Koeman’s job in danger before Barcelona visit Atletico Madrid

Ronald Koeman needs his Barcelona side to win big when it visits Atletico Madrid to have a shot at saving his job.

That is, if he makes it to Saturday.

Two embarrassing losses to start the Champions League have left the Dutch coach under extreme pressure before a trip to the capital to face the Spanish league’s titleholder.

Losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich, a European juggernaut, two weeks ago was humbling. But to follow that up with another 3-0 loss at Benfica, a team it had not lost to since 1961, on Wednesday may be too much for the club’s leadership to take.

Koeman spoke after the match in Lisbon like a man who knew his time at Camp Nou could be counted in days, if not hours.

“As for my future, I cannot say anything because I don’t know what the club thinks about it,” Koeman said. “It is not in my hands. We will see . . . at the end, the guilty party is the coach.”

Club president Joan Laporta and Koeman have been at odds since Laporta returned to run the club last March. Laporta went as far as to look for another coach in the offseason before finally settling on keeping Koeman for the second year of his contract.

Laporta and Koeman have shared the need to convince Barcelona’s fans to lower expectations since the club was saddled with over a billion euros in debt and unable to pay Lionel Messi’s wages. But the team has hit new lows that even with the exit of the almighty Messi are difficult to take.

A sixth-place standing in the Spanish league has almost become respectable for the former champions compared to its dismal showing in the Champions League.

Barcelona is in last place of Group E and at risk of not making the knockout rounds for the first time in 20 years. Most worryingly, a Barcelona team that prides itself on always delivering attacking soccer has not even generated a shot on target in 180 minutes.

Never shy to point out his team’s shortcomings, nor spare his players from what he considers just criticism, Koeman spread some of the blame.

“Everyone knows the problem of Barcelona today,” he said. “The team is not the same as it was for years. We saw that in today’s game. It is crystal clear. We have lost players who made the difference . . . I am not saying that we have to accept it or that I have no responsibility, but in today’s game we should have gotten more from our players.”

Koeman’s tactics against Benfica, however, were also questionable. Instead of replacing Gerard Pique with another defender when he picked up an early yellow card, Koeman shifted Frenkie de Jong into his backline. Barcelona suffered even more trying to set up its forwards without De Jong in a creative role.

When asked if he thought the team needed a new manager, De Jong responded with a curt “No.”

“You can only get out of this situation if you stay united and work together,” the Netherlands midfielder said.

Atletico was having its own troubles before Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez, both former Barcelona players the club could not afford to pay, scored late to fight back 2-1 at AC Milan on Tuesday.

The match at Wanda Metropolitano will come before a weeklong international break, offering Barcelona a window to make a coaching change if desired.

Former midfielder Xavi Hernandez has long been tagged as a future Barcelona coach, while Spanish media speculates that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez and former Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo could be in the running. Laporta said during his presentation this summer that sports director Jordi Cruyff could also be used as a “wild card in an emergency.”

Beyond the team’s immediate struggles, Barcelona was dealt a harder long-term blow by the Spanish league hours before it lost at Benfica.

Barcelona’s new salary cap has been slashed to 97 million euros ($113 million), about 285 million euros ($334 million) less than a year ago and seven times smaller than that of Real Madrid, due to losses it incurred by the poor management of Laporta’s predecessors and the economic impact of the pandemic.

So Koeman or not, the glory days of Barcelona won’t likely be coming back soon.

IPL to have simultaneous games on last day of league stage

For the first time, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is going to experiment with two matches played simultaneously at different venues. This will take place on the last day of the league stage of the ongoing tournament.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has agreed to such a request from official broadcaster Star India. The Indian Express understands that the board discussed the matter during the IPL Governing Council meeting a few days ago where a decision was taken to go ahead with the idea.

Hence, on the last day of the league stage of the ongoing season, instead of one afternoon match and one evening game, two matches will be held at the same time in the evening at two venues.

The rationale behind Star’s request is the lower TRP of afternoon games.

“In a first for the IPL, the last two league matches before the VIVO IPL 2021 Playoffs will be played concurrently. On the last day of the league stage (08.10.2021) of the ongoing season, instead of having one afternoon match and one evening match, two matches (SRH v MI and RCB v DC) will be played simultaneously at 7.30 PM IST (6.00 PM GST),” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a press release.

A BCCI official later revealed that broadcasters aren’t getting high TRP (Television Rating Points) for afternoon matches.

“The official broadcaster had asked BCCI whether they can have two games simultaneously in two different venues. The broadcasters have informed us that TRP for afternoon games is less compared to evening games. The BCCI can experiment with having two games simultaneously. As Star has multiple channels under their banner, they can provide live telecast of two games smoothly. So, BCCI has agreed to the request,” the board official told The Indian Express.

It is learnt that BCCI will take feedback from Star after the two games about the TRP generated. As the board is planning to have two new IPL teams next year, this could help it to conduct more games in fewer days. Till now, the BCCI had few double headers in the IPL, which made it tough for the cricketers given the harsh Indian summers.

“This could help us in our scheduling going ahead, as two new teams means more games. The BCCI will decide if such norms can be continued ahead,” the official added.

IPL 2021: Knights make Capital gains

Five dot balls brought about a well-set Shubman Gill’s dismissal and a wicket-maiden for Kagiso Rabada. Then, Ravichandran Ashwin made one hang a bit more in the air and spin away to settle the score with Eoin Morgan. The two had got into a heated exchange after Ashwin was dismissed during the Delhi Capitals innings. The latter bellowed a ‘come on’ in the Kolkata Knight Riders captain’s face after getting his man.

KKR’s run rate suddenly slipped below six runs per over, but chasing 128 for victory they basically needed two good overs from thereon. Nitish Rana hit two sixes in a Lalit Yadav over and although the excellent Avesh Khan (3/13) saw off Dinesh Karthik, Sunil Narine laid into Rabada with two sixes and a four to take his team to a three-wicket victory, which consolidated KKR’s position in the top four.

Rishabh Pant’s bowling selections – not using Anrich Nortje’s pace straightaway against Narine and using up his spinners early – was questionable. At the same time, the DC skipper didn’t have enough runs to defend.

The Sharjah sticky dog, or sandy-dog based on one’s preference, was an antidote to DC’s cricketing style. The ball never came on to the bat and the slowness of the pitch took the sting out of their fast bowlers.

The Powerplay was the key for DC to build the platform for a big total. Without Prithvi Shaw, out injured, they missed aggression upfront. Steve Smith’s conventional cricket held up one end, but it didn’t put the KKR bowlers under much pressure. Shreyas Iyer could have raised the tempo, but Narine had reserved a beauty for him.

Daniel Maldini: Like grandfather, like father, like son

The Maldini name has been synonymous with AC Milan and a new chapter was scripted in the rich history of the family with the Italian giants. Daniel Maldini, son of Paolo Maldini, scored on his first start for his father and grandfather’s club.

The Maldini line continues

The 19-year old, fresh from the club’s youth academy is Paolo’s second son and plays as an attacking midfielder. “The coach told me yesterday (Friday) that I was starting, he showed me what we were doing at set-pieces so I realised that I would be in the starting XI,” said Daniel to DAZN.

The set-piece training would work as Maldini opened the scoring with a powerful header against Spezia two minutes into the second half. Cameras caught his father celebrating emotionally after the goal.

“He’s demanding, rightly so, but he helps me out,” said Maldini junior. “He’s my dad.” Paolo is currently the technical director at Milan and Daniel joined the club’s youth setup right after his father had retired.

He has been with the club since 2010, has two appearances each for Italy’s U18 and U19 teams. Before this game, Daniel was being slowly introduced through substitutions into the game until his first start on Friday.

Trophy history

Maldini and Milan is a partnership that has been going on since 1954. Cesare Maldini started his career with Italian club Triestina before making the switch. Once at Milan, he led the team to four Serie A titles and one European Cup in 12 years at the club.

International, Cesare earnt 14 caps for Italy and was part of the team in the 1962 World Cup. He captained both club and country.

After retiring in 1967, Cesare then went on to coach Milan twice, and Foggia and Parma as well. But his success as a manager was far more on the international level. Cesare was the three-time winner of the European Under-21 championship as coach of the Italy u21 team. He then coached the Italian senior men’s team at the 1998 World Cup and then the Paraguay WC team during the 2002 event.

Until then, it felt like senior Maldini’s record was untouchable, but then came Paolo.

RCB vs MI: Virat Kohli goes past 10,000 T20 runs

Virat Kohli on Sunday reached a coveted milestone of 10,000-run mark in all forms of T20 cricket (international, domestic and franchise) during Royal Challengers Bangalore’s IPL match against Mumbai Indians at the Dubai International Stadium.

Playing in his 314th T20 contest, Kohli pulled his India team-mate Jasprit Bumrah for a six to get the milestone in the fourth over after RCB were sent in to bat.

Kohli, who is set to step down from RCB captaincy at the end of this season, had come into the match 13 short of 10,000 runs.

The 32-year-old has played 298 innings before Sunday’s match and has scored runs at an average of 41.61 with the help of five hundreds and 73 fifties. His highest individual score was 113. His career strike-rate has been an impressive 134 plus.

Durand Cup: Army Green enter quarters, FC Goa put five past Jamshedpur FC

Deepak Singh scored the solitary goal to take Army Green to the Durand Cup quarterfinals after the former champions beat Sudeva Delhi FC 1-0 in the final Group B game at the Mohun Bagan ground, here on Friday.

Jamshedpur FC were also playing their final game simultaneously against FC Goa but they lost 0-5, allowing Army Green to go through along with group toppers FC Goa.

In the initial quarter of the first half, both Army Green and Sudeva created opportunities but it was all Greens after that.

In the ninth minute, the Greens had their first major scoring opportunity when Lallawmkima took a brilliant header, but could not go past Sudeva keeper Sachin Jha.

Shubham Rana took another shot at goal on the rebound, but Sachin came up with another brilliant save.

The ball hovered around the Sudeva goal for most part of the first half. Thirty minutes into the game, two back-to-back corners almost got the Greens on the board, but Sachin made sure it was goalless at half time.

Sudeva looked all charged up in the second half. In the 46th minute, William Pauliankhum had the ball just a few yards away from the goal but failed to score.

Army Green came back strong and in the 51st minute, courtesy a nice set up and a wonderful assist by Dip Mazumdar, Deepak tapped the ball into the net.

The Delhi side did have a few chances to equalise but they could not go past Army Green’s defence to end the campaign with three losses.

In the day’s second game, FC Goa blanked JFC 5-0 to finish on top with nine points and push their ISL rivals out of the tournament.

Carli Lloyd scores 5 goals, US women rout Paraguay 9-0

No Carli Lloyd isn’t reconsidering her retirement — even after a five-goal game.

Lloyd hit a career high for goals in the U.S. national team’s 9-0 rout of Paraguay on Thursday night. The 39-year-old forward has just three more games with the team before she walks away from the game.

“Maybe for a split second,” Lloyd said when asked if performances like that make her want to stick around. “And then I go back to reality.”

Lloyd scored a pair of goals in the opening five minutes, and added her third and fourth before halftime as the United States built a 6-0 lead. She added her final goal in the 61st.

Lloyd has 133 international goals in 313 appearances with the national team. She moved in front of Kristine Lilly for third on the career list.

“She’s an absolute legend, just being on the field, she’s a threat, no matter who we play, when we play, where we play,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Her mentality is something that’s unseen. She’s just hungry for scoring goals, just hungry to get better, and whether we play for a medal or we play Paraguay, it makes no difference. She wants to score goals.”

Lloyd’s scoring outburst was reminiscent of the 2015 World Cup final, when she scored three goals in the first 16 minutes against Japan. She announced she plans to retire from soccer after the team’s four post-Olympic games.

“That was fun,” she said about the game. “I don’t know, I’m just trying to savor it because I want time to go a little bit slower, because one game is down and I have three left.”

It was Lloyd’s first career five-goal game. She has nine career hat tricks, one fewer than Mia Hamm.

The five goals matched the U.S. record for a single game, a milestone most recently reached by Alex Morgan against Thailand during the 2019 World Cup. No player has had six.

“I wish I could do it forever, but all good things eventually come to an end and I definitely am for sure retiring,” Lloyd said. “I’m not going to come back out of retirement but you know I’m going to be the biggest cheerleader for this team and really excited to see them continue to keep crushing it.”

Andi Sullivan scored 25th before Lynn Williams’ blast from distance in the 30th made it 4-0.

Sullivan added a second goal early in the second half, before Lloyd’s fifth. Tobin Heath scored the final goal in the 86th.

The United States is in the midst of a four-game post Olympics tour. The Americans won the bronze medal in Tokyo, a somewhat disappointing finish for the defending World Cup champions.

It is the first time that the United States has faced Paraguay, which has never played in the Olympics or the World Cup.

Paraguay lost 7-0 to Japan in April. It was the team’s only previous match this year after three scheduled games against Colombia were cancelled because of the coronavirus.
Forward Christen Press was not with the national team because she is taking time off to focus on her mental health. Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis and Megan Rapinoe were not on the roster because of injury.

The United States plays Paraguay again on Tuesday in Cincinnati. The team is scheduled to host South Korea twice next month before a possible road trip to Australia in November.

Pro volley league set to resume after a two-year break and in new ‘avatar’

The Prime Volleyball League (PVL) is expected to resume soon after a two-year hiatus and will be a six-team affair. The PVL follows the National Basketball Association (NBA) model in which franchise owners are also stakeholders.

Bengaluru Torpedoes will be a new franchise and join Calicut Heroes, Kochi Blue Spikers, Ahmedabad Defenders, Hyderabad Black Hawks and Chennai Blitz who changed their names from Chennai Spartans in 2019 and were the champions.

The dates for the auction and the schedule for the season will be announced by the PVL soon.

To provide opportunities for both upcoming players and coaching staff, the PVL has tied up with Piston Des Sports to create a portal (www.pistondessport.com) to register and be part of the auction.

“We have talent in the country and PVL will be the right kind of platform to grow. This kind of structure, where franchises are committed for the long term gives the game an opportunity to grow in a sustained manner, and that is the best thing possible for Indian volleyball,” said Joy Bhattacharya, CEO, PVL.

“Our first association began in 2019 was very successful. This is a win-win for both franchises and the players,” said Thomas Muthoot, owner of Kochi Blue Spikers.

In 2019, Pro Volleyball League with six teams was well accepted by fans. Instead of Bengaluru Torpedoes, U Mumba were the sixth team then and played on a single round-robin basis consisting of 15 five-set matches but was restricted to two centres, Kochi and Chennai, instead of home and away format. Chennai Spartans emerged champions.

In 2011, Indian Volleyball League with six teams was launched in a humble way but folded up soon.

David Lee, a member of the gold medal winning USA team in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Serbia’s Novica Bjelica, USA’s Paul Lotman, Canada’s Rudy Verhoeff and Latvia’s Ruslans Sorokins all Olympians were international stars who played in the 2019 pro league.

Pakistan set to tour Bangladesh after T20 World Cup

Pakistan will tour Bangladesh after the conclusion of the T20 World Cup in October. Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) chief executive officer (CEO) Nizamuddin Chowdhury confirmed the development. The Pakistan team will reach Dhaka on November 15 and would be playing two Test matches and three T20 internationals in Dhaka and Chattogram in November and December.

“The Pakistan series will happen right after the [T20] World Cup. The cricket operations department is in talks with the Pakistan board to finalise the details. All formats will be included, there will be more ODIs and Tests,” the BCB CEO told the local media on Monday.

This will be Pakistan’s first tour of Bangladesh in six years.

No Ronaldo, no wins for Juventus after losing at Napoli 2-1

No Cristiano Ronaldo. No wins for Juventus.

The Bianconeri remained winless in Serie A and slumped to their second consecutive defeat since Ronaldo went back to Manchester United after losing at Napoli 2-1 on Saturday.

Napoli center back Kalidou Koulibaly scored five minutes from time after Moise Kean inexplicably headed the ball toward his own goal following a Napoli corner, setting up a tap-in for Koulibaly.

Matteo Politano equalized for Napoli near the hour mark following Álvaro Morata’s opener for Juventus 10 minutes in at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

“We need to change the way we play,” Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini said. “When you have a superstar like Ronaldo you can’t not play for him. … We should be grateful to Cristiano for these years at Juventus but we need to move on.”

Juventus remained with just one point from a 2-2 draw at Udinese in its season opener. With Massimiliano Allegri having returned as Juventus coach after Andrea Pirlo’s unsuccessful tenure last season ended a run of nine straight Italian league titles, Juventus also lost at home to promoted Empoli before the international break.

The loss to Empoli came a day after Ronaldo’s transfer, while this defeat came on the day that Ronaldo scored twice in his first match and win for United in 12 years in the English Premier League.

“We put in a worse performance against Empoli but today unfortunately we paid the price for errors,” Allegri said. “In soccer, when you don’t win, you can only shut up and work hard.”

Juventus doesn’t have much time to train, though, before traveling to Sweden for its Champions League opener against Malmö on Tuesday.

Napoli, meanwhile, has won all three of its matches under new coach Luciano Spalletti and moved three points clear of Lazio, Inter Milan, Roma, AC Milan and Fiorentina, which won at Atalanta 2-1.

“I’ve got to thank Spalletti for making the team solid,” Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said of the former Roma, Zenit St. Petersburg and Inter coach. “I chose Spalletti because he’s diligent, orderly and handles things firmly, just the way I like it. You can talk to him and he doesn’t get offended if you ask for an explanation, because he isn’t haunted by his ego.”

The equalizer came when Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny didn’t do enough to control a long-range curled effort from Lorenzo Insigne and Politano slotted it in from near the ‘keeper’s left post.

Morata’s goal came following a defensive error from Kostas Manolas, who was attempting an ill-advised pass back to goalkeeper David Ospina. Morata took possession instead and beat Ospina from a sharp angle.

United States midfielder Weston McKennie played the opening 72 minutes for Juventus despite being banned from a pair of U.S. World Cup qualifiers for violating the national team’s COVID-19 protocols.

McKennis also missed Juventus’ derby against Torino in April after violating COVID-19 protocols in Italy.

Allegri needed McKennie’s services after deciding not to use South American players Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Rodrigo Bentancur, Danilo and Alex Sandro because they had just returned from international duty.

ATALANTA STRUGGLES

Dušan Vlahovic converted two penalties for Fiorentina in a 2-1 win at Atalanta, which was expected to contend for the title but has only one win in three matches.

Duván Zapata pulled one back for Atalanta but Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano saved several potential equalizers.

VENEZIA’S BACK

Venezia earned its first points in Serie A in nearly 20 years after beating Serie B champion Empoli 2-1.

Back in the top division for the first time since 2002, Venezia’s goals came from two newly acquired players: French forward Thomas Henry and Nigerian striker David Okereke.