Best team won

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez has given an honest appraisal of his side’s surprise defeat to Milan in the Champions League last night.

Goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari gave the San Siro side a 2-0 first-leg lead against the Blaugrana.

And the Spain international has conceded that it will be tough to overcome Massimiliano Allegri’s men in the second game.

“We let in two goals that could have been avoided,” he told reporters. “The result is a very bad one, but this team has never given up.

“In the second half we did not play as we normally do, whereas Milan had the game of their dreams.

“We know it’s not going to be easy to get through to the next round, but we will try.

“We have to be more united than ever.”

Xavi’s midfield colleague Iniesta was equally candid, admitting that the players did not perform on the night.

“This was a very negative result. When you don’t show up for a game, this can happen,” Iniesta told reporters after the game.

Defender Dani Alves was left equally disappointed with the result and suggested theBlaugrana had not shown enough fight at San Siro.

“We could have competed better,” he added.

“The Champions League is a big competition, you don’t get anything for free and you have to fight for it.”

Perhaps, therein lies part of Barcelona’s problem last night: when you get everything for free in almost all your domestic fixtures, it must come as a shock to encounter a side that has not turned up to make up the numbers.

Filing a complaint

Schalke are to file a complaint with UEFA after their 1-1 draw at Galatasaray in the Champions League because of Didier Drogba’s participation for the Turkish side.

“There are doubts over the valid eligibility for Drogba in the Champions League. Schalke reserves its rights and is looking into this,” the club said in a tweet on Thursday.

Schalke sports director Horst Heldt and finance chief Peter Peters confirmed they would appeal over the player’s eligibility before they boarded Thursday’s return flight from Istanbul, the dpa news agency reported.

“It would be negligent not to have it checked,” Heldt said.

Schalke wants UEFA to examine Drogba’s transfer from Shanghai Shenhua to the Turkish side – despite FIFA provisionally clearing Drogba to play last week.

Shanghai Shenhua complained to FIFA that Drogba broke his contract. Drogba, who had a contract through 2014, claims he was not being paid his salary.

Match fixing latest

Slovenian citizen Admir Suljic, allegedly an associate of match-fixing suspect Tan Seet Eng, was met by police in Milan following a tip-off from Singapore authorities.

Speaking at a conference on tackling match-fixing in Kuala Lumpur earlier on Thursday, Interpol chief Ronald Noble had announced the plan to meet the suspect at the airport.

“The man is wanted by the Italian authorities for his alleged involvement in match-fixing under the organisation based in Singapore and controlled by Tan Seet Eng,” he said.

Both the football authorities and the European police have frequently complained about Singapore dragging their heels on the issue of match fixing, but police spokesman Tan Giap Ti told the BBC that Mr Tan is “currently assisting Singapore authorities in their investigations”.

“The Singapore authorities have been offering assistance and sharing available information with affected countries and will continue to do so,” he said.

“We would like to reiterate that Singapore is committed to eradicating match-fixing as a transnational crime and protect the integrity of the sport, and will pursue such cases vigorously with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice.”

One big happy family

Xabi Alonso has dismissed reports that the Real Madrid dressing-room is divided, and claims press speculation of ongoing tensions within the club is untrue.

The club has been beset by reports of feuds between players and coach Jose Mourinho, most notably involving Spain internationals Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos.

Alonso told Vanity Fair that he was tired of having to deny such stories, which had no basis in reality.

“It is not divided,” Alonso said. “I understand the difference between what is real and what is published. We cannot be always, all the time, denying things. We are and we should be a team, we need to remain together, because this is a team sport.”

Marca journalist Sara Carbonero suggested recently that her partner, club captain Casillas, did not get on with Mourinho, but Alonso said the pair had a good working professional relationship, which was the most important thing.

“[Casillas and Mourinho] have a good professional relationship as coach and player,” he said. “They do not need to go out for a drink together.”

The former Liverpool player said that, in his experience, Mourinho was an excellent as a coach and particularly as a man-manager.

“As a coach he is very, very good,” he said. “One of the best in the world. He has helped me grow, both personally and professionally. And he is excellent when it comes to empathising with players. I can tell you that, first hand. The daily connection, face-to-face, is where he wins you over. I am speaking of the coach-player relationship. Apart from that, I do not know.”

Preaching to the converted

Say what you like about Brendan Rodgers, but he certainly knows how to play to the crowd and in the case of the Liverpool faithful, he quickly realised that flattery will get you most places.

Rodgers believes the atmosphere inside Anfield for Thursday’s Europa League tie against Zenit St Petersburg will feel like there are 100,000 supporters packed into the stadium.

Trailing 2-0 from the first encounter at the Petrovsky Stadium seven days ago, Rodgers believes the crowd can play their part in helping Liverpool overcome the deficit.

“The noise level is so important. There’ll be 40,000 here and with the roar that can feel like 100,000 people,” the manager told Liverpoolfc.com.

“That’s the uniqueness of Anfield and the supporters – that’s why this football club is renowned worldwide. We need that more than ever.

“The players on the pitch will do the supporters proud and I’m sure the supporters will all get together as one, and we can make it a really special occasion.

“The history of the club is based on great European nights. Of course we would rather have the game in a better situation but it should be really exciting for us.

“The crowd will have a big part to play – we’ve seen over the years that the crowd have basically won games here. We’ll need them more than any other time so far.

“This is a ground that is renowned worldwide. One of the first things I did before I went for my press conference to be announced as manager was have a walk around the ground to take it all in. It’s a special place, a cathedral.”

And on and on and on and on he went.

Goal of the day

A lovely flick from Stephan El Shaarawy sets up Sulley Muntari, who volleys into the corner in Milan’s 2-0 win over Barcelona.

Quote of the day

“We didn’t think it would be so easy. We know Arsenal are having some problems in the league, maybe they are lacking confidence.”

Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribery was surprised by the ease of his side’s victory over Arsenal.

Lyon followed by donkeys

Lyon have released an official club statement condemning the actions of a minority of fans who attacked Tottenham supporters on Wednesday evening.

A number of Spurs fans were attacked as they drank in a bar in Lyon’s Old Town ahead of tonight’s Europa League last-32 meeting between the sides.

Local thugs smashed windows in the Smoking Dog pub and threw bar stools at those inside, incidents which resulted in several people requiring hospital treatment.

The Ligue 1 outfit has now apologised to travelling fans while distancing itself from the perpetrators.

“Olympique Lyonnais regrets last night’s incident in Saint-Jean between supporters of Tottenham and ‘pseudo’ Lyon fans who do not represent the Club,” a statement on the club’s official website read.

“Olympique Lyonnais apologizes to Tottenham and its supporters for these unacceptable acts that degrade the image of the city of Lyon. Olympique Lyonnais calls for French justice to severely punish these wrongdoings.

“Olympique Lyonnais welcomes supporters of Tottenham tonight at the Stade Gerland and calls on all supporters, French or English, to support their team with respect and fair play.”

It’s not the first time Spurs supporters have been singled out on their travels abroad this season. In November, a group of fans were targeted in an attack in Rome – apparently with an anti-Semitic motive – ahead of the club’s match with Lazio.

The link with that previous attack seems clear:  journalist Christian Radnedge, a Tottenham fan, who was in the bar – an English-style pub – told BBC Radio 5 live the men gave Nazi salutes before launching the attack.

Corinthian spirit?

A scorching day in Peru and Club Unión Comercio’s goalkeeper Juan Flores collapses from heat exhaustion in a game against César Vallejo.

The keeper drops the ball and one of his team-mates attempts to clear it to safety, only for César Vallejo striker Piero Alva to challenge and divert the ball into the back of the net. All the while, the poorly looking Flores lies prostrate on the floor.

Remorse for his actions? Hardly. “Football is for the living,” he reportedly said afterwards..

Finally…

A 14-year-old Bolivian boy was killed by a flare allegedly fired by Corinthians fans during a South American Libertadores Cup match in Oruro.

The incident occurred during a 1-1 draw between Bolivia’s San Jose and Libertadores Cup holders and world club champions Corinthians on Wednesday night.

“There was a loss of brain matter as the projectile, a plastic tube, penetrated the (boy’s) skull. Due to this, death was immediate,” doctor Jose Maria Vargas told local media at the Hospital Obrero in Oruro according to Brazil’s Globo.

Bolivian media identified the boy as Kevin Beltran, a San Jose fan, who was hit by the flare minutes after Corinthians took an early lead.

Corinthians coach Tite told reporters: “I would exchange my world title for the boy’s life.

“I’m sorry about what happened tonight. We can’t talk about football, it’s my feeling and that of the players, we couldn’t utter a word in the dressing room,” he told a news conference.

“Corinthians is available to try to help in whatever way with what happened… I didn’t want to be here (at the conference), what happened is too heavy to be able to talk of football, I’m sorry,” he added and left the room.

A dozen Corinthians supporters identified by Bolivian police were arrested and a spokesman for San Jose said a criminal investigation would be opened.

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