Archive for the ‘AFP’ Category

Time ticking for Pochettino’s Tottenham to prove they are winners

London (AFP) – Tottenham’s improbable rollercoaster run to the club’s first ever Champions League final last season has masked a steady decline in results for Mauricio Pochettino’s men stretching back to February.

The tension, emotion and elation of the late drama that saw Spurs past Manchester City in the quarter-finals and Ajax in the last four will live long in the memory.

But having ultimately fallen shot in the final against Liverpool, Pochettino remains without a trophy after five seasons in charge.

That does not diminish the impact the Argentine has had in transforming Tottenham from Europa League regulars to Champions League contenders.

Yet, it may well be that the window for this Spurs squad to win the Champions League closed with defeat to Liverpool on June 1.

Last season’s remarkable Champions League campaign began in the group stages when Pochettino’s men seemed down and out after picking up just one point from their opening three games against Inter Milan, Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven.

A far kinder draw this time around sees Spurs travel to Olympiakos on Wednesday with Bayern Munich and Red Star Belgrade to come in Group B.

Tottenham should be confident of progress to the last 16 for a third straight season, but their form over the past seven months means they can take little for granted.

Prior to undoubtably their best performance of the season so far, a 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday, Spurs had mustered just 16 points from their last 16 Premier League games.

Pochettino  has pointed to a myriad of reasons for that slump. 

The amazing Champions League nights in Manchester and Amsterdam drew the very last sources of energy from a stretched squad that wore down during a 57-game season and were missing talisman Harry Kane for much of the second half of the campaign.

Spurs were also in the midst of moving from Wembley to a sparkling new 62,000 capacity stadium and had not signed a player in 18 months.

Most of those problems have now been addressed. Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon have bolstered the squad, although all three have suffered injury problems early in their Spurs careers. Kane is back fit. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is beginning to feel like home.

However, Pochettino was still unhappy as the futures of Christan Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen cast a cloud over their start to the season.

US World Cup star Morgan ruled out for rest of 2019 season

Miami (AFP) – United States women’s soccer star Alex Morgan said Monday she would not play again this season as she aims to fix a knee injury that has bothered her since the World Cup.

The 30-year-old Orlando Pride forward, one of the most prominent players on the United States’ World Cup-winning team, made the announcement in a statement on her Instagram account.

“This year has had the highest of highs but along with that comes challenges and sometimes even falling short of my goals I set for myself in 2019,” Morgan wrote.

“I’m disappointed I won’t be able to compete with the Pride for the remainder of 2019 due to a knee injury I’ve been managing since the World Cup, and that I can’t be there to help my teammates and my club have more success. 

“I have already started physical therapy in LA and am eager to get back on the field doing what I love.”

Morgan did not release further details of her injury.

The striker has been nursing the knock since she was substituted during the USA’s group game with Sweden at the World Cup in June.

She returned to feature in the remaining games of the tournament, however, scoring in the semi-final victory over England and playing in the final.

Morgan has had a history of knee injuries, suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament as a teenager in high school at the start of her career, and undergoing keyhole surgery on her right knee in 2015.

Ronaldo ’embarrassed’ by rape allegations

London (AFP) – Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted he felt “embarrassed” as he tried to shield his family from allegations he raped a woman in the United States.

Ronaldo was accused of sexually assaulting Kathryn Mayorga in a Las Vegas hotel in June 2009.

The Portugal forward, a five-time Champions League winner, strongly denied the claims and the investigation was originally closed 10 years ago.

It reopened in August 2018, shortly before Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in September and offered details she initially withheld. 

Prosecutors announced in July this year that they would not be prosecuting the case because the allegations could not “be proven beyond a reasonable doubt”.

The former Manchester United great revealed the allegations had taken a mental toll on him as he sought to protect his children from the reports.

“They play with your dignity,” Ronaldo told ‘Good Morning Britain’ in an interview with Piers Morgan that will air on Tuesday.

“It’s hard. You have a girlfriend, you have a family, you have kids. When they play with your honesty, it’s bad, it’s hard.

“I remember one day I was at home in the living room with my girlfriend watching the television to see the news and they speak about ‘Cristiano Ronaldo this and that.’

“I listened to my kids coming down the stairs and I changed the channel because I was embarrassed.

“I just changed the channel for Cristiano Jr not to see that they speak bad about his father about a very bad case.”

Liverpool didn’t ‘go nuts’ after Champions League win, says Klopp

Naples (Italy) (AFP) – Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp said his side had not ‘gone nuts’ after winning the Champions League and were ready for their title defence starting with a Group E opener in Napoli on Tuesday.

“To win is nice, but it doesn’t change anything,” Klopp told reporters in Naples. 

“It’s so easy to carry on as normal. 

“If you go nuts and start taking drugs and buying different cars or whatever and leave you missus at home, than it gets hard.

“We want to create more stories to remember in the future and not just this one. 

“We don’t feel the burden, it’s long ago… three, four months.”

Liverpool have reached the last two Champions League finals, beating Tottenham in the Spanish capital in June after losing to Real Madrid 12 months earlier.

And they are riding high in the Premier League with five wins in as many games.

The 52-year-old German said they were more interested in learning from last year’s errors including losing all their away games starting with a 1-0 defeat in Napoli to a late Lorenzo Insigne winner.

“We lost all our away games, we can change that at least this year,” he said.

Napoli are expected to pose the sternest test to Liverpool in a group which also includes unfancied Salzburg and Genk.

“It’s a tough game tomorrow,” said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.

“When we came here last year we didn’t perform very well at all, the manager will tell you that. We used that game to improve a lot. 

“Hopefully tomorrow night will be a different story.

“We’re still improving, everything is possible again.”

– ‘Painful to lose’ –

Ancelotti said his side have learned from their mistakes last season, when they failed to advance from a tough group that also included Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

The southern Italians are fifth in Serie A after three games, including a defeat to champions Juventus.

Klopp believes there are similarities between Liverpool and Napoli this season.

“A really good team, got a few new players but have the majority of the team still together so we are similar,” the German said. 

Napoli’s new arrivals include Spanish striker Fernando Llorente from Tottenham and Mexican midfielder Hirving Lozano from PSV Eindhoven.

Llorente, 34, he was eager to gain ‘revenge’ after his defeat in the Champions League final.

“It was very painful to lose the final, there is a desire for revenge, yes, but it is especially the opportunity to show that we can be at the level of a team as strong as Liverpool,” said Llorente.

Mings clashes with Villa team-mate El Ghazi in West Ham draw

Birmingham (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Aston Villa duo Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi were involved in a furious clash and West Ham defender Arthur Masuaku was sent off in a separate incident during Monday’s fiery 0-0 draw.

Mings and El Ghazi lost their cool in the first half at Villa Park and had to be dragged away by team-mates after West Ham nearly took the lead.

The pair escaped punishment for their row, but Masuaku was not so fortunate as he saw red for a second booking after half-time.

Villa were unable to make their numerical advantage pay off and had to settle for a stalemate that left the spotlight on the bust-up between Mings and El Ghazi.

Villa defender Mings had blocked a cross that he felt Dutch midfielder El Ghazi allowed to come in too easily.

El Ghazi was angry enough with the criticism to brush his head against Mings’ forehead as the pair went face to face.

They were pulled away by team-mates but stood glaring at each other inside the penalty area as Mings pointed an accusing finger at El Ghazi.

Referee Mike Dean urged them to calm down after consulting VAR to check there was not a red card offence and play eventually resumed with Villa manager Dean Smith wearing a bemused expression on the touchline.

West Ham remain unbeaten since being thrashed by Manchester City in the opening game of the season and their refusal to surrender after the red card was a welcome birthday present for boss Manuel Pellegrini, who turned 66 on Monday.

Villa thought they had taken the lead when John McGinn curled into the top corner, but the midfielder’s effort was ruled out for his foul on Angelo Ogbonna.

They went close again when Jack Grealish’s cross picked out Wesley, but the Brazilian striker headed over.

Sebastien Haller had scored three times in three games for West Ham since his close-season move from Eintracht Frankfurt.

But the French striker was off-target with a misjudged header from Felipe Anderson’s cross.

West Ham midfielder Mark Noble was jeered by Villa fans after escaping a second booking for what looked a dive in a failed bid to win a penalty.

Mings and El Ghazi’s clash underlined Villa’s frustration at failing to put West Ham on the back foot.

There was more angst for El Ghazi moments later when he went up to challenge for a cross and was flattened by West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski.