Liverpool, Sep 19 (AP/UNB) — Celebrating Liverpool's stoppage-time winner by covering his left eye, Roberto Firmino was finally able to jest about the injury that nearly denied him a chance to face Paris Saint-Germain.
Assurances the scratch on the cornea had cleared up only came hours before kickoff in the Champions League on Tuesday.
"I can open the eye again," Firmino told Juergen Klopp, according to his manager after the 3-2 victory.
Firmino still had to bide his time to play, starting on the bench and watching as Liverpool threw away a two-goal lead. Firmino had been on the pitch 11 minutes by the time Kylian Mbappe equalized for the French champions in the 83rd minute.
But the French World Cup winner's carelessness at the other end allowed Firmino to provide a thrilling climax to a pulsating night at Anfield to open Group C.
Mbappe was dispossessed by James Milner and Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk combined to feed the ball to Firmino. The Brazil forward, who injured his eye against Tottenham on Saturday, now had the vision to find the space to weave through the defense and strike the ball low into the net.
"The day before yesterday there was no chance (he could play) and yesterday it didn't look well," Klopp said. "This morning he came in and said 'I'm fine.'"
It all made for painful viewing for PSG coach Thomas Tuchel in his first Champions League game with the French champions. Conceding in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of an electrifying encounter at Liverpool is just what happened when Tuchel's Borussia Dortmund was beaten 4-3 by Klopp's side in the Europa League quarterfinals in 2016.
"This is what Liverpool do," Tuchel said. "They press you and they make it hard for you in possession."
Four months after the five-time European champions lost last season's final to Real Madrid, Liverpool showed its credentials to challenge for the title again by finding a way to tame Neymar and Mbappe for much of the game.
"He's got to work hard to try to improve," Tuchel said of Mbappe.
Left back Andy Robertson, who repelled Mbappe's forays down the right, also showed his attacking ability by setting up the opener. A cross from Robertson was headed in by Daniel Sturridge 30 minutes into his first Champions League start since playing for Chelsea in 2012.
"We are good at getting in people's faces," Robertson said, "especially at home to make it uncomfortable."
Milner, who was Liverpool's tireless engine in midfield, then stepped up to the penalty spot when Georginio Wijnaldum was tripped by Juan Bern, doubling the lead in the 36th minute.
"We conceded goals in the first half," Tuchel said, "but we never lost our confidence."
That was evident when Thomas Meunier sliced into the net in the 40th minute, and PSG avoided a bigger deficit when Mohamed Salah's goal in the 67th was ruled out for Sturridge sinking his studs into goalkeeper Alphonse Areola in the buildup.
Salah, Liverpool's top scorer last season, had a low-key game and it was his misplaced pass that gifted PSG a chance to equalize. Substitute Julian Draxler took the ball forward and released Neymar, who was challenged by van Dijk as he broke into the area. Mbappe seized on the loose ball and fired into the bottom corner.
"In the second half I think we showed a bit more personality," PSG defender Thiago Silva said. "But in a match like this, where the level is high, you always have to be focused, because the other team can score at any given moment."
As Firmino showed after Liverpool seized on Mbappe's misfortune to make it six wins out of six in all competitions this season.
"We lost a ball that usually we don't lose," Thiago Silva said, "and we were punished for that mistake."
PSG is rarely so troubled at home, already sitting five points clear by winning the opening five games of its French title defense. The harder task is wining the Champions League for the first time.
"Maybe today we could have displayed a little bit more aggression," Tuchel said. "Maybe we need to improve in our intensity in some areas of the field."
Tianjin, Sep 19 (AP/UNB) — Maria Sharapova says she will end her 2018 season early, withdrawing from the China Open in Beijing, the Tianjin Open, and the Kremlin Cup in Moscow due to her recovery from a right shoulder injury.
"I will miss competing at each of these tournaments, but it is important that I allow for proper rest and recovery in the upcoming weeks," Sharapova said in a statement on the WTA website.
Sharapova, ranked 24th in the world, was the defending champion at Tianjin.
Five-time major champion Sharapova lost in the first round at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the U.S. Open.
The WTA said Sharapova expects to start her 2019 season at the Shenzhen Open, which begins Dec. 31 in the southeast China city.
Paris, Sep 19 (AP/UNB) — If the World Cup had given the impression that Lionel Messi was slipping down soccer's pecking order, the Argentine star made it clear he remains at the top of his game.
Messi scored a record eighth Champions League hat trick on Tuesday in Barcelona's 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven as Europe's top club competition got underway. Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe, the teenage star widely viewed as the man capable of dethroning Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in a near future as the best player in the world, endured a frustrating night in a 3-2 loss with Paris Saint-Germain at Liverpool.
The World Cup winner scored a second-half equalizer but then gave the ball away in stoppage time, a costly mistake that paved the way for Roberto Firmino's winner.
Messi once again failed in his bid to lift the World Cup trophy this summer in Russia, where he did not play at his best and Argentina lost to France in the round of 16. But Messi is a different player in the Champions League, a competition he has won four times, and in which he has scored 103 goals.
With his hat trick on Tuesday, he now leads Ronaldo 63-60 in total group-stage goals.
"We were up against Messi, the best in the world," PSV coach Mark van Bommel said.
Ousmane Dembele also scored for Barcelona, which was already 3-0 up when it was reduced to 10 men as defender Samuel Umtiti was sent off with a second yellow card for a hard foul in the 79th. The Group B result extended Barcelona's unbeaten run at home to 27 matches in the Champions League.
In the group's other match, Mauro Icardi volleyed in a superb equalizer for Inter against Tottenham and Matias Vecino headed in the winner in injury time to complete a 2-1 win for the Italian club on its return to Europe's top competition.
At Anfield, Mbappe scored his 11th Champions League goal since he made his debut in the tournament during the 2016-17 season.
His mistake in stoppage time proved costly for his club, though.
After netting PSG's equalizer in the 83rd minute, Mbappe was dispossessed by James Milner in the closing stages of the match, giving Liverpool a chance to mount a final attack. Firmino collected a pass from Virgil van Dijk and fired a low shot into the far corner to seal the Reds' victory.
PSG was down 2-0 after 36 minutes following goals from Daniel Sturridge and Milner but managed to fight back as Thomas Meunier pulled one back before Mbappe leveled. PSG, whose main goal this season is to win the Champions League after repeated failures, next plays Red Star Belgrade, which drew 0-0 with Napoli.
A year after making it to the final, Liverpool showed it might be capable of challenging for the title once again by finding a way to tame Neymar and Mbappe for much of the game.
Christian Pulisic celebrated his 20th birthday by scoring on his return from injury to give Borussia Dortmund a late 1-0 win at Club Brugge in group A.
"It was great to come back after injury to and to be back with the team," said Pulisic, who made his 100th appearance for the club.
The American, who hadn't played since Aug. 26 due to muscular problems, came on with around 20 minutes remaining and scored in the 85th when Matej Mitrovic's attempted clearance rebounded off his shin and looped in over Brugge goalkeeper Karlo Letica.
"It was a bit lucky but I'll take it on my birthday," said Pulisic, who had missed two Bundesliga games for Dortmund and the U.S. friendlies against Brazil and Mexico.
MONACO LOSES AGAIN
In the other Group A game, Monaco was handed yet another home defeat, losing 2-1 to Atletico Madrid.
After losing all three home games in the group stage last season, Leonardo Jardim's side grabbed an early lead against the run of the play with a goal from Champions League debutant Samuel Grandsir. However, Atletico dominated for long spells and struck back before the interval through goals from Diego Costa and Jose Gimenez.
Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann saved one penalty but was beaten by another as Porto salvaged a 1-1 draw in their Champions League-opening game on Tuesday. Galatasaray defeated Lokomotiv Moscow 3-0 at home in the other Group D game.
In Germany, Porto keeper Iker Casillas started his 20th Champions League campaign, more than any other player.
Dubai, Sept 19 (AP/UNB) - Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed is taking nothing for granted as one of the most famous rivalries in world cricket resumes Wednesday when his team plays India in an Asia Cup group match.
The United Arab Emirates has been the host venue for Pakistan in international cricket since a 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team bus.
Pakistan won the last encounter between the two rivals — a huge 180-run victory over India in the final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.
But Ahmed, who has won 18 out of 25 games as Pakistan's ODI captain, isn't getting over-confident.
"You could say it is Pakistan's home ground, but the conditions here are same for all the teams," Ahmed said. "The weather is similar to India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and the pitches too are playing the same way. So it isn't a home ground for any team. It is equal for all."
Both teams beat qualifier Hong Kong in their opening matches of the Asia Cup and have entered the Super Four stage. Pakistan won by eight wickets on Sunday chasing 116, while India was pushed hard before registering a 26-run triumph on Tuesday.
The tournament, which ends with the final on Sept. 28 in Dubai, has drawn some criticism from the two rivals over the Super Four scheduling.
Ahmed appeared annoyed at Pakistan having to play in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, while India stays in Dubai.
India had its own concern.
"Playing two consecutive matches is always difficult, especially in such (hot) conditions. We are also human beings and we get tired too," said Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan, who scored 127 runs in the win over Hong Kong.
India is led by Rohit Sharma in the absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli, who has been rested after the long England tour.
Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah and all-rounder Hardik Pandya are expected to play against Pakistan in place of Shardul Thakur and Dinesh Karthik.
Dhaka, Sept 18 (UNB) – The Polar Ice Cream 25th School Handball Tournament (Boys and Girls), under the auspices of Bangladesh Handball Federation, begins on Thursday at Shaheed Capt (retd) M Mansur Ali National Handball Stadium.
State Minister for Youth and Sports Dr Biren Sikder will inaugurate the meet at noon. Shah Masud Imam, CEO of the meet’s sponsor Dhaka Ice Cream Industries Ltd (Polar Ice Cream), will be a special guest.
Scholastica Uttara will play Motijheel Govt Girls High School in the opening match of girls section soon after the inaugural ceremony.
A total of 36 schools -- 20 teams in the boys group and 16 teams in the girls group -- will compete in the meet.
General Secretary of Bangladesh Handball Federation Asaduzzaman Kohinoor disclosed the details of the meet at a press conference at the federation office on Tuesday.
Tournament Committee Chairman Golam Habib also spoke on the occasion.
Tournament sponsor will provide Tk 610,500 for the boys competition and Tk 577,600 for girls competition.