Mourinho’s ‘Careful’ Tactics Are Boring

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho left Spain with a precious clean sheet but few admirers after the boring and less entertaining  0-0 Champions League draw with Sevilla that featured a terrible attacking display.

The night would have been a terrible one for Mourinho and United but for the heroics of goalkeeper David de Gea, who produced a dazzling display on Wednesday.

The Spaniard was forced into eight saves, including one remarkable stop from a point-blank Luis Muriel header just before half-time that was so spectacular the Colombian striker congratulated United’s number one as they left the pitch.

However, the result did not spare Mourinho from criticism, after he set his stall out from the start by leaving Paul Pogba on the bench for a workmanlike midfield three of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and 21-year-old Scott McTominay.

Injury to Herrera forced Mourinho to introduce Pogba after just 17 minutes but even the French midfielder’s talents, for which United paid Juventus £89 million ($124 million) 18 months ago, failed to inspire a visiting side playing to strict instructions.

A team also containing the attacking talents of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku had just one shot on target all evening at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium and even that was a tame McTominay strike from outside the box that was easily beaten away by Sergio Rico.

But Mourinho reacted angrily when asked whether he is betraying United’s rich tradition of attacking football, most recently during Alex Ferguson’s trophy-laden 27 years in charge.

“The next time I see David Beckham, I’m going to ask him ‘David, when you were playing right wing in Manchester United, when the left-back attacked, do you stay looking at the stands or you come back with the guy?’” said Mourinho.

“Now it looks like all the good players, they have to play free… which I think is such a stupid thing to say,” he added.

“The winning teams, the top teams in the world now, not 10 years ago, or 20 or 30, now, the top teams, everybody works, everybody has tactical discipline,” he said.

Mourinho was also irritated at the focus on the absence of Pogba from his starting line-up.

“In my pre-match interview I had four questions and three were about Paul, and Paul was not even playing,” he said. “That’s a bit strange.”

The United manager even hugged a TV reporter who asked him a question about McTominay, relieved it was not another about the French midfielder.

Sevilla, who conceded more goals than any other side that reached the last 16 of the Champions League, did not have their defensive weaknesses exposed by a cautious United team.

“Mourinho, look how hard it is to win when you don’t want to,” Spanish sports daily Marca headlined its match report, in a withering criticism of the former Real Madrid coach’s tactics.

It was a performance thrown into an even harsher light by the free-flowing attacking intent showed by Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on the road in the Champions League last week.

“Compared to other teams in our league in this competition they are not as pleasing on the eye,” said former United defender Rio Ferdinand.

“But they grind out results and in Europe I would be very satisfied with that and think ‘we will beat them at home’.

“Sometimes it can’t be pretty and it can’t always be free-flowing. There have been times this season United have played well but they aren’t as consistent in those performances of other teams.”

However, the tactics were in keeping with Mourinho’s cautious approach against the stronger sides away from home this season.

In trips to Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Sevilla, United have managed zero goals and a total of just seven shots on target.

That heaps the pressure on Mourinho to be far more daring with Chelsea and Liverpool visiting Old Trafford in the Premier League before the second leg against Sevilla on March 13 as he seeks to ensure qualification for next season’s Champions League.

Raheem Sterling’s Contract Extension Fails

Raheem Sterling’s future at Manchester City is under increasing looking unlikely as contract extension talks failed.

The England international has been one of the outstanding players  for Manchester city’s fantastic season scoring 20 goals for Pep Guardiola’s side.

But City are yet to extend his deal despite the fact he enters the final two years of his deal at the end of the season.

Sterling’s current deal is worth £180,000 per week but he can expect a sharp pay rise given his brilliant form this season.

But discussions over a new deal have not been forthcoming, news that has alerted Europe’s elite.

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has spoken publicly of his admiration of Sterling and could be interested this summer if the uncertainty over his future remains. All of the Premier League’s top clubs will also be interested in Sterling.

The 23-year-old has bolstered his reputation as one of Europe’s most potent attacking forces this season, making City’s failure to initiate talks all the more mysterious.

Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva have both negotiated and signed new contracts in recent months, yet Sterling has been forced to wait for his new deal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New World Record Thrills Nigerian Powerlifter

Nigeria’s reigning Paralympic and world champion Paul Kehinde  has expressed his joy a after setting a new world record in the men’s 65kg category at the 2018 Fazza World Para Powerlifting World Cup in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday.

Kehinde lifted 221kg to break the previous personal record of 220.5kg  he set at the 2017 World Para Powerlifting Championships in Mexico in November.

His first attempt was him lifting 210kg before breaking the world record in his second attempt with a lift of 221kg. He however was unable to stretch the record after he failed to lift 223kg in his third attempt.

The 29-year-old also holds the Paralympic Games record of 220kg in the category. Kehinde broke his 2016 record in Mexico before breaking it in Dubai.

The lifter told our correspondent online on Wednesday that he took  national coach Are Feyisetan’s  advice  him to believe in himself.

He said, “I’m very happy with my performance. I put God first in everything I do and I believe that is why I have been achieving these results.

“Coach Are and his wife also motivate me a lot. The coach is always telling us to believe in ourselves and that we can achieve anything despite our status. His words have always kept us going even when things are tough. Whatever I achieve, I owe to God, my teammates, coaches and Nigeria.”

The Nigerian was followed by Algeria’s Hocine Bettir, who lifted 178kg to win silver and Malaysia’s Bonnie Bunyau, who won bronze with a second lift of 155kg. (183kg).

Nigeria are joint first in the medals table with Jordan after winning three gold. Esther Oyema and Roland Ezuruike are the other gold medallists at the competition.

London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medallist Oyema won gold in the women’s 55kg after lifting 125kg while Paralympic and world championship gold medallist Ezuruike won gold in the men’s 54kg with a 192kg lift.

World champion and world record holder Folashade Oluwafemiayo competes in the women’s 86kg today.

Over 128 powerlifters from 30 countries are competing at the competition.

Russian Club SKA-Khabarovsk Signs Ex-Super Eagles Defender

Former Super Eagles defender Dele Adeleye has signed for a  Russian Premier League club FC SKA-Khabarovsk.

FC SKA-Khabarovsk made the announcement on their website yesterday but failed to disclose the contract duration.

The modest club currently at the rock bottom  in the 16 team Russian Premier League table with 12 points from 20 games.

Adeleye has been without a club since he was declared surplus to requirements by Kazakhstani outfit  Atkobe at the end of the  2015/2016 season.

The 29-year-old will hope to get his career back on track once again at the Russian club.

He has previously played for Russian clubs Anzhi Makhachkala and Rubin Krasnodar.

The former Shooting Stars player has also featured for clubs in the Netherlands, Ukraine and Greece.

He was  capped 10 times by Nigeria and was a member of the country’s  U-20 and U-23 sides that came second at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Netherlands in 2005 and the football  event of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

 

Winter Olympics: Seun, Ngozi Bow Proud 

Seun Adigun and  Ngozi Onwumere on Wednesday finished 20th in their bobsleigh event at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games  South Korea, after completing the four heats in 3:29.60.

They finished +7.15secs behind Germany’s winners  Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz,

Meanwhile,  Nigeria’s women’s bobsleigh team finished last but left with their heads held high after an emotional Olympic debut in the competition.

The plucky  Nigerians finished 20th in Pyeongchang, more than seven seconds behind gold medallists Germany in a sport where success and failure is measured in hundredths of a second.

But try telling that to Nigerian driver Seun and partner Ngozi  after a landmark appearance, cheered on by their families and a vocal pocket of Nigerian fans.

“It’s quite amazing, I’m overwhelmed with joy and overwhelmed with the idea of knowing that history was made and we gave everything we had to do it,” said Adigun, after bumping off several walls in a ragged final run.

“This was just one of those days that you can’t really describe,” she added. “Full of all kinds of emotions – full of relief, full of history.”

No African nation has won a winter medal but the Nigerian women plan to try again at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

“By God’s grace you will see Nigeria in Beijing,” said the Texas-based Adigun, after failing to improve on Tuesday’s personal best.

“We did everything we could. People are super-stoked back in Nigeria. We just pray all of our resilience does foster into some future athletes.”

Onwumere, who was a late replacement after Akuoma Omeoga fell ill overnight, added,  “I can only express myself with tears, just because it’s been a long road and finally we’ve completed it. I can only imagine how it is back home in Nigeria.”

The Germans won gold after Mariama Jamanka steered her partner Lisa Buckwitz their country’s first success in the event since 2006.

There was a gulf in class between Nigeria and Jamaica and the top three of Germany, the United States and Canada. But it mattered little to the tailenders.

Thirty years after the Jamaican men’s bobsleigh team took the world by storm at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, it was the turn of a hardy trio of women from the tiny Caribbean island to launch themselves down an icy chute at breakneck speeds.

“Cool Runnings” the re-run ended Wednesday with Jamaica finishing 19th as they became the first women from their country to compete at the Winter Olympics.

Martins Relishes First Goal In The Asian Champions League For Shanghai Shenhua

Obafemi Martins has scored his first goal in the Asian Champion League for Shanghai Shenhua who played a 2-2 draw at home with Sydney Fc

The game was Shanghai Shenhua’s second draw in the competition after they opened their group game away to Kashima Antlers with a 1-1 draw.

Nigerian international Martins opened the score sheet  for the Chinese FA Cup winners in the 26th minute of the encounter before Luke Wilkshire leveled scores two minutes later.

Alex Brosque made it 2-1 for Sydney FC in the 34th minute but Freddy Guarin earned Shanghai Shenhua a share of the spoils six minutes before half time.

In the other group game Suwon Bluewings lost 2-1 to Kashima Antlers.

Kashima Antlers lead the group with four points and they are followed closely by Suwon Bluewings with three points while Shanghai Shenhua are third.

Sydney occupy bottom place with one point.

Shanghai Shenhua will take on Suwon Bluewings in their next game away on the 7th March.

 

Ivanka Trump, North Korean General, To Attend Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony

The daughter of the President of the United States, Ivanka will be attending the Winter Olympics closing ceremony in the south this weekend with a top North Korean general also in attendance.

Recall that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dispatched his sister Kim Yo Jong to the opening ceremony — which US Vice President Mike Pence also attended — and during her visit she extended an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to come to a summit in Pyongyang.

The family connections will be reversed at Sunday’s closing ceremony. The White House said Donald Trump had asked his eldest daughter — who is also one of his top advisers — to travel to Pyeongchang to lead up a “high level delegation”.

The 36-year-old businesswoman and former model will be joined by press secretary Sarah Sanders and is going in part because “she is something of a winter sports enthusiast”, an official said.

The North will send an eight-member delegation Sunday headed by Kim Yong Chol, a top general who oversees inter-Korean relations for the ruling Workers’ Party, Seoul’s unification ministry said in a statement.

Kim Yong Chol’s presence is a demonstration of how Pyongyang is testing the limits of the multiple different sanctions imposed on it over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

The general is blacklisted under Seoul’s unilateral sanctions against the North — meaning he is subject to an assets freeze — although he is not named in the UN Security Council’s measures.

He is believed to have once led the North’s spying agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and to have ordered a deadly torpedo attack on the South’s corvette Cheonan in 2010 that left 46 sailors dead.

Seoul blamed the North for the attack but Pyongyang denied involvement.

South Korea’s defence ministry has also linked him to the shelling of its Yeonpyeong island the same year, which killed four people.

Moon dinner
The Games have seen a flurry of cross-border visits and diplomacy on the habitually tense peninsula, where strains were racked up last year as the North conducted a battery of weapons tests and its leader Kim Jong Un exchanged personal insults and threats of war with Trump.

Moon — who did not immediately accept the invitation to go to the North — has been trying to use what Seoul promotes as a “peace Olympics” to defuse tensions and open a door for dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.

But at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, Kim Yo Jong sat just a few seats away from US Vice President Mike Pence, who did not exchange a word with her at any point.

Pence had earlier denounced the North’s “murderous regime”, and according to US officials the North Koreans later cancelled a meeting that had been scheduled for the day after the Games’ opening.

Ivanka Trump is scheduled to have dinner with Moon on Friday, and Yonhap news agency cited the presidential Blue House as saying he was also likely to meet Pyongyang’s delegation during its three-day trip.

But a senior administration official ruled out any possible meeting between Ivanka and officials from North Korea, and a Seoul government source also said such an encounter was unlikely.

Pyongyang has used the Games to try to soften its image in the international community and push for talks with Seoul — which would lessen the possibility of a US military strike, touted as an option by Trump administration officials.

But North-South discussions would have a limited impact on wider tensions, said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert and a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul.

“The major problem is between North Korea and the United States,” he told AFP. “Therefore, no amount of talks between North and the South… is going to change anything significantly.”

Washington has sought to project resolve in the face of a growing threat from the North — which has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland and last year carried out its most powerful nuclear blast to date.

The US insists it will persist with its campaign of “maximum pressure and engagement”, and has repeatedly sought to underscore the importance of a troubled alliance with Seoul.

 

United Reveals Worry  About Herrera’s Injury

Jose Mourinho fears Ander Herrera has a “bad injury” after the Spanish midfielder limped off the pitch  in thefirst half of Wednesday’s game against Sevilla. The match ended in a goalless draw

Herrera hadn’t featured in United’s previous three matches  due to a muscle injury before being recalled for the last 16, first leg at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

He was replaced by Pogba after 17 minutes of action.

“I think it’s a bad injury. He had a small injury that stopped him for the last couple of matches, but the medical department gave him 100 percent ready for last Saturday,” said Mourinho after the game in Spain.

“We didn’t play him to give him more work and more protection but it looks like he wasn’t fully fit.”

Mourinho added: “He looked fit and the way he was playing during the time he was on the pitch — he was pressing a lot, really high — you only do that when you feel good.

“Then it was a back-heel and a back-heel creates a contraction in the muscular area where he had the biggest problem, and now we have proof that he was not 100 percent fit.”

United were reliant on some fine David de Gea saves to leave the Sanchez Pizjuan with a draw, but the result leaves the tie wide open ahead of the return at Old Trafford next month.

“We have to decide it at Old Trafford,” Mourinho added.

“Last season we had Europa League knockout games there which obviously is not the same.

“In previous years we were out in the group phase, so Old Trafford needs a big Champions League night.”

Mourinho Praises Mc Tominay

Jose Mourinho hailed Scott McTominay as “fantastic” in response to his decision to select the young midfielder ahead of Pogba In the Champions League round of 16 away in Spain.

Pogba was left out of the starting eleven in the goalless draw with Mourinho apparently unhappy with the French who  withdrew from last weekend’s FA Cup win at Huddersfield Town due to illness.

That followed Mourinho speaking out against  Pogba’s recent  poor performances, with the Portuguese making a statement by selecting McTominay, 21, alongside Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic in midfield.

Mourinho later complained that there had been too much focus on Pogba before and after the match, and not enough on a player making his second Champions League start.

“In my pre-match interview I had four questions and three were about Paul, and Paul was not even playing. That’s a bit strange,” he said.

“If I was one of you (journalists), I would ask if the Manchester United manager agrees that Scott McTominay had a fantastic performance, and my answer would be that yes, he had a fantastic performance.

“He looked a senior player, a player with great maturity. Scott probably looked like a man with dozens and dozens of matches in the Champions League when this is only the second (start).”

Pogba played most of the game anyway, being sent on after just 17 minutes when injury forced Herrera off.

The French star played his part in a typically cautious, backs-to-the-wall away European performance from Mourinho’s side. But, tellingly, he later refused to stop for journalists in the mixed zone of the Sanchez Pizjuan.

“Paul made a big effort to try to give the team what I asked of them,” insisted Mourinho.

“He gave us stability. For a match away to Sevilla we had a good percentage of the ball, and I think Paul had responsibility for that.”

Chelsea’s Willian Sure Of Champions League Progress

Chelsea’s Willian is confident Antonio Conte’s side can pull a surprise victory in Barcelona after he came close to upstaging Argentine superstar Lionel Messi in their Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge.

Nine years on from a hugely controversial semi-final between the clubs, Andres Iniesta and Messi again did the collaboration for  the Catalans  which ended the first leg of the last-16 tie on a draw giving Barcelona a upper hand in qualification.

These time roles were reversed for Barca’s two all-time greats, with Iniesta providing the pass for Messi to score his first goal in nine attempts against Chelsea after capitalising on a mistake from 21-year-old centre-back Andreas Christensen.

It is not as fatal a blow as when Iniesta fired a late goal into the top corner from Messi’s calm cut-back in 2009 in a match that famously saw the hosts have four penalty appeals waved away by Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo.

But Conte says his side will need to do “something incredible” in Catalonia in three weeks’ time to progress.

The Italian was left to rue a case of what might have been. His tactical plan to sit deep, cede possession and hit Barca with the pace of goalscorer Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro Rodriguez worked a treat for 75 minutes.

Despite flashes of brilliance, in particular when one slaloming first-half run left Antonio Rudiger tackling thin air, there was always one Chelsea body too many between Messi and the goal for the Argentine to get through.

Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic compared Chelsea’s tactics to a handball team, huddled around the edge of their area.

– Willian outshines Hazard –

But Messi had the final word as Barcelona capitalised on a rare Chelsea defensive error, scoring his first goal against the west Londoners to equalise Willian’s second-half goal with 15 minutes to go.

Hazard had spoken on the eve of the game about having to do more in Europe’s premier club competition to justify comparisons with the five-time World Player of the Year and his eternal Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Instead, it was Willian who shone brightest. The Brazilian sent Barca two huge warnings before the break of his threat from range as he beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen to his right and then his left, only to see both efforts come back off the post.

He finally broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute, arrowing a low shot past the Barcelona goalkeeper following a short corner.

Willian saw enough in Chelsea’s performance at Stamford Bridge to suggest they can upset the odds in the second leg.

“In a difficult game we played very well,” he told the club’s website. “We had to stay compact, we had a plan and we did exactly as we expected.

“They had the ball and we expected to counter-attack, and we could win this game. But we did not and the result is still open, we have to go there and try to win.

“Barcelona had more possession but they did not create more dangerous chances to score. We can go there and make the game.

“To play in the Nou Camp is totally different and we have to go there with the same mentality and try to win the game.”

Conte gave a glowing assessment of the 29-year-old Brazilian’s performance.

“Willian has the potential to play this type of game in any game. I hope that to see this type of performance for a long time,” said Conte of a player who has not always been first-choice this season.

 

“When you play this way, the coach doesn’t have a doubt and you play.”

Russia Pays $15m Doping Fine To The Olympic Body

Russia has paid the $15 million it was fined in December when it was suspended by the International Olympic Committee for mass doping.

“The fine has been paid,” the source said.

The payment of the fine by the Russian Olympic Committee is one of the IOC’s key criteria in deciding whether to lift Russia’s suspension before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday.

The IOC barred Russia from the Olympics on December 5 after allegations that it had organised a huge system of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where hosts Russia topped the medals table.

A team of 168 Russian athletes deemed to have proved they are “clean” have been allowed to compete in Pyeongchang under the banner Olympic Athletes from Russia.

But Russia was embarrassed by the positive drugs test for curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky — one of the competitors who was extensively screened before he was allowed to attend the Games.

His case is due to be heard in a special session of the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday.

Krushelnitsky, who tested positive for the endurance booster meldonium, has denied knowingly taking the substance and says he is in “shock” at the result.