Juventus overcome Ronaldo red card to win Champions League debut

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League debut for Juventus lasted only 29 minutes as he was red-carded but the Italians began their Group H campaign impressively with a 2-0 victory at Valencia on Wednesday.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Penalties either side of half-time by Miralem Pjanic sealed the points for the visitors as Valencia’s return to European competition after a two-year absence fell flat.10

The night was meant to be all about Ronaldo’s first Champions League appearance for the club he has tormented down the years for Real Madrid. His first real impression, however, was not what anyone in the Mestalla could have imagined.

After a lively opening half-hour, the Portuguese forward was involved in a tangle in the penalty area with a Valencia defender. It did not appear too sinister but German referee Felix Brych, after consulting with his assistant, pulled out his red card to the dismay of Ronaldo.

Juventus had been the better side before that with Joao Cancelo having an effort turned on to the woodwork by Valencia keeper Neto and Sami Khedira also wasted a good chance for the Italian champions.

On the stroke of half-time Daniel Parejo’s reckless challenge on Cancelo earned him a booking and gave Pjanic the chance to send 10-man Juventus into the interval ahead.

Five minutes after the break the home crowd fell silent when Jeison Murillo pushed Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci in the back and Brych pointed to the spot again.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Once again, Neto guessed right but Pjanic’s penalty was placed into the corner.

Valencia dominated possession after that but Juventus’s well-drilled defence held firm until stoppage-time when Brych awarded the third penalty of the game.

Parejo stepped up but Wojciech Szczesny saved his spot-kick to sum up the Spanish side’s frustrating evening.


After Javier Hernandez and Raul Jimenez, who is Mexico’s option at striker?

When thinking of Mexico’s most gifted and capable strikers, two players immediately stand out amongst the rest: Javier Hernandez and Raul Jimenez.

On paper, Hernandez remains the more talented and popular option of the two. As the leading all-time goalscorer for El Tri, the 30-year-old is undoubtedly a key figure with his knack of finding the back of the net.nike nfl jerseys for cheap

But Hernandez has yet to find his footing this season for West Ham with one start in four Premier League appearances with no goals. He is also expected to miss his second straight match against Chelsea on Saturday due to a prolonged illness.2

Jimenez, on the other hand, is quickly making a name for himself abroad. The former Club America player has two goals in his first five English Premier League games for Wolverhampton. Keeping in mind that he is three years younger than Hernandez, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jimenez as the new leader in Mexico’s attack when the 2019 Gold Cup comes around.

The field of leading candidates who can make a case for themselves as the third-best striker currently looks bleak. Oribe Peralta recently retired from international duty, Chivas man Alan Pulido has yet to showcase that he is dependable, and his club teammate Angel Zaldivar was dismal in the two recent friendly appearances for Mexico.

The good news is that there are no lack of young Mexican strikers. Budding players such as Rafael Duran, Joao Maleck, Eduardo Aguirre, Roberto de la Rosa, Jairo Torres, Ronaldo Cisneros, Jose Godinez, Alexis Vega and Jose Juan Macias are some of the more intriguing options available.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

The bad news? Many of these players don’t have many first division minutes to begin with. For those who are striving to make an impact in Liga MX, regular playing time is highly challenging in the competitive league — especially for strikers. Even with the youth minutes rule now in effect, most Mexican clubs are able to fulfill their requirements through minutes for homegrown talent in other positions.


PSG’s Neymar has ‘become a man’ after World Cup criticism – Dani Alves

Paris Saint-Germain right-back Dani Alves believes all the criticism Neymar endured after the World Cup has helped him “become a man.”cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

The Brazil international, who missed out on World Cup heartache alongside his compatriot in Russia, is currently working his way back to fitness after surgery on a knee injury suffered with the French champions at the end of last season.

Speaking at the launch of Jordan Brand x PSG’s collaboration at Parc des Princes on Thursday, Alves noted the change in Neymar’s behaviour and attitude, particularly over the summer.12

“Neymar and I have spoken plenty,” the 35-year-old told Globo Esporte. “I think that he is more aware and experienced now. The small cracks have created a maturity and that will change his behaviour.

“You stop being a child in order to become a man. When you start to be a man, your decisions and attitudes become more thoughtful.

“I always say, that if one person is talking about you or even two, that could be harassment. But if a lot of people are saying the same thing about you, then something you are doing is not right. If that happens, then it is time to reinvent yourself, put on a new coat of polish and improve yourself.

“Sometimes things happen to you in life to force you to mature. That creates the consciousness that you must improve as a person and as a professional. When things aren’t perfect, that is when you have to take that step forward and improve and reinvent yourself. I spoke for a long time with Neymar about this situation. I think he is aware of it and he has the experience.”

Meanwhile, retired goalkeeper Sebastien Frey questioned PSG’s need for goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with Alphonse Areola already on the books.nike cheap nfl jerseys


Manchester City’s Leroy Sane hails ‘fantastic week’; Sergio Aguero injury doubt

Leroy Sane marked a week to remember with a goal in Manchester City’s 3-0 victory over Fulham, days after becoming a father for the first time.

Sane, 23, left the Germany camp for the birth of his daughter, Rio Stella, last week and on Saturday made his first Premier League start of the season, taking just 97 seconds to open the scoring.

“[It was] a fantastic week for me — I became a daddy this week,” Sane told Premier League TV. “It was also a good game today and we won, we played a good game.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“I’m relaxed at the moment, I train hard and when the manager gives me an opportunity, I show him what I can do. The next game on Wednesday is a really important game.”11

The winger was left out of the squad for City’s last game ahead of the international break against Newcastle United, but Pep Guardiola was delighted with his performance as City maintained the pressure on early leaders Chelsea and Liverpool.

“Even in this period when he didn’t play, we never had doubts about Leroy’s quality,” the City boss told a news conference. “He showed us many times in the last years and today he played again so good.

“We cannot forget sometimes this kind of thing happens, he is [young] and sometimes you can be up and down at that age. He has to realise for himself like a professional he has to do. I’m delighted for his performance and [give him] a big compliment.”

City’s own setback was an ankle injury to Sergio Aguero, which saw him replaced in the second half, and Guardiola is unsure whether he will be fit for Wednesday’s Champions League opener against French side Lyon.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

“We had a problem with Sergio Aguero, he got injured in the first half and we didn’t want to take a risk,” he said.

“Something in the ankle, when he fell down, he felt something. He finished good the first half and the second half started a little bit uncomfortable. He could play but after 3-0, no risk. Tomorrow we will see how he wakes up [for Lyon].”

City missed a number of chances to win even more comfortably despite David Silva and Raheem Sterling adding to Sane’s strike.


Romelu Lukaku gets Manchester United on track but questions persist

It has been a busy and momentous few months for Romelu Lukaku. He was instrumental in Belgium’s advance to the World Cup semifinals, scoring four times and being hailed by Roberto Martinez, his national team’s manager, as the “perfect” striker for his country.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

His two against Burnley in Manchester United’s 2-0 victory have given him three goals in four Premier League games. It was a match that also saw him draw level with the Premier League tally of Didier Drogba — 104 goals, an amount that he achieved 30 matches quicker than the legendary Chelsea forward. He is still only 25 and his goal-scoring feats already look set to keep him in the history books.

And yet, and yet, the questions still persist.8

How can there be any doubts over Lukaku’s quality? Well, an alternative view is that he has already cost them at least one victory so far this season. When the game was scoreless against both Brighton and Tottenham, Lukaku missed two eminently presentable opportunities that would have changed the direction of the game. In both cases, United’s opponents capitalised on Lukaku’s profligacy to take the lead.

Lukaku is often compared to either Drogba or Ruud van Nistelrooy, but the truth is that he is not yet quite like either. Drogba was a player who frequently scored from distance and who was a relentlessly physical presence, whereas Lukaku’s key strength lies in his ability to evade contact — to disappear from his marker’s radar in a crowded penalty area. Lukaku’s game is actually more similar to that of Van Nistelrooy, in terms of his movement and the positions from which he scores, yet the one thing that marks the Dutchman apart from Lukaku is his consistent ruthlessness in front of goal. When it comes to that,Van Nistelrooy is uniquely brutal.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Lukaku has faced similar accusations his career — that he is not at his best in big matches, that he cannot score when his goals are most needed. He could fairly argue there is far more to his game than gracing the scoresheet. Against Japan at the World Cup, having missed a clear header earlier in the game, he was instrumental in Nacer Chadli’s late winner; against Brazil in the quarterfinal, he laid on Kevin de Bruyne’s goal with a superb assist. Yet Lukaku knows that his playmaking is not the primary criterion on which he can and should be judged. To that extent, he must improve.


If Paul Pogba wants to go, Manchester United should just let him

The drama surrounding Paul Pogba’s future at Manchester United continued to unfold this week, with the midfielder hinting that a move may well be on the cards.

The only future he was prepared to commit to was “right now” before repeating that he was “currently” a United player but “who knows what will happen over the next couple of months.” These certainly aren’t the encouraging words United supporters would hope to hear from their best outfield player. (Deepening the mystery, Pogba on Thursday night, after France’s match against Germany, commented on the exit rumours, saying: “It’s not me who is talking.”)cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

While some fans may be desperate to cling on to him, many will have to acknowledge there’s no point keeping hold of a player who doesn’t want to be there. And there’s no pride in pandering after a want-away player either, especially not for supporters who believe their club is the biggest in the world.7

This isn’t a totally foreign situation for them, though. During the summer of 2008, star man Cristiano Ronaldo was regularly linked with a move to Real Madrid and he was all too happy to encourage the rumours. “Only God knows” was his standard response when quizzed about his United future. “I love to play in white,” he said when interviewed following a Euro 2008 game for Portugal, with a cheeky grin on his face. “The white of the national team,” he added.

Watching your best player flirt with another club and the possibility of leaving is always fairly painful. Pogba’s claim that “I give it my all for United always” is of little comfort, especially when his start to the season has been anticlimactic, with him acknowledging that his attitude wasn’t right in his team’s defeat against Brighton.

But if he wants to go, United should allow him to leave. The medal he won this summer will only add to his astronomical transfer value. Yet the more depressing reality is that it is unlikely United will know how to spend it. If their transfer business following Ronaldo’s sale is anything to go by, as well as the many windows since, there’s small comfort in knowing they can demand a large sum for him.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

In the summer, given a choice between the player and manager, many supporters would have picked the former. He was seen as the long-term hope for the club while Jose Mourinho was only ever going to make it until the end of the season, at most. Yet Mourinho has seen his stock rise in recent weeks, with fans in the Stretford End and the away end at Burnley making their feelings known, and the manager reciprocated by entering the pitch to applaud them.


Erick Gutierrez’s PSV move shows how Pachuca is a model of youth development

Erick Gutierrez’s move to PSV Eindhoven last week was widely lauded as being the right step in the 23-year-old’s career, but for Pachuca it represented a bittersweet moment.

On one hand, the transfer of Gutierrez to Europe is vindication of a player development process that is proving to be the most successful in Mexico. On the other, the club hasn’t reached the playoffs in Liga MX in the last three seasons and has just lost its captain and arguably its best player.

For the 23-year-old Mexico international known as “Guti,” it was a no-brainer: moving to a league that has been kind to Mexicans should be a perfect launchpad from which to continue to develop, under the radar of bigger European clubs and alongside his long-time friend Hirving Lozano. Playing in the Champions League group stage against the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur propels him into the spotlight almost instantly.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

But it was no guarantee that Gutierrez would be sold this summer and after PSV’s first bid it looked very much like the left-footed player would be staying put.8

“The initial formal offer was made like two months ago, but it was very low and it was a loan option, so we didn’t want to take it, we didn’t even consider it, we didn’t even start negotiating. It was so far from what we were expecting that we didn’t try to,” recounted Pachuca sporting director Marco Garces in English in an interview with ESPN FC.

A loan option was never going to tempt Pachuca to relinquish a player who has been one of its model youth academy graduates.

But when PSV Eindhoven edged closer to the Champions League group stage, with all the income that that entails, a deal was thrashed out relatively quickly.

“Actually the time we closed it up was during the BATE Borisov [Champions League qualifying second leg] game,” explained Garces. “They were in the stadium and they were negotiating and then when they scored the second it all went through. Much easier!”cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

It’s the second major move in Gutierrez’s fledgling career. The 2018 World Cup squad member arrived in Pachuca from the coastal state of Sinaloa at age 11, stayed in the club’s youth academy, was starting in a Liga MX final before he’d turned 19 and was captaining Pachuca and Mexico’s Under-23s at age 20.

“He was the captain not because we appointed him, but because all the youngsters around him really respected him and wanted to be near him,” said Garces.


Barcelona hit eight past Huesca with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez braces

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez scored twice each as La Liga champions Barcelona turned on the style to hammer Huesca 8-2 on Sunday and join Real Madrid as the only teams in the league to win their opening three games.

Top-flight debutants Huesca took a shock early lead in their first league visit to the Nou Camp when Colombian forward Cucho Hernandez deflected the ball in from point-blank range but Messi soon dampened the celebrations of the visiting supporters by cannoning a shot in off the post to level in the 16th.

An own goal from Jorge Pulido gave Barca the lead and Suarez extended it by scoring for the first time in five games in all competitions after the video assistant referee (VAR) overturned an offside call from the linesman.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Huesca’s Alex Gallar pulled one back before half-time to make it 3-2, but any hope of a revival from the visitors was soon killed off by three Barca goals in 11 minutes from Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic and another strike from Messi.7

Jordi Alba capped a brilliant performance to score the seventh after setting up two of the earlier goals, while Suarez added No. 8 with a penalty in stoppage time as Messi turned down the chance to complete a hat trick, offering the spot kick to the Uruguayan instead.

The thrashing lifted Barca above Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga standings on goal difference after three games, with the Catalans scoring 12 and conceding two while Real have netted 10 and conceded twice.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“We were sleeping at the start of the game but their goal helped wake us up and we reacted well,” Suarez said.

“It’s good to be top of the league before the international break, but the best thing about this win is seeing how well we played.”

Barca also put eight goals past Huesca in their last meeting at the Nou Camp in the Copa del Rey in an 8-1 win in 2014, while this was their biggest win in the league since thumping Deportivo La Coruna 8-0 away from home in April, 2016.


Manchester City’s Leroy Sane has fight on his hands for first-team spot

Benjamin Mendy’s arrival at the Etihad from Monaco a little over year ago would have given Leroy Sane plenty of food for thought.

The France left-back, whose constant raiding up the flank in Leonardo Jardim’s scintillating Champions League semifinalists of 2016-17 made him much more of an attacking threat than a simple left-sided defender, looked to be a dangerous overlap to Sane’s position and skillset at first glance.

Mendy, of course, disappeared from view after just a handful of games and remained injured until the very last month of the season. Sane stepped up and performed to such a high level of consistency and effectiveness that he was voted Young Player of the Year by the end of the season.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Sane’s swerving, left-footed wizardry earned him the fearful respect of right-sided defenders the length and breadth of England. His laser-guided shooting became a highpoint of the season and his unerringly accurate left wing crosses, arching dangerously into the six yard box, gave defences the jitters from Newcastle to Bournemouth.8

Petulance is commonplace in young players and in one so talented, City could perhaps have expected some extra baggage. Occasionally Sane could be seen flailing his arms in visible disgust at a poorly weighted pass or a teammate’s run that had not gone where he had wanted. (Though when those teammates in question are Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, you have to wonder if he was perhaps overreacting a tad.)nfl nike jerseys cheap china

It may well have been a glimpse of this side of the young winger’s character that persuaded Germany coach Joachim Low to leave him out of his final group of players for the World Cup in Russia. Instead, the equally inexperienced Julian Brandt of Bayer Leverkusen travelled with the squad instead.

“It was a very close thing”, Low said at the time, but Brandt getting the nod will have told Sane something was not quite right, as would Pep Guardiola’s infrequent public utterances about the German’s input at City.

It had been said that Sane himself had not realised the significance of Mendy’s arrival. If this is true, he can’t have failed to realise that Riyad Mahrez joining from Leicester for £60m this summer serves to toll the very same bells that had been clanking noisily when Mendy shipped up.

To put it bluntly — and it is becoming clear that Sane is the type of player that might need things put to him in a less subtle manner — Sane’s place is far from guaranteed.

With Mendy back and straight into top form, plus Mahrez chomping at the bit to get into the side himself, the left flank is suddenly overpopulated with burgeoning talent. Add the Silvas David and Bernardo, and you have an array of left-footed talent that can serve City perfectly well without the need to call on the young German to participate.


How Josef Martinez’s record-breaking season compares to MLS’ past goal-scoring kings

Last weekend, Josef Martinez joined Bradley Wright-Phillips, Chris Wondolowski and Roy Lassiter as Major League Soccer’s single-season scoring king by netting his 27th goal of 2018.

After his game-winning goal in Atlanta United’s 2-1 victory over Orlando City, he now stands alone top the MLS record books with 28 goals in a single season.

As if becoming the league’s record single-season goal scorer wasn’t impressive enough, Martinez has done it in 26 matches. His Atlanta United still have eight games remaining for the 25-year-old to extend his record.cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

To help illustrate just how dominant Martinez has been in 2018, ESPN FC enlisted the help of ESPN Stats & Information to compare the Venezuelan’s campaign with the then-record-setting seasons from Wright-Phillips, Wondolowski and Lassiter.

The most effective way of doing so is via goals per 90, which is 1.15 for Martinez following his goal on Friday. Lassiter comes closest with his 1.05 in 1996; Wright-Phillips tallied 0.90 in 2014; and Wondolowski managed 0.81 in 2012.6

And while the numbers bear out Martinez’s efficiency, it’s not as if he’s padding his stats with meaningless goals either. His nine game-winning goals are second to Wondolowski’s 11. He already has bested Wright-Phillips’ six and Lassiter’s four.

Martinez has changed games when required in 2018; his goals have put Atlanta in position to win with regularity this season. He has scored in 19 of 26 matches; only Lassiter scored in more games across his record-setting season. But Martinez’s strike rate of netting in 73 percent of matches is noticeably higher than Lassiter’s 65 percent of matches — 21 of 32.

But perhaps the most striking statistic to illustrate the importance of Martinez’s goals this season is Atlanta’s record when he scores. Its 14-1-4 mark when he has found the back of the net equates to a 2.42 points-per-game pace. The Five Stripes are 2-3-2 when Martinez doesn’t strike, earning 1.14 points per game.
No one else comes close to having such an influence.cheap nfl nike jerseys free shipping

The New York Red Bulls went 9-4-4 when Wright-Phillips scored in 2014, for 1.82 points per game. They were 4-6-4 when he didn’t, picking up 1.14 points per game. The San Jose Earthquakes were 13-2-4 when Wondolowski scored in 2012, earning 2.26 points per game. They went 5-3-5, a points-per-game pace of 1.54, when he didn’t score. Lassiter’s Tampa Bay Mutiny were 13-4-4 when he scored, averaging 1.85 points per game. They were 4-4-1 when he didn’t, scoring 1.44 points per game.

Only Wright-Phillips’ Red Bulls were as reliant on his goals as Atlanta is on Martinez’s, but none of the league’s previous single-season scoring kings can claim a higher points-per-game mark when scoring, and no team’s swing is as drastic when their talisman was held scoreless as the 1.25 points-per-game swing that the Five Stripes experience when Martinez is kept off the score sheet.