Match reports and reaction 2017-18

My match reports and reaction pieces for AFP from the 2017-18 season:

Report: Young England stifle Neymar’s Brazil (friendly)
Reaction: Loftus-Cheek showed he can cut it – Southgate (friendly)
Report: New boys impress as England hold Germany (friendly)
Reaction: Mourinho defends lack of Lukaku charity
(Champions League)
Report: Hapless Svilar helps Man Utd to brink of last 16 (Champions League)
Reaction: ‘Stand up and be counted’, Klopp tells Liverpool (Premier League)
Report: Spurs’ Kane rips sorry Liverpool to shreds
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola proud to beat ‘best opponents’ Napoli (Champions League)
Report: Jesus earns Man City narrow win over Napoli (Champions League)
Reaction: Mourinho and Klopp at odds over Anfield stalemate (Premier League)
Report: Man Utd held at Liverpool as Mourinho parks the bus (Premier League)
Report: McClean breaks Welsh hearts as Ireland reach play-offs (2018 World Cup)
Reaction: Southgate admits England have long way to go (2018 World Cup)
Report: Kane sends lacklustre England to World Cup (2018 World Cup)
Reaction: Man City’s show of force thrills Guardiola (Champions League)
Report: Chelsea old boy De Bruyne gives Man City crucial win (Champions League)
Reaction: ‘Amazing’ Lukaku won’t lose focus – Mourinho (Champions League)
Report: Lukaku and Martial lead Man United in CSKA rout (Champions League)
Reaction: Klopp says Liverpool on track despite stalemate (Champions League)
Report: Coutinho scores as Liverpool held in Moscow (Champions League)
Reaction: Man United part of ‘second level’, says Mourinho (Champions League)
Report: Fix-it Fellaini gets Man United off the mark (Champions League)
Reaction: De Bruyne masterclass leaves Guardiola purring (Premier League)
Report: Mané sent off as five-star Man City crush Liverpool (Premier League)
Reaction: Alli gesture takes shine off England win (2018 World Cup)
Report: Rashford redemption sends England closer to Russia (2018 World Cup)
Reaction: Klopp hopes Euro progress yields transfer lift (Champions League)
Report: Can brace gets Liverpool back into big time (Champions League)
Report: Sterling rescue act spares 10-man Man City (Premier League)
Reaction: Conte happy for Chelsea to play the hunters (Premier League)
Report: Alonso ruins Spurs’ Wembley house-warming (Premier League)
Report: Lukaku double fires Man United to winning start
(Premier League)
Reaction: Wenger lauds Giroud after Arsenal edge Leicester (Premier League)
Report: Giroud earns Arsenal madcap opening win (Premier League)
Reaction: Wenger fearful of another slow Arsenal start
(Community Shield)
Report: Courtois and Morata gift Arsenal victory at Wembley (Community Shield)

Related link: Match reports and reaction 2016-17
Related link: Match reports and reaction 2015-16
Related link: Match reports and reaction 2014-15

Match reports and reaction 2016-17

A collection of my match reports and reaction pieces for AFP from the 2016-17 season:

Reaction: Southgate heartened by England resolve (2018 World Cup qualifying)
Report: Captain Kane rescues England against Scotland (2018 World Cup qualifying)
Reaction: ‘Young boy’ Ronaldo still hungry for glory
(Champions League)
Report: Two-goal Ronaldo keeps Real Madrid kings of Europe
(Champions League)
Reaction: Wenger in the dark as Arsenal verdict looms
(FA Cup)
Report: Ramsey fires Wenger to record seventh trophy (FA Cup)
Reaction: Mourinho relishes Man Utd’s ‘victory of pragmatism’ (Europa League)
Report: Pogba sends grieving Man United to emotional triumph
(Europa League)
Reaction: Arsenal hurt by ‘horrendous’ atmosphere – Wenger
(Premier League)
Report: Wenger and Arsenal’s Champions League run ends
(Premier League)
Reaction: ‘Don’t kill me’ for playing kids, begs Mourinho
(Premier League)
Report: Romero at the ready in Man United stalemate
(Premier League)
Reaction: Conte expects Chelsea great Terry to play on
(Premier League)
Report: Fàbregas foils Watford in Chelsea title party
(Premier League)
Reaction: Pochettino foresees golden future in Spurs’ new home
(Premier League)
Report: Kane sinks Man United in Spurs’ Lane farewell
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho vows to keep Man United fresh for final
(Europa League)
Report: Bailly sent off as Man United squeeze into final
(Europa League)
Reaction: Chelsea one ‘little step’ from title, says Conte
(Premier League)
Report: Fàbregas condemns Boro as Chelsea close on title
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho goads Wenger after defeat at Arsenal
(Premier League)
Report: Hope for Arsenal as Wenger breaks Mourinho hex
(Premier League)
Reaction: Top-four race not over yet, warns Klopp
(Premier League)
Report: Can cracker tightens Liverpool’s hold on third
(Premier League)
Reaction: Pochettino eager to tighten screw on Chelsea
(Premier League)
Report: Alli and Kane earn Spurs stirring derby win
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho sets sights on Liverpool and Arsenal
(Premier League)
Report: Fellaini sent off as Man Utd, Man City draw blank
(Premier League)
Reaction: Conte lauds Chelsea for passing Saints test
(Premier League)
Report: Half-ton Costa gives Chelsea breathing room
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho braced for bad news on Ibrahimović, Rojo
(Europa League)
Report: Ibrahimović blow mars Man United’s semi-final progress
(Europa League)
Reaction: Shakespeare savours Leicester’s taste of big time
(Champions League)
Report: Vardy in vain as Atlético end Leicester fairytale
(Champions League)
Reaction: Chelsea’s title chances ’50 percent’ – Conte
(Premier League)
Report: Revenge for Mourinho as Man United stun Chelsea
(Premier League)
Reaction: Pochettino vows Spurs won’t repeat 2016 meltdown
(Premier League)
Report: Milestone man Kane keeps Spurs in hunt
(Premier League)
Reaction: Conte sets Chelsea 18-point title target
(Premier League)
Report: Hazard tames Man City as Chelsea tighten grip
(Premier League)
Reaction: Wenger hopes Arsenal build on Man City draw
(Premier League)
Report: Respite for Wenger as Arsenal hold Man City
(Premier League)
Reaction: Southgate opens World Cup door to Defoe
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Report: Defoe marks comeback as England toil to win
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Report: Coleman broken leg horror mars Ireland-Wales draw
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Reaction: Goals the missing ingredient for Man City – Guardiola (Premier League)
Report: Agüero leveller keeps Liverpool at bay
(Premier League)
Report: Pogba injured as Man Utd labour to win over Rostov (Europa League)
Reaction: Shakespeare says Leicester can be surprise package (Champions League)
Report: Schmeichel thwarts Sevilla as Leicester rekindle fairytale
(Champions League)
Reaction: Kanté confounds Conte as Chelsea sink West Ham
(Premier League)
Report: Hazard and Costa restore Chelsea’s 10-point lead
(Premier League)
Reaction: I’m ready for Leicester job – Shakespeare
(Premier League)
Report: Vardy lifts Leicester to post-Ranieri win
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola vows more of same after Monaco goalfest
(Champions League)
Report: Agüero stars as Man City sink Monaco in thriller
(Champions League)
Reaction: Wenger relieved to beat ‘astonishing’ Sutton
(FA Cup)
Report: Ton-up Walcott ends Sutton’s FA Cup dream
(FA Cup)
Reaction: Mourinho upbraids unfocused Man United
(Europa League)
Report: Ibrahimović treble downs Saint-Étienne
(Europa League)
Reaction: ‘Don’t let this slip,’ Conte tells Chelsea
(Premier League)
Report: Hazard jewel cuts Arsenal 12 points adrift
(Premier League)
Reaction: Klopp irked by Liverpool fans’ impatience
(Premier League)
Report: Mignolet atones to keep Chelsea tethered
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola revels in glimpse of Man City’s future
(FA Cup)
Report: Jesus lights Man City’s path to fifth round
(FA Cup)
Reaction: Mourinho mocks Klopp as Man Utd reach final
(EFL Cup)
Report: Man Utd survive Hull scare to reach final
(EFL Cup)
Reaction: Conte applauds Chelsea’s show of unity
(Premier League)
Report: Returning Costa gives Chelsea breathing space
(Premier League)
Reaction: Jesus can’t be Man City saviour, says Guardiola
(Premier League)
Report: Spurs fightback thwarts Guardiola’s Man City
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho wants Man United to sharpen up
(Premier League)
Report: Ibrahimović rescues Man Utd in Liverpool draw
(Premier League)
Reaction: Spurs showed heart of champions – Pochettino
(Premier League)
Report: Spurs and Alli deny Chelsea record win
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola primes Man City for top-four scrap
(Premier League)
Report: Liverpool’s Wijnaldum dents Man City title bid
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola pins hopes on Chelsea wobble
(Premier League)
Report: Sterling sinks Arsenal to reignite Man City
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho defends fans’ right to boo Fellaini
(Premier League)
Report: Mkhitaryan tames Spurs to stop Man United rot
(Premier League)
Reaction: Roberts friendly fire makes Guardiola take note
(Champions League)
Report: Iheanacho up to speed as Man City, Celtic draw
(Champions League)
Reaction: Conte hails reformed match-winner Costa
(Premier League)
Report: Costa keeps Chelsea flying as Man City lose their cool
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho buoyed by ‘beautiful’ Man United
(EFL Cup)
Report: Ibra, Martial see Man Utd through, Arsenal crash
(EFL Cup)
Reaction: Conte urges leaders Chelsea to stay ‘humble’
(Premier League)
Report: Moses downs Spurs to send Chelsea back to summit
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho sets Rooney Europa League goal
(Europa League)
Report: Record man Rooney gives Man Utd Europa lift
(Europa League)
Reaction: Ranieri gears up for another Leicester ‘fairytale’
(Champions League)
Report: Okazaki and Mahrez fire Leicester into last 16
(Champions League)
Reaction: Sniping Mourinho says United’s luck will change
(Premier League)
Report: Giroud sucker-punch earns Arsenal draw at Man Utd
(Premier League)
Reaction: Stand-in Southgate proud of England impact
(friendly)
Report: Aspas, Isco deny Southgate’s England victory
(friendly)
Reaction: Southgate and Strachan coy about job prospects
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Report: England boost Southgate with win over Scotland
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Reaction: Europe no burden for Arsenal, says Wenger
(Premier League)
Report: Returning Kane thwarts Arsenal’s summit bid
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola urges Man City to build on Barcelona win
(Champions League)
Report: Guardiola glee as Gundogan guns down Barcelona
(Champions League)
Reaction: Penitent Mourinho humbled by Man Utd support
(EFL Cup)
Report: Mata sinks Man City, West Ham stun Chelsea
(EFL Cup)
Reaction: Mourinho, Conte keep mum over touchline spat
(Premier League)
Report: Chelsea humiliate Mourinho on Stamford Bridge return
(Premier League)
Reaction: Two-goal Pogba still needs time – Mourinho
(Europa League)
Report: Pogba purrs as Man United trounce Fenerbahçe
(Europa League)
Reaction: Ranieri irked by Leicester’s split personality
(Champions League)
Report: Mahrez takes Leicester to brink of last 16
(Champions League)
Reaction: Liverpool shown up by Man United, says Mourinho
(Premier League)
Report: De Gea defiant as Man United stifle Liverpool
(Premier League)
Reaction: Rooney boo brigade baffles Southgate
 (2018 World Cup qualifying)
Report: Southgate makes winning start with England
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Reaction: Guardiola asks for patience after setback at Spurs (Premier League)
Report: Razor-sharp Spurs deal Guardiola first Man City defeat
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho bemoans ‘poisoned’ Man United schedule
(Europa League)
Report: Ibrahimović gets Man Utd moving in Europa League
(Europa League)
Reaction: Guardiola urges Man City to learn Celtic lesson
(Champions League)
Report: Dembélé at double as Celtic check Man City charge
(Champions League)
Reaction: Ranieri heartened by return of Leicester ‘spirit’
(Champions League)
Report: Leicester’s ‘Dragon Slayer’ Slimani cuts down Porto
(Champions League)
Reaction: Wenger hungry for more after ending Chelsea hex
(Premier League)
Report: Happy anniversary for Wenger as Arsenal outclass Chelsea
(Premier League)
Reaction: Klopp shies away from Liverpool title talk
(Premier League)
Report: Henderson humdinger sinks Conte’s Chelsea
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola urges City fans to embrace Champions League
(Champions League)
Report: Agüero triple gives Man City belated lift-off
(Champions League)
Reaction: Mourinho points finger after Man Utd derby loss
(Premier League)
Report: First blood to Guardiola as City win Manchester derby
(Premier League)
Reaction: Coleman expects Bale to break Rush record
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Report: Bale fires Euro 2016 stars Wales in Moldova stroll
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Reaction: Rooney plays where he wants, says Allardyce
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Report: Last-gasp Lallana gives Big Sam winning start
(2018 World Cup qualifying)
Reaction: Klopp confident Liverpool are on right track
(Premier League)
Report: Liverpool pricked by Rose thorn in draw at Spurs
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola stands by unpopular Hart decision
(Champions League)
Report: Fans hail Hart as Man City reach group phase
(Champions League)
Reaction: Wenger rails at Arsenal transfer focus
(Premier League)
Report: Stalemate keeps Leicester and Arsenal grounded
(Premier League)
Reaction: I’ll give Pogba Man Utd freedom, vows Mourinho
(Premier League)
Report: Ibrahimović slays Saints as Pogba makes Man Utd return (Premier League)
Reaction: Conte defends Chelsea match-winner Conte
(Premier League)
Report: Costa late show gets Conte’s Chelsea off the mark
(Premier League)
Reaction: ‘We’re not ready,’ says Wenger after opening loss
(Premier League)
Report: Coutinho fires Liverpool to thrilling Arsenal win
(Premier League)
Reaction: Guardiola gives Hart and Touré Man City hope
(Premier League)
Report: McNair gifts Guardiola opening Man City win
(Premier League)
Reaction: Mourinho ‘proud’ of record-breaking Pogba move
(Community Shield)
Report: Ibrahimović fires Man Utd to Community Shield win
(Community Shield)
Report: Mané sparkles as Liverpool crush Barcelona
(friendly)
Report: West Ham at home already, Europa woe for Éder
(Europa League)

Related link: Match reports and reaction 2015-16
Related link: Match reports and reaction 2014-15

Report: Ronaldo tears as Eder brings Portugal Euro 2016 glory

Cristiano Ronaldo wept with sadness and joy as substitute Eder’s extra-time goal saw Portugal beat hosts France 1-0 in Sunday’s Euro 2016 final to win their first major tournament.

My AFP report on Portugal’s Euro 2016 final victory over France can be found here.

Related link: What now for France’s ‘Generation Griezmann’?

Feature: Griezmann v Ronaldo – duel of the magnificent sevens

Paul Pogba went into the tournament as the heir apparent to Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane, but L’Equipe newspaper dubbed the team the “Griezmann Generation” following the defeat of Germany. Griezmann is the first player to score six goals at a Euro since Platini, who netted nine times when France triumphed as hosts of the 1984 tournament. Ronaldo’s goal against Wales saw him equal Platini’s record of nine goals at Euro finals, but whereas it took the Frenchman one tournament to set his mark, it has taken the Portugal captain four to equal it.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann – the preening superstar and baby-faced poster boy – come face-to-face in Sunday’s Euro 2016 final, with both players capable of deciding the match. You can read my piece on their showdown here.

Analysis: Bale and Wales eager to build Euro 2016 legacy

As Gareth Bale and his Wales team-mates bade farewell to Euro 2016, a commonly expressed hope was that their achievements in France would represent a beginning and not an end. Having waited 58 years to play at a major tournament, Wales made up for lost time in style, topping their group above England and sinking Belgium in the quarter-finals before falling to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. Along the way their songful, good-natured fans won admirers across the continent, leaving the players determined to make sure that they will not have another six decades to wait for their next overseas adventure. “We’ve had a taste of it now and we look forward to the future,” said Real Madrid forward Bale, who set the tone for Wales’s stunning exploits with three goals in the group phase.

As the sun sets on Wales’s unforgettable journey at Euro 2016, some thoughts on what the future holds for their history-making manager and players.

Feature: Bale’s Wales charm Dinard as they push for Euro glory

The sleepy Brittany resort town, which has a population of around 10,000, has played host to Chris Coleman’s squad for a month and the mutual affection between players and locals has been clear to see. The players have been taking walks on the beach, playing football with local youngsters and posing for selfies, while Dinard’s shopkeepers and bar owners have festooned the town with Wales flags and window displays. “The Welsh players are very approachable and close to their fans,” says Didier Dré, who runs a shop selling toys, postcards and beach furniture just around the corner from Dinard’s Plage de l’Écluse. “We’ve seen very famous players like Gareth Bale taking selfies with supporters. They’re a very relaxed, very cool team. I think that’s their strength.”

A piece on how the picturesque town of Dinard has fallen under the spell of Gareth Bale and his Wales team-mates during Euro 2016. You can read it here.

Wales at Euro 2016 – the geek gets the girl

Wales fans in Lens

When I was six years old, I wanted to be English. It was 1990. England reached the World Cup semi-finals, everyone fell in love with Paul Gascoigne and it felt completely natural to align yourself with Bobby Robson’s valiant but vulnerable team.

I didn’t know that Wales, the nation of my birth, had failed to qualify for the tournament, finishing below West Germany, the Netherlands and Finland in UEFA qualifying Group 4, but following months of careful prompting by my quietly despairing father, I came to realise that England was not my country. When Wales agonisingly missed out on a place at the 1994 World Cup, after a 2-1 loss to Romania in November 1993, I stretched my Wales shirt over my pillow and cried myself to sleep.

To be Welsh and a football fan in the 1990s and 2000s was to live a life of constant, quiet disappointment. Wales seemed trapped in a cycle of wretchedness, forever finding new and inventive ways of being stuffed by just about every team in Europe. They lost 7-1 to Holland, 6-4 to Turkey, 5-0 to Georgia. They played a friendly against Leyton Orient, and lost.

They wore strange, lurid away kits made by obscure brands like Lotto and Kappa that looked like they’d been fished out of a JJB Sports bargain bin. Even a player as demonstrably great as Ryan Giggs seemed diminished by association with Wales – when he could be bothered turning up – traipsing across the continent looking permanently sad and confused, a shy computer programmer obliged to go on a Magaluf stag weekend with a rowdy group of men he doesn’t know.

Continue reading »

Feature: Bale sets tone for happy-go-lucky Wales

Underpinning the camaraderie is a formidable team spirit that reflects the fact many of Coleman’s players have been representing Wales for years. Bale, Gunter, Taylor and Aaron Ramsey were playing for the Wales Under-17 team as far back as 2006. The core of the current side came together during the latter years of former manager John Toshack’s tenure between 2004 and 2010. It has helped to foster the familiarity of a club side, both on the pitch — where Coleman has been honing the team’s tactical systems for two years — and off.

Dancing, table tennis and ice creams on the beach – here’s my piece on how Wales laughed their way to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.

Analysis: England’s ‘brittle’ football psyche exposed again

Glenn has announced that his organisation will now carry out a “definitive review” of what happened at Euro 2016 and “canvas opinion across the game” before announcing a permanent successor to Hodgson. Adding to the sense of incomprehension is the fact that England’s youth-level teams do not seem as prone to collapse as the senior side, as shown by the Under-20 team’s success at this year’s Toulon Tournament. England have taken steps to address psychological shortcomings by using Steve Peters, a renowned psychiatrist who has previously worked with Liverpool, British Cycling and UK Athletics. Peters was available for England’s players to consult throughout the Euro in France, but Hodgson’s analysis of the team’s failings suggested that mental factors had played a part. “We know that at tournament level, mentality is a vital factor,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve tried hard in our preparation to deal with that, but once again the result wasn’t there, so therefore we’ll be accused of failing.”

Another major tournament calamity for England, another round of soul-searching. Here’s my piece on the psychological factors underpinning England’s Euro 2016 exit.

Related link: Hodgson pays price for sorry England mess

Feature: Ramsey glows for Wales in Bale’s shadow

It has been said that international duty represents an escape for Bale, who has been under constant scrutiny at Real Madrid since his world-record transfer from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013. The same could also be said of Ramsey. Approaching his ninth season at Arsenal, he divides opinion among the club’s support, with some lauding his talent and work rate while others bemoan his occasional tendency to over-elaborate. The 2013-14 season represented a watershed as Ramsey scored a career-best 16 goals, topped off by an extra-time winner against Hull City in the FA Cup final. But the two years since have seen him shunted around the team as Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger uses Ramsey’s industriousness to counter-balance the creative gifts of players like Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez.

A piece on Aaron Ramsey, who divides opinions among Arsenal fans but is thriving in an attacking role for Wales at Euro 2016. Read it here.

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