Paris, Nov 2 (AP/UNB) — The biggest game of Gianluigi Buffon's career at Paris Saint-Germain has arrived sooner than expected.
The 40-year-old Italian will be in goal for PSG on Wednesday when it travels to play Napoli, where a loss would be a huge blow to the team's chances of advancing from the group stage of the Champions League.
It is exactly the type of high-pressure game which PSG signed Buffon for, although not this early. No doubt the club's cash-rich Qatari owners were hoping Buffon would be making his trademark saves in the semifinals or the final.
PSG has not been past the quarterfinals since QSI took over in June 2011. The team has only four points from the first three group games and still has to face group leader Liverpool.
The atmosphere in the southern city of Naples is likely to be hostile, in particular for Buffon as a former Juventus player. Napoli's passionate tifosi will reserve a vitriolic reception for the goalkeeper, but he has seen and heard it all before.
PSG coach Thomas Tuchel will certainly hope so, anyway, for he is facing the embarrassing prospect of becoming the first PSG coach not to qualify from the group stage since the vastly ambitious QSI took over seven years ago.
Tuchel has two very good goalkeepers, but clearly he has designated Buffon as first choice ahead of Alphonse Areola by picking him for Napoli. Areola played in the first three group games while Buffon was suspended.
The 25-year-old Areola is a homegrown player who has done well to force his way in at PSG.
He was particularly impressive in his France debut, making some spectacular saves in a 0-0 draw at Germany in the UEFA Nations League in September, and is unlucky in a sense that PSG signed Buffon.
But it is also true that, for such a high-pressure game, he simply does not have the stature as Buffon. Nor does he offer the immensely reassuring presence Buffon does.
Buffon has been Serie A goalkeeper of the year 12 times, including the past four seasons.
"He has a very important role for us because he's a legend. He's very important for us in terms of his approach to the sport," said Tuchel, who as a coach favoring a big work ethic could hardly have a better example than Buffon for his players to look up to.
A World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, Buffon made 656 appearances for Juventus and 176 for Italy. He was expected to retire after winning a seventh straight Serie A title, but then PSG came calling and he took up the challenge of moving to a new league at an advanced age.
"It's very important that he's here and that he talks with everyone to share his experience," said Tuchel, adding that Buffon will be in goal for Friday's home game against second-place Lille.
Earlier this season, Buffon showed that he has lost none of his sublime reflexes, making an astonishing save against Guingamp in a league game. Buffon looked beaten by striker Nolan Roux's shot as he dived to his left, but the Italian veteran showed astonishing agility to stick out his right hand and push the ball off the crossbar. It was a world class save few can do, but the type of save Buffon often does.
The only thing missing from Buffon's glittering career is a European Championship title — Italy lost the Euro 2012 final — and a Champions League title after losing in three finals with Juventus.
Buffon will need a big performance against Napoli to keep that dream alive, which bodes rather well for PSG.
Manchester, Nov 2 (AP/UNB) — Kevin De Bruyne gave Manchester City a scare by coming off with a left knee injury near the end of a 2-0 win over Fulham in the English League Cup round of 16 on Thursday.
The Belgium midfielder, who has just returned from two months out with ligament damage in his right knee, winced after Fulham defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah landed on him as they competed for the ball. De Bruyne attempted to play on, but slumped to the ground moments later and then walked off in the 86th minute.
"He is being checked by the doctors," City manager Pep Guardiola said. Asked if he was worried about the injury, Guardiola said, "I don't know right now."
With most of City's star players given the night off, one of its brightest young talents took his opportunity to impress in a routine win over an opponent that has now lost five straight games in all competitions and has just one win in 10 games in the Premier League this season.
Brahim Diaz, a 19-year-old Spanish forward, scored a goal in each half at Etihad Stadium and was given a standing ovation when he was substituted in the 78th after making only his second competitive start of the season.
British newspapers reported this week that Diaz was likely to leave City next year over his frustration at a lack of playing time since moving from Malaga in 2016, and Guardiola said he understood the situation.
"They know how we want to protect them," Guardiola said of Diaz and other highly regarded young players. "They know how we tried to help them in the particular way we want to play.
"We want him. But, in the end, it doesn't depend on us. It's the desire of them, so we insist we want him. But his agent, and him, finally decides. No change of opinion now because he scores two goals, But in the top teams like here ... it's not easy to find space. He knew that in the beginning and he decided to stay."
Diaz's first goal was fortunate, his shot taking a deflection off Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and flying past flat-footed goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
He doubled the lead in the 65th by slotting a shot high into the net from close range after Gabriel Jesus' curling effort came back off the post.
City, the defending League Cup champion, will play either Leicester or Southampton in the quarterfinals. Their game was postponed this week following the death of Leicester's owner and four other people in a helicopter crash on Saturday.
With the cup game squeezed in between two Premier League fixtures in a six-day span, Guardiola took the opportunity to play many of his fringe players. Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero were among those who didn't make it off the bench.
De Bruyne was given a start, however, and impressed before his injury with his teasing crosses and passes.
"I think today, Kevin is back," Guardiola said. "It was the Kevin we know.
"Hopefully what happened in the last minutes is not serious."
Gosford, Nov 2 (AP/UNB) — Usain Bolt's bid to become a professional soccer player in Australia has ended with the Olympic sprinting great failing to agree on a contract with the Central Coast Mariners.
The Mariners announced Friday that Bolt's indefinite training period with the club "has drawn to an end, effective immediately."
Central Coast reportedly offered Bolt a contract worth 150,000 Australian dollars ($110,000) and hoped to get a third-party endorsement to increase the salary package into the millions, but management for the eight-time Olympic gold medalist rejected the offer.
"It has been a pleasure to work with Usain as he pursued his desire to become a professional football player," Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth said in a statement. "This has been a mutually beneficial partnership that brought an increased level of excitement and attention to both the Mariners and the A-League."
Bolt, who has never played soccer at an elite level, practiced with the Mariners squad in September and October but only played in some low-level, non-league matches. He stopped practicing with the club's top team when contract negotiations intensified immediately before the A-League season started.
"I would like to thank the Central Coast Mariners' owners, management, staff, players and fans for making me feel so welcome during my time there," Bolt said in a statement released by the club. "I wish the club success for the season ahead."
Bolt scored two goals in a trial game but wasn't included in the squad for the A-League season opener on Oct. 21, when Central Coast had a 1-1 draw in Brisbane. Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said after that match that he wasn't aware the club had made an offer to Bolt.
The 32-year-old Bolt retired from competitive track and field last year and has since explored options in Germany, South Africa, Norway, and Australia to gain a professional soccer contract.
His first game for the Mariners, an exhibition against a selection of amateur players, attracted a much larger than average crowd, and Bolt's bid to join the A-League has generated plenty of headlines. But critics questioned Bolt's ability to play at an elite level and others wrote it off a publicity stunt.
Sherpur, Nov 1 (UNB) – Himachal Club defeated Sabujsena in the Saif Power Battery Sherpur District Football League at Shaheed Daroga Ali Municipality Park ground on Thursday.
Forward Lipson scored the match winner to confirm a winning start for his side in the 12-team league.
Despite the day’s loss, Sabujsena have matching three points with Himachal as they started their Group-C campaign also with a 1-0 goal win against Sribordi Upazila Krira Sangstha at the same venue on October 27.
Himachal will face Sribordi Upazila Krira Sangstha in their next match at the same venue on Friday.
Dhaka, Nov 1 (UNB) – Bangladesh will play Pakistan in the final of the six-nation SAFF U-15 Championship on Saturday (November 3) at ANFA Complex in Lalitpur, Nepal.
The title-deciding match will kick off at 2:45 pm Bangladesh time.
Bangladesh smartly reached the final of the six-nation South Asian U-15 soccer meet with all-win record eliminating their neighbour India by 4-2 goals in tie-breaker at ANFA Complex in Lalitpur on Thursday morning.
The first semifinal between the two teams was locked in 1-1 goal in the stipulated period to roll into the tie-breaker.
In the day’s crucial first semifinal, Patre Harsh Shailesh put India ahead in the 17th minute by a long distance shot from about 35 yards, amid huge celebrations of Indian players and their fans (1-0).
When the match was almost heading for Indian victory, Ashiqur Rahman scored the match equaliser in the 3rd minute of the stoppage time from a penalty (1-1) leading the match towards the tie-breaker.
In the penalty shootout, Bangladeshi substitute custodian Mehedi Hasan made situation easy for Bangladesh foiling the first two Indian attempts.
Bangladesh players Towhidul Islam Hridoy, Raza Ansar, Raju and Rustam converted all the four spot kicks correctly while Indian booters spoiled two out of four.
In the day’s 2nd semifinal, Pakistan made an easy passage to final eliminating hosts Nepal by 4-0 goals at the same venue in the afternoon.
After a barren first half, Mohibullah struck twice in the 59th and 68th minutes, both from penalty, while Midassar Nazar netted the other goal for Pakistan in the 77th minute after they took lead in the 54th minute by a suicidal goal.
After winning the semifinal, Head Coach of Bangladesh Mostafa Anwar Parvez Babu said, “We had a great victory against India in the semifinal but this is not the proper time to celebrate as we have devoted ourselves to making a plan for the final against Pakistan.”
After the match, Bangladesh Embassy in Nepal arranged a lunch in honour the victorious Bangladesh team.
Bangladesh qualified for the final of the SAFF U-15 Championship for the first time after losing to hosts Nepal in the semifinal in 2017. However, Bangladesh emerged champions in the SAFF U-16 Championship beating India, also in tie-breaker held in Sylhet in 2015.
With the day’s goal, Nihad Jaman Uchchash of Bangladesh was leading scorer list making four goals.
Earlier, Bangladesh emerged Group A champions with all-win record to reach the semifinals beating hosts Nepal by 2-1 goals in the last group match after crushing the Maldives by 9-0 goals in the first match, featuring a hat-trick by Nihad Jaman while Nepal outplayed the Maldives 4-0 in their first appearance on Thursday last.
After the group stages, Bangladesh (Group A) and Pakistan (Group B) clinched the group crown with all-win run to qualify for the semifinals securing full six points from straight two encounters while Nepal (Group A) and India (Group B) finished group runners-up to reach the semifinals, collecting three points from two matches.
On the other hand, Pakistan clinched Group B title beating India by 2-1 goals and Bhutan by 4-0 goals while India finished Group B runners-up beating Bhutan by 4-0 goals.