Bloemfontein Celtic win despite goalkeeper gaffe


Johannesburg (AFP) – Bloemfontein Celtic spared the blushes of veteran goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane by scoring twice in two minutes and defeating Stellenbosch 2-1 Sunday in the South African Premiership.   

Mabokgwane, who was capped 11 times by South Africa, allowed a Waseem Isaacs shot slip between his legs and into the net for the only goal of the opening half in central city Bloemfontein.  

But his gaffe was forgotten midway through the second half as goals from by Maloisane Ramasimong and Siphelele Luthuli gave the home side a lead they successfully defended.

Ramasimong equalised by heading a deep cross past Dutch goalkeeper Boy de Jong and Luthuli struck the winner with a fierce low volley.

Victory lifted erratic Celtic two places to ninth, three points behind pacesetters Kaizer Chiefs five rounds into the league season.

Meanwhile, a blunder by Guinea-Bissau goalkeeper Jonas Mendes allowed Baroka to take the lead at Black Leopards and they went on to win 2-0 and occupy sixth position.

Mendes, who started in all three 2019 Africa Cup of Nations group matches for the west African country, failed to grasp a low shot, which hit the woodwork before Phelelani Shozi netted 

The shot-stopper had no chance of preventing the second goal after half-time as Tshediso Patjie rifled an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net from just outside the box. 

Losers Stellenbosch (15th) and Leopards (12th) remained at the wrong end of a 16-club table propped up by AmaZulu, who are winless in five outings and have scored just twice.   

Three things we learned from the Premier League weekend


London (AFP) – Liverpool opened up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League as defending champions Manchester City crumbled to a stunning 3-2 defeat at newly-promoted Norwich.

Behind the top two, there is a five-way tie between those likely to be fighting for the final two Champions League places this season with Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester all on eight points from the opening five games. 

Here, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Premier League weekend:

Laporte injury hands Liverpool golden opportunity

Liverpool did what City could not in recovering from conceding early to ease past Newcastle 3-1 and maintain their 100 percent start to the season.

Just five games into the campaign, there is no reason for City to panic just yet, but there could be longer-term trouble ahead for Pep Guardiola’s men with key centre-back Aymeric Laporte sidelined with a serious knee injury until at least January.

Without the Frenchman, City’s only two fit centre-backs John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi were exposed, particularly in gifting Norwich’s third goal just after half-time.

Guardiola admitted he had to “see what I can to do help” mask Laporte’s absence, but after two seasons of near perfection, City now have an obvious area of weakness for opponents to target.

Liverpool have waited 30 years for a Premier League title and after missing out by a point last season, the European champions are unlikely to get a better chance to end that long wait.

Chelsea kids are alright

Frank Lampard enjoyed his best day in charge of Chelsea so far as the Blues inflicted Wolves’ first home defeat since January 2 in style by scoring five at Molineux.

Tammy Abraham took his tally to seven goals in three games with a hat-trick to join Sergio Aguero as the top scorer in the Premier League.

But all three Chelsea goalscorers on the day were 21 or under and came through the Blues academy.

Centre-back Fikayo Tomori showed Abraham how it is done with a stunning strike from 30 yards to open the scoring and Mason Mount grabbed the fifth in stoppage time to round off the scoring.

That trio have now scored all 11 of Chelsea’s Premier League goals so far under Lampard.

Until this season, John Terry was the last Chelsea academy graduate to become a first-team regular.

But all that has changed with Lampard afforded the freedom by a transfer ban to give the younger players a chance.

‘Scared’ Arsenal grateful for a point at lowly Watford


London (AFP) – Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka admitted the Gunners were lucky to escape with a point after blowing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at bottom-of-the-table Watford on Sunday.

Quique Sanchez Flores enjoyed a happy return as the Hornets manager as Tom Cleverley and Roberto Pereyra’s penalty secured a thoroughly merited share of the spoils.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked to have the Gunners well on course for a comfortable three points when he struck twice in 11 minutes before the break.

However, Sanchez Flores, who was appointed as Hornets’ boss for the second time last week after one point from their opening four games of the season saw Javi Gracia sacked, roused the hosts for an impressive second-half fightback.

“We came out and played such a bad second-half. You have to say we are happy to take a point,” said Xhaka.

“We were scared in the second-half. We knew they would come at us and push us hard but we have to show more character and not be scared.

“We have spoken about it. We cannot give a performance like this in the second half.”

Arsenal played a huge part in their own downfall as they were consistently caught in possession on the edge of their own box, trying to play out from the back.

That was how Watford got a foothold back in the game as Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s pass was intercepted inside his own box by Gerard Deulofeu and the ball broke to Cleverley to fire home eight minutes into the second-half.

“They controlled the match with their pressing, causing us (to make) some mistakes. Scoring the first goal gave them confidence to continue that,” said Arsenal manager Unai Emery.

“That is the moment we needed calm and control.”

However, the Spaniard refuted Xhaka’s suggestion that his side were scared.

“Maybe that is (his) individual feeling. I think in football you never should be scared and you have to take that moment. We need to be strong in our mentality.”

Emery is clearly still trying to find the right balance between his brilliant attack and shoddy defence.

Mesut Ozil was recalled to his starting line-up for the first time since he and Sead Kolasinac were the victims of a carjacking attack in July.

Ozil initially struggled to settle as Watford started the brighter with Cleverley’s rising drive forcing Bernd Leno into a fine save before Jose Holebas fired horribly off-target with a great chance from the edge of the area.

Schalke thrash Paderborn as Freiburg leapfrog Bayern


Berlin (AFP) – A brace from Moroccan midfielder Amine Harit secured a 5-1 win over Paderborn for David Wagner’s Schalke on Sunday, while Freiburg moved up to third in the Bundesliga with a derby win at Hoffenheim.

Schalke tore through Paderborn in a frenzy of goals at the end of the second half to pick up their second win of the season and move up to sixth in the table.

Brazilian midfielder Cauly gave Paderborn an early lead, picking out the top corner with a looping header to celebrate his 24th birthday with a goal.

Schalke were then denied several times by Paderborn keeper Jannik Huth before Salif Sane headed them level on 33 minutes.

Suat Serdar completed the turnaround just after the break, firing in a loose ball at the edge of the area to put Schalke ahead. 

English full-back Jonjoe Kenny set up the third with a marauding run from deep, eventually cutting the ball back for Harit to slot it into the bottom corner.

Ahmed Kutucu added a fourth on the counter-attack seven minutes from time, before setting up Harit minutes later to complete the rout. 

Earlier on Sunday, Freiburg midfielder Janik Haberer hailed a “great day” for the Bundesliga minnows as they beat neighbours Hoffenheim 3-0 to continue their dream start to the season.

“It is a great day for us and our fans, it is always special to win a derby,” said Haberer, who joined Nils Petersen and Christian Guenter on the scoresheet.

The win leaves Freiburg in third and sees them leapfrog perennial champions Bayern Munich, who were held to a 1-1 draw at league leaders RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Freiburg were ruthless in the first half and deserved their two-goal lead at the break.

Guenter swept in the opener after a darting run in from the left wing on 11 minutes, and Petersen had a goal ruled out for offside shortly before the half-hour mark.

Haberer doubled the lead on 38 minutes, picking out the bottom corner brilliantly from the edge of the area.

Hoffenheim, who had shown only flashes of danger in the first half, were caught napping when an unmarked Petersen poached the third goal on the hour.

Christian Streich’s side have now won three of their opening four games, with only Bayern and Borussia Dortmund having scored more goals so far.

“Our primary goal is still just to avoid relegation, but it is a great feeling to be so high up the table,” Haberer told Sky.

Arsenal blow two-goal lead at lowly Watford


London (AFP) – Quique Sanchez Flores enjoyed a happy return to Watford as Arsenal blew a 2-0 lead at Vicarage Road to draw 2-2 on Sunday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked to have the Gunners well on course for a comfortable three points when he struck twice in 11 minutes before the break.

However, Sanchez Flores, who was appointed as Hornets’ boss for the second time last week after one point from their opening four games of the season saw Javi Gracia sacked, roused the hosts for an impressive second-half fightback.

Arsenal played a huge part in their own downfall too as they gifted possesion away inside their own box for Tom Cleverley to pull a goal back before David Luiz upended Roberto Pereyra, who slotted home the resulting penalty.

A point sees Arsenal only move level with Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Leicester behind Liverpool and Manchester City in the early season battle for a top-four finish.

However, it is Watford who will feel they should even have gone onto win the game as Arsenal boss Unai Emery’s inability to find a balance between his brilliant attack and shoddy defence continued.

Emery recalled Mesut Ozil to his starting line-up for the first time since he and Sead Kolasinac were the victims of a carjacking attack in July.

Ozil initially struggled to settle as Watford started the brighter with Cleverley’s rising drive forcing Bernd Leno into a fine save before Jose Holebas fired horribly off-target with a great chance from the edge of the area.

However, Watford have now conceded 10 goals in their opening five games to the campaign and were opened up far too easily to allow Aubameyang to open the scoring on 21 minutes.

The home fans were screaming for a foul as Dani Ceballos won back possession, but Watford were slow to react as Kolasinac burst down the left and fed Aubameyang, who spun and fired low past Ben Foster.

Ozil was involved as a patient build-up from the visitors doubled their lead on 32 minutes.

At the end of a 20-pass move, Ozil freed Ainsley Maitland-Niles in behind the Watford defence and the right-back squared for Aubameyang to slot home his fifth goal in as many games this season.

Twice the visitors escaped gifting Watford a way back into the game when Matteo Guendouzi was caught in possession on the edge of his own box, trying to play out from the back.