Jordan Henderson makes Ajax debut in draw with PSV Eindhoven

By Sports Desk February 03, 2024

Former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson made his Ajax debut as the Amsterdam outfit held Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven to a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

The England international, who moved to the Netherlands last month after cutting short his controversial stint in Saudi Arabia, played the full 90 minutes for John van ‘t Schip’s side.

Ajax, who trail the runaway leaders by 21 points, struck first through Steven Berghuis but were pegged back by a Luuk de Jong equaliser.

Girona missed the chance to reclaim top spot in LaLiga as they were held to a goalless draw by Real Sociedad.

Victory over sixth-placed Sociedad would have taken the Catalan surprise package back above Real Madrid at the summit but they were unable to break down their visitors in a stalemate at the Estadi Montilivi.

The result gives Madrid the chance to move four points clear when they take on city rivals Atletico at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

Third-placed Barcelona gained ground as they won 3-1 at Alaves despite the sending off of Vitor Roque.

Goals from Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan put Barca in control. Samu Omorodion pulled one back but Roque settled the contest just after the hour before he was later dismissed for two bookable offences.

Bottom side Almeria remain 11 points adrift of safety after losing 2-1 at Valencia but fellow strugglers Granada claimed a point with a 1-1 draw against Las Palmas.

Bayer Leverkusen maintained top spot in the Bundesliga with a 2-0 win at bottom side Darmstadt but Bayern Munich, with Harry Kane again on the scoresheet, came from behind to keep up the pressure.

Nigeria international Nathan Tella scored in each half for Xabi Alonso’s unbeaten leaders Leverkusen but Bayern stayed within two points as they recovered from a slow start to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1.

Nico Elvedi put Monchengladbach ahead at the Allianz Arena but Aleksandar Pavlovic levelled and Kane headed Bayern in front with his 24th league goal of the season before Matthijs de Ligt wrapped up the points.

Third-placed Stuttgart scored twice in the first seven minutes, through Deniz Undav and Chris Fuhrich, on their way to a 3-1 win at 10-man Freiburg. Maximilian Mittelstadt claimed their third after the sending off of Merlin Rohl.

AC Milan scored twice in the final 18 minutes to cut the gap to second-placed Juventus in Serie A to four points with a 3-2 win at Frosinone.

Luca Mazzitelli had given the home side a 2-1 lead after the hour but Matteo Gabbia levelled and Luka Jovic won it for Milan nine minutes from time.

Olivier Giroud opened the scoring for Milan in the first half but Matias Soule replied from the penalty spot.

Struggling Empoli claimed a point with a 0-0 draw at home to Genoa while the clash between Udinese and Monza also ended in a goalless stalemate. Bologna beat Sassuolo 4-2 in the day’s late game.

In Ligue 1, Rennes won 2-1 at Montpellier and Lens claimed a 1-0 win at Nantes.

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  • Orlando City v Columbus Crew: Pareja praises ever-growing Lions Orlando City v Columbus Crew: Pareja praises ever-growing Lions

    Oscar Pareja admires the fight Orlando City are showing as they prepare to welcome Columbus Crew to Inter & Co Stadium on Saturday.

    Orlando are unbeaten in their last three matches, including a late victory over San Jose Earthquakes last weekend.

    They are now within one point of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, sitting 10th on 16 points.

    Pareja praised his team for being able to hold onto results in recent weeks, but he now wants to translate that into consistent success at home.

    "I see a team that is growing," Pareja said. "Their confidence is growing.

    "The way we're playing is much better in terms of efficiency on the other side of the box, and we're proud. The thing that we're most happy with is seeing them try to do the right thing.

    "They've got through difficult moments together. The way they fight every single game is always the same. We're more knowledgeable now that we're getting results, but I haven't seen one game where they gave up.

    "Now we need to go and do it at home in front of our fans. Nothing has changed, we just haven't been very good in some home games, but we will be."

    Columbus sit five points above Saturday’s opponents, having won back-to-back games against CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire.

    Going into the third of their successive away matches, head coach Wilfried Nancy hailed the Crew’s spirit.

    "It's true that last year I didn't like the spirit that when we were playing away - it was not the same spirit," he said.

    "Now, they try to play their game home or away. This is something that for me, this is growth. This is something that has been better."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Orlando City – Pedro Gallese

    Gallese has kept clean sheets in two straight matches after Orlando managed just two in their first 11 regular season matches in 2024.

    The Lions have never kept a clean sheet in three straight league matches within a single season before.

    Columbus Crew – Diego Rossi

    Rossi managed a goal and two assists in Columbus’ win over Chicago last Saturday. It was his sixth MLS match with at least three goal contributions (including playoffs) but his first with the Crew.

    MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

    Orlando City have won just one of their first seven home matches this MLS season (three draws, three losses), with their six points won equalling the fewest they have ever recorded in their first seven home matches of a season (also in 2015).

    Meanwhile, Columbus have lost only one of their last eight away matches in MLS (four wins, three draws incl. playoffs), including winning their last two in a row on the road. The Crew have not won three consecutive away matches in the league since a four-match run between August and September 2015.

    Columbus knocked Orlando out of last season’s MLS Cup Playoffs with a 2-0 road win in the Conference Semifinals. That win was just the Crew’s second in their last 11 meetings with Orlando dating back to October 2018 (one draw, eight losses).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Orlando City – 34.5%

    Draw – 26.8%

    Columbus Crew – 38.7%

  • Girona aim to end on a high as Dovbyk eyes Golden Boot Girona aim to end on a high as Dovbyk eyes Golden Boot

    Girona are hoping to round off their most successful campaign in LaLiga with victory against Granada on Friday, while Artem Dovbyk is in the hunt to finish as the league's top scorer.

    Michel's team, the surprise package of the season, already know they will finish third in the standings behind champions Real Madrid and runners-up Barcelona.

    Girona, whose previous best finish was 10th in 2017-18 and 2022-23, have clinched their place in next season's Champions League and simply want to enjoy their outing on Friday.

    "Tomorrow the stadium will be full and afterwards we want to celebrate with our fans," Michel said on Thursday. 

    "The best way to end the season is to win and make the fans proud, that's what we're playing for. We have to end the season in the best way possible, which is to win. 

    "If we do it with two goals from Dovbyk, that's even better. We have a chance for him to finish as top scorer and for us to surpass 80 points. We will try to win for him."

    Dovbyk, who has netted 21 times this season, is two goals behind Villareal's Alexander Sorloth and two ahead of Madrid's Jude Bellingham.

    After enjoying such highs this season, their 24 league wins including thumping home and away victories over Barcelona, Michel has already turned his attention to the future.

    "It worries me because we need to build a competitive squad for the big year ahead. I would like to keep a lot of people, but I know there are players who are not ours and who have to go back to their teams," he said.

    "However, I think we will do things right and I am convinced that we will have a top squad that will be able to compete in all three competitions."

  • D.C. United v Chicago Fire: Klopas adopting 'relegation battle' approach D.C. United v Chicago Fire: Klopas adopting 'relegation battle' approach

    Frank Klopas and the Chicago Fire may not have to worry about demotion from MLS, but he wants them to adopt a "relegation battle" mentality ahead of Saturday's visit to D.C. United.

    The Fire sit 14th in the Eastern Conference standings after losing four straight games, with three of those defeats coming at home including last week's 3-1 reverse against the Columbus Crew. 

    Their current losing run is their fifth streak or four or more regular-season defeats since the start of 2021, though they have not lost five in a row in league play since 2018.

    "The thing is trying to simplify things in practice, I think that's the most important thing with teams going through a difficult moment," Klopas said.

    "The mental state of the team is obviously down. I think that's expected when you don't get results, when performances are not going your way.

    "Even though there's no relegation battle in this league, we have to approach every game right now like it's a relegation fight until we can get out of this situation we're in."

    D.C. are also looking to respond after back-to-back losses to the New York Red Bulls (1-4) and Inter Miami (0-1), with those results leaving them ninth in the East.

    Troy Lesesne's team have won praise for their counter-pressing approach this year, but he says they still have plenty of room for improvement when playing on the break.

    "No matter who the opponent is, we want to be difficult to play against and to break down, but we're also doing that so we can create," Lesesne said.

    "We're top in the league for expected goals on the counterattack, but we have to finalise those situations.

    "We're going to keep working on that, keep gaining those moments and keep improving." 

    PLAYERS TO WATCH 

    D.C. United – Christian Benteke 

    Benteke has scored 11 of D.C.'s 20 goals this season, with no other team-mate netting more than once in MLS play.

    D.C. United are one of two MLS teams (also the Houston Dynamo) to only have one player with multiple goals this season.

    Chicago Fire – Carlos Teran 

    Teran scored the Fire's only goal against the Crew last week and has now netted once for them in each of the last four seasons, making him the only player to score in each of the last four campaigns for Chicago.

    The Colombian defender is hardly a goal machine, but Chicago will hope he can have an impact at both ends here.

    MATCH PREDICTION – D.C. UNITED WIN 

    Chicago's tally of 10 points through 14 matches in 2024 is their worst total at this stage of a season in club history.

    Things may not get any better for them on Saturday against a team known for employing an energetic approach.

    D.C. United recorded a 4-0 home win over Chicago in the teams' last meeting last September, and they are looking to post back-to-back victories over the Fire for the first time since a four-game winning run against them between 2014 and 2016.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    D.C. United – 47.7%

    Chicago Fire – 26.6% 

    Draw – 25.7% 

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