Monaco hurts Man City

Manchester City’s defensive frailties cost them as they crashed out of the Champions League with a 3-1 defeat at Monaco.

Manager Pep Guardiola named an attacking line-up for the second leg of the last-16 tie but that backfired as Monaco overturned a 5-3 deficit to win on away goals after a 6-6 aggregate draw.

First-half goals from Kylian Mbappe and Fabinho put the Ligue 1 leaders ahead and although Leroy Sane hit back for City, Tiemoue Bakayoko sealed victory with a header 13 minutes from time.

City were lacklustre on the night and Monaco made light of the absence of Radamel Falcao, scorer of two goals in the pulsating first leg, with a hip injury.

Guardiola perhaps got his selection wrong by naming the in-form Yaya Toure on the bench. With Fernandinho the only specialist central midfielder on the field, City were unable to make any impression in that area and Monaco came at them in waves.

That early pressure was quickly rewarded as Mbappe, who had already forced Willy Caballero to make one save, opened the scoring in the eighth minute. City’s defence were cut open as Benjamin Mendy drove in a ball from the left and Mbappe turned in with ruthless efficiency.

Mbappe thought he had claimed a second soon after but his powerful low strike was ruled out for offside.

City struggled to gain possession, made little use of the ball they did get and failed to repel Monaco’s continual raids.

It came as no surprise when they struck again to level the tie just before the half-hour mark. Mbappe again cut the defence open on the left before Mendy crossed and Fabinho made no mistake with a first-time finish.

City’s attacks were few and far between and those they did piece together fizzled out before they reached the box.

It was not until the second half that they started to assert themselves in any way and finally get the previously isolated Sergio Aguero into the game.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a hat-trick of chances came the Argentinian’s way in quick succession but he was unable to take any of them.

He could not be blamed the for the first as Andrea Raggi produced a superb challenge to pinch the ball from his toes as he lined up a shot from Raheem Sterling’s pull-back.

But the striker blazed over moments later following a lightning break by Sane and he was denied by a fine save from Danijel Subasic after smart turn by David Silva.

It did seem, however, that the tide had turned and Monaco were maybe starting to feel the pace after such a high-energy start.

Sane took advantage to put City back ahead on aggregate when he pounced from close range after Subasic palmed out a shot from Sterling with 71 minutes gone.

Yet that good work was quickly undone when poor set-piece marking allowed Bakayoko to thump home a header from a Thomas Lemar free-kick.

City’s hopes drained away and the Stade Louis II, a venue not renowned for its atmosphere, was rocking as the final whistle sounded.

Source – Football365

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Reborn Leicester City defeat Sevilla

Up went the ball, into the night sky, and there it seemed to hang: spinning, swirling, planning, plotting. Down below, Pablo Sarabia swirled underneath it, gauging its trajectory, unsure whether he wanted it to land or not. Out of the corner of his eye, he would have seen Marc Albrighton and Wilfried Ndidi chasing him down like hungry hounds. Sarabia leapt, and so did they.

A dull thud of shoulders. The ball bounced out for a throw. Leicester v Sevilla was eight seconds old.

There is a sort of dark magic to the long ball, football’s oldest tactic yet perhaps one of its least understood. You might even call it beauty: the fanciful optimism of relinquishing the ball at your feet and casting it to the skies, to the winds, to gravity, to randomness, to chaos. You play the long ball when you want to entrust yourself to fate. You play it if you are feeling lucky.

Most football teams see chance as their enemy: the enemy of certainty, the enemy of control, the enemy of all those thousands of hours spent pausing and rewinding scouting videos, scrawling on chalkboards, training and drilling.

Not Leicester. They do all that stuff, too, of course, but crucially they also know what you cannot control. This is hardly surprising. When your 5000-1 title shot has come in, then you are probably inclined to believe chance is your friend. When the opposition are palpably better than you – with all due respect to your Danny Simpsons and Robert Huths – then chance is the leveller. When allied with a greasy pitch, a partisan crowd and an unshakeable belief, then chance is your best chance.

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Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Benfica

Borussia Dortmund are into the Champions League quarter-finals, after beating Benfica 4-0 in their second round second leg to overturn a first leg deficit.

The German side took just four minutes to wipe out their first leg loss, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang heading home from close range after Christian Pulisic had flicked on Ousmane Dembele’s corner kick.

 Benfica came back into the game, but two quick-fire goals early in the second half, first from Pulisic, the American teenager, then Aubameyang, put the tie beyond doubt.

That pair combined again for the fourth, Aubameyang turning home from close range for the third time after Pulisic’s low cross.

But who really impressed? And who flopped? Player Ratings from the Westfalenstadion…

Bayern beats Arsenal again

With a second 5-1 rout in three weeks, Bayern Munich completed Arsenal’s humiliation on a night of protests against manager Arsene Wenger.

Whether Wenger gets a chance to return to the Champions League next season remains unclear, as his latest contract will expire at the end of this season after 21 years at the club.

His team’s heaviest-ever loss at the Emirates Stadium, completing a 10-2 aggregate loss on Tuesday as the German champions reached the quarterfinals, will only heighten demands by pockets of supporters for Wenger to go.

Asked if he will manage Arsenal again in the Champions League, Wenger replied: “I don’t know … I am here to talk about football not my future.”

It is Wenger’s failure to deliver Arsenal’s first European Cup that has diminished his standing among fans who once lauded him as a coaching revolutionary.

For the seventh consecutive season, Arsenal has exited the Champions League in the Round of 16 and it has still only reached the final once, back in 2006.

Wenger deflected questions about his own future by reprimanding Tuesday’s referee for what the Frenchman called “unexplainable and scandalous” decisions.

And there was no sympathy from Bayern, with the five-time European champions joining in the derision by tweeting: “What time is it? Yep, it’s ten to!”

Real Madrid reached quarter finals

Two quick-fire goals saw Real Madrid survive an early scare to win 3-1 at Napoli on Tuesday and reach the Champions League quarterfinals for a seventh successive time.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Dries Mertens gave Napoli hope with a 24th-minute strike to send a packed San Paolo stadium into raptures. But Madrid captain Sergio Ramos headed in a Toni Kroos corner early in the second half and had another header deflected in by Mertens six minutes later to effectively end the contest.

Alvaro Morata wrapped up the 6-2 victory on aggregate for the holders by tapping in a rebound in stoppage time after Pepe Reina had denied Cristiano Ronaldo.

“We really suffered a lot in the first half, we couldn’t do what we wanted to do, they were pressing us very high,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “Then we made changes in the second half and we were much better. It was completely different. We are happy.

“We knew the beginning of the match would be very hard … but a match is 90 minutes and I think we did very well in the second half.”

Napoli was left to rue its first-half profligacy which saw Mertens hit the post. Ronaldo, who is two goals short of becoming the first player to score 100 times in European competition, was also denied by the woodwork.

“We weren’t only equal to Real Madrid for the first 55 minutes, we were better than them,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We put them in a lot of difficulty and that’s something to be proud of. We’re very disappointed above all for the fans, because these fans deserved something more.”

Ramos acknowledged that Madrid has a lot of work to do if it is to become the first side to successfully defend its Champions League title.

“I’m happy that I scored in a critical moment of the match, when we were suffering. But above all it was as a team that we got through,” Ramos said. “We need to reflect now on things, they dominated for nearly the entire first half. We really suffered. We’ll take time now to think about things calmly.”

Tuesday’s other return fixture in the Round of 16 also ended with the same scoreline as the first leg as Bayern Munich inflicted another 5-1 rout on Arsenal, which collapsed to its heaviest loss at the Emirates Stadium after having captain Laurent Koscielny sent off.

Needing to win by at least two clear goals, Napoli applied the pressure right from the start, with Mertens having a shot deflected over the bar in the opening minute.

Marek Hamsik also fired inches wide, while Lorenzo Insigne had a 30-yard (meter) snapshot turned around the post by Keylor Navas.

Madrid appeared to have weathered the early storm and Gareth Bale threatened but the Spanish side was undone by a moment of brilliance from Napoli. Insigne and Hamsik combined, with the latter threading a delightful pass for Mertens to rush into the area and slot into the bottom right corner.

It was Mertens’ 17th goal in his past 16 matches and his fifth in the Champions League this season.

Madrid almost leveled five minutes later when Ronaldo rounded Reina but his attempt came off the near post from a difficult angle.

Napoli also hit the post in the 38th minute as Mertens’ diagonal effort crashed off the base of the left upright.

Madrid had scored in its past 46 matches and it leveled six minutes after the break.

Hamsik gave the ball away in the middle of his own half and Elseid Hysaj was forced to head out the danger at the far post, with Ramos nodding in the resulting corner.

“The match changed after their goal. Continuing with that rhythm, that intensity, that drive was impossible because our whole mentality changed,” Sarri said. “It removed all hope of qualifying.”

Madrid doubled its lead from another corner to all but extinguish Napoli’s hopes, before Morata rounded off the scoring.

Source: TheJakartaPost

Serena Williams simple to fourth round

MELBOURNE, Jan 21, 2017 – A “super-focused” Serena Williams joined sister Venus in the fourth round of the Australian Open Saturday, ruthlessly snuffing out Nicole Gibbs’s challenge as she accelerates towards a record 23rd Grand Slam title.

The second seed clinically dispatched her fellow American 6-1, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena, further dispelling any lingering doubts about her early-season form.

It is the 14th time in her 17 Australian Opens she has made at least the fourth round, and sets her up with a clash against 16th-seeded Czech Barbora Strycova, who beat French 21st seed Caroline Garcia.

If she gets through that, Johanna Konta, Caroline Wozniacki or Ekaterina Makarova could be waiting for her in the quarter-finals.

“It was really good to get this under my belt,” she said. “I always try to take everyone super-serious and I’m always super-focused.”

Williams, looking to become the most decorated Grand Slam champion in the Open era, contested just eight events in an injury-shortened 2016, concluding with the US Open.

But any doubts about her form have been put to bed in Melbourne with three comfortable wins — including over former top-ten players Belinda Bencic and Lucie Safarova.

She hardly got out of first gear against Gibbs, dictating terms from the opening game against a player ranked 92 who had never been past the third round at any major.

Gibbs, who was only two years old when Williams made her WTA debut in 1995, was overawed and broken in the fourth game, with the 35-year-old winning every net point she contested.

It was a leisurely work-out with Williams having an answer for everything Gibbs threw at her, breaking again to race through the set in just 26 minutes.

After her second round, Williams said she had been trying to channel positive thoughts on court as she targets a seventh Australian crown, which would also take her past Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 major titles.

She cranked up the pressure in the second set, breaking Gibbs on a double fault to go 2-1 ahead.

Williams, who played her first match on Rod Laver Arena 19 years ago, was going through the motions but she let her guard down briefly when serving for the match, allowing Gibbs to secure her first and only break.

It only delayed the inevitable, with Gibbs promptly broken for the fifth time as Williams drew her masterclass to a close.

Melbourne Park is a happy hunting ground for Williams, who claimed her first Australian Open title way back in 2003, beating elder sister Venus in the final.

Source: TheNation