Daily Archives: March 5, 2018

Lionel Messi free-kick sends Barca eight points clear in La Liga

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A Lionel Messi free-kick was enough for FC Barcelona to defeat nearest challengers Atletico Madrid with a 1-0 win at the Nou Camp and establish an eight-point advantage.

The result meant that to overtake Barca, Atletico would need to win all their remaining games — including a trip to face local rivals Real Madrid in early trip — and hope that Barca lose three of their remaining 11 games.

Nonetheless, it was a deserved win for the Catalan team although they also had several chances to add to their tally, chief among them a fierce left-footed volley by the excellent Sergio Busquets from a corner, forcing Atletico keeper Jan Oblak into a smart reflex save.

However, Messi’s goal — a landmark 600th of his illustrious career — after after 25 minutes was all his team needed to step closer to another La Liga title as he breached a stubborn Atletico defence that has only conceded 12 goals in 27 league games.

Atletico did not throw in the towel easily despite conceding either, as their manager Diego Simeone opted to pour men forward finished with four forwards in a bold 4-2-4 formation, with Diego Costa, Antoine Griezmann, Kevin Gameiro and Angel Correa up front and starting to target direct long balls in the direction of Costa.

It was unlucky for the Madrid team that their striker Costa was heavily subdued by the excellent home central defensive pairing of Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti, while Griezmann couldn’t maintain his golden form after coming into the game on the back of consecutive hat-tricks.

The only possible negative of the afternoon for Barca was the loss of skipper Iniesta with a hamstring injury, which is likely to keep him out of action for around a month.

If that comes to pass, it would meant that Iniesta would not be able to feature in the second leg of the Champions League tie with Chelsea, and could also miss the first leg of the quarter-finals should Barca be able to progress after having drew 1-1 in the first leg away against the London team.

English FA boss likens Pep Guardiola’s yellow ribbon to ISIS

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Martin Glenn, the English Football Association chief executive has rejected any suggestion that Pep Guardiola wearing a yellow ribbon in support of imprisoned Catalan politicians is equivalent to the governing body’s defiance over FIFA’s poppy ban.

Glenn instead claimed that the Manchester City manager has angered many by wearing the ribbon during games while claiming that the the FA’s fight against FIFA’s poppy ban was an act of remembrance for fallen soldiers and not a political emblem.

City coach Guardiola would have until 6pm on Monday to respond to a charge for wearing what the FA considers to be a political symbol, during the 1-0 FA Cup defeat by Wigan last month.

Still, Guardiola’s representatives are set to claim the ribbon is a show of solidarity for pro‑independence Catalan politicians imprisoned in Spain as opposed to an act of political activism but it is unlikely to hold sway with the FA.

“We have rewritten Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are OK but things that are going to be highly divisive are not,” Glenn said. “That could be strong religious symbols, it could be the Star of David, it could the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like Robert Mugabe on your shirt — these are the things we don’t want.”

“To be honest, and to be very clear, Pep Guardiola’s yellow ribbon is a political symbol, it’s a symbol of Catalan independence and I can tell you there are many more Spaniards, non‑Catalans, who are pissed off by it. All we are doing is even-handedly applying the laws of the game.”

“Poppies are not political symbols; that yellow ribbon is. Where do you draw the line, should we have someone with a UKIP badge? Someone with an ISIS badge?”

Glenn added that he had no problem with FIFA’s rules against the displaying of political symbols during games.

“We don’t want football equipment to display political symbols. That has always been the case. The problem we had with poppies is that for some reason a new person at Fifa seemed to think poppies were a political symbol and we fought hard against that notion and thankfully sense broke out.”

Jose Mourinho says Marcus Rashford is progressing despite bench role

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho says that forward Marcus Rashford progress this season is pleasing even in the face of what the Portuguese has described as unrealistic expectations.

Rashford, 20, has scored 11 times in 40 appearances.

This meant that the forward has already equalled his tally of goals for the last term, which came in 52 games, and seems certain to continue to improve his season-by-season tally after eight in 18 appearances in his debut campaign of 2015-16.

Mourinho had previously stated that this season would feature a step-change in performance from Rashford following what can often be a challenging second season in the first team.

“At his age, what he’s doing is more than enough and the experience he’s getting at every level is more than enough for us to be happy with what we think is going to be his future. It’s as simple as that.”

“But because he had such an impact at the beginning, probably people expect him to play even more than he does, and score even more than he does and perform even more than what he does but it is not so simple. What I see makes me really happy, to see the same boy.”

Mourinho also claimed that he believes Rashford’s prospects of selection by England for Russia 2018 will be unaffected by not being a regular, although he also would not offer the youngster any assurances regarding his status.

“It’s up to Gareth Southgate,” the former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager added. “If he trusts him, he selects him. It doesn’t matter if he plays or if he doesn’t play for Manchester United.”

“No, I don’t reassure anyone. The main reassurance is that he is always selected. There is not one single match when Marcus is not selected to start or to be on the bench.”

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic expected to leave United in the summer, Rashford may be offered more game time as a stand-in to Romelu Lukaku at centre-forward.