Daily Archives: March 9, 2018

Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez regrets reactions to failed City move

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Riyad Mahrez admits that he regrets his reactions after seeing his potential move to Manchester City fall through in the January transfer window.

Mahrez, 26, was absent for two Leicester City matches after missing out on a move to join the ranks of the Premier League leaders, who reportedly made a £60 million offer on deadline day two months ago.

However, the Algeria international denied he had been on strike after the disappointment of the failed move, but concedes he should have handled the situation better when he took a leave of absence from the Leicester squad.

“I was away from here because I needed some time to think, it was a difficult situation,” he said. “You’ll always have regrets but at that time I thought it was the best thing to do.”

“Manchester City is a good move for everyone but it is the past. It is behind me. If we start talking about this it’s like coming back to the transfer window and now I’m moving forward, trying to give my best for the team.”

Following his leave, Mahrez returned to action in Leicester’s 5-1 defeat to Pep Guardiola’s side on February 10 and has played in all three matches since, including the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth last Saturday, in which he scored a dramatic late free-kick to help his team steal a point.

He also added that he was grateful to his teammates who had stood by him when he returned.

“I spoke with the players, I spoke with the manager, I spoke with everyone. Everyone was OK, was good.”

“It was difficult, I’ve always been in contact with the club. The club handled it very well. When the team-mates and the club were behind me it was okay, it was very easy to come back here.”

On Wednesday, Leicester were forced to deny Mahrez had retired after hackers posted a message announcing he was quitting football on his Facebook page.

“I wasn’t bothered,” the player said about the case. “It won’t affect me, so I don’t know why they try to do that. I think everyone knew it had been hacked.”

Arsenal ends losing streak with victory over Milan in Europa League

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Arsenal put an end to their unwanted 4-game losing streak with a polished 2-0 victory over AC Milan in the first-leg of their last-16 encounter.

Arsene Wenger’s squad were leading after just 15 minutes through Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s first goal for the club, with the Armenian cutting in from the left to fire in with the aid of a deflection off Milan skipper Leonardo Bonucci.

Aaron Ramsey then deservedly doubled their lead before half-time as the Welshman collected Mesut Ozil’s inch-perfect pass through the centre of Milan’s defence to round keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and tap in.

While Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan tried to raise their tempo after the break — with Giacomo Bonaventura spooning an effort over the bar — Arsenal were largely unbothered as they limited the home side to half chances with a solid defensive effort.

With clear a two-away goal advantage, Arsenal will be heavy favourites ahead of the second leg that will be played at the Emirates next week.

This also comes as a brief respite for Wenger, who saw 88% of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust’s (AST) 1,000 members voting this week in favour of the 68-year-old Frenchman’s contract being terminated at the end of the season.

“Overall it is important to win, but it is not qualification. We have to finish the job at home. I am happy with the spirit and response we gave,” he said. “We were not in a position to take risks, but we could not be too cautious as you lose fluidity. We defended with resilience until the end.”

“We made too many mistakes,” said Gattuso. “We never played as a compact team and they deserved the win. Every time they attacked, they could have scored. Playing at this level is something new for our lads but there were too many mistakes.”

“In football, you never say never. We’ll go to London to try and win, we’re not going on an excursion.”

Quickfire Juventus double ends Spurs hope in Champions League

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Juventus produced two goals inside three second-half minutes to end any hope for Tottenham to progress in the Champions League by a 2-1 victory (4-3 on aggregate) in their last-16 match.

Spurs started with high-hopes nonetheless, with a goal following a scramble from Son Heung-Min strengthening the London club’s away goal advantage at Wembley.

They also saw both Son and Premier League top-striker Harry Kane wasting chances, while Juventus were denied a clear penalty when Douglas Costa was brought down by Jan Vertonghen.

But despite their control of proceedings, Sami Khedira’s flick was turned in through Gonzalo Higuain’s volley, giving Juventus a 64th-minute lifeline — which they capitalised on ruthlessly and Paulo Dybala raced clear for a decisive left-footed finish three minutes later.

It meant that Tottenham would get the undesirable record of being the third side out of 13 to have drawn 2-2 away from home in the first leg of the Champions League knockout stages to be eliminated — after Bayern Munich against AC Milan in 2007 and Porto against Manchester United in 2009.

Still, it gives testimony to Spurs’ ability as they scored 3 out of 4 goals Juventus conceded in 21 games, although the Italian champions were also unbeaten throughout the span of those games.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said he was “proud” of his side despite the end of his side’s European hopes.

“In less than three minutes we conceded two goals — two big mistakes — and that is why we are out,” he said. “In both legs we deserved more. We played fantastic football until that first goal and we dominated.”

“We are very disappointed, but it is part of growing. We will keep going.It was tough but very positive for the future. You need this type of game and experience to build you as a player to compete at this level.”

“They only came to our goal two or three times — not much — but they have quality so if you make a mistake they will score.”