Leonardo Pavoletti

Montella: Just a hiccup

GENOA — Manager Vincenzo Montella dismissed AC Milan’s 3-0 defeat to Genoa as just a “bump in the road” for his young side and insists his men are calm.

A victory for Milan would have seen them go top of Serie A for at least 24 hours but a Nikola Ninkovic header saw them trail at the break at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

Milan’s Gabriel Paletta was given a straight red card for a two-footed lunge early in the second half, before a late own-goal from Juraj Kucka and a fine Leonardo Pavoletti strike sealed the three points for Genoa.

However, Montella stressed his team can learn from the chastening defeat and feels they should still be proud of the run of form which saw them go six league games unbeaten.

“You in the media created expectations of Milan, but we have always been calm,” he told Mediaset Premium.

“It was just a bump in the road and these things can happen. At times a defeat can help you grow more than a victory.

“The growth process continues and the players should be proud of what they have done. Obviously we can do more.

“The real Milan was seen over the last 10 games and we are happy with the way the season is going.”

Montella said the sending off of Paletta made it challenging to get back into the game.

“It was a difficult match, which we expected,” he said.

“In the first half our tempo was too slow, but I don’t remember a genuine Genoa shot on goal, so the result did not reflect the performance.

“In the second half I liked the team much better. We didn’t want to lose and tried to fight back, but the red card made everything complicated.”

Milan host Pescara at San Siro on Sunday and Montella wants to see his team bounce back. — Agencies

Dortmund boss Tuchel plays down Real’s interest

DORTMUND — Thomas Tuchel said it’s “dangerous” to be linked with a move to Real Madrid after reports emerged the Borussia Dortmund manager was being monitored by the Spanish giants.

Tuchel, 43, took charge of Dortmund in last summer following the departure of Jurgen Klopp, leading the club to runners-up in the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal (German Cup).

“It’s dangerous when you are flattered as a manager,” Tuchel told reporters when asked about the Real links.

“It’s dangerous to get involved in those rumours, and pride yourself with it. It distracts from the essential task of working with the team.”

This season, Dortmund made a strong start to their first season back in the Champions League, winning two of their three games and drawing the other against Real.

They are sixth in the league, six points behind leaders and champions Bayern Munich.

Tuchel will get the chance to manage at the Bernabeu on Dec 7 when he takes Dortmund to Spain in the final round of games in the Champions League group stage.

Tuchel is under contract at Dortmund for another two years, and the club are reportedly ready to offer him an extension

Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke insisted they would block any Real approach.

“Thomas is under contract and we would say no should Real want him,” he said.

“It’s not like with a player who will be 28 or 29 one day and you block a great chance.

“Thomas is still young — he could still manage Real in 20 years.” — Agencies

Leverkusen dumped by minnows Lotte

MUNICH — Bayer Leverkusen twice squandered the lead before crashing out of the German Cup second round 4-3 on penalties at third tier Sportfreunde Lotte on Tuesday.

Lotte were down to 10 men from the 79th minute with the score at 1-1 but they refused to buckle and snatched a memorable victory over top flight Leverkusen after the game finished 2-2 following extratime.

Hamburg, without a win in the Bundesliga this season, got a boost from their 4-0 demolition of third division Hallescher with United States striker Bobby Wood scoring twice.

Hertha Berlin also advanced with a 2-0 win over St Pauli while Borussia Moenchengladbach found little resistance as they beat second division VfB Stuttgart by the same score, Fabian Johnson netting once and setting up the other for Lars Stindl.

Freiburg, however, suffered the same fate as Leverkusen, losing 4-3 in a shootout at home to second division Sandhausen.

Champions League club Leverkusen, who have slipped to 11th after losing their last two Bundesliga matches, were desperate to beat a Lotte side who stunned Werder Bremen in the previous round.

Leverkusen, with manager Roger Schmidt banned for two matches following a verbal attack on his Hoffenheim counterpart in their 3-0 weekend home league loss, struck after 26 minutes when Kevin Volland scored despite attention from two defenders.

The visitors were lucky to keep the lead when a Lotte effort was controversially ruled offside minutes later, but the hosts scored right after the break when Leverkusen’s Roberto Hilbert deflected a harmless cross into goal.

Lotte’s Tim Wendel was then sent off before Volland struck again in the first half of extratime with a close-range volley.

However, the home side refused to give up and came back once more through Kevin Freiberger’s equaliser before keeping their cool to claim a famous victory in the penalty shootout. — Reuters

Kevin De Bruyne_0001

‘Look at me now, Jose’

LONDON — Manchester City’s record signing Kevin De Bruyne suggested Jose Mourinho did not trust his talent enough to offer him the chance at Chelsea.

Chelsea signed De Bruyne from Genk in 2012, but loaned the Belgian midfielder to German side Werder Bremen for the 2012-13 season to gain experience.

The playmaker returned to Chelsea the following campaign, but was then sold to Wolfsburg for £18 million (RM91 million) in January 2014 after struggling to get games in Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge side.

De Bruyne excelled at Wolfsburg, earning the 2015 Footballer of the Year award in Germany before another impressive season earned him a £55 million (RM279 million) move to City.

De Bruyne insists he holds no grudge against Mourinho but told the Daily Mail the excuse he was too young does not hold weight when fellow 25-year-old compatriot Eden Hazard was afforded plenty of opportunities.

“I couldn’t say anything before as I wasn’t playing,” said De Bruyne.

“If Mourinho says something to the press they are going to believe it because at that moment it was the only thing they had to listen to — the only evidence there was.

“But I am not like what he said. I always want to play. I have played hundreds of times in my career and I am only 25. So I have answered it quite well.

“At the time at Chelsea I had already many games under my belt. I didn’t feel I was like a normal 20-year-old because I had already played for years in Belgium and then on loan from Chelsea in Germany.”

He said Mourinho and Chelsea had a different view.

“If I had come through the youth then maybe I would be happy to play 10 games there,” he said.

“I was ready to play and in my mind you are never too young.

“Hazard was the same age as me when he played so it’s a little bit strange to say this guy is young and the other guy is old enough to play.

“It’s just another way of saying somebody isn’t good enough.”

Having quickly become an integral player for Pep Guardiola, De Bruyne feels his City form has justified the jump in valuation from £18 million to £55 million (RM279 million) in just 18 months.

““I come here with a different view than people had of me last year. It shows a lot can happen in one year,” he said.

“Everybody had a view of how I came out of Chelsea so, yeah, it gives me satisfaction that people have changed their minds.”
— Agencies

Not rosy for Mkhitaryan

LONDON — Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan is set for an early Manchester United exit with manager Jose Mourinho happy to sell the Armenian in January, according to reports.

A £30 million (RM152 million) signing from Borussia Dortmund last summer, Mourinho has handed Mkhitaryan just one start.

Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney have all been preferred this term.

Mkhitaryan, 27, suffered a thigh injury to wreck the start of his season.

However, former Manchester United star midfielder Owen Hargreaves said last season’s Bundesliga Player of the Year must start for United.

“I can’t believe he’s not getting a look-in. He’d be a banker in my starting XI,” said the 35-year-old.

“He had a slow start at Dortmund too but was the Players’ Player of the Year last season.

“He scored 23 goals and had 32 assists, which are staggering numbers.”

Meanwhile, Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer believes United should turn to Bastian Schweinsteiger — shunned to the sidelines by Mourinho to solve their midfield woes.

With United reeling from a 4-0 loss at Chelsea on Sunday and having won only once in the Premier League since August, Neuer believes Schweinsteiger deserves a chance.

“I really hope Bastian gets some consideration soon,” Neuer told reporters.

“He’s one of the best midfielders in the world. He belongs on the field, not training individually.”

Despite this first team snub, the 32-year-old has been a model professional and knuckled down in an effort to convince Mourinho he deserves to play. — Daily Mirror

Daniel Sturridge (3)

Ever-reliable Sturridge

LIVERPOOL — Manager Jurgen Klopp never doubted Daniel Sturridge’s quality as the striker scored a brace in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in their League Cup clash at Anfield on Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals.

Sturridge scored from close range in the ninth minute before finishing in a one-on-one with Michel Vorm just after the hour-mark.

The goals were the England international’s first for the club since August, but Klopp said there was never any question over the 27-year-old’s talent.

“He’s a finisher, he’s a really good striker, there’s no doubt about this,” the German told reporters.

“I was never in doubt about this, even when he didn’t score. That’s not in question. We don’t have to discuss his quality.

“Sturridge scored wonderful goals for us, really important. In the right moments, he and other players could have scored, and then it would have been perfect. It was
really good.”

Klopp also reserved praise for midfielder Kevin Stewart, saying: “He was good, very good. He is important.

“I’ve said it a few times, he is the best challenger in the squad. An outstanding challenger — one-on-one situations, he is really ugly to play against.”

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino clashed with Klopp during the match.

Pochettino took issue with Liverpool for complaining about a tackle by Harry Winks when he claimed Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold should have been dismissed for a foul on Ben Davies.

The two bosses also argued over two penalty claims when referee Jon Moss awarded Spurs a spotkick for Lucas’ challenge on Erik Lamela, but ignored their appeal over Alberto Moreno’s tackle on Lamela.

Spurs converted the penalty through Vincent Janssen and Pochettino said: “It was strange at the end of the game they started to complain.

“Alexander-Arnold, should have been sent off for his tackle. It is the referee’s authority to say if it was a penalty or not.

“They complained about a normal game. Maybe, yes, they were lucky to finish with 11 players.”

Klopp said: “It wasn’t a penalty, but I have to see it again. We deserved to win.”
— Agencies

Ox makes it happen for Gunners

LONDON — Arsene Wenger believes winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s hard work on the training pitch is paying off after his brace fired Arsenal to a 2-0 win over Reading in their League Cup match at the Emirates on Tuesday.

His goals saw the Gunners marched to the quarterfinals of a competition which Wenger has never won.

“His concentration is sharper, he is more determined and he has worked very hard in training,” he told reporters.

“It is now showing on the pitch.”

Wenger also had praise for the other stars of an experimental side, with Carl Jenkinson — returning to the team after two years out on loan — among them.

“It’s fantastic to see Jenkinson back,” said the Frenchman.

“He did well and had no fitness problems at all, which shows he prepared well.

“I felt Rob Holding did well, Ainsley Maitland-Niles played some nice passes and Jeff Reine-Adelaide had a good game, too.”
— Agencies

Benitez to focus on promotion

NEWCASTLE — Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez refused to dream of League Cup glory as he turned his attention back to the business of winning promotion to the Premier League after a 6-0 rout of Preston on Tuesday.

He was thinking only of Saturday’s Championship match against Preston at Deepdale within minutes of the final whistle at St James’ Park.

Benitez told reporters: “I have to concentrate just on Preston on Saturday, wait and see what happens in the draw and after, maybe I can answer those questions.”

Newcastle, who head into the weekend three points clear at the top of the table, made seven changes for Tuesday’s match, two fewer than the visitors.

However, the Magpies romped to victory as Preston midfielder Alan Browne’s 25th-minute dismissal for an ugly challenge on Jack Colback did his side no favours.

Aleksandar Mitrovic had already headed the hosts into the lead.

Mohamed Diame doubled their advantage before the break, Matt Ritchie’s penalty and a delightful second from Mitrovic made the game safe within 10 minutes of the restart and set the stage for Diame and substitute Ayoze Perez to strike at the death.

Benitez, who was awaiting news of Colback’s condition after he was taken to hospital for an assessment, was delighted with his side’s display, but will take nothing for granted at the weekend.

“They will try to amend the situation, they will try to change things, we will be playing away, so it will be totally different,” said the Spaniard.

“It’s another competition, so we have to enjoy it. Normally I say one or two days and after, concentrate on the next game. It will be tough, for sure.”
— Agencies

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