Should Manchester City sack Roberto Mancini?

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Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has criticized club officials for not putting an end to rumors that he will be sacked in favor of Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Speculation that Mancini would be fired emerged following his side’s 1-0 loss to Wigan in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday. After the match, the Italian addressed the rumors. “You (media) continue to speak about this for six months and there has been too much in the last two weeks. . . . I don’t know why the club hasn’t stopped this because it is not correct and I don’t think it is true.”

“If it’s true we will see in the next two weeks. If it’s not true, you wrote a lot of stupid things for six months. If it’s true, I’m stupid because I didn’t understand anything about this.

“But I am sure I work with serious people and I’m sure I did a good job, even if we lost this final. Two weeks, maybe one week. Next Sunday. The season will finish. I will know if it’s true or not.”

So should City sack Roberto Mancini?

An argument can certainly be made as Mancini failed to win his side a single piece of silverware this season.

City was knocked out of the Capital One Cup back in September when they were thrashed 4-2 by an underwhelming Aston Villa side. It was a match that Mancini didn’t take seriously, starting Abdul Razak, Denis Suarez and bringing on substitutes Scott Sinclair and Jeremy Helan. While many laugh off the League Cup as only being a hindrance, going out to Villa in that fashion was embarrassing and that’s a piece of silverware that Mancini could now be using to his advantage.

The Citizens run to the FA Cup final was strong but losing to Wigan, who is likely to be relegated from the league, was inexcusable. Credit to the Latics, who played brilliantly on the day, but under no circumstances is a club like City ever to lose that match. Mancini failed to get his team mentally and physically ready for the game. On the pitch, the Citizens were outfought and in the locker-room they were out-witted. It was embarrassing for City and all Mancini could do in return was issue blame.

Slotted in the ‘group of death’ with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, City’s route in the Champions League was never going to be easy. But failing to earn a single victory was a travesty. There isn’t a pundit in the world who will argue that losing 3-2 at Madrid or 1-0 at Dortmund was a huge problem but drawing at home with each of the three opponents and getting manhandled 3-1 away at Ajax was completely unacceptable.

City’s performance in the league, however, can’t be deemed a massive failure. Granted, they failed to repeat as champions and instead found themselves looking up at United but finishing comfortably in second place and qualifying for next season’s Champions League is not a terrible result.

More importantly, it’s important to consider how much the Eithad fans love Mancini. Since taking over from Mark Hughes in December 2009, the Italian has helped cultivate the club into one of Europe’s elite while leading the Citizens to FA Cup victory in 2011 and the Premier League title in 2012. And while dissenters argue that Mancini’s success is by virtue of deep-pocketed owners, there’s something to be said for putting the right pieces in place and getting them to work together.

One season without silverware can’t possibly be enough to warrant the sack, can it?

 

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia