Wenger hails Arsenal win after ‘nightmare’ week

first_imgWenger desperately needed a positive result after coming under pressure for a run of four straight defeats, and he got just that against a Milan side who saw a 13-match unbeaten run ended.“It is an important win of course after we had a nightmare week,” the 68-year-old Frenchman told BT Sport.“I am happy with the spirit and response we gave. When you are knocked down like a boxer you don’t have time to react and you are only halfway up, but you have to respond.“Your pride and desire to show quality has to come through in the game.”Gennaro Gattuso’s seven-time European champions now have it all to do ahead of the second leg at the Emirates in seven days’ time.“Arsenal are in a very difficult period, but are a great team, but we made too many mistakes,” said Gattuso.But Arsenal, 13 points adrift of the top four in the Premier League, will be confident of continuing their bid to return to the Champions League by winning Europe’s second-tier competition for the first time.“Overall it is important to win, but it is not qualification. We have to finish the job at home,” Wenger added.Arsenal started brightly at the San Siro but were lucky not to concede a penalty when Hakan Calhanoglou stayed on his feet despite appearing to have been fouled by onrushing Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina.Just moments later Arsenal broke the deadlock, as Mesut Ozil fed Armenian Mkhitaryan, a January signing from Manchester United, to cut inside and fire in a shot which deflected past home keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma off Leonardo Bonucci.The Gunners grew in confidence after that strike, with Donnarumma making two good saves late in the opening period to deny Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck, before Mkhitaryan hit the crossbar.But the visitors did double their advantage before the interval, as Ramsey ran onto Ozil’s perfectly-weighted through ball and rounded Donnarumma to tap into an empty net.Giacomo Bonaventura scooped a shot over in the second half when he should have done better, while Suso drilled a left-footed strike out for a throw-in.Colombian keeper Ospina did well to beat Nikola Kalinic to a through ball when the substitute looked to be in on goal, as Arsenal closed out a much-needed win.– Salzburg shock Dortmund –Kosovo’s Valon Berisha scored twice as Salzburg stunned Dortmund © AFP / Patrik STOLLARZBorussia Dortmund slumped to a shock first-leg 2-1 loss at home to Salzburg, although Andre Schurrle’s second-half strike did cut the deficit ahead of next week’s return game in Austria.Kosovo international Valon Berisha scored twice shortly after half-time to put Salzburg in control, the first from the penalty spot, and leave German giants Dortmund facing a surprise exit.La Liga title challengers Atletico Madrid eased to a 3-0 victory over Lokomotiv Moscow at the Wanda Metropolitano, with Saul Niguez, Diego Costa and Koke scoring the goals for Diego Simeone’s side.Brazilian defender Marcelo scored the only goal as last season’s semi-finalists Lyon grabbed a 1-0 win at CSKA Moscow, as they look to go one better this term with the final at their Groupama Stadium.Lucas Ocampos scored twice, including in the first minute, with Dimitri Payet also on the scoresheet as Marseille saw off Athletic Bilbao 3-1.Lazio were held to a 2-2 home draw in their tie with Dynamo Kiev, while RB Leipzig will take a lead over Zenit St Petersburg to Russia after Timo Werner ended a four-game goal drought in a 2-1 win.Sporting Lisbon put one foot into the quarter-finals with a 2-0 home victory against Viktoria Plzen.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Arsenal’s win came at the perfect time for manager Arsene Wenger © AFP / MARCO BERTORELLOPARIS, France, Mar 8 – Under-fire Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was relieved after his side’s impressive 2-0 Europa League last 16, first-leg victory at AC Milan on Thursday, following a “nightmare” week.Henrikh Mkhitaryan drove Arsenal into a 15th-minute lead with his first goal for the club, and a shellshocked Milan fell further behind before half-time as Aaron Ramsey waltzed through to score.last_img read more

Child footballers ‘offered boots and underwear for sex work’

first_imgPublic prosecutor Maria Soledad Garibaldi has asked to meet all 50-plus boys aged between 13 and 19 housed at a boarding facility operated by the club in the Avellaneda suburb of the sprawling Argentine capital.“Of the five boys I spoke with (on Monday), three gave me some information,” said Garibaldi, quoted by local press.“One of them told me it didn’t happen, but that they had been approached. The children knew something was going on.“They’ve allowed me to reveal that they were offered to do it for a pair of boots or underwear.”Football referee Martin Bustos and his lawyer have been arrested over the scandal, which was brought to the judicial authorities’ attention by Independiente club bosses.Bustos’s lawyer is suspected of having destroyed a mobile phone in order to hide evidence.According to Garibaldi, there might also be similar underage prostitution networks operated at other clubs.“Unfortunately, that doesn’t surprise me,” admitted Independiente coach Ariel Holan.“It’s something that’s hidden and it’s a problem in society, like drugs, alcohol and human trafficking.“It’s not an issue that’s confined to sport or to Independiente.”According to Andres Bonicalzi, a lawyer for a rape victims charity, young players from the vast interior of the country — well away from Buenos Aires on the western shore of the Rio de la Plata estuary — who are far from their families, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.“They see the club as a role-model, they see it as a father-figure. They’re far away from their own fathers,” said Bonicalzi.“(The perpetrators) have exploited their immaturity and these children’s need to belong to something.”Independiente are the fourth most successful team in Argentine history with 16 national titles, behind fellow Buenos Aires outfits River Plate (36), Boca Juniors (32) and their local rivals from Avellaneda, Racing (17).They’ve also won the continental Copa Libertadores — South America’s equivalent to the UEFA Champions League — a record seven times, having never lost a final.Part of a multi-discipline sports organisation, Independiente has a host of different teams throughout the youth ranks as well as a football academy and an education centre for children throughout their compulsory schooling period.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000© AFP/FileBUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Mar 30 – Trainee footballers at Argentinian giants Independiente were coaxed into underage prostitution with offers of football boots or even just underwear, a Buenos Aires public prosecutor has said.The shocking revelation of an illicit sex network operated at one of Argentina’s most prestigious and successful clubs was made after a 17-year-old told an Independiente psychologist he had been encouraged, alongside another 19-year-old player, to prostitute himself to adult men in a trendy Buenos Aires neighbourhood, local press said.last_img read more

Watchdog urges Russia world cup opening boycott over Syria

first_img“In hosting one of the most televised events in the world, Russia is courting world public opinion and looking for respect,” HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, said in a statement.“World leaders should signal to President Putin that unless he changes track and acts to end atrocities by Russian and Syrian forces in Syria, they won’t be in their seats in the VIP box with him on opening night.”Billions of people worldwide are expected to watch the World Cup on television and HRW argued that Moscow’s responsibility in the suffering of Syrian civilians should not be forgotten.Russia is the main exporter of weaponry to the Syrian regime and its forces provide on-the-ground support to government forces and allied militia.The New York-based watchdog has documented Russian-Syrian joint military operations that “have caused thousands of civilian casualties”, including recently in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.Roth warned that millions of other civilians faced the same fate in upcoming operations, especially in the northwestern province of Idlib that still largely escapes government control.“World leaders should not allow a sporting event to gloss over a pattern of atrocities in Syria that now looms over two million civilians,” he said.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament final draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow © AFP/File / YURI KADOBNOVBEIRUT, Lebanon, May 22 – World leaders should boycott Russian President Vladimir Putin’s VIP box at next month’s World Cup opening unless he takes steps to protect Syrian civilians, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.Russia, which hosts the world’s most-watched sporting event for the first time this year, is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and arguably the most powerful broker in the seven-year-old war.last_img read more

Rwanda becomes Arsenal’s official tourism partner

first_imgThe three-year deal with Arsenal is the latest bid by Kigali to draw tourists and investors to the country, burnishing its reputation as a safe, sought-after destination.Ever since the devastating 1994 genocide in which 800,000 mainly Tutsis were killed, the country has been praised for a swift economic turnaround.“The country has been transformed in recent years and Arsenal’s huge following will bring Rwanda into people’s minds in a new and dynamic way,” Arsenal’s chief commercial officer, Vinai Venkatesham, said in a statement.“The Arsenal shirt is seen 35 million times a day around the world and we are one of the most viewed teams around the world.”As the club’s first-ever sleeve partner, the “Visit Rwanda” logo will appear on the shirt of all first team, under-23 and Arsenal Women’s players from the new season this August, the club has announced.Rwanda Development Board CEO, Clare Akamanzi, said that the sponsorship deal will highlight the country’s tourism offers, but would not be drawn on how much it had cost.“While we cannot disclose the amount, the partnership cost is part of our marketing budget to promote Rwanda and attract investors and tourists,” she said.Rwanda is one of only three countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, where one can see mountain gorillas.The country has in recent years re-introduced lions and rhino to its Akagera National Park — which had gone extinct due to poor conservation — to become a Big Five safari destination.“In addition, we are telling investors to Visit Rwanda and discover why we are the second fastest growing economy in Africa, growing at 7.3 percent per annum,” said Akamanzi.She added that Arsenal players from the men’s and women’s teams will visit Rwanda and club coaches will host coaching camps to support the development of football in the country.Rwanda received 1.3 million visitor arrivals in 2017 and tourism is Rwanda’s largest foreign exchange earner, government statistics show.The country has decided to focus on high-end low-impact tourism, and last year doubled the price of a gorilla permit to $1,500 (1,300 euros).Kagame is revered in some quarters for stopping Rwanda’s genocide and engineering what admirers see as an economic miracle, but rights groups accuse him of crushing all opposition and ruling through fear.The 60-year-old won a third-term in office last year after the constitution was changed to allow him to potentially stay in power for another two decades.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Rwanda becomes Arsenal’s official tourism partner. Photo/COURTESYKIGALI, Rwanda, May 23 – Rwanda has become the official tourism partner of English football club Arsenal FC, whose players will sport a “Visit Rwanda” logo on their sleeves, the club announced Wednesday.The tiny country’s leader, President Paul Kagame, is an ardent Arsenal fan and often expresses his opinions about the club’s performances during summits and on social media.last_img read more

Fans dance in Berlin rain as Germany survive

first_img“I’m so, so so happy,” screamed Rasdan Abdullah as the final whistle sounded in Sochi.“It’s a great feeling,” said Birgit Schlag, who had come to Berlin to see the Rolling Stones in concert the day before.The rain had just begun to fall in the German capital as Ola Toivonen fired Sweden ahead on the half-hour mark, and grey clouds lingered as the crowd sung “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at half-time.They breathed a sigh of relief when Marco Reus equalised just after half-time.And when Kroos curled in a free-kick in the fifth minute of injury-time, the fans were in ecstasy.“I said before the game that Reus would score,” said a beaming Dieter Mann, a 60-year-old tour guide with Germany flags stuck to his head.“It was the right decision to pick him and drop Mesut Ozil.”“Defeat for us today was about as likely as England winning the World Cup,” said 37-year-old jobseeker Marcel Kreisel, and fell about laughing.Having slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat against Mexico in their opening game, Germany had to beat Sweden to avoid elimination.With Mexico top of Group F after winning their second match on Saturday, Germany play South Korea on Wednesday knowing they must do as well as the Swedes against Mexico if they are to progress to the knockout round.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Germany supporters in Berlin were in ecstasy after their team salvaged their World Cup chances © AFP / John MACDOUGALLBERLIN, Germany, Jun 23 – Fans danced in the rain in Berlin on Saturday as defending champions Germany avoided an embarrassing World Cup exit with a 2-1 win over Sweden.Supporters watching on big screens at the Brandenburg Gate huddled nervously under grey clouds and drizzle, before throwing their umbrellas away as Toni Kroos’ late winner saved Germany.last_img read more

AFC Leopards’ Simba appeal thrown out

first_imgLeopards had lodged a protest against Ghanaian Moro who they said was not duly registered having just but arrived at the team from Zambian top tier side Buildcon. The game against AFC was his first in Simba colors.The committee had a sitting after Ingwe the protest yesterday and have delivered the ruling here in Dar es Salaam, this afternoon.“IMOC would like to respond and inform you that the player named Lamine Moro fron Buildcon FC (Zambia) was registered by Simba SC and approved by the Tanzania Football Federation with license No. 002821M94 issued on 15 January as per the SportPesa Cup 2019 Regulations, Section 5.5,” a decision from the IMOC, sent to AFC Leopards read.According to the tournament rules, a player who is qualified to play in SportPesa Cup must possess a license in his club issued by its national association and registered in its federation. A national association can issue a temporary license for three (3) players to participate in this tournament.Thus, the organizers have ruled that Moro played in the tournament rightfully and Simba have hence qualified for the semi-finals to play Bandari on Friday evening.AFC leopards are already embarking on their journey to the airport and their flight from Dar to Nairobi is expected to leave at 4pm.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000AFC Leopards Whyvonne Isuza vies for the ball with Simba’s Jonas Mkude during their SportPesa Super Cup match at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on January 23, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy OlobuluDAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania Jan 24 – AFC Leopards’ appeal to have Simba SC eliminated from the SportPesa Cup due to the use of an unregistered player has been thrown out by the tournament’s International Match Organizing Committee (IMOC).IMOC received documents from the Tanzanian Football Federation (TFF) confirming that the player in question, Lamin Moro is duly registered.last_img read more

Spurs snap winless streak to open new stadium on a high

first_img0Shares0000Tottenham Hotspur forward Heung Son Ming leads his teammates in celebrating is goal against Crystal Palace during the opening day of their new stadium on April 3, 2019LONDON, United Kingdom, Apr 3 – Tottenham celebrated the opening of the club’s state-of-the-art new stadium by ending a five-game winless Premier League run with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Wednesday.Second-half goals from Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen ensured Spurs got off to the perfect start at their new home and moved Mauricio Pochettino’s side back up to third at the expense of north London rivals Arsenal. The Gunners have a game in hand over Tottenham, but victory also maintained a slender one-point lead over fifth-placed Chelsea and opened up a three-point advantage over Manchester United in the race for a top-four finish.Pochettino underlined the need for what he believes is the “best stadium in the world” to have Champions League football next season before kick-off.The Argentine hailed his players as “heroes” for remaining in the top-four fight despite playing nearly an entire second season at a temporary home in Wembley.-Plenty of workHowever, a run of just one point from their last five league games has left them with plenty of work still to do in their remaining six matches.After 690 days since saying goodbye to the old White Hart Lane, Spurs returned home with plenty of pre-match pomp and ceremony with an operatic performance of “Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur” and fireworks before kick-off.Yet, the hosts were nearly caught cold in the opening minutes when Kieran Trippier lost the run of Jeffrey Schlupp and the Ghanian fired wastefully over.That was Palace’s only effort of the first 45 minutes as Tottenham dominated without much cutting edge.Eriksen and Son forced saves from Vicente Guaita, but the best opening fell to the wrong man from Spurs’ point of view when Danny Rose tried to pick out Harry Kane in the middle rather than go for goal himself just before the break.-Top fourAt half-time, Spurs were facing the prospect of dropping out of the top four for the first time since November with Chelsea beating Brighton at Stamford Bridge.And it was an on-loan Chelsea striker who nearly did his parent club a huge favour five minutes into the second-half when Michy Batshuayi curled just beyond Hugo Lloris’s far post.Pochettino’s men were left lamenting their luck when Toby Alderweireld’s last minute own goal cost them a deserved point at Liverpool on Sunday, but they had fortune on their side moments later to the huge relief of most of the near 60,000 in attendance.Son’s shot was headed straight down Guaita’s throat until a big deflection off Luka Milivojevic left the Spaniard completely wrong-footed as the ball rolled into the bottom corner.From then on a seventh straight league win over Palace for Spurs rarely looked in doubt.Kane could have capped a momentous night for the club by grabbing his first goal on the new ground, but put too much power on his effort that sailed high and wide.However, the England captain was involved in the goal that sealed a vital three points as he broke into the area 10 minutes from time and the ball fell kindly for Eriksen to force home from close range.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

Solskjaer faces test as Barca roll into town

first_img0Shares0000Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces a daunting task in the Champions League quarter-finals against Barcelona © AFP/File / Paul ELLISLONDON, United Kingdom, Apr 9 – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed a charmed life as interim Manchester United manager but Barcelona’s visit to Old Trafford on Wednesday will show him the scale of the task he faces as the new full-time boss.The Norwegian was rewarded with a three-year deal after dramatically reviving United’s fortunes since taking caretaker charge in December, lifting them back into contention for a top-four place and transforming the mood at the club. The highlight of his reign so far was a dramatic 3-1 away victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 in the Champions League, which enabled United to overturn a 2-0 first-leg defeat to reach the quarter-finals on away goals.Solskjaer has given his creative players licence to attack, with Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford let off the leash to devastating effect.But some of the gloss has come off in recent weeks, with three defeats in four matches badly denting United’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League and dumping them out of the FA Cup.Solskjaer has given his creative players licence to attack, with Paul Pogba (pictured) and Marcus Rashford let off the leash to devastating effect © AFP / Paul ELLISSolskjaer, who famously scored the winning goal for United against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final in Barcelona, was upbeat after drawing the Spanish league leaders in the quarter-finals last month, before he was confirmed as the new long-term boss.“We want these games against the biggest clubs and the biggest teams. We had the final against them in 2009 and 2011 (both of which Barca won) and the semi-final in 2008 when Scholesy (Paul Scholes) scored,” Solskjaer said.“It’s these games our fans and this club crave. We are looking forward to this one.”Worryingly for Solskjaer, though, some of United’s familiar failings under Jose Mourinho have returned to haunt them in the weeks since the draw was made.– Poor run –They were unfortunate to lose at Arsenal but appeared short of inspiration in losing twice to Wolves in the FA Cup and Premier League, while even Solskjaer admitted they did not deserve their solitary win since he was given the permanent job as Watford enjoyed the better of the chances in a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford.Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (CL) shakes hands with Wolverhampton Wanderers’ defender Matt Doherty © AFP/File / Paul ELLISSolskjaer had a free ride when he took over from Mourinho, with morale at a low ebb and the club 11 points off the top four.Despite recent hiccups, he has had notable success in his short time at the club and ultimately has his sights set higher than finishing in the top four.“You’ve got to aim high,” he told ESPN. “You cannot aim too low at this club. You’ve got to aim to win titles.“When I came back here as the manager I thought a lot about what makes a winning team. What does it really take to win on the biggest stage? I’m not one to sit back, rest on my laurels.”The 46-year-old will probably be forgiven if United fall short against a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona.But if he fails to reverse the mini-slump and United suffer a heavy defeat to the Spanish champions there is a danger the season could peter out and momentum could be lost.Questions will be asked as to whether United were too quick to put their trust in a likeable leader and whether Solskjaer has the profile needed to bring in the top-level recruits that United need, particularly in defence, to become serious Premier League and European challengers again.But he will lead his team out at Old Trafford on Wednesday for their first Champions League quarter-final since 2014 with the same never-say-die attitude he had as a player.“We’ve got a chance, it’s going to be a tough one. We’ve got a mountain to climb, but we’ve climbed a few mountains before,” said Solskjaer.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

Ranieri wants Conte to replace him at Roma

first_img0Shares0000Seats you sir! Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal © AFP / MARCO BERTORELLOROME, Italy, Apr 28 – Claudio Ranieri admitted he would be “super happy” if Antonio Conte succeeded him as Roma coach after he took the club into the Serie A top four with a thumping win over Cagliari on Saturday.Asked by Sky Sport following his side’s 3-0 win at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico whether he would like Conte to take over from him at the end of the season, Ranieri replied: “Yes, I’d want him.” Speculation has intensified that Roma are making a serious bid to bring in former Juventus, Chelsea and Italy manager Conte as successor to Ranieri, who came in as interim manager following the sacking of Eusebio Di Francesco in March.Italian media reports that Roma have lined up a three-year contract worth 9.5 million euros ($10.6 million) a season to tempt him to the capital.But when pressed on whether he knew anything of Roma’s approach, fellow former Chelsea boss Ranieri said: “I’m the last one to know these things… if Antonio comes I’ll be super happy.”Before the match club legend Francesco Totti, now a director, said that “any club would go mad” for Conte, but refused to say whether they had spoken to the 49-year-old, who won the first three of Juventus’ eight straight Serie A titles and the Premier League and FA Cup with Chelsea.“Conte is one of Europe’s best coaches… with a coach like him you have a project that has a better chance of being a winning one,” he was quoted as saying by Italian media.“However we have Ranieri on the bench and we need to respect him until the end. Right now it’s not appropriate to talk about other coaches.”Despite a wildly inconsistent season Roma occupy the final Champions League spot, two points ahead of AC Milan.– Ronaldo on target –They are just four behind third-placed Inter Milan, who drew 1-1 with newly-crowned champions Juventus in the Derby d’Italia in Saturday’s late game.Claudio Ranieri said he would be “super happy” if Antonio Conte succeeded him as Roma coach © AFP / Andreas SOLARORadja Nainggolan gave Inter a sixth-minute lead with a rocket of a volley against a Juventus team missing the likes of Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira.But Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the match at the San Siro just after the hour mark when Miralem Pjanic’s cheeky back-heel allowed the Portuguese star to hit home a low left-foot shot for his 20th Serie A goal of the season.Earlier, Roma struck a blow in the tight battle for Champions League football next season.Javier Pastore’s first league goal since September and a Federico Fazio header had the hosts two goals ahead within eight minutes of kick-off and Aleksandar Kolarov rammed home a late third to put Roma five games without defeat.Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta, who will have the chance to win just their second-ever major trophy when they take on Lazio in next month’s Coppa Italia final, can move back above Roma when they host strugglers Udinese on Monday.On Sunday, Milan travel to Torino in a match that could end the surprise top-four challenge from Walter Mazzarri’s tough-to-beat side, and Lazio take on Sampdoria and Serie A top scorer Fabio Quagliarella.Earlier on Saturday, Bologna dealt a huge blow to lowly Empoli’s survival chances when three second-half goals from Roberto Soriano, Riccardo Orsolini and Nicola Sansone saw them come from behind to win 3-1.Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Bologna move up to 14th on 37 points after an impressive run of six wins in their last eight matches that has pulled them eight points clear of Empoli and the relegation zone.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

Brazil exorcize penalty demons, reach Copa semis

first_imgWillian came closest to scoring in normal time for Brazil when he hit the post as Paraguay held out for a 0-0 draw for more than 40 minutes following the dismissal of Fabian Balbuena for a professional foul on Roberto Firmino.Brazilian media had been almost in a state of paranoia before the match recalling the painful memories from Argentina in 2011 and Chile four years later when Paraguay produced stubborn defensive displays before snatching victory in the spot-kick lottery.But it wasn’t to be this time as Brazil goalkeeper Alisson saved Gustavo Gomez’s opening spot-kick at the Gremio Arena in Porto Alegre.Although Firmino dragged his effort wide, Derlis Gonzalez also fired past the post allowing Jesus, who missed a penalty in Brazil’s last match, to be the match-winner.The tournament hosts will face either perennial rivals Argentina or Venezuela in Tuesday’s semi-final in Belo Horizonte.Brazil started brightly and produced a beautiful passing move in the fourth minute as local favorite Everton drove in off the left wing and found Dani Alves on the edge of the area, with the full-back slipping the ball on to Firmino, whose weak shot was straight at goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez.Gremio forward Everton’s popularity was clear in his home stadium as fans wildly cheered his every touch.But the game quickly settled into the expected pattern, with Brazil dominating possession and playing countless passes while a well-drilled Paraguay doggedly held their shape and looked to counter at pace with direct runners.Brazil lacked a cutting edge and even when Philippe Coutinho seemingly played in Firmino behind the defence following a Richard Sanchez mistake, the Liverpool forward was easily muscled off the ball.The best chance of the first quarter fell to Paraguay as Hernan Perez found Gonzalez unmarked at back post but Alisson saved his near post shot.It was turgid fare on offer to the Porto Alegre crowd, who started a slow clap just after the half hour.Brazil reporters had asked coach Tite before the game if he was worried about fouls, which he replied were part of the game.But three Paraguayan players were booked before half-time for overly robust challenges.It wasn’t until five minutes from half time that Coutinho got in behind the defence on the left and fired in a shot from an angle that Fernandez saved comfortably.– Brazil jeered again –Predictably, Brazil were booed off at half-time, for the third time in four matches.Tite wasted no time in making a change, but it was a curious one swapping left-back Felipe Luis for Alex Sandro.Neat interplay saw Firmino tee up Coutinho just outside the box but his precise finish was easily saved again.Brazil had changed tactic and were driving more purposefully at the heart of the defence, with Arthur flashing a shot over the bar.It paid dividends on 54 minutes when Firmino won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area — overturned from the original decision of a penalty by VAR — and Balbuena was shown a red card for a professional foul.Dani Alves’s fierce low free-kick was deflected wide, though.Brazil started to pull Paraguay’s overworked defenders out of position and Arthur forced Fernandez into a diving save before Jesus dragged an effort wide.With Paraguay unable to pose any threat Tite withdrew his defensive midfielder Allan and threw on winger Willian, with Jesus pushed into the middle alongside Firmino.Almost immediately, Jesus missed a gilt-edged chance from eight yards out before Firmino headed a Marquinhos cross wide.Tite went for broke, bringing on attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta for full-back Alves and it almost worked but Willian saw his low left foot shot cannon back off the post sending the match into a tense penalty shoot-out.0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Brazil players celebrate their Copa America winPORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, Jun 28 – Gabriel Jesus scored the winning spot-kick in a tense penalty shoot-out as Brazil exorcized their demons to beat Paraguay on Thursday and reach the Copa America semi-finals.Twice before in 2011 and 2015 Paraguay had beaten Brazil at this same stage on penalties at the South American extravaganza.last_img read more