No Cristiano Ronaldo, no problem. European champion Portugal sparkled on Thursday despite the absence of its star forward, defeating Poland to move a step closer to the last four of the UEFA Nations League.
In two friendly games, KylianMbappe scored late to salvage a 2-2 draw for the world champions at home to Iceland, while two-goal PacoAlcacer helped Spain rout Wales 4-1 in Cardiff as the team claimed a third win in a row under new coach Luis Enrique.
With young Sevilla striker Andre Silva scoring again, Portugal won 3-2 in Chorzow to take control of Group 3 of the top-tier League A in Europe’s newest competition. Portugal now has six points from two games, five points ahead of Poland and Italy. Only the group winner advances to June’s last four.
A draw between Poland and Italy in Chorzow on Sunday will guarantee Portugal as the group winner. Portugal plays a friendly in Scotland the same day. “Overall we dominated,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “Poland started well and scored, but we were able to take control and were deserved winners.”
It was Portugal’s third straight game without Ronaldo, who hasn’t played an international since his transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus in the summer. Ronaldo has also been the recent subject of rape allegations. The 33-year-old forward denies any wrongdoing.
Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek, Serie A’s leading scorer, gave Poland an 18th-minute lead with his first international goal. The visitors equalized with a close-range effort from Silva after a pass from PizziFernandes in the 32nd. It was his seventh goal in Portugal’s last six competitive away games.
Portugal made it 2-1 just before halftime with an own goal from defender KamilGlik. “The two goals we conceded in the first half damaged our confidence and heavily influenced the game,” Poland coach Jerzy Brzeczek said. Bernardo Silva added the third goal with a long-range shot in the 52nd minute before JakubBlaszczykowski marked his record 103rd cap for Poland by pulling one back with a low volley in the 77th.
Blaszczykowski has now eclipsed Michal Zewlakow on the all-time list of Poland appearances. Robert Lewandowski made his 100th appearance but was unable to add to his tally of 55 Poland goals. “It’s not the result we were looking for,” Poland defender Jan Bednarek said. “We wanted to make our fans proud. We had good moments in the game but bad ones too.”
East Bengal, FC Barcelona explore possibility of tie-up
Mumbai: East Bengal and Barcelona are exploring to establish and association between India’s premier football club and the LaLiga giants. Senior officials from the two clubs have met at the Quess House in Bengaluru to explore the possibilities of the proposed tie-up. The meeting was facilitated by Rakuten.
Bengaluru-based Quess controls the East Bengal football team,
FC Barcelona’s principal sponsor and global innovation partner, Rakuten is reportedly advising the LaLiga defending champions to expand their market worldwide. India can be one of the priority destinations for the club as LaLiga is already exploring the possibilities in the huge Indian sports market.
East Bengal has a Spanish connection. Coach Alejandro Menendez has been a former Real Madrid youth academy coach and East Bengal has extended his contract for two years. The club is reportedly willing to recruit a few more players from Spain next season.
Association with top international clubs is not unprecedented for Indian football clubs. East Bengal in the past has had a tie-up with Premier League side Leicester City, whereas another I-League team Minerva Punjab have recently signed an MoU with Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach. Chennai City FC had also partnered with Swiss club FC Basel.
Quess had announced on Wednesday that they are exploring the possibility of a tie-up FC Barcelona.
East Bengal FC chairman Ajit Isaac said that the city-based team is keen on being part of the Japanese company’s expansion plans via Lionel Messi’s club, adds national daily .
“Senior officials of the Spanish giants, FC Barcelona and Quess East Bengal Football Club team, met to explore the possibility of an association between the two clubs. The meeting facilitated by Rakuten, the global innovation partner and sponsor of FC Barcelona, was held at Quess House in Bengaluru. Rakuten is incidentally advising FCB on expanding its footprint worldwide,” Isaac has stated on East Bengal’s social media platform.
A likely deal between the two clubs will also boost the growth of Indian football.
‘Pogba doesn’t want to be at Man Utd’
London: Paul Pogba does not want to be at Manchester United, claims Gary Neville, with transfer talk and the influence of his agent, Mino Raiola, leading the Real Madrid-linked midfielder to have his head turned.
Questions have been asked of the Frenchman’s future throughout the 2018-19 campaign.
Struggles under Jose Mourinho sparked the exit rumours, with there seemingly no way that both men could continue working together at Old Trafford.
A change in the dugout delivered an initial reversal in fortune for United and Pogba, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reigniting the spark in a talismanic figure.
The 26-year-old has, however, endured another dip and Neville believes his days in England could now be numbered, with his focus shifting amid reports of interest being shown from afar.
“I think he is world class,” former Red Devils defender Neville told Sky Sports.
“I don’t think he wants to be here, that’s his problem.
“I think his agent’s into him.
“I said two, three months ago when he was brilliant, he’s done brilliantly for Ole, by the way, he’s scored I think 11 goals, seven assists, but I honestly thought a couple of months ago we sat in this studio at the Liverpool game and everything was brilliant about Paul Pogba and I said ‘I believe that it will resurface, the issues will resurface’.
“We know his agent, we know the influence he has on him, we know that Pogba has got his head turned by other clubs and he’s playing like somebody who’s had his head turned.
“He’s playing like somebody who doesn’t quite want to be here.
“The problem is if a player doesn’t want to be at a club and he has the influence that I think he has in the dressing room, I think the likes of [Jesse] Lingard, [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial, I think they do come off him.
“And I think if he’s not quite at it and not raring to go, then it is a problem, it is a massive problem.”
Pogba is tied to a contract with United through to 2021, with that agreement including a 12-month extension option.
What I am learning from Ponting, Ganguly will use during WC: Dhawan
Mumbai: India opener Shikhar Dhawan has said he is learning a lot from legends like Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly and would appropriately use that knowledge during the 50-over World Cup, starting May 30 in the UK.
Dhawan is currently playing in the IPL for Delhi Capitals, coached by former Australia skipper Ponting while former India captain Ganguly is associated with the franchise as advisor.
“Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly…I am very fortunate that I am working with them now. They both have been great leaders. It is very good to be close to them because I can get their insight, know what was their mindset, what was their approach when they used to play or captain their sides,” explained Dhawan, who has scored 5,355 runs in 128 ODIs.
“I am already learning so many things from them (and) it is helping me. I am grateful (for) that. I am sure those things are helping me in the IPL and I am going to take it to the World Cup,” he added.
Dhawan, meanwhile, also heaped praises on his Delhi Capitals teammate Prithvi Shaw, saying he is the next big thing in Indian cricket. “So Prithvi, I would say it is a very big achievement to play for India at the age of 19, especially India is a dominating country for batsmen (and there are) lots of batsmen, so someone coming in at 19 is a big achievement and he has done very well for the Indian team.
“He is a very talented boy and I am sure he is going to do wonders for our country,” the dashing left-handed batsman said after being roped in as the brand ambassador of lubricants firm–GS Caltex India–at a function here on Wednesday night.
Shaw had shone on his Test debut against the West Indies at Rajkot last year.