Atletico Qualify As Liverpool Complete Perfect Champions League Group Stage


Atletico Madrid’s players celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League first round group B football match between FC Porto and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Dragao stadium in Porto on December 7, 2021. MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid won a bad-tempered game in Porto on Tuesday to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League as Liverpool and Ajax both completed the group stage with 100 percent records.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico, who lost to Real Madrid in the 2014 and 2016 finals, needed to beat Porto in Portugal to advance to the knockout phase and they duly triumphed 3-1 in a game which featured three red cards.

Antoine Griezmann put the Spanish champions ahead in the 56th minute at the Estadio do Dragao but they then had Yannick Carrasco sent off for wrestling Otavio to the ground.

READ ALSO: Mbappe And Messi Double Up In PSG Victory

With tempers flaring, Porto were also reduced to 10 men as Wendell was sent off for elbowing Atletico’s Matheus Cunha in the neck, before their substitute goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin also saw red.

With Porto pushing forward in search of the draw they needed to qualify, Atletico got their second goal on the break in the last minute through Angel Correa before Rodrigo De Paul scored their third in injury time. Sergio Oliveira’s penalty was a mere consolation for Porto.

Atletico finish second in Group B, a huge 11 points behind group winners Liverpool, who made it six wins out of six in Europe this season by beating AC Milan 2-1 at San Siro despite fielding a virtual reserve side.

Milan had to win to stand a chance of going through and they went ahead midway through the first half through Fikayo Tomori.

Mohamed Salah did start for the visitors and he equalised in the 36th minute before Divock Origi — who scored a stoppage-time winner in the Premier League at the weekend — made it 2-1 10 minutes into the second half, heading in after Sadio Mane’s shot was saved.

“It’s an exceptional performance,” said manager Jurgen Klopp. “With that many changes, the boys have to be confident enough to show how good they are. I saw so many good things tonight, it was unbelievable.”

Milan finish bottom of the group in their first Champions League campaign since 2013-14, with Porto parachuting into the Europa League.

Real Madrid Top Group

Elsewhere, Real Madrid secured top spot in Group D with a 2-0 defeat of Inter Milan at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Both sides had already qualified for the last 16 and Real just needed a draw to top the group.

They went ahead through an early Toni Kroos strike, and Inter had Nicolo Barella sent off just after the hour mark before substitute Marco Asensio sealed Real’s victory with a stupendous strike.

“Our objective is to go all the way, not just reach the last 16,” said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Moldovan debutants Sheriff Tiraspol had already secured third place before Boban Nikolov’s injury-time goal earned them a 1-1 draw at bottom side Shakhtar Donetsk, for whom Fernando had opened the scoring.

Haller Strikes Again 

Ajax made it six wins out of six in Group C by defeating Sporting Lisbon 4-2 in Amsterdam in a game played behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands.

Sebastien Haller put Ajax ahead with an early penalty for his 10th goal in the group stage, while Brazilian duo Antony and David Neres added further goals and Steven Berghuis was also on target.

Nuno Santos and Bruno Tabata netted for Sporting, who had already secured second place to qualify ahead of Borussia Dortmund.

The Germans crushed 10-man Besiktas 5-0 with Donyell Malen getting the opener and Marco Reus scoring a brace before Erling Haaland came off the bench to score two headers in the second half.

Mbappe, Messi Doubles 

Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) is congratulated by Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe (R) after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League first round day 6 Group A football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Club Brugge, at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on December 7, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) is congratulated by Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (R) after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League first round day 6 Group A football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Club Brugge, at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on December 7, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Earlier Manchester City, having already clinched first place in Group A, lost 2-1 at RB Leipzig, with Dominik Szoboszlai and Andre Silva on target for the Germans in their first game since sacking coach Jesse Marsch.

Riyad Mahrez pulled one back for City, who had Kyle Walker sent off late on as Leipzig took third place.

Paris Saint-Germain, who finish second in the group, crushed Club Brugge 4-1 with Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi both scoring twice.

Mbappe’s goals both came inside the first seven minutes and he then set up Messi’s first goal, with the Argentinian adding a penalty as he moved on to five Champions League goals in five appearances this season.

AFP

Messi’s Enduring Brilliance Rewarded With Another Ballon d’Or

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi poses after being awarded the Ballon d’Or award during the 2021 Ballon d’Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on November 29, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Some might question whether Lionel Messi really deserved to win his latest Ballon d’Or prize ahead of other worthy candidates, but the Argentinian has been rewarded for continuing to be so good for so long.

The most turbulent year of Messi’s glittering career, in which he was forced to tearfully bid farewell to Barcelona, ends with him –- at the age of 34 — claiming a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world.

In Germany, they thought it had to be Robert Lewandowski’s year after he missed out 12 months ago when the 2020 edition was scrapped due to the pandemic.

Karim Benzema might have had plenty of support in Spain for his remarkable performances with Real Madrid, and Jorginho could stake a claim following a year in which he won the Champions League with Chelsea as well as Euro 2020 with Italy.

Yet it is the enduring brilliance of Messi -– who won the last award in 2019 — which stays in the minds of the jurors when it comes to voting.

Having joined Paris Saint-Germain in August, he is the first male player to win the award while with a French club since Jean-Pierre Papin of Marseille in 1991, although it was his achievements with Barcelona and with Argentina that counted towards him effectively retaining his crown.

Messi tried unsuccessfully to force his departure from Barcelona in August 2020 but he showed no signs of rancour as he stayed put at the Camp Nou and ended last season with 38 goals in 48 games for his boyhood club.

READ ALSO: Benzema Not Upset After Ballon d’Or Snub – Ancelotti

International success at last 

The Copa America was Messi’s first major international competition. AFP

 

These are the kind of remarkable figures that he has made so mundane over the course of his career –- indeed he had actually scored more goals than that in 10 of his previous 11 seasons.

Messi was the top scorer in La Liga for the fifth consecutive year with 30 goals and won the Copa del Rey, scoring twice in the final as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0.

This will always be remembered as the year his long association with the Catalan giants came to an end, after 672 goals in 778 appearances, a record goal tally for one club.

However, 2021 was also the year he finally won a major international title, captaining Argentina to victory in the Copa America with a 1-0 win against Brazil in the final at the Maracana.

He scored four goals in the tournament as Argentina won the South American championship for the first time since 1993.

“I think I won this trophy thanks to what we did at the Copa America so I dedicate this to my teammates,” he said after being handed his latest Ballon d’Or at the Chatelet Theatre in central Paris.

Unfinished Business

File photo: Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Lyon scored its opener during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Olympique Lyonnais at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on September 19, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

However, the shame was that hardly any fans were in the stadium to witness Argentina’s Copa America success due to coronavirus restrictions, only adding to the sense that, despite all he has achieved, Messi still has unfinished business.

Not least at PSG, where he has so far played just 11 games since arriving in August, and scored just four goals.

Messi did provide three assists for the Parisians in a Ligue 1 match on Sunday but it remains to be seen how motivated the Argentinian is by the French league. He has other priorities.

“My dream is to win another Champions League,” he said at his unveiling in August, with the last of his four European Cups coming in 2015.

Then there is the really big one: the World Cup in Qatar will be underway this time next year and Messi will be 35 by then.

That will surely be his last chance to win the greatest trophy of all, and you imagine he would swap his seven Ballons d’Or to get his hands on it.

AFP

PSG Star Neymar Ruled Out For Six-Eight Weeks

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar is evacuated on a stretcher after an injury during the French L1 football match between AS Saint-Etienne and Paris Saint Fermain (PSG), at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne, central France, on November 28, 2021.
Jeff PACHOUD / AFP

 

Neymar is expected to be sidelined for between six and eight weeks after sustaining ligament damage to his left ankle, Paris Saint-Germain said on Monday.

The Brazil star was stretchered from the pitch in tears after suffering the injury in the final minutes of Sunday’s 3-1 victory at Saint-Etienne.

“The examinations carried out last night confirm that Neymar Jr suffered from a sprained left ankle with ligament damage,” PSG said in a statement, adding that a further update would be made in 72 hours.

AFP

Messi Sets Up PSG Comeback Win Marred By Neymar Injury

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts as the snow falls during the French L1 football match between AS Saint-Etienne and Paris Saint Fermain (PSG), at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne, central France, on November 28, 2021. (Photo by Jeff PACHOUD / AFP)

 

Paris Saint-Germain overturned an early deficit to beat 10-man Saint-Etienne 3-1 away in Ligue 1 on Sunday, with Lionel Messi setting up all three goals.

The match also featured the long-awaited PSG debut of Spanish defender Sergio Ramos, while Neymar left the pitch sobbing in agony, stretchered off with an ankle injury.

Still in November, the result leaves PSG on 40 points, 14 clear of second-placed Nice, who lost 1-0 at home to struggling Metz on Saturday.

Saint-Etienne took a surprise lead when Denis Bouanga beat the offside trap to fire a shot past Gianluigi Donnarumma on 23 minutes, a flag went up but a VAR review awarded the goal.

The hosts, languishing in the bottom two but on the back of two straight league wins, held their own against PSG, who appeared more affected by the freezing cold and gusting snow.

All that changed with a red card.

There was no VAR to save the hosts on the stroke of half-time when back-tracking defender Timothee Kolodziejczak was sent off for a flailing challenge on Kylian Mbappe.

PSG then levelled when Marquinhos scored with a towering header as Messi floated in the subsequent free-kick, sending in the sides level, but with the hosts hanging their heads.

“At best that was too harsh,” said Saint-Etienne coach Claude Puel. “It changed the match, we were leading and doing well.”

The second half was one-way traffic with further goals coming from Angel Di Maria on 79 and centre-back Marquinhos with his second in time added on — Messi again providing inch-perfect passes.

But there was bad news for PSG late on as Neymar fell in full flight after treading on a defender’s leg and twisting his ankle in a way that made his teammates wince.

“That’s life,” Neymar said on Instagram. “I’ll be back better and stronger.”

The result sees Saint-Etienne slip to the foot of the table, behind Metz on goal difference.

FULL LIST: Man City, PSG, And Others Who Have Made Champions League Knockout Stage

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian striker Lionel Messi (C) applauds supporters on the pitch after the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on November 24, 2021. Manchester City won the game 2-1. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester City beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on Wednesday but both clubs qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, along with Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and Sporting Lisbon.

Gabriel Jesus tapped in from Bernardo Silva’s deft knockdown on 76 minutes to settle an absorbing match at the Etihad after Raheem Sterling had cancelled out Kylian Mbappe’s goal.

Before Jesus sent the crowd wild in Manchester, Neymar shot wide to blow a golden chance to put the Parisians ahead.

Lionel Messi had a low-key game and Sergio Ramos, named among the substitutes, was not called on to make his PSG debut.

Pep Guardiola’s City, the beaten finalists last season, are guaranteed of winning Group A, while PSG qualified in second place despite the defeat because RB Leipzig thrashed Club Brugge 5-0 in Belgium.

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (R) celebrates with Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva (L) and Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Joao Cancelo (C) after scoring their second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on November 24, 2021. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino, in the city where he is being linked with the vacant Manchester United job, insisted his expensively-assembled side were showing improvement.

“We have to improve,” added Pochettino. “I am happy in the process. Things are better than one month ago and much better than two months ago. Little by little the team is going to improve.”

About the United rumours, the former Tottenham coach said: “We are living in a business that rumours are there, sometimes positive, sometimes negative.”

READ ALSO: Ronaldo Fires Manchester United Into Champions League Last 16

Guilty verdict and a goal 

Karim Benzema scored just hours after being found guilty by a French court in a blackmail case as Real Madrid eased past Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 to reach the knockout stage.

The French striker notched his team’s third goal of a confident display in Transnistria after David Alaba’s free-kick and Toni Kroos’ strike as Real took revenge for their shock 2-1 loss to Sheriff in Madrid earlier this season.

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said the court verdict, and the one-year suspended jail sentence Benzema received for his part in blackmailing former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sextape, had not affected the striker.

“We have not talked about it (the court verdict), he is calm, it is a subject concerning him that we have been talking about for a long time,” Ancelotti said.

The victory sent the Spanish giants back to the top of Group D, two points clear of second-placed Inter Milan, who also qualified for the last 16 after beating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 thanks to two Edin Dzeko goals.

Sporting Lisbon reached the knockout phase for the first time since the 2008-2009 season as they beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the Portuguese capital.

Pedro Goncalves netted twice as Sporting got the two-goal winning margin they needed to end the Germans’ hopes of advancing to the knock-out stages.

Dortmund’s campaign has been derailed by the continued absence of Erling Haaland with a hip injury and they will have to settle for a place in the Europa League.

Liverpool were already qualified for the last 16 going into their tie against Porto at Anfield and Thiago Alcantara’s superb low shot and Mohamed Salah’s sixth goal of this season’s group phase wrapped up a comfortable 2-0 win.

Atletico Madrid lost 1-0 at home to AC Milan after a dramatic late winner from Milan substitute Junior Messias, a defeat that leaves the Spanish side bottom of Liverpool’s Group B.

Diego Simeone’s team must beat Porto in their final game on December 7 and hope that Liverpool win away against AC Milan, who sit just a point behind the Portuguese club.

AFP

Football Industry Embraces Crypto As Messi Helps ‘Fan Tokens’ Take Off

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and FC Nantes at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on November 20, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

When Paris Saint-Germain signed Lionel Messi, the salary package included something previously unheard of for a player — a one-off payment, understood to be worth around one million euros ($1.15m), made in PSG ‘fan tokens’.

It was the result of a partnership signed by the French giants in 2018 with Socios.com which sees fans use a cryptocurrency called ‘chiliz’ to buy tokens allowing them to vote on issues related to the club.

These issues have tended to be rather mundane, for example, Juventus asking what music they should play in their stadium, but the concept has caught on.

The company has grown quickly since signing its first partnerships with PSG and Juventus to being involved with 56 football clubs and around 100 sports teams worldwide, says CEO Alexandre Dreyfus.

READ ALSO: Ronaldo Fires Manchester United Into Champions League Last 16

Messi has brought more publicity, and Dreyfus believes the Argentinian will “set a trend”.

“This is more a top-up that is never going to replace any compensation. It is more like a bonus, but it is a bonus that at some point players will start to ask for,” Dreyfus tells AFP from his office in Malta.

“We hope that in two years, during the ‘mercato’ (transfer window), a player will say: ‘Yes I am going to that team but they had better give me a million dollars of fan tokens’.”

Dreyfus admits the pandemic and resulting economic crisis has benefited his company, allowing them to multiply their partnerships.

“The fact is that clubs suddenly lost 50 or 70 or 80 percent of their revenue, and they realised: ‘Hey, we have fans all over the world, what can we sell them?'”

They now have shirt sponsorship deals with Inter Milan and Valencia, promoting their fan tokens.

Sponsorship Bonanza

New analysis by KPMG Football Benchmark shows that over 40 shirt sponsorship deals have been signed in Europe’s five biggest leagues since the pandemic’s onset.

It says Inter doubled income by switching from Pirelli to Socios.com and a deal worth $23.57 million.

There is a mini-revolution happening as businesses related to cryptocurrency have started appearing on shirts.

In July, Roma announced a three-year deal worth $14 million annually that sees their shirts carry the name of DigitalBits, “an easy-to-use open-source blockchain used to power consumer digital assets”.

“Not only can fans witness history, but they can now own part of it,” boasted Roma. “Get ready to trade and collect. Join us as we step into the future of football.”

The emergence of crypto-related businesses in football comes as countries are introducing regulations to clamp down on gambling sponsorship -– a ban is in place in Spain, for example, while the UK government is considering one.

“The door is ajar for new companies to stick their foot in,” says KPMG.

“Something has to fill the void and fan tokens, or something which is not defined as gambling but is gambling, are likely to be the big-ticket in town,” Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University, tells AFP.

Concerns 

There are concerns about curious punters being drawn into using crypto-related products without having a proper understanding.

To highlight their volatility, the value of ‘chiliz’ — a less well-known cryptocurrency than, say, Bitcoin — shot up 58 percent in the four weeks after Messi’s arrival.

“Ultimately these are speculative products. Someone described them to me as gambling with a small G,” says Maguire.

Meanwhile, some supporter groups have criticised their clubs for embracing fan tokens.

Aston Villa Supporters Trust told Joe.co.uk their club’s agreement with Socios.com was “wholly inappropriate” and questioned why fan engagement should be monetised.

Maguire says: “The clubs are targeting the ‘non-legacy fans’ and asking: ‘Can we make some money out of these new fans?’

“If we take Manchester United, they claim to have 1.1 billion fans and in a normal year, they will make around 600 million pounds ($805m) in revenue. So that works out as about 55 pence per fan per year. That’s pretty bad.”

For the clubs, this is where Dreyfus — a founder of French online gambling and poker company Winamax — comes in.

“We are talking about two different generations that are not fighting against each other, they just don’t see the same things,” he insists.

“I always joke saying we are not targeting a guy who has a tattoo and lives next to the stadium.

“Our market is really more about the digital fans, casual fans all over the world that consume sports differently to you and me historically.”

AFP

Abidal’s Wife Seeks Divorce Over Links To PSG’s Hamraoui

A photo collage of Eric Abidal and wife, Hayet Abidal

 

The wife of former French international Eric Abidal said Friday that she was seeking a divorce after learning of his alleged relationship with Paris Saint-Germain women’s footballer Kheira Hamraoui.

The links emerged as investigators try to learn who was behind a mysterious attack against Hamraoui this month when her legs were beaten after she was dragged out of a car with her teammate Aminata Diallo.

Earlier this week, Hamraoui appealed to the media to respect her privacy after police discovered she was using a telephone SIM card registered in Abidal’s name on the night of the attack.

“Hayet Abidal is going to file a divorce request in Barcelona,” her lawyers said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Former Barcelona Legend Abidal To Be Questioned Over Female PSG Player Assault

Eric Abidal, a household name in France, was Barcelona’s sporting director from 2018 to 2020, during which time Hamraoui was with the women’s team.

The statement claimed that he “admitted to his spouse” having an affair with Hamraoui after French prosecutors in the Paris suburb of Versailles announced the SIM card link.

Hayet Abidal “reiterates her request to be questioned very soon on a case that has already had several collateral victims,” the statement added.

The Abidals, who know each other from their native Lyon in southeast France, have been married since 2007 and have four daughters and a son.

Diallo, who was not injured in the attack, was held for questioning for nearly 35 hours last week before being released without charge.

The attack and its aftermath sent shockwaves through the PSG club, with the two players considered friendly rivals for midfield positions.

Hamraoui was left out of the squad in PSG’s 2-0 defeat of Real Madrid on Thursday, which saw them clinch their place in the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League.

AFP

Former Barcelona Legend Abidal To Be Questioned Over Female PSG Player Assault

In this file photo taken on February 01, 2019, Barcelona’s French technical secretary Eric Abidal attends a press conference during the presentation of Barcelona´s new player French defender Jean-Clair Todibo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. 
Pau Barrena / AFP

 

Former Barcelona and France star Eric Abidal may be questioned by the magistrate investigating the beating of Paris Saint-Germain women’s star Kheira Hamraoui, AFP learned on Monday.

Police passed the investigation to prosecutors in Versailles outside Paris on Monday.

Seeking new leads in the case after Hamraoui’s teammate Aminata Diallo was released from custody without charge, it was established Hamraoui was using a telephone SIM card registered in Abidal’s name on the night of the attack.

Hamraoui recently returned to PSG following three seasons at Barcelona, where Abidal was director of football from 2018-2020.

 

READ ALSO: PSG Player Detained After Attack On Teammate

 

Abidal is a household name in France after his years as a Barcelona player and French international. He made a stunning return to his playing career after undergoing a liver transplant in 2012.

 

This combination of file photographs created on November 10, 2021, shows (L) France’s midfielder Kheira Hamraoui as she kicks the ball during the women’s Euro 2017 qualifying football match between France and Albania at The Charlety Stadium in Paris on September 20, 2016  Paul VERNON, Franck FIFE / AFP

 

On Monday, prosecutors told AFP that Abidal “is just one lead among many”, but refused to rule out questioning Abidal’s wife Hayet.

The assault on Hamraoui took place while she was being driven home by Diallo on November 4.

Their car was stopped by masked men who dragged the players from the vehicle and beat Hamraoui’s legs with a metal bar while restraining Diallo.

The 31-year-old Hamraoui required stitches and Diallo, who was not injured, played in her place in PSG’s following match.

Diallo, 26, was then detained for nearly 35 hours before being released without charge, as investigators looked into whether on-field rivalry might explain the violence.

French media reported that Hamraoui had raised concerns about Diallo when she filed a police complaint about the attack, highlighting the unusual route taken by her teammate and the slow speed of their vehicle.

-AFP

PSG Player Detained After Attack On Teammate

In this file photograph taken on April 7, 2014, France’s midfielder Aminata Diallo reacts during the European women’s Under 19 Championship Tour Elite round match between France and Poland at Sarlat-la-Caneda, central France. Nicolas TUCAT / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain women’s footballer Aminata Diallo was detained by police Wednesday in connection with a vicious street assault on a teammate and fellow French national player last week, her club said.

Diallo was returning with fellow midfielder Kheira Hamraoui from a Paris dinner organised by PSG last Thursday when armed men held up their car and dragged out Hamraoui, who was then hit on the legs with an iron bar, L’Equipe newspaper reported.

Hamraoui, who required stitches in hospital afterward, was notably absent from the PSG team on Tuesday evening for a Champions League game against Real Madrid at home, with Diallo playing in her place in central midfield.

PSG said it was working with police “to shed light on the facts. The club will be following the investigation and will look at the conclusions that need to be drawn.”

It said that since the attack the club “had taken all the necessary measures to ensure the health, well-being, and security of its players.”

Diallo, 26, was briefly held by the balaclava-wearing attackers during the assault near Hamraoui’s home but was not injured, a source at the club told AFP.

The Grenoble-born player could not be reached for comment and neither police nor prosecutors gave any reason for her detention.

Diallo was detained by police specialised in organised crime at her home in Marly-le-Roi, a suburb west of Paris.

Late afternoon on Wednesday, her detention was extended by 24 hours, Versailles prosecutor Maryvonne Caillibotte told AFP.

Diallo could now remain in a Versailles police station until Friday morning.

A man “who could be linked to the attack”, but is not related to Diallo, was also taken into police custody in the central city of Lyon, Caillibotte said.

The prosecutor added that Diallo had spoken while in police custody but had not called a lawyer.

READ ALSO: Super Eagles’ Shot-stopper Okoye Joins Watford

Rivals 

This combination of file photographs created on November 10, 2021, shows (L) France’s midfielder Kheira Hamraoui as she kicks the ball during the women’s Euro 2017 qualifying football match between France and Albania at The Charlety Stadium in Paris on September 20, 2016, and (R) France’s midfielder Aminata Diallo as she runs with the ball during a ‘SheBelieves Cup’ football match between France and England at The Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on March 1, 2018. Paul VERNON, Franck FIFE / AFP

 

The development sent shockwaves through the club and the women’s game more broadly in France, with the two players considered friendly rivals for midfield positions at PSG and in the national team.

Hamraoui, 31, returned to PSG last summer from Barcelona, where she won three titles including the Champions League last year.

She was recalled to the French national team in October after a more than two-year absence but pulled out because of injury.

Diallo, who has been capped seven times by France, was called up to replace her in the squad but was not used by coach Corinne Diacre.

The PSG women’s team won their first league title last year, breaking the stranglehold of Lyon, which had been crowned champions for 14 years in a row.

The team showed no sign of being unsettled by the attack on Hamraoui during their game against Real Madrid, winning 4-0.

Diallo played almost the entire game, before being substituted in the 89th minute.

The bizarre incident has prompted comparisons to when the ex-husband and bodyguard of American figure skater Tonya Harding arranged an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan in the run-up to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.

AFP

 

Messi Taken Off At Half-Time As PSG Narrowly Beat Lille

Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) and Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar react during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and LOSC Lille at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, on October 29, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) and Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar react during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and LOSC Lille at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, on October 29, 2021.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Neymar set up Angel Di Maria to score an 88th-minute winner as Paris Saint-Germain came from behind once again, this time to beat reigning French champions Lille 2-1 on Friday.

With Kylian Mbappe missing and Lionel Messi taken off at half-time, PSG needed captain Marquinhos to equalise in the 74th minute after Jonathan David had given the away side a first-half lead at the Parc des Princes.

Di Maria had set up the equaliser and he then arrived to fire low into the net from Neymar’s lay-off and secure a win that allows PSG to extend their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to a massive 10 points over second-placed Lens before the rest of the weekend’s games.

Nevertheless this was another in a long line of disjointed displays from Mauricio Pochettino’s team and the coach was again left with questions to answer.

READ ALSO: Solskjaer Fights For Man Utd Job As Top Three Flex Muscles

It was the third time in four home league games that PSG have come from behind to score a late winning goal, and here it came against a Lille side who are in mid-table after a poor start to their title defence.

The absence of top-scorer Mbappe due to illness did not help, nor did that of injured playmaker Marco Verratti.

“It is not by chance that the team responded the way they did. It shows the mentality and the character that they have,” Pochettino insisted.

“We want to win in the best possible manner, and by the biggest margin. The truth is that it’s often a struggle but it’s not by chance that we have won 10 league games out of 12.”

Messi’s goal drought

Messi was taken off at the interval and is still without a goal after five appearances in Ligue 1. That record is surely not what anyone expected from him when he arrived in August.

Perhaps he eventually will start scoring for fun in France, but he will go into November still looking to break his duck.

To be fair Messi has been making an impact in the Champions League, with three goals in three appearances in Europe.

His premature substitution here was a precautionary measure ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with RB Leipzig in Germany -– the Argentinian had been struggling with a minor injury during the week.

“We think he will be available for the match against Leipzig,” Pochettino told broadcaster Amazon Prime.

Neymar’s form has also been a source of concern, and the Brazilian still has just one goal to his name this season, and that from a penalty.

Here the world’s most expensive player sometimes cut a frustrated figure and talked his way into a late booking, but that was before he teed up Di Maria for the winner.

Earlier Lille were rewarded for a fine first-half showing with the opening goal just after the half-hour mark.

Burak Yilmaz, who had come close to scoring in the first minute, got to the byline and cut the ball back for Canada striker David to turn it into the net from close range.

Yilmaz was then denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma early in the second half but PSG pushed in search of an equaliser and eventually got it as Di Maria’s chipped ball from the byline was turned in by Marquinhos.

Mauro Icardi, who had replaced Messi at the break, missed a great chance to win it for the home side before Di Maria struck.

Second-placed Lens are in action on Saturday away to Lyon.

Mbappe Says He Told PSG He Wanted To Leave

File photo: Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe runs on the pitch during the French L1 football match between Stade de Reims and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Stade Auguste Delaune in Reims, northern France on August 29, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Kylian Mbappe on Monday confirmed that he told Paris Saint-Germain in July he wanted to leave the club.

“I said at the end of July that I wanted to leave,” Mbappe said in an interview with RMC radio.

“My position has been clear. I said I wanted to leave and I told them (PSG management) quite early on.”

The French World Cup winner has not extended his contract at PSG, fuelling speculation he will seek a move to Real Madrid at the end of the season.

The Spanish giants bid 180 million euros ($209 million) for Mbappe in August but PSG, who had just signed Lionel Messi from Barcelona, turned down the offer.

At the time, PSG’s sporting director Leonardo said Mbappe could “leave or stay on our conditions”.

Mbappe said he eventually told PSG “if you don’t want me to leave, I will stay”.

“People said I had refused six or seven offers to extend and that I never talk to Leonardo, which is absolutely not true,” he added.

Mbappe, who joined PSG from Monaco for a deal worth a total of 180 million euros in 2017, said he had offered to leave the club in July to allow PSG to find “a quality replacement”.

“I wanted everyone to be in a win-win situation,” he said.

“Paris is a club that has given me a lot, where I’ve always been happy for the four years I have spent here and I am still happy.”

AFP

Again, Injured Messi To Miss Out For PSG 

File photo: Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match Club Brugge against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Jan Breydel Stadium in Bruges, on September 15, 2021. JOHN THYS / AFP

 

Lionel Messi will again be sidelined for Paris Saint-Germain for Saturday’s game against Montpellier as he continues to nurse a knee injury, his club said.

PSG said Messi had started running again and that a new update would come on Sunday, raising hope that he will be able to return for the Champions League clash against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Tuesday.

“Hopefully everything will be ok and he will be back with us,” coach Mauricio Pochettino said at a press conference.

“We hope he can be there. We need to be cautious and see how things evolve in the coming days.”

Messi was taken off in the 76th minute of last weekend’s 2-1 win over Lyon in Ligue 1.

It only emerged later that he was suffering from a knock to a knee and he played no part in Wednesday’s 2-1 league win at Metz.

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Messi has made just three appearances for his new club since arriving from Barcelona in early August, and has completed 90 minutes just once, at Club Brugge in the Champions League.

PSG are looking to make it eight wins out of eight in Ligue 1 this season when they play Montpellier, with Pochettino insisting that is his focus, not the rematch with a City side who knocked them out of the Champions League in the semi-finals last season.

“The important thing is the Montpellier game, trying to win and improve in the aspects we need to improve. Manchester City doesn’t influence it,” said the Argentine.

“We want to keep our run of results going, although of course it can help us prepare for the game on Tuesday.”

Marco Verratti and Sergio Ramos, the close-season signing from Real Madrid, are also still on the sidelines.

AFP