De Futebol

Blackpool defeated Exeter 2-1 to get promoted to League One.

The Guardians John Ashdown wrote;” Blackpool bounced back to League One at the first time of asking with victory over Exeter City in the League Two play-off final at Wembley, with Mark Cullen poking home the winner midway through the second half to spark joyous scenes in the Tangerine half of the stadium. Well, a corner of it anyway.

That so few Blackpool fans – little more than 5,000 – were here to witness what should have been a celebratory occasion is testament to the depth of resentment against the Oyston family’s ownership of the club. This result will prompt mixed feelings for those on the Fylde coast who fear a victory for the team is a victory for the regime.

On their last trip to the national stadium, for the Championship play-off final in 2012, more than 30,000 Blackpool fans were in attendance. Two years earlier, around 37,000 made the trip south to see Ian Holloway’s side reach the Premier League. This time around, one end of Wembley cut a sorry sight, with little more than a third of the bottom tier occupied. The Blackpool Supporters’ Trust’s boycott that has been in effect at Bloomfield Road all season made for a startling sight in the grander surrounds of Wembley.

“It’s shame because we would have been great to have more here,” said the Blackpool manager, Gary Bowyer, who knows something about unpopular owners from his time working under the Venky’s regime at Blackburn Rovers. “But on the first day that I walked into the club I said that we couldn’t control it. I was used to that situation at Blackburn, where fans were unhappy with the owners, so I used the experience from that time and just concentrated on what we can affect, which is the football.”

Other than League One football, what the future holds for Blackpool remains unclear, though the next chapter is likely to be written this summer when the club president, Valeri Belokon, and the Oystons take their multimillion-pound legal battle to the high court. No end to the conflict is in sight, though, and the boycotts seem certain to continue at Bloomfield Road next season.

Though off the field the club is riven with division, the same could not be said for those on the pitch. Despite having lost their captain, Tom Aldred, to injury midway through the first half and seen Exeter dominate before the break, it was a spell of Blackpool pressure that resulted in David Wheeler cancelling out Brad Potts’s early opening goal. Bowyer’s side rallied to establish themselves as the better side in the second period and Cullen’s winner was by no means undeserved. “It’s unbelievable, said Bowyer. “It’s an amazing feeling and it’ll stay with the players for a long, long time.”

While Blackpool’s joy was tempered by their ownership issues, in the despair of defeat Exeter’s supporters could take solace the fact their club is in the hands of the fans and has been since 2003. They can also look forward to next season with optimism having enjoyed a remarkable resurgence since the autumn.

“I’ve lost here before and won here before so I know both sides of the coin,” said the manager Paul Tisdale, whose injury-plagued side were bottom of the Football League in mid-November. “When you lose you feel a little bit cold to emotion. Immediately your mind turns to next season and what you need to do. It hurts but you don’t have that release of emotion that you get when you win. We’ll have a couple of weeks to let it settle then start getting ready for next year.”

Both these sides were on the right end of 6-5 aggregate scorelines in the semi-finals (and both were the beneficiaries of 95th-minute winners) so goals were to be expected and those in Tangerine who did buck the boycott saw their side take the lead after just 130 seconds. Cullen beautifully created it with a fine touch and a smart pass inside, and the onrushing Potts swept past Christy Pym in the Exeter goal.

Exeter responded in calm, controlled fashion and were almost back on terms within 10 minutes, only for Sam Slocombe to brilliantly deny Ollie Watkins. Instead they had to wait for the equaliser, which eventually came five minutes before the break. Craig Woodman’s quick free-kick from deep caught out the Blackpool defence, by now shorn of the injured Aldred, and Wheeler cleverly lobbed the stranded Slocombe.

City had dominated the first half but the interval broke their momentum. They had barely escaped their own half in 20 second-half minutes when Potts stormed into the penalty area and scuffed his shot across goal. Pym’s faint touch was enough to divert the ball into the path of Cullen who poked home with little more than his studs.”

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/may/28/blackpool-exeter-city-league-two-play-off-final-match-report

De Futebol

Flamengo defeated Atletico-GO 3-0. Globo Esportes: “O Flamengo passou por uma bem-sucedida sessão de análise na noite deste sábado, quando derrotou o Atlético-GO por 3 a 0, no Serra Dourada. O adversário foi o menor dos problemas, assim como o campo encharcado: a incógnita era se o time, abalado pela eliminação da Copa Libertadores, no meio da semana, reencontraria seu futebol e sua alma para o restante do ano. Demorou um pouco, mas, após um primeiro tempo travado, a equipe fez uma bela segunda etapa e saiu com a impressão de estar pronta para seguir em frente.

Sem Guerrero, poupado, o Fla foi a campo com Leandro Damião no comando do ataque. Em seu primeiro jogo de Série A em casa em quatro anos, o time goiano apresentava modificações em relação à desastrosa estreia, quando foi goleado por 4 a 1 pelo Coritiba. Recuada, a equipe do treinador Marcelo Cabo não se arriscava muito: a principal jogada era acionar o gordinho Walter, para que ele encontrasse uma solução ofensiva. Até os 20 minutos, o lance mais impressionante foi o violento choque de cabeças entre Ederson e o zagueiro Ricardo Silva. Os dois sofreram cortes na cabeça, e o jogo ficou cerca de cinco minutos parado.

Na segunda metade do primeiro tempo, o Atlético, apesar da disposição na marcação, afrouxou um pouco a retranca inicial e tentou ir ao ataque com mais gente, abrindo espaço para a equipe carioca. Não foram criadas exatamente chances de gol, mas a bola passou a circular mais entre as duas intermediárias, dando algum alento à torcida presente ao Serra Dourada. Aos 40 minutos, a maior qualidade do Flamengo deu resultado: depois de cruzamento da direita de Gabriel, a bola resvalou na zaga e sobrou para Trauco, que cruzou para a pequena área. Acossado por Leandro Damião, o goleiro Felipe deu rebote, e Éverton fez 1 a 0 para o time carioca.

— Vem todo mundo! — comandou Willian Arão na comemoração, em que os jogadores, demonstrando união (espontaneamente ou não), se aglomeraram em volta do técnico Zé Ricardo.

O Flamengo voltou para o segundo tempo com Rodinei na ponta direita, no lugar do lesionado Éverton, e Gabriel pela esquerda. Em vantagem, o time de Zé Ricardo procurava ficar com a bola e atacar sem precipitação. Do outro lado, o Atlético-GO ensaiava pressionar, mas faltavam qualidade e confiança. À vontade (e empurrado pela animada torcida), o time carioca tocou a bola até encontrar o segundo gol: Trauco cruzou de longe para Arão, com categoria, ajeitar com o peito para Damião, de frente, vencer Felipe e fazer 2 a 0.

Mesmo com as vaias a Matheus Sávio — marcado pela falha no fatídico jogo de quarta-feira, contra o San Lorenzo —, o Flamengo já mostrava ter recuperado a alegria de jogar quando veio o terceiro gol. Em uma jogada com a participação de quase todo o time, o goleiro Felipe fez milagre sob um bombardeio, até que Sávio chutou de longe e, no rebote, o iluminado Rodinei fez mais um.

A última parte do jogo serviu para o Flamengo se divertir: com Vinicius Júnior em campo, o time tocou a bola no ataque, dando mais sustos na já apavorada defesa adversária. O melhor de tudo é que o próximo adversário é o mesmo Atlético-GO, na quarta-feira, pela Copa do Brasil. Santo remédio.

https://oglobo.globo.com/esportes/flamengo-derrota-atletico-go-em-goiania-21371134#ixzz4hkakmxAU

De Futebol

Jose Mourinho is trying to get it right at Man U. Many may not like it but this cat is a proven winner.

Man U won the Europa League to prove my point.

The Daily Mail wrote:” The bad news for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho is that this league season looks like being the club’s worst for 26 years. Not since the 1990-91 campaign have a United team finished so far behind the champions as the 24 points that currently separate them from Chelsea.

For those who like to look for omens, meanwhile, there is some encouragement to be found in symmetry.

Back in 1991, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team did finish 24 points behind champions Arsenal but they also reached the final of the League Cup and then won a major European trophy, the Cup-Winners’ Cup.

So as Mourinho and his players head to Stockholm to contest the Europa League final next Wednesday, they will hope history repeats. United have already won the modern version of the League Cup this season but only victory over Ajax, it seems, will save Mourinho from scorn.

United, it must be said, have rarely looked less like United than they have recently. Treading water in games against Southampton, Tottenham and Arsenal that their manager effectively said they could not win, United’s soporific football has left Mourinho open to suggestions that he is betraying club traditions. It has also left United with their fewest number of wins ever in a Premier League season.

Struggling for form is one thing, looking like you are not at full throttle is quite another and as United prepare to close their domestic season with Mourinho begging Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace for mercy on Sunday, two different arguments are at play.

One surrounds Mourinho’s persistent bleating about fixture congestion and his claim that it was impossible for his team to push for progress in the Premier League and in Europe at the same time.

The other refers to the nature of United’s play throughout the whole campaign, one that currently sees his team boast a poorer home record than relegated Hull City.

Certainly, his complaining about fixtures is tiresome. Once he feels a grievance, the Portuguese rarely undersells it and he has reverted to type here.

Big teams have often found themselves stretched as they chased trophies at the back end of a season. Some have cracked it while others have merely cracked, but it is worth noting here that when Ferguson’s team won the treble in 1999, they played more games than Mourinho’s United have this season.

Ferguson was no stranger to complaints about fixture congestion himself. Prior to a Premier League game against Everton in 2013, he suggested he would like his team ‘not to turn up’ rather than damage their chances in a game against Real Madrid that followed.

But during that incredible surge towards glory in 1999, Ferguson always made it clear he felt the monotony of game after game helped his players.

One of those players, defender Wes Brown, said: ‘If you keep winning, everyone’s playing well and there’s a good team spirit, it just carries on and carries on. It just keeps ticking. That’s what happened for us. You don’t really have a chance to think about tiredness or any negatives, you just think, “We can do this”.’

Mourinho sees it differently. He believes the Premier League should help United by moving domestic fixtures to maximise rest before European ties and he is not alone in this.

But he also believes — or claims to believe — that players can’t cope physically and mentally with what has recently been put before them.

The cynical will say the United manager has effectively thrown recent Premier League games because he knew he had no chance of catching Liverpool for the final top-four place. If you are going to lose out to your greatest rivals you may as well do it by pretending not to try.

Others will argue that by telling the world that all that matters is one game in Stockholm, Mourinho is focusing his players’ minds for one big night of glory and the Champions League place that will be handed out along with the trophy.

Whatever the case, the sight of United drifting aimlessly through recent league games has been strange and just about unprecedented.

United looked a decent bet for a surge into the top four when they won well at Burnley on April 24 but subsequently have tailed off so badly that their three recent games have resembled training matches.

It is this that takes Mourinho into dangerous territory more than any general accusations about style or tactics.

The notion that United managers must ask their teams to play a certain way is absolute bunkum. United managers are simply hired to win trophies.

Though many will tell you otherwise, those of us who sat through the second half of Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford will testify that it was not all champagne and roses.

There was plenty of very good football and then there were long stretches when United managed to win seemingly out of habit and sheer will alone.

Ferguson was committed to attacking football, Mourinho less so. But United knew that when they hired him. As last season drew to a close under the broken figure of Louis van Gaal, United needed Mourinho more than even he needed them. So why should he change?

So far, he has delivered a Community Shield and League Cup.

Already, he has kept a good chunk of his part of the bargain while other, supposedly more progressive clubs, such as Liverpool and Tottenham, have won precisely two major trophies between them in the last 11 years.

Mourinho did not come to Manchester to turn the world’s most famous football club into the Harlem Globetrotters. He came to mend what was broken, rebuild an identity and ease a broken-down first-team squad back into a forward gear.

To a large degree, he has done this and, with that, has come the return of a little pride.

Mourinho’s recent behaviour has been complicated to say the least and he definitely needs to come away from Stockholm with the big prize next week for the ends to have justified the means.

But this is what you get with the 54-year-old. Mourinho was never going to mould himself to Manchester United. It was always going to be the other way round.

And for those who like to look at history for comfort and reassurance, it is worth noting that, in 1993, two years after trailing in so far behind champions Arsenal, Manchester United won the Premier League.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-4520218/Is-Jose-Mourinho-betraying-Man-Utd-s-spirit-adventure.html#ixzz4hXcOh5Fl

De Futebol

My guys from Arsenal saved their sorry assed season with a huge 2-1 FA Cup win over ten man Chelsea.

The Guardians Paul Wilson wrote: “Amid all the euphoria for Arsenal, there are bound to be people who wonder if these might also have been the ideal circumstances for Arsène Wenger to announce he was stepping aside and assure himself of a happy ending. His team had won, thrillingly, against the champions of England, making Wenger the most successful manager in the history of this competition. It was his seventh victory and, whatever his faults, a man with that record of achievement surely warrants the opportunity to go out on a high.

Equally, these are the moments when Wenger must be reminded what it is about football that makes it so addictive. It is not easy kicking the habit, particularly on the days when everything falls into place and this for Arsenal was undoubtedly one of them. They picked a good time to put in their best performance of the season, denying Chelsea the double on a day when Victor Moses joined the list of players to suffer the indignity of being shown a red card in an FA Cup final. Moses had collected two second-half bookings and the fact the second one came from a choreographed attempt to win a penalty probably summed up the state to which Arsenal reduced their opponents.

The only question for Wenger’s men is this: why can they not reach these heights more often? Arsenal were quick to the ball, strong in the tackle and, defensively, they played as though utterly determined not to let the fact they were missing key personnel influence the outcome.

More than anything, they were free of the self-doubt that has often infiltrated their performances against Chelsea. Mesut Özil, for instance, seemed absolutely determined to leave his imprint on the final. Alexis Sánchez, possibly making his last appearance in Arsenal’s colours, shimmered with menace and now has 30 goals for the season. Danny Welbeck brought a mix of speed and directness and when Olivier Giroud came on as a substitute, just after Diego Costa’s equaliser, it was his first touch that set up Aaron Ramsey for the game’s decisive moment. The cross was delivered so expertly it would have been almost impolite for Ramsey, with a stooping header, not to accept the chance.

By the end, it was starting to feel like a trick of the mind that the winning team had actually finished 18 points behind Chelsea in the league. Costa’s bouncing shot did briefly conjure up the possibility of an improbable comeback for the team with 10 men. But this was a poor day for Chelsea and it was rare to see N’Golo Kanté, for instance, finding it so difficult to keep up. Ramsey’s winner arrived within two minutes of Costa’s equaliser and when it comes to the first half it began with possibly the most torrid 30-minute spell Chelsea have endured all season.

All of which was some achievement for Arsenal, bearing in mind the issues Wenger had approaching this final and the list of absentees that meant this was Per Mertesacker’s first start for more than a year (and his first appearance in a three-man defence). Wenger experimented with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with lingering questions about his fitness, on the left. And then there was the perplexing choice of David Ospina, with Wenger deciding his loyalty should go towards a second-choice goalkeeper who will leave this summer while leaving out the one, Petr Cech, who will stay. Unfortunately for Ospina, it was a weak attempt to keep out Costa’s goal, though he did make amends later on with a splendid save to prevent the same player taking the game into extra time.

A goal at that stage would have been a reminder of Chelsea’s power of endurance but it would also have been largely unwarranted and Wenger was not exaggerating when he said his team should really have won by more. As it was, their first-half superiority brought only one goal and Chelsea are entitled to question whether it ought to have stood, not because of the argument about whether it was offside but more for the handball from Sánchez before he was in a position to shoot. There was no doubt Ramsey was in an offside position as Sánchez charged the ball down. Yet the Welshman had the presence of mind to step aside as the Chilean ran on to the loose ball, firing past Thibaut Courtois with the outside of his boot, and if the argument was purely about offside the referee, Anthony Taylor, and his assistant, Gary Beswick, did eventually get it right. The handball had not been noticed, however, and scoring so early, with only five minutes played, undoubtedly helped Arsenal settle more quickly than their opponents.

Chelsea’s struggles in the first half were epitomised by their carelessness in the buildup to the goal, when Costa managed to get in the way of Kanté and the ball was lost. Arsenal, in contrast, used the ball effectively and it needed a brilliant clearance from Gary Cahill to prevent Özil from doubling the lead after Sánchez led one of their quick, incisive counterattacks. Four minutes later, Welbeck’s header from an Özil corner came back off a post, struck Ramsey in the chest and ricocheted back against the woodwork before going out for a goalkick. Later, Özil hit a post himself. Arsenal could conceivably have made it a far more resounding win.

helsea did not lack adventure but it was not until the start of the second half that they seemed to remember they were supposed to be the best team in the country and, to be fair to Ospina, he made a fine one-handed save in that period to keep out Moses. Costa was a challenging opponent for Rob Holding, eluding him for the equaliser, but Moses deserved to go for his deception and Chelsea’s defence was strangely dishevelled as Giroud crossed from the left, Ramsey headed in and the most difficult, acrimonious season of Wenger’s managerial career ended happily.”

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/may/27/arsenal-chelsea-fa-cup-final-match-report

De Futebol

Flamengo opened up the Campeonato Braislerio 2017 with one all draw against Atletico-MG last Saturday night.

Globo Esportes; “A saudade do Brasileiro acabou quando Flamengo e Atlético-MG iniciaram o primeiro jogo da edição deste ano. E foi uma partida entre iguais. Ambos foram campeões estaduais, fato celebrado em campo com a troca de faixas, e fizeram os respectivos artilheiros dessas competições (Fred e Guerrero). São times com propostas de jogo semelhantes. Prova do equilíbrio no Maracanã foi o placar (1 a 1), com um gol em cada tempo e 90 minutos de protesto contra mudanças na Lei Pelé.

A esperada troca das faixas de campeões estaduais vestiu as equipes com um espírito combativo desde o início. E o engajamento marcou este clássico histórico. Além da ofensividade de ambos os times, Flamengo e Atlético-MG jogaram para frente no campo das ideias ao usarem em seus braços faixas pretas em protesto a projetos em trâmite no Congresso e que trariam prejuízo à categoria ao alterarem a Lei Pelé. O ato foi organizado pela Federação Nacional dos Atletas Profissionais de Futebol (Fenapaf) e abrangerá todos os jogos da primeira rodada.

Sem abrir mão do toque de bola e abertura de jogada pelas pontas, o Flamengo chegou ao gol relativamente cedo na partida, aos 23, marca na qual ambos chegaram com muito volume, mas sem criar grandes chances. E até mesmo o gol foi meio sem querer, nascido de um cruzamento de Matheus Sávio para Guerrero que acabou entrando direto.

Ao deixar de concretizar as poucas chances que teve (sobretudo com o velocista Berrío e com Guerrero) de ir para o intervalo com mais um gol de vantagem, o Flamengo corria o risco de ver um Atlético-MG mais incisivo logo de início no segundo tempo. E foi o que aconteceu.

A entrada de Cazares não foi apenas uma troca. Roger injetou uma objetividade que faltou no primeiro tempo.ç Logo em sua primeira jogada, o colombiano deu uma caneta em Pará e ia marcando, mas abola foi cortada em cima da linha por Rafael Vaz.

Do outro lado, Victor evitou o gol Éverton, na rápida resposta rubro-negra ao ataque do Atlético-MG.

Outra grande chance do visitante parou em cima da linha. Em novo embate com Cazares, de Rafael Vaz tirou embaixo do travessão o que seria o gol de empate do Atlético-MG. Sufocada pela pressão, a torcida do Flamengo, em bom número, prendia a respiração, enquanto os atleticanos cantavam.

Uma bola perdida no meio-campo e uma furada de Réver na intermediária trouxeram o perigo para a área do Flamengo. Fred recebeu e percebeu a falta de ângulo. Tirou Rafael Vaz da jogada e tocou para o meio, de onde Elias chutou no ângulo para empatar o jogo.

A torcida rubro-negra ia à loucura nas arquibancadas, mas não era pela bola que quase entrava no gol do Atlético-MG e que foi afastada em cima da linha. O motivo era a chamada de Zé Ricardo por Vinícius Júnior. Pela primeira vez em uma partida profissional, entrou em campo e na história do clube. Aos 16 anos, estreou com idade abaixo até da de Zico, que em 1971 tinha 18.

— É um reconhecimento da torcida. Quero agradecer ao Zé Ricardo e toda a comissão — disse ele, que pediu para trocar de camisa com Robinho, seu ídolo.

No fim, para a torcida do Flamengo, foi apenas um breve reencontro. Pelo Brasileiro, o time só voltará ao Rio no clássico com o Botafogo, em junho, marcado para a Arena da Ilha. Na próxima quarta-feira, o time jogará pela vaga nas oitavas da Libertadores contra o San Lorenzo, no Nuevo Gasómetro, em Buenos Aires.

https://oglobo.globo.com/esportes/flamengo-atletico-mg-empatam-na-abertura-do-brasileiro-21337347#ixzz4h5DaZR3V

De Futebol

The Reds took care of business in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough to finish in fourth place to secure their spot in the Champions League.

The Daily Mail: “In the end it took just one pure strike of a football to change a game, a season and, who knows, maybe a future. It came from the right foot of Georginio Wijnaldum and it almost took the roof off the net at the Kop End.

Deep in stoppage time at the end of the first half and this was threatening to turn in to one of those sapping, frustrating and ultimately highly damaging Anfield afternoons that we have seen far too many of in recent weeks.

Middlesbrough were camped in their own half, essentially playing six across the back when they didn’t have the ball, and Liverpool could not find a way through.

With the ghosts of recent failures here against Southampton and Crystal Palace seemingly lurking round every corner, Jurgen Klopp’s players looked inhibited and anxious. In the stands, they checked their phones grimly.

Arsenal winning, Manchester City winning, Liverpool out of the Champions League places.

So when Nathaniel Clyne and Roberto Firmino combined with rare fluency down the right hand side, Liverpool supporters will have looked on more in hope than in expectation. Wijnaldum was clear on goal but the angle was tight and the Dutchman had, up until that point, not had a particularly good game.

It looked at first as though he may look to pass inside. That would have been the easy option, the safe option.

But when the stakes are high sometimes it takes a little courage to get things done and so it was that Wiljnaldum placed his faith in his own technique and tore a rising shot up beyond Brad Guzan in the Middlesbrough goal.

It was a magical moment, a moment that a stadium felt fear lift from its shoulders. It didn’t win the game on its own but it changed the game.

It gave Liverpool the confidence and, more importantly, the space to take Middlesbrough apart in the second half. Liverpool scored two more goals but could have scored a few more as they finally grabbed the fourth placed Premier League finish that was the minimum requirement at the start of Klopp’s first full season.

A place in the Champions League changes everything for this club. Liverpool still have a qualifier to negotiate but the prospect of a place in European football’s Blue Riband competition will help them buy players and indeed keep players. It makes Liverpool more attractive and it lends them a bit of financial clout, too.

So this was a very big win for Liverpool on a day when the prospect of failure must have stalked them. Before the game James Milner said his team-mates were relaxed and confident. But before Wijanldum’s goal, they didn’t look it and it must be said that they benefited from a huge call by referee Martin Atkinson midway through a first half in which they found fluency and potency hard to come by.

Liverpool had enjoyed almost all the possession but Middlesbrough’s blanket defence was holding them at arm’s length. And when a rare break by the visitors in the 24th minute suddenly found Patrick Bamford in a yard of space behind Dejan Lovren the whole game hung in the balance.

Lovren definitely clipped Bamford’s ankles, causing the Middlesbrough forward to crash to earth. It looked like a foul at the time and replays only hardened that view. Had Atkinson given the penalty then he would have had little choice but to send Lovren off, too.

But it appeared the referee may have had his view impaired by retreating Liverpool defender Joel Matip so he waved play on, judging the incident to have been what they like to call ‘a coming together’. On a day when Liverpool were always going to need the odd moment of fortune, this was perhaps the biggest one of all.

Later on, the second half passed by like a procession. Once they were behind, Middlesbrough were effectively spent. It seemed as though they had to come to Liverpool with just one game plan and once that was gone they seemed short of an alternative.

Liverpool took them apart after the break. They played the kind of fluent, intelligent football that bewitched us in the opening half of the season and all of a sudden chances began to arrive like trains rolling in to a station.

Phillipe Coutinho scored goal number two with a free-kick that Guzan may have saved in the 50th minute and then, six minutes later, Adam Lallana finished off a move that typified everything that is good about this team.

A quick break following a Middlesbrough corner seemed to break down when Fabio intercepted Lallana’s cross. But the England international was alert enough to win the loose ball and when it was headed back towards Daniel Sturridge by Wilnaldum, the striker let it run across his body for Lallana to close in and score from 12 yards.

It was a goal created by energy, purpose, desire and selflessness. There was more of that to come, too, as Liverpool enjoyed the freedom of a final half an hour played without any of the pressure that had inhibited them so much prior to Wijnaldum’s goal.

There were no more goals but it didn’t matter. Since the scoreless draw with Southampton that looked so damaging two weeks ago, Liverpool have scored seven without reply. As such, they are in the Champions League on merit.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-4527500/Liverpool-3-0-Middlesbrough-Reds-secure-Champions-League.html#ixzz4hk8fFzjE

De Futebol

Man U defeated Ajax 2-0 to win the Europa League. The guys punched their ticket to the Champions League.

The Daily Mail: “He got it all right, on the night. The mood, the strategy, the selections, the plan. Jose Mourinho said the Europa League represented Manchester United’s safest route to Europe’s biggest tournament next season, and he was vindicated here in Stockholm.

This was as straightforward as any European fixture has been for United all season; Mourinho’s team comfortable and superior to a callow Ajax, two goals clear after 48 minutes and in control throughout.

The fear, that the emotion of a traumatic week for Manchester might overwhelm United’s players, did not materialise. They did the job of professionals, exercising their physical superiority over an Ajax team that looked younger than their years, if that was indeed possible.

The upshot is that the Premier League – over-rated, inferior in comparison to the great leagues of Europe, according to some – will have five teams in the Champions League next season, qualifiers permitting. This is a good thing.

This experience can only hope United grow under Mourinho, too. The Europa League – and its various predecessors – is the only major competition Manchester United haven’t won. Mourinho will take great pleasure in completing that circle.

So he should. His judgements calls were also vindicated by last night’s events. Paul Pogba, his big ticket summer signing, scored the first, and has gradually come on to a strong finish to the season. Marouane Fellaini, another controversial selection at times, was excellent, playing in a very advanced role that caused Ajax no end of problems.

Chris Smalling, in for the suspended Eric Bailly, was excellent – and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored a vital second goal, when just about every analyst would have withdrawn him at half time. In goal, Sergio Romero did not put a foot wrong.

Not that he was greatly tested. Mourinho even did the noble thing and introduced Wayne Rooney with two minutes remaining, in what may be his farewell Manchester United appearance. He took the armband, lifted the trophy. If it is the end, it was a fitting one.

It says something of the nature of the first-half that Ajax striker Kasper Dolberg’s first touch of the game was the kick-off from the restart, after Manchester United scored in the 18th minute.

It was not so much that Ajax lacked quality, they were good on the ball as expected and had 65 per cent of possession, more that the youth of this group told. They looked smaller than Manchester United, not just physically but in presence, too.

They got muscled off the ball, they lost out in the air, they were eased into touch or simply shrugged off. It was boys against men. Not in football terms, but in terms of strength and application. United looked like they knew how to win a football match, Ajax as if they were still waiting for that lesson. Maybe next term.

It helped that Manchester United were, quite literally, bigger. Ajax do not possess physical specimens like Paul Pogba or Marouane Fellaini and the one they do have with anything approaching that level of power was their most impressive player. Bertrand Traore, on loan from Chelsea and surely not for much longer, was the one player who seemed capable of putting it up to Manchester United and it was no coincidence that his 15th minute shot, comfortably gathered by goalkeeper Sergio Romero, represented Ajax’s only chance of the first-half.

Ajax saw plenty of the ball, but offered little threat. Like Celta Vigo in the first-leg of Manchester United’s semi-final they looked rather lightweight, as if overawed by the occasion; or maybe just the name.

Manchester United still carries cache in Europe – and that the Europa League is the only major trophy the club has not won, gives some idea why. Their star may be on the wane at home but for a young Ajax team – the youngest in a European final – facing Manchester United, with their household names and world record signings, can be a daunting prospect. It certainly looked that way. To have run Feyenoord so close for the Dutch title this season, Ajax must have something; certainly more than they showed in the opening 45 minutes here.

The game was only 30 seconds old when Ajax showed the first sign of nerves. Goalkeeper Andre Onana made a hash of a simple ball into the box, colliding with team-mate Joel Veltman whose treatment delayed the game. Paul Pogba tried his luck from the edge of the area, amid the confusion, but missed.

Onana never looked wholly comfortable after that, though, and Jose Mourinho will have been disappointed that his players did not do more to test the 21-year-old after his wobble. Juan Mata got a decent ball into the box after nine minutes although Fellaini couldn’t get his head to it. That aside, however, chances were few.

Indeed, Ajax were beginning to come into it a little when Manchester United scored. It was a goal that came with a giant dollop of good fortune. United had possession around the Ajax box but to little effect, Fellaini finally pushing the ball to Paul Pogba, for a shot. He tried one, not his best, but it struck the inside of Davinson Sanchez’s leg and completely wrong-footed Onana.

The goalkeeper always looks bad in those situations and some will feel Onana should have reacted quicker, but the trajectory went against all his expectations. He was left grasping at air, United to celebrate a good slice of luck. On the bench, Mourinho did not let his emotions show.

As his staff leapt from their seats, he stayed down, eventually raising his eyes to the heavens, whether in relief or something more spiritual, who knows? It has been a difficult week for his club, and his adopted city. The fans sensed it, too. They sung about Manchester as much as they ever did United, acknowledging that this was bigger than just one club.

What was plain, however, was that United had the beating of Ajax for pace, too. Marcus Rashford was always a problem, as was captain Antonio Valencia, who forced a good save out of Onana on the run after 24 minutes. To be fair, he was due one.

Yet if Ajax had hoped to regroup and come again in the second-half, their best laid plans were scuppered just three minutes after the restart. Daley Blind took the corner, won by Chris Smalling – preferred to Phil Jones, and correctly so, he was magnificent in the air all game – and then flicked on with his back to goal by Henrik Mkhitaryan, who has scored 11 goals for United all season, six in this competition. United eased through the rest. Professionalism, not emotion, won the night.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-4539134/Manchester-United-news-Red-Devils-win-Europa-League.html#ixzz4i29j8KDc

De Futebol

The Telegraphs Chris Bascombe wrote that this year was the toughest year as a coach. “Jose Mourinho says his debut season at Manchester United has been his toughest year as a coach.

United could end the year with two trophies and Champions League qualification, but such are the expectations at Old Trafford Mourinho acknowledges the assessment of the campaign comes down to one game.

Should his side defeat Ajax on May 24 to win the Europa League it will be regarded a success.

Failure will provoke a more critical reaction. But Mourinho says regardless of the outcome he has never had to work harder to get the most from a team.

“Sometimes you get into big clubs in difficult moments and the work is harder than a smaller club in the moment of an explosion,” said Mourinho.

“There is some invisible work but I know what I did and what I have to do better than anyone.”

The United manager was asked if success this year now depended on winning the Europa League.

He replied: “You (the media) have the right to say – and it makes sense to say. But I don’t feel like that and do not want the players to feel like that. And I don’t think board feel like that. Because we worked hard. This season I worked harder than ever so I don’t think that way.

“If I was in your chair, it is fair. We won the League Cup and Community Shield and until injuries arrived we fought for the Premier League top four. We had fantastic record for 25 games and did things not everyone has done at Manchester United in a first season – winning a trophy and reaching a European final. But if I was on your side and looking for this kind of headlines I accept if you say that.”

Mourinho says the Europa League final is a meeting of ‘monsters’ and could not resist a cheeky aside to referee Michael Oliver, suggesting his refereeing when United lost in the FA Cup eased their fixture congestion before they travel to Stockholm.

“First of all, (they are) two monsters. The history of Manchester United and Ajax are amazing,” said Mourinho.

“But for us, it’s the trophy and the Champions League for the next season and they finish the league this weekend, they have 12 days to prepare, we have three matches to play with a group of 15 or 16 players after so many matches in a crazy season. We played so many matches because we got to two finals and the quarter-final of the FA Cup.

“At this moment I have to say thank you to Michael Oliver for the red card to Herrera at Stamford Bridge because we couldn’t survive going further in the FA Cup, so we try to prepare the team the best we can. A final is always a final and the Europa League is a beautiful competition.

“I just feel sorry that my boys have to go to the national teams the next day because these guys should go to a spa after almost 70 matches. They should go to a spa but they all go to the national teams to play a couple of matches, one of them a friendly, but it’s a good way to finish the season.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/05/12/jose-mourinho-first-season-man-utd-has-toughest-year-career/

De Futebol

Man U ended the EPL season on a high not a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

The Daily Mail: “On a day when it was all about the spirit of youth at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho once again demonstrated a knack for behaving rather childishly when the mood takes him.

Having given four youngsters their full Premier League debuts in team with an average age of 22 years and 284 days, Mourinho was rewarded with a handsome win in the sunshine.

Here was an opportunity to salute a quite wonderful goal by Josh Harrop or a fine second-half save from Joel Pereira. The energy of Demetri Mitchell and midfield presence of Scott McTominay, or perhaps to pay tribute to Wayne Rooney on what was almost certainly his Premier League farewell as a United player after 13 years. Instead, Mourinho somehow managed to draw attention to himself once again.

The United manager was conspicuous by his absence from the traditional lap of appreciation, which was led by Rooney carrying his baby son Kit.

While the media kept watch on proceedings on the pitch, Mourinho slipped quietly away through a deserted tunnel and had left Old Trafford within 25 minutes of the final whistle.

There was no interview for the Match of the Day cameras and the post-match conference room was practically empty when he breezed in and out again without receiving a single question.

United’s in-house television station managed to intercept Mourinho for all of 17 seconds. ‘Let me go home, I am in a final now,’ he said with a smile before leaving to prepare for the Europa League decider against Ajax on Wednesday.

He had, in theory, fulfilled his media commitments by showing up, but this appeared to be another demonstration of his displeasure with how United’s season has been assessed.

He used his match programme notes to take aim at the pundits – notably Graeme Souness – for not giving United more respect for battling through a 64-game season at home and abroad. ‘It’s not my fault if their managerial career was very poor,’ was the surly put-down.

It formed an unfortunate undercurrent for what should been a day of celebration at Old Trafford. A celebration of the latest academy recruits to come off the United conveyor belt, and a celebration of Rooney’s career at the club.

The United captain saluted all four corners of the ground when he came off in the 88th minute. He will be back for Michael Carrick’s testimonial next month but that will surely be it.

In what felt like a symbolic moment, Rooney was replaced by Angel Gomes who, at 16 years and 263 days old, became United’s youngest debutant since Dave Gaskell 61 years ago.

Mourinho’s plans to give Rooney a send-off were almost scuppered by an injury to Eric Bailly seven minutes after half-time. Having already used two substitutes just before the interval to give Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard a rest ahead of Wednesday’s final in Stockholm, Mourinho only had one left.

The stretcher was sent away and then so was substitute Matty Willock as Bailly decided to continue after a rather stern exchange with his manager on the touchline.

The game was almost won by that point against an all-too-compliant Crystal Palace side who were almost as inept defensively as they were on their last appearance in town two weeks ago when they were dismantled 5-0 by Manchester City.

There is certainly no cause for the Premier League to be concerned about weakened teams. The kids did Mourinho proud, none more so than Harrop who marked his big day with a fabulous goal after quarter of an hour.

Pogba slid the ball into Harrop’s path and the 21-year-old teased Martin Kelly before cutting inside the Palace defender with a little shimmy and dispatching a clinical right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

United were two ahead four minutes later and this time the scorer was a little more familiar to their supporters. Lingard broke forward and tried to play in Pogba as he surged to the edge of the box.

Joel Ward seemed to have the situation in hand but stumbled at the crucial moment, leaving Pogba clear on goal. The Frenchman steadied himself before sliding the ball into the bottom corner for what was only his fifth league goal of the season.

Palace had their moments in the second half – Pereira diving to his left to pluck Luka Milivojevic’s free kick out of the air and Christian Benteke striking the foot of the post with a downward header – but their work was done after escaping relegation.

‘There wasn’t the same pressure on the players today,’ said manager Sam Allardyce. ‘It’s just a shame we didn’t do a bit better. We’ll be making decisions on a few players in the coming days, then dipping into the transfer market.’

By then, Mourinho had already left the building. We can only hope he has something more to shout about in Stockholm on Wednesday.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-4527404/Man-Utd-2-0-Crystal-Palace-Josh-Harrop-dream-debut-strike.html#ixzz4hk7WRwe0

De Futebol

It is all over but the shouting.

Arsenal tore apart Everton 3-1.

The guys needed Liverpool to lose or tie.

This did not happen. Liverpool blew the doors off  of Middlesbrough 3-0 to secure the Reds spot in the Champions League.

Man Shitty blew out Watford 5-0.

Chelsea had a blowout city win against Sunderland 7-0.

Spurs murdered Hull City 71.

Man U shut out Crystal Palace 2-0.

West Ham defeated Burnley 2-1.

Leicester City and Bournemouth tied one all.

Stoke City defeated Southampton 1-0.

Swansea City doubled up on West Brom 2-1.

Chelsea is the champs with 93 points.

Spurs are second with 86.

Shitty is third with 78.

Liverpool is fourth with 76.

Arsenal is fifth with 75 and Man U is sixth with 69 points.

My Gunners will miss out on the Champions League for the first time since 1997.  This is the guys worst finish since 1997.

EPL Match Report on the Arsenal win. “Arsenal missed out on a fourth-place finish for the first time in 21 seasons despite overcoming Everton 3-1 with 10 men.

The Gunners knew they had to achieve a better result than Liverpool in order to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and they got off to the perfect start when Hector Bellerin gave them the lead after eight minutes.

Alexis Sanchez made it 2-0 on 27 minutes despite the dismissal of Laurent Koscielny for a foul on Idrissa Gana Gueye; a straight red card that will rule him out of the FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Everton pulled one back through Romelu Lukaku’s 25th goal of the season with a penalty awarded for a handball by Nacho Monreal.

Aaron Ramsey curled in a superb goal to make it 3-1 but wins for both Liverpool and Manchester City means Arsenal have to settle for fifth, two places above Everton.”

https://www.premierleague.com/match/14410