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SOCCER WRAP: A United stand, division in the EPL and Dortmund attacked


Adelaide United have salvaged their ACL campaign with an impressive away win in a frenetic night for the world game, which saw internal politics dog two EPL giants and a German team’s bus targeted in an explosive attack.

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German Police say Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund’s team bus was the target of an attack in three explosions ahead of their Champions League tie against Monaco overnight, Australian time.

“At the present moment it is still unclear what the concrete background is to this act,” Dortmund police chief Gregor Lange told a news conference.

The devices exploded as the team bus left the squad’s hotel some two-and-half hours ahead of the first-leg quarter-final match.

A note claiming responsibility for the attack was found near the scene and its authenticity was being “intensively examined,” prosecutor Sandra Luecke said.

Dortmund’s Spanish defender Marc Bartra was taken to hospital with a fracture to his right wrist and several foreign body injuries in an arm and he has undergone surgery.

The match was postponed and rescheduled for Wednesday, ahead of two other ties including fellow German side Bayern Munich against holders Real Madrid.

The nature of the explosive devices was not immediately known, however it is believed they could have been placed in a hedge near the hotel car park.

The incident occurred in the Hoechsten district, around 10km from the club’s stadium, as the Dortmund squad left the team hotel for the stadium.

After it was announced the match was being postponed, spectators already inside the ground left without incident.

Police said there were three separate explosions, bursting one of the vehicle’s windows.

Dortmund’s Swiss goalkeeper Roman Buerki told the Swiss newspaper Blick: “I was sitting in the back row next to Marc Bartra who was hit by shards from the burst back window.

“The bus had turned onto the main road when there was a big bang – a real explosion.”

Police deployed a drone to search for other possible explosive devices in the area around the team hotel. Lange said a suspicious object was found which had the appearance of an explosive device but was not capable of being detonated.

Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told Germany’s Sky television there was an “explosive attack in the immediate vicinity of the hotel exit” as the bus moved from the hotel car park into Wittbraeucker Strasse.

“The team and the coaching staff are of course shocked. We must now channel it in some way,” he said.

“It will not be easy to get that out of the mind. In such a crisis situation, all at Borussia pull together. I think the team will feel it tomorrow.”

Club president Reinhard Rauball said: “Of course this is an extremely difficult situation for the players. But they are professionals, and I am convinced that they will put that away and will give a performance tomorrow.”

Football’s world governing body FIFA and European football body UEFA condemned the attacks.

Reds back on track in Asia

Adelaide United coach Guillermo Amor has refused to get carried away after the Reds’ stunning 3-1 Asian Champions League win over Jeju United.

Last night’s win in South Korea, coupled with Gamba Osaka’s 3-0 loss to undefeated Group H leader Jiangsu Suning, saw the Reds climb off the bottom of the table and move into second place with four points.

Jeju have the same tally but Adelaide boast the upper hand with a win and draw from their two meetings, while Gamba prop up the table with three points.

The Reds had to avoid defeat to hold any chance of advancing beyond the group stage and now Amor acknowledges there is a possibility his side can progress.

But, with two matches remaining, the Barcelona great said it wouldn’t be easy and urged his side to stay focused ahead of their next ACL clash against Gamba in Japan in a fortnight.

“I prefer to enjoy today the result and after we’ll prepare for the next game,” Amor said.

“It’s true that it’s a big opportunity. But we know that in Osaka the game will be difficult, similar to today.”

United stunned the hosts with a goal in the seventh minute courtesy of a wonder strike from former Jeju midfielder Kim Jae-sung, only to concede an equaliser a minute later.

After absorbing significant pressure, the Reds struck twice in the second half with goals from Dylan McGowan and Riley McGree.

Amor was delighted with the win and United’s performance, which was made more significant given it was on Korean soil.

“I feel very well,” Amor said.

“It’s difficult to win these kinds of games, in the Champions (League), away (from home).

“For us it’s a good result and we must enjoy in this moment the result.”

Reds defender McGowan echoed Amor’s sentiments and applauded the efforts of his teammates who battled hard in the win.

He reserved special praise for Korean import Kim, who scored his maiden goal for Adelaide against his former club.

“Kim is a very good player for us,” McGowan said.

“Jeju fans will know him well from his time here.

“We’re very happy he played well today, as did the whole team – I think every player played well.”

The Reds arrive back in Adelaide tomorrow ahead of their final A-League match for the season against Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.

In the EPL, meanwhile, Arsene Wenger faced a barrage of criticism from former players, supporters and the media after his team’s 3-0 Premier League loss at Crystal Palace, as his 20-year reign as Arsenal manager looked increasingly shaky.

The defeat, the Gunners’ fourth in a row away from home and Wenger’s first to Palace, left Arsenal sixth and likely to miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time under the Frenchman.

But it was the team’s limp performance that critics rounded on, with former Arsenal striker Ian Wright posting on Twitter that the “dressing room is lost”.

Video footage on social media showed Arsenal fans surrounding the team bus after the game and hurling abuse at Wenger and some of the players.

Inside the ground, dejected Arsenal fans raised banners calling for the 67-year-old’s reign to end and chanting “Arsene Wenger, we want you to go”. They also targetted the players, singing “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”.

Some booed Spanish fullback Hector Bellerin when he came over to applaud them after the final whistle. The 22-year-old has become a target for some supporters, who earlier in the game refused to return the ball to him after it went out of play.

It looks like the Arsenal players have chucked it… putting in a performance like that

Theo Walcott apologised to fans after Arsenal conceded three goals for a fourth consecutive away league game, and acknowledged: “You could sense from the kick-off that wanted it more.”

“How can that possibly be?” former Liverpool player and Sky TV pundit Jamie Carragher said.

“It looks like the Arsenal players have chucked it. Four games on the bounce conceding three in all of them, putting in a performance like that.”

British newspapers speculated that the defeat at Palace could seal Wenger’s fate. The Times said Arsenal were “outwitted, outclassed, outdated. Time should be up for Arsene Wenger”.

However, Wenger again stonewalled questions about his future, claiming it would be “inconvenient to speak about me”.

Alisher Usmanov, who owns a 30 per cent stake in the club, told Bloomberg that Wenger should be retained in some capacity and consulted over his successor.

Meanwhile, Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare reiterated his conscience is clear after former manager Claudio Ranieri hinted someone at the club betrayed him.

The Foxes chief continued to field questions about the Italian ahead of their Champions League quarter-final first leg at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday – one of the biggest games in the club’s history.

Ranieri finally spoke about his sacking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football and absolved the players from any blame in his February dismissal but did say “maybe it could be somebody behind me”.

Shakespeare has always been clear over his relationship with Ranieri – that there were no problems between the pair – and was again robust in his stance.

“Free speech is there for anyone, I don’t have a problem with that. I’m quite comfortable in my own conscience,” he said.

“I was at the under-23s, but I’ve seen clips of it (the interview). Claudio was in good humour and came across exactly as I know him.

“My stance, from my first interview, is I remember coming in and stating I spoke to Claudio the night he was relieved, he thanked me for my time, I thanked him.

“There’s never been any arguments or hard feelings. That’s my side of it. It was good to see him enjoying his football as he did. I thought he came across really well.

“My stance is still the same. We never had any falling out. I haven’t seen it live, I have only seen quotes this morning and I think I’ve answered the question.”

Captain Wes Morgan is out of the Atletico match with a back problem which has sidelined him for the last four games.

“No chance, he’s here and travelled with the team but he’ll take no part in the game,” added Shakespeare.

Kasper Schmeichel will captain the side in Morgan’s absence.

-AAP, PA, Reuters, DPA

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