Daily Archives: May 5, 2017

Champions League: Higuain brace puts Juventus in control

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Gonzalo Higuain scored two goals for Juventus away against Monaco, placing the Italian champions in the driving seat of their Champions League semi-final encounter.

However, it was Monaco who started the game on the front foot.

Juve keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who said before the game that his team’s experience would be their key for victory, had to gather a header and put in a low stop to keep out 18-year-old Kevin Mbappe just inside 10 minutes.

But as the Italian champions sat deep for long spells, they prevented the Ligue 1 leaders from scoring at home for the first time since November 2015.

And with a flowing move, Higuain ruthlessly finished a counterattack move that started with a short throw from Buffon himself on 29 minutes.

Dani Alves, whose infield pass to Higuain contributed the first, found Higuain free again with a superb back-heel with perfect timing, and the Argentinian sweep the ball home for a first-time finish on the hour.

Alves’s delivery for the second was inch perfect and in creating both goals he now has six assists in the competition, one more than his best tally of five with FC Barcelona in 2007-08 and 2010-11.

With Monaco’s youthful free-scoring offense kept at bay, Juventus demonstrated their experience through organized defensive work which ushers a ninth Juve clean sheet for Buffon in 11 Champions League matches this season, in what his record-equalling 100th Champions League appearance.

Marcus Rashford free-kick gives Man United away goal lead

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Manchester United took a slim away goal advantage in their Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo thanks to a superb free-kick from Marcus Rashford.

For much of the game, Manchester United had suppressed the home side but failed to capitalise on their best chances in northern Spain — three times they came close in the first half, only to be denied by home goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez.

Celta then slowly grew into the game and started making chances – both Daniel Wass and Iago Aspas headed wide while Pione Sisto’s deflected shot forced Sergio Romero to save in the second half.

As United slowly rue their missed chances, Rashford turned the game around by bending a free-kick to Alvarez’s far corner.

While there is a second leg to play, United are still on course for what could define their campaign next season.

As the Red Devils now linger outside the Premier League’s top four — a point behind Manchester City and four off third-placed Liverpool — the Europa League perhaps represents their best opportunity of earning a place in next season’s Champions League.

Indeed, United coach Jose Mourinho said before the game that he wants the trophy to complete United’s trophy cupboard, and that he would do so even if it meant resting key players in remaining Premier League fixtures.

“The Europa League is the only competition Manchester United as a club have never won,” Mourinho said. “It would be great to close the circle and say we are a club that has won every single competition in the football world.”

“So the Europa League has become, for us, more important. Of course it depends on the result and the way we analyse the situation after the match, but if we have to rest players next weekend, we are going to that.”

Francesco Totti will retire at the end of the season

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Roma have made the announcement that Francesco Totti will retire at the end of the season, 24 years after he debuted for Roma as their youngest player ever.

Totti, 40, has made more than 600 appearances for the club since his debut in 1993, but has made only one start in Serie A this season for Roma coach Luciano Spalletti after being awarded a one-year extension in 2016. The other of his 24 appearances this season were mostly as a substitute.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Roma’s new sporting director, Monchi, confirmed that this would be Totti’s last season as a player but added that he could work closely with the former Italy international once the World Cup winner hangs up his boots.

“In terms of Totti, I already knew that there was an agreement with the club that this would be his final year as a player, then he’d start as a director,” he said.

“Francesco is Roma, I want to be as close to him as possible. I’d love to learn even 1% of the huge amount that he knows.”

Totti, when asked whether Roma’s 3-1 defeat against Lazio on Sunday had been his last derby, the veteran said that it was not up to him and that “other people” were making those claims.

But as it were, Totti’s final game will be on Sunday, 28 May against Genoa at the Stadio Olimpico, after winning two Serie A titles as well as the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa on two occasions each during his 24 years with Roma.

The player has also represented Italy at all levels from under-15, scoring nine goals in 58 senior appearances before his retirement after winning the World Cup in Germany.