neymar and Mbappe were relatively subdued, even if they combined to force PSG's second on the night, a Jeremy Morel own goal.

Julian Draxler, a 40 million-euro signing from Wolfsburg in January, was also shoehorned into the team on Sunday but overloading the side with attacking stars is to the detriment of the overall balance.

PSG have not slipped up yet, but Sunday's game showed that Emery has plenty on his plate.





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SPORT: Betting firm offered odds on late Ugo Ehiogu becoming next manager of Birmingham City

SPORT: Betting firm offered odds on late Ugo Ehiogu becoming next manager of Birmingham City

Ugochukwu Ehiogu

A betting firm has apologised after it gave customers the option of betting on a dead former footballer becoming the next manager of Birmingham City.

Paddy Power briefly advertised odds of 66/1 on ex-Aston Villa and England defender Ugo Ehiogu taking charge of rivals Birmingham, following the sacking of manager Harry Redknapp.

Ehiogu died at the age of 44 after suffering a cardiac arrest on April 20 at Tottenham's training ground, where he worked as a coach with their under-23 side.

Ehiogu's inclusion provoked anger on social media.

"This was a genuine error," Paddy Power said in a statement. "A trader re-used an old market as a template for this one, and didn't notice that Mr Ehiogu was included.

"Obviously, that was a mistake, one which was rectified as soon as it was spotted, within minutes."

A spokesman said customers were able to put money on Ehiogu for "less than five minutes" before the error was discovered, adding that nobody actually placed that particular bet.

He added: "We would like to apologise to Mr Ehiogu's family if they did see the tweet. It was obviously a mistake and no offence was meant."





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