Misfiring Mane Headlines Bayern’s Woes Ahead Of Leverkusen Clash

mane-bayern
Munich’s Sadio Mane (l) in action against Augsburg’s Andre Hahn (r). Photo: Tom Weller/dpa

 

Bayern Munich’s history of success in German football can often see the term “crisis” thrown around the moment points are dropped, but with the team sitting fifth in the Bundesliga after seven games, there is little doubt all is not well.

Bayern host Bayer Leverkusen on Friday night winless since mid-August, an unfamiliar position for a club which is vying for 11 titles in a row.

Bayern’s struggles are mirrored by those of the misfiring Sadio Mane, with the summer arrival goalless in five matches after scoring five times in his opening six games.

Sporting Director Hasan Salihamidzic has backed the summer arrival to rekindle his early season form, saying the former Liverpool striker “needs a bit of time to get used to the Bundesliga”.

“I know what it’s like to arrive as a newcomer in a team, in another country, another city, a slightly different football culture,” Salihamidzic, who moved from his native Bosnia to play for Hamburg as a 15-year-old, told Germany’s Sportbild.

“Sadio is in this process, everything will soon be more familiar to him and we will soon see that on the pitch.”

READ ALSOFIFA Ends Video Game Partnership With EA Sports After 30 Years

Bayern president Herbert Hainer promised on Wednesday “we’ll see a whole different team on Friday – and a winning team too”, saying his side “will step on the gas” against the visiting Leverkusen.

Munich’s opponents on Friday are also going through a rough patch, with the visitors having won just one from seven to start the season to sit in 15th alongside an early German Cup exit.

Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann hailed as a potential 10-year coach at the club even before winning the Bundesliga title last year, is going through the toughest time, overseeing Bayern’s longest winless run in more than two decades.

Never a good omen, Salihamidzic told the media on Wednesday that Nagelsmann “is under no internal pressure at all” at the club despite the team sitting five points behind leaders Union Berlin.

However, the looming presence of the suddenly jobless Thomas Tuchel – born just an hour away in the Bavarian town of Kulmbach – will give the trigger-happy Munich hierarchy plenty to think about.

One to watch: Urs Fischer (Union Berlin)

Typical of the Swiss coach’s understated nature, Fischer extended his contract with Union Berlin on Wednesday to limited fanfare.

Fischer, who extended for an undisclosed period alongside assistant coach Markus Hoffmann, took over Union in the summer of 2018, with the never-promoted club sitting in the middle of the second division.

Fischer, who won the Swiss league twice and the cup once with Basel, took Union to the first division in his first season in charge, before guiding them to 11th, seventh and fifth in subsequent top-flight seasons.

After seven matchdays, Union currently sit first in the Bundesliga table.

“What we have been able to experience together over the last few years is incredible,” said Fischer.

“I find it hard to put into words. As I have often said, I feel very much at home at Union.”

Union Berlin play away at Frankfurt on Saturday afternoon.

Key stats

Three in four – Bayern Munich have only won three points from their last four games – the first time that has happened in 21 years.

Zero – The amount of German titles won by Bayer Leverkusen in their history. They’ve been second on five occasions (1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2010–11) and also lost the 2002 Champions League final to Real Madrid.

19 March, 2022 – The last time top-of-the-table Union Berlin lost a Bundesliga match, going down 4-0 away at Bayern Munich. They are the only unbeaten side in this year’s Bundesliga.

Bundesliga Fixtures (all times 1330 GMT unless stated)

Friday

Bayern Munich v Bayer Leverkusen (1830)

Saturday

Freiburg v Mainz, Cologne v Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg v Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt v Union Berlin, RB Leipzig v Bochum, Werder Bremen v Borussia Mönchengladbach (1630)

Sunday

Hertha Berlin v Hoffenheim (1530), Schalke v Augsburg (1730)

AFP

Lewandowski And Mane Headline Transfer Window Movers To Watch

A photo combination of Lewandowski and Mane

 

Kylian Mbappe is staying at Paris Saint-Germain and Erling Haaland is on his way to Manchester City, but plenty more big-name stars are on the market as the summer transfer window opens in Europe.

AFP Sport highlights five names to follow in the coming weeks:

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

After eight prolific seasons at Bayern, the Polish striker has decided it is time to move. Lewandowski, who will turn 34 in August, has a year still to run on his contract at the Allianz Arena but said last month that his time in Bavaria “has come to an end”.

Bayern insist Lewandowski –- who scored 50 goals for his club in the season just finished and has been the Bundesliga’s top scorer in each of the last five campaigns -– is going nowhere, with president Herbert Hainer saying “a contract is a contract”.

Yet if they don’t want to lose him for nothing they will have to sell now. Barcelona are reportedly prepared to offer him a three-year deal and it is understood the former Borussia Dortmund striker wants to go to Spain.

Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

The Senegal star’s highly successful six-season spell at Liverpool looks to be coming to an end and Bayern are keen to sign the forward, who has a year left on his contract at Anfield.

“Is it not between 60 and 70 percent of Senegalese people want me to leave Liverpool? I will do what they say,” Mane, 30, said this week while back in his home country on international duty.

READ ALSONadal Wins 14th French Open And Record-Extending 22nd Grand Slam

Yet, according to reports in England, Liverpool have rejected a bid from Bayern of £30 million ($37.6m) for Mane, who has scored 120 goals since moving to Merseyside from Southampton in 2016.

Darwin Nunez (Benfica)

In the game of transfer musical chairs, moves for Lewandowski and Mane could lead to this rising Uruguayan star heading to Liverpool. Nunez, who turns 23 this month, was this season’s top scorer in the Portuguese top flight with 26 goals for Benfica. He also netted six times in the Champions League, including in both legs of the quarter-final defeat to Liverpool.

Uruguayan international Nunez, who joined Benfica from Spanish side Almeria in 2020, has a contract in Lisbon until 2025 and will not come cheap, although England’s biggest clubs will not be put off by the asking price. Benfica want 100 million euros ($107m) according to Portuguese media reports. Manchester United are also being linked with an approach.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Pogba is leaving United as his contract expires, bringing to an end an underwhelming second spell at Old Trafford to where he returned in 2016 from Juventus for a then world record fee of £89 million ($116m at the time).

The 29-year-old French World Cup winner, who has had a particularly disappointing final season in the Premier League, has been linked in the past with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain -– he was born and raised in the Paris suburbs.

However, the most likely outcome seems to be a return to Juventus, where he played from 2012 to 2016. Pogba, who was a client of Mino Raiola before the super-agent died in April, is expected to sign a three-year deal in Turin worth eight million euros ($8.6m) per season.

“I just want the best for me. I am thinking, putting everything together, taking my time, and waiting for the best. I just want to play football, be myself and enjoy what I do,” Pogba said in an interview with the American site Uninterrupted.com this week. “We can be losing games or losing trophies, but you have to be happy where you are.”

Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

The 25-year-old France winger is out of contract at Barcelona, where his five-year spell has been blighted by injuries. The Catalans had been keen to keep a player who seemed revitalised following the appointment of Xavi Hernandez as coach at the Camp Nou this season, but talks appear to have broken down.

Sports daily Marca this week described the negotiations as a “dialogue between the deaf”. PSG have been strongly linked with a move to bring the former Rennes winger back to France, but a move to the Premier League could also be in the offing.

AFP

Ronaldo, Mane Missing As EPL Unveils Player of The Season Nominees

File COMBO of the shortlisted EASports Player of the year 2021/2022 awards nominees

 

EA SPORTS on Friday unveiled nominees for the 2021/2022 Premier League Player of the Season award and surprising exclusions were Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s forward Sadio Mane.

Ronaldo, who won the Premier League Player of the Month for April, and Mane – a key man in Liverpool’s quadruple-chasing side – did not make the cut in a list that included Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been a shining light in United’s dismal season with 18 goals in 30 league matches. He has also twice been named as the Premier League’s player of the month. Similarly, the Senegalese star has scored 15 goals in 33 league appearances as the Anfield club bid for the unprecedented quadruple. His Liverpool teammates Mohammed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold have been important to Jurgen Klopp team’s blistering form this season.

File COMBO of Sadio Mane and Cristiano Ronaldo

 

Salah, who was  2017/18 EA SPORTS Player of the Season and also the leader in the Golden Boot race with 22 goals, was shortlisted for the prize. Arnold, on the other hand, has contributed at both ends of the pitch, dominating the right flank for the second-best defence in 2021/22 as well as scoring two goals and setting up 12 more, the second-most of all players.

The shortlist also included Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Jaoa Cancelo. Both have also been vital to Guardiola’s dream of lifting a consecutive Premier League title. The 2019/20 winner is aiming to be only the fourth player to claim more than one EA SPORTS Player of the Season award.

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, who has been important to the side’s resurgence with 21 goals – only one behind Salah in the Golden Boot race – is also in the running for the top award. 

Having been a key part of a top-four chasing Arsenal, Saka’s contributions to the Gunners this season were rewarded with a nomination. 

Also included in the shortlist is Jarrod Bowen. He is the second West Ham United player to reach double figures for both goals and assists in a Premier League season. Bowen scored 10 and set up 10, justifying his inclusion on the list.

James Ward-Prowse completes the list of nominees for the award. He has been an unsung hero in the heart of the midfield for Southampton. The Saints have caught the eye with some magnificent performances leading to nine goals. Five of them came from trademark direct free-kicks.

Liverpool Still Chasing Man City Like ‘Mad’ In Title Race – Klopp

In this file photo, Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (L) crosses the ball during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool are still “chasing like mad” after Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, said Jurgen Klopp after coming from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Tuesday.

The top two are now level on points, but City stay top on goal difference and have a game in hand away to Wolves on Wednesday.

Liverpool could ill-afford another slip up after being held 1-1 at home by Tottenham at the weekend and got off to the worst possible start when Douglas Luiz fired Villa in front after three minutes.

But Joel Matip quickly levelled and Sadio Mane’s fine header 25 minutes from time kept the Reds in contention for a historic quadruple of trophies.

“We are still chasing like mad,” said Klopp. “We just know we have to win, that didn’t change and now we have to recover to play the FA Cup final. There is no mercy.”

READ ALSOGuardiola Hints Man City Closing In On Haaland Deal

However, victory came at a cost as Fabinho limped off with a muscle injury that makes him a major doubt for both Saturday’s FA Cup final and the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28.

“He felt a muscle, not too much,” added Klopp. “He is quite positive but I’m not sure what I can make of that to be honest.”

With one eye on Wembley, Klopp rolled the dice with his team selection as Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara were left on the bench, while there was no place in the squad for Andy Robertson.

The visitors looked like a much-changed side as Villa sprang out of the traps and caught them cold.

Alisson Becker had already denied Ollie Watkins by the time Steven Gerrard’s men took the lead on three minutes.

Luiz’s header was parried by Alisson, but only back into the path of his Brazilian international teammate to hammer the rebound high into the net.

Villa won this fixture 7-2 last season, but Liverpool this time bounced straight back from the early blow of conceding.

The hosts did not deal with a free-kick into the box and the ball eventually broke for Virgil van Dijk to square for his centre-back partner Matip to apply the finishing touch.

Chances continued to come at both ends in a frantic first half.

Mane headed inches wide and Naby Keita missed his kick with the goal gaping for Liverpool, while, at the other end, Danny Ings just failed to keep his header down from Lucas Digne’s inviting cross.

Mane Header

Liverpool's Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates scoring the team's second goal with Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson (C) and Liverpool's Portuguese striker Diogo Jota during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates scoring the team’s second goal with Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson (C) and Liverpool’s Portuguese striker Diogo Jota during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on May 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool’s heavy schedule began to show physically when Fabinho limped off with a hamstring injury midway through the first half.

However, Liverpool went through the gears in the second period to show the gulf in class between the sides.

“We’ve got to take the big moments we created in the game,” said Gerrard. “I’m frustrated we didn’t score more than once.

“We were ambitious, brave, and courageous against one of the best teams in the world.”

Luis Diaz’s arrival in January has played a huge part in keeping Klopp’s men in contention for four trophies.

The Colombian created the winner as he teased Tyrone Mings before delivering a pinpoint cross for Mane to head in his 22nd goal of the season.

There were still nervy moments for Liverpool to see out in the final quarter as Villa sought to expose their high line.

Twice Ings failed to capitalise when played through on goal before being flagged offside when he did finally put the ball in the net.

But Liverpool held on and will hope Gerrard can finally come to their rescue in a title race.

Gerrard famously never won a league title during his decorated playing career at Anfield but will take Villa to face City at the Etihad on the final day of the season.

AFP

African Players In Europe: Emmanuel Dennis, Awoniyi, Mane Steal Show

A photo combination of Emmanuel Dennis and Sadio Mane.

 

Senegal talisman Sadio Mane scored two goals — one soft and one superb — at the weekend to take Liverpool into the FA Cup final with a 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Wembley.

The Reds will face Chelsea in the May 14 showpiece final — a repeat of the League Cup final won by Liverpool on penalties after a goalless final.

Apart from his Liverpool heroics, Mane helped Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in February and qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar one month later.

READ ALSOWorld Cup Qualifier: Nigeria Thrash Egypt In First Leg

Here, AFP Sport highlights Africans who starred in European leagues and cup competitions:

ENGLAND SADIO MANE (Liverpool)

Mane was the difference between Liverpool and Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final as he struck twice in a thrilling win for the Reds. His persistence earned his first and Liverpool’s second goal of the day as he caught City stand-in goalkeeper Zack Steffen in possession to tackle the ball into the net. His second was as sweet as the first was scrappy as Mane volleyed in Thiago Alcantara’s pass to round off a stunning move from Jurgen Klopp’s men.

EMMANUEL DENNIS (Watford)

A 10th Premier League goal of the season for Dennis could not prevent Watford slipping closer to relegation after a 2-1 defeat by Brentford. The Nigerian’s fierce strike that flew in at the near post was controversially allowed to stand despite Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr appearing to be offside in the build-up. A 10th consecutive home defeat leaves the Hornets still six points adrift of safety with just six games to play.

GERMANY KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG (Hertha Berlin)

The 35-year-old made his first start since October and bossed midfield as Hertha climbed out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at Augsburg. “We needed a figure like Prince. He has shown how important he is for us,” said Hertha coach Felix Magath as the Ghana midfielder threw himself into tackles.

TAIWO AWONIYI (Union Berlin)

Awoniyi shrugged off his marker and banged in his 18th goal for Union this season to open the scoring in a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. The Nigeria striker is a fans’ favourite at Union and threw his playing shirt into the home crowd after being substituted with 10 minutes remaining.

FRANCE KARL TOKO-EKAMBI (Lyon)

The Cameroon forward, who starred in his country’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals on home soil this year, scored twice in Lyon’s 6-1 mauling of Bordeaux. His first goal was a gift after a farcical miskick by the Bordeaux goalkeeper, while his second goal was a delightful chipped finish. Toko-Ekambi has 16 goals this season, including 10 in Ligue 1. Lyon are eighth, four points outside the European qualifying spots.

JODEL DOSSOU (Clermont)

The Benin international equalised in a 1-1 draw at fellow strugglers Metz. It was his second goal in as many games, after Dossou netted in last week’s 6-1 home hammering by Paris Saint-Germain. Clermont are in the relegation play-off place, five points above bottom side Metz and one point from outright safety.

ITALY M’BALA NZOLA (Spezia)

The Angolan international featured in probably the strangest moment in the weekend’s Serie A action. He was subbed on and then off again just 10 minutes later in Spezia’s 3-1 defeat to Inter Milan because he couldn’t take off his earring. Brought on in the 60th minute with his team a goal down, the 25-year-old was almost immediately stopped by match officials and ordered to remove the jewellery, a task which was beyond both Nzola and the Spezia coaching staff. Eventually he had to admit defeat and coach Thiago Motta was forced to bring on Janis Antiste in his place.

AFP

African Players In Europe: Champion Mane Sets Up Liverpool Winner

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (2R) taps hands with Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp (R) as he leaves the pitch after being substituted off for Liverpool’s Portuguese striker Diogo Jota (L) during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Liverpool at Turf Moor in Burnley.

 

 

Sadio Mane followed up helping Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time by creating the goal that gave Liverpool a 1-0 Premier League win over Burnley at the weekend.

His header off a corner dropped into the path of Brazilian Fabinho, who scored at the second attempt after his initial shot was blocked.

Mane and Mohamed Salah led the Reds’ attack after being on opposite sides in the Cup of Nations final in Cameroon last Sunday when Senegal defeated Egypt on penalties.

Here, AFP Sport highlights Africans who starred in the major European leagues.

ENGLAND
MOHAMED SALAH, SADIO MANE (Liverpool)

Mane and Salah were kept quiet as the Reds struggled in the fierce winds at Turf Moor, but Mane did have a hand in the only goal as second-placed Liverpool maintained their title challenge, nine points behind Manchester City with a game in hand.

SPAIN
CARLOS AKAPO (Cadiz)

After playing every minute as Equatorial Guinea reached the last eight at the Cup of Nations, the defender started his first match for relegation-haunted Cadiz at home to Celta Vigo and helped the home team keep a clean sheet and secure a point in a goalless draw.

PIERRE EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Barcelona)

The Gabon striker followed a 29-minute debut in the win against Atletico Madrid the previous week by coming on with 28 minutes to go and the scores level at Espanyol. Barcelona immediately fell behind, but in added time, as Luuk de Jong made a goal scoring-leap at the near post, Auba was distracting defenders and the goalkeeper at the far post.

ITALY
KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)

Napoli’s défensive rock started his first Serie A match since early December and showed why fans want him to become captain once Lorenzo Insigne leaves for Toronto in mid year. He was an imposing presence and, despite the 1-1 draw with Inter Milan, is keen to push Napoli’s dream of the title as his team sit just two points behind new leaders AC Milan.

GERMANY
CHRISTOPHER ANTWI-ADJEI (VfL Bochum)

The Ghana striker scored his side’s first goal in a stunning 4-2 win over league leaders Bayern Munich. Antwi-Adjei wrongfooted Niklas Suele to find the bottom corner and cancel out Robert Lewandowski’s opener.

RAMY BENSEBAINI (Borussia Moenchengladbach)

The Algeria defender scored his third goal of the season as Gladbach avoided a record-equalling fifth straight home defeat with a 3-2 win against Augsburg. Bensebaini fired a header into the top corner in the second half.

ANTHONY UJAH (Union Berlin)

The Nigerian forward made his first Bundesliga appearance since June 2020 after a knee operation when he came on as a substitute in Union’s 3-0 home defeat by Borussia Dortmund. The 31-year-old had a significant cameo in the second half, as Union had a consolation goal ruled out by VAR for his foul on Manuel Akanji.

FRANCE
KARL TOKO EKAMBI (Lyon)

Cameroon forward Toko Ekambi scored the second goal for seventh-placed Lyon seven minutes after the break in a 2-0 win over Nice, after former Fulham and Celtic striker Moussa Dembele converted an early penalty.

CEDRIC HOUNTONDJI (Clermont)

Benin defender Hountondji opened the scoring for Clermont six minutes before the break with his second goal for the club since joining from Levski Sofia in 2019 and first in Ligue 1 for the promoted side, who fell 2-1 against Saint-Etienne.

STEVE MOUNIE (Brest)

Benin striker Mounie struck in the final 10 minutes to cement a 5-1 win for Brest at home against Troyes. It was the eighth win this season for the Brittany side in 24 games as they sit 12th in the table.

GAEL KAKUTA, SEKO FOFANA (Lens)

Democratic Republic of Congo midfielder Kakuta set up Arnaud Kalimuendo for the opening goal and then scored from the penalty spot after 22 minutes. Ivory Coast midfielder Fofana added a third before the half hour for a 3-2 home win which condemned Bordeaux to bottom spot in Ligue 1 and lifted Lens to eighth.

Mane Urges Senegal To ‘Go All The Way’ And Lift Cup Of Nations

Senegal’s forward Sadio Mane (C) is challenged by Burkina Faso’s midfielders Adama Guira (L) and Gustavo Sangare during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 semi-final football match at Stade Ahmadou-Ahidjo in Yaounde on February 2, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Sadio Mane hailed his Senegal teammates after they beat Burkina Faso 3-1 in Yaounde on Wednesday to reach their second consecutive Africa Cup of Nations final.

“It shows you the momentum we have. We knew it was not going to be at all easy to get to two straight AFCON finals, but the most important for us now is to go all the way and win it, whoever we come up against,” Mane said after scoring one goal and making another in the semi-final.

READ ALSO: CAF Sanctions Egypt, Morocco After AFCON Quarter-Final ‘Fight’

Abdou Diallo put Senegal ahead 20 minutes from time at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Cameroon’s capital, before Mane set up the second goal for Idrissa Gana Gueye.

He then netted the late third himself after Blati Toure had pulled a goal back.

“We were up against a really good Burkina side who caused us a lot of problems,” the Liverpool star added.

“We expected a tough game and it was but we stayed calm and created lots of chances. I think we deserved to win tonight.”

Mane, who now has three goals at the tournament, could not keep the smile off his face as he looked forward to the chance to win the trophy.

“I think you can see on my face how happy I am which is completely normal. I am really proud personally and very happy for myself, my teammates, and the country.”

Africa’s top-ranked national team, Senegal lost to Algeria in the 2019 final in Egypt.

They will play either the hosts Cameroon or Egypt in Sunday’s final at the Olembe Stadium.

Those sides are the most successful nations in AFCON history with 12 titles between them, while Senegal have still never won the continental crown.

Asked who he preferred to face in the decider, Mane added: “We have no preference.”

AFP

AFCON 2021: Mane Fires Blank As Senegal, Guinea Match Ends In Draw 


Senegal’s forward Sadio Mane reacts during the Group B Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Senegal and Guinea at Stade de Kouekong in Bafoussam on January 14, 2022.
Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP

 

Liverpool teammates Sadio Mane and Naby Keita became rivals on Friday, captaining Senegal and Guinea in a drab 0-0 Group B matchday 2 deadlock at the Africa Cup of Nations. 

Scoring chances were few in the afternoon heat of Bafoussam with Senegal the more wasteful side in a showdown between nations expected to occupy the top two positions in the final standings.

Guinea and Senegal will go into the final round of group matches on Tuesday sharing the lead with four points each, and goal difference could determine who finishes first.

READ ALSO: Mane, Ndidi And Other Stars To Watch At The Cup Of Nations

Malawi and Zimbabwe meet later on Friday in the second match of a double-header with both needing maximum points to have a realistic chance of reaching the second round.

While neither southern African country is likely to overtake Guinea or Senegal, a win could take them into the round of 16 as one of the best four third-placed teams.

It was the third clash between the west African neighbours with Senegal winning the previous two by one-goal margins in 1994 and 2006.

Senegal midfielder Idrissa Gueye was ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus and joined fellow stars Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly in isolation.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy and Napoli centre-back Koulibaly contracted Covid-19 before the opening round, in which Senegal snatched a last-gasp win over Zimbabwe through a Mane penalty.

Dominant Defences

An opening half played in 32 degrees celsius (90 fahrenheit) heat was dominated by defences with Guinea wasting the only clearcut chance.

A swift counterattack by the Syli Nationale (national elephant) enabled them to outnumber the slowly retreating Senegalese, but it ended with Morgan Guilavogui shooting straight at goalkeeper Seny Dieng.

The ball then ran loose in the goalmouth and Senegal hastily cleared it at the expense of a fruitless corner.

Reigning African Footballer of the Year Mane had few opportunities to make an impact and teammate Bouna Sarr squandered a chance off a close-range free-kick by firing into the defensive wall.

Guinea won the first half corner count 7-2 and left the pitch at half-time satisfied having had the better of the exchanges with the 2019 Cup of Nations runners-up

Senegal were much improved in the early stages of the second half at the 20,000-seat Stade Kouekong in the western Cameroon highlands, only to be let down by poor finishing.

Unmarked Boulaye Dia missed a good chance at the far post when he failed to connect with a free-kick and Abdou Diallo had a header brilliantly tipped over by Guinea goalkeeper Aly Keita.

A forceful run by Mane set up Sarr, who wasted a great chance when he beat a defender only to fire wide with Keita helpless.

AFP

Mane, Ndidi And Other Stars To Watch At The Cup Of Nations

A photo combination showing Mane, Ndidi, and Salah.

 

As the Africa Cup of Nations begins in Cameroon on Sunday, here are stars to watch out for at the tournament:

Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City and Nigeria)

File photo: Brazil’s forward Neymar (R) fights for the ball with the Super Eagles of Nigeria’s midfielder Wilfred Ndidi during a friendly international football match at the National Stadium in Singapore on October 13, 2019. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

 

The Nigerian midfielder has been a mainstay for Leicester City following his move from the Belgian side, Genk, in 2017.

To date, the 26-year-old has played over 130 times for the FA Cup holders and was instrumental in their run to that trophy.

Aside from Ndidi’s tackling and defensive attributes, he also brings physicality to the game. His incredible work rate will prove handy for the Super Eagles on a quest for a fourth continental crown in Cameroon.

His performances for the Foxes have also seen him likened to some of the best midfielders in Europe.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich and Cameroon)

File photo: Bayern Munich’s striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting reacts after scoring the 7-0 during the German first division Bundesliga football match between FC Bayern Munich and VfL Bochum in Munich, southern Germany, on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

 

Choupo-Moting was dismissed at times during his two-year stint at Paris Saint-Germain, where he was a back-up in attack to superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Yet he still popped up with some important goals and has netted 17 times in 44 appearances since signing for Bayern Munich in 2020.

The 32-year-old, who stands 1.91m tall, was born in Germany and notably played for Hamburg and Schalke at the start of his career before a stint in the Premier League at Stoke City.

Eligible for Cameroon through his father, he represented the Indomitable Lions at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and captained them at the AFCON in 2015 and 2017. He did not go in 2017 when Cameroon won the trophy in Gabon but is the biggest name in the hosts’ squad this time as they look to win the trophy for the sixth time.

READ ALSO: [AFCON 2021] Cameroonians Ready For Football Fun

Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal)

Sadio Mané 

 

Senegal are the leading African side according to the FIFA rankings and Liverpool forward Mane is their star player. A former African Footballer of the Year who also came fourth in the Ballon d’Or rankings in 2019, Mane will be hugely missed by Liverpool as he heads to Cameroon -– he has 10 goals this season for his club.

However, the 29-year-old is desperate to win African football’s biggest prize after Senegal lost to Algeria in the 2019 final. The West African country has never won the Cup of Nations.

Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain and Morocco)

(From L) Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain’s Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi and Paris Saint-Germain’s Spanish midfielder Pablo Sarabia attend a training session at the Camp des Loges Paris Saint-Germain football club’s training ground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on august 13, 2021. (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP)

 

At 23, right-back Hakimi is starring for PSG having already played for Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and Inter Milan, and is arguably the best-attacking full-back on the planet today. He will therefore be the man to watch in a Morocco side among the leading contenders to go all the way.

Hakimi, who joined PSG from Inter last July for 60 million euros ($71 million), is, in theory, a defender, but he is chiefly a key creative and attacking outlet down the right. Born and brought up in Madrid to Moroccan parents, Hakimi was just 18 when he scored on his competitive debut for the Atlas Lions.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)

Salah 'Almost 100%' Certain To Play In Egypt Opener, Coach Says
File photo: Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah gestures as he takes part in a training session at Ekaterinburg Stadium in Ekaterinburg on June 14, 2018, a day ahead of the team’s Russia 2018 World Cup Group A opening football match against Uruguay. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Many scoffed when Salah came seventh in the final Ballon d’Or rankings in November. It could be argued there is no better player in the world right now than the 29-year-old forward, who has scored 54 times for Liverpool since the start of last season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will miss him and Mane while they are gone for up to a month, but Salah carries the hopes and dreams of 100 million Egyptians on his shoulders. He is the headline act in a squad made up largely of home-based players as The Pharaohs chase a record-extending eighth African crown.

Salah played in the team that lost the 2017 final to Cameroon before losing to South Africa as hosts in the last 16 in 2019.

Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City and Algeria)Another former African footballer of the year, Mahrez captained Algeria to victory in 2019 and is again the star man as they look to defend their title.

The winger has been in fine form for Manchester City, with 13 goals in 25 games this season for the Premier League leaders. Now 30, Mahrez was born and brought up in the Paris suburbs but Algeria was the land of his late father’s birth and Riyad made his international debut just before the 2014 World Cup, not long after he first moved to England with Leicester City.

Sebastien Haller (Ajax and Ivory Coast)

File photo: Cameroon’s Bangou Tchamba (C) fights for the ball with Ivory Coast’s Serge Aurier (L) and Sebastien Haller (L) during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

The tall 27-year-old striker has been one of the stars of this season’s UEFA Champions League, scoring 10 goals in the group stage for Ajax. He became just the second player to score in all six group games, following Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017.

Haller, who has 22 goals this season, joined Ajax last January from West Ham United for 22.5 million euros ($27.5m), calling time on a disappointing spell in England to return to the Dutch league, where he was based previously.

Born and brought up in the Paris suburbs, he played for France Under-21s but opted to represent the Ivory Coast –- the land of his mother’s birth -– after getting the call aged 26.

AFP

Lebanon In Blackout As Power Stations Run Out Of Fuel

This file photo taken on July 10, 2021, shows the Deir Ammar power station in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Lebanon was plunged into a total blackout today after two main power stations went offline because they ran out of fuel, the state electricity corporation said. Ibrahim CHALHOUB / AFP

 

Lebanon was plunged into a total blackout Saturday after two main power stations went offline because they ran out of fuel, the state electricity corporation said.

The Mediterranean country is battling one of the planet’s worst economic crises since the 1850s, and has in recent months struggled to import enough fuel oil for its power plants.

State electricity in most places is barely available for an hour a day amid rolling power cuts, while the fuel needed to power private back-up generators is also in short supply.

“After the Deir Ammar power station was forced to stop producing power yesterday morning (Friday) due its gasoil reserves running out, the Zahrani plant also stopped this afternoon for the same reason,” Electricite du Liban said in a statement.

This led to the network’s “complete collapse without any possibility of restoring it for the time being”, it said.

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In this file photo taken on June 23, 2021, a technician controls an electric switch board connecting homes to electricity generators in a suburb of Lebanon’s capital Beirut.  Joseph EID / AFP

 

It was the second such complete outage reported by EDL since the start of the month, after a similar incident last Saturday.

A source at the energy ministry told AFP that all was being done “to find a way out of the problem”.

EDL said that a fuel oil shipment was expected to arrive on Saturday evening, and was expected to unload at the beginning of next week.

Restoring electricity is one of the many tough tasks facing Lebanon’s new government, formed last month after 13 months of political wrangling.

Several measures have been launched in a desperate bid to keep the lights on.

Lebanon has reached an agreement towards bringing Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas into the country via war-torn Syria, while Shiite movement Hezbollah has separately started hydrocarbon deliveries from Iran.

This file photo taken on April 3, 2021, shows a partial view of the damaged Lebanese Electricity Company (EDL) headquarters in the capital Beirut. Anwar AMRO / AFP

 

The state is also bringing in some fuel oil for power stations in exchange for medical services under a swap deal with Iraq.

The international community has long demanded a complete overhaul of Lebanon’s loss-making electricity sector, which has cost the government more than $40 billion since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

AFP

Salah, Mane Also Guilty Of Diving, Clattenburg Slams Klopp

A file photo combination of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah.

 

Mark Clattenburg has criticised  Liverpool boss, Jurgen Klopp over his comments about Manchester United, claiming certain Liverpool stars were equally guilty of diving to trick referees into awarding penalties.

Klopp had said United had more penalties in two years than the Reds had had in five-and-a-half years. This was after Liverpool lost 1-0 to Southampton.

But Clattenburg, known not to spare one’s blushes when it comes to the beautiful game, tore into the Red’s boss claiming he (Klopp)  “sounds like a hypocrite” after he inferred that United players sort to win games by penalties.

”The likes of Mo Salah and Mane are just as capable of employing similar tactics,” the 45- year-old referee wrote in an article on Daily Mail.

The Englishman noted that “there were a couple of things to take from Klopp’s comments after that game. First, he sounds like a hypocrite if he is suggesting United’s players are looking to win penalties.”

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He also remarked that the former Dortmund boss hates losing and makes him irritable while also dismissing any form of favouritism given to the Red Devils.

File photo: Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp attends a press conference at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on October 1, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group E football match against FC Salzburg. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

”But he is wrong to suggest there is an aura around United that sees them given favourable decisions,” he added. “There used to be when Fergie was there, but that has eased massively since he left.”

Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s men will face their next test as they travel to Anfield on Sunday to face defending champions Liverpool to solidify their top spot on the Premier League log.

 

 

 

 

FIFA Awards 2020: Lewandowski Joins Messi, Ronaldo On Ten Man Shortlist

 

European player of the year Robert Lewandowski is one of 10 players on the shortlist for the Best FIFA Men’s Player award unveiled Wednesday, alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe.

Besides Polish striker Lewandowski, one other winner of the Champions League with Bayern Munich made the list, Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who joined Liverpool in September.

The English champions also count Senegal’s Sadio Mane, Egyptian Mohamed Salah and Dutchman Virgil van Dijk on the shortlist.

Paris Saint-Germain, beaten Champions League finalists, are represented by Mbappe and Neymar.

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos complete the list.

Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa, who led Leeds into the English Premier League, headlines a list for the men’s coach award, which also features Bayern’s Hans-Dieter Flick, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui and Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane.

 

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Three finalists from categories also including men and women’s goalkeepers, and women’s players and coaches will be announced on December 11, with the award handed out on December 17.

Shortlists for Best FIFA awards

Men: Thiago Alcantara (ESP/Bayern Munchen/Liverpool), Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Juventus), Kevin De Bruyne (BEL/Manchester City), Robert Lewandowski (POL/Bayern Munich), Sadio Mane (SEN/Liverpool), Kylian Mbappe (FRA/Paris Saint-Germain), Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona), Neymar (BRA/Paris Saint-Germain), Sergio Ramos (ESP/Real Madrid), Mohamed Salah (EGY/Liverpool), Virgil van Dijk (NED/Liverpool)

Women: Lucy Bronze (ENG/Lyon/Manchester City), Delphine Cascarino (FRA/Lyon), Caroline Graham Hansen (NOR/Barcelona), Pernille Harder (DEN/Wolfsburg/Chelsea), Jennifer Hermoso (ESP/Barcelona), Ji So-yun (KOR/Chelsea), Sam Kerr (AUS/Chelsea), Saki Kumagai (JPN/Lyon), Dzsenifer Marozsan (GER/Lyon), Vivianne Miedema (NED/Arsenal), Wendie Renard (FRA/Lyon)

-AFP