Belgium star equals Diego Maradona’s goalscoring record

Dries Mertens has equalled Diego Maradona’s tally of league goals for Napoli by scoring his 81st goal for the club in a routine 2-0 win over relegation-threatened Frosinone.

The Belgian opened the scoring with a fine free-kick. From just outside the penalty box, he managed to get it over the wall and dip before nestling in the top right-hand corner.

The two Napoli icons are now joint third on the club’s Serie A goalscorers list, behind only Antonio Vojak – an early terrace hero – with 102 goals and once captain Marek Hamsik who has 100 goals.

Speaking to the media after the game, Ancelloti was all praise for his star player: “The great thing about Mertens is that he always gives his all, even if he plays poorly.

“I really like his attitude. … He deserves to match Maradona.”

 

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When @driesmertens equals a legend’s record 😍 8⃣1⃣ @seriea goals for @officialsscnapoli 🤟 #COMEONBELGIUM 🇧🇪

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Former Ajax winger Amin Younes doubled their advantage, finishing off a well-worked move that began in the midfield before a rat-a-tat of passes found Younes inside the Frosinone box before the German angled a finish past their keeper, Marco Sportiello.

The Naples club is second in the league, 18 points behind champions-elect Juventus. The club was also in contention for the Europa League but was knocked out by Arsenal in the quarter-finals.

The Gli Azzuris have faced much heartbreak against English opposition.  They narrowly missed progression into the Champions League round-of-16 after a slender 0-1 loss to Liverpool.

 

Watch: British runner crawls to finish line in London Marathon

NHS Radiographer Hayley Carruthers’ London Marathon attritional tour-de-force will be remembered for the arduous final few yards. Hayley-beyond exhaustion as she approached the finishing line- sagged to her knees but undeterred, crawled to the finish.

The 26-year-old had to be stretchered off at the end of her race but she has little time for recovery. The British athlete juggles a full-time job with the NHS along with her running. She tends to cancer patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

The distance runner puts in nine-hour shifts at the hospital before and trains at five in the morning and evening to prepare for the races.

Speaking to The Telegraph after her body-breaking efforts, she vowed to report for work on Monday:

“I’m definitely back in work tomorrow.”

Carruthers was not impressed by her performance, however. She spoke at length on why she was sapped of energy at the end of the race, pointing out that she should have been more cautious in her approach during the early yards:

“That’s just the nature of the job with the NHS. Although I am proud of the way I got to the finish, I would rather I hadn’t put myself in that situation in the first place by pacing the first half a little more conservatively. The big thing is to learn from it and use it as fuel.

“Ultimately, though, it was about racing the other girls today and our pack definitely went off too fast. I’m not badly injured at all, apart from my pride! I’m really touched that people have been so kind about it. It’s not a reaction I expected – it’s certainly not my goal to end up in that state at the finish.

“We train very hard to cover the whole distance strongly and that will be the goal for next time. I’ve just had a lovely meal with my amazing family, they’ve looked after me brilliantly as always and keep things in the right perspective.”

It took her 2:34:03 to finish the race, three minutes over the World Championship qualifying standards set by British Athletics, and six minutes off the time required to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

 

Chelsea boss reveals on-loan player set to have a future at the club

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri

Gonzalo Higuain is likely to stay on at Chelsea according to Maurizio Sarri. The Chelsea manager believes that the striker, on-loan from Juventus, will establish himself in the Premier League if given time.

Speaking to the BBC after his team’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United, the Italian responded to queries on Higuain’s future at the club: “In theory, yes.”

Further, Sarri suggested that Higuain – who has struggled for form this season – has the ability to prosper in the Premier League: “It’s difficult to adapt to the Premier League. I think in the next season he will be able to score a lot.

“For a striker, it is difficult to get used to the Premier League. I remember Suarez at Liverpool in [his] first season only scored three goals, then 16, then 24.”

The 31-year-old has managed only four goals in 14 appearances so far. The West London club has agreed to a £31 million deal with Juventus to sign him on a permanent basis. The club also has the option of extending his loan deal for another season by paying a further £15.5 million.

Further, the manager stressed their need to finish the season well. The club is 4th in the Premier League and also in the semi-finals of the Europa League, with Champions League qualification the bare minimum that is expected of the Italian:

“We are fighting for the top four and in the semi-final of the Europa League. We have done a good season,” Sarri insisted.

“Now we need to take two very important targets.”

Czech Republic forward Josef Sural passes away in tragic mini-van accident

The Czech Republic forward, Josef Sural, unfortunately, passed away when a mini-van carrying players from Turkish club Aytemiz Alanyaspor crashed. The players were travelling to Alayna after their 1-1 draw Kayserispor.

Seven players of the Turkish club were in the mini-van including English defender Steven Caulker and ex-Newcastle marksman Papiss Cisse. The accident occurred about three miles from their destination.

The players did not travel back with the team, renting, instead, a VIP mini-van to make the trip home. According to the Daily Mail, Djalma Campos, Baiano, Welinton and Isaac Sackey were the other passengers in the van.

Speaking to the state-run news body Anadolu, the Chairman informed that both the bus drivers had fallen asleep at the wheel at the time of the accident:

“According to information I received from our police chief, despite there being two drivers on the vehicle, they were both asleep. The crash happened as a result of them both being asleep.”

Social media was awash with condolence messages for the deceased striker. Sural, 28, who started his career at FC Zbrojovka Brno, rising through their academy.

He made 37 appearances for his boyhood club before shifting to Slovan Liberec. He moved to Alanyaspor from Sparta Prague in 2016, where he was captain for a while.

 

Sural had represented the Czech Republic on 20 occasions, most famously scoring his only goal in a 3-2 win against the Netherlands back in 2015.

 

Title contenders Liverpool troll newly promoted Premier League club

Daniel Farke’s Norwich City ensured top-flight promotion after a 2-1 win at home against Blackburn Rovers. Liverpool, however, was at hand to cut their joy short on social media. 

Taking to Twitter on Sunday morning, The Merseysiders reminded the Canaries of former striker, Luis Suarez’s exploits against the Norfolk club. The Uruguayan smashed 12 goals in six appearances against the club during a phenomenal spell of goalscoring which almost led Liverpool to the long-elusive Premier League.

The video featured Suarez’s incredible hat-trick against Norwich in 2012, including that barely believable 45-yard lob. However, Daniel Farke’s side had better things on mind.  Their win over Blackburn was the 26th of the season, setting forth wild scenes at Carrow Road as the club confirmed top-flight for next season.

The club’s Twitter handle responded in mock anguish to memories of Suarez-inspired Liverpool’s hold over them during their time in the top flight.

Norwich, who have enjoyed a stellar season in the Championship, secured promotion at a canter, powering past Marcelo Bielsa’s once irrepressible Leeds United and plucky Sheffield United.

Free-scoring Norwich has been playing some expansive football under German manager Daniel Farke, and it has paid rich dividends for the modest club.  The club boasts 91 goals, the highest in the division.

 

Chelsea’s official Twitter handle brutally trolls Manchester United ‘keeper David De Gea after his latest error

David de Gea’s latest error has put Manchester United’s qualification for the Champions League in further doubt. Much to Chelsea’s delight, the Spaniard’s faux-pas gifted Marcos Alonso an goal.

The club’s official USA Twitter handle was quick to mock the United no.1 for his blunder.

Taking a dig at the keeper, Chelsea USA suggested that his Spanish counterpart and their goalkeeper- Kepa Arrizabalaga- is an upgrade on De Gea.

The otherwise reliable De Gea has been poor of late. Impressive for most of the season, the goalkeeper has turned in a number of error-strewn performances in recent games. While much was said of his mistake that led to Messi’s goal in the Nou Camp, the Spaniard was also to blame for Sigurdsson’s goal in their 4-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was quick to defend De Gea’s latest mistake. Asked if he should have dropped him given his poor form, the Norwegian was defiant in his response:

“No,” remarked Ole.

“David has been a fantastic keeper at this club, his reaction after Manchester City was good and I was confident in him. He knows he could do better with their goal but it’s one of those things again.”

“David has been unbelievable. We do support each other. There is no chance anyone can blame him for losing points. He knows he could have had that shot but that is football. David is one who likes to play games and I will have chats with him and he will respond in the right way.”

The Manchester club is currently sixth, three points off the coveted fourth spot presently occupied by yesterday’s opponents, Chelsea.

 

WATCH: Manchester United vs Manchester City at the MLS – Zlatan Ibrahimovic confronts Nedum Onuoha after scoring!

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s in your face behaviour has continued within the rarefied realms of the MLS. His latest antics ticked off former Manchester City player Nedum Onuoha during LA Galaxy’s clash with Real Salt Lake.

After scoring the winner against RSL, the former Manchester United player confronted Onuoha in a blatant display of one-upmanship. The spiky forward brushed against the defender’s shoulder while mouthing off in an aggressive manner. His actions did not please the former Manchester City defender one bit and he was quite vocal in expressing his displeasure.

 

Speaking to the media after the game, Onuoha admitted that the Swede apologised to him for his overtly hostile on-field behaviour towards the player:

“He came into apologize after the game, because from 60 minutes in, he’s saying he’s going to do me, he’s going to hurt me for that game. This is a guy who says he’s the face of the MLS, as he calls in himself, and he plays that way on the field. I don’t care — if someone comes in and says that to me, you don’t say that on the field. I don’t care. I’m not going to accept his apology. It’s unacceptable.”

The midfielder refused to accept Zlatan’s apology suggesting instead that it was unacceptable to behave in the manner in which he did. The outspoken forward has gotten into a fair few kerfuffles over the course of his illustrious career.

Zlatan moved to LA Galaxy from Manchester United, making an immediate impact on his debut against cross-town rivals LA Football Club.

 

 

Reports: Manchester United and Arsenal urged to sign 21-year-old center midfielder for £40 million

Youri Tielemans has been quietly making his presence felt. The Leicester City midfielder, on loan from Monaco, can count former Manchester United defender and pundit, Gary Neville as one of his admirers.

Speaking on Sky Sports, post-Leicester’s defeat of  Arsenal, Neville urged his boyhood club, Manchester United and vanquished Arsenal to consider making a move for the young Belgian:

“With Tielemans, I think the issue that Leicester will have is that there are midfields in the top six that need strengthening,” Neville said, which will make tough listening for Foxes fans.

“He is 21-years-old, available they say for £40m. He’s proved himself in the Premier League, almost like a dress rehearsal at Leicester.

“Leicester could struggle to keep him because of the fact that other clubs may want him.”

Given the midfielder’s impressive showing during his time at Leicester, new boss Brendan Rodgers might seek to keep him at the club beyond the end of the season. Interest from either Arsenal or Manchester United might make it difficult for the Foxes to hold on to him but the former Liverpool boss did mention that Leicester will throw their hat in the ring:

“I think there will be dialogue between both clubs. He’s clearly a player we would like to work with but I can’t really add much more to that.

“I can understand the supporters will like to watch a young player like that and I’m sure the club will do everything they possibly can to bring him in.”

The Belgian scored the opener in Leicester’s 3-0 demolition of Arsenal in an eye-catching performance that is likely to trigger further interest in the player.

Reports: Cristiano Ronaldo wants Juventus to beat Barcelona to the signature of Manchester United attacker

Juventus’ failure to win the Champions League has opened an inquest at the club. Their star player and recent signing, Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly urged the club to press for Juan Mata’s signature.

According to Don Balon, Juventus have a policy of signing experienced players and Juan Mata would be the perfect addition to the Bianconeri squad. However, Barcelona is also rumoured to have made a move for the Manchester United midfielder.

The report insists that in spite of Barcelona’s advances, Juventus are favourites to secure the Spanish midfielder after his contract at the English club runs out at the end of this season. The Turin based club are reported to have offered higher wages to the Spaniard which might swing negotiations in their favour.

The club is on the lookout for a creative player in midfield and their Portuguese talisman believes that the present Manchester United midfielder would add much-needed guile and incision to the Juventus midfield.

Mata has spent most of his career in the Premier League after leaving for Chelsea from La Liga club Valencia in 2011. The midfielder has had a fairly successful time in England, winning two FA Cups and Europa Leagues, and a  Champions League during his time at Chelsea and Manchester United.

FOX Sports Asia Probability rating: 3/5; The Spanish midfielder is presently unsettled at the Old Trafford club and Mata would be an inexpensive option for the Turin club.

 

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger explains exactly why Manchester United is struggling now

Jose Mourinho greets Arsene Wenger at Old Trafford.

Manchester United’s pursuit for a top 4 spot was put into further doubt after last night’s draw against Chelsea. To put a further ominous twist to their predicament Arsene Wenger has weighed in on their situation.

Speaking to Bein Sports, Wenger pointed out how difficult it might be for United to rebuild after a patchy season:

“They spent a lot of money. They still have a lot of money, but they have a big job to do

“What will be interesting in the summer for me is that you have many big clubs who will be out to buy players and I think there will be more money than good players on the market so it will not be easy to get it right.

“Because you will have Real Madrid out there, you will have Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea out there on the market, so there is more money than good players. And that will be the big problem for all the big clubs.”

The Frenchman further revealed why United was finding it hard to cope in the post-Ferguson’s retirement:

“After that, I believe when he stopped it was also the end of a generation, coinciding with Ryan Giggs retiring. Exceptional players who came to an end.

“And the other thing is the recruitment policy was not successful, and the older generation was the spirit of Man Utd.

“So they lost the quality and the spirit because all these players were willing to die for Man Utd, plus the players they bought have not all been successful. And these three things together show that it’s not easy to keep continued success.”

The Manchester club is presently 6th in the table. With two games left, their hopes of finishing in the Champions League spots seems quite bleak, unless Chelsea and Tottenham slip up considerably.

 

Liverpool fans throw their support behind Burnley on social media as they gear up to play Manchester City

With the Premier League title race set for an absorbing climax, a great number of Liverpool fans have taken to quirky ways to give their team a boost.

A recent trend on Twitter has seen thousands of the Merseyside club’s supporters change their profile pictures to Burnley’s Ashley Barnes’ face, as reported by Burnley Express.

The Burnley striker is set to go up against Manchester City when the teams meet this weekend, and Liverpool fans are eager for their less illustrious North West neighbours to take points off the City juggernaut.

The two clubs- Manchester City and Liverpool- have been engaged in a long-running back and forth for the top spot in the Premier League. While City briefly went top of the table with a 0-2 win against neighbours United, Liverpool reclaimed their position with a 5-0 thrashing of already relegated Huddersfield.

City, will now, have the chance to climb above their rivals once again. At the time of writing (just after City won their local derby), Burnley Express reported that the top spot in the League had been traded 28 times over.

Liverpool’s win against Huddersfield makes that 29.

With two games to go for either team after today’s round of fixtures, Ashley Barnes has been cast into the unlikely role of being one of the potential factors in either team’s pursuit of the title.

Score against Manchester City and deny them a win (in the least) and his name will be cheered on by the fans at Anfield for ages to come. Or at least, through their social media handles.

 

 

Reports: Zinedine Zidane wants Real Madrid to sign superstar footballer who “Lionel Messi is afraid of”

While interest in Neymar swirls around at Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane is reported to have put in a request to the board to inquire after Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, much to Lionel Messi’s chagrin.

According to Don Balon, while Perez was insisting on Neymar’s signature, Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has urged their portly President to look elsewhere; more specifically at current Anfield chartbuster, Mo Salah. The news is rumoured to have not gone down too well with Messi.

The Barcelona ace is reportedly more “afraid” of the Egyptian than his former teammate firmly because the Liverpool winger is more focused on his football and is less likely to cause divisions in the dressing room than Neymar.  Further, the Argentine had proposed Salah as a potential transfer target but due to complications arising in the club’s deal with Coutinho, another transfer dealing with Liverpool looks unlikely.

Instead, arch-rivals Real Madrid are reportedly more likley to push for Salah’s signature. However a Jurgen Klopp shaped obstacle lies in their path. The German manager will reportedly urge Salah to prolong his stay at the club and establish himself in the Liverpool hall-of-fame after he became the fastest player to 100 goals for the club this last gameweek.

Fox Sports Asia Probability rating: 2/5; It would be quite surprising if Salah were to leave Liverpool at this juncture. But Madrid’s lure goes beyond just their overall squad strength or immediate prospects for that matter. Nonetheless, this rumour seems to lack the legs to last the distance.

 

 

 

 

Reports: Real Madrid players unhappy with the potential signing of Premier League superstar

Paul Pogba is rumoured to be agitating for a move to Real Madrid but if reports are to believed he might not be as welcome in the Bernabeu.

According to Diario Gol, certain Madrid players, including captain Sergio Ramos, haven’t warmed to Pogba’s eccentric ways and often in your face personality. They fear that his arrival will weaken the spirit at the club, given how divisive he can be.

Further, the report states that Pogba is not the unanimous choice in Madrid. Apparently, the President, Florentino Perez prefers Tottenham metronome Christian Eriksen. The Dane is quieter and would be a more reasonable option. However, Zidane is inclined towards Pogba.

Their French boss has been quite appreciative of the mercurial midfielder. Speaking to the media a few days ago, Zidane opined that Pogba brings with him certain qualities and an ability to produce the unexpected:

“I like Pogba a lot and it’s not new, I know him personally, he’s different, he brings what few can do, because of his qualities, he knows how to attack and defend,” he acknowledged.

While Madrid might eventually push on for a transfer, the move is extremely high-risk given the sums that are likely to be involved if any deal were to go through.

Fox Sports Asia Rating: 3/5; Pogba’s gives off a larger than life impression. A readymade caricature almost. Given the recent rumours surrounding how he has been throwing his weight around the United dressing room, much to the dismay of teammates and other club staff, one could understand the concerns of Madrid players and staff.

 

Former PSG star references Manchester United UCL loss to brutally troll club after Coup de France exit

Rennes attacking midfielder, Hatem Ben Arfa hasn’t shied away from taking a dig at former club PSG after their Coupe de France final victory against the Parisians.

Trailing 2-0, Rennes fought to level scores before nicking the tie on penalties. That PSG’s fragile core has been laid bare previously in the season did not elude the Frenchman. Speaking to France 2 (via one football), Ben Arfa obliquely referenced their shocking exit to  Manchester United in the Champions League round of 16:

“We pulled off a Remontada [a comeback], but PSG are used to that [after winning 2-0 at Old Trafford but losing the tie],”

The player was in no mood to pull the punches, however. The ex-PSG player who endured a torrid 15 months at the club passed on a message to PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi in the immediate aftermath of the match:

“Never underestimate your opponent”.

The mercurial player, evidently quite pleased with the result, also spoke of the emotions he was experiencing since their triumph but still made it a point to take another dig at the PSG president:

“The result gave me an exceptional emotion. It had been a difficult year and we worked hard to get here,” he remarked.

“We’re satisfied for Rennes, the Pinault family and the club in its whole. It’s an immense pride.

“It’s special. Especially regarding president Nasser. You should never underestimate your opponent in life. One day or another, he will come back stronger.”

His final jibe was rather tangential however invoking a similar scenario where Adrien Rabiot would instead be landing the punches:

“One day, like me, Adrien Rabiot will come up against PSG. I have nothing against the club, just those in charge.”