Juan Mata

Juan lucky Mata

LEICESTER — Manchester United attacker Juan Mata admits he was “a bit lucky” to escape a red card for his challenge on Jamie Vardy in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Leicester.

Mata caught Vardy with a late lunge in the first half of the clash at King Power Stadium, with referee Anthony Taylor deciding a yellow card was sufficient punishment.

The Spain international went on to score United’s third goal, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic having put Jose Mourinho’s side ahead with two goals in the space of 88 first half seconds.

Mata was delighted with his side’s clinical performance but accepted he was perhaps fortunate to have stayed on the pitch.

“I was late, I tried to reach the ball, I didn’t want to hurt Jamie,” he told to Sky Sports.

“Probably I was a bit lucky but I just wanted to get the ball because I lost it 10 seconds before.

“The performance was quite good. Even before scoring the first goal we were trying to control the game through ball possession.

“Mkhitaryan’s was an incredible goal and after that we played very good and could have scored twice more. We’re very happy because we took our chances.

“It was very important for Mkhitaryan and I to score because Ibrahimovic is scoring a lot but we need goals from others as well.”

Mkhitaryan struck with a powerful run and finish after being moved into a central role behind Ibrahimovic, though he started wide on the left in a 4-4-2 set-up.

“It was something we prepared before the game,” Mkhitaryan said.

“The manager said ‘if it doesn’t work with two strikers then we have to change the formation’, so that’s what we did.

“It’s not something that’s new for us. We’ve changed the formation in many games.” — Agencies

Claudio Ranieri

No player unrest

LEICESTER — Manager Claudio Ranieri said the Leicester dressing room is united and ready to fight for their Premier League lives.

Ranieiri denied media speculation his players had become disillusioned with his methods after the champions slipped to just one point above the relegation zone following their 3-0 home defeat to Manchester United on Sunday.

Leicester lost their last four league games and have not scored a league goal this year — a wait of more than eight-and-a-half hours.

There have been reports of player unrest, with Ranieri being quoted by some media stating if they were unhappy they could speak to chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

However, the Italian said the players were still behind him and determined to salvage a season that is rapidly deteriorating, reported Leicester Mercury.

“I said this (about players meeting the chairman), because once I hear the players are happy, unhappy etc,” said Ranieri.

“If they don’t want me they can do this (go to the chairman), but they don’t go there. We are together.

“The dressing room of course is not happy. We are very sad. But it is important to react how we were solid, strong and united last season.

“It is the same this season, but we don’t get the results which makes it harder. But we are ready to fight until the end.”

Ranieri said Leicester matched United for 40 minutes until they conceded twice inside three minutes, and then they struggled to get back into the game against a strong visiting side.

“Everytime we talk about our strength, to be solid, to make a very good performance, but it was a good performance until the two goals,” said the Foxes boss.

“When you concede two goals in two minutes it is difficult for this team to come back.” — Agencies


Patriots cage Falcons

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan fumbles as he is hit by New England Patriots Dont’a Hightower (left) during Super Bowl 51 on Sunday. New England recovered from 28-3 down to win 34-28. — Picture by Reuters

Chong Wei smashes BAM

LEE CHONG WEI is injured and will miss next month’s All England Open.

This is the second blow for the country as national No 1 women’s player Goh Jin Wei is also ruled out of the first Superseries Premier tournament of the year from March 7 to 12.

Chong Wei’s injury, however, could have been avoided.

He is fuming at the incompetent officials in BA of Malaysia (BAM) as he slipped on the new carpet on the new courts at Academy Badminton Malaysia.

The world No 1 had voiced out his fears before his accident, urging BAM to replace the carpets with the ones from their old home in Stadium Juara but was ignored.

On of the officials earned his full wrath with Chong Wei saying: “He thinks he is so smart but in fact, he is useless.”

— Wan Norizan Meor Idris reports on page 42

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