Daily Archives: December 14, 2016

Spirited Everton comeback ends Arsenal unbeaten run

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Arsenal’s unbeaten Premier League run has ended as Everton came from behind to dramatically secure a 2-1 victory – their first win since October.

The Gunners, who had won their previous three games, started impressively in the first half and were rewarded as Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick deflected in off Ashley Williams.

Though underperforming, Everton managed to find an equaliser just before half-time when Seamus Coleman glanced home Leighton Baines’ excellent cross.

As Arsenal slowly faded from the game, Williams’s almost textbook header in the 86th minute sealed a spirited comeback by an Everton side who had won only once in 11 matches.

But there was still time left on the clock; as captain Phil Jagielka was sent off in the dying minutes for a second bookable offence, Arsenal had two shots cleared off the line in a frantic finale which also saw both goalkeepers were standing in the same net.

Ronald Koeman, who called for more aggression before kick-off, was rewarded not only with three valuable points but vastly improved contributions from Ross Barkley, James McCarthy and Enner Valencia, the latter of whom was making his first league start for the club.

The Everton manager had asserted that his squad was unbalanced and lacking both physically and mentally on the eve of Arsenal’s visit and his concerns were borne out during a poor opening.

It had exactly been the case for Everton in the opening thirty minutes. But with encouragement by a vocal crowd in Goodison Park and players mustering spirited performances, the Toffees dominated thereafter as Williams made amends and powered home a textbook header late on to complete the turnaround.

The result lifted Everton to seventh place, four points behind fifth-placed Tottenham and one behind Manchester United.

Meanwhile, Arsenal remained three points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea, who have a game in hand against bottom-placed team Sunderland.

Lionel Messi meets Afghan boy with homemade plastic jersey

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Murtaza Ahmadi, an Afghan boy who became an internet sensation after being photographed in a homemade replica of Lionel Messi’s famous football strip, has finally come face-to-face with his idol.

Pictures had emerged on January this year of the then five-year-old wearing a blue-and-white striped plastic bag to emulate the colours of the Argentinian team.

On the back of the bag was scrawled Messi’s name and shirt number.

The pictures went viral and, after “Messi’s biggest fan” was identified and tracked down to Afghanistan’s eastern Ghazni province, efforts were made to bring Murtaza and the Barcelona star together.

A video tweeted by the organisers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar shows the Argentinian forward scooping up Murtaza, now six, and posing for photographers in a meeting arranged through the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.


Murtaza Ahmadi meeting his idol, Lionel Messi.

“The image the world wanted to see,” tweeted the Supreme Committee on Tuesday. “The six-year-old boy who dreamed of meeting his hero, #Messi, finally comes true.”

Murtaza and Messi met in Doha and the boy walked out on to the pitch with Messi on Tuesday night when Barcelona play Al-Ahli.

The boy’s unexpected fame has not been entirely welcome. After receiving constant telephone threats, the family was eventually forced to flee to Quetta in neighbouring Pakistan.

Murtaza’s father, Mohammad Arif Ahmadi, said he feared that his son would be kidnapped. The family first travelled to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, but could not settle there because of the high cost of living. They later moved to Quetta.

“I sold all my belongings and brought my family out of Afghanistan to save my son’s life as well as the lives of the rest of the family,” he said in May.

Despite the upheaval, he added at the time: “Murtaza hopes that one day he would be able to meet his hero, Messi.”

Cristiano Ronaldo: Lionel Messi “a great player”

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Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo believes he could have gathered the honour more times than Lionel Messi if they had played on the same team, but described his rival as “a great player.”

Portugal captain Ronaldo polled a massive 745 points – over 400 more than Messi – in this year’s poll, which canvassed a handpicked panel of 173 journalists worldwide.

The Madeira native helped Real Madrid win last season’s Champions League, and scored three goals as his country won Euro 2016 for the first time. He has now won the Ballon d’Or in 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2016, with Messi the only other recipient of the award since winning it for the first time in 2009.

Messi, 29, came second to Ronaldo, 31, in the 2016 vote, but has five Ballons d’Or to the Real Madrid man’s four.

On whether he would have claimed the award more times had they played on the same side, Ronaldo said: “It’s a difficult question. I don’t know.”

“It would be interesting to see both of us in the same team. I think great players should play together. So if we were in the same team, I think I would have more than him, but he wouldn’t be far off.”

“Everyone knows Messi is a great player. He’s won five Ballons d’Or.”

Ronaldo also said that he was hopeful he would draw level with the Argentine star’s tally in 2017, saying: “I’m going to try. I’ll be in the fight, as always, but my objective now is to win the Club World Cup, an important trophy.”

“After that, to win La Liga. It’s a title that Real wants to win. And if possible, the Champions League again and the Copa del Rey. I always want to win everything.”

After winning another individual honour, the 31-year-old turns his attention back to club football, hoping to help Real Madrid to the Club World Cup in Japan as he aims to add more achievements to his already impressive trophy cupboard.