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Feature: Tough times for Koeman at Barca in crisis, but good work with youngsters not enough******
MADRID, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona's decision to sack Ronald Koeman in the early hours of Thursday morning, in the end, surprised nobody, with the only real surprise that the former Barca central defender lasted as long as the season and a quarter that he managed in the job.
Koeman's job quite simply became untenable after successive defeats to Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, with the loss to a recently promoted side with one of the lowest budgets in LaLiga the final nail in the coffin for a man whose time at the Camp Nou could be described as the "chronicle of a sacking foretold".
The former Dutch coach was hailed as a returning hero when he was appointed the successor to Quique Setien, who was quickly shown the door in the wake of Barca's failure to win the 2019-20 LaLiga title and their 8-2 humiliation to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
That 8-2 defeat made clear the difficulty of the task that lay ahead of Koeman and a look at his curriculum, with standout failures at Everton and Valencia, meant that many questioned whether he was up to the task.
Koeman's landing at the Camp Nou was less than smooth as he was presented with a summer of drama which saw Leo Messi present a bureaufax declaring his intention to leave the club, while the club's dire financial situation meant that Luis Suarez would be shown the door.
The decision to allow Suarez to join Atletico Madrid, where he would help them win the title, probably wasn't down to Koeman, but the Uruguayan clearly resented the fact that the coach told him he was leaving in a brief phone call, rather than in a face-to-face chat.
Messi eventually stayed to see out the final year of his contract - at the time because he had no option, but it was hardly a good beginning and things got worse when 17-year-old sensation Ansu Fati injured his knee at the start of the season and an expected four-month layoff extended into four operations and 10 months on the sidelines.
Barca ended last season third in LaLiga with some decent performances in the New Year keeping them in the title race until a disastrous home defeat to Granada and a 3-3 draw away to Levante when they had been 3-0 up, ended their title hopes.
Joan Laporta's return as club President after Josep Maria Bartomeu (who had appointed Koeman) always looked as if it would leave Koeman on shaky ground and despite Laporta's public support, relations between the two were never good.
Barca's 5-2 aggregate defeat to Paris Saint Germain again highlighted that Barca were falling behind Europe's most powerful clubs, but the run of form that saw Barca beat Athletic Club 4-0 to win the Copa del Rey, along with Koeman's willingness to give time to youngsters such as Pedri and Ronald Araujo saw him cling on to his post - partly because nobody else seemed to want to join a club with debts of 1.3 billion euros.
This summer saw more departures, with Barca unable to afford Leo Messi, while Antoine Griezmann also returned to Atletico. Miralem Pjanic and Francisco Trinaco (neither used much by Koeman) also left along with Junior Firpo and although Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Kun Aguero arrived on free transfers, the feeling was very much of cost-cutting and getting by on a low budget.
The arrival of Luuk de Jong - arguably the least Barcelona-style player Barca have ever signed - on the last day of the transfer window, did little to alter this perception.
Koeman never hid the limitations placed on him in his press conferences, which although true, certainly wasn't diplomatic, and responded by promoting more youngsters, with 17-year-old Gavi in particular impressing, while Nico Gonzalez has also looked good.
Once again injuries (this time to Pedri and Araujo, as well as Aguero) have hampered Koeman, but although his side at times looked confident on the ball, they have also looked very fragile. Atletico Madrid picked them off on the break, as did Real Madrid and Rayo and Koeman failed to correct the problems, seeming to make the same mistakes time after time (all be it with limited resources).
Successful Barca teams seem to play by memory, by clockwork---as if they were almost playing with their eyes closed as each player knew where his companions were. This automatic football hasn't been there with Koeman, while gaps between midfield and defense imply a lack of work coordinating the team on the training ground.
Koeman will point to all of the departures and injuries and missed chances, such as Memphis's penalty on Wednesday night, but although the club will be grateful for his work with the youngsters, he tactically fell short.
The big question is: Can the next man in the hot seat do any better? Enditem
Mantia takes over Ning's World Cup lead in men's 1,500m with victory in Calgary******
OTTAWA, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Joey Mantia of the United States won back-to-back gold in the men's 1,500m at the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup series in Calgary, Canada on Saturday.。
Mantia clocked one minute and 41.86 seconds for the win, 0.56 seconds ahead of Canadian Connor Howe, who had a personal best of 1:42.425. Allan Dahl Johansson of Norway took a bronze in 1:43.275.。
Together with victory on home ice in Salt Lake City last weekend, the 35-year-old American pushed China's Ning Zhongyan to second on the World Cup standings.。
Previous leader Ning skipped the race to help China secure a mass start slot to Beijing 2022, and fulfilled his mission with a second finish in the semifinal and a 14th place finish in the final.。
The mass start gold went to Bart Hoolwerf, who also carried with him the pressure to earn a Beijing 2022 ticket for Team Netherlands. The Dutch, only 24th on the World Cup rankings prior to Saturday's competition, had enough time to celebrate his surprisingly victory before crossing the line way ahead of the pack in 7:38.880.。
World bronze medalist Bart Swings of Belgium took the silver and Felix Rijhnen of Germany completed the podium, edging Andrea Giovannini to fourth by just 0.01 second.。
Elsewhere on Saturday, the Canadian ladies had their third World Cup victory in team pursuit in as many competitions with a track record time of 2:52.06. Japan and China claimed silver and bronze respectively.。
World bronze medalist Angelina Golikova of Russia won her first World Cup gold in the women's 500m, clocking 36.669. Nao Kodaira of Japan was 0.09 seconds behind and World Cup leader Erin Jackson of the United States came third in 36.921.。
China's Tian Ruining wrapped up her World Cup journey with a sixth place finish in 37.100, and she said she was generally satisfied with her stable performance in four stops and tried to find problems and adjust.。
Pairing with Kodaira on Saturday, the 24-year-old took it as a chance to learn from the Olympic champion.。
"It's a great chance to learn from Kodaira. Her skills and pacing, as well as handling of details, these are not what you can tell from trainings," she told Xinhua. "Although I made some mistakes today, these will be valuable experience for me and will help with my final preparation [for the Winter Olympics]."
Tian finished 20th in PyeongChang three years ago and she was looking forward to competing on home ice.。
"I hope I can be the best version of myself and achieve better results," she said.。
Also on Saturday, Kodaira finally grabbed her long-awaited World Cup victory in the women's 1,000m race, clocking 1:12.510. The 35-year-old edged out world record holder Brittany Bowe of the U.S. by 0.03 seconds and Olga Fatkulina of Russia bagged a bronze in 1:13.151.。
The 2021-22 season World Cup series will conclude on Sunday, and then the quotas for the 2022 Olympics will be provisionally allocated to National Olympic Committees. Enditem。
2021 Guangzhou Marathon postponed due to COVID******
Guangzhou, China, Nov.12 (Xinhua) -- The 2021 Guangzhou Marathon will be postponed due to the COVID-19 epidemic, local organizers announced on Friday.。
"Due to the current situation in epidemic prevention and control, in order to effectively protect the health and safety of runners, staff, and citizens, the organizing committee has decided to postpone the 2021 Guangzhou Marathon," the organizing committee said in a statement.。
The Chinese mainland on Thursday reported 79 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, the National Health Commission said in its daily report on Friday.。
The 2021 Guangzhou Marathon originally planned to be held on December 12. Guangzhou became the latest city to postpone a marathon event after Shanghai, Xiamen, Nanning decided to delay their races. Enditem。