Strength in depth

Pochettino delighted with the quality of his squad in absence of key players

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0 to 1

A significant statistic for Juve striker Dybala

GOAL-DEN MOMENT: Paulo Dybala finally opens his account for Juve this season.
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Rested Ronaldo back in the groove

After being substituted in last game, Ronaldo dances with joy in the next

VICTORY JIG: Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo's (above) goal against Borussia Dortmund that calls for a celebration.

GROUP F

BORUSSIA DORTMUND 2

(Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 43, 
Andre Schuerrle 87)

REAL MADRID 2

(Cristiano Ronaldo 17, Raphael Varane 68)

Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't do apologies. They are unbecoming of his status.

Gods, after all, are never wrong.

But the brief handshake at least offered a begrudging acceptance that his manager might have had a point after all.

Ronaldo shook Zinedine Zidane's hand after scoring Real Madrid's opening goal yesterday morning (Singapore time).

VICTORY JIG: Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo's goal against Borussia Dortmund that calls for a celebration. PHOTO: AFP

The riveting Champions League encounter ended 2-2, with Borussia Dortmund snatching a late equaliser, but a rest had clearly worked wonders.

A recharged Ronaldo offers Real more than a fading freak of nature.

The monarch of Madrid is slowly morphing into a semi-regular person.

But, if Ronaldo is learning that to err is human, it can still be divine.

He savoured his most accomplished and sustained performance of the season, scoring an excellent first goal and providing a sumptuous assist for the second.

More importantly, he completed the 90 minutes, something that can no longer be taken for granted.

The 31-year-old was substituted at Las Palmas at the weekend and retaliated by shouting and allegedly swearing at Zidane.

Real's unflappable coach brushed off the exchange, as if he was removing dandruff from a blazer.

Besides, he was right. If the night belonged to Ronaldo, vindication belonged to Zidane.

His new "rest and recuperate" approach, which led to Ronaldo coming off 20 minutes early in Las Palmas, energised the ageing thoroughbred.

The winger's lacklustre trudging in La Liga gave way to a sprightly gallop in the Champions League.

Not every endeavour came off. He was lucky to get away with a handball that denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity for Dortmund and he lost the ball to the impressive Ousmane Dembele in a dangerous position.

HANDSHAKE

But Ronaldo was occupying the left-back position at the time. He started the contest as a nominal left winger. He was all over the place, tracking back and making tackles.

His goal and assist were celebrated with teammates, both on the pitch and in the dugout, rather than with himself and a cluster of grateful photographers.

Most of all, there was the handshake, an acknowledgement of their respectful relationship and perhaps even Ronaldo's evolving relationship within the team.

His skills must be deployed more judiciously because he plays only one way, fast and furiously. He's a predator, not Andrea Pirlo.

There's no semi-retirement home waiting for him in front of the back four.

His explosiveness, his very existence on a football field, depends upon his physicality. Push-ups and pull-ups can hold off the body fat, but not the 32 candles on his next birthday cake.

To continue his scoring form - he volleyed home his 17th goal in 18 games against German opposition - Ronaldo might see his number on the subs' board more often.

Zidane's intelligent use of his prized asset becomes more critical when examined in conjunction with Real's alarming defensive frailties. 

Without the injured Casemiro, Real have dropped points - and conceded soft goals - in three consecutive games.

Ironically, pre-season target Julian Weigl now plays the Casemiro role at Dortmund, babysitting the back four and offering the dependable cover missing at Real.

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric's attacking attributes are obvious, but neither is renowned for his defensive strengths. Ronaldo popped up at left-back with good reason.

Real failed to reinforce in pre-season. No back-up for Casemiro was signed and options remain limited.

As the club are now banned from registering new players until January 2018, Zidane's defensive problems are acute, particularly in goal.

NERVOUS NAVAS

Against Dortmund, Keylor Navas didn't look like a Real Madrid goalkeeper. At times, he didn't look like a goalkeeper.

His farcically weak punch of a routine free-kick gifted Dortmund a first goal and his poor handling throughout always threatened a second.

Clean sheets appear unlikely at Real Madrid. Outscoring the opposition currently looks the most viable option, which makes Ronaldo's role all the more pivotal.

As he approaches the twilight of his career, his performances must be managed and his ego carefully massaged, because it's a real mess in defence.

It feels good not to have lost after being behind twice in the match. But we feel we can do even better.

— Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel

When you concede three minutes from the end it hurts, especially given the effort the players put in. But it is not a bad result. It is a difficult place to come against a good team, but I am very proud.

— Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane

'An error of judgment'

Allardyce admits his mistake but adds that 'entrapment has won'

FACING REALITY: Sam Allardyce talking to the media outside his home in Bolton yesterday, before leaving for an overseas break.
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Tags: Football

5 even shorter coaching stints

Sam Allardyce left his post as England manager 67 days after his appointment yesterday.

Here, AFP Sports looks at five other managers whose reigns lasted 
an even shorter space 
of time.

Steve Bruce - Wigan (55 days)

Ironically the front runner among bookmakers for the England vacancy, the former Manchester United skipper didn't dally long at Wigan. He took charge for eight games in 2009 at the Second Division side but after a play-off loss, he left to join Crystal Palace.

Alan Shearer - Newcastle (51)

The Newcastle legend, who did not have managerial experience, could not save his beloved club from relegation in the 2008/09 EPL season. "I am hurting. I am raw, I take my share of the blame I thought I could save them in those eight games," he said.

Brian Clough - Leeds United (44)

Took over at Leeds after Don Revie became the England boss. The strong character clashed with similar individuals at Leeds. He left after just one win in seven games, before going on to lead Nottingham Forest to two European Cup victories.

Jorg Berger - Arminia Bielefeld (5)

A former East German national youth-team handler who had fled to West Germany in 1979. He was called up to literally the last chance saloon for Bielefeld's final game of the season and a relegation decider. They drew and it was not enough to save them, nor him.

Marcelo Bielsa - Lazio (2)

The Argentinian agreed to take over at Lazio in June this year, but backed out just 48 hours later, because he claimed that the club, who had released 18 players from last season, broke their promise of signing at least four new players before July 5. - Wire Services.

Tags: Football

8 EPL managers accused of taking 'kick-backs'

Telegraph's interview with three football agents threatens to open up a Pandora's box

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Tags: Football

Big Sam deserves sacking

Greedy, arrogant manager epitomises all that is wrong 
with soulless game

TIP OF THE ICEBERG? 
Sam Allardyce could be the 
first domino to fall in what could be the first thorough investigation 
into a greedy
football culture in England.

The hogs at English football's trough are not snorting this morning. They're squealing.

Former players and managers, radio pundits and even TV celebrities have tried in vain to defend one of their own, a fellow member of the cash-rich, ethically-dubious old boys' club.

Some of the excuses, across all British media platforms, are as ridiculous as they are woeful.

Sam Allardyce was drunk, duped, and trapped. He wasn't crooked, but corrupted, led astray by those nasty undercover reporters masquerading as decent human beings.

The sacked England manager was a victim of his own naivety, merely explaining how third-party player ownership worked, rather than detailing ways to circumnavigate the outlawed enterprise.

Speaking on TalkSport radio, former Manchester United striker Alan Brazil expressed his "bewilderment", stressing his sympathy for "Poor Sam".

In the age of the endless news cycle, inane waffle is increasingly the norm, but the attempts to defend Allardyce are reaching Trump-like levels of deluded reasoning.

Allardyce deserves no sympathy for his sacking, absolutely none.

FIRST DOMINO

He deserves credit only for inadvertently being the first domino to fall in what promises to be - finally - the first thorough investigation into a football culture so blinded by greed, it can no longer see straight.

Allardyce was not naive. He was not a dummy-sucking toddler, but a 61-year-old man lured to a meeting with other adults united by a single purpose - to further leech from the game while giving very little in return.

Despite being paid £3 million ($4m)a year, he thought nothing of picking up another £400,000 from fake "Far East investors" with dodgy business interests.

The layman continues to ask how an England manager, just a month into his dream job, succumbed to temptation so easily when he was already a multi-millionaire.

Derek Taylor, the late Beatles publicist, was once asked a similar question about the band's lucrative anthology project in the mid-90s.

His answer was as simple as it was profound.

In his experience, people with lots of money seldom said no to more.

That's elite English football today, an industry so awash with cash, so lost in its pursuit of further profits that the usual parameters of wealth no longer apply.

Allardyce has enjoyed the fruits of his moderately successful labours for decades now, but a whiff of greed and a hint of controversy followed him and agent Mark Curtis from club to club.

In 2006, the then Bolton manager was named in a BBC programme on transfer deals. According to the programme, three different signings involved payments from agents to Allardyce's son Craig.

Allardyce denied any wrongdoing.

In 2013, he was named as an unwitting investor in a £450m tax scam and found himself embroiled in a £275m tax fraud involving a fake film company.

Allardyce denied any wrongdoing.

In the same year at West Ham, Allardyce was accused of banishing Ravel Morrison to the reserves for refusing to sign a contract with Curtis.

Both Allardyce and Curtis denied any wrongdoing.

However, at the same time, Curtis did represent or had links to Kevin Nolan, James Tomkins, Jack Collison, Matt Jarvis, Andy Carroll, Jussi Jaaskelainen and Adrian, all Hammers working under Allardyce.

But Allardyce denied any wrongdoing.

Morrison was eventually loaned out to Cardiff City. Yesterday, Cardiff announced an investigation after auditors discovered evidence of unexplained payments over Morrison's loan in 2014.

Presumably, Allardyce and Curtis will deny any wrongdoing.

Nevertheless, their willingness to meet a couple of shady characters with dubious business interests reveals both a breathtaking arrogance and an underlying belief that the game - and its gullible supporters - exist only to be milked for all they're worth.

If the England position really was the dream job, Allardyce would never have agreed to the meeting. He was already at the end of the rainbow, holding his pot of gold and wearing his Three Lions blazer.

NOT ENOUGH

And yet it still wasn't enough. Allardyce proved himself to be just another crass product of his gluttonous environment. In a world of Oliver Twists, everyone always wants more.

They take from the game, the fans and whatever is left of the sport's emaciated soul.

Allardyce was not the first. Hopefully, as the dominoes continue to fall, he will not be the last. He's just the most foolish.

But then again, he'll receive a seven-figure pay-off from the English Football Association. And, if David Moyes' fortunes continue to plummet, Sunderland would probably welcome back their former manager with open arms.

The Black Cats can't risk losing a slice of those obscene TV revenues through relegation.

In the end, it's only about the money. It always is.

Tags: Football

School gives him hope and a future

Syafiee Abdullah (above), 16

Syafiee Abdullah (above), 16. TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG

He felt like there was no hope for him when he failed his Primary School Leaving Examination in 2012.

Some of his primary school friends even called the school a "no hope school".

But NorthLight School gave Syafiee Abdullah, 16,not only hope but a future.

His time at NorthLight was not all smooth sailing, though.In the first two years, he was often late for school and had problems controlling his temper.

His mechanical services teacher, Mr Hamdan Hamid, 48, noticed the problems Syafiee was having and decided to take the boy under his wing.

POTENTIAL

Mr Hamdan, who has been at NorthLight for three years, told TNP: "I could see that Syafiee had potential and passion. But it was important to build up his character first."

With his mentorship, Syafiee started coming to school on time.

Mr Hamdan also suggested using sports as an outlet for frustration and anger and he coaches Syafiee in sepak takraw.

Syafiee said: "The teachers at NorthLight really do care. Mr Hamdan is like a father figure and really looks out for me."

Syafiee plans on studying mechanical engineering at the ITE after he graduates from NorthLight.

He also dreams of holding a position at port authority PSA, where he did his two-month Industry Experiential Program earlier this year.

He said: "I really want to make a difference.

"I want to show everyone that NorthLight isn't a school for failures."

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