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Penalty shootouts rules: FIFA reduces punishment as women’s World Cup enters knockout stage

With the women’s World Cup entering the knockout rounds, football’s international authorities have decided not to apply a new rule that could have led to a succession of red cards for goalkeepers in penalty shootouts.

Three times in France, goalkeepers have been shown yellow cards for coming off their lines under a heavily-criticised new rule that they must have at least one foot on the goal-line when facing a penalty.

France’s winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Nigeria and Argentina’s equaliser in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Scotland that denied the Scots a possible place in the last 16 came from retaken penalties after Video Assistant Referee (VAR) reviews deemed the goalkeepers to be marginally off their line. In both cases the goalkeeper also received a yellow card.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) granted a temporary dispensation at the request of FIFA on Friday to suspend the yellow cards during shootouts, although they will still apply at penalties during normal play.

“Both FIFA and The IFAB therefore believe that the requirement to caution an offending goalkeeper in KFPM (kicks from a penalty mark) in matches with VARs is not necessary and risks unfairly distorting the KFPM if a goalkeeper is sent off,” IFAB said in a statement.

The use of VAR has been a constant source of controversy throughout the tournament, but the Chairman of FIFA’s Refereeing Committee, Perluigi Collina, defended the rule changes and the standard of refereeing in France.

“Penalties are finally being taken in a correct way because, in the past, goalkeepers often saved them by being off the goal line,” said the Italian.

“If a law exists, referees must enforce it – particularly when tools like VAR or GLT (goal-line technology) are available.

Alleged corruption: FIFA to take over CAF on eve of Cup of Nations

A drastic and dramatic overhaul of African football is expected to be announced on Thursday, the eve of the kickoff of the African Cup of Nations, in the wake of corruption scandals consuming the Confederation of African Football.

The CAF executive committee took a stunning decision on Wednesday to cede control of the running of the organisation and have FIFA general secretary, Fatma Samoura parachuted in as “FIFA High Commissioner for Africa”, according to sources.

No announcement has been made by African football’s governing body but CAF president, Ahmad Ahmad is scheduled to hold a press conference in Cairo on Thursday at 0900 GMT.

Ahmad, who is the subject of an ethics investigation by FIFA after allegations of corruption and sexual misconduct, proposed the idea in a document shared with colleagues on the executive committee, the sources said.

READ ALSO: Pogba prefers Juve to Real

Samoura is to lead a FIFA team that will conduct “a root-and-branch review of governance of the confederation, oversee operational management of the organisation, and recommend where needed a series of reform efforts,” the document read.

“This will be done in order to put CAF itself on a modern and sound footing, improve its image and reputation and thus ensure that CAF is better equipped to face future challenges and to grasp future opportunities.”

FIFA are to also undertake a forensic audit of the monies they have been giving CAF.

The idea of sending Samoura to Africa is said to have been put together by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and CAF vice president Amaju Pinnick in the wake of Ahmad’s brief detention by French police last week for questioning on corruption allegations.

Ahmad, who is seeking to hold onto some semblance of power or even walk away from his post without sanction, had been forced to accept the deal and then propose it to his own colleagues, CAF sources told Reuters on Thursday.

With FIFA seeking to improve football’s image, the Ahmad controversy has come as major embarrassment to Infantino, who has been claiming a new-look, clean and corruption-free FIFA.

 

PSG to sell Neymar as club chairman sends warning to players

 

Paris St-Germain (PSG) are prepared to sell striker Neymar, with club chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi warning that irresponsible behaviour from players would not be tolerated anymore, according to French media reports.

The Brazil international joined the Ligue 1 side from FC Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros (£198 million) in August 2017.

However, he missed large parts of the 2018/2019 campaign through injury and suspension and made just 17 league appearances, scoring 15 goals.

PSG will consider selling the 27-year-old in the forthcoming transfer window if they receive a substantial offer, a report in L’Equipe said on Sunday.

Neymar is said to be unsettled at the club and has told relatives that he was having difficulties in France.

This was even before he was accused of raping a woman in a Paris hotel in May.

The player has since denied any wrongdoing, however.

The report comes on the back of strong comments from chairman and CEO Al-Khelaifi about the attitude of squad members.

“Players will have to be more responsible than before,” he told France Football.

“It must be completely different. They will have to do more and work harder. They are not there for their own amusement.

“If they do not agree, the doors are open ——- Ciao! I do not want star behaviour anymore.”

His words come after a disappointing season for Thomas Tuchel’s side.

In spite of clinching the league title, they were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the last 16 stage by Manchester United.

They also failed to win either of France’s major domestic cup competitions.

On Friday, the club announced the return of Leonardo as sporting director, with the Brazilian replacing Antero Henrique in the role six years after his departure.

“I realised changes were essential,” Al-Khelaifi said.

“Otherwise, we were going nowhere. Leonardo will have absolute sporting power.

“Leo is my guy ——- incredible. He has my total confidence. His natural authority will be good for everybody ——- especially the players.”

Joshua is finished as champion – Tyson Fury

Anthony Joshua is finished as a boxer after losing his world heavyweight titles to Andy Ruiz Jr, fellow-Briton, Tyson Fury, has claimed

Fury, also a previous IBF, WBA and IBO champion, fights German underdog Tom Schwarz in a non-title bout in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

The big Briton said Joshua had shown against Ruiz that he did not want to be in the ring.

“When a man doesn’t want to be there once, he will always do it and it’s hard to come back from,” the self-styled ‘Gypsy King’ said on Wednesday.

He added: “It’s been done many different times by many different fighters. He did it that night and I don’t think he will come back from it. Finished. Ask any top trainer who has been around the sport a lifetime.

“When he got to the ring I saw he didn’t want to be there.”
Mexican-American Ruiz stopped 29-year-old Joshua in seven rounds at New York’s Madison Square Garden in a major upset on June 1.

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has said there will be a rematch, probably in November or December, with the venue to be decided.

Fury is also scheduled for a rematch with WBC champion, Deontay Wilder, with a date to be set.

The Briton, whose fight with Schwarz is the first of a multi-fight broadcast deal agreed with ESPN in February, is the only boxer Wilder has faced and not defeated.
That was after the pair battled to a draw in December in Los Angeles.

Frank Warren, Fury’s British promoter, said in January that his man was bigger box-office than Joshua.

“Everybody thought that man could beat me,” Fury said of Joshua. “In what world could he ever beat me? What were people seeing?

“Physically Joshua could out-train everyone,” he added. “He would break every heart monitor, has probably worn out every treadmill in the gym, smashes the bag, (but) it’s all very unimportant.
He added: “The two best conditioned fighters in the last 20 years have been (Ukrainian Wladimir) Klitschko and Joshua and they both got done by two fat men.”

Fury, now 30, beat Klitschko in 2015 for the titles he then lost due to a two-and-a-half year absence from the sport following mental health issues and a failed drug test.

Mastercard cancels advertising campaign for Neymar after rape accusation

Mastercard has canceled an advertising campaign featuring Brazilian football star Neymar, after a woman accused him of raping her in a Paris hotel, a newspaper in Sao Paulo reported on Thursday.

The newspaper, O Estado de S.Paulo, reported on its website that Mastercard said in a statement it was suspending its use of Neymar in advertising until the situation is “cleared up’’.

Neymar denies the allegation of rape and has claimed the woman was trying to extort him.

The woman appeared on Brazilian TV on Wednesday and said the athlete did rape her.

A police report seen by Reuters over the weekend showed that a woman had accused the 27-year-old Neymar of raping her at a Paris hotel last month.

Sao Paulo police are investigating the accusation.

Following media reports on the matter, Neymar posted a long video on Instagram, in which he denied the accusations.

He claimed he was a victim of extortion, and shared WhatsApp messages he had exchanged with the alleged victim, including racy photos he had received.

That led police in Rio de Janeiro to open an investigation into whether Neymar had committed a crime by posting those intimate pictures online.

Neither a spokeswoman for Neymar nor Mastercard immediately responded to requests for comment.

Hazard becomes most expensive 28-year-old signing in football history

Real Madrid has agreed a €100 million (£88.5m) transfer fee with Chelsea for Eden Hazard, making him the most expensive 28-year-old signing in the history of the game.

The Chelsea star is only behind Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of players above 27 years of age to be signed at €100 million or above.

In football, the older players are worth less than younger players with a lot of promise. It is why Kylian Mbappe at 18 was, and is, more expensive than Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been world best player five times.

According to Guardian UK, Hazard is one of Zinedine Zidane’s priority targets for the summer transfer window as part of his major squad rebuild at Madrid.

With just a year left on his contract with Chelsea, the Belgium international told the club he will not sign a new deal.

Chelsea face the prospect of losing Hazard on a free transfer next summer and have been resigned to losing their star player after their season ended.

Hazard appeared to say goodbye to Chelsea fans after the Europa League final.

“I think it is a goodbye, but in football you never know.”

For now, Hazard continues to train with the Belgian national team ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifiers this weekend.

He is set to become Zidane’s third signing of his second stint as Madrid’s manager.

THE MOST EXPENSIVE PLAYERS IN FOOTBALL HISTORY:

Neymar Jr. — €222 million

Kylian Mbappe — €180 million

Philippe Coutinho — €120 million

Cristiano Ronaldo  — €117 million

Ousmane Dembele — €105 million

Paul Pogba — €105 million

Gareth Bale — €101 million

Eden Hazard — €100 million

Gonzalo Higuain — €90 million

Romelu Lukaku — €84.8 million

Andy Ruiz reveals secret behind Anthony Joshua’s defeat

World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Andy Ruiz Jr. has said the speed of his jabs was the secret behind his defeat of British-Nigerian boxer, Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden on Saturday in New York.

Anthony Joshua had hoped to make a splash in his US debut but it ended in misery for the three belt heavyweight world champion with a stunning loss to underdog, Ruiz Jr.

Ruiz recorded a monster upset, by knocking down Britain’s Joshua four times to take the World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization titles.

Speaking at a post-match press conference, Andy Ruiz Jr said: “I still can’t believe it. I am still pinching myself to see if this is real.

“But everything is possible man. Look at me, I just made history. The speed got him, (Joshua),” Ruiz said.

Joshua needed medical attention after the bout and did not attend the post fight news conference.

However, Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, admitted Ruiz Jr. won the bout without foul play but expressed optimism that Anthony will bounce back.

“Riuz won fair and square but I know Anthony Joshua’s work ethic. Great fighters come back and improve,” Hearn said.

Andy Ruiz stuns Joshua to become world heavyweight champion

Andy Ruiz Jr. stunned Anthony Joshua on his US debut with a “TKO” in the seventh round, becomes Mexico’s first ever world heavyweight champion.

Ruiz walks away from Madison Square Garden with all of Joshua’s titles — including the WBA, WBO and IBF crowns.

Ruiz Jr took the place of Jarrel Miller, AJ’s original challenger who tested positive for three different performance-enhancing drugs in three separate tests shortly after the fight was announced.

One of the biggest upsets heavyweight boxing has ever seen after Buster Douglas Vs Mike Tyson and James Braddock Vs Max Baer in the history of the sport.

The Mexican came off the floor in the third round to drop Joshua twice before the end of the frame.

Then the 29-year-old Californian sent Joshua to the canvas for a third time in the seventh round before referee Mike Griffin put a stop to the proceedings at the 1:27 mark.

“Boxing’s a tough sport,” Joshua said after his first career defeat.

“I’ve trained hard, I’ve trained dedicated and I just got beat by a good fighter tonight.

“This is all part of the journey.”

Ruiz Jr said it was dream come true after he became heavyweight champion of the world.

“This is what I’ve been dreaming about, what I’ve been working hard for, I can’t believe I just made my dreams come true.

“I just want to thank God for giving me this victory, without him this wouldn’t have been possible.

“I just felt so good. The sky’s the limit baby!”

Eddie Hearn, AJ’s promoter says a rematch is on the cards.

“We’ll make the rematch in the UK in November/December, but tonight is all about Andy Ruiz,” Hearn said.

Arab billionaire Al Nehyan to buy Newcastle United for £350m

Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehyan says he has agreed terms with Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley, to buy the English Premier League (EPL) club.

According to the Newcastle Chronicle newspaper published on Monday, they had been contacted by Sheikh’s representatives, who sent them a statement regarding reports of a possible sale.

“We can confirm that representatives of His Highness Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley and his team, about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club,” read the statement.

“We view it as an honour to have the opportunity to build on the strong support, history and tradition of the club.

“We have agreed terms and are working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity.”

The newspaper said Newcastle United Football Club had confirmed to them that the discussions were genuine.

British media reports have also said the sale price could be around £350 million.

Newcastle United and Sheikh Khaled did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

Ashley, who bought a controlling stake in the Premier League club in 2007, has in the past tried to sell the club.

The owner of British sportswear retailer Sports Direct International Plc said last October that he had not received any acceptable offers for Newcastle United.

This was a year after he officially put the club up for sale.

But he had said in December that talks on a deal had made promising progress.

Any potential buyer of the club must be able to provide transfer funds, he had said at the time.

Sheikh Khaled, the cousin of Manchester City FC owner and Arab billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, previously failed in his bid to buy Liverpool Football Club.

He had wanted to buy the club at two billion pounds last year, the Daily Mail has previously reported.

Sheikh Khaled is also the founder of Bin Zayed Group, a leading conglomerate with diverse business interests in the local and international markets.

Manchester City reacts to possible UEFA Champions League ban

Manchester City could be banned from the Champions League by UEFA if the Premier League champions are found guilty of Financial Fair Play, now the Cityzen’s have now reacted to the reports, hitting out at the European football governing body.

Manchester City have raised concerns about the integrity of the UEFA investigation into their financial dealings after reports emerged that they are facing a ban from the Champions League. The English champions do appear to be facing heavy sanctions for alleged breaches of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, with the New York Times revealing on Monday that members of the investigatory chamber of UEFA’s financial control board will push for a one-season ban from European football elite competition, probably in 2020-21.

Investigators have spent months reviewing evidence first detailed in a series of leaks and reported by the German publication Der Spiegel. But City responded on Tuesday with a strongly-worded statement that essentially accused European football’s governing body of leaking details of the investigation.

Their statement, given to MailOnline, said: “Manchester City FC is fully cooperating in good faith with the CFCB IC’s ongoing investigation. In doing so the club is reliant on both the CFCB IC’s independence and commitment to due process; and on UEFA’s commitment of the 7th of March that it, will make no further comment on the matter while the investigation is ongoing.”

“The New York Times report citing ‘people familiar with the case’ is therefore extremely concerning. The implications are that either Manchester City’s good faith in the CFCB IC is misplaced or the CFCB IC process is being misrepresented by individuals intent on damaging the club’s reputation and its commercial interests. Or both.

“Manchester City’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record. The accusation of financial irregularities are entirely false, and comprehensive proof of this fact has been provided to the CFCB IC.”

Ajax’s shares slump after UEFA Champions League defeat to Tottenham

Ajax Amsterdam football club’s shares slumped on Thursday following the Dutch club’s shocking last-minute defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League semi-final.

Ajax shares were down 19.8 per cent at 18.85 euros in early session trading, although the stock remains up by around 30 per cent so far in 2019.

Brazilian Lucas Moura scored a last-gasp winner late on Wednesday to complete his hat-trick.

It sealed a 3-2 win to send London’s Tottenham Hotspur past Ajax and into the UEFA Champions League final on away goals.

(Reuters/NAN)

Ronaldo hits 600th club goal as Juventus hold Inter Milan

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the 600th goal of his club career to earn Italian champions Juventus a 1-1 draw away to Inter Milan in the Serie A on Saturday.
The Turin club wrapped up an eighth successive league title last weekend but found themselves behind early on to a wonder-strike from Inter midfielder Radja Nainggolan.

However, the Portuguese responded with a powerful finish in the second half to make it 20 league goals for the season.
The goal moved Ronaldo within two strikes of Serie A’s leading scorer, Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria, in the process.

Inter remain in third place on 62 points, four ahead of AS Roma who are below them.

Juventus, who dropped points for just the sixth time in 34 games this season, moved up to 88 points.
This fixture, known as the “Derby d’Italia’’, is one of the country’s fiercest rivalries.

The home fans taunted the visitors with a pre-match mosaic of placards featuring the UEFA Champions League trophy alongside the words ‘Game Over’.
It was in reference to Juve’s quarter-final exit to Ajax Amsterdam in April.

The home support were left delighted just seven minutes in, when Nainggolan latched onto Matteo Politano’s dipping pass and unleashed a swerving volley from 25 yards out.
It flew past Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Ronaldo drew Juventus level after 62 minutes, exchanging passes with Miralem Pjanic before drilling a left-footed finish into the bottom corner.
It was the 600th goal of the 34-year-old’s club career, with 450 having come at Real Madrid, 118 at Manchester United, 27 at Juventus and five at Sporting Lisbon.

The Portugal international is narrowly ahead of Lionel Messi, who scored his 598th goal for FC Barcelona on Saturday.
The goal helped them win the Spanish La Liga title with a 1-0 win over Levante.

Otedola presents $50,000 cheque to Christian Chukwu for foreign medical treatment

Christian Chukwu, former coach of the Super Eagles and one of Nigeria’s greatest footballers ever, will travel to the UK for further treatment in the first week of May following the footing of his medical bills by Femi Otedola, the billionaire businessman.

Otedola had offered to foot the bill of the former captain of the national team following reports that he was battling with prostate cancer.

The $50,000 cheque was presented to Chukwu on Wednesday morning in Enugu by Philip Akinola, the COO of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, one of Otedola’s companies.

Also present were Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the governor of Enugu state, Amaju Pinnick, the chairman of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Onochie Anibeze, the renowned sports journalist.

Otedola confirmed the development to TheCable.

“The governor just called to thank me immensely and I spoke with Christian Chukwu too. He will be flown abroad next week. I told him he will be fine and I will make sure he is provided with the best health services,” Otedola told TheCable on phone.

Chukwu, with support from the Enugu state government, has already done an initial surgery in Nigeria and has been recuperating.

Aside captaining Nigeria to its first Africa Cup of Nations success in 1980, Chukwu also led the Enugu Rangers FC team that won the Africa Cup Winners Cup in 1977.

He was nicknamed ‘Chairman’ for his authority on the field as a central defender.

Chukwu also served as assistant coach of the first team to win a FIFA World Cup trophy for Nigeria – the Golden Eaglets that triumphed at the FIFA U16 World Cup in China in 1985.

He was also assistant coach of the team tagged the Golden Generation – the 1994 class of Super Eagles that qualified Nigeria for its first FIFA World Cup finals.

As assistant coach, he helped Nigeria win the Africa Cup of Nations title and reached the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in the US.

Between 2002 and 2005, Chukwu was head coach of the Super Eagles, leading the team to bronze medal at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

Ugwuanyi, Chukwu, Pinnick and Akinola… after the cheque presentation

Ambode receives UEFA Champions league trophy in Lagos

Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode on Wednesday received the UEFA Champions League Trophy alongside its Ambassador and former captain of Barcelona FC of Spain, Carles Puyol in Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja.

Puyol, a three-time Champions League winner is in Nigeria on a three-day visit to lead the UEFA Champions League Tour connecting with consumers and football lovers.

Governor Ambode, who was represented by the Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Dr Kweku Tandoh, also received Nigerian football legend, Austin JayJay Okocha, who was part of the delegation.

Speaking while receiving the trophy, Governor Ambode expressed excitement with the fact that the organisers of the tour considered Lagos as one of the states to visit, adding that the development was particularly gratifying more so that the synergy between sports and entertainment as well as tourism had been massively played up in the last four years.      

The Governor also lauded the contribution of Puyol and Okocha to the development of the round leather game in Nigeria and worldwide, saying they deserved to be appreciated and celebrated.

“I must say I am very pleased with the organisers of this Trophy Tour for deeming it fit to take the UEFA Champions League Cup to Lagos. We are particularly excited because our administration has focused on the synergy between sports, tourism, entertainment and the arts, among others and the people can see the positive effects of our efforts in that regard.

“We are pleased to also welcome Barcelona FC and Champions League legend, Carles Puyol to Lagos, as well as our legend, JayJay Okocha to Lagos House. Many of us underrate this legend that we have and just yesterday, I understand Puyol had a very difficult time on the field of play in Uyo when JayJay had to give him a few tricks.

“Unfortunately, JayJay did not get to play for Barcelona; he would have lifted the Champions League but I must say we appreciate what Okocha has done for Nigerian football. If you have a player that is sometimes compared to Messi, Maradona and spoken about in the same breath, then we know we have a star in our midst and so I like to thank JayJay for his contribution to football,” Governor Ambode said.  

He said in order to ensure a successful Trophy Tour, the relevant security and government agencies have been contacted, assuring that all the activities lined-up as part of the tour would be hugely successful.

While wishing the team a successful tour in Nigeria, Governor Ambode said the State Government would be glad to receive the trophy back in the State in the nearest future, just as he assured that the government remained committed to make Lagos the sports hub not just in Africa but the entire world.

 

L-R: Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde; Ex-Nigeria International, Austin JayJay Okocha; UEFA Champions League winner and former Barcelona FC Defender, Carles Puyol; representative of Lagos State Governor and Chairman, the State Sports Commission (LSSC), Dr. Kweku Tandoh; Managing Director, Nigerian Breweries PLC, Mr. Jordi Borrut Bel; Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh; Director-General, LSSC, Mr. Babatunde Bank-Anthony and Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Habib Aruna during the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour to the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, on Wednesday.

 

 

 

Speaking earlier, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Breweries Plc, organisers of the Trophy Tour, Mr Jordi Borrut Bel thanked Governor Ambode for warmly receiving the team, saying the Trophy Tour was specifically organised to bring the tournament closer to fans.

He said as part of the tour, there would be a road show from Maryland Bus Stop to Ikeja City Mall, among other activities.   

Besides, he commended Governor Ambode for his well-though out policies and projects in all sectors and sections of the State, saying the Governor deserved to be appreciated for also creating enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the State.

“I will like to say that this visit is a great opportunity for the management team of Nigerian Breweries to appreciate Governor Ambode on the success that he has recorded in the last four years of administering the State which is a testament to the fact that well-thought policies have been implemented as has been witnessed in security, in transportation, in health, in welfare sectors in the State, and particularly in the continuous construction of impactful infrastructure as well as the Governor’s focused and dynamic leadership in the State.

“We also want to thank the Governor for sustaining a supportive business environment in the State,” he said.

Ajax stun Juventus, qualify for Champions League semis

Ajax stunned Juventus to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1997 as Matthijs de Ligt’s thumping second-half header secured a 2-1 second-leg victory in the last eight in Turin on Tuesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo, bidding for his sixth Champions League title, scored a 28th-minute header to put Juve ahead after a 1-1 first-leg draw, but Donny van de Beek levelled for Ajax before half-time.

Teenage centre-back De Ligt struck midway through the second period, though, to seal a 3-2 aggregate win and set up a last-four clash with either Manchester City or Tottenham.

The young Dutch side had already eliminated three-time defending champions Real Madrid en route to the quarters, overturning a 2-1 home defeat against the Spanish side with a memorable 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Juventus had been looking to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the third time in the past five seasons.

But Ronaldo, who scored an away goal last week with a diving header in Amsterdam, was Juve’s only weapon against the impressive Dutch side.

The 34-year-old was signed for 100 million euros ($117 million) last summer from Real Madrid in a bid to win the European trophy for the first time since 1996, when they beat Ajax in the final.

Massimiliano Allegri had been forced to reshuffle his side because of injuries, with Paulo Dybala returning in place of the injured Mario Mandzukic, while captain Giorgio Chiellini was also sidelined.

Ajax’s defence took a hit when Noussair Mazraoui, who had replaced the suspended Nicolas Tagliafico, limped off on 11 minutes with an ankle injury, with Daley Sinkgraven coming on.

Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana dived to keep out a scorching Dybala half-volley in the 20th minute.

– Ronaldo leaves Onana no chance –

But Ronaldo latched onto a Miralem Pjanic corner with a downward header that left Onana without no chance.

It was the Portugal star’s 126th Champions League goal and sixth of this campaign, having now scored in his past six European games against Ajax, netting nine goals in total.

But Van de Beek soon silenced the cheers of the home crowd when he controlled a wayward Hakim Ziyech shot six minutes later, rolling the ball past Szczesny to cancel out Juventus’ away goal and make it 2-2 on aggregate.

Teenage striker Moise Kean replaced Dybala after the break, but it was the Dutch who turned on the style, with only Szczesny’s reflexes keeping Juventus in the tie.

The Polish keeper denied Ziyech from close range with one hand, and minutes later tipped Van de Beek’s curling effort over the bar.

The Juventus back-line struggled with the pace of the Dutch team with Pjanic doing well to deny Ziyech a tap-in.

But Erik ten Hag’s side’s incessant pressure paid off with 19-year-old skipper De Ligt towering above Alex Sandro and Daniele Rugani to head home Lasse Schone’s corner on 67 minutes.

Ziyech looked as if he had fired a third past Szczesny, but his goal was ruled offside after a VAR check.

And the Dutch visitors held on, with Ronaldo unable to make a difference after his incredible hat-trick had pulled Juventus into the quarter-finals in the last-16 win over Atletico Madrid.

Four-time winners Ajax won their third consecutive title in 1973 at the expense of Juventus, and last lifted the trophy in 1995, with their last semi-final appearances ending in defeat by Juve 22 years ago.

AFP.

Three things we learned from Barcelona v Man Utd

Barcelona cruised into the Champions League semi-finals as their 3-0 win against Manchester United sealed a 4-0 aggregate success on Tuesday.

Here, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the quarter-final second-leg clash:

No Camp Nou repeat for Solskjaer

Barcelona’s Camp Nou will always hold a special place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s heart, but the Manchester United manager won’t regard the famous old arena with quite as much fondness after this frustrating loss.

It was the first time Solskjaer had played or managed at the Camp Nou since scoring the treble-clinching winner for United in the final seconds of the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.

Twenty years after the goal he has seen a “million times” since, lightning didn’t strike twice for the Norwegian.

“We are confident but humble enough to know it’s our hardest night of the season,” he said in a prescient comment just before kick-off.

United were aiming to overturn another first-leg deficit after their epic effort in recovering from 2-0 down to beat Paris Saint-Germain on away goals in the last 16.

But, crucially, Marcus Rashford hit the bar with a glorious chance to give United the lead inside 40 seconds and it wasn’t long before Lionel Messi put the tie beyond Solskjaer’s reach.

Messi feasts on English foes again

Lionel Messi extended his incredible record of tormenting Premier League clubs in the Champions League.

Messi has now scored 24 goals in 32 Champions League games against English opponents, more than any other player in the tournament.

Accelerating away from Fred, Messi was granted too much space by United defender Chris Smalling on the edge of the area and took full advantage with a superb low shot that flashed past David de Gea in the 16th minute.

It was a sweet moment of revenge for Messi, who suffered a facial injury in the first leg after a clash with Smalling.

Messi’s first Champions League quarter-final goal since April 2013 ended a run of 12 games at this stage without netting.

Just four minutes later, Messi effectively clinched Barca’s return to the semi-finals for the first time since 2015 with a helping hand from United keeper De Gea, whose woeful attempted save failed to stop the Argentine’s weak shot slip under his body.

Messi has 45 goals in 41 games in all competitions this season, with his 10 in the Champions League making him the tournament’s leading scorer in 2018-19.

With Messi on their side, it’s no wonder Barca are now unbeaten in 31 Champions League home games.

Liverpool remain the only Premier League club to win at the Camp Nou in 24 attempts dating back to February 2007.

Coutinho makes his point

Philippe Coutinho has endured a difficult time since moving to Barcelona for £142 million ($185 million) in January 2018, but the former Liverpool forward gave a timely reminder of his quality with a stunning strike to wrap up the victory.

Substituted during Barca’s recent win over Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou, Coutinho’s disappointing form reached a new low when he was whistled by a small section of his own fans.

But the Brazilian was handed a start against United as one of Barca’s front three instead of Ousmane Dembele, who has just recovered from a hamstring injury, and at last he showed a glimpse of the talent that made him such a favourite of United’s rivals at Anfield.

With Barca already well on the way to the last four by the 61st minute, Coutinho had nothing to lose when he unleased a majestic curling effort that raced into the top corner from 20 yards.

Coutinho seized the opportunity to emphasise that he won’t be affected by the doubters, celebrating the goal by sticking his fingers in both ears while staring at the crowd in a defiant gesture.

AFP.

$85,000 bet on Tiger Woods nets $1.19m payoff

 A gambler who risked US$85,000 on Tiger Woods winning the Masters is now more than a million dollars richer.

The person who placed the bet at a Las Vegas sportsbook will got a check for US$1.19 million on Monday.

Sportsbook operator William Hill US says the bettor’s win is the largest golf payout in the company’s history.

William Hill US director of trading Nick Bogdanovich says Sunday was a great day for golf but a “painful” one for the sportsbook operator.

Woods rallied to win the Masters for the fifth time before a delirious audience at Augusta National. It had been 14 years since he last won the Masters and 11 years since his last major victory.

The bettor placed the wager Tuesday at 14-1 odds.

Tiger Woods wins first major title in 11 years

Tiger Woods has won the 83rd edition of The Masters Open at Augusta, scooping his first major title in eleven years.

The American golfer sealed his first Major title since his 2008 US Open triumph, finishing on 13-under-par, one shot ahead of his compatriots, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.

Tied on second with Tony Finau going into the third and final round which started earlier than scheduled on Sunday morning due to an incoming storm, Woods, who has fought off persistent back problems and had been written off in the lead-up to Augusta, carded a final day two-under-par 70 to come from behind and claim the much-coveted green jacket.

Wearing his trademark red shirt he reserves for the final day of events, and with the crowd cheering him all day, Woods, despite needing two attempts, putted the 18th hole to claim a hard-fought victory in which he took the outright lead only three holes to the end of the championship.

Playing in his 22nd Masters on the golf course where he started his professional career in 1995, 48-year-old Woods needed all his years of experience to putt for par on the ninth hole where overnight leader Molinari, and fellow Challenger, Finau, both bogeyed to hand Woods the advantage from which he never looked back.

The win is Tiger Woods’ fifth title at Augusta and remains second behind legendary Jack Nicklaus who won six titles at Augusta, while on 15 Majors, Woods also requires three titles to equal Nicklaus’ 18 career Major titles.

Shaw own goal gives Barcelona advantage over Manchester United

Barcelona will take a 1-0 lead over Manchester United into next week’s second leg of their Champions League quarter-final after a 12th-minute Luke Shaw own goal gave them victory at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Sergio Busquets found Lionel Messi with a clever ball into the area and the Argentine carved out space on the left to deliver a lofted cross to Luis Suarez at the back post.

The Uruguayan’s header deflected off the shoulder of a scrambling Shaw and beat David De Gea to give the visitors the lead.

And although the linesman initially flagged for offside, the goal was given after a VAR video review.

United’s best chance of the first half fell to Diogo Dalot but the Portuguese made a mess of a fine Marcus Rashford cross, heading harmlessly across the goal from close-range.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team had struggled to get a foothold in the game during the opening 45 minutes but they were much improved after the break.

United applied plenty of pressure without creating any clear chances.

Barcelona could have added a second had Suarez not fired into the side-netting from a promising position after a clever through ball from Nelson Semedo.

Otedola offers to foot Christian Chukwu’s medical bills

Femi Otedola, the billionaire businessman, has offered to foot the medical bills of Christian Chukwu, former Super Eagles’ coach, TheCable is  reporting.

Chukwu, one of Nigeria’s most influential footballers in history who captained the national team to their first Africa Cup of Nations title in 1980, is suffering from prostate cancer which has affected his leg.

Although the surgery on his leg has been done, he reportedly needs an additional $50,000 for the prostate operation.

Norbert Okonkwo, media officer of Enugu Rangers, told TheCable that the Enugu state government donated N1.5 million for the leg surgery.

In the first two days, a GoFundMe appeal raised $4,305 of the $50,000 needed for further treatment.

Speaking to TheCable on phone, Otedola said he would foot the entire cost of the operation as a “token of support to a great Nigerian who served his country to the best of his ability”.

Otedola previously settled the medical bills of the veteran actor, Victor Olaotan, who was at risk of double amputation following a ghastly car accident in 2016.

Chukwu lifting the Africa Cup of Nations in 1980 with a smiling President Shehu Shagari watching

A patron of Chukwu’s former club, Enugu Rangers FC, Benson Ezeomeogo Ejindu, broke the news of the ailment at the weekend.

Chukwu also captained the Enugu Rangers FC team that won the Africa Cup Winners’ Cup in 1977.

He was nicknamed ‘Chairman’ for his authority on the field as a central defender.

Chukwu also served as assistant coach of the first team to win a FIFA World Cup trophy for Nigeria – the Golden Eaglets that triumphed at the FIFA U16 World Cup in China in 1985.

He was also assistant coach of the team tagged the Golden Generation – the 1994 Class of Super Eagles that qualified Nigeria for her first FIFA World Cup finals.

As assistant coach, he helped Nigeria win the Africa Cup of Nations title and reached the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in America .

Between 2002 and 2005, Chukwu was head coach of the Super Eagles, leading the team to bronze medal at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.