Nemanja Matic admits Manchester United deserved to lose to Sevilla

Simon Peach 14/03/2018
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Nemanja Matic believes Sevilla deserved to go through to the Champions League quarter-finals and admitted there was “no excuse” for Manchester United‘s shocking display.

Listless, dire and abject all aptly the performance produced by Jose Mourinho‘s side at a packed Old Trafford on Tuesday.

David De Gea was the hero of a goalless first leg, but it was Sevilla substitute Wissam Ben Yedder making the headlines this time, hitting a quickfire double to render Romelu Lukaku‘s late goal pointless as the visitors secured a famous 2-1 win in the last 16.

United’s players were deservedly jeered off the pitch but have no time to wallow in self-pity given Brighton arrive on Saturday in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – their last chance of silverware this season.

“Of course (it is difficult to take),” defensive midfielder Matic said. “We are not happy because we are out of the Champions League.

“But this is football, we have to accept it and to focus on the next game, which is very important also for us, in the FA Cup.

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“We focus also for the league, but we have to say congratulations to the team, Sevilla.

“They played really well, and they deserved to go through.”

United’s display lacked the attributes that saw them beat bitter rivals Liverpool 2-1 on Saturday.

Mourinho’s men dug deep to edge that Premier League encounter, but Matic refused to use those exertions as a way to explain Tuesday’s lacklustre display against Sevilla.

“There is no excuse,” the defensive midfielder said. “There is no excuse.

“We had a big game, as you know, against Liverpool. We won.

“With high confidence we come to play this game, but today they played better than us and they deserved (to win).”

All eyes will be on Old Trafford on Saturday evening to see how United respond to this embarrassing setback.

Anything but victory against Brighton will send shockwaves around the club and Matic knows they owe supporters a response.

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“We have to be focused on that because they’re a good team and we have to win,” the 29-year-old said.

“We have to go with everything to try to go through.

“We know that our supporters are sad because of this result.

“We are also sad, and we have to win to go back to winning ways, so I hope that the team reaction is going to be good.

“We have to forget this. We have to see our mistakes, to see what we have to do better and on Saturday is a new game.

“Life goes on and this is football, we have to accept that.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Edin Dzeko happy to prove his worth to Roma after win over Shakhtar Donetsk

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From a possible sacrifice for his cash-strapped club in January, Edin Dzeko proved his worth to Roma Tuesday, sealing a first Champions League quarter-final berth in a decade.

After the 31-year-old’s proposed move to Chelsea fell through in the winter transfer window, Dzeko helped the balance sheet of the club’s US owner James Pallotta by securing Roma’s place in the last eight of Europe’s lucrative elite competition.

“I didn’t want to go in January because I want to play these kind of games,” explained Dzeko after his 52nd-minute goal clinched a place in the last eight after a 2-1 first-leg loss in Ukraine amid scenes of euphoria in the Stadio Olympico.

Cengiz Under’s goal in the first leg last month ultimately proved crucial for Roma, but Dzeko was the hero on the night and also proved instrumental in Shakhtar defender Ivan Ordets being shown a straight red card with 12 minutes left.

“We managed to do something that had been missing for 10 years,” said Dzeko. “Going forward and playing with big teams is a pride for all of us.”

Dzeko proved to be a leader on the pitch with coach Eusebio Di Francesco giving him a standing ovation at the end.

“It is not for me, but for everyone, we are deservedly in the quarter-finals,” said the Bosnian after his fourth Champions League goal, and 18th in total for the club this season.

“Dzeko is our diamond,” said Italian defender Alessandro Florenzi.

“It’s my first Champions League quarter-final, so it’s a euphoric moment,” added Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan as Roma qualified for a third quarter-finals of the modern Champions League.

“It’s really satisfying for me because I think we saw a team being born this evening,” said Di Francesco. “We played a team game, a man’s match. We didn’t give them anything.”

After Italy’s shock failure to qualify for the World Cup, Roma’s progress to the last eight along with Juventus is a boost for the country.

Juventus have reached two finals in the last three seasons. The last Italian club to win the title was Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho in 2010. 

“There aren’t any teams I want to avoid,” continued Di Francesco looking ahead to Friday’s draw. “Roma must not fear anyone. I want to continue to dream with this team.”

There will also be at least three Italian coaches in the quarter-finals – Di Francesco, Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus and Vincenzo Montella of Sevilla.

“I spoke a few days ago with Montella. We said we’d meet in the final,” said the Roma coach.

“Joking aside, whatever the team we meet they will be welcome. In the meanwhile we’ll prepare for the (Serie A) match against Crotone.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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Willian could be the next Chelsea hero to emerge from Camp Nou

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Chelsea forward Willian after he opened the scoring against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

Chelsea have never been short of heroes during their trips to the Camp Nou.

Who could forget club icon Frank Lampard’s lob against Victor Valdes from an impossible angle in 2006? Or the remarkable raid six years later which set the path for Champions League glory, with dogged Ramires pulling off an artisanal chip from right-back and the bemoaned Jose Bosingwa performing like a warrior in the centre of defence for the Blues’ 10 men?

Such redoubtable displays have been required to gain an unbelievable statistic.

During a spell in which Barcelona have boasted arguably football’s strongest club side, Chelsea have remained unbeaten in four visits since 2006.

No victories were gained in this time. That’s no surprise.

But after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in which the hosts exceeded expectations, this faultless run should provide welcome cheer for embattled manager Antonio Conte.

A new talisman is required on Wednesday night to carry them over the line – and red-hot Willian is the outstanding candidate.

Amid Spain striker Alvaro Morata’s descent into a goalscoring abyss and the grumbles from Belgium livewire Eden Hazard about his false-nine deployment, the Brazil forward has burned red hot.

During this run, the 29-year-old has rocketed in five goals from five matches. This figure would have been boosted further if the woodwork hadn’t twice denied him last month before he fired in a resounding opener against Barca.

That’s a goal every 87.6 minutes. Half of his shots on target (10) have led to the keeper picking the ball out of his net.

During this timeframe, only Olivier Giroud and Pedro have joined him on the scoresheet – and both of these efforts came in the 4-0 FA Cup rout of a bedraggled Hull City who could be bound for League One.

The 2-1 weekend win against Crystal Palace was, of course, earned through Martin Kelly’s own goal.

Willian is the proud possessor of 13 strikes in 2017/18, already making this term his most productive in west London. A handsome return made more surprising by the fact he waited until October 10 to break his duck, at the 14th time of asking.

Ramires scored a beautiful chip at Barcelona in 2012's UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Ramires scored a beautiful chip at Barcelona in 2012’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Since he was stolen from Tottenham’s grasp in 2013, the limelight has rarely been Willian’s at Stamford Bridge. A subservient role and occasional thunderbolt are all that’s been asked of him him as Hazard and – departed – Spain centre forward Diego Costa dominated.

Collective knowledge within Chelsea’s core details special effort is a necessity to come away from Camp Nou in the quarter-finals.

From Barca’s last 48 home matches, only twice has a scoreline been recorded that would send the Blues through without needing penalties.

On home territory in 2017/18, they’ve registered 60 times from 22 games in all competitions – including a 3-0 humbling of Conte’s beloved Juventus in the group stage.

In the absence of any likelier source, the Blues will look to Willian to pull off this epic feat.

It’s a scenario few expected. But one he’s ready to pull off.

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