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Ronaldo’s Portugal held by Mexico at Confed Cup

June 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cristiano Ronaldo brushed off speculation about his Real Madrid future, although Portugal conceded a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Mexico at the Confederations Cup on Sunday.

Mexico

Ronaldo teed up Ricardo Quaresma to fire Portugal ahead in the first half in Kazan, but the goal was cancelled out before the break by Mexico striker Javier Hernandez’s bullet header.

Cedric Soares restored Portugal’s lead on 86 minutes, but Hector Moreno’s stoppage-time header salvaged a point for Mexico in their Group A opener.

“We could have killed off the match but it didn’t happen. The draw is a fair result without doubt,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos, whose side wore black armbands in honour of the victims of a deadly forest fire back home.

“I would like to say something on behalf of my players. People are very sad in Portugal and the players are thinking of all those who are suffering from what’s happened.”

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said his team deserved their point but admitted there was work to be done going forward.

“Hector Moreno’s goal handed Mexican football a huge result,” he said.

“We still need to work on our finishing, we’re not efficient enough in the final third of the pitch.

“The next match will be very tough because New Zealand will give it their all.”

Ronaldo, 32, is reportedly furious over a tax probe into the off-shore accounts dealing with his image rights, and has reportedly vowed to leave Spain.

According to Spanish paper Marca on Sunday, Real Madrid’s coach Zinedine Zidane even broke off his holiday to call Ronaldo to try to persuade his star not to quit the club.

But Portugal’s talisman was at his best in an action-packed first half in his team’s opening match, with hosts Russia and New Zealand still to come in the group.

Ronaldo’s superb volley looked to have helped Portugal take the lead, but the video assistant referee came to Mexico’s rescue after Nani had put the ball in the net.

When Ronaldo’s volley thumped the crossbar, Nani pounced on the rebound, but the video ref spotted that four players were offside.

However, Portugal, and Ronaldo, were not to be denied.

The Euro 2016 winners took the lead on 34 minutes when Ronaldo sprinted into the box and his beautifully-timed pass found Quaresma unmarked in the area.

The Besiktas winger drew Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and tapped home the opening goal.

But Mexico responded with Hernandez testing Portugal keeper Rui Patricio, before putting his side level.

Mexico’s all-time top scorer grabbed his 48th international goal from 93 appearances after some dreadful defending by Portugal.

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Raphael Guerreiro failed to deal with a cross into the box and Carlos Vela teed up Hernandez, who met the cross with a diving header.

After an explosive opening period, the second was a much tamer affair as both teams squandered half chances as the tempo dropped.

With time running out, Southampton right-back Cedric pounced on a loose ball and slammed home Portugal’s second goal.

But with the 90 minutes up, Mexican defender Moreno rose highest from the final corner of the game to head in the equaliser.

Hernandez equaliser not enough for Leverkusen

December 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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A Javier Hernandez strike gave Bayer Leverkusen a 1-1 draw against Group E winners Barcelona but it was not enough for them to reach the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

Football Soccer - Bayer Leverkusen v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group E - BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany - 09/12/15 Bayer Leverkusen's Roberto Hilbert reacts after the match. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

In-form Hernandez netted his 12th goal in 11 games just three minutes after Lionel Messi had given a weakened Barca side the lead after 20 minutes.

Leverkusen were guilty of missing several good openings in the second half especially by Hakan Calhanoglu when a win would have seen them through to the next round.

However, the draw meant they finished third in Group E level on six points with AS Roma, who were held 0-0 by BATE Borisov, but eliminated due to a poorer head to head record.

Last season’s treble winners Barca are in the knockout stage for the 12th successive year and finish with 14 points from their six matches.

Barca coach Luis Enrique could afford to rest players ahead of the Club World Cup later this month and made eight changes from the side that drew with Valencia in La Liga on Saturday.

Still there was a place for Messi who is rediscovering his top form after a knee injury that kept him sidelined for almost two months.

Leverkusen pressured with raids from Admir Mehmedi down the right wing and a dangerous free kick from Calhanoglu was parried well by keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

A defence splitting pass from Ivan Rakitic found Messi who rounded keeper Bernd Leno and put Barca ahead, but Leverkusen quickly responded with Hernandez sweeping home after a Mehmedi cross found him in the centre of the penalty area.

The chances built up for Leverkusen in the second half with Ter Stegen saving well, especially from Calhanoglu and Mehmedi in the area, while the former also fired wide when well placed in front of goal.

Leverkusen rescue 4-4 draw against Roma in rollercoaster

October 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayer Leverkusen squandered a two-goal lead but scored twice in the final six minutes to rescue a 4-4 draw against AS Roma in a rollercoaster Champions League Group E match on Tuesday.

Leverkusen's Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Roma's Edin Dzeko fight for the ball during their Champions League group E soccer match in Leverkusen, Germany, October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The hosts opened up a two-goal lead in the first 19 minutes of the hugely entertaining encounter, through Mexico forward Javier Hernandez.

Roma raced back with two goals from Daniele De Rossi and doubled the tally in the second half before another twist in the game produced two late strikes for Leverkusen, with Kevin Kampl scoring in the 84th and Admir Mehmedi 112 seconds later, to rescue a point.

“We could have won 5-4 in the end but we cannot be satisfied with how we played for long periods of the game,” said Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno, who made a string of good saves. “I can’t really explain what happened in the end.”

Leverkusen remain second on four points with Roma, still without a win, bottom on two. Barcelona are top on seven after beating BATE Borisov 2-0.

Leverkusen struck after just four minutes with Hernandez sending keeper Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way to score with a penalty, awarded for a handball by Vassilis Torosidis.

The Italians, with their backs to the wall after only one point from their opening two matches, initially struggled with the high-pressing Leverkusen and Hernandez, who joined from Manchester United this season, snatched his second goal from a pinpoint Hakan Calhanoglu pass in the 19th.

Roma’s defence looked as shaky as in their 3-2 loss to BATE in their previous game, but De Rossi cut the deficit in the 29th, tipping the game instantly in Roma’s favour.

The 32-year-old, who also scored on Saturday to mark his 500th appearance for the club in their 3-1 win over Empoli, then slipped into the box to connect with a Miralem Pjanic free kick to equalise in the 38th with Leverkusen having inexplicably surrendered control of the game to the Italians.

Roma picked up where they left off and a scintillating run by Gervinho required another good save from Leno but the keeper was helpless when Pjanic curled his sublime free kick over the wall.

Torosidis should have added another in the 70th but Spaniard Falque made amends in the 73rd, tapping in from a Gervinho assist as Roma looked to stage a memorable comeback. But their celebrations came too early with Leverkusen staging a last-gasp rally for an unusual high-score draw.

“We are disappointed but the result remains positive under the circumstances,” Roma coach Rudi Garcia told reporters. “We played well after the double blow and even managed to score four goals.”

“It was a great game for those who were at home watching this on television, but not for the two coaches,” he said.

Van Gaal happy with United despite goal shortage

August 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said that his team's frustrating goalless draw at home to Newcastle United does not mean that he needs to rush into the transfer market.

Gaal

The three league games to date have seen United keep three clean sheets, but of greater concern is that Van Gaal's side have scored just twice in 270 minutes of Premier League action.

United failed to sign Spain international Pedro Rodriguez in mid-week, losing out to rivals Chelsea, although Van Gaal claimed that signing the former Barcelona winger was not a priority.

However, Wayne Rooney has now failed to score in his last 10 games for the club and as the only striker trusted to start by the manager, it is proving a costly barren spell.

Mexican international Javier Hernandez came off the bench against Newcastle on Saturday and was denied a late winner by goalkeeper Tim Krul, while Rooney himself had a goal ruled out for offside.

But Van Gaal declared that not only is there no urgent need to buy a striker before the transfer window closes, but that his team's form means that there is no cause for concern.

"No, because we were three times the better team," Van Gaal said when asked if he was worried about his side's struggles in front of goal, citing the 1-0 wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa.

"So my worry is that we have to dominate the opponent and we did it today (Saturday), we did it against Aston Villa and we did it against Tottenham Hotspur.

"I think against Tottenham Hotspur it was less, but against Aston Villa we dominate the game, against Brugge we dominate the game, and in preparation (pre-season) we dominated against Barcelona, against San Jose Earthquakes, against (Club) America; only PSG we don't dominate. So it is not a bad score.

"I am satisfied with the performance, but not with the result and that's the difference because we created a lot of chances and we only gave away two chances.

"Then you have to win the game, but when you don't reward yourself that's a big pity because at home we lost two points."

Van Gaal joked that he had no concerns about Rooney's goal drought and claimed that he should have been given the benefit of the doubt over his marginal offside call, which came early in the first half.

"Wayne scored… only it was not allowed," said Van Gaal. "When you see the TV it's very doubtful so you need eyes then because it is like this, it is doubtful and the rules are when it is doubtful, that you not flag.

"But it's also football and I have said already many, many times you need more than equipment to help the referees or the linesman because it is not easy."

Dutch winger Memphis Depay, who scored twice in a stunning performance in the mid-week Champions League play-off victory against Club Brugge, was more subdued against Newcastle.

But Van Gaal, whose side take a 3-1 lead to Bruges for the second leg on Wednesday, said that such inconsistency was to be expected.

"Of course the Brugge match gave him a lot of confidence, but again also too much," said Van Gaal.

"Today he made not always the best choice, but that's also the characteristic of a young player and it's not so easy in the Premier League."

Newcastle manager Steve McClaren, a former United assistant, believes his old club remain well positioned to challenge for honours.

Asked if United were in crisis, McClaren replied: "No, not at all. They know what they are doing."

On his own side, he added: "We have made a lot of signings. They are going to get fitter and better and it is difficult to turn it around.

"I hope today will show them something. I will hammer it into them they can take confidence in that. I think this team can get better."

Mexico down Croatia to set up Dutch date

June 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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(AFP) – Mexico will meet the Netherlands in the last 16 of the World Cup after veteran captain Rafael Marquez helped steer them to Monday’s 3-1 win and eliminate ten-man Croatia.

Mexico needed just to avoid defeat in Recife to take their place in the knockout phase, but three goals in ten second-half minutes killed off Croatia’s hopes.

The Mexicans needed more than an hour to break the deadlock at the Arena Pernambuco before the floodgates finally burst.

The 35-year-old Marquez, captaining his country at a record fourth finals, scored with a header on 72 minutes before Andres Guardado grabbed Mexico’s second.

Substitute Javier Hernandez then netted their third in quick succession to book their Dutch showdown at 1300 local time (1600GMT) on Sunday in Fortaleza.

“That is one of the happiest days of my life,” beamed Mexico coach Miguel Herrera.

“It was a hard fight, but my team pulled through.”

Ivan Perisic grabbed a late consolation for the Croats before replacement forward Ante Rebic was sent off just before the final whistle.

Croatia bow out by finishing third in the group after their opening 3-1 defeat to Brazil and 4-0 trouncing of Cameroon, while Mexico finish second in the table to Brazil on goal difference.

“We kept the game open for a long time, but two corners decided the game,” said Croatia coach Niko Kovac.

“We weren’t bad, but the opponent was better today.”

Kovac had recalled defender Sime Vrsaljko for Croatia, with left-back Danijel Pranjic pushing up into midfield, but it was a move that ultimately didn’t pay off.

The Mexicans were unchanged from the side that held hosts Brazil to a goalless draw last Tuesday thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Mexico coach Herrera opted to again leave Hernandez out of his starting line-up before the Manchester United star netted after coming on for the final 25 minutes.

The Mexicans had the best of the opening exchanges when Hector Herrera’s long-range shot beat Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa but thundered off the crossbar on 16 minutes.

Croatia fired in numerous crosses, but Mexico goalkeeper Ochoa was again solid between the posts.

After a goalless first-half, the Mexicans got the breakthrough when Herrera’s corner was powered home after Marquez out-jumped the defence on 72 minutes.

Croatia threw everything forward to find an equaliser, but left spaces at the back which Mexico exploited with their second goal just three minutes later.

Valencia’s Guardado finished off a lightning counter-attack on 75 minutes to leave Croatia on the ropes.

Mexico then grabbed their third when another Herrera corner was flicked on by Hector Moreno for Hernandez who nodded home at the back post on 82 minutes.

Perisic grabbed a late goal for Croatia when he converted Ivan Rakitic’s final pass just before Rebic was shown a straight red for taking out Carlos Pena a minute from time.

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