What Next For Chelsea After Boehly Group Win Battle To Succeed Abramovich

In this file photo taken on May 03, 2015, Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich (3L) attends the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in London. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

Chelsea have some clarity after an uncertain few months with the consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly set to buy the Premier League giants.

The Boehly group, which includes fellow Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss and US investment firm Clearlake Capital have committed to a deal worth £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion), a record for a sports club.

A sum of £1.75 billion is earmarked for future investment in the club with the other £2.5 billion frozen due to the sanctions imposed on current owner Roman Abramovich.

The Russian oligarch has insisted his intention is for all of the proceeds to be donated to victims of the war in Ukraine.

The sale brings to an end Abramovich’s 19-year reign during which the Blues have enjoyed unparallelled success.

Chelsea won five Premier League titles and two Champions League among 19 major trophies.

But the Abramovich era was brought down by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as he was sanctioned by the UK government for his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

AFP Sport looks at the job that lies ahead for the future Chelsea owners.

READ ALSOMbappe’s Mother Denies He Has Agreed Deal To Stay At PSG

Stadium redevelopment

The bulk of the future financial commitment to the club is expected to go on redeveloping Stamford Bridge into a stadium worthy of one of Europe’s elite clubs.

Abramovich shelved plans for a £1 billion redevelopment in 2018 during another dispute with the UK government over his visa.

Stamford Bridge’s 42,000 capacity lags well behind Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.

Spurs’ £1 billion home, completed in 2019, has become a sporting hub in the English capital, hosting major boxing, rugby and NFL events, as well as concerts and conferences.

Boehly’s track record of both sporting success and stadium redevelopment at the Dodgers gave his bid credibility to go with the major funding behind it.

Investment in the stadium was reportedly a key part of the consortium’s pitch to American bank Raine, who oversaw the sales process.

A larger ground will also be part of the long-term strategy to drive revenue and recoup their huge outlay to buy the European champions.

Stabilise the squad

Chelsea have been operating under a special licence for the past two months since sanctions were levied on Abramovich.

Due to the restrictions applied, the Blues were not allowed to offer new contracts or sign new players.

Defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are set to leave on free transfers at the end of the season and will need to be replaced.

Abramovich’s lavish spending means he leaves behind a very competitive squad.

Just a year ago, Chelsea beat Manchester City to win the Champions League and are on course to finish in the Premier League top four.

With clarity over their future, the club can now work towards assembling a squad to challenge City and Liverpool for the title next season.

“When the situation is clear you can take actions, make judgements,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel on Friday.

Get fan support

Much to the dismay of politicians, Abramovich’s name was still chanted by Chelsea fans following the sanctions thanks to the success he had bankrolled over the past two decades.

Winning will be the quickest way into the hearts of the Chelsea faithful for the new ownership, but there are other pitfalls to be avoided.

There are fears that to see a return on their investment, the deeply unpopular European Super League could be revived for the guaranteed income it sought to provide.

Fans have also taken issue with American ownership of other Premier League clubs.

Protests have been a common occurence outside Old Trafford this season with Manchester United supporters furious at the dividends taken out of the club by the Glazer family during a decade of decline.

Fenway Sports Group have enjoyed much greater success reviving the fortunes of Liverpool, but have also been pressured into climbdowns on ticket prices and signing up to the Super League by fan fury.

AFP

Mikel Arteta Eyes ‘Next Level’ After Signing New Arsenal Deal

In this file photo,  Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta (L) and Arsenal’s English goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale (2nd L) celebrate their win in the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 26, 2021. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Mikel Arteta wants to take Arsenal to the “next level” after signing a new three-year contract that will keep him at the Premier League club until 2025.

The 40-year-old, who took charge in 2019 following the dismissal of Unai Emery, is close to leading Arsenal back into the Champions League after a five-year absence.

The Gunners are fourth in the Premier League table, two points clear of north London rivals Tottenham with just four games to go.

“We want to take the club to the next level and to compete really with the top teams. In order to do that, we have to be playing in the Champions League,” Arteta said in a club statement.

“We have to be able to evolve the team, improve our players, improve all departments, generate even more connection with our fans, improve the atmosphere at the Emirates, be able to recruit top, top talent and the best people for this club to drive this project to that level.”

READ ALSOMbappe’s Mother Denies He Has Agreed Deal To Stay At PSG

In this file photo, Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta holds the winner’s trophy as the team celebrates victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP)

 

Arteta, who won the FA Cup during his first year in charge at the Emirates, has steered Arsenal back towards the top of the table after their worst start to a season for decades.

The Spaniard was facing calls for his sacking back in September but he has been rewarded for keeping faith with his young players as well as cutting ties with club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who moved to Barcelona in January.

Arsenal have enjoyed impressive recent wins over Manchester United and Chelsea to take control of fourth place but face a potentially decisive derby against Spurs next week.

Arteta, whose team host struggling Leeds on Sunday, revealed at his pre-match press conference that he was offered the new contract after Arsenal suffered successive defeats against Crystal Palace, Brighton, and Southampton last month.

The former Gunners midfielder took that as a sign of how committed the club were to him.

“The club offered me the contract when we lost three matches,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in football.

“That’s a part of what they think, the conversations that I had, the belief that they have in myself, the coaching staff, in what we are doing, and the people that we have now owning this football club and leading this football club.”

Arteta hopes the new deal will prove a boost to his squad as they battle to return to the Champions League.

“They thought the best moment was to do it right now, to give a final push to the team, to give some clarity about what we have to do in the summer, in the future,” he said.

Arsenal women’s manager, Jonas Eidevall, whose side are challenging for the Women’s Super League title, has signed a new deal taking him to the end of the 2023/24 season.

AFP

Liverpool Rally To Beat Villarreal, Reach Champions League Final

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (R) celebrates with teammate Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League semi final second leg football match between Liverpool and Villarreal CF at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on May 3, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (R) celebrates with teammate Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League semi final second leg football match between Liverpool and Villarreal CF at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on May 3, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool held off a stirring comeback from Villarreal to reach the Champions League final on Tuesday as second-half goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane secured a 5-2 aggregate victory.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Villarreal sparked hopes of a remarkable turnaround in the return at the Estadio de la Ceramica after Boulaye Dia finished in the third minute and Francis Coquelin headed in another to level the tie at 2-2.

But Jurgen Klopp threw on Diaz for Diogo Jota at the interval to shake Liverpool into life and it worked, the visitors scoring three times in 12 minutes to kill off Villarreal’s revival and advance to their third Champions League final in five years.

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Liverpool will await the winner of Real Madrid and Manchester City, who play their second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, with City leading 4-3 from the opener last week.

Either City or Madrid will offer a sterner test than Villarreal, but after a chastening experience at Anfield last week, Unai Emery’s side delivered a spirited performance that rattled Liverpool and showed why they knocked out both Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach the semi-finals.

Liverpool were careless, perhaps complacent even, in the first half but sensational in the second, finding an intensity and pace Villarreal were simply unable to match.

Diaz, who started on the bench but was integral to the fightback, was excellent again and may soon be an automatic starter for Klopp.

A banner draped behind the Villarreal goal at one end read “90 minutes from our dream” while before kick-off the stadium announcer shouted “it’s possible, the comeback is possible!”

And if anyone inside the ground was still sceptical they were given an early injection of belief in the third minute as Pervis Estupinan swung in a cross from the left to Etienne Capoue at the back post.

Under pressure from Andy Robertson, Capoue skewed his finish horizontally, landing perfectly for the arriving Dia to sidefoot in.

Liverpool occasionally threatened on the break, with Mohamed Salah rolling Estupinan down the left and feeding Jota in the middle but Geronimo Rulli was quick to rush out and claw the ball away.

But Liverpool lacked their usual control and precision, with Alisson Becker booting the ball into touch before Naby Keita’s misplaced pass back to his own defence almost resulted in Giovani Lo Celso earning a penalty.

The second goal came four minutes before half-time as Pau Torres launched a long ball from deep for Capoue to run onto.

Capoue’s first touch cannoned away from him but he recovered, controlling and twisting away from Robertson before hanging up a superb cross with his left foot to the back post, where Coquelin climbed above Trent Alexander-Arnold and headed in.

Smarting

The half-time whistle prompted huge cheers from the home fans, whose team were level in the tie, and a change from Klopp as Diaz replaced Jota.

Liverpool looked like a team smarting from a scolding after the break. They were rushing now to take throw-ins, eager to find the intensity they had previously lacked.

Alexander-Arnold’s deflected shot from distance looped onto the crossbar. Diaz volleyed over at the back post. And then Fabinho fired in, latching onto a Salah pass and shooting early through the legs of Rulli, who seemed to have expected the cross.

This was a more familiar Liverpool, hitting a level Villarreal could not match, and five minutes later they scored a second, restoring their two-goal advantage on aggregate.

Alexander-Arnold was given too much space on the right and floated a cross into the area where Diaz, off-balance, aimed an excellent header down and in.

Seven minutes later, Liverpool delivered the final blow, as Rulli rushed out to close down a launched ball forward but failed to get there first.

Mane sprinted clear and rolled into an open net before Capoue was sent off, earning a second yellow card with six minutes left.

AFP

 

Champions League Win Would ‘Change Narrative’ Around City – De Bruyne

Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, at the Etihad Stadium, in Manchester, on April 26, 2022.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

 

Kevin De Bruyne says winning the Champions League would “change the narrative” around Manchester City as they prepare for the second leg of their semi-final against Real Madrid.

Pep Guardiola goes into Wednesday’s match in Spain with a 4-3 lead after a thrilling first leg, seeking to reach the final for the second consecutive season.

City have been the dominant force in English football over the past decade but have never been crowned European champions despite the transformation of the club under their wealthy Abu Dhabi owners.

Belgium international De Bruyne said winning the trophy would “change the perspective from outside” Premier League leaders City, who lost last year’s final to Chelsea.

“As a player, you want to win the trophies and you want this one,” he said at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

“I think the fact that we’ve been fighting for it for numerous years and been to the latter stages means we’ve been doing really well.”

The 30-year-old added: “Obviously, it’s a cup competition and the quality is very high so it’s very, very difficult to win it and there are different circumstances that happen.

“But if you look back at the way we have performed, or I have performed with the team for seven years, we’ve done really well. But obviously we haven’t won it and I think winning it would change that little narrative.”

Guardiola said his side would probably have to improve on their first-leg performance against the newly crowned Spanish champions to reach a likely final against Liverpool in Paris.

“At the same time I would like to tell you one thing — we could play much, much worse than we played and we could win, and not anyone can deny my assessment is right,” he said.

“So nobody knows, football is unpredictable. Sometimes you get something you don’t deserve, sometimes you don’t get something maybe you deserve, for the effort, for many things.”

Defender Kyle Walker could make a return at the Bernabeu against the 13-time European champions after missing the past five matches with an ankle injury.

Walker is back in training and Guardiola confirmed he would travel before a late decision is made but fellow defender John Stones remains sidelined.

Ronaldo Scores As Man United Record Morale-Boosting Win Against Brentford

Ronaldo: Source: [email protected] Utd

 

Manchester United took the sting out of their fans’ latest protest against the Glazer family as they eased to a 3-0 win against Brentford on Monday.

Ahead of a summer of change for troubled United, Ralf Rangnick’s side won for just the second time in seven games to keep the atmosphere from turning toxic at Old Trafford.

Bruno Fernandes struck early in the first half and Cristiano Ronaldo converted a second half penalty before France defender Raphael Varane bagged his first goal for United.

Despite winning their last home game of the season, United remain in sixth place in the Premier League with two games left.

They sit five points adrift of the top four with no realistic hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Fittingly, it was under grey, rain-filled skies that fans protested against despised owners the Glazers for a third successive home match.

Outside the stadium before kick-off, a group of supporters held up anti-Glazer banners, set off red smoke bombs and made offensive chants about the club’s owners.

United fans had been urged by the protesters to leave the stadium with 17 minutes left in the match — one minute for every year the United States-based Glazers have owned the club.

But that idea proved a damp squib as only a handful left their seats.

There were more empty seats by the time United embarked on a post-match lap of appreciation, but no overt signs of dissent towards their underachieving stars.

“In possession that was one of our best performances this year. It was the type of performance we wanted to show to our supporters,” Rangnick said.

Regardless, there is no doubting the overall level of frustration at another trophyless season for United, who haven’t won the Premier League since 2013 and last lifted a major trophy five years ago.

 ‘Lacked Consistency’ 

Aside from a few scathing comments about the club’s direction, Rangnick has done little to jolt United out of their malaise since replacing the sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.

“In the end I’m not happy with the results, especially in the last four or five weeks. In general we have lacked consistency,” Rangnick said.

“It’s obvious quite a few players will leave and there is a need for top quality players.

“Other clubs only needed two or three transfer windows to challenge. I strongly believe that if everyone works together we can bring Man Utd back to where we need to be.”

Rangnick was in charge of his last home game as United interim manager before the recently-hired Erik ten Hag arrives from Ajax to start his rebuilding job next season.

After such a wretched run, United needed a fast start to lift the gloom a little and they took just nine minutes to go in front.

Anthony Elanga beat Brentford’s offside trap as he raced onto Diogo Dalot’s pass.

He reached the ball just before it went out for a goal-kick and whipped a superb cross towards Fernandes, who volleyed home from six yards for his first league goal since February.

After several listless displays, this was a more energetic effort from United and Juan Mata fired narrowly wide from Ronaldo’s flamboyant pass.

Ronaldo won a penalty in the 60th minute as he powered past Rico Henry and was crudely barged to the turf by the Brentford defender.

Picking himself up, Ronaldo sent David Raya the wrong way from the spot.

The Portugal striker has scored nine of United’s last 11 league goals, taking his tally for the season to 24 in all competitions.

With the United fans’ much-hyped walk-out just seconds away, Varane volleyed the third goal from a corner in the 72nd minute.

That appeared to take the sting out of the revolt, with Mata and Nemanja Matic — both likely to leave in the close-season — departing to standing ovations when they were substituted.

It was a rare feelgood moment in a season of strife at Old Trafford.

AFP

Villarreal Playing For More Than Pride Against Liverpool, Says Emery

In this file photo, Villarreal’s Spanish coach Unai Emery gestures during the UEFA Champions League first-round group F football match between Villarreal CF and BSC Young Boys at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on November 2, 2021. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Unai Emery insisted on Monday Villarreal are not playing for pride but believe they can beat Liverpool and still reach the Champions League final, despite their 2-0 defeat in the first leg last week.

Villarreal were undone by two goals in two minutes in the second half at Anfield as Liverpool took a giant step towards making their third Champions League final in five years.

But Emery is adamant that Villarreal, who knocked out Juventus in the last 16 and Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, can still turn the tie around at La Ceramica on Tuesday.

“In the first leg, they were better but tomorrow we are not just playing for pride, we are playing to win,” said Emery in a press conference.

“Liverpool this season have not lost a game by more than two goals so we will have to play a perfect match, to be outstanding in everything we do. We’ll have to find more of their weaknesses.”

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Villarreal sit seventh in La Liga but, after winning the Europa League last season, have raised their game in the Champions League.

“There are several things that change from the first leg,” said Emery. “Coming back from 2-0 is very difficult but it benefits us that away goals don’t count for double. It’s like a normal game. And the home advantage was very important there at Anfield. Here, at our own stadium, we want that too.”

Emery said Villarreal’s star striker Gerard Moreno, who missed the first leg through injury, trained with the squad on Monday but Arnaut Danjuma is struggling with a foot problem, while Yeremy Pino and Alberto Moreno are both out.

“We know what’s at stake,” said Villarreal defender Pau Torres. “We have prepared well, we are a better Villarreal than we were last week. We have our plan, we know what we have to do, we have our fans on our side.

“We have seen a very strong Villarreal this season at home in very important games so we know what we have to do.”

AFP

Liverpool Beat Villarreal In Champions League Semi-Final First Leg

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane scores his team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match against Villarreal at the Anfield Stadium, in Liverpool, on April 27, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Liverpool are on the brink of a third Champions League final in five seasons after breaking Villarreal’s resistance to win the first leg of their semi-final 2-0 at Anfield on Wednesday.

Two goals in two minutes undid Villarreal boss Unai Emery’s defensive game plan as Pervis Estupinan deflected Jordan Henderson’s cross into his own net before Sadio Mane slotted in a second.

The Reds remain on course for an unprecedented quadruple of Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, and League Cup.

And barring a huge upset when the sides meet again in southern Spain in six days’ time, Liverpool’s season will finish in Paris on May 28.

The population of Villarreal would fit inside Anfield but the 3,000 travelling support did their best to match the noise of the home support early on.

In stark contrast to the free-flowing thrills of Manchester City’s 4-3 win over Real Madrid in the other semi-final on Tuesday, Emery’s men followed the same tactic that saw them past Juventus and Bayern Munich by retreating behind the ball.

However, the Yellow Submarine could barely lay a glove on Jurgen Klopp’s men as Liverpool just had to bide their time to make their dominance count.

The Reds have now scored 135 goals this season but were held scoreless in a frustrating first 45 minutes.

Mane headed wide Mohamed Salah’s pinpoint cross with the best opening.

The Senegalese also saw a deflected effort fly just wide and Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli escaped unpunished with some sloppy handling from a number of speculative efforts.

Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Fabinho scores past Villarreal’s Argentinian goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli but it will be cancelled due to an offside position during their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match at the Anfield Stadium, in Liverpool, on April 27, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Another long-range strike was the closest Liverpool came to breaking the deadlock before the break as Thiago Alcantara’s sweet strike clipped the post.

The six-time European champions started the second half at a higher tempo and quickly began to punch holes in Villarreal’s rearguard.

Fabinho’s goal was ruled out for offside against Virgil van Dijk in the build-up.

Moments later, Anfield erupted as the error-prone Rulli finally cost the Spaniards with a feeble attempt at parrying Henderson’s deflected cross.

The last thing the visitors could afford was the floodgates opening, but they were powerless to stop the waves of Liverpool attacks.

Salah was the architect with a perfectly weighted pass for Mane to prod past Rulli on 55 minutes.

The offside flag came to Villarreal’s rescue once more to rule out Andy Robertson’s strike.

Emery was hailed the “king of the cups” by Klopp for his stunning Europa League record, with one of his four triumphs in that competition coming as Sevilla boss against the German during his first season at Liverpool in 2016.

However, Liverpool are a different beast six years on and the limitations of a side sitting seventh in La Liga were shown up as they struggled to mount any sort of response to going behind.

Luis Diaz smashed across the face of goal as Liverpool threatened to kill the tie off with a third.

The English giants had to settle for a two-goal advantage, but they are yet to lose by a two-goal margin in 55 matches this season.

Man United Top-Four Hopes Unrealistic, Says Rangnick

In this file photo, Manchester United German Interim head coach Ralf Rangnick looks on during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on December 27, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

 

Ralf Rangnick said on Wednesday that Manchester United must face up to the reality their top-four hopes have likely disappeared as they prepare to take on Chelsea this week without a swathe of key players.

Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho have joined the Red Devils’ lengthy list of absentees for Thursday’s rearranged Premier League clash with Thomas Tuchel’s team.

United are returning to Old Trafford wounded by back-to-back losses at Liverpool and Arsenal, which have all but ended any faint hopes of reaching next season’s Champions League.

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“I don’t think it makes sense now to still speak and speculate about the Champions League,” United interim manager Rangnick told a press conference.

“We need to be realistic.

“Even if we win all four games, it’s still not in our own hands. But what is in our own hands is the way that we play, the level of performance.

“Even for the next season it’s important to finish this season on the best possible note.”

The German, who is set to remain at Old Trafford in an advisory role next season with current Ajax boss Erik ten Hag in the managerial hotseat, said United would still be an attractive destination for players despite their likely absence from the Champions League.

“The renewal of the contract of Bruno (Fernandes) showed that it’s still possible — this club is an attractive club and with a new manager (Erik ten Hag),” he said.

“With a new approach, with a new manager and the way he wants to play, this is still a massively interesting club.

“I am looking forward to help both Erik and the club, and everyone at the club, to get the best and to change the whole approach again next season so that Manchester United can be a top club again.”

Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Luke Shaw remain absent as does midfielder Fred, following a negative reaction after returning to training.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a doubt for the match, which captain Maguire and Sancho will also miss.

The injury issues mean Rangnick will lean on United’s youth system.

Hannibal Mejbri, 19, featured at Liverpool and 17-year-old Alejandro Garnacho has been on the bench recently, with Alvaro Fernandez, 19, another pushing to be involved.

AFP

Man City Beat Real Madrid In Seven-Goal Champions League Classic

Manchester City's Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring his team fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, at the Etihad Stadium, in Manchester, on April 26, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring his team fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, at the Etihad Stadium, in Manchester, on April 26, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester City have a slender lead to defend in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid after winning a thrilling first leg 4-3 at the Etihad on Tuesday.

The English champions could live to regret not killing off the 13-time winners after taking a two-goal lead three times.

Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva were on target for Pep Guardiola’s men, who should have scored many more.

READ ALSO: Rudiger Will Leave Chelsea At End Of Season – Tuchel

But Karim Benzema’s double and a brilliant individual effort from Vinicius Junior gave Madrid hope of another famous Champions League fightback at the Santiago Bernabeu on May 4.

Guardiola lamented letting Liverpool escape “alive” in the Premier League title race after a 2-2 draw at the Etihad nine days ago and will have similar regrets after a blistering opening that could have seen City go 4-0 up inside half an hour.

Madrid were playing in their 30th semi-final to City’s third, but the English giants lived up to their tag as pre-tie favourites early on.

Only 92 seconds had passed before the Madrid rearguard was breached by Riyad Mahrez’s quick feet and perfect cross for De Bruyne to stoop and head past Thibaut Courtois.

Guardiola has often been criticised for overthinking his team selection at the business end of the Champions League.

But his decision to break from the mould of the past two seasons and play Jesus as a central striker was inspired as the Brazilian ran the Real defence ragged.

Jesus pounced to make it 2-0 after just 10 minutes after David Alaba failed to deal with De Bruyne’s cross.

The Spanish champions-elect were without Casemiro and his absence showed as City cut through midfield on the counter-attack at will.

Guardiola was furious with Mahrez after he selfishly smashed into the side-netting with Foden awaiting the cross for a tap in.

Moments later it was Foden who was guilty of wasting a glorious chance when he dragged wide another pinpoint De Bruyne through ball.

Benzema rouses Madrid

Benzema dragged Madrid back from the dead to see off Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the previous two rounds and again rose to his side’s rescue before half-time.

The Frenchman cushioned in his 40th goal of the season off the post from Ferland Mendy’s cross.

Yet, Madrid’s good work in steadying the ship towards the end of the first half was undone in another slow start after the break.

Mahrez hit the post when one-on-one with Courtois before Dani Carvajal blocked Foden’s follow-up on the line.

Fernandinho was forced to deputise at right-back after replacing the injured John Stones in the first half.

And the City captain had a major role to play in two goals in two minutes at either end.

Firstly, he picked out Foden to restore City’s two-goal lead.

But the 36-year-old showed his age as Vinicius sprinted clear of his Brazilian compatriot from the halfway line before slotting past Ederson.

City continued to create chances at an alarming rate for Carlo Ancelotti but it took something special when they did finally get a fourth.

Oleksandr Zinchenko was fouled on the edge of the area, but Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs played advantage and Silva thrashed into the top corner.

Again City failed to put the tie to bed as Mahrez was inches away from finding the far corner from the narrowest of angles.

But there was a final twist eight minutes from time when Aymeric Laporte handled inside the area.

Benzema was the coolest man in the stadium as he chipped the spot-kick down the middle to leave the tie on a knife-edge headed back to the Spanish capital.

Manchester United ‘Improved’ Despite Loss To Arsenal – Rangnick


Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes misses a penalty kick during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 23, 2022. Ian Kington / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Ralf Rangnick believes Manchester United have improved despite the loss to Arsenal. He also thinks his team were unlucky against the Gunners on Saturday.

“Improved performance but poor result, I think we created enough chances to score more than that one goal, we bounced back well to that early goal that we conceded where again we didn’t defend well inside and around our own box,” he said after the defeat at the Emirates.

“This was the only negative issue regarding today’s game but after coming back from 2-0 down we had numerous chances, the penalty, the crossbar, we hit the post twice, and a few VAR decisions and that’s putting it in an extremely mild way, we were unlucky. That’s why we are very disappointed about the result but our overall performances were much better.”

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Rangnick also admitted Manchester United’s hopes of Champions League football next season are over after the 3-1 loss

Nuno Tavares, Bukayo Saka, and Granit Xhaka struck for Mikel Arteta’s men to move them three points clear of Tottenham, who face Brentford later on Saturday.

Sixth-placed United are six points adrift of the top four and could miss out on European football completely for only the second time since 1990.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 22nd goal of the season on his return to the United side after missing Tuesday’s 4-0 thrashing at Liverpool due to the death of his newborn son.

However, Ronaldo will regret letting Bruno Fernandes take a second-half penalty with the game finely poised at 2-1 to the Gunners.

“For me, even before that game it was not very likely, but after today’s result the top four is gone,” said United interim boss Rangnick.

The German described his side’s display at Anfield as “humiliating” and “embarrassing”.

United reacted to that defeat by formalising the appointment of Ajax boss Erik ten Hag as the man to take charge at Old Trafford from next season.

However, the Dutchman will not have been impressed by another shambolic start from the side he will inherit.

It took just two minutes for the visitors’ defence to be breached as David de Gea’s fine save from Saka’s initial effort counted for nothing as Tavares swept home the rebound.

Support For Ronaldo 

Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo looks on during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 23, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. 

 

There was another show of support for Ronaldo as just as at Anfield in midweek the entire stadium applauded during the seventh minute.

On the field, the Portuguese was receiving little help from his teammates.

De Gea stood up well to parry a piledriver from Eddie Nketiah from close range.

Seconds later, Nketiah found the net from another one-on-one.

A VAR review found the England under-21 international offside, but Saka was fouled by Alex Telles as he played the ball into Nketiah’s path.

Saka took responsibility to send De Gea the wrong way from the penalty spot to double Arsenal’s lead.

Ronaldo hit back within two minutes as he swept home Nemanja Matic’s cross for his 100th Premier League goal.

Arsenal’s nerves began to show and United should have been at least level by the time Xhaka fired home the final blow.

Tavares needlessly handled a corner into the Arsenal box on the hour.

Ronaldo stood aside to let Fernandes take the penalty, but his compatriot rolled the ball onto the post.

“Goals change games,” said United midfielder Scott McTominay.

“There is a whole load of problems, but we have to have pride when you go onto the pitch. Go home and take a look at yourself in the mirror. The last four games are about pride for us.”

Ronaldo had another instinctive finish ruled out for offside before he teed up Diogo Dalot’s shot which was turned onto the post by Aaron Ramsdale.

Arsenal had lost three consecutive games prior to a much-needed 4-2 win at Chelsea in midweek that revived their top-four ambitions.

The relief around the Emirates was palpable when Xhaka restored the two-goal cushion with a powerful shot that flew past De Gea from 25 yards.

“You can’t expect to win every match as that is only afforded to one or two teams in the league,” said Arteta.

“We have to earn our right to win games and need a bit of luck, and today we had it.”

AFP

FIRST 11: Serena Williams’ Chelsea Ownership Push+Top Sports Stories This Week

 

With the sanctions on Russian businesses biting harder, the quest for a new Chelsea owner has been ramped up. This time, tennis icon Serena Williams and F1 great Lewis Hamilton, are the ones pushing to own a stake in the Premier League club.  

The Super Eagles also knew their opponents for the 2023 AFCON qualifiers just as the team’s former coach Gernot Rohr awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack.  These and more are some of the top sports stories covered in First 11 this week.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Bidders Set To Discover Their Fate

Condolences Pour As Ronaldo Loses Baby

We kick off from England where torrents of condolence messages have been poured in for Cristiano Ronaldo following his son’s death. The former Real Madrid star and wife confirmed their baby boy’s demise in a social media post.

Manchester United, his former clubs, players, and fans thronged social media to comfort the multiple Champions League winner over the sad incident.

The Portuguese star was excused from United’s tie with Liverpool earlier in the week. He, however, was available for selection as the Red Devils lost to Arsenal on Saturday.

Maguire Gets Bomb Threat

Still in Manchester United. Team captain Harry Maguire received a bomb threat but it was unknown who was behind it.

Cheshire Constabulary swept the 29-year-old’s home to ensure his safety. Maguire was up for selection against the Gunners.

The English defender, who stays with his fiancee and two kids, is having a turbulent campaign and has been the subject of stinging criticism from pundits and jeers from fans.

Man United Name Coach

Meanwhile, Manchester United has appointed Erik ten Hag as their manager next season.

The 52-year-old, who has signed a three-year contract, faces a huge task to revive the Red Devils’ fortunes after a fifth consecutive trophyless season. The Dutchman becomes the fifth permanent manager at Old Trafford since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 sent the 20-time English champions into decline.

Drogba, Others Inducted Into EPL Hall of Fame

Equally, Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes was in the news this week. The Englishman joined Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero as the latest inductee into the EPL Hall of Fame.

Vincent Kompany, Ian Wright, and Peter Schmeichel alongside Wayne Rooney and Patrick Vieira are also in the “Class of 2022” inductees.

Serena, Hamilton Join Chelsea Bid

For Man United’s rivals, Chelsea, the sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich over Russia’s war with Ukraine are set to cause major changes in the team. The club has been up for sale and tennis icon Serena Williams as well as Formula 1 legend Lewis Hamilton have expressed interest in having a stake in the London side.

They will be investing about £20m into a consortium to buy Chelsea and both are part of a group of investors backing the European champions’ takeover offer spearheaded by Sir Martin Broughton.

Serena and Hamilton have each pledged £10m to the bid. Lord Coe is believed to be part of the British-led consortium.

Russia, Belarussian Players Banned From Wimbledon

Aside from football, the Russian-Ukraine war is creating ripples in other sports. Earlier in the week, Russian players were barred from Wimbledon. Belarussian players were also affected, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) said.

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev; Aryna Sabalenka, and women’s four Victoria Azarenka are some of the top players affected. The move drew wide criticism from players, fans, and others stakeholders in the tennis world.

But Russian officials have rejected the ban, describing it as “unacceptable”.

Nigeria Paired For AFCON Qualifiers

In Nigeria, the Super Eagles were paired with Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and either Sao Tome or Mauritius in the qualifiers for next year’s AFCON. The draws were held in Jo’burg, South Africa, and qualifications for the tournament will start in May.

The Super Eagles, who failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will also be aiming to make amends for their early exit at the last AFCON. The Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 editions and won bronze in Egypt in 2019.

Rohr Awaits FIFA Verdict

The development came as a former coach of the team, Gernot Rohr, awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack. Rohr had reported the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to the football body for breaching contractual terms.

Reports suggest that FIFA had concluded their investigations and are set to deliver judgment on the $1m claims being made by former Niger Republic gaffer. The Franco-German had met all conditions in his contract but was sacked with one year left in the deal. While the NFF said it would pay Rohr his salary until the end of his contract, the ex-Niger boss took the NFF to FIFA. He is seeking compensation for his ‘unfair’ dismissal.

Kano Pillars Sanctioned, Banished

On the local scene, Kano Pillars were sanctioned for fans’ hooliganism. The former Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions were fined N9m and banished to Abuja for the rest of the season following the incident which took place last weekend. The club’s fans have, however, condemned the attack which led to the destruction of the visiting team’s bus.

Pele Hospitalised Again

Away from Nigeria, football great Pele was hospitalized in Sao Paulo as part of his treatment for colon cancer.

But the clinical condition of Edson Arantes do Nascimento is “good and stable, and he should be discharged from hospital in the next few days,” the Albert Einstein Hospital said on Tuesday.

Before his diagnosis of colon cancer, which led to Pele being hospitalized for a month last year, the former star of Santos and the Brazilian team was hospitalized in Paris in 2019 and transferred to Sao Paulo to have a kidney stone removed.

Five years before then, he was in intensive care due to a urinary tract infection that forced him to undergo dialysis on his left kidney. The right one was removed in the 1970s due to an injury when he was still a player.

Maradona Shirt Auction Opens

The auction for the jersey worn by Pele’s late friend, Diego Maradona, when he scored twice against England in the 1986 World Cup, including the infamous “hand of God” goal, kicked off with a bid of over $5 million.

Sotheby’s is selling the blue number 10 Argentina shirt in an online sale that runs until May 4. Hours after bidding opened, the site showed that the first offer of £4 million ($5.2 million) — matching the low end of the auction house’s pre-sale estimate — had been registered. That would set a new record price for a football jersey at auction.

The record for a game-worn shirt from any sport is $5.6 million, set in 2019 for a jersey Babe Ruth wore while on the New York Yankees.

Frappart Named As First Woman To Referee French Cup Final


French referee Stephanie Frappart (R) shows a yellow card to Monaco’s Brazilian defender Vanderson during the French L1 football match between Stade Rennais and Monaco (ASM) at the Roazhon Park stadium in Rennes, on April 15, 2022. Damien Meyer / AFP

 

Stephanie Frappart will make history when she becomes the first woman to referee the men’s French Cup final, after being handed the game by the French Football Federation (FFF) on Thursday.

Frappart will take charge of the match between Nice and Nantes at the Stade de France in Paris on May 7.

“Her appointment… is amply deserved,” said Pascal Garibian, technical director of refereeing in a press release from the FFF.

READ ALSORonaldo Thanks Liverpool Fans For Show Of ‘Compassion’

The 38-year-old Frappart, who said she was “happy and proud” to be appointed, was the first woman to referee a Ligue 1 match in 2019. She also handled the European Super Cup the same year and a men’s Champions League match at the end of 2020.

Frappart has also been selected for the referees’ panel for the women’s Euro, scheduled for July.

AFP