Month: October 2017

Real Madrid stunned on first visit to Girona

Real Madrid has been dealt another blow to their campaign to defend their La Liga title after being stunned by league debutants Girona by 2-1 on their first visit to the Catalan team.

There had been security concerns before the Spanish capital team’s visit to the region, but aside from several pro-independence flags were on display at the small Montilivi Stadium, and the crowd sang “freedom” chants, but nothing disrupted the match.

But it was Real who opened the scoring for the visitors — with Isco speeding away from two defenders in the box before curling a left-footed shot out of goalkeeper Bono’s reach.

Still, the hosts were able hit back and snatched the lead with a decisive four-minute stretch to start the second half, with Cristhian Stuani first equalizing in the 54th minute, when he latched onto a loose ball and fired his low shot past Kiko Casilla from inside the box.

Portu then clinched the points for Girona’s third win four minutes later by sensationally back-heeling Pablo Maffeo’s low cross to the delight of the Catalan crowd, delivering an unbelievable victory to a squad consisting mainly of loan players and free signings.

“We fully deserved it,” said the Girona coach, Pablo Machín. “If you’d said to me three years ago the fans would leave singing after beating Real Madrid I’d have said you were crazy.”

With defeat, Real Madrid’s 13-match top-flight away winning streak — the longest ever by any team in Europe’s top five domestic leagues, comes to an end.

Zinedine Zidane’s team — although placing at a respectable third at the Liga table — is now eight points behind Barcelona, four behind Valencia, and tied on points with Atletico Madrid.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal future to be reviewed after season

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the board of directors at Arsenal will be reviewing his position as manager at the end of the season.

Wenger, 68, signed a two-year contract extension in the summer to extend his 21-year tenure as manager of the Gunners, but confirmed yesterday that talks would take place with the management when this campaign concludes.

“I want to see what the board thinks of my performance,” Wenger explained. “After that we decide where we go from there. My desire has always been to respect my contracts, but that is what I meant.”

The Gunners finished fifth in the Premier League last season, thus failing to qualify for the Champions League and finishing outside the top four for the first time since Wenger joined in 1996.

At the end of a campaign that saw Wenger face fierce protests from fans calling for him to leave, Arsenal finished 18 points behind champions Chelsea, but beat the Blues 2-1 to win the FA Cup.

However, Wenger has told shareholders at the Arsenal annual general meeting that the current side has “something special” and he believes there is “a chance” of success this term.

“My hunger, my commitment is bigger than ever,” he said. “I question myself a lot, don’t worry, I will sit down every year to see where I go. The present for me is about style of play, winning trophies, winning every game.”

“Don’t think I don’t know. It’s essential. No matter what happens one day I will always love this club forever and be an eternal fan.”

Malaysia-North Korea games to be played in Thailand

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has finally announced that Asian Cup qualifier between Malaysia and North Korea will be played in neither countries but in Bangkok, Thailand instead.

However, the governing body has yet to announce details regarding although the venue and the kick-off times.

AFC made the announcement today that both fixtures of home and away fixtures for Malaysia against North Korea will be played on neutral ground, with the latter fixture had been previously postponed several times due to various reasons.

“We are extremely grateful for the continued support by the Football Association of Thailand in agreeing to play host for these two matches,”  said Dato’ Windsor John, the AFC General Secretary. “The FA of Thailand has ensured that the AFC has been able to maintain the sporting integrity of the AFC Asian Cup qualifying.”

The schedule decided that the first match will be played on 10th November while the second on 13th November, with North Korea taking the role of designated host for the first match while Malaysia will host the second match.

At the moment, North Korea and Malaysia are currently occupying the bottom two places of Group B in the AFC qualifiers, where the top two finishers will make it to the final rounds in Qatar in 2019.

Both teams have yet to win any of their matches in the group that also comprises of Lebanon and Hong Kong, and Eduardo Vingada’s Malaysia team will need to win at least one of these matches against North Korea to stand any chance to reach the finals.