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Barcelona too good for United even on an off night for Messi & Busquets

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London: It was more by luck than judgement but Barcelona earned a huge 1-0 victory over Manchester United on Wednesday which gives them a fine chance of overcoming their Champions League quarter-final hoodoo.

The Catalans won’t think the tie is over, though, far from it, after they were pinned back during an increasingly nervy second half at Old Trafford.

In the end, Barca’s backline held firm, with their hosts failing to even register a single shot on target. But that said more about United’s lack of incision, than the visitors’ solidity.

 

Beaten 2-0 at Atletico Madrid in 2016, 3-0 in Turin by Juventus in 2017 and, most painfully, 3-0 by Roma in the Italian capital last season, miserable away days have cost Barcelona dearly in the Champions League in the past three seasons.

And they could well have been punished for their sloppiness here had they been playing a top-drawer side. It was Barca’s good fortune that they were not.

United threatened on the counter at the start but Barcelona soon settled into their rhythm, seemingly unfazed by their three consecutive quarter-final knock-outs. The Catalans dominated possession, at one point boasting 85 per cent of the ball.

They took the lead with some typically excellent passing, too, Sergio Busquets lofting a brilliant ball into the box for Lionel Messi, who, without looking, pinged it to Luis Suarez at the back post.

The Uruguayan’s header was deflected in by the hapless Luke Shaw, and although Suarez wanted to claim it as his first Champions League strike on the road since September 2015, it went down as an own goal.

Ahead after just 12 minutes, Barcelona had their dream start, but they could not build on it.

Gerard Pique impressed in defence, showing good anticipation and timing, matching Marcus Rashford for pace, but Ernesto Valverde’s were shaky in general.

The goal should have given them confidence. They should have killed United off. Instead, they let them grow into the game.

Although United did not manage to create a clear chance, Barcelona hearts were in their mouths on a couple of occasions.

Diogo Dalot headed wide from a good position and Barcelona’s midfield trio were being outplayed by United’s, with Busquets particularly poor and fortunate to survive the encounter without a red card.

A foul on the excellent Scott McTominay went unpunished due to how early it was in the game, but Busquets was issued a yellow card in the 17th minute for a foul on Paul Pogba.

He followed that up with another trip on the Frenchman and then a handball, with United fans furious that the Catalan escaped dismissal.

After the break United grew and Barca faded further. Rashford slashed badly at a ball when he had more time, skewing it wide off his knee.

McTominay played in Anthony Martial but only a superhuman Pique lunge stole the ball from the Frenchman as he was posed to shoot.

Suarez should have finished off United but fired into the side netting after good work from Nelson Semedo.


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Ganguly backs Dhawan to shine at ICC World Cup

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Mumbai:There is not a bowler in the world that can stop Shikhar Dhawan when the opener is in determined mood and the left-hander will be crucial to Indias hopes at this years Cricket World Cup, former captain Sourav Ganguly has said.

Dhawan smashed 97 not out off 63 balls in Delhi Capitalsseven-wicket victory against Kolkata Knight Riders in Fridays Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at Eden Gardens, much to the delight of Ganguly, an advisor to the Capitals.

Captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma are India`s batting mainstays in one-day cricket but Ganguly puts Dhawan, who has 16 centuries from 128 ODIs with a 93-plus strike rate, in the same league.

 

“The three best players in one-day cricket — Dhawan, Rohit, Virat,” Ganguly told the IPL website. “When he (Dhawan) gets set and gets in he`s unstoppable.

“All I expect from him is determination. When he is determined, no bowler in the world can stop him.”

Dhawan`s second fifty of this IPL season, which catapulted Delhi into the top four, augurs well for India ahead of the May 30 to July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

Along with opening partner Rohit, the onus will be on Dhawan to give India strong starts in the tournament and the southpaw has performed well on English soil.

Named man of the series in their triumphant 2013 Champions Trophy campaign, Dhawan was also the tournament`s leading scorer four years later when India lost in the final to Pakistan.

“If he gets set, he takes the game away. This is how he plays for India,” Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup, later told reporters. “He`s a class act.”

Two-time champions India begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.

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Olympique Lyon’s Champions League spot under threat after Nantes defeat

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London: Olympique Lyonnais` Champions League qualifying hopes were hit as they were beaten 2-1 at Nantes in Ligue 1.

Third-placed Lyon, who hold the final Champions League qualifying spot, were undone by Anthony Limbombes late free-kick after Martin Terrier had cancelled out Kalifa Coulibalys opener for Nantes.

Lyon are on 56 points with six games left, six ahead of fourth-placed St Etienne, who play their game in hand at home against Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday.

 

It was Lyon`s third straight defeat in all competitions after they were knocked out of the French Cup semi-finals by Stade Rennes and lost at home to lowly Dijon in the league last weekend.

The result leaves an even bigger question mark over coach Bruno Genesio`s future, with the club set to make a decision on whether to extend his contract at the end of the season.

With Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Marcelo on the bench, Lyon got off to a bad start.

Coulibaly opened the scoring in the 11th minute after collecting a though ball from Majeed Waris.

Lyon were shaken by the hosts but weathered the storm and equalised one minute before the interval when Terrier curled a fine shot into the back of the net to finish off a counter-attack.

Limbombe earned Nantes victory seven minutes from fulltime with an inch-perfect free-kick, lifting the Canaries up to 15th in the table on 34 points.

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Defender Gomez sign two-year contract extension in East Bengal

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Mumbai: East Bengal fans will heave a huge sigh of relief after their star defender Borja Gomes decided to sign a contract extension with the club and not follow Jobby Justin to go out. The Kolkata-based club is in the process of becoming a part of the ISL next season with I-League’s future looking bleak.

East Bengal came agonizingly close to lift the I-League title yet again this season before Chennai City FC eventually won it as the Kolkata club finished second.And with I-League looking to either get dissolved or set to get demoted to the second division, it was important for East Bengal to finish high on the table.

However, that wasn’t enough for the club to retain their star striker Jobby Justin, who signed a pre-contract with two-time ISL champions ATK just after the I-League ended and the Super Cup was in its quarter-final stage. But, the club was quick to react after that setback and on Friday handed a two-year contract extension to Spanish defender Borja Gomez.

 

“East Bengal FC are pleased to announce the renewal of contract with Borja Gomez Perez for the next two seasons,” the club said in a statement.

“According to him, this is the best team and ‘fans are the best in India’,” the statement added.

The Madrid-born La-Liga star, who is nick-named as the ‘Senapati’, was one of the key members for the club last season and has been a motivator for the team both on and off the field. Gomez has previously played for Granada CF, Real Oviedo, Hercules CF, Real Murcia and more before East Bengal had signed him from UD Sanse in January last year.

East Bengal has already announced their bid for ISL in a board meeting and are currently waiting for the terms to get financially acceptable.

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