Di Maria and Mbappe among the goals as PSG win big again

Angel Di Maria scored a sumptuous free-kick and Kylian Mbappe was also on target as Paris Saint-Germain continued their relentless march towards another French title by hammering Montpellier 5-1 on Wednesday. With Neymar and Edinson Cavani still absent, Layvin Kurzawa also scored for PSG at the Parc des Princes, while two own goals completed the rout.

Florent Mollet had equalised at one point in the first half for the visitors before they crumbled in a rearranged fixture that had initially been postponed in early December due to disruption caused by “yellow vest” anti-government protests in France. As they warm up for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United on March 6, PSG are now a huge 15 points clear of second-placed Lille, and still have a game in hand as they race to a sixth Ligue 1 title in seven seasons. “It came down to patience, and quality, and a bit of luck as well,” said PSG coach Thomas Tuchel after his side maintained their perfect home record in the league this season. It was also their ninth win by a margin of at least four goals in the current campaign. Mbappe hoping everything into place’ for PSG in Champions League “It was not our best peformance, but with our attacking quality it was a deserved victory,” added Tuchel. He was missing a host of players for this game, with skipper Thiago Silva suspended. French international left-back Kurzawa was making his first start in the league in an injury-hit season and he opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a header from a Daniel Alves cross. However, Montpellier recovered well from that and claimed a deserved leveller just after the half-hour mark from a Mollet free-kick. Gianluigi Buffon thought he had kept it out, but goal-line technology confirmed the ball had just crossed the line. Nevertheless, Di Maria restored PSG’s lead in first-half stoppage time with a stunning dead-ball strike from 30 yards that went in off the underside of the bar for his sixth league goal of the season. PSG then ran away with the game in the closing stages, although only after both Mbappe and substitute Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting had efforts disallowed for offside. – Two own goals – It was 3-1 in the 73rd minute when Christopher Nkunku, on a rare start, saw his header deflect in off Petar Skuletic, and Mbappe then took centre stage. The young World Cup winner turned in a Kurzawa centre in the 78th minute, but the goal was attributed to Montpellier’s 41-year-old defender Hilton. From the restart, PSG won possession back and Mbappe beat Montpellier goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte with the aid of a huge deflection off Hilton. This time the goal was given to Mbappe, who now has 20 goals in 19 league appearances this season, and 25 in all competitions. Montpellier remain sixth, while PSG now host mid-table Nimes on Saturday before a French Cup quarter-final against Dijon and then a visit to Caen, as their busy schedule continues before the visit of United. The other game in France on Wednesday saw bottom side Guingamp draw 0-0 at Bordeaux.BENGBENRO SPORT

Manchester United better team than one Liverpool beat – Wijnaldum

Manchester United are a much more confident outfit under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer compared to the team that lost 3-1 at Liverpool earlier this season.

Manchester united midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum said ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash.

United’s loss at Anfield in December resulted in manager Jose Mourinho getting the sack and Solskjaer was appointed as United’s interim boss.

Manchester united have not lost in the league since, winning eight while drawing once to move up to fourth.

“I think it is going to be a real big change (from December),” Wijnaldum told reporters after Liverpool’s 0-0 draw against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

“Since the new manager came in there is a new flow, they played good games and have won a lot and that is building confidence in the team.

“It’s also a home game for them so they will have a lot of confidence as they don’t have the problems they had before. It is going to be a difficult game but I’m looking forward to it.”

Liverpool are second in the standings, behind Manchester City on goal difference, but the Merseyside club have a game in hand over the defending champions.

UEFA: Barca, Liverpool held to goalless draw by Lyon, Bayern

FC Barcelona were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at Olympique Lyonnais in their UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg tie on Tuesday.

The result ensured both sides remained unbeaten in this season’s competition.

The La Liga leaders dominated the match at the Groupama Stadium but lacked accuracy upfront and were grateful to their goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen who made two great saves.

Lyon were lively in the first half but ran out of steam after the break.

They were holding on in the closing stages as Lionel Messi tried in vain to open up the home defence.

Barca had a total of 25 shots but only five on target and their best chance came in the last minute.

That was when Sergio Busquets’s 18-metre attempt was tipped over the bar by Anthony Lopes.

The second leg will be at the Nou Camp on March 13, a game where Lyon will welcome back France striker and captain Nabil Fekir, who was suspended on Tuesday.

“We could have done better in the first half and converted our chances, but we did not concede a goal. So, our chances are intact,” said Lyon defender Leo Dubois.

Lyon coach Bruno Genesio sprung a surprise by fielding Martin Terrier on the left wing instead of Maxwell Cornet, and the 21-year-old did not disappoint.

Barca dominated possession early on, but Lyon had the first two shots on target.

It took a couple of superb saves from Ter Stegen to deny the hosts, who never came that close again.

He stretched to his left to parry a vicious low shot by Hassem Aouar in the fifth minute.

The German later made a one-handed save to tip a 25-metre Terrier missile onto his crossbar.

Barca forward Ousmane Dembele came close in the 19th minute when he dribbled past Dubois on the left flank, only for goalkeeper Anthony Lopes to deny him in a one-on-one.

The visitors had the upper hand but were uncharacteristically wasteful as they spurned several counter-attacking opportunities.

A Dembele attempt shaved Lopes’s post, before Terrier skied his shot over the bar.

That was after a superb series of one-twos tore the Barca defence apart as both sides tried to break the deadlock.

Lyon were under siege early in the second period but their defence was perfectly marshalled by Jason Denayer, with Dubois also proving decisive against Luis Suarez.

Lopes beat Messi’s angled shot away to keep his side level before Dembele was replaced by Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian had a clear chance in the 76th minute, but he was denied by in-form Lopes.

Barca have now failed to win any of their last six away games in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage, with their last victory coming at Arsenal in February 2016.

Elsewhere, Bayern Munich showed all their UEFA Champions League experience and quality organisation as they held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield on Tuesday.

The result from the first leg game of their last 16 pairing leaves it all to play for in the second leg in Munich on March 13.

However, the German side will be without defender Joshua Kimmich who will be suspended after picking up a yellow card.

Osaka beaten in first match after Australian Open

World number one, Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open, as she went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.

Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.

The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.

“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world number 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.

“Beating the number one is always special.”

The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.

Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.

She said earlier this week that she would not prioritise “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.

Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.

Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.

Halep said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elise Mertens.

“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.

“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”

A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.

“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.

“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with… maybe with my comeback at the end.”

Local favourite Ons Jabeur was forced to retire with the Tunisian trailing Svitolina 7-6 (7/4), 4-0.

Jabeur took a fall late in the opening set, rolling her ankle while also hitting her shoulder.

She took a medical timeout out but was only able to carry on in the second set for four games.

Third seed Svitolina is hoping to become the first women to win three Dubai titles.

“That is a big motivation for me here,” the Ukrainian said. “Today I didn’t really feel in a match mood, I don’t know why.

“I was struggling a bit, I had a very slow start. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

“I told myself that I’m here to make history of the tournament.”

Elsewhere, Hsieh Su-Wei defeated Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-1, 6-2 while Viktoria Kuzmova accounted for seventh seed Kiki Bertens, beating this month’s St Petersburg champion 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6).

American Jennifer Brady downed French 14th seed Caroline Garcia 6-4, 7-5 as her compatriot Sofia Kenin defeated Russian 11th seed Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

A third US player, Alison Riske, advanced 6-2, 6-3 over Alize Cornet

Man City must win Champions League to be among elite — Gundogan

Manchester City must win the Champions League to be considered one of Europe’s elite clubs, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has said.

City have won the Premier League three times since the Abu Dhabi United Group bought them in 2008, but have never gone past the semi-final stage of Europe’s premier club competition.

“If you want to be in the international elite … you need to clinch this trophy,” Gundogan told UEFA.com ahead of Wednesday’s last 16 tie at Schalke.

“I think that, if we were to win it someday, the club would enter a new era, the same level as Real (Madrid), Barca, Bayern or Juventus, clubs that are maybe a step above us.

“Maybe not in the way they play football, but as a club at least.”

City were knocked out in the last 16 three times in the last five seasons, while their only semi-final appearance came in 2016, when they were knocked out by Real Madrid 1-0 on aggregate.

“We’ve experienced a lot in the Champions League in recent years, not all of it positive, of course. We should’ve won it at least once,” Gundogan added.

“The biggest low was probably being knocked out by Liverpool last season. For that reason, the motivation to go far in this competition is huge and I think we have the quality required.” BENGBENRO SPORT.

Plane of Missing Soccer Player Emiliano Sala Is Found in the English Channel

A search boat hired privately by Sala’s Argentinian family – thanks partly to a crowdfunding appeal – located the wreckage on Sunday morning.

The crew passed the details of the location on to government investigators, who used a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to examine the spot.

There was no immediate official confirmation of what was found but the shipwreck specialist leading the private investigation, David Mearns, said the plane had been discovered.

No information about whether any bodies were in the plane was given. Two seat covers from the aircraft washed up last week on the coast of France.

UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) will probably make a statement on Monday.

The Piper Malibu N264DB carrying 28-year-old Sala and the pilot, David Ibbotson, 59, disappeared over the Channel on 21 January after leaving Nantes in France at about 7.15pm for Cardiff.

Italian football club loses 20 – 0, kicked out of division

An Italian third division club which lost 20-0 on Sunday has been thrown out of the competition by Lega Pro, the governing body of Serie C.

The club, Pro Piacenza, which has financial problems and hadn’t paid its players or staff, patched together a seven-man team for the game to avoid being kicked out.

Pro Piacenza had a last chance to present a team for the match, having already forfeited three previous matches due to its financial and staff crisis.

Pro Piacenza’s first team squad and coaching staff refused to travel for the game at Cuneo due to unpaid wages, leaving the team to start with six teenagers and a 39-year-old physiotherapist – the only players they could find.

After ruling on Monday that some of the players were not registered for the match, Lega Serie C’s disciplinary committee disqualified the team from the competition and handed Cuneo a walkover 3-0 win.

The Italian football federation (FIGC) later said the club had been disaffiliated due to “the serious regulatory violations which occurred at the Cuneo-Pro Piacenza match added to the other numerous documented irregularities.”

Pro Piacenza were bottom of the North and Central West group of Serie C, which is split into three 20-team regional groups.

Real reason I dumped my coach: Osaka

World number one Naomi Osaka was adamant that her shock split with coach Sascha Bajin had nothing to do with money but it was because she was determined that her career would not be about putting “success over happiness”.

The German had guided the Japanese player to back-to-back Grand Slam titles as well as to the summit of the WTA rankings. But just two weeks after her triumph at Melbourne Park, Osaka abruptly severed ties with Bajin. That led to suggestions the two had fallen out over money.

“Everyone thinks it was a money-related issue, but it wasn’t,” the U.S. and Australian Open champion told the WTA in Dubai. “That’s one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever heard.

“I travel with everyone on my team, I see them more than my family. I would never do that to them.

“My reason is I wouldn’t put success over my happiness – that’s my main thing. I’m not going to sacrifice that just to keep a person around.”

Bajin, a former hitting partner of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, was named as the WTA’s coach of the year in 2018 after his success with Osaka.

During their time together, Osaka rocketed from 72 in the world at the start of 2018 to number one last month.

Osaka said it was clear things were not right between them during the season’s opening major.

“It was kind of brewing in Australia. I think some people could see that if they saw how we interacted,” the 21-year-old added.

“I would not want to split on really bad terms. I’m not going to say anything bad about him because, of course, I’m really grateful for all the things he’s done.

“During the Australian Open, I was just trying to tell myself to get through it. I’m not sure, but I think you guys noticed.”

Osaka said she hopes to have a new coach in place by March at Indian Wells.

“It’s not really ideal to go to Indian Wells without a coach. I don’t want someone that’s in the box saying negative stuff. That would be the worst,” she said.

“(I want) someone that’s kind of direct, not afraid to say things to my face. I’d rather someone say it directly to me than go around my back. That’s one of the biggest things.”

Chelsea’s Sarri close to the sack after FA Cup loss to Man United

Paul Pogba drove Manchester United into the FA Cup quarter-finals and pushed Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri closer to the sack as the troubled holders crashed to a 2-0 defeat on Monday.

Pogba set up United’s opening goal for Ander Herrera with a majestic cross and the France star added the second himself as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side produced a commanding display at Stamford Bridge.

Maurizio Sarri: closer to the sack after Manchester United beat Clelsea 2-0

Chelsea’s lacklustre fifth round exit — their first FA Cup defeat since the 2017 final — was another painful blow for Sarri, who is facing a fight to save his job following a dismal debut season.

Chelsea suffered their heaviest defeat for 28 years when they were thrashed 6-0 at Manchester City earlier this month, an indignity that came just weeks after a humiliating 4-0 loss at Bournemouth.

Paul Pogba was the motivating force in Manchester United win at Stamford Bridge

Amid claims Sarri has lost the support of his players, the former Napoli boss watched ashen-faced as Chelsea collapsed again for a fifth defeat in their last 10 games.

Sarri was subjected to chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “you’re getting sacked in the morning” from frustrated Chelsea fans, who called for their former star Frank Lampard, now in charge of Derby, to replace the Italian.

It was the worst possible start to a defining period for Sarri, whose stubborn tactics and dubious man-management have come under intense scrutiny.

Chelsea, currently outside the Premier League’s top four, return to action against Malmo in the Europa League last 32 second leg holding a 2-1 lead on Thursday.

Assuming he hasn’t been axed by demanding Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich before then, a shock defeat against Malmo would be catastrophic for Sarri ahead of next Sunday’s League Cup Final date with Manchester City.

United are through to the last eight for a fifth consecutive season as they look to win the FA Cup for a record-equalling 13th time and first since 2016.

Ending United’s nine-game winless run at Chelsea was another feather in Solskjaer’s cap as his team bounced back from last week’s Champions League last 16 first leg loss to Paris Saint-Germain.

Solskjaer went unbeaten in his first 11 games and the interim boss showed his tactical skills by out-witting Sarri with his switch to a midfield diamond formation.

– Fatal flaws –

Even Solskjaer’s risky decision to select reserve goalkeeper Sergio Romero in place of David De Gea paid off.

In a frantic opening, Romero was called into action when David Luiz drilled a dipping free-kick over the United wall.

Romero kept out Luiz’s effort and scrambled to his feet to save Pedro’s powerful shot from the rebound.

Gonzalo Higuain should have opened the scoring from Cesar Azpilicueta’s teasing cross, but the Argentine striker headed wide.

Those misses proved fatal for Chelsea, whose early pressure was rendered irrelevant by another lapse of concentration in the 31st minute.

Mata picked out Pogba on the left wing and the United midfielder, unchecked by the slow-to-react Antonio Rudiger, unfurled a sublime cross that looped towards the far post.

Herrera timed his run perfectly to meet Pogba’s delivery in stride and Marcos Alonso fatally lost his man as the Spanish midfielder planted a close-range header past Kepa Arrizabalaga for his first goal since December.

Pogba was only just getting warmed up and he single-handedly ripped Chelsea part to double United’s lead on the stroke of half-time.

Playing an incisive pass down the right flank to Rashford, Pogba surged into the Chelsea area and muscled his way above Azpilicueta to meet his team-mate’s pin-point cross with a diving header that Kepa couldn’t keep out.

It was the 15th goal Pogba has been directly involved since Solskjaer took charge, underlined his renaissance since the sacking of his nemesis Jose Mourinho.

Nothing was going Sarri’s way and United’s Nemanja Matic, already booked, avoided a red card after tripping N’Golo Kante.

Even Eden Hazard, marked out of the game for long periods, couldn’t rescue the beleaguered Sarri as he found a sliver of space, only to see his shot deflected over by Victor Lindelof as Chelsea succumbed tamely.

Djokovic wins Laureus Sportsman of the Year, Simone Biles also winner

Novak Djokovic’s stupendous comeback from injury last year which saw him win two Grand Slam titles earned him the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award on Monday at a lavish ceremony.

The 31-year-old Serbian — who added the Australian Open in January to the Wimbledon and US Open crowns he won in 2018 after coming back from elbow surgery — won the award for a fourth time beating the likes of France’s World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and NBA superstar LeBron James.

Iconic American gymnast Simone Biles won Sportswoman of the Year for a second time on the back of the 21-year-old’s historic achievement last year in adding a fourth all-around world championship to her full to bursting medals cabinet.

Djokovic was delighted with his award — voted on by the 68 members of the Laureus Academy which includes sporting legends such as nine-time singles Grand Slam champion Monica Seles and Britain’s six-time Olympic track cycling gold medalist Chris Hoy.

“Last year was an incredible season for me, returning from injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open is something I’ll remember forever,” said Djokovic.

Watch the video of his speech:

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Seles, also born in Serbia although now a naturalised American citizen, presented the award to Djokovic, who admitted it had been a long hard road back mentally as well as physically.

“Reflecting on it standing here now it seems like a fairytale story but it tells me one thing,” he said.

“In those moments of when you are facing adversity and challenged you should always look inside.

“I did not understand that fully before but now I know where I can always find strength and belief and to keep on going.”

Tennis had a golden night as women’s world number one Naomi Osaka — who like Djokovic added the Australian Open to her breakthrough Grand Slam success the US Open — became the first Japanese winner of a Laureus award, the 21-year-old taking the World Breakthrough of the Year gong.

American golf great Tiger Woods was rewarded for his return from years in the wilderness due to injury and personal problems to winning the Tour Championship and going close to adding to his 14 major titles in the British Open and the PGA Championship with the Comeback of the Year award.

“There was a long list of people who wrote him off but I was not one of them,” said former NFL star Marcus Allen.

“When you are anointed with such talent as he is there is always a way back.”

Mbappe may have missed out on the main individual award but he along with his World Cup winning team-mates collected the team of the year prize.

Manager Didier Deschamps — who also captained France to the 1998 World Cup triumph — accepted the award with some members of his backroom staff.

“Being part of the French football team offers one the rare privilege of bringing happiness to the French people,” said Deschamps, who won the same award with his Euro 2000 winning team-mates in 2001.

“We are extremely proud to have brought them such joy last summer and to have united them.”

Deschamps compatriot Arsene Wenger, credited with revolutionising English football certainly in the early part of his over two decades in charge of Arsenal, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The studious 69-year-old Frenchman received his award from one of his former Arsenal stars Cesc Fabregas, who said he had been a father figure to him.

“I would like to thank the wonderful people I met through my career and some less wonderful too,” said Wenger.

“Sport is tremendous I had a long career but my passion for sport and for human beings is intact.”

China’s Xia Boyu’s extraordinary achievement in climbing Everest last May, four decades after losing both legs to frostbite in a previous attempt to conquer it, won the Sporting Moment of the Year which is voted on by the public.

Laureus is a global movement that aims to use the power of sport to tackle social challenges in the world.