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Cardiff in shock, “have hope” Sala will be found

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Cardiff City’s players and manager have been speaking for the first time about the disappearance of their new club-record signing Emliano Sala.

Sala signed for Premier League side Cardiff on Jan. 19 from Nantes for a club-record fee, reported to be close to $19 million. He then flew back to Nantes to say goodbye to his former teammates and collect some belongings before flying back to Wales for his first training session two days later.

The small aircraft which was carrying the 28-year-old Argentine striker from Nantes to Cardiff disappeared from radars last Monday evening near the island of Alderney in the English Channel.

Pilot David Ibbotson was the only other person on board the aircraft and neither he or Sala have been found, with Guernsey Police calling off their extensive three-day search last Thursday. However, a private search has begun at the request of Sala’s family and thanks to the funding of over $340,000 online, mostly from star Argentine players, and many others around the globe.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock, who travelled to meet Sala on numerous occasions over the past few months to convince him to sign for the club, was understandable emotional.

“You think 24 hours a day about whether to carry on,” Warnock said. “It’s impossible to sleep. I’ve been in football management for 40 years and it’s been by far the most difficult week in my career, by an absolute mile. It’s been a traumatic week and even now I can’t get my head around the situation. It’s probably hit me harder than anyone else as I’ve met the lad and talked to him for the last six to eight weeks.”

The Bluebirds travel to Arsenal on Tuesday to play in their first game since the tragic disappearance of Sala, with the club and the rest of the Premier League planning to pay its respects to Sala. Cardiff’s captain Sol Bamba will lay down a bunch of yellow daffodils before the game to honor Sala, as that flower is synonymous with Wales and is also the same color of the home jersey he wore at Nantes. Arsenal will lay down some tulips and then some words about the incident will be said over the PA system, as an image of Sala will appear on the screen.

Sala’s family have asked for no black armbands to be worn in the game, while they also do not want a minute of silence as they still have hope the striker survived the airplane disappearing.

Bamba added that the playing staff at Cardiff also have hope there is a happy ending, and admitted that he has never seen the dressing room as quiet as it has been in recent days.

“It’s a human tragedy and if you’re human, you’re going to be hurt by it,” Bamba said. “You’re right to feel like that, it’s a tragedy. If you’ve got a heart, you’re going to be affected by it. From the minute he signed for us and came to see the boys to say hello, he was part of us, so everyone feels like he is part of the team.

“Obviously training was called off when we heard, but the next day we got together and everyone was in shock. It was a tough week for everyone, we’ve all been hurt and affected by it. Everyone got together and obviously everyone has been talking to make sure we’re all okay. But it was a tough week. I’ve never seen the dressing room that quiet, everyone was so sad and it was a shock really. We have to hope, even if the chances are very slim, but we like to think there can be a happy ending hopefully.”

Premier League Friendly Roundup: Leicester, Norwich in action

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Ayoze Perez got off to a great start for his new club on Tuesday, as Leicester topped Scunthorpe United, 1-0.

Perez, who arrived earlier this month from Newcastle in a $38 million transfer, scored on a first-time strike in the box that proved to be the difference in the game.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brendan Rodgers side got a chance to get minutes for plenty of first-team regulars. Johnny Evans, Jamie Vardy, Perez and Youri Tielemans all started. Wes Morgan, new signing James Justin, Rachid Ghezzal all came off the bench.

An interesting note was that Harry Maguire, the target of serious transfer interest from Manchester United, came off the bench at halftime and played the second half of the game. According to the latest reports, Man United and Leicester City are still very far apart regarding a transfer fee, so Maguire looks set to remain for the time being.

Elsewhere, Norwich City continued its preseason tour of Germany with a friendly match held behind closed doors. Norwich beat Bonner SC, 4-1, with goals from Adam Idah, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki.

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

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Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:


Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.


The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes:

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