MANCHESTER, May 16 -- Manchester United fans probably couldn’t wait for the season to end, following their dismal run of two wins in 12 games. But the new season hasn’t even begun and they have already suffered an embarrassing gaff.
The club revealed their new kit for the 2019-20 campaign on Thursday, with the design celebrating the 20-year anniversary of their 1999 Champions League win (despite them not even qualifying for the competition). Official pictures show Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard wearing the simplistic red design, while No 1 David de Gea wears a purple shirt. “The home goalkeeper jersey has a tiger pattern featuring a dark purple two-tone design, inspired by the top worn by our legendary No 1, Peter Schmeichel, during the 1998-99 season,” says a United press release. There’s only one problem – as Manchester Evening Newsreporter Samuel Luckhurst pointed out on Twitter, Schmeichel’s kit during the famous treble season wasn’t purple. The Dane wore a navy blue and grey away kit, while his home shirt was a mixture of luminous and dark green, in the 1998-99 season. It was during the 1996-97 season that Schmeichel wore a purple one, and the tiger pattern seems to be more reminiscent of Edwin van der Sar’s 2010-11 purple United goalkeeper shirt.
“We’re a joke,” one United fan wrote on Twitter, regarding the goalkeeper kit. Fans seemed a bit more positive about the outfield players’ shirt, though. The sleeves feature the minutes of Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s added-time goals against Bayern Munich that sealed the famous comeback win at the Nou Camp.
AMSTERDAM, May 13 -- Dusan Tadic scored twice as Ajax Amsterdam all but claimed the Dutch league title with a 4-1 victory over Utrecht on Sunday as championship rivals PSV Eindhoven slipped to a surprise 1-0 loss at AZ Alkmaar.
Ajax will go into the final round of fixtures on Wednesday with a three-point lead over PSV and 14 goals to the good on goal-difference as they travel to second-bottom De Graafschap. PSV are home to seventh-placed Heracles. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Donny van de Beek also netted for Ajax as they put behind them the disappointment of their stoppage-time exit from the Champions League at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur this week. Ajax will extend their record of Dutch title wins to 34 in a season in which they have scored 115 goals in their 33 league games and also claimed the Dutch Cup under manager Erik ten Hag. Defending champions PSV paid a heavy price for some sloppy finishing as they lost 1-0 in Alkmaar to a Guus Til goal.
Robin van Persie ended his career at Feyenoord in Rotterdam but there was no fairytale finish as they were surprisingly beaten 2-0 at home by ADO Den Haag. He did hit the woodwork with a first-half effort before going off to a massive ovation in stoppage time at the end of the game.
AMSTERDAM, May 9 -- Tottenham Hotspur set up a Champions League final against Liverpool after beating Ajax 3-2 on Wednesday in Amsterdam.
After the 1-0 loss in London last week in the semifinal first leg, Tottenham progressed on away goals. Trailing 2-0 at halftime, Tottenham bounced back to 2-2 in the second half and Lucas Moura completed his hat-trick in the 96th minute. Ajax coach Erik ten Hag chose the expected line-up with Noussair Mazraoui instead of Joel Veltman on right back. However, due to an injury sustained by David Neres in the warming-up, Ten Hag had to make a late change just before the start. Kasper Dolberg came in as center forward and Dusan Tadic moved to the left.
Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino had South Korean striker Son Heung-min back from suspension, but had to do without injured forward Harry Kane. Moussa Sissoko replaced injured defender Davinson Sanchez. In the first five minutes, Ajax made clear their intentions with shots by Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech and Dusan Tadic. After a corner by Lasse Schone, the 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt headed in the early opening goal. It was the perfect start for Ajax, but Tottenham did not give up and was dangerous as well. Son hit the post just after the Ajax goal, Dele Alli hit wide and Christian Eriksen, Lucas Moura and Son again also had goal attempts. On occasions, Ajax showed their tremendous ability to combine from one side of the pitch to another, as they showed in the previous rounds against Real Madrid and Juventus. One of those attacks came in the 35th minute when Tadic found Hakim Ziyech and the Dutch born Moroccan international smashed in to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
The second half was a different story with Ajax showing signs of negligence and Tottenham profiting. In the 55th minute Lucas Moura scored and four minutes later Moura scored again after lackluster defending by Ajax, 2-2. It meant the Spurs only needed one more goal to go through. Ajax found back their form in time and got a major chance for Ziyech, who missed, and Ziyech also hit the post 10 minutes from time. In the nerve-breaking final minutes, however, Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen even hit the cross-bar and in injury-time Moura earned the Spurs a sensational win and a place in the final, the first Champions League final ever for the Londoners. For Ajax, a remarkable campaign, bringing back memories of the glory days, ended here in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
TURINO, April 17 -- First Real Madrid, and now Juventus, that makes the story of this Champions League campaign for the return of Ajax at the highest level in Europe..
Ajax produced another remarkable performance to reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 1997, courtesy of a goal scored by a player who was not even born when they last graced that stage. Matthijs de Ligt, Ajax’s outstanding 19-year-old captain, ended Cristiano Ronaldo’s hopes of winning a fourth successive Champions League title and a first for Juventus with a towering header that was no more than Ajax deserved after playing with the same confidence, freedom and conviction that eliminated Real Madrid in the last round.
That 4-1 victory at the Bernabéu last month seemed freakish as well as brilliant, but the scoreline here could have been just as emphatic. Ajax’s dynamic, incisive attacking football was simply too much for Juventus to handle, in particular in the second half, when the visitors took control and created chance after chance. David Neres, Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech wreaked havoc with their fluid movement and clever touches. Frenkie de Jong and Lasse Schöne controlled midfield, and Donny van de Beek was exceptional playing in between the lines. It was Van de Beek’s equaliser that cancelled out Ronaldo’s goal and the 21-year-old would have scored a splendid second but for Wojciech Szczesny superbly tipping the ball over the bar. That save came just before the hour-mark and at a stage when Ajax were moving the ball around with such poise and precision that it seemed as though they had an extra player. They were a joy to watch at times, especially when they committed numbers forward on the counterattack to expose the defensive frailties in a Juventus side who never really got going.
MANCHESTER, March 7 -- Romelu Lukaku wants Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to stay and has "no doubt" that the caretaker manager will get the Manchester United job on a permanent basis.
Parachuted in for the rest of the season when Jose Mourinho was sacked in December, the 1999 treble hero has presided over a remarkable upturn in fortunes. Solskjaer has lost just one of 17 matches since taking over and managed to render that 2-0 loss to Paris St Germain meaningless by overseeing an extraordinary last-16 second leg win in France. Marcus Rashford's last-gasp spot-kick sealed a 3-1 win that saw United make history and progress to the quarter-finals on away goals after the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate. Lukaku's first-half brace gave United hope and the striker fully expects the Norwegian to get the job.
"I know he's going to stay, there's no doubt about that," he told Viasport. "He wants to stay, the players want him to stay. We're doing really well, we're playing like Manchester United should play. "He's a young coach, he has young players as well so it's the perfect environment to develop and hopefully win trophies in the future." Lukaku pointed to the wins at Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal in another interview with beIN SPORTS, before asking: "What else does he have to do?"
United are into the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2014 and have broken into the top four, having been 11 points off it when Mourinho was sacked. Asked what Solskjaer has done, Lukaku said: "He's done a lot. When I came back in, for me, personally he had a plan. "He wanted me to be really sharp in three or four weeks and that's what happened. "We took three or four weeks, I did a lot of interval work and a lot of finishing and now I can say that I am fully fit. "But then for the team, He made us play offensive football. He gives the young players confidence. "Sometimes he's tough but at the right time he knows also to give a compliment. "In training we do a lot of small games, a lot of focus on our offensive part of the game and that's what the players like. "So, we just try to come in every game and win the games."
MADRID, March 6 -- After 1011 days as Champions League holders the 13-times winners Real Madrid came crashing down out of the competition losing 4-1 on the night to Ajax and 5-3 on aggregate.
It was a humiliation as Gareth Bale watched it unfold from the bench while suspended captain, Siegi Ramos watches from the stand as youthful Ajax side ran the show from the beginning of till the end.
Things started well enough. Rafael Varane headed Lucas Vazquez’ cross on to the cross bar after just four minutes and the Bernabeu believed Madrid had simply slipped into Champions League gear. They had not and the wheels were about to come off.
First Toni Kroos lost the ball in midfield and in a flash Dusan Tadic was crossing for Hakim Ziyech to score past Thibaut Courtois. There was stunned silence from the Bernabeu save 4,000 Ajax fans many now with shirts off celebrating behind the north goal. That was after seven minutes. By the 18 minutes mark Madrid were going out. Tadic spun brilliant away from Casemiro and ran at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. There was no resistance and it was Luca Modric left as the last man as David Neres got in behind him to slot the ball past Courtois. Madrid were butter soft at the back. The Bernabeu whistled and Ajax almost scored again with Courtois saving from Tadic at his near post.
On 28 minutes injury was added to insult. First Lucas hobbled off to be replaced by Bale. Vinicius followed soon after with Marco Asensio coming on. Madrid needed Bale more than ever yet still he was whistled on by many. He came closest to getting Madrid back in it before the break hitting the frame of the goal with a lob. As the half time whistle went there were more whistles from the Bernabeu. Real Madrid would need a second half hero with Sergio Ramos suspended and Cristiano Ronaldo sold, it looked like it would be Bale’s night or goodnight. It was to be goodnight. Ajax almost made it three at the restart but Courtois saved from Donny van de Beek. Karim Benzema broke down the left but after tricking his way past Hakim Ziyech he went for goal with a wild shot that went well wide of the far post. With Ajax’s next attack they scored the third and they got to celebrate it twice. Noussaire Mazraoul won the ball from Sergio Reguilon and when the ball reached Tadic the best player on the pitch postage-stamped it past Courtois. Referee Felix Brych stopped the play to consult VAR. The ball looked to have gone out when Reguilon was dispossessed. Bale led the complaints and time stood still until Brych’s verdict sent the traveling Ajax supporters into raptures once more. There was no way back now. Asensio gave supporters some hope by scoring for Madrid but it was wiped out by Lasse Schone’s direct free-kick past Courtois who looked poorly positioned.
The Ajax fans were now doing the Poznan behind Courtois’ goal. Up in his private box Ramos looked down non-plussed by events. He chose to miss this game by picking up a forced booking in the first leg. Madrid looked home and dry at that stage. Since then their season has imploded with league and cup gone. They needed him on the pitch tonight not looking down on one of the darkest nights in the club’s European Cup history. Madrid’s season is over with three months still to play. The blame game will start now and this time Bale will not be the only target. Coach Solari will do well to last the season and the club will intensify efforts to bring in Mauricio Pochettino or Jose Mourinho. The five minutes off added time were painful for Madrid. Bale was left hobbling after a knock on the ankle and Nacho was sent off. They must get used to being out of the Champion League now. Ajax are in the quarter-finals and deservedly so.
ABU DHABI, February 2 -- Qatar stunned four-time champion Japan 3-1 to win the AFC Asian Cup for the first time as striker Almoez Ali scored his record-breaking ninth goal in the tournament here on Friday.
Qatar were crowned the Asian champion with a seven-game winning streak, scoring 19 goals and just conceded one. "We made the history for our country, this is a huge achievement for us and we should be proud of it. I want to thank all of the people in Qatar for their support," said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez. Almoez Ali, the top scorer of the tournament, opened the scoring after 12 minutes with an acrobatic volley assisted by Akram Hassan Afif, who delivered his ninth assist in the tournament. Ali broke Iranian legend Ali Daei's record of 8 goals in a single Asian Cup.
BANGKOK, January 29 -- Thailand has officially received a request from Bahrain to extradite a soccer player who plays in Australia where he also has refugee status.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks said Bahrain filed an extradition request for Hakeem al-Araibi on Monday that has been forwarded to prosecutors for deliberation. Al-Araibi is a former Bahraini national team player who says he fled political repression in that country. He was detained in November on arrival in Bangkok while on a holiday. Bahrain wants him returned to serve a prison sentence for a charge he denies. A Thai court in December ruled that al-Araibi could be held for 60 days pending the completion of an extradition request by Bahrain.
BANGKOK, January 10 -- Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne was in Bangkok on Thursday after Canberra said it would consider giving asylum to an 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled to Thailand, saying she feared her family, which she accused of abuse, would kill her.
Payne is also expected to discuss the case of a Bahraini footballer with Australian asylum status who has been jailed in Thailand and faces extradition back to Bahrain. Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is currently staying in a Bangkok hotel under the care of the United Nation's refugee agency (UNHCR), which has been processing her application for refugee status ahead of possible resettlement in Australia. She has refused to meet her father and brother, who arrived in Bangkok this week to try to take her back to Saudi Arabia while denying accusations that her family was abusing her physically and emotionally, Thai authority said. Qunun was initially denied entry to Thailand when she arrived at the Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport on Saturday, intending to fly from there to Australia to seek asylum. She was later allowed to enter Bangkok on Monday evening by the Thai authorities after a tense 48 hours that saw her refuse to board a flight to Saudi Arabia and barricade herself inside a transit lounge hotel room, while the world watched the drama unfold on social media.
Payne's visit will also put a spotlight on another refugee case, involving a Bahrain footballer Hakeem AlAraibi, who has refugee status in Australia but was arrested at Bangkok airport last year after arriving for his honeymoon. AlAraibi is currently being detained in a Thai prison awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings to Bahrain where he was previously convicted and is wanted by the authority.
Payne said in her statement that she will raise his case with the Thai government to find ways for his safe return to Australia. World football governing body FIFA says AlAraibi should be freed and allowed to return to Australia where he plays for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale in the second tier of the Australian League.
Activists have called on Thai authorities to "show humanity" to Alaraibi in the same way that they had to Qunun. Payne will meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong as well as holding a bilateral meeting with her Thai counterpart, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as part of her first official visit to Thailandas foreign minister.