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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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Stokes asked umpires not to add 4 overthrows to England total: Anderson

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London: England World Cup hero Ben Stokes asked the umpires to take away the four overthrows that proved decisive during their summit clash win over New Zealand , according to his Test team-mate Jimmy Anderson.

A throw from Black Caps fielder Martin Guptill deflected off Stokes’ bat while he was diving to reach his crease to complete the second run and the ball ran off to the boundary in the dying stages of the England run chase.

Having taken into account the two completed runs and the resultant boundary from the overthrow, Stokes was awarded six runs, though some experts have opined that he should only have got five, which would have left England a run short of New Zealand’s total of 241 for 8.

 

If Stokes had his way, the match might have never reached a tie and gone to a Super Over, where both teams scored 15 runs and England eventually won the World Cup on boundary count.

Anderson, who will be Stokes’ Test team-mate for the upcoming Ashes series against Australia, said that the England all-rounder, who apologised the moment the incident happened by raising his hands, had appealed to the umpires to overturn their decision.

“The etiquette in cricket is if the ball is thrown at the stumps and it hits you and goes into a gap in the field you don’t run. But if it goes to the boundary, in the rules it’s four and you can’t do anything about it,” Anderson told the BBC’s Tailenders podcast.

“I think, talking to Michael Vaughan who saw him (Stokes) after the game, Ben Stokes actually went to the umpires and said, ‘Can you take that four runs off. We don’t want it’. But it’s in the rules and that’s the way it is,” added Anderson.

“It’s been talked about for a while among the players, potentially that being a dead ball if it does hit the batsman and veer off somewhere.”

Christchurch-born Stokes said after the summit clash that he might have to say sorry “for the rest of my life” for the extra runs which he labelled “fluke”.

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Bengaluru to miss out on mainstream football next season?

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Mumbai: The city of Bengaluru has been a hotspot for football in recent years, with I-League, Indian Super League (ISL) and AFC Cup matches of Bengaluru FC hosted at the Kanteerava stadium. However, in the upcoming season, the fans in the city could well be starved of mainstream football.

Bengaluru FC find themselves at an impasse after a Karnataka High Court order opened up the possibility of them being barred from using the Kanteerava Stadium from which they play their ISL matches.

The Karnataka High Court has ordered the state government to carry out a probe and initiate action against concerned officials who allowed Bengaluru FC to use the Kanteerava Stadium even after the license agreement came to an end.

 

Any urgent resolution to the issue seems impossible, given that the case has been adjourned until early October. As such, it remains to be seen what Bengaluru FC will do as the chances of them continuing at the Kanteerava seems slim.

It is understood that Bengaluru have, as of now, uploaded the High Court stay order in place of the stadium documents for the club licensing procedure. The club ideally needs to upload a letter showing the consent of the stadium authorities for using the facilities.

The club, however, can make amendments to the document before August 25.

Sources in the know have told Goal that Bengaluru FC have been considering a few alternate venues. But Bengaluru FC CEO Mandar Tamhane refused to comment on the issue when Goal reached out.

As such, fans in Bengaluru might just miss out on mainstream football for the upcoming season if the issue is not resolved soon.

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World Cup win can spur England to Ashes glory: Root

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LONDON: England’s Cricket World Cup triumph can be the perfect launch pad to complete a memorable double by winning the Ashes series against Australia this year, Test skipper Joe Root has said.

Hosts England ended a 44-year wait to win the World Cup as they beat New Zealand side on boundary count after a tied Super Over in a dramatic final on Sunday.

Shifting focus to the five-match Ashes series, which begins on Aug 1, the 28-year-old said England were full of confidence as they bid to reclaim the urn having already achieved one of their targets.

 

“It’s what we set out to do two or three years ago and we’re halfway there,” Root told reporters. “This will give the guys confidence and we’ve talked about taking that forward into a series like that.”

England beat Australia in the World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston, the venue for the first Ashes Test, and Root said they were looking forward to getting back there.

“The way we played against Australia in that semi-final… the guys who were involved relished it and will want a bit more: the feeling of euphoria we felt at that ground,” Root added.

“To potentially be able to experience all that again is very exciting. Ashes cricket always has a different edge to it so that in itself will get everyone going.

“The atmosphere, the way it builds up and the way the guys get excited about it, it’s like no other series in Test cricket.”

However, England must ensure their ODI success does not affect preparations, all-rounder Ben Stokes said.

“Everyone here deserves to feel like a champion because we’ve just won it, but when it comes to the Ashes it’s going to be heads on again because it has to be,” Stokes said. “Whether you’re winning or losing, you’ve just got to wipe the slate clean.”

England warm up for the series with their maiden Test against Ireland, a four-day contest, starting at Lord’s on July 24.

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