Football: Goalkeeping gaffe hands Man Utd win at Benfica


LISBON (AFP) – Manchester United took a huge stride towards the Champions League knockout stages on Wednesday, seeing off an uninspired Benfica 1-0 to make it three wins out of three thanks to a goalkeeping howler.

Marcus Rashford broke the deadlock midway through the second half when an inswinging free-kick from the left was carried over his line by teenage goalkeeper Mile Svilar.

Svilar, who became the youngest goalkeeper to start a Champions League game aged just 18 years and 52 days, caught the ball but in doing so stepped backwards over his line to gift United the lead.

It was a lucky break for the Premier League high-flyers, who, despite dominating possession, had been struggling to create meaningful chances against the Portuguese champions, twice winners of the European Cup.

Benfica showed increased urgency after going behind, bringing on forward Jonas for Diogo Goncalves but they failed to trouble David de Gea in the visitors goal.

Rashford limped off with about 15 minutes to go, replaced by Anthony Martial, who tested Svilar early following an incisive run into the box.

Benfica captain Luisao was sent off in added time afer a lunge at United substitute Scott McTominay to compound the home side s misery.

Jose Mourinho made four changes to the team that started Saturday s cagey 0-0 draw with Liverpool in the Premier League, with Victor Lindelof, Daley Blind, Juan Mata and Rashford returning to the side.

But it was Benfica who played the more enterprising football in the early stages as the visitors struggled to establish any rhythm, frequently caught offside as they tried to make inroads.

United, unbeaten since they lost the European Super Cup to Real Madrid in early August, have made an impressive start to the Premier League season, scoring freely before the weekend s Anfield stalemate.

Svilar beat Iker Casillas s record — the Real Madrid legend made his debut in the competition in 1999 at the age of 18 years and 118 days.

The Portuguese champions came into the match on the back of two defeats out of two in the Champions League, including a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Swiss side Basel.

United, who did not qualify for the Champions League last season, now have nine points out of nine in Group A and look almost certain to qualify for the knockout stages but Benfica, without a single point, have a mountain to climb.

Football: Hazard rescues Chelsea in six-goal Roma thriller


LONDON (AFP) – Eden Hazard came to Chelsea s rescue after his side blew a two-goal lead in a dramatic 3-3 draw with Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Antonio Conte s team looked on course for a comfortable victory at Stamford Bridge thanks to first half goals from David Luiz and Hazard at Stamford Bridge.

But Roma s Aleksandar Kolarov struck before half-time to spark a stirring fightback from the Serie A side.

Former Manchester City forward Edin Dzeko bagged a brace after the interval to give Roma the lead, only for Hazard to spare Chelsea s blushes with a late leveller.

Chelsea remain two points clear of Roma at the top of Group C, but this was the latest in a growing list of alarming displays from the Premier League champions.

Blues boss Antonio Conte reportedly held a lengthy inquest with his squad in the aftermath of Saturday s shock 2-1 loss at Crystal Palace and this erratic performance — which extended their winless run to three matches — may well spark another dressing down from the Italian.

After being penned into their own half early on, Chelsea conjured an electric counter, but Alvaro Morata, showing signs of rust after his injury lay-off, shot tamely at Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Roma were undaunted and Diego Perotti galloped forward for a stinging strike that whistled over.

Brazil defender Luiz had been missing in action during that Roma raid, but the part-time midfielder recovered his bearings to put Chelsea ahead in the 11th minute.

Stealing possession inside the Roma half, Luiz initially tried a defence-splitting pass, but when that was blocked, he seized on the rebound and curled a fine first-time finish past Becker from 20 yards.

Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan wasted a golden chance to equalise when he shot straight at Thibaut Courtois.

That miss seemed fatal for Roma when Hazard scored Chelsea s second in the 37th minute.

It was Hazard who started the attack, pouncing in midfield and picking out Morata.

While Morata sized up his options, Hazard was sprinting into the Roma area, where he met his team-mate s deft cross with a cool close-range finish.

Hazard s first club goal of the season should have put Chelsea on cruise control, but they remained far from convincing and Roma were back in the game three minutes later.

Kolarov took possession wide on the left edge of the Chelsea area, surged past Cesar Azpilicueta and blasted a fierce strike that deflected in off Andreas Christensen.

Roma had won only once in their 15 games in England, but the way they were bossing possession suggested a memorable escape wasn t out of the question.

The warning signs were there when Courtois was forced to stick out a boot to stop Dzeko converting Kolarov s cross early in the second half.

Conte responded to Chelsea s struggles by sending on Pedro for Luiz and moving Cesc Fabregas into a more defensive midfield role.

But the switch failed to stem the tide and Roma equalised thanks to Dzeko s moment of magic in the 64th minute.

Federico Fazio spotted Dzeko s run and lofted a perfectly-weighted high pass that dipped into the Bosnian s path.

Dzeko contorted his body in mid-air to meet the ball with a sublime volley that flashed past Courtois.

Conte s side were stunned, but Dzeko wasn t finished yet and he put Roma ahead in the 70th minute.

Kolarov s inswinging free-kick caught Chelsea flat-footed and Dzeko headed home from close-range.

But, just as Chelsea looked sunk, Hazard bailed them out, ghosting into the Roma area to equalise with a glancing header from Pedro s 75th minute cross.

Football: Bayern down Celtic on Heynckes’ Champions League return


MUNICH (AFP) – Jupp Heynckes enjoyed a successful Champions League return on Wednesday as Bayern Munich got their Group B campaign back on track with a 3-0 home win against Celtic.

Bayern captain Thomas Mueller put the hosts ahead after 17 minutes before Germany defender Joshua Kimmich made it two with a header just before the half-hour mark.

Mats Hummels — who insisted Bayern cannot currently consider themselves amongst Europe s top teams in an pre-match interview — completed the win with a header just after the break.

The result leaves Bayern second in the group on six points, three behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain and three clear of third-placed Celtic.

“FC Bayern wants to qualify for the knock-out phase, so it was important for us to get the win,” said Heynckes.

“The team did well, even if we didn t convert all our chances.”

It had been 1,608 days since Heynckes last took charge of Bayern in Europe when they beat Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final.

The 72-year-old came out of a four-year retirement for his fourth stint as Bayern coach after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked in the wake of Bayern s 3-0 drubbing at PSG three weeks ago.

Following Saturday s 5-0 thumping of Freiburg, Bayern have now scored eight goals without reply in Heynckes first two games.

“The attitude was better, we were motivated after the win at Freiburg and wanted to use the momentum,” said Mueller.

“That was an important three points.

“We created a lot of chances in the second half which we should have used.”

Heynckes started four of the team – David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Mueller and Arjen Robben – which won the Wembley final four years ago.

He also made a good start to solving the problem which perplexed predecessor Ancelotti of where to play Mueller.

The Germany star was restored to the attacking midfield role, happily roaming just behind Robert Lewandowski, with Thiago Alcantara dropping into defensive midfield.

Key Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic was missing with a hamstring injury, so coach Brendan Rodgers partnered Mikael Lustig with Dedryck Boyata at centre-back.

Captain Scott Brown and former Dundee United midfielder Stuart Armstrong also returned from injury.

Bayern ran riot in the opening six minutes with Lewandowski a constant menace in front of a sell-out 72,000 crowd.

Thiago had a goal disallowed, incorrectly as replays showed the ball had not gone out of play in the build-up, before Lewandowski had a penalty appeal waved away.

Alaba sent a clear chance flying over the bar with 13 minutes gone.

Celtic s defence finally broke on 17 minutes when Lewandowski s header was saved by goalkeeper Craig Gordon, but Mueller smashed home the rebound.

Kimmich grabbed the second with a pin-point header on 29 minutes from Kingsley Coman s floated cross.

It was 2-0 at the break, but Hummels headed Bayern s third goal from the resulting corner after Robben fired over on 52 minutes.

“I was disappointed with the nature of the goals, but there were positives,” said Celtic boss Rodgers.

“There was no denying we played against a top-class side and we didn t defend our box well enough when the crosses came in.”

Robben, who made his 100th Champions League appearance spanning 16 seasons, had a bullet header cleared off the line with half an hour to go.

“That is a step forwards,” said the Dutch winger.

“We want to improve. Not everything is perfect yet, but we are on the right path.”

Lewandowski put the ball in the net shortly afterwards, but the goal was chalked off for offside, as Bayern kept the pressure up.

Celtic improved for the final 20 minutes as winger Scott Sinclair also had a goal disallowed for offside just before the final whistle.

Atletico on brink of early European exit


BAKU: (AFP) – Atletico Madrid suffered a fresh blow to their chances of progressing to the Champions League last 16 as 10-man Qarabag held on for a 0-0 draw to secure their first ever point in the competition in Baku.

It could have been even worse for the 2014 and 2016 finalists had South African striker Dino Ndlovu won a penalty rather than being shown a second yellow card for diving 15 minutes from time.

Atletico now have just two points from their opening three games and remain third in Group C behind Chelsea and Roma, who face off at Stamford Bridge later on Wednesday.

The visitors had a host of chances to open the scoring in the first half, but suffered from a familiar lack of firepower in already their fourth 0-0 draw of the season.

Yannick Carrasco and Antoine Griezmann were both denied by Ibrahim Sehic when clean through, whilst Jose Maria Gimenez fired inches wide from a corner before the break.

However, it was Azerbaijani champions Qarabag, in their first ever season in the Champions League, who had the better chances in the second period.

Ndlovu s rising effort flew inches over the bar before he thought he had won a penalty as he was clipped by Diego Godin inside the area.

Instead, French referee Ruddy Buquet reduced the hosts to 10 men for what he thought was a dive.

Atletico pressed unconvincingly in the search for a winner and their best chance came when Fernando Torres headed over after he too appeared to be pushed with the goal gaping five minutes from time.

Buquet was unmoved, though, as Atletico s European campaign continues to stumble after a stalemate away to Roma and a 2-1 defeat at home to Chelsea.

Ex-Uruguay defender Lopez named Cagliari coach


MILAN: (AFP) – Uruguayan Diego Lopez has been appointed coach of Serie A strugglers Cagliari in place of the sacked Massimo Rastelli, the club said on Wednesday.

The 43-year-old Lopez played for the club for 12 seasons from 1998 to 2010, and previously coached the Sardinian outfit from 2013 to 2014, with a spell also in charge of the youth teams.

Lopez — who also briefly coached Palermo in Serie A last season and Bologna when they were in the second division — signed a contract until June 2019, the club said.

Cagliari are currently 14th in Serie A after four straight defeats, most recently losing 3-2 at home against Genoa.

Rastelli, 48, took over in the 2015-2016 season, guiding Cagliari into the Italian top flight after winning Serie B in 2016.

Last season the club finished 11th but this term are struggling with just two wins in eight games, against relegation rivals Crotone and SPAL.

Rastelli was the first Serie A coach sacked this season with coaching assistants Nicola Legrottaglie and Dario Rossi also dismissed in the clearout.

Football: Real held by Lloris masterclass in Madrid


MADRID (AFP) – A pair of stunning second-half saves from Hugo Lloris salvaged a precious point for Tottenham Hotspur as they held European champions Real Madrid 1-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Both sides remain unbeaten in this season s Champions League and well placed to progress to the last 16. They each have seven points after Cristiano Ronaldo s penalty cancelled out Raphael Varane s own goal in the first period.

“Hugo was fantastic, he deserves a big prize. He showed his real level,” said Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

“Today we see why Hugo Lloris is one of the best goalkeepers of the world.

“The performance was fantastic; the effort, the belief, it is important to congratulate our players.”

The sides meet again with top spot in Group H on the line at Wembley on November 1.

Borussia Dortmund s 1-1 draw at APOEL Nicosia means the Germans and Cypriots remain six points adrift of the group leaders.

“We can t ever be happy not to win at home, but today there were two great goalkeepers,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.

“Keylor (Navas) for us and Lloris for them and sometimes you have to accept it.”

An entertaining encounter got off to a flying start as 18-year-old Achraf Hakimi — on his Champions League debut for Real — teed up Ronaldo to head off the post and Karim Benzema pulled the rebound wide with the goal gaping.

After a nervous opening 10 minutes, though, Tottenham settled with Harry Kane predictably a constant threat up front.

The English international s sensational form saw him labelled a “complete player” by Zidane on the eve of the game, fuelling speculation he could follow Luka Modric and Gareth Bale s lead in making a move to Madrid in the future.

“A point at the Bernabeu, you d take that every day of the week,” said Kane. “It shows how far we ve come as a team.”

Kane s downward header was turned over by Navas before he broke free down the left and, from his cross, Fernando Llorente appeared to be chopped down by Casemiro inside the area, but Polish referee Szymon Marciniak was unmoved.

Despite failing to get the final touch, Kane was involved once more when Spurs went in front on 28 minutes as Varane turned Serge Aurier s cross into his own net under pressure from the striker.

And Madrid s frustrations shone through when Ronaldo was booked for a petulant slap on Jan Vertonghen.

However, Real demonstrated why they have won this competition for the past two seasons by restoring order and parity before the break.

A flowing team move put Toni Kroos clean through and when he was upended by Aurier, Ronaldo stepped up to bury the resulting penalty.

Spurs were then bailed out by two outstanding saves from Lloris after the restart.

The French captain s outstretched leg diverted Benzema s powerful header from point-blank range to safety, much to his former international team-mate s dismay.

And Ronaldo then couldn t believe his eyes as Lloris leapt to turn over his rising drive which was headed for the top corner.

“At this level it s a great feeling to get a good draw,” Lloris told BT Sport.

“They put a lot of pressure on. We could have buckled and conceded a second, but 1-1 at half-time was good and we kept working together until the end.”

A hugely entertaining game continued to swing from end to end and it was the visitors who had the better chances to take all three points in the final 20 minutes.

Kane had the best opportunity when he was picked out by Llorente s fine pass, but Navas spread himself well to divert the ball behind.

And the Costa Rican had to be alert again moments later to prevent Christian Eriksen s drive sneaking in at the near post.

“Today was a game for the keepers,” said Navas.

Football: Rampant Reds hit seven to silence Klopp critics


MARIBOR (AFP) – Liverpool eased the pressure on Jurgen Klopp as Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah inspired a 7-0 thrashing of Maribor in the Champions League on Tuesday.

After drawing their first two European fixtures and spluttering in the Premier League, Liverpool arrived in Slovenia with critics questioning Klopp s signings and tactics.

But, for once, Klopp s team showed a ruthless touch in the opposition penalty area to demolish woeful Maribor.

Firmino opened the scoring and Philippe Coutinho increased Liverpool s lead before Salah s brace put the Reds four up by half-time at Stadion Ljudski Vrt.

Firmino netted again after the break, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold also on the scoresheet as Liverpool s goal blitz moved them into first place in Group E with three matches left.

After only one victory in their last eight games in all competitions, this was a welcome tonic for Klopp and company as they ended a three-match winless run.

Now Klopp must hope the dominant display marks a much-needed change in his side s fortunes.

“Our attitude was really outstanding. We scored wonderful goals and played wonderful football,” Klopp said after Liverpool s biggest ever European away win.

“I know at the end it looked like Maribor were not good but it was not easy against us today. It was a very mature performance.”

Saturday s goalless draw against Manchester United had continued Liverpool s frustrating recent trend of failing to kill off their opponents despite controlling possession.

Liverpool s profligacy sparked criticism of Klopp s failure to buy a top-class striker and, irritated by questions about his trophyless two-year reign, he sarcastically labelled himself a “charismatic, funny loser” earlier this week.

Aware the heat was being turned up, Klopp will be relieved Liverpool looked more potent, although it helped that Maribor were totally out of their depth.

Klopp s side quickly punished Maribor s naive defending to take a fourth minute lead.

Salah was left in acres of space down the right edge of the Maribor penalty area and the Egypt winger s low cross into the six yard box teed up Firmino to tap-in his fifth goal of the season.

Liverpool were running riot and Coutinho doubled their advantage in the 13th minute.

Salah sent James Milner away down the right flank and he pulled a cross back to the edge of the Maribor area, where Coutinho arrived to slot home his fifth goal of the season.

Firmino went close with a flicked shot at the end of a flowing move, but for once applying the finishing touch wasn t a problem for Klopp s men.

Salah made it three with his seventh goal of the season in the 19th minute.

Firmino was the creator, riding two tackles and slipping a deft pass to Salah, who guided a cool finish past Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic.

Maribor were in complete disarray and Salah notched Liverpool s fourth from virtually on the goalline after Alberto Moreno s cross unhinged the hapless hosts in the 39th minute.

It was only the seventh time an English club had scored four first half goals in the Champions League.

Liverpool weren t finished yet and the Brazil connection combined for their fifth when Firmino rose to head in Coutinho s 54th minute free-kick.

Capping a night when everything when right for Klopp, Oxlade-Chamberlain, on as a substitute, grabbed his first Liverpool goal since his August move from Arsenal.

Daniel Sturridge s pass sent Oxlade-Chamberlain clear in the 86th minute and he calmly stroked his shot past Handanovic.

Klopp was all smiles on the touchline and there was still time for teenage defender Alexander-Arnold to net in stoppage-time with a deflected long-range effort.

Football: Jesus earns Man City narrow win over Napoli


MANCHESTER (AFP) – Manchester City conceded two penalties — one that was squandered, one that was scored — as they edged Napoli 2-1 on Tuesday to tighten their grip on Champions League Group F.

In a much-hyped clash of the highest-scoring teams in Europe s five major leagues, City swiftly went 2-0 up through Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus at the Etihad Stadium and looked set for another breezy win.

But Napoli hit back, Ederson having to save a penalty from Dries Mertens before Amadou Diawara netted from 12 yards in the 73rd minute, and City manager Pep Guardiola will have been grateful for the final whistle.

“When you win 4-0, you are less nervous than when you win 2-1,” Guardiola said.

“But I expected that. I didn t expect to control the game for 90 minutes because Napoli is an exceptional team.

“You cannot beat Napoli if you don t make a really good performance. And we did it and I m so, so happy.”

With three wins in three games, City are firmly on track for the last 16, while Napoli, who have won all eight of their domestic league matches to date, face a battle to progress after their second defeat of the campaign.

But although City preserved their 100 percent record in the group, the way they let Napoli back into the game showed they are not quite the finished article yet.

Serie A leaders Napoli, meanwhile, must clear their heads quickly in time for Saturday s summit clash with second-place Inter Milan.

“We had some difficulties against a team that is causing difficulties to any team at the moment,” said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.

“But then we managed to fight back and not many teams are able to come back in the way that we did and cause Man City difficulties.”

Stoke City left the Etihad with their heads spinning after losing 7-2 to City on Saturday and Napoli found themselves experiencing similar sensations as they fell 2-0 down inside 13 minutes.

Sterling broke the deadlock in the ninth minute, alertly tucking away his eighth goal of the season after Kyle Walker s effort from David Silva s cut-back was blocked by Kalidou Koulibaly.

Four minutes later a loose clearing header by Raul Albiol let City in again, Kevin De Bruyne seizing on the ball and surging past Koulibaly before crossing from the right for Jesus to tap in.

City were flying, Sarri s face a picture of concern on the Napoli bench, and the hosts twice went close to extending their lead.

De Bruyne s left-foot effort crashed back off the underside of the crossbar, while Koulibaly just about managed to clear the ball off the line after away goalkeeper Pepe Reina had taken the sting out of a Jesus snapshot.

But as the half wore on, City took their foot off the pedal and they got a major scare in the 38th minute when Walker was penalised for wrestling with Albiol, only for Mertens to drill his penalty at Ederson s legs.

City continued to create chances — Jesus being foiled by Reina and a last-ditch Albiol tackle either side of half-time — but their casualness in possession gave Napoli reason to keep believing.

It took a desperate block from John Stones to prevent Marek Hamsik reducing the arrears after substitute Allan had robbed Fernandinho and with 17 minutes remaining, Napoli did claw a goal back.

Faouzi Ghoulam s surge from left-back was brought to a halt by a tired challenge from Fernandinho and Diawara succeeded where Mertens had failed, assuredly placing his spot-kick into the bottom-right corner.

Mertens squandered a chance to equalise when he mishit an attempted chip from Jose Callejon s pass.

City finished strongly, with Reina obliged to save from De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and substitute Ilkay Gundogan, but the roars of relief from City s fans that greeted the final whistle told their own story.

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