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Atletico Madrid edge past Barcelona to earn title boost as Real Madrid held | Football News

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MADRID: Atletico Madrid moved nine points clear of Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday after beating them 1-0 to deliver a major boost to their hopes of winning the title, after Real Madrid drew with Villarreal.
Yannick Carrasco finished brilliantly from range after mistakes from Gerard Pique and Marc-Andre ter Stegen left the goal gaping but Barca, and a below-par Lionel Messi, failed to respond at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Instead, Atletico recorded their first league victory over Barcelona in 10 years, which puts them three points ahead of Real Madrid, with a game in hand, and leaves their opponents languishing in 10th.
Diego Simeone’s men sit second in the table, level on points with early leaders Real Sociedad.
Real Madrid had earlier been held to a 1-1 draw by in-form Villarreal, another slip-up for the reigning champions to enforce the sense that this could be Atletico’s year.
And beating Barcelona in La Liga for the first time since 2010 — before Simeone arrived as coach — will do wonders for the team’s belief and extends what is now a considerable advantage in the table.
It also extends Atletico’s unbeaten run in the league to 24 matches.
Another disappointing day for Barca was soured further by the sight of Pique hobbling off in tears with what looked a knee injury.
Pique was hurt during a collision with Angel Correa and was in distress as he departed.
Antoine Griezmann almost put Barca in front against his old club while Marcos Llorente went closest for Atletico, skimming the crossbar after a neat exchange between Kieran Trippier and Correa down the right.
Messi might have scored but was uncharacteristically hesitant, with an even half about to finish goalless until two errors gifted Atletico the lead.
Pique was caught out of position after a heavy touch and Mario Hermoso did well to free Carrasco. Ter Stegen, already upfield, rushed out to fill the gap Pique had left but Carrasco’s first touch feathered the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs before a curling finish from 50 yards sent the ball into the open net.
Clement Lenglet should have equalised but headed Messi’s cross straight at Jan Oblak yet Barcelona were far from dominant and Messi struggled for his usual influence.
Philippe Coutinho came on and Pique hobbled off. Messi floated a free-kick wide and saw a shot blocked before substitute Martin Braithwaite was given a late chance after a poor kick by Oblak. But Barca were unable to find a way through.
Earlier, a patched-up Real Madrid had to hang on for a draw against Villarreal.
Mariano Diaz gave Madrid the lead after just 105 seconds but Zinedine Zidane’s team faded at La Ceramica and Villarreal claimed a deserved point through Gerard Moreno’s second-half penalty.
“It feels like a small reward,” said Zidane. “We deserved more today for the game we played. I’m annoyed because of the effort from the boys.”
Mariano was almost sold last summer but had to stand in for Karim Benzema, who is injured, and Luka Jovic, who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.
Sergio Ramos, Eder Militao and Casemiro were all missing following the international break, leaving Nacho Fernandez and an unfit Raphael Varane to fill in at the back, while Martin Odegaard made a rare start in midfield.
Given the absentees, a draw may not worry Zidane too much, particularly against a buoyant Villarreal side who sat second at kick-off after four victories on the bounce.
But another slip means Madrid have now won only three of their last seven games in all competitions, with a crucial visit to Inter Milan to come in the Champions League on Wednesday.


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Champions League: Already-qualified Bayern to rest trio against Atletico | Football News

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MUNICH (Germany): Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer plus top scorer Robert Lewandowski and midfielder Leon Goretzka will not travel with the already-qualified team for the Champions League group game at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
Bayern coach Hansi Flick said on Monday that the trio were not at 100% and would be rested with the European champions having secured a place in the knockout stage last week with a 3-1 home win over RB Salzburg.
“They will all be rested. We react when players are not at 100 percent,” Flick said. “We try to do the best for the team. We have players with us who are all at 100 percent and can deliver.”
France international Corentin Tolisso will also remain in Munich to recover from a minor injury and be fit for Saturday’s top-of-the-table Bundesliga clash at home to RB Leipzig.
“We hardly had a pre-season,” added Flick. “Other teams had six weeks of preparations for the season. We are satisfied with what we have achieved so far but in the next two and half weeks we have key matches and we need to be there.”
Bayern lead the Bundesliga standings and have won their last 15 consecutive games in the Champions League. They are top of Group A on 12 points from four games with Atletico, who have not yet qualified, in second place with five and Lokomotiv Moscow on three points. Salzburg are in last place on one point.
The top two teams advance to the knockout stage.


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India vs Australia: Fear of reinjuring, length, wary batsmen may be hurting Bumrah | Cricket News

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NEW DELHI: Jasprit Bumrah‘s poor form in ODIs from early this year has continued to chase him in Australia despite his impressive showing for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League over the last couple of months.
The right-arm pace bowler has not just failed to pick enough wickets in the ODIs, he has also leaked more runs in the two ODIs in Sydney than he had in his first few one-dayers this year. He has returned figures of one for 73 and one for 79 in the first two one-dayers against Australia in Sydney.
Bumrah, who notched up impressive numbers between 2016 and 2019 with wickets, average and strike rate, suffered a lower back injury in 2019 that forced him to miss most of the second half of last year.

Since returning this January, he has played eight matches, bagged just three wickets — every wicket of his taking 152 deliveries and costing 146 runs.
This is way higher than previous years when his strike rate (24.1 in 2016; 30.6 in 2017; 27.5 in 2018; and 31.8 in 2019) and average (14.64 in 2016; 26.25 in 2017; 16.63 in 2018; and 24.6 in 2019) were quite impressive.
“He has come back from an injury. Sometimes it happens that when you are coming back from injury, you have fear and you are careful. I don’t know if that is the case with him, but with bowlers returning from injury that can happen. It happened to me. It took me a year to get back to top form. Once a bowler gets over that injury fear, he gets back to top form,” Manoj Prabhakar, a former India pace bowler, told IANS on Monday.

Prabhakar said that the onus lies on the India team bowling coach to guide bowlers like Bumrah through this phase.
“Adjusting to the length is the toughest part in Australia. When I toured there, I realised that some of my deliveries that would hit the stumps in India would go over the stumps in Australia. So, I had to adjust the length a bit. I quickly adjusted to it,” said Prabhakar.
India skipper Virat Kohli on Sunday said that the bowlers have not hit the right areas for long enough.
Bumrah has also failed to pick wickets early on. Importantly, the short deliveries that we saw him use with so much effectiveness in the IPL have been missing in the ODIs.

His failure could also be because the Australian batsmen are not taking undue risks against him and are happy seeing him off initially unlike in T20 cricket’s four-over spells for MI when batsmen have to go after his bowling but end up giving wickets.
Former India all-rounder Madan Lal had earlier told IANS that bowling in T20 cricket is a bit different from bowling in the ODIs as the batsmen can see the bowler off. “In 50 overs, you have time. Batsmen can adjust. You can endure a spell of four-five overs without scoring much. In T20, the batsman has to try to hit every ball.”
In both the games, Bumrah’s opening spells were negotiated quite easily. Neither the Aussies went after him nor did they concede any wickets. They played him out — Bumrah’s opening spells were 4-0-23-0 in the first match and 2-0-9-0 in the second match.
The surfaces no doubt have lacked support for him. Team vice-captain KL Rahul on Sunday said that the surfaces at Sydney and New Zealand (in February) were very batting-friendly.
“You also have to understand that in New Zealand and Australia, the wickets are so good to bat on. You will see top bowlers not getting wickets. So that is acceptable,” said Rahul also adding that the bowlers will have to learn to bowl on these surfaces.


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Classy Cavani no longer looks like a ‘panic buy’ at United | Football News

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MANCHESTER ( England): When Edinson Cavani joined Manchester United on transfer deadline day in October it was widely described as a “panic signing” with the 33-year-old’s arrival viewed as a desperate deal by a club who had failed to get their main targets.
But after his outstanding performance at Southampton on Sunday, coming on at the break to create one goal and score two, including the late winner in a 3-2 comeback, the Uruguayan looks far from the washed-up player some suspected he might be.
His goals were superbly taken, his movement in the box won plaudits from his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and many observers and, even though it had only been 45 minutes, he looked far from a player past his sell-by date.
“For me, he’s one of those strikers that can smell the goal, as you saw twice,” said United midfielder Bruno Fernandes.
“He smelt the goal, you need to have this feeling to score these two goals. As I said some weeks and some months ago, Edi will help us and he is helping already.”
The question marks over Cavani were certainly justified though.
He was available on a free transfer and had been throughout the close season and many wondered why, if he really was a player United wanted, they had not signed him shortly after he left Paris St Germain.
The suspicion was that after failing to get Norway striker Erling Haaland in the January window and then ultimately being unable to pull off a deal for his Borussia Dortmund team mate Jadon Sancho, United had, at the final hour, called Cavani’s agent just to add a forward of some kind to Solskjaer’s squad.
But for a United team that has plenty of attacking options with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, but no real classic, out-and-out centre forward, Cavani looks much more than a useful option.
“They had Rashford and Greenwood there in the first half,” said BBC pundit Alan Shearer. “They may well end up being centre forwards, but that’s exactly what they lacked in the first half a proper number nine.”
PERFECT TIMING
Solskjaer, a goal-poacher under Alex Ferguson at United, has worked hard to get his young strikers to make the right runs in the box to find the crucial positions to score but he now has a player who needs no instruction in that art.
“Edinson has been around the block and scored so many goals and played football for so long. He’s been between those posts so many times, he’s seen this game before, he’s scored that goal before,” said Solskjaer.
“He knows exactly where to move and his best friend in the box is what Sir Alex always used to tell me: ‘Your best friend in the box is space’, and he gets into that space with perfect timing.”
Cavani, who scored 138 goals in 200 Ligue 1 matches for PSG and has 51 in 118 for Uruguay, has been given time to get up to speed after missing out on pre-season preparations but United skipper Harry Maguire was not surprised by his impact on Sunday.
“I am so pleased for him. He has been without a club for a few months so he is coming in and catching up. He’s a great professional, he’s great to have around the place, he’s great in the dressing room and you saw today what he brings to the club.
“His movement when the ball is wide is to a level that not many strikers can reach. He’s always on the move, always getting across people and that’s why he has always scored goals.”
Now Cavani must hope an FA investigation into his deleted social media post, which included a word with racial connotations, does not result in the Uruguayan being forced back to the sidelines.


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