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.

Ter Stegen hits back at Neuer in Germany row


Berlin (AFP) – Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen on Monday accused Manuel Neuer of making “inappropriate” comments in a war of the words between the two Germany stoppers.

The dispute between the two keepers arose after Ter Stegen expressed his frustration at a lack of opportunities to play for the national team last week.

“I don’t think it is up to Manuel to express an opinion on my feelings,” said Ter Stegen at a press conference ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund on Monday.

The undisputed number one at Barcelona, Ter Stegen has struggled to usurp Neuer as Germany number one, and claimed it was a “tough blow” to sit on the bench through Germany’s two Euro 2020 qualifiers earlier this month.

Neuer responded critically to the 27-year-old’s comments, suggesting that Ter Stegen had hurt the team by speaking out. 

On Monday, Ter Stegen hit back, calling Neuer’s comments “inappropriate”.

“Everyone has seen how I have conducted myself over the last few years,” he said.

Xavi’s Al Sadd storm into semis of Asian Champions League


Doha (AFP) – Top Qatar club Al Sadd bounced back from their first leg loss to win 3-1 on Monday and oust Saudi giants Al Nassr in an AFC Champions League quarter-final.

Coach Xavi punched the air in delight as the 2011 continental champions put on a commanding home performance to secure a 4-3 aggregate victory and another shot at continental glory.

Al Sadd’s star striker Akram Afif dazzled throughout. He scored the first goal in the 26th minute with a simple header from close off a delectable chip from the left by South Korean Nam Tae-hee.

The home joy was short-lived, however, as Al Nassr’s star striker Abderrazak Hamdallah equalised in the 33rd minute.

After he was fouled just outside the box, the Moroccan hit the free-kick, which took a deflection from former Atletico Madrid player Gabi, completely wrong-footing Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb.

There were close calls at both ends, before Al Sadd went ahead once again.  Captain Hassan al-Haydos cracked a shot from outside the box off another Nam pass, with the ball dipping nicely into the top right corner beating Australian goalkeeper Brad Jones.

Both teams grew desperate as the minutes ticked by, but it was Al Sadd who had the momentum and looked like scoring any moment.

Sure enough that moment arrived in the 89th minute when al-Haydos released Afif with a perfect pass but the striker was brought down by Abdulla Madu when he was about to take the shot. The referee pointed to the spot

Al Sadd’s Algerian star Baghdad Bounedjah, the top scorer in the tournament last season, converted with a powerful shot to Jones’ right.

“We never lost hope after the first leg defeat and I had drilled into the players the importance of staying upbeat,” Xavi said after the match.

“They lived up to their promise and now we are one step away from the final.”

Xavi had said at his pre-match press conference that it was his ambition to win the AFC Champions League, having won four European Champions League titles as a player for Barcelona.

Al Sadd will next play the winners of Tuesday’s match between Saudi sides Al Hilal and Al Ittihad.

Messi comeback possible as Barcelona launch Champions League charge


Berlin (AFP) – Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said Monday that Lionel Messi could make his comeback against Borussia Dortmund as the Catalan giants launch a fresh assault on the Champions League title in Germany on Tuesday evening.

Messi, who has missed the beginning of the season with a calf injury, was named in Barcelona’s squad for Tuesday’s Champions League opener, though it remains unclear whether the Argentinian will play.

“We will decide tomorrow. For the last week we have been unsure whether he will be able to play, but he has trained two or three times and made a good impression. We will see,” said Valverde at a press conference on Monday. 

The Barcelona coach refused to say whether 16-year-old Ansu Fati, who became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer earlier this month, would break another record by becoming the youngest ever Champions League debutant on Tuesday.

“If he plays, then it will not be because of the record,” said the coach.

Valverde said that his team were looking to put the past behind them after their dramatic semi-final defeat to eventual winners Liverpool in last season’s Champions League. 

“If you have one bad day, you can be knocked out of this competition. We lost just one match last season, but it was a decisive match,” he said, adding that Barcelona wanted to go further this year than they had in the past two seasons.

Yet Marc Ter Stegen, Barcelona’s German keeper, who played under current Dortmund coach Lucien Favre at Borussia Moenchengladbach earlier in his career, warned that Dortmund would provide a tough first test. 

“Lucien Favre is one of the best coaches I have ever worked under, and he will have thought of a way to hurt us,” said the German.

“It is always difficult to come here, and we always struggled here with ‘Gladbach, but we will try to win and get a good start to the competition.”

“It is a spectacular stadium and the supporters are always crazy, but we will try not to be influenced by that.”

Barcelona have conceded six goals in four games this season and are yet to win away from home. 

“We are conceding a lot of goals at the moment, we have to accept that and try to improve,” Ter Stegen

“Some of the mistakes we are making are easy to correct.”

Ligue 1 official not bullied into VAR review: ref chief


Paris (AFP) – French football authorities insisted on Monday that a Ligue 1 referee had not been bullied into overturning via VAR his decision to allow a goal despite doing so five minutes after it had been scored following furious player protests.

Clement Turpin did not “resort to video assistance under pressure from anyone” during Saturday’s goalless draw between Brest and Rennes, said Pascal Garibian, the director of referees (DTA) told AFP on Monday, even if “the course of events” might suggest the opposite.

Garibian did acknowledge “there was a real dysfunction in the process of the video assistance.”

Turpin initially awarded Raphinha’s goal for Rennes at their Breton rivals Brest on the advice of the video assistant.

Convinced there had been a foul in the build-up to the goal, the home players refused to restart the game and demanded that the referee watched a replay.

After five minutes of discussions, Turpin, a World Cup referee, consulted VAR and acknowledged a foul in the build up the home players had complained about and disallowed the goal. The match ended 0-0. 

Garibian explained that there were two potential fouls in the build up. 

Turpin had spotted the first but, asked to check, the video assistant, rewound only as far as the later collision and reported it was not a foul. Turpin allowed the goal to the disbelief of the home team. After they forced a delay, the officials checked the entire build up. 

“Chronologically, the work should have been reversed,” said Garibian blaming “inefficient communication”.