Real Madrid 0-0 Villarreal: LaLiga leaders miss chance to increase advantage

By Sports Desk September 25, 2021

Real Madrid missed the chance to increase their lead at the top of LaLiga after they were held to a goalless draw by Villarreal on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti's side struggled to break down a disciplined Villarreal side at the Santiago Bernabeu in what was the Italian's 800th game as a coach in Europe's top five leagues.

Arnaut Danjuma went close for the Yellow Submarine in the first half as Madrid failed to register a shot on target before half-time for the first time in a game under Ancelotti.

Madrid's best chance fell to Isco late on but his header was blocked to leave Ancelotti's side three points above second-placed Sevilla, who have a game in hand.

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    Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany has informed Ousmane Dembele to "leave the club immediately" after repeatedly turning down the offer of a new contract.

    The Catalan giants have been in talks with the France international since July over extending his existing deal, which runs out at the end of this season.

    Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Camp Nou since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million due to persistent injury setbacks.

    Barca head coach Xavi recently insisted Dembele could become the "best in the world" in his position as he underlined his desire for the forward to agree fresh terms.

    However, the 24-year-old's agent Moussa Sissoko this week told RMC Sport that he would not bow to "pressure" from Barca over his client's future. 

    Sissoko also accused the club of making "threats of no longer playing in the side" rather than engaging in productive talks with Dembele.

    That led to Xavi issuing an ultimatum on Wednesday when telling the former Dortmund attacker to either agree to the offer on the table or be sold in the January window.

    And after he was left out of Barcelona's squad for Thursday's Copa del Rey last-16 tie with Athletic Bilbao, Alemany revealed time has now run out for Dembele.

    "With Ousmane and his agents we started conversations around the month of July," Alemany told Barca TV.

    "In all this time, almost seven months, we have talked, Barca has made different offers, we have tried to find a way for the player to continue with us.

    "Those offers have been continuously rejected by his agents. It seems obvious that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona and is not committed to our future project.

    "We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want to have players committed to the project.

    "We expect a transfer to take place before January 31. The sporting consequence is that we don't want to have players who don't want to be at Barca.

    "The fact that he was not in the [squad] list for today is the consequence of this whole process. The coach has our full support, it's a consistent attitude."

    Dembele has played just six times in LaLiga this season and in just over half of Barca's league games since his arrival four-and-a-half years ago.

    He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes.

    That puts him on a par with compatriots Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial among players from Europe's top five leagues, and just behind Liverpool star Sadio Mane (0.64).

    His goal tally has also come from an expected goals (xG) of 23.7, suggesting Dembele's finishing has been of a high standard, given the quality of chances that have come his way.

    However, to put Dembele's injury issues into some context, the 129 games he has played for Barca is 91 fewer than team-mate Sergio Busquets over the same period.

    Dembele has reportedly drawn interest from a host of Premier League sides, including newly-rich Newcastle United, as well as Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. 

  • Australian Open: 'Reaching the second round of grand slams doesn't motivate me' – Murray frustrated by early exit Australian Open: 'Reaching the second round of grand slams doesn't motivate me' – Murray frustrated by early exit

    Taro Daniel delivered a fine display as he defeated former world number one Andy Murray in straight sets at the Australian Open.

    Murray, a five-time finalist in Melbourne, defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1 3-6 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 in his first-round match on Tuesday, yet the Scot was no match for Japan's Daniel two days later.

    Perhaps fatigue played its part, with Murray struggling to find his rhythm against the qualifier, who is ranked 120th in the world.

    Murray had never before lost to a player ranked as low as Daniel, who has reached the third round of a grand slam for the first time.

    Daniel sealed a 6-4 6-4 6-4 success with a neat backhand volley, taking the match at the first time of asking.

    Murray, who had been targetting a "deep run" in the tournament, walked off court in disgruntled fashion, offering a quick acknowledgement to the crowd after his first appearance in the season's opening major since 2019.

    Asked in his post-match news conference if he planned to return to Melbourne next year, Murray told reporters: "Yes, but not if I do what I did tonight too often.

    "I want to perform well on the big events and what I did tonight was not good enough. Reaching the second round of grand slams doesn't particularly motivate me."

    While Murray was far from the level he displayed against Basilashvili, Daniel's performance was more than worthy of victory.

    "Winning a big match like this is unbelievable," the 28-year-old said. "It was an amazing level from me, I was getting nervous in the third set.

    "I tried not to make a big deal about this – everyone said I was playing Murray – but I tried to treat it like another match."

    Murray, meanwhile, did not use fatigue as an excuse.

    "I felt alright physically so I was pleased from that perspective," he said. "I just made way too many errors on the court."

    The statistics back up Murray's claim. He won just two out of 11 break points and made 49 unforced errors, with Daniel only making 21.

    Daniel struck 12 aces to Murray's seven, recording a first-serve win percentage of 79.

    Murray's first-serve win percentage was down at 66, while he also made three double faults to Daniel's two.

  • James not looking to blame Vogel for Lakers' issues James not looking to blame Vogel for Lakers' issues

    Frank Vogel is under pressure at the Los Angeles Lakers, but LeBron James insists no blame can be directed at the coaching staff.

    The Lakers' slump continued on Wednesday as a fourth-quarter charge from the Indiana Pacers saw them lose 111-104.

    That defeat means the Lakers have now lost four of their last five games. Indeed, it has been reported that Vogel might well have lost his role as head coach had his team not snapped a three-match losing streak by beating the Utah Jazz on Monday.

    But a loss to a Pacers team that is 13th in the Eastern Conference and had won just one of their previous 11 games means questions will surely be asked once again.

    It was no surprise then that Vogel's future was the topic of conversation in James' post-game media briefing.

    "Coaching staff has been great," James told reporters.

    "They put us in a position to succeed, and it's up to us to handle the business, so there's always things that we all can do better, but there's no blame.

    "I'm not in that business, of pointing fingers or pointing blame. It's not my lane. I'm not a negative person. So if you got something to ask me besides trying to s*** on somebody, I'll answer those. It seems like y'all are in s*** mode right now."

    James led the Lakers with 30 points and 12 rebounds, the 10th of which brought up his 10,000th across his regular season career, but his double-double was not enough to stop Los Angeles slipping below .500 in the Western Conference.

    Carmelo Anthony, who scored 14 points, insisted the players must step up.

    "I mean, we got to do it," Anthony said. "It's up to us. Frank's not out there. It's up to us to go out there and execute and play basketball and win some games."

    Vogel, meanwhile, acknowledged it was a damaging defeat.

    "This is definitely a disappointing loss," Vogel said. "Indy is a team that's sub-.500, that on our home court, we feel like we should win. And you got to win the games you feel like you should win. So, a disappointing loss.

    "I meet with our front office. We talk about the previous night's game. Every game. All year. It's been that way for three years. And it's not been different this week or of late.

    "Everyone is working together to leave no stone unturned in terms of getting this thing going in the right direction. And we all have a great working relationship where we're trying to figure out things together. We won a championship this way, and I feel good about our process.

    "In this business, and with this team, if you're not winning at a super high level, you're going to get this type of noise. I'm good at blocking that out. I feel good about the job that we're doing. I believe in what we can do this year."

    Vogel made a big call to take off Russell Westbrook, with the Lakers star having struggled to cope with Indiana's Caris LeVert, who had 30 points.

    "I played the guys that I thought were going to win the game," Vogel explained.

    Westbrook has 833 points for the season, behind only James (952) in the Lakers' roster.

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