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Hugo Lloris the hero as Spurs earn a valuable point against Real Madrid

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Forget Harry Kane for just one moment. After this, the player Tottenham may have to keep out of Real Madrid’s clutches is Hugo Lloris.

Indeed, Real may look to take a job lot having seen the immense potential in this Spurs team. Harry Winks was excellent given the giant responsibility of marshalling midfield and Eric Dier was unexpectedly at home against a terrifying forward line in a back three deployed by Mauricio Pochettino.

The whole defence was superb, in fact, in withstanding the onslaught of the first team to retain the Champions League in the modern era. And even if Kane missed his best chance, one on one, he caused enough panic in Madrid’s back line to get partial credit for the Tottenham goal. Real will be worried about him at Wembley, have no doubt of that.

Yet it would all have come to nought were it not for a man-of-the-match performance by Lloris. Not that Tottenham were pinned back or overwhelmed. He wasn’t Jan Tomaszewski, saving with every part of his body. It wouldn’t have been 10-0 without him.

Yet two or three saves were outstanding — and one stop was exceptional, arguably the save of the season so far. They will remember him here after this — and sometimes, with Real, that can be dangerous. Madrid’s interest in David de Gea is long-standing, so we know they are in the market for a keeper.

And had it been an audition, it really couldn’t have gone better for Lloris, particularly in the second half when Madrid came out with their dander up having equalised just before half time. In a sustained spell, between the 55th and 65th minutes, Lloris made three saves, starting with the best of them all from Karim Benzema.

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It wasn’t the happiest night for Madrid’s striker — he had three decent chances and should have scored from all of them, but at the start of the second half he must have felt his luck had changed.

Casemiro provided the cross and Benzema met it with a header that looked for all the world like the go-ahead goal. Somehow Lloris kept it out. Somehow he was quick and agile enough to block and snatch the roars from the throats of the Madridistas.

He did it again soon after when Winks had lost possession and Madrid fed Cristiano Ronaldo on the break. Lloris was magnificent in keeping his shot out — and again two minutes later when Ronaldo had sped past three.

At times of such intense pressure it is not like Madrid have found a new gear, more like they have been tossed the keys to a whole new car. A Lamborghini, perhaps — or Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Yet Lloris stood tall through it all. He made several other fine stops from Isco and Ronaldo and held his nerve despite the frustrated whistles of the locals, taking time out of the game and allowing Pochettino’s team to maintain their composure while earning an incredibly gutsy point.

Late in the day, as Madrid sent in a corner, Lloris came from his line, rose imperiously and plucked the ball out of the air. He looked at home here, it has to be said.

As did Tottenham. Remarkably, considering their struggles in this competition last season, they lead Group H having played Madrid away. They also enjoy a six-point cushion over Borussia Dortmund, the club it was felt they would wrestle for second place.

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A world of possibilities is opening up — including one in which they achieve the much-needed landmark result at Wembley, the one that changes the narrative at their temporary home.

Imagine if they defeated Real Madrid there. After this, it is not unthinkable. This was not Kane’s best performance, but he frightens Madrid. Maybe their attempts at flattery — interpreted as the seeds of an attempted courtship — have built up Kane’s prowess in the minds of Madrid’s defenders.

Tottenham went ahead because Madrid were frit by him. The goal came after 28 minutes, Tottenham growing into the game following an early scare when Ronaldo hit a post and Benzema squandered the rebound with the goal begging. Gradually, though, Tottenham gained composure and began to threaten.

Kane had a header well saved by Keylor Navas and Fernando Llorente had a shout for a penalty rejected, after his standing leg was taken by Casemiro. In front of the most vocal sector of the Bernabeu, it would have been a bold call by Polish referee Szymon Marciniak, and he wasn’t about to do anything silly like that.

So, Tottenham had to make their own luck and from their next foray into the box, they did. Serge Aurier made excellent ground on the right and whipped in a lovely ball which Kane tried to flick into Navas’s goal with his heel. He missed, but sufficiently worried Raphael Varane that the defender stabbed at a clearance and, in doing so, put the ball into his own net.

Sadly, as wonderful as Aurier is going forward, he can be a liability in defence. In the 42nd minute, his clumsy challenge gave referee Marciniak the chance to award the type of penalty that never spells controversy at the Bernabeu — a penalty to Real Madrid.

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As the professionals say, Aurier went to ground too early and in a place that invited trouble. In doing so, he took Toni Kroos with him and Marciniak did not pass up the opportunity to be popular. He pointed to the spot and Ronaldo finished emphatically.

Having survived another onslaught, Tottenham could have nicked it. On 71 minutes, Llorente put Kane in with only Navas to beat, but the keeper diverted his shot round a post. Kane will have been disappointed not to score, but knowing what a goal would have done to his stock here, maybe for Spurs fans it was for the best.

It was still very good. When Madrid come to Wembley, they will know they are not just facing a Harry Kane team, but a group who continue to grow in stature.

 

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FIFA President, Infantino tests positive for COVID-19

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FIFA Chief, Gianni Infantino has contracted coronavirus popularly known as COVID-19,  the world’s football governing body announced on Tuesday.

According to the information scooped from AFP, the 50-year-old has mild symptoms and will remain in isolation for a further 10 days.

“All people who came into contact with the FIFA President during the last few days have been informed accordingly and they are being requested to take the necessary steps,” the body said.

“FIFA sincerely wishes President Infantino a speedy recovery,” it added.

Infantino’s last public appearances was at FIFA’s Compliance Summit which ended on October 16 when all attendees were present via video.

Cases, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 in the body’s base, Switzerland, have doubled from one week to the next throughout October.

The country’s government is expected to decide Wednesday on new measures to control the spread of the virus.

The spread of the illness has cast doubt over Wednesday’s potential meeting between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the Champions League after the Juventus attacker tested positive for the illness earlier this month.

 

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Barcelona: Real reason for Messi’s u-turn

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Lionel Messi said on Friday he will stay at Barcelona, insisting he could never go to court against “the club of his life”.But he launched a stinging attack on Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, accusing him of going back on an agreement to let him leave for free at the end of last season.

“The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he didn’t end up keeping his word,” Messi said in an interview with Goal, released on Friday.

“I thought and we were sure that I was free. The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not and now they hold on to the fact that I did not say it before June 10 when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for the league in the middle of this shitty virus and this disease that altered all the dates.”

Messi, 33, added: “And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club… because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the 700-million-euro release clause.

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“This is impossible, and then the other way was to go to trial. I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, that gave me everything since I arrived, it is the club of my life, I have made my life here.”

Messi had said he wanted to leave the club he joined as a boy after Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in August.

His lawyers sent a burofax stating his intention to go for free on August 25 but Messi says he had made his feelings clear to Bartomeu many times before.

“I told the club, especially the president, that I wanted to go,” said Messi. “I’ve been telling him all year. I believed it was time to step aside.

‘Everything became difficult’

“I believed that the club needed more young people, new people and I thought my time in Barcelona was over, feeling very sorry because I always said that I wanted to finish my career here.

“It was a very difficult year, I suffered a lot in training, in games and in the dressing room. Everything became very difficult for me and there came a time when I considered looking for new goals, new horizons.

“It wasn’t because of the Champions League result against Bayern, I had been thinking about it for a long time. I told the president and the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not end up keeping his word.”

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Despite his unhappiness, Messi insists he will give his all for Barcelona next season under their new coach Ronald Koeman, with his current contract due to expire in June next year.

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Messi set to quit Barcelona

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Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona that he wants to “unilaterally” terminate his contract with the Spanish giants, a club source confirmed to AFP on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the Argentina star sent Barca a fax in which they announced Messi’s desire to rescind his contract by triggering a release clause.

However, the club maintains the clause expired in June and he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.

“In principial, this clause expired on June 10, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Spanish sports daily Marca.

“It’s the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to 700 million euros.”

According to Spanish media, Messi met with new Barca coach Ronald Koeman last week and told the Dutchman he saw himself “more out than in” the club.

“The end of the glorious era of Leo Messi at Barcelona seems to be close. After the arrival of Ronald Koeman, what looks like the exit of his friend Luis Suarez and a difficult and turbulent end to the season, Messi told Barcelona in a fax of his intention to leave the club,” said Once radio station.

ALSO READ  Messi set to quit Barcelona

Barcelona suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in Lisbon earlier this month, resulting in the dismissal of coach Quique Setien after barely six months in charge.

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