Mourinho on Mata transfer: heaps praise on player, lambastes Wenger for criticism

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Both the gracious and venomous qualities of Jose Mourinho’s way with words have been on display when it comes to Juan Mata’s expected transfer from Chelsea to Manchester United.

The Chelsea manager has not hesitated to praise his soon-to-be former player nor take some shots at Arsene Wenger for his criticism of the big money transfer.

But first, his comments on the player:

“We’ve allowed Juan to travel and have a medical at Manchester United, sooner rather than later things will be finalized.

 

“He is a fantastic player, in spite of not playing much for us. I still think he can be an important player for us, the offer we have received (believed to be around $61 million) we feel is the right offer for the quality of the player. It’s a good move for Juan, a good move for the Premier League and the offer is the right offer. He was fantastic for Chelsea and Chelsea were fantastic for him.”

He hasn’t been shy about praising Mata in the past, although it usually came with a caveat like “Yeah but if they’d only let me start 12 players, he could start.” Mourinho also pointed out that they’ll honor and respect Mata when he does return to Stamford Bridge.

Which, of course, will not be this year, as Arsene Wenger’s been quick to point out in his criticism of the transfer window. Commenters on this site weren’t hesitant to laugh off Wenger’s thoughts that Mata’s transfer was unfair because Chelsea won’t have to face Mata (and by extension, that the Gunners will).

Mourinho, too, was not hesitant. Independent on Sunday football writer Miguel Delaney tweeted the following quotes from Mourinho’s press conference:

– “Wenger complaining is normal because he always does. It’s something we know.”

– “If Wenger sells Ozil to Man United in this moment, I will be very happy, because he’s selling a very important player…”

– “Normally, [Wenger] should be very happy Chelsea is selling a player like Mata but this is his nature. We have to accept way he is.”

– “Wenger says this is not fair but what is not fair is that his team always has the best days to play.”

– “When you go to the fixtures during the season, it’s never fair because [Arsenal] always get the right times to play, to rest.”

Answer complaints about unfairness by calling the complainer a complainer, and then complaining: The. Special. One.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.

Netherlands manager Danny Blind fired after Bulgaria loss

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The Netherlands are in real trouble, and the manager has paid the price.

The Dutch national team has parted ways with Danny Blind the day after a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria left the Dutch fourth in their World Cup qualification group halfway through.

The move garnering all the headlines from Saturday’s loss was Blind’s decision to start 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt. The Ajax youth product, who has just two Eredivisie starts to his credit, made two crucial errors and yanked at halftime, but the damage had been done. Spas Delev scored twice in the opening 20 minutes for Bulgaria, and that was all the home side needed as the Dutch offered little in front of goal.

Blind was also criticized for not getting Memphis Depay on the field as they chased the game. The Netherlands held 74% possession, but could only manage 3 shots on target. Depay has been in good form since his January move to Lyon, with five goals in his 10 Ligue 1 appearances.

This decision was something Blind saw coming. He told national broadcaster NOS immediately after the Bulgaria loss, “I blame myself. It can’t go on like this. Things have to change.”

“I need to think about [my future]. I do not throw the towel in here. I’m incredibly disappointed, especially since I had a good feeling about this match. It makes sense that I put myself in front of the mirror.”

However, the problems for the Dutch go far deeper than Danny Blind. They missed out on Euro 2016 largely thanks to the failed 2nd tenure for Guus Hiddink. His assistant Blind took over, but the results have been equally as poor. The Netherlands sit fourth in UEFA World Cup qualification Group A, with losses to Bulgaria and France plus a draw with Sweden. It’s not over for them though, as they sit three points back of a second place spot with five matches to go, and three of those five at home.

With the Netherlands still yet to play their friendly against Italy this coming week, former goalkeeper Fred Grim takes over on an interim basis. Grim collected 101 caps for the Netherlands, and has served as the Netherlands U-21 manager for the last two years. Before that, he took charge of his first full managerial job as head man of Dutch 2nd-tier club Almere City.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.