Champions League news: Tottenham were intimidated by Ajax, says Moussa Sissoko


The midfielder admitted his side had a slow start to the game as their opponents took the lead in the Champioms League semi-final tie

Moussa Sissoko suggested Tottenham were guilty of being “intimidated” by Ajax and feels overturning a 1-0 first-leg deficit to reach the Champions League final would now be “even more beautiful”.

Ajax, who eliminated Real Madrid and Juventus in the previous two rounds, took a huge step towards reaching the decider in Madrid after Donny van de Beek found the net in London, where the Dutch club dominated proceedings early on and were perhaps unfortunate not to score more.

It took midfielder Sissoko’s introduction from the bench and a tactical rejig just after the hour-mark for the tide to turn, with the France international brought on after Jan Vertonghen was unable to continue following a blow to the nose.

Spurs still have it all to do in the return leg in Amsterdam next week, though, and Sissoko thinks Mauricio Pochettino’s team may have been overawed in the club’s first semi-final in Europe’s premier club competition in over half a century.

“The start of the match was not good on our part, we were perhaps intimidated by the challenge,” he told RMC Sport.

“We did not play our football. I tried to bring back the impact, in the second half it was better, we could have done better, it’s a shame to lose this match but there is a second leg.

“The first thing in football is the impact – especially in this kind of match. This is only the first round.”

Ajax lost the first leg in their last-16 tie against Madrid and travelled to Turin having drawn the opening encounter against Juve in the quarter-finals.

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They won both of their return fixtures and, with that in mind, Sissoko feels Tottenham now reaching the final for the first time in their history would be even sweeter.

“We knew what this team was capable of – we saw it against Real Madrid and Juve, there is a lot of carefreeness and serenity in this team,” he added.

“If we get the qualification there, it will be even more beautiful.”



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Tottenham 0-1 Ajax: Spurs star Christian Eriksen – We made them look a lot better than they are


The Spurs midfielder was disappointed with his side’s performance in Tuesday’s match, especially their first-half display

Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen was frustrated with his side’s display in Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat to Ajax , saying his team made their opponents look better than they are. 

A shorthanded Spurs side failed to muster much of a threat in the Champions League semi-final first leg, as Donny van de Beek’s first-half strike put Ajax on the verge of their first final since 1996. 

Despite injuries and suspension robbing Tottenham of several key players including Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Eriksen was still fuming with the way his side performed – especially in the first half.  

“We were under-par, we didn’t play our best at all,” Eriksen, who played for Ajax between 2010 and 2013, told BT Sport .

“In the first 20 minutes, we were ball-watchers. We need to change it up a lot for the next game.

“We made them look a lot better than they are. Of course they’re a good side but I think we helped them on their way to give them the feeling that they can control things, which was our fault. 

“At the start, the system didn’t matter. The change gave us a different way to press, to play more direct. But we were still far from where we know we can be.

“No one wanted to play the first half we did. Everyone knew we didn’t compete. We still lost, but we were better in the second half.

“Second half was different, we played more direct and we hurt them a lot more, but we needed the last touch.”

Though Tottenham were shorthanded prior to the match and then lost Jan Vertonghen to a head injury in the first half, the Denmark international wasn’t interested in injury excuses. 

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“We can’t keep talking about injured players. In a semi-final it doesn’t matter who plays, we have to step up,” Eriksen said.  

Eriksen felt his side were fortunate to see David Neres hit the post in the second half, which will give Spurs some encouragement heading into next week’s second leg at the Johan Cruyff Arena.  

“We’re lucky they hit the post and hopefully we can turn things around in Amsterdam,” the 27-year-old said. 



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Ibrahimovic v Onuoha trash-talking: Zlatan has nothing to apologize for


The criticism aimed at Zlatan Ibrahimovic for trash-talking Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha is misguided

Zlatan Ibrahimovic needed to get going. The star striker was in the midst of a lackluster performance, and with his team locked in a 1-1 tie against Real Salt Lake, he decided it was time to talk some trash to the biggest defender on the other team. A few minutes later he scored the winning goal, turning to the big defender and screaming at his vanquished foe.

The moment would have come and gone without much attention if the defender in question, Nedum Onouha, didn’t proceed to bash Ibrahimovic in post-game interviews for behavior he deemed to be thuggish. Onuoha didn’t take kindly to the Swedish attacker saying he would injure Onuoha, so when Ibrahimovic showed up in the RSL locker room to shake hands after the match, the former Manchester City defender rejected the peace offering, deciding instead to rail on his opponent’s behavior and the perceived star treatment he receives.

While you can certainly argue that visiting the visiting team’s locker room after an emotionally-charged match wasn’t the best idea, the notion that Ibrahimovic did something wrong by engaging in mental warfare with an opponent during a professional soccer match is a head scratcher. Trash talking isn’t something all players are into — and is clearly not something Onuoha is a fan of — but to label Ibrahimovic a thug for talking trash to an opponent was the type of pearl-clutching you don’t generally see from 6-foot-2 defenders the size of a heavyweight boxer.

The former Manchester United striker isn’t everybody’s cup of tea — and that reality was made clear in the wake of this latest incident, as evidenced by the waves of condemnation of Ibrahimovic’s behavior, and the support for Onuoha “standing up for himself” and not taking his enemy’s abuse.

Only he did take the abuse, and did give up the winning goal shortly after Ibrahimovic started jawing at him. The 37-year-old set out to motivate himself by trash-talking an opponent and it worked, so how exactly did Onuoha win? More importantly, how did Ibrahimovic do anything wrong? Onuoha mentioned some physical contact as well, but he received a yellow card for that. Should the referee have also issued a yellow card for harsh language?

Onuoha wasn’t wrong in his assessment that stars like Ibrahimovic are treated differently in MLS, and the LA Galaxy ace isn’t the first star player to straddle crossing the line with emotionally- charged play. Thierry Henry was notorious for trying to psyche out opponents, and was known for having his flashes of anger during his time with the New York Red Bulls. MLS even instituted a rule forbidding contact with opponents’ heads after Henry not-so-playfully slapped opponents heads on multiple occasions.

That isn’t to say players are allowed to say anything they want on the field. Racist slurs are clearly off-limits and it just so happens that a player in the American second division, the USL, was cut loose by his team after aiming racial slurs at an opponent the day before Ibrahimovic’s incident with Onuoha. It was the kind of swift justice racist behavior deserves.

What Ibrahimovic is being accused of falls well below that same standard of bad behavior. A player trying to psyche themselves up, and psyche out an opponent, with threats of physical violence in the midst of a physical game, isn’t common, but it also doesn’t violate any rules. There’s nothing wrong with finding that sort of behavior off-putting or repugnant, but there’s also nothing wrong with seeing it as part of professional sports.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Nedum Onouha

Was it a bad look for Ibrahimovic to taunt Onuoha after scoring? Absolutely, and if there was anything for him to be apologetic about, it was that reaction, but he was clearly caught up in the moment. Once the match ended, Ibrahimovic visited RSL’s locker room to smooth things over, and offered to shake Onuoha’s hand in an attempt to show there were no hard feelings — though at no point has he or anyone associated with the Galaxy confirmed Onuoha’s description of the post-game locker room visit as an actual apology.

What Ibrahimovic did say was that what happens on the field stays on the field, and after scoring the game-winning goal, it’s difficult to imagine the forward regretted anything he did. More than likely, Ibrahimovic probably came away surprised at the fact that Onuoha took his trash-talking so personally and stayed upset about it even after the final whistle blew.

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Trash talk doesn’t make Ibrahimovic a thug or a bully, least of all when his trash talk is aimed at the biggest player on the opposing team. It’s what he needed to do to get himself going and Onuoha’s job was to stop him and he failed. His post-match diatribe over Ibrahimovic’s behavior only served to paint him as a mentally soft player, though clearly not to those who detest trash talking and aren’t fans of the experienced forward’s egotistical persona.

The Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are scheduled to meet again later this season, on September 25 in Utah, and if both players are on the field, you can rest assured it will be must-see TV. Onouha will have his chance to let his play do the talking, which is his prerogative, but Ibrahimovic will also have his chance to try get into Onuoha’s head with some trash talk, which is entirely his right





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Barcelona v Liverpool: The story of Luis Suarez’s transfer in 2014


The Uruguayan may have left Anfield under a cloud but he can expect a warm reception from Reds fans in Wednesday’s Champions League clash

He’s looking forward to this one, Luis Suarez, and no wonder.

It is coming towards five years since the Uruguayan swapped Liverpool for Barcelona but, on Wednesday night, it will be friends reunited as the sides meet in the most mouth-watering of Champions League semi-finals.

It promises to be a fascinating night. Emotional too, perhaps, for Suarez, who remembers his three-and-a-half years on Merseyside with fondness – despite the controversies which seemed to follow him around like the most dogged of man-markers.

Suarez left Liverpool under a cloud, a £65 million (€75m/$84m) signing who arrived in Barcelona banned from all football activity for four months after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup. He moved to Camp Nou in the July, but it would be October before he could make his first appearance.

For Liverpool, of course, Suarez’s exit was inevitable. He left as the club’s star man, the Premier League’s leading goalscorer and the PFA and Football Writers’ player of the year. In his final season, he had come agonisingly close to firing Brendan Rodgers’ side to an unlikely league title.

For Reds fans, the images of him at Selhurst Park, shirt covering his face as he sobbed uncontrollably, still make for painful viewing. They knew, and he knew, that the end had arrived.

Liverpool’s 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace that night didn’t cost them the title – the defeat to Chelsea a week earlier was the turning point – but it confirmed that Suarez would be leaving with nothing to show for his remarkable efforts. He made one more appearance for the club before heading off to Brazil for the World Cup.

The Liverpool he left, it should be said, is a different club to the one he will face this week. Expectations were lower, the squad was weaker, spending in the transfer market more frugal.

In Rodgers, they had a young, unproven coach trying to take the Reds back to the top of the tree. Their hopes were pinned on individuals; Suarez, along with Steven Gerrard, carried most of them.

Luis Suarez Steven Gerrard Liverpool PS

Liverpool, in many ways, were grateful to get that magnificent 2013-14 season from Suarez. He had wanted to leave the club at the start of that campaign, waging an ugly public war as he tried to force a transfer to first Real Madrid and then, surprisingly, Arsenal.

“My reason for leaving is my family and my image,” he told a Uruguayan TV station. “I don’t feel comfortable here any more.”

He would go on to claim he had been “persecuted” by the British media, accusing them of going “too far” in their coverage of another biting controversy when he sank his teeth into Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during a league game at Anfield.

It is a quirk of Suarez time at Liverpool that he did not miss a single match for the club due to injury, yet spent a total of 19 games suspended. He got 10 games for the Ivanovic incident and was banned for eight matches after being found guilty, controversially, of using abusive language towards Manchester United’s Patrice Evra in a game at Anfield in October 2011.

Suarez always contested that charge, in particular the suggestion that he had racially abused Evra.

“I’m still sad and angry to think that this is a stain on my character that will probably be there for ever,” he wrote in his 2014 autobiography.

Liverpool, for their part, can look back on that period and wince at the way they handled the entire affair. Nobody came out of it well.

By the summer of 2013, Suarez was set on leaving. Arsenal, memorably, submitted an offer of £40m and £1, believing that would trigger a release clause in the striker’s contract.

Liverpool’s response was firm – “What do you think they’re smoking over there at Emirates?” principal owner John W Henry memorably tweeted. Arsenal never got close to a deal.

Suarez went public with his grievances, claiming Liverpool had reneged on a promise to let him leave if they failed to secure Champions League football (they finished seventh in 2012-13).

He gave interviews to a group of Spanish-speaking British journalists, in which he stated: “I have to put my career first… I’m 26, I need to be playing in the Champions League.”

Liverpool’s response to that, and to Suarez’s lack of application and focus at Melwood, was to banish him to train with the reserves. Meanwhile, Gerrard set about convincing the Reds’ star man to give it another year.

“Steven tells me ‘I promise that if you stay this year you’re going to take off and next year you’ll go to Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid or whichever one you want, but stay this year because you won’t be better off at Arsenal.’

“His words convinced me in that moment. They came from a person who cared for me, who wanted my well-being, who saw me suffer during training and saw me sad. They were words from a true captain that had an impact in that moment and helped me a lot.”

Luis Suarez Jordan Henderson Barcelona Liverpool PS

Gerrard was right. Suarez, having served the Ivanovic ban, delivered the best season of his Liverpool career. He scored 31 times as Rodgers’ men mounted a title challenge.“Footballing revenge,” one journalist called it.

Reds fans, bewitched by his extraordinary talent and will to win, could do little but admire. He wasn’t perfect, but blimey he was good. The memories will live long.

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He can expect applause from the travelling Kop this week. He got a hero’s reception when returning to Anfield for a charity game in 2015, and has spoken warmly about the club in recent years. He is already looking forward to next week’s second leg on Merseyside.

“My kids never go to Champions League games but they want to go to this one,” he said recently. He plans to catch up with Jordan Henderson and a few of the Melwood backroom staff. “It’ll be nice to go back,” he added.

Before that, though, there is business to take care of. And when that whistle goes at Camp Nou on Wednesday, Liverpool know exactly what they are in for. They wouldn’t expect anything else from Suarez.



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Tottenham 0-1 Ajax: ‘Oh my God, he was so bad!’ – Ruud Gullit slams Dele Alli showing in loss


The former Netherlands star did not hold back in his criticism of several Tottenham players following their Champions League semi-final defeat

Former Netherlands star Ruud Gullit has slammed several Tottenham players, including Dele Alli, for their performances in Tuesday’s Champions League defeat to Ajax

Spurs fell 1-0 at home in the semi-final first leg, as Donny van de Beek’s early goal gave the Dutch side the advantage heading into next week’s second leg in Amsterdam. 

The home side were missing several key players in the game, including Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, with Jan Vertonghen going off in the first half with a head injury. 

Gullit feels that Tottenham’s players failed to step up in their team-mates’ absence, noting his particular disappointment with Alli’s display.

“For me a lot of players [were] disappointing because I see them every week in the Premier League,” Gullit said on beIN SPORTS.

“Dele Alli – oh my god, technical-wise, so bad!

“[Victor] Wanyama – my god, technical-wise, [Danny] Rose, technical-wise, especially that. Like I said I see them every week and I think to myself: ‘How is that possible?’ So many mistakes.

“I know they’re under pressure but also under pressure, they need to know what to do and they didn’t.”

Tottenham now face a massive task in the second leg, with just one of the 17 previous teams to lose the first leg at home in a European Cup/Champions League semi-final having progressed to the final.

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That team, ironically, was Ajax, who pulled the feat off in 1995-96. The Dutch side lost 1-0 to Panathinaikos in the first leg of their semi-final before winning the second leg 3-0. 

Ajax would go on to lose to Juventus in the final in penalties. 

 





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How Twitter reacted to Andre Onana’s fine showing vs. Tottenham Hotspur


The impressive performance by the Cameroonian against the English team on Tuesday night drew wonder of football fans on social media

Andre Onana laid a huge one, in the form of a clean slate, as Ajax stunned Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in England.

Donny van de Beek’s early strike earned the Dutch side a first-leg advantage ahead of the return leg in Amsterdam.

The 23-year-old put in a good shift as he made crucial saves to deny Mauricio Pochettino’s men any chance to bounce back.

It was the type of performance that left football on twitter salivating for more.





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Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson denies supporting Tommy Robinson following Twitter photo


The Brazil international insists he does “not support this guy or his ideas” after a picture emerged of the two together

Ederson has strongly denied a suggestion he endorsed Tommy Robinson after a photograph of the Manchester City goalkeeper with the British far-right political activist circulated on Twitter. 

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, announced last week he will stand as a candidate in the north west region of England in this month’s European parliamentary elections, despite facing a prison sentence of up to two years in an ongoing court case. 

The picture of Ederson posing with Robinson was posted by Twitter user Danny Tommo, who describes himself as “Working with Tommy Robinson” in his biography on the social networking site. 

“Tommy Robinson meeting city’s [sic] golden boy @edersonmoraes93 last night, has his full support while in Manchester,” he tweeted on Tuesday. 

Brazil international Ederson was unequivocal in his response, which appeared to call Tommo “a liar” after declaring he had “no idea” who Robinson was. 

“People have made me aware of who this guy [Robinson] is,” he tweeted.  

“I definitely [do] not support this guy or his ideas. He just stopped me for a picture. I had no idea who he was (do not be a liar).” 

Robinson himself is unable to directly contribute to the exchange, having been permanently banned from Twitter last month for falling foul of the website’s rules on “hateful conduct”.

Ederson was named in the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Team of the Year last week and has proved a key performer in City’s bid to secure a domestic treble.





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Champions League news: Ajax fought like lions against Tottenham, says Erik ten Hag


The coach was delighted with his side’s performance even though they had difficulty containing Tottenham’s change in formation

Ajax coach Erik ten Hag praised his team for fighting “like lions” to beat Tottenham 1-0 in their Champions League semi-final first-leg on Tuesday. 

The Dutch side sealed a narrow win over the Premier League outfit in London thanks to Donny van de Beek’s goal after 15 minutes.

The crucial moment came during Ajax’s brightest spell in the game as Tottenham became more of a threat in the second half.

Although he admits his side struggled to keep possession after Spurs changed shape to cope with Jan Vertonghen’s injury, he was delighted with the performance and expects even better in the next game. 

“It’s a great achievement. We’ve fought like lions,” he told Ziggo Sport. “In the first part, we played very good football and the goal was deserved. We dominated but after a while we failed to play football.

“In that phase we had more chances as we could have scored more. Nevertheless it’s a good result.”

“We didn’t anticipate well after the substitution [of Jan Vertonghen]. We weren’t able to keep the ball and that made it unnecessarily hard. We had to follow the ball too much.

“Tottenham chose a more opportunistic style and it cost a lot of power to keep the pressure on them. We would have loved to have the kept ball a bit more, but then we had to change our system, which would have made it easier for them to avoid the pressure.

“I’m sure Tottenham has gained insights from this game, but so have we. We are halfway through, that’s how you should say it. We have a good starting position, but it should be better next week than it was today.  I’m very satisfied with our progress and growth.”

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The coach also highlighted midfielder Van de Beek’s performance, saying he did more than score the crucial goal.

“He played incredibly well. In the final phase he was important, but also defensively. He covered incredible ground and won many duels and second balls.”

The two sides meet again in the second leg in Amsterdam on May 8.



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Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson denies supporting Tommy Robinson following photo


The goalkeeper insists he does “not support this guy or his ideas” after a picture emerged of the two together

Ederson has strongly denied a suggestion he endorsed Tommy Robinson after a photograph of the Manchester City goalkeeper with the British far-right political activist circulated on Twitter. 

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, announced last week he will stand as a candidate in the north west region of England in this month’s European parliamentary elections, despite facing a prison sentence of up to two years in an ongoing court case. 

The picture of Ederson posing with Robinson was posted by Twitter user Danny Tommo, who describes himself as “Working with Tommy Robinson” in his biography on the social networking site. 

“Tommy Robinson meeting city’s [sic] golden boy @edersonmoraes93 last night, has his full support while in Manchester,” he tweeted on Tuesday. 

Brazil international Ederson was unequivocal in his response, which appeared to call Tommo “a liar” after declaring he had “no idea” who Robinson was. 

“People have made me aware of who this guy [Robinson] is,” he tweeted.  

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“I definitely [do] not support this guy or his ideas. He just stopped me for a picture. I had no idea who he was (do not be a liar).” 

Robinson himself is unable to directly contribute to the exchange, having been permanently banned from Twitter last month for falling foul of the website’s rules on “hateful conduct”.

Ederson was named in the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Team of the Year last week and has proved a key performer in City’s bid to secure a domestic treble.





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Tottenham 0-1 Ajax: ‘We have to finish it’ – Donny van de Beek urges calm ahead of second leg


The 22-year-old scored a winner for his side on Tuesday, but knows there is work left to do in Amsterdam if they are to reach the final

Ajax hero Donny van de Beek knows there is work left for his side to do in the second leg against Tottenham despite their 1-0 win in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Tuesday. 

Van de Beek was the man for the moment, calmly slotting home just 15 minutes in to hand the away side an advantage they would never relinquish. 

Spurs pushed to get back into the match and gave the Dutch outfit problems in the second half, leading their goalscoring hero to urge calm as his club sit just 90 minutes away from an improbable place in the Champions League final. 

“The first 30 minutes we played really good,” Van de Beek told BT Sport. “After that, Tottenham changed something tactical and we had problems. 1-0 is okay and next week we have to finish it.

“The beginning was good, but after that we played not what we can. We have to make a good plan for next week.

“We have to stay calm. I don’t know what they will do in the next game. We can do better and we have to watch for next week.”

Ajax have a good bit of history on their side heading into the second leg. 

Just one of the last 17 sides to lose a Champions League or European Cup semi-final first leg at home have made it to the final.

Along with that, only two other clubs have won three knockout matches away from home in the same Champions League campaign. Those clubs, Bayern Munich in the 2012-13 season and Real Madrid in the 2017-18 both went on to win the competition. 

Ajax have now won four straight matches away from home in the Champions League, their longest such streak this century. 

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The club now have a KNVB Cup final against Willem II to contend with on Sunday before hosting the second leg against Spurs next Wednesday.

Should they progress to the final, they will face either Barcelona or Liverpool, who open their Champions League semi-final tie with the first leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday, in Madrid on June 1. 

 



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