Beaten after 7 months, Liverpool stunned by soaring West Ham

London, The sound of West Ham fans singing “I’m forever blowing bubbles” could still be heard around the bars of the London Stadium an hour after beating Liverpool.

Liverpool hadn’t only been prevented from going a club-record 26th match unbeaten. Jürgen Klopp’s side was also dislodged from third place in the Premier League by West Ham with a 3-2 victory on Sunday.

There hasn’t been much to celebrate at West Ham, especially in the five years since moving into the stadium at the centerpiece of the 2012 Olympics, reports AP.

West Ham, whose highest league finish was third in 1986, is looking like title contenders two years after Moyes took charge of a team a point above the relegation zone.

Building on a sixth-place finish last season — missing out on the Champions League spots by two points — West Ham has now opened a top-flight season by winning seven of 11 games for only the second time.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Djokovic and Zverev advances to Paris Masters quarterfinals

Paris, Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters on Thursday without playing a point because Gael Monfils pulled out injured.

Monfils, who is 0-17 against the top-ranked Djokovic, said he has an adductor injury, reports AP.

Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev advanced to the last eight after beating No. 16 Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (4), 6-7 (3), 6-3 in an intense contest lasting 2 hours, 45 minutes and where Dimitrov saved two match points in the second set.

Zverev broke for a 4-3 lead in a tight first set but was broken back to 5-5 when serving for the set. He controlled the tiebreaker and clinched it with a volley at the net.

Zverev saved a break point with an ace in the ninth game of the second set and then had two match points with Dimitrov serving at 6-5. Dimitrov saved both of them with volleys at the net.

In the tiebreaker, Dimitrov raced into a 6-1 lead and then clinched it with a service winner, after Zverev had saved two set points.

Momentum finally drifted away from Dimitrov when he failed to punish Zverev in the sixth game of the decider, when Zverev was 0-40 down on his serve. Zverev broke for a 4-3 lead and saved another break point in the next game.

The imposing German then converted his third match point when Dimitrov sliced a return into the net.

Zverev next plays either sixth-seeded Casper Ruud or American qualifier Marcos Giron.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Koeman gone, Barcelona names Sergi Barjuan caretaker coach

Barcelona, With its coffers depleted and a critical Champions League match right around the corner, Barcelona was looking for a new coach on Thursday after it named a caretaker coach following the firing of Ronald Koeman.

The Spanish club said that reserve team coach Sergi Barjuan will temporarily lead the squad until it finds a permanent replacement for Koeman.

Barjuan is a former Barcelona defender. The club said that he will be in the dugout for Saturday’s Spanish league match against Alavés, reports AP.

Former midfielder Xavi Hernández, who for years has been linked to a return to the club he helped lift to its greatest heights as a player, appears to be the leading candidate to take over on a full-time basis.

Xavi turned down the chance to coach Barcelona in January 2020 when former president Josep Bartomeu, who resigned amid scandals one year ago, offered him the post after firing Ernesto Valverde in the middle of the season.

Next week, Barcelona faces a trip to Ukraine to play Dynamo Kyiv in a match it will need to win to boost its chances of continuing its two-decade long run of reaching the Champions League knockout rounds.

Koeman had justified defeats to Bayern Munich, Benfica, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid this season by arguing that his team was simply no longer among Europe’s elite after its financial troubles forced it to shed the wages of Lionel Messi and other top talents.

He also insisted that injuries among his attacking players had limited its effectiveness.

Less than a month ago, club president Joan Laporta had publicly backed Koeman, asking fans to be patient as the team undergoes a rebuilding project.

But Koeman’s credit ran out after Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano, a modest rival that had not beaten Barcelona since 2002. Barcelona, the dominant Spanish league team over the past two decades, is in ninth place in the standings.

Koeman, a former defender, took over Barcelona when its economic crisis was just being felt following a devastating 8-2 loss to Bayern at the end of the 2019-20 season that cost predecessor Quique Setién his job. The Dutchman was remembered as a fan favorite for his winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final.

The 58-year-old Koeman led Barcelona to last season’s Copa del Rey title, but it exited the Champions League in the round-of-16 and finished the Spanish league in third place.

Koeman did, however, set the foundation of a rejuvenated Barcelona by bringing youngsters Pedri González, Gavi Páez, Ronald Araújo and Óscar Mingueza into his starting lineup and making Ansu Fati one of the team’s leaders along with veterans Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba.

Koeman had left his job coaching the Netherlands to return to Barcelona, a fact that Laporta had also cited when he had given him a reprieve. He previously coached several teams, including Everton, Southampton, Valencia, Benfica and Ajax, among other Dutch clubs.

The 49-year-old Barjuan played for Barcelona as a left back from 1993-2002 before finishing his playing career with Atlético. He was appointed Barcelona’s reserve team coach in July.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Leverkusen stunned 2-1 by second-tier Karlsruhe in German Cup

Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen suffered another setback on Wednesday when they crashed out of the German Cup with a 2-1 home defeat against second-division Karlsruhe.

The visitors had a dream start from Lucas Cueto’s fifth-minute tap-in, said dpa international.

Leverkusen, who won the cup in 1993 and were finalists last year, levelled in the 54th when Jeremie Frimpong fired into the top left corner.

But a howler eight minutes later from goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky gifted Karlsruhe their second when he played the ball to Choi Kyoung Rok who calmly slotted home.

Iker Bravo almost grabbed another equalizer shortly after coming on as the youngest-ever Leverkusen player but the 16-year-old aimed high with the goal wide open.

It was the third bad day for Leverkusen in a row after conceding four goals in seven minutes in a 5-1 Bundesliga home defeat against champions Bayern Munich and then blowing a 2-0 lead in a 2-2 derby draw with Cologne.

Elsewhere, VfL Bochum beat Augsburg 5-4 on penalties after squandering a 2-0 lead in regulation in a 2-2 scoreline after 120 minutes. Goalkeeper Manuel Riemann, who had come on for the shoot-out, sent Bochum through after Arne Maier had fired Augsburg’s fifth spot kick over the bar.

Union Berlin came from behind to win 3-1 at third-division Waldhof Mannheim from extra-time goals by Taino Awoniyi and Kevin Behrens and St Pauli Hamburg also needed 120 minutes to win 3-2 at Dynamo Dresden.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Ulsan tops Jeonbuk, advances to Asian Champions League semis

Seoul, Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i defeated Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-2 in an Asian Champions League quarterfinal on Sunday to stay on course for a second successive continental title.

Ulsan, which also won in 2012, needed extra-time to beat its South Korean rival, reports AP.

Knockout ties in the tournament have been reduced to a single game from the usual two-legged encounters due to the pandemic.

Georgian midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili put Ulsan ahead after 13 minutes at Jeonju World Cup Stadium, only for Han Kyo-won to level for Jeonbuk, champions in 2006 and 2016.

Just before the break, Yun Il-lok restored Ulsan’s lead. It didn’t last long with Jeonbuk hitting back, this time through Takahiro Kunimoto early in the second half.

After 101 minutes, South Korea international Lee Dong-gyeong hit the winner with a fierce shot from outside the area.

Next up for Ulsan is a semifinal on Wednesday against Pohang Steelers, another South Korean opponent.

Pohang, aiming for a record fourth Asian title, defeated Nagoya Grampus of Japan 3-0.

Lim Sang-hyub opened the scoring eight minutes into the second half and with 20 minutes remaining, Lee Seung-mo added a second. Lim’s second in injury time sealed the victory.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Hollywood Makeover Breathes New Life into Welsh Soccer Club

It has been described as a “crash course in football club ownership” and the two Hollywood stars who bought a beleaguered team in English soccer’s fifth tier with the lofty aim of transforming it into a global force are certainly learning on the job.

“I’m watching our PLAYERS MOP THE FIELD to continue the game,” read a tweet last week from Rob McElhenney, an American actor and director who was the creator of TV show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and now makes up one half of the new ownership of Wrexham AFC. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The residents of Wrexham have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief for a while.

It’s nearly a year since McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, the Canadian-born actor best known for starring in the “Deadpool” movies, completed their out-of-nowhere $2.5 million takeover of Wrexham, a 157-year-old club from Wales that has fallen on such hard times since the turn of the century that its supporters’ trust twice had to save the team from going out of business.

Once the seed was planted by friends about buying a European soccer team, they sought out advisors to recommend a club that had history, was in a false position, and played a big role in the local community. Wrexham fitted the bill.

After all, it’s the world’s third oldest professional club that used to attract attendances of 20,000 in the 1970s — and had some big wins in the FA Cup in the 1990s, including over then-English champion Arsenal — but has been languishing at non-league level, where some teams are semi-professional, since 2008. Located in an industrial town of about 65,000 people near the northwest English border, it is not too far from the soccer hotbeds of Liverpool and Manchester.

To the amazement of everyone involved in English and Welsh soccer, the purchase went through and McElhenney and Reynolds immediately made some big promises: improvements to the stadium, playing squad and leadership structure; a major investment in the women’s team; and to “introduce the club to the world.” They’ve stayed true to their word, making Wrexham stand out at a time when many clubs below the lucrative English Premier League have plunged into financial turmoil because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I remember when it all first broke on the news, it seemed a bit surreal,” Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson told The Associated Press. “But since I’ve spoken to them, you understand how serious they are in terms of making a success of this club and leaving a legacy.”

Walking through the tunnel and onto the field at the Racecourse Ground, it’s impossible to not notice the giant stand — known as “The Kop” — to the left that is being renovated and currently is covered in a huge red banner. On it are Wrexham’s new sponsors, TikTok, Aviation Gin and Expedia, globally recognized brands that typically have no place at this level of the game.

Season-ticket sales have nearly trebled, from 2,000 to around 5,800, and attendances have been more than 8,000 for home games, better than many clubs get in the third and fourth tiers and a figure virtually unheard of at non-league level.

For the first full season under Reynolds and McElhenney, the men’s squad has been enhanced — one player was signed for 200,000 pounds ($270,000), nearly a club record — and there’s a new coach and chief executive with decades of experience working in the English Football League, the three divisions below the Premier League.

Behind the scenes, there are advisors acting as conduits between the board and the new owners who have held important leadership roles in British soccer: former Liverpool CEO Peter Moore, former Football Association technical director Les Reed and former English Football League CEO Shaun Harvey.

Meanwhile, the push to put Wrexham “on the map” in world soccer is ongoing.

It recently became the first non-league team to be included on the popular video game, FIFA. Reynolds (18 million) and McElhenney (700,000) use their large Twitter following to promote the club — and even to comment on the team’s games as an incredulous McElhenney did on Saturday when Wrexham’s match was abandoned because of a waterlogged pitch.

And in what could perhaps be the biggest game-changer, Wrexham is the subject of an access-all-areas TV documentary charting its transformation under the new ownership. A two-season order of “Welcome to Wrexham” has been placed by American channel FX, with Reynolds and McElhenney the executive directors of what could prove to be something like a real-life version of Emmy Award-winning U.S. comedy “Ted Lasso.”

FX has said the documentary will explore “the club, the town, and Rob and Ryan’s crash course in football club ownership.” Camera crews have been at the club for much of the past year.

“Everywhere you go, there’s a camera,” Wrexham captain Luke Young said. “However, many times the crew say, ‘Be yourself and do what’s natural,’ you do to an extent but you then think, ‘Should I say this?’ But they’ve said they’re not going to hang you out to dry.”

So, is Wrexham simply being used as a vehicle to produce a reality TV show, as some skeptics will say? The scale of the transformation and the money being spent by the new owners on all areas of the club suggests otherwise.

How long Reynolds and McElhenney stick around is up for debate. But, for now, Wrexham — both the soccer team and the local area — has been given a lift by the presence of famous new owners and the exposure that is providing. Fleur Robinson, the recently appointed CEO, said the club has new members “from Los Angeles to New York” and especially from Philadelphia, the city where McElhenney is from and the inspiration for Wrexham’s new green away uniform.

The owners have been on chat shows in the U.S., talking about their new project.

“There hasn’t been a day gone by when the football club hasn’t been mentioned in some way on a national or global scale,” Robinson said.

Reynolds and McElhenney have promised to come to Wrexham once pandemic-related travel restrictions are lifted and watch the team, which is currently halfway down the National League standings after nine games.

That visit could be anytime now, and they could be in for quite the reception.

“There is a such a buzz about town, so this is what everyone is waiting for, to see them,” Robinson said. “They’ve bought a club and not seen it for themselves. I’m sure they are just as excited as the people in Wrexham to come here.”

Source: Voice of America

Barcelona backed Super League due to FFP concerns – CEO

Barcelona, Barcelona’s CEO has said the club supported the European Super League to enforce tighter financial controls on teams as UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) model plays into the hands of state-backed clubs such as Paris St Germain and Manchester City.

UEFA launched the FFP regulations in 2009 to aim to stop clubs running big losses through spending on players although the organisation relaxed the rules following the COVID-19 pandemic, removing the obligation to break even, Reuters reports.

The rules came under scrutiny following PSG’s transfer activities last summer, in which they signed Barca’s all-time top scorer Lionel Messi as well as Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Georginio Wijnaldum on free transfers while paying huge wages to beat their rivals to the players.

Manchester City, meanwhile, paid a Premier League record 100 million pounds ($135.80 million) to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa.

Barca, by contrast, are in debt to the tune of 1.35 billion euros ($1.56 billion) were forced to slash their wage bill this summer due to LaLiga’s far stricter financial regulations. They have been allocated a maximum budget of 98 million euros for this season, a huge drop from 347 million last campaign.

“For us the Super League was about creating a more attractive competition oriented around the issue of FFP. We have to make a deep reflection on what happened this summer,” Ferran Reverter told a news conference on Wednesday.

“UEFA is opening the door for clubs to inject money and the spending ratios are going wild. Along with LaLiga, we believe in a more sustainable model. If UEFA keeps going down this path it will favour the state clubs while damaging Barca’s brand.”

UEFA did not immediately respond to Reverter’s comments.

President Aleksander Ceferin told the European Club Association last month UEFA was looking at a new model of financial control, without giving details.

“It is time to question the old ways and the traditional measures,” he said. “It is now time to seriously work together to put in place a true direct cost control system.”

British newspaper The Times said in August UEFA was looking into setting a salary limit capped at 70% of club’s revenue while being able to exceed the limit if paying a luxury tax.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are the only remaining supporters of the Super League, which was announced in April but quickly unravelled following the withdrawal of the six English clubs and then Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Verstappen: losing F1 title race ‘won’t change my life’

Berlin, Max Verstappen is not obsessed with winning the Formula One world championship as he said losing a tense title duel with Lewis Hamilton won’t be the end of the world for him.

“You cannot force things. You just have to work well and work hard together, and then we will find out at the end of the season where that will put us, is that first, is that second? We don’t know,” he said on Thursday.

Heading into Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix Red Bull’s Verstappen trails the seven-time world champion Hamilton of Mercedes by two points with seven races left in the season, said dpa international.

“I always do my best and I know that the team is also doing the best they can. And if that’s going to be, at the end of the year, first, of course that’s an amazing achievement and that’s what we work for,” the Dutchman said.

“But even if we would finish second, I think we would still have a great season and at the end of the day it’s not really going to change my life. I enjoy what I’m doing and that’s also very important. For me there is not much to worry about, really.

“We are very relaxed, but also very focused, and of course we want to win – the whole team wants to win – so that mentality is there.”

Hamilton won the last race in Russia in dramatic fashion with rain late in the Sochi GP while Verstappen roared to second, from having to start from the back of the grid, to considerably limit the damage.

Verstappen got the grid penalty for going over the allowed three power units per season, and there is speculation Hamilton could face the same situation as early as in Istanbul.

Hamilton, who clinched a record-equalling seventh world title last year in Istanbul, also said his off-track activities and interests are helping him in the intense duel with Verstappen.

Source: Bahrain News Agency