The Hat-trick | Hardfought Comeback Win for Mumbai City Against Chennaiyin; Champions League Referee Implicated in Match Fixing; Real Scrape Through, Inter Knocked Out of Europe
Adam le Fondre (centre) celebrates with Mumbai City FC teammates after scoring against Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League (ISL).
Mumbai City FC remained on top of the Indian Super League (ISL) with a hardfought comeback victory against Chennaiyin FC on Wednesday. The match tempo was controlled by Chennaiyin, who had a lion’s share of the chances too -- 17 on target compared to Mumbai’s eight. However, strikes from Herman Santana and Adam le Fondre found the back of the net while Chennaiyin squandered a few as the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of Mumbai.
It was Mumbai City’s fourth win in a row. Ever since the loss in the opening match, the side, coached by Sergio Lobera, has grown in stature, becoming one of the teams to beat in the league this season. And Chennaiyin entered the match with the intent to do just that.
The Chennaiyin high press rattled Mumbai City who struggled to find rhythm. Chennaiyin carved out chances at will in the opening half with Jakub Slyvestr and Lallianzuala Chhangte missing good opportunities, before the two combined to score the opener.
Chhangte picked up the ball near the halfway line and raced past four, before turning into the box. He then rolled a simple pass to Sylvestr who tapped it into the net from a yard out.
Chennaiyin continued to push for more after the goal, but the final touch or pass was missing. Mumbai, then, slowly got their rhythm up and running, orchestrated by Hugo Bomous and Adam Le Fondre.
In the third and last minute of added time of the first half, Mumbai City won a throw-in and subsequently a corner from it. Boumous played the ball in deep, while Vishal Kaith came out of his line and completely missed the ball. Santana guided a good header into the goal for the equaliser. Their winner came off another set piece in the 75th minute, with the ball floated in by Ahmed Jahouh finish Boumous who headed square for Le Fondre to tap into goal.
"I am happy because today we won a very difficult game against a very good and competitive team," said Mumbai coach Lobera, who noted that his players were tired as they had played only three days ago.
"We were very tired in the last minutes and that is normal when you are playing two games in three days. It was difficult to press the opponent team but I think the team worked very hard," he added.
Referee Kralovec in Fixing Scandal
Czech referee Pavel Kralovec, a regular officiator in UEFA Champions League matches, has been implicated in a local match-fixing scandal as per reports. The case, details of which was reported in the Czech media, involves former Czech Football Association (FACR) deputy head Roman Berbr.
DNES newspaper cited police wiretaps to report that Berbr, who has been in custody over suspected match-fixing since October, had called Kralovec ahead of July’s Czech Cup final. In the match, Sparta Prague beat Slovan Liberec 2-1 to qualify for the Europa League group stage.
“Very simply, I need just one political thing, OK? You will understand. Josef Krula (Sparta’s sports manager and a former referee) stopped by on Monday,” Berbr said in that conversation, as per the wiretap. Kralovec answered that he did understand.
The match, or what transpired on the pitch, immediately put the glare on Kralovec. He had notably refused to send off Sparta midfielder Martin Frydek for stepping on an opponent. This despite calls from the video referee.
Sparta, who failed to advance from the Europa League Group H, denied any wrongdoing and said they want “thorough investigation” into the incident.
Kralovec, who is in the referee panel for the Champions League, officiated in the Chelsea vs Krasnodar match on Tuesday. He, however, has been removed from the list of referees for professional Czech leagues by the FACR. The Czech national body added that the exclusion will stand till the end of the year. That could possibly get extended if the investigations end up revealing more damning evidence against the 43-year-old referee.
Berbr was one of 19 people detained by police in October. The 66-year-old former referee stepped down from his position soon after. Berbr became deputy head of FACR in 2013, and has been pulling the strings in Czech football for years, says the local media.
Real, PSG Through
Despite playing a group stage fixture over two days, facing extraordinary scenes in the middle and tenuous circumstances out of it, PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir players came out to play the remainder of their game yesterday, locking hands as a symbolic gesture before it began.
A Neymar hat-trick in a 5-1 rout meant PSG claimed top spot in Group H ahead of fellow qualifiers RB Leipzig. The indelible moment of the evening, however, came just before kick off when both teams took the knee and raised their fists as the Champions League anthem played.
The players were joined by referee Danny Makkelie and his assistants, drafted in to replace officials who are now the subject of a UEFA investigation over alleged racially insensitive remarks that led to both teams leaving the pitch and the tie being suspended.
UEFA has confirmed that an ethics and disciplinary inspector has been appointed to conduct an investigation into the encounter involving fourth official Constantin Coltescu, which could see the Romanian banned for a minimum of 10 matches.
Real Madrid went into yesterday’s fixture against Borussia Monchengladbach knowing that they could finish the day anywhere between first and fourth in Group B, but also knowing that they were the most storied of the teams in this competition — one they consider their own.
A Karim Benzema brace (9’, 31’) meant they finish at the top of the group and avoided heavyweights Bayern, Manchester City, Liverpool, Dortmund, Chelsea, Juventus and PSG. The group had provided one of the most intriguing plot lines of the preliminary stage, and the German side’s loss meant Inter needed to win to go through. Unfortunately for them, they drew with Shakhtar Donetsk to be knocked out of the competition. To make matters worse the draw meant they finished bottom of their group and will therefore miss out on the Europa League too for the season.
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