Monthly Archives: March 2018

Gabriel Jesus scores for Brazil and ends Germany’s unbeaten streak

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Gabriel Jesus scored Brazil as the South American nation defeated Germany by 1-0 in Berlin to end the hosts’ 22-game unbeaten run.

For some, it may also restore some lost pride for the five-time world champions following the humiliating mismatch between the two sides in their previous meeting, when Germany crushed the hosts by 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup semi-final in Belo Horizonte.

It also meant that Joachim Low’s side, the reigning world champions and the team top of the world rankings, lost for the first time since a 2-0 defeat by France in the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Gabriel Jesus’s first-half header settled the friendly seven minutes before the interval when the goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp, flapped at his powerful but centrally positioned header and allowed the ball go in.

Jesus had also missed a good chance minutes earlier when he left two Germany defenders sprawling on a counterattack and then fired over with only the goalkeeper to beat.

On the other side of the pitch, Ilkay Gundogan had the home side’s best chance when he mishit the ball after Julian Draxler pulled it back.

There was also a contentious moment in the game as the referee, Jonas Eriksson, asked the Brazil captain, Dani Alves, to calm his players down after Toni Kroos felt the effect of yet another robust challenge.

Despite their lead, Brazil emerged with more intent after the break, with Antonio Rüdiger blocking Willian and Paulinho drawing a good save from Trapp off the rebound, before Philippe Coutinho fired just over.

The Barcelona forward was also denied when Joshua Kimmich produced a vital interception, and Jesus missed an open goal from the resultant corner.

As the game later, Sandro Wagner twice headed good chances wide but that was as close as Germany got as Brazil adopted a 6-3-1 formation to protect their lead.

West Ham captain Mark Noble urges unity amongst club fans

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West Ham’s Mark Noble has written an open letter to fans pleading for unity after disturbances at their last home match against Burnley.

Angry fans invaded the pitch and congregated below the directors’ box to protest against the club’s owners David Gold and David Sullivan, with the latter reportedly being struck by a coin.

Noble, 30, confronted a supporter who went on to the pitch during the 3-0 loss at London Stadium on 10 March. “We need everyone to be together,” he wrote in a letter published on the club’s website.

The Hammers captain added that the scenes in the match against Burnley was “one of my toughest days in nearly 20 years at West Ham, and I never want to see scenes like that again”.

Further protests has been planned outside the ground before Saturday’s match, but Noble urged fans to get behind the team during the game or face the prospect of dropping into the Championship.

“We need you all, full-stop, and we cannot perform to our best and win the matches we need to win without you. When you are on song, there really are no supporters better at inspiring their team than West Ham supporters,” he said.

“I can understand the frustrations some of you are feeling. This season has not gone how we’d all hoped it would, but I would ask you to channel your passion to get behind the team, help us get through the season with our Premier League status intact, and we can sit down and reassess things in the summer.”

“We need the London Stadium to be buzzing for our five remaining home games, so please unite behind the lads and give us the best possible chance to deliver the results we need to stay up.”

West Ham are 17th in the Premier League, one place and two points above Southampton and the relegation zone, with eight games remaining.

Their next Premier League home match, against Southampton this Saturday will be the first since that defeat, after 20 fans were given life bans by the club.

Sampaoli: Argentina coach claims Messi is hurt by World Cup pressure

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Argentina national team coach Jorge Sampaoli feels that Lionel Messi is unable to enjoy outings for his country with expectations so high, with the World Cup become “a revolver put to his head” and placeing unnecessary damaging pressure upon his shoulders.

Messi is yet to claim major silverware at senior international level has only been able to reach finals of the Copa America and World Cup, although he will have another opportunity to get his hands on the most elusive of prizes in Russia this summer.

Sampaoli believes expectation levels placed upon Messi, are already spiralling out of control in his book to be published in April, which “Viva”, Clarin’s Sunday magazine has been running snippets.

“Messi has a revolver put to his head called the World Cup and if he doesn’t win it, he’s shot and killed,” one of the snippets read. “As a result, he can’t enjoy his talent. What I find is that the negativity surrounding international football damages Messi.”

Still, Sampaoli concedes that he is working with a special talent.

“At this moment, I feel that I’m coaching the best player in history,” he added. “This is a guy who has stayed as the best in the world for 10 years. It’s difficult to assume a level of control when your leader knows he’s better than you, he executes things like nobody else.”

The former Sevilla coach has previously suggested that football owes Messi a World Cup win — given all that he has done for the game — but he is also aware that it will take a collective effort in Russia if Argentina are to emerge victorious.

“You have to find the best players and put them in their best position,” he said. “Leo has to play like he does for his club, to put him into another structure is madness.”

“Against Ecuador I was a bit strong in my tone suggesting that football owed Messi a World Cup, however I knew he was going to appear for us at the vital moments.”

Messi, who is suffering from muscle fatigue in a hamstring and adductor muscle at the moment, would miss Argentina’s game against Spain after the injury already ruled him out of the 2-0 win over Italy last Friday night.

Ronaldo scores brace in injury-time to lift Portugal over Egypt

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored two stoppage-time headers as Portugal rallied from behind to win 2-1 against Egypt, who had taken the lead though Mohamed Salah’s second-half strike, in a match billed as a stage for two of Europe’s current top strikers.

After a tame first half, Salah, who scored 28 Premier League goals this season so far, brought his superb domestic form to the international arena during a lively showing, and opened the scoring in the 56th minute with a sharp left-footed finish from the edge of the area.

Indeed, Egypt had looked superb and displayed defensive discipline under Argentine coach Hector Cuper as they looked primed to hold on for a famous victory until Ronaldo’s late intervention.

The Real Madrid star first met a Ricardo Quaresma cross in the 92nd minute to head home past the previously excellent Ahmed El-Shenawy, who fumbled the ball over his line.

Not content with that, he added a second just moments later when he rose again to divert a free kick from Quaresma into the far corner, and sealed the win.

The crowd, who were keen for a restart to equalize, were annoyed and jeered as there was initial confusion when the match referee consulted the video assistant referee (VAR) system for a possible offside before allowing Portugal’s second goal.

With the brace, Ronaldo moved into third place all-time with 81 international goals — past Japan’s Kunishige Kamamoto and behind only Iran’s Ali Daei (109) and Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas (84).

The former Manchester United star has also made it 43 goals in 40 appearances this season as Portugal laid down a marker before the World Cup, with 23 of those coming from his last 12 games.