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Football Focus: Neymar gets two-match ban for brawl

September 17, 2020 10:28 IST
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IMAGE: Neymar was carded for the brawl. Photograph: PSG/Twitter

Paris St Germain's Neymar has been given a two-match ban for striking out at Olympique de Marseille's Alvaro Gonzalez in last Sunday's fiery 1-0 defeat in Ligue 1, organisers said on Wednesday.

The league's statement added that defender Alvaro was being investigated after Neymar accused the Spaniard of using racist language towards him during the match, in which a total of five players were sent off following a mass brawl in stoppage time.

PSG defender Layvin Kurzawa was given a six-match ban, the heaviest sanction of all, for his role in the confrontation at the end of the match between the two rivals, while Marseille defender Jordan Amavi was banned for three matches.

 

Neymar, the world's most expensive player, was automatically suspended from Wednesday's 1-0 win over Metz for the red card, as was team mate Leandro Paredes for also seeing red against Marseille, and both players are also suspended from Sunday's away game at Nice.

Neymar and Paredes, who also both received a suspended sanction of an additional one-match ban, will make their returns against Stade de Reims on September 27.

 

Marseille striker Dario Benedetto was handed a one-game suspension while PSG's Angel di Maria, who was booked during the game but was not punished for the fight, has been called to attend a meeting of the league's disciplinary committee next Wednesday.

Neymar had justified lashing out at Alvaro by saying the Spaniard had racially abused him. Alvaro has denied Neymar's allegation.

"Regarding Alvaro Gonzalez, given the nature of the facts, the Commission has decided to place the case under investigation," added the league's statement.

Messi nets twice in Barca’s win in friendly

Barcelona's Lionel Messi dribbles past Girona's Bernardo Espinosa, Alex Granell and Enric Franquesa during their La Liga pre-season at the Johan Cruyff Stadium, Barcelona on Wednesday

IMAGE: Barcelona's Lionel Messi dribbles past Girona's Bernardo Espinosa, Alex Granell and Enric Franquesa during their La Liga pre-season at the Johan Cruyff Stadium, Barcelona on Wednesday. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona eased to a 3-1 victory over Girona in their second pre-season friendly under Ronald Koeman on Wednesday.

Philippe Coutinho struck the crossbar early on before giving Barca the lead midway through the first half, tapping into an empty net after brilliant link play between Messi and new signing Francisco Trincao.

Messi then doubled Barca's advantage later in the half, spinning away from a defender to thump a shot in off the post and score for the first time since threatening to leave the club last month.

Samu Saiz scored for Girona right at the start of the second period but Barca's captain struck again in the 50th minute, also cutting inside to shoot from outside the area but this time benefiting from a heavy deflection.

Koeman made four changes to the lineup that had beaten Gimnastic de Tarragona 3-1 in his first game on Saturday and made nine substitutions midway through the second half, only keeping on defender Ronald Araujo and goalkeeper Neto.

This was a more fluid and exciting display than against Gimnastic, with Messi looking sharper and Portuguese Trincao showing confidence and flair every time he got on the ball.

Teenager Pedri was Barca's liveliest substitute and had three attempts on goal after coming on, forcing Girona keeper Jose Suarez to make two smart saves, while American forward Konrad de la Fuente also impressed.

Barca play promoted La Liga side Elche in their final pre-season game on Saturday before beginning their league campaign the following weekend at home to Villarreal.

Koeman opens door to Suarez staying at Barca

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has said Luis Suarez will be treated like any other player if he ends up staying at the club this season, despite leaving the Uruguayan striker out of the squad for the second match in a row.

Suarez, Barca's third top scorer of all time, has one year left on his contract, was omitted from the squad for Wednesday's 3-1 friendly win over Girona.

One of Koeman's first acts as Barca coach was to tell Suarez he was no longer wanted but offloading the 33-year-old is proving difficult.

Reports in Italy say a planned move to Juventus is off, and with so many clubs reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, few could afford to pay his salary.

"I've spoken to him about his future and we are waiting to see whether or not he leaves, we still don't know," Koeman told Catalan network TV3 after the win over Girona.

"But we respect every contract here and if in the end he does not find a club and he stays, he will be just like any other player in the squad."

One player who looks certain to stay at Barca is Philippe Coutinho, who scored for the second game in a row since returning from his loan spell at Bayern Munich.

"He is very motivated right now, he is training well and playing well," Koeman said of the Brazilian, who has failed to live up to expectations since joining from Liverpool for a club record fee in 2018.

While the La Liga season started on Saturday, Barca are not playing their first competitive game until Sept. 27 due to playing in the Champions League 'Final Eight' tournament last month.

They play Elche on Saturday in their final pre-season game before kicking off their league campaign at home to Villarreal.

"We are looking in good shape, the players played 60 minutes today and many will play 90 on Saturday so they are ready for the start of the season," added Koeman.

"I'm happy with how we played today, with lots of build-up play from the back. It was a good display overall and when the season starts we'll be at 100%."

Last-gasp Draxler header gives PSG first victory of season

Paris St Germain earned their first win of the Ligue 1 season as Julian Draxler headed home deep in stoppage time to give the depleted French champions a 1-0 home win over Metz on Wednesday.

PSG's disciplinary problems continued, however, as they had another player sent off after three were dismissed in Sunday's ill-tempered defeat by Olympique de Marseille, including world record signing Neymar.

France striker Kylian Mbappe was also out due to testing positive for COVID-19 and Thomas Tuchel's under-strength side struggled to break down Metz, whose goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja made a series of saves with his feet to keep out the hosts.

PSG were further frustrated by the sending-off of defender Abdou Diallo in the 65th minute for a second yellow card, which was followed by an injury to full back Juan Bernat that left them with nine men as Tuchel had made three substitutions.

But PSG, beaten Champions League finalists last month, continued to search for a first goal of the season and finally got one thanks to the determination of Angel di Maria and the opportunism of Draxler.

Di Maria trapped a long ball down the left wing and cut inside, producing a stinging cross which keeper Oukidja spilled into the air.

German Draxler pounced to head into the unguarded net, providing much relief to the home fans who were scattered across the Parc des Princes due to social distancing measures.

"We missed so many great chances but the players showed a great mentality and they ran like crazy. We will savour this match for a long time," Tuchel said.

Moments before Draxler's goal, Metz came agonisingly close to finding an unlikely winning goal when Youssef Maziz broke into the area but side-footed wide of the target.

"From the start we knew this was going to be a very difficult match right until the end," PSG defender Marquinhos said.

"We are still recovering and we wanted to break them down long before we did but it was so important to win, especially as we were at home and after losing the first two games."

Having lost their first two matches of the campaign to Lens and Marseille, PSG are 15th in the Ligue 1 standings on three points after three games.

Spanish fixtures changed again as La Liga rift with federation deepens

Spanish soccer body La Liga has rescheduled four matches in the top two divisions for the second week in a row and criticised the national federation (RFEF) over its ban on games on Mondays and Fridays.

A statement from La Liga on Wednesday confirmed that Friday's game between Getafe and Osasuna had been moved to Saturday, with Real Betis v Real Valladolid being pushed forward from Monday to Sunday.

The changes also affected matches in the second division, with Castellon v Malaga moving from Friday to Saturday, and Cartagena v Sporting Gijon going from Monday to Sunday.

La Liga, which is responsible for compiling fixtures, had set games in the new season's opening round of matches in both leagues for Friday and Monday but had to reschedule them after a RFEF judge ruled matches could not take place on those days, referring to a commercial court ruling in 2019.

An appeal against that ruling will be heard on Oct. 6.

"In light of the uncertainty and grave insecurity generated by the ruling of the RFEF judge, which La Liga appealed against, the league has agreed to modify the kickoff times and dates for matchday two, with the aim of avoiding damaging the affected clubs," said La Liga's statement.

"La Liga has been forced to act before learning the outcome of its appeal and hopes that there will soon be a judicial resolution.

"It's also vital that the courts put an end to the interfering of the RFEF in the scheduling and development of the competition, to prevent the damage that their conduct is causing La Liga, its clubs and third parties."

La Liga president Javier Tebas has said holding matches on Fridays and Mondays satisfies broadcasters, while federation chief Luis Rubiales has said holding late night matches on working days is unfair on supporters wishing to attend games.

Man United women's captain Zelem tests positive for COVID-19

Manchester United women's captain Katie Zelem has been withdrawn from England's training camp after testing positive for COVID-19, the FA said on Wednesday.

Zelem, 24, was named in coach Phil Neville's 30-player squad last week for the Lionesses' training camp at St George's Park.

The FA and the club said the midfielder will now self-isolate for 10 days as per the health protocol.

"Manchester United's Katie Zelem has withdrawn from England's September training camp having tested positive for COVID-19... There are no plans to call up a replacement for Zelem at this time," the FA said in a statement.

Right back Lucy Bronze, who signed for Women's Super League (WSL) side Manchester City last week, has also withdrawn from the camp after she picked up a knock in Sunday's WSL game against Brighton & Hove Albion.

Midfielder Isobel Christiansen, who missed last year's World Cup due to an ankle injury, has been called up as a replacement.

England are scheduled to face twice world champions Germany in a friendly next month.

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