Liverpool, Sep 18 (AP/UNB) — Facing fresh vilification for his diving, Neymar should find a more sympathetic audience in the Champions League this week, even admiration.
"I don't think he is a person who wants to act," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said ahead of Tuesday's game against Paris Saint-Germain, "because if you are like that you cannot play the football he plays."
Given how the Brazil forward can be targeted by opponents, Klopp understands why he might go down too easily.
"When I saw a few games at the World Cup I know people were talking about that when it looked like he made more of a situation than it was," Klopp said on Monday. "That is a completely normal reaction because players were really going for him and he wants to protect himself and I understand that as well.
"If an opponent gets a yellow card then he is much closer to a red card so I see if from that perspective. I thought it is smart that he saves himself."
Neymar is making the trip to Anfield for his most high-profile game since the World Cup, where he was ridiculed for some playacting.
"He obviously gets kicked a lot," said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who was at the World Cup with England. "So he needs to try and use it as best he can."
Neymar was booked for going down easily under minimal contact in a friendly last week against El Salvador. That incident came despite a post-World Cup apology for some of his exaggerated reactions after being fouled in Russia, where he rushed back into action three months after breaking a foot.
"We don't go for him against us," Klopp said. "We play football and we want to win the ball. We don't try to act in these kind of things; we try to avoid passes to him, try to avoid him winning challenges which is a big job to do.
"I am not sure if it is 100 percent possible to avoid his qualities. I am pretty sure it is not. He is a fantastic footballer, an outstanding player."
Neymar is also well rested for PSG's group-stage opener in the Champions League. PSG's squad is so strong that Neymar — and Kylian Mbappe — were left out of the team last Friday and Saint-Etienne was still beaten 4-0.
"He will be 100 percent fresh for us," Klopp said. "He is not injured anymore, so we will see the full Neymar football package."
Dhaka, Sept 17 (UNB) – Hosts Bangladesh made a flying start in Group F of the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship crushing gulf nation Bahrain by 10-0 goals in their first match at the Bir Shrestha Shaheed Shipahi Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur here on Monday.
Bangladesh emerged champions in the AFC U-16 Championship two years back in Dhaka to qualify for the prestigious final round of the Asian meet.
In the day’s other match, Lebanon earned the 2nd consecutive victory beating United Arab Emirates (UAE) by 6-3 goals at the same venue Monday morning featuring a hat-trick by Assaf with four goals.
By virtue of the day’s well merited victory, Bangladesh were in the 2nd slot in the five-team fray securing full three points from first match while Bahrain suffered the 2nd consecutive defeat to remain at the bottom of the group without any points. Lebanon dominated the Group F with full six points from two matches.
In the day’s match, Shamsunahar Junior, skipper Maria Manda and Anuching Mogini scored two goals each while Anai Mogini, Sajeda Khantun, Shamsunnahar Sr and Tohura Khantun netted one goal each for Bangladesh.
In the remaining Group matches, Bangladesh will play Lebanon on September 19 at 11:30 am, the UAE on September 21 at 3:30 pm and face Vietnam in the last group match on September 23 at 3:30 pm.
Earlier on Saturday, Lebanon made a flying start in the meet outplaying Bahrain by 8-0 goals in opening Group F qualifier while favorite Vietnam got off a 4-0 win against United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the other opening day’s fixture at the same venue.
Milan, Sep 17 (AP/UNB) — After finally getting off the mark for Juventus in the league, Cristiano Ronaldo has his sights set on his favorite competition: the Champions League.
Ronaldo was under pressure after three games without scoring for Juventus since his move from Real Madrid, but he broke his mini-drought with two goals in Sunday's 2-1 win over Sassuolo in Serie A.
Next up for Juventus and Ronaldo is a trip to Valencia on Wednesday as the Champions League kicks off this week.
"I feel like that's my home. It's the competition that I love the most," Ronaldo said. "Let's hope we have some luck, it will be a difficult group but I can't wait."
Juventus has won the Serie A title for the last seven seasons — and the league and Italian Cup double for the past four — but has struggled to transfer that domestic supremacy to the European stage.
Juventus hasn't won Europe's premier club competition since 1996, although it has reached the final twice in the past four editions. Splashing out a Serie A record 112 million euro (then $131.5 million) for Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, sent out a message of its intent to go one step further this time around.
Ronaldo certainly revels in the Champions League. Not only has he won the trophy four times in the past five seasons, but he is also the competition's leading scorer with 120 goals.
And he appears to be getting into his stride at Juventus at just the right time.
His first goal was a simple tap-in but that appeared to unburden Ronaldo, who had played nearly 320 minutes of competitive football for Juventus without scoring, and he doubled his tally 15 minutes later.
That second goal showed the understanding that is developing between Ronaldo and his new teammates. Douglas Costa sparked a swift counterattack and picked out Emre Can, who spotted Ronaldo's run and set up the Portugal forward for a diagonal shot.
Valencia knows what a scoring threat Ronaldo can be: he scored 15 goals in 18 appearances against them for Real Madrid.
Also in Group H are Swiss team Young Boys and Manchester United — the club with which Ronaldo won his first Champions League title in 2008.
While Ronaldo may have found his scoring touch, two Serie A clubs have yet to find the back of the net.
Bologna and Frosinone have not scored in four matches and each club has one point, having played out a 0-0 draw last month.
Yet those clubs aren't last in the Serie A standings as they each have two more points than Chievo Verona, which was deducted three points for false accounting.
COSTA'S UGLY EPISODE
Juventus looked brighter when Douglas Costa was introduced shortly after the hour mark and he started the move which led to the Bianconeri's second goal.
However, the Brazil international faces at least a three-match ban after being sent off in stoppages after video review spotted he spat at Sassuolo midfielder Federico Di Francesco.
Shortly before the spitting incident Costa had also raised an elbow at the same player and attempted a head-butt.
"I was ugly, I am aware of that and I apologize to everyone for that," Costa said in an apology posted on Instagram. He notably did not mention Di Francesco in his message.
More than a year after its inception in the Italian league, video technology is still causing issues.
Torino was furious when it had an early goal incorrectly disallowed during Sunday's 1-1 draw at Udinese.
Television replays showed Alex Berenguer was onside when he headed in but as the whistle had already been blown, VAR could not be used.
"Last year we were punished in so many matches and we didn't do anything because they told us that we need to wait for the system to grow," Torino director Gianluca Petrachi said. "But now? This year I expected something different.
"The referee blew the whistle right when the ball was going into the goal without even waiting for the action to be completed. We had 400 meetings in which it was always told to us that you can't blow the whistle while the ball is going into the goal ... I'm for VAR in every sense but if we have it and we don't use it, making shoddy errors, I don't know what to think."
Inter Milan was also upset during a 1-0 loss to Parma when opposing defender Federico Dimarco appeared to handle the ball when clearing off the line against Ivan Perisic.
Referee Gianluca Manganiello communicated with the VAR official but opted not to view the footage and waved play on.
Dimarco — who could have been sent off — went on to score the winner.
London, Sep 17 (AP/UNB) — Barcelona helps to usher in a new-look to the Champions League on Tuesday as fans adjust to new staggered kickoff times.
Most matches in the group stage will now begin simultaneously at 2100 GMT, 15 minutes later than in previous seasons. That is to accommodate a couple of games being played in a new earlier slot of 1855 CET to maximize television audiences.
So when the group stage begins on Tuesday it won't be such a late finish at the Camp Nou for Barcelona's game against PSV Eindhoven or at the San Siro where Inter Milan plays Tottenham.
Inter benefited from the fourth-place teams in England, Germany, Spain and Italy now securing a direct route into the group stage, rather than having to contest a playoff.
What has not changed is four groups are in action on Tuesday, and the other four on Wednesday. Here is a look the groups playing on Tuesday:
GROUP A (MONACO, BORUSSIA DORTMUND, ATLETICO MADRID, CLUB BRUGGE)
None of the quartet reached the knockout phase last season.
It was considered a debacle for Atletico, which had made at least the quarterfinals for four successive seasons, including two finals. Diego Simeone's team still made the best of a bad situation, though, dropping into the Europa League and winning the second-tier competition.
But Atletico has labored at the start of its domestic campaign, winning only one of four La Liga matches. There is a greater incentive for Atletico to reach the final because it is hosting the game in June.
The journey begins with a trip to Monaco, which is also struggling in the domestic league, with just one win from five in France.
Like Monaco, Borussia Dortmund only collected two points in the group stage last season. But Lucien Favre's team is unbeaten so far in the Bundesliga with two wins from three as it prepares to travel to Belgium to face Club Brugge.
Back in the Champions League group stage after a 13-year absence, Brugge has had the best preparation at home by winning six and drawing once so far in the league.
GROUP B (BARCELONA, TOTTENHAM, PSV EINDHOVEN, INTER MILAN)
Lionel Messi's Barcelona has had to endure seeing archrival Real Madrid win three Champions League finals in a row. Beating Madrid to the La Liga title did little to banish the humiliation of Barcelona's quarterfinal exit in Europe last year. There is unfinished business for the five-time European champions after throwing away a 4-1 lead over Roma by losing 3-0 in the second leg.
Barcelona must return to Italy to play Inter Milan, which is back in the continent's premier competition after a seven-season absence. The three-time European champions have experienced a fall from grace since winning the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010, including the Champions League title.
PSV Eindhoven coach Mark van Bommel has an early return to Barcelona where he won the Champions as a player in 2006. PSV is in the group stage for the 16th time but the Dutch club's only success in the continental competition came before the inception of the Champions League when it lifted the European Cup in 1988.
Tottenham is the only team in the group yet to collect the trophy but has been the most consistent side over three seasons in the Premier League, without actually winning the title, ensuring a hat trick of Champions League appearances for the first time.
GROUP C (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN, NAPOLI, LIVERPOOL, RED STAR BELGRADE)
After helping Paris Saint-Germain re-establish domestic dominance last year, Neymar has little to prove with the club apart from achieving the big mission: Delivering a European title to the Qatari ownership. With Kylian Mbappe coming off the back of a starring role for winners France at the World Cup, new coach Thomas Tuchel has a wealth of attacking options.
PSG will meet one of the few teams in the competition which can rival its talent: Liverpool, which lost to Madrid in last season's final. Flush with more than $200 million in off-season signings, Liverpool has an early test of its credentials when it hosts PSG at Anfield.
Serbian champion Red Star Belgrade is making its first appearance in the Champions League proper after last contesting the European Cup group stage in 1991 as holders.
Napoli, which won the 1989 UEFA Cup for its only European title, has a Champions League winner in the dugout. The Serie A club is still adapting to the command of Carlo Ancelotti, who replaced Maurizio Sarri and has introduced a 4-4-2 formation.
GROUP D (LOKOMOTIV MOSCOW, PORTO, SCHALKE, GALATASARAY)
Porto, the last team to win the Champions League from outside Europe's top four leagues, is the favorite to progress from arguably the weakest of the eight groups.
Porto's opponents are returning to the Champions League group stage after some time away: Galatasaray is back after three seasons, four for Schalke and 15 for Lokomotiv Moscow.
Winning the Russian title meant the Railwaymen were seeded first for the group, but they should not be considered favorites to top the group. Despite starting their domestic season poorly, the Russians have players with big-game experience — particularly recent World Cup finalist Vedran Corluka of Croatia.
Bridgeview, Sep 17 (AP/UNB) — Nemanja Nikolic scored twice, reaching eight goals in nine games, and the Chicago Fire beat last-place Orlando City 4-0 on Sunday.
Chicago (7-15-6) won for the second time in its last 14 matches. Orlando (7-18-3) has only eight points since May 1.
In the opening minutes, Dax McCarty stole a back-heel pass and played it ahead to Michael de Leeuw, who rolled it across goal for Nikolic's redirection. In the 70th minute, Raheem Edwards intercepted a pass near midfield, dribbled it to the 18-yard box and found a trailing Nikolic for his 14th goal of the season.
Aleksandar Katai made it 2-0 in the 28th. Goalkeeper Joe Bendik had a poor first touch on a back pass and Djordje Mihailovic rolled it across an empty net for Katai's easy finish. De Leeuw, who recently returned from an ACL injury last season, tapped home a redirected corner kick in the 56th.
Chicago goalkeeper Richard Sanchez denied Dominic Dwyer's breakaway shot in the 64th.