Cristiano Ronaldo has found himself in unfamiliar territory this season – but no matter where he is in the stadium, the cameras follow.
Such was the almost comical number of cameras with their lenses trained on Ronaldo, it caused laughter among most his fellow Portuguese reserves.
The substitute’s bench isn’t somewhere the Portuguese superstar has spent much time since making his career debut all the way back in 2002, with his goalscoring abilities too crucial for teams to bring him off the pitch or leave him out of the starting lineup.
However, this season has been different.
Now 37 years old, Ronaldo’s legs seemingly don’t possess quite the same zip they once used to and while he remains one of football’s great goalscoring threats, his increasing lack of mobility means he no longer fits the high-octane pressing style of football many teams like to play in the modern game.
That led to him being quickly benched by new Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, who prefers a high-pressing, energetic style, something Ronaldo made known he wasn’t happy with.
When Ten Hag asked Ronaldo to come off the bench earlier this season against Tottenham, the former Real Madrid man threw a strop and walked back down the tunnel, refusing to enter the game.
That led to Ronaldo being dropped from the match day squad for United’s next game. Subsequently the Portuguese star addressed his behavior in an Instagram post, though he stopped short of an apology.
“As I’ve always done throughout my career, I try to live and play respectfully towards my colleagues, my adversaries and my coaches,” he wrote.
Next came the tell-all interview with Piers Morgan, in which Ronaldo called out almost everybody at Manchester United – including the cooks – which ultimately lead to the end of his second stint at the club as both parties decided to part ways.
Rumors have been swirling since his departure from Manchester United that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is close to signing with a club in Saudi Arabia, something he has denied.
Then on Tuesday, Ronaldo was left out of the starting lineup for Portugal at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2008.
It’s still not clear exactly why Ronaldo was dropped to the bench, but his performances of late have been well below the lofty standards he has set for himself throughout his career.
Portugal head coach Fernando Santos said in his pre-match press conference that he was unhappy with his captain’s reaction to being substituted in the previous game against South Korea.
Given Ronaldo’s reaction to being benched for United and then being taken off against Korea, it’s fair to assume people might have expected a similar reaction on Tuesday.
In Ronaldo’s defense, however, that was not the case.
He was seen cheering on his teammates for much of the match and joined in with the celebrations when they scored, including those of Gonçalo Ramos, who replaced Ronaldo in the starting lineup and scored this World Cup’s first hat-trick.
But in Ronaldo’s roughly 20-minute cameo during Portugal’s 6-1 demolition of Switzerland, he still showed what he is capable of doing in front of goal.
With his only real chance of the match, Ronaldo buried his shot past Yann Sommer but was denied a goal by the linesman’s offside flag.
His star quality remains, too, with the Lusail Stadium filled with chants of “Ronaldo, Ronaldo” when he entered the field of play to arguably the biggest roar of the night – the game’s seven goals included.
In his absence, Portugal produced by far its best performance yet in Qatar and the hammering of a good Switzerland team has helped elevated Santos’ side to serious contenders to win the World Cup.
It unclear whether Ronaldo will regain his place in the starting lineup for Portugal’s quarterfinal against Morocco, but even if he doesn’t, Santos being able to call on one of the greatest goalscorers in the sport’s history isn’t a bad option to have.
Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly calls his shot on John Tavares’ big night – Sportsnet.ca
Bengals vs Chiefs Touchdown Props for the AFC Championship – Best Touchdown Scorer Bets – Covers
The AFC Championship on Sunday features a rematch of last year’s conference title game as Cincinnati travels to Arrowhead to take on Kansas City. Read more to find out our favorite anytime touchdown props for Bengals vs. Chiefs.
There’s plenty of scoring opportunity in this game for bettors, so why don’t we get right into the action? Don’t miss our NFL anytime touchdown prop picks for the Bengals vs. Chiefs on January 29.
Bengals vs Chiefs touchdown props
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Bengals vs Chiefs TD props
At +100, you won’t find a better prop bet for the AFC Championship game. While the injury to Patrick Mahomes will probably limit Kansas City‘s volume of passing, Travis Kelce is the heartbeat of this team and will always be involved — especially in the red zone.
He’s had 14 touchdowns this season, with two of those coming last week against the Jaguars. With the season on the line and Mahomes banged up for most of it, Kelce was still targeted an incredible 17 times and recorded 14 receptions.
The Mahomes-Kelce connection is one of the strongest in the NFL. With the chance to reach the Super Bowl in play, you can guarantee they’ll be looking for their All-Pro tight end to play an important role.
Prop: Travis Kelce anytime touchdown (-105)
Chase can’t be caught
If Kelce is the man to trust for the Chiefs, then the same can be said of Ja’Marr Chase for the Bengals. His chemistry with Joe Burrow is arguably in the same bracket as that of Mahomes and Kelce, dating back to their time playing together at LSU.
Chase finished the regular season sixth in touchdowns scored (9), which is not bad for a player who missed all of November with a hip injury.
The star wideout has scored in each of the Bengals’ two playoff games and has been targeted at least eight times in all but one game this season. At odds of +100, it makes too much sense to bet on Chase’s anytime market.
Prop: Ja’Marr Chase anytime touchdown (-105)
Covers NFL betting tools
1B to Chase’s 1A
You could make a serious argument that Tee Higgins is the best second option in any team’s receiving corps. Although he isn’t always Burrow’s first read, he’s still a hugely important part of this team and can often thrive with the opposition’s best corner shadowing Chase.
Higgins surpassed 1,000 yards on the season, scored seven touchdowns, and could very well add to that tally against a Chiefs secondary that is far from the best in the NFL.
Although he’s gone scoreless in his past three outings for the Bengals, Higgins successfully reached paydirt in all of the four games prior. When these two teams met in early December, Higgin hauled in three of his five targets and scored a touchdown.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see him do it again on Sunday.
Prop: Tee Higgins anytime touchdown (+195)
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Eagles ride ground game to Super Bowl LVII with win over 49ers – TSN
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts can conduct a singalong about as well as he can orchestrate the kind of punishing scoring drives that sent the Eagles into the Super Bowl.
At the end of one more triumph, Hurts stood on the stage on the field — as his Eagles teammates passed around the NFC championship trophy — and clutched a microphone in front of what was suddenly Philadelphia’s largest karaoke joint. His rendition of the team fight song was a tad off-key.
Hurts may not sing as well as he can score, but it was another memorable moment in a season full of them. And the Eagles don’t believe they’re done yet.
“We’ve got new moments,” Hurts said. “New moments and new times.”
Hurts had one of Philadelphia’s four rushing touchdowns and the Eagles soared into the Super Bowl, forcing both of San Francisco’s quarterbacks out of the game with injuries and beating the wounded 49ers 31-7 in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
The Eagles, who won the Super Bowl five years ago with a different coach and quarterback, will try to do it again behind the formidable duo of Hurts and coach Nick Sirianni. Philadelphia will play either the Cincinnati Bengals or former Eagles coach Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs.
“We get to do it because we did it better than anyone in the NFC this year,” Sirianni said.
Hurts had a modest game by his standards after a season in which he was a finalist for MVP. He was 15-of-25 passing for 121 yards and ran for 39, improving to 16-1 as a starter this season. The Eagles (16-3) lost two games that he missed with a sprained right shoulder.
Hurts sat alone at his locker dressed all in purple and he took a few puffs of a cigar as the Eagles celebrated around him. He understood there was one more game to win.
“I never knew how far we’d go,” Hurts said, “but I never said it couldn’t be done.”
Miles Sanders ran for two touchdowns and linebacker Haason Reddick made the hit that forced 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy out of the game with an elbow injury. Reddick also recovered a fumble by Purdy’s replacement, Josh Johnson, who later suffered a concussion.
That forced Purdy back into the game, but his injury was clearly a factor as the 49ers all but gave up on the passing game, even while trailing by multiple scores. Purdy said he was unable to throw the ball more than 10 yards after his elbow got hurt.
San Francisco’s bad luck at quarterback was finally too much to overcome as its 12-game win streak ended. The Niners (15-5) lost both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending injuries, and Purdy — the final pick in April’s draft — lost as a starter for the first time.
Philadelphia police greased traffic and light poles in what proved again to be a futile attempt to slow the postgame revelry. The city now has its beloved Birds in the Super Bowl just three months after the Philadelphia Phillies reached the World Series.
“When you guys go into our indoor (practice facility), there’s always that picture in the back part of it of the 2017 NFC championship game, and it’s just the electricity of the stadium,” said Sirianni, who was hired two years ago to replace the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning coach, Doug Pederson. “We’re looking forward to getting another picture up there of this special moment that we had.”
The game disintegrated in the waning minutes and Philadelphia’s K’Von Wallace and San Francisco’s Trent Williams were ejected for their roles in a brawl. Williams yanked Wallace from behind and slammed him to the ground.
The moment only seemed to rile up Eagles fans even more as they soon waved their green towels and went wild as confetti fluttered around them.
“We’ve got one more game for the rest of our lives,” Sanders said.
The Eagles broke the game open in the final two minutes of the first half, getting a rise out of a crowd that had been quiet with nervous energy since a touchdown on the opening drive.
Sanders broke free for a 13-yard run for a 14-7 lead, concluding a 14-play, 75-yard drive extended by three 49ers penalties.
Johnson bobbled a shotgun snap and fumbled on the next drive, and Reddick — the free-agent pickup from Carolina having one of the great defensive seasons in franchise history — recovered at the San Francisco 30. Boston Scott scooted 10 yards for a touchdown and 21-7 lead.
Even with Hurts almost a non-factor — he had 97 yards passing in the first half — the Eagles were firmly in control. His 1-yard rushing touchdown on Philadelphia’s signature rugby-style QB sneak made it 28-7 late in the third quarter.
“We’ve got a chance to go out there and win it all,” Hurts said. “So we want to go prepare to go do that.”
The Eagles used quick thinking as they scored on their opening drive for the second straight playoff game. DeVonta Smith made a sensational one-handed grab for 29 yards, but replays showed he appeared to lose control of the ball as he hit the ground. Smith popped up and frantically waved the Eagles to the line. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan did not challenge the call and the Eagles got off the next play. Sanders scored on a 6-yard run.
“Smart players do smart things,” Sirianni said. “He did a smart thing right there. I’m going to say he caught it, though.”
Purdy left the game with an elbow injury after he was drilled in the arm by Reddick on San Francisco’s first drive. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but replays confirmed it was a fumble.
“I knew that was a sack-fumble because I got my hand on the ball,” Reddick said.
He also got his hand on Purdy’s arm, changing the course of the game. The 23-year-old Purdy’s improbable rise from “Mr. Irrelevant” to playoff starter ended with a whimper as he failed to become the first rookie QB to lead a team to the Super Bowl.
He was improbably needed again in the third quarter after Johnson, a journeyman backup signed in December, was also injured.
“I hurt for these guys,” Shanahan said. “We felt really good about this game. It was tough circumstances.”
With little hope they could get anything going behind Johnson, the 49ers turned to Christian McCaffrey, a midseason acquisition who led the team with 13 TDs in the regular season and playoffs, to get on the board. He broke three tackles on a 23-yard touchdown run that made it 7-7 in the second quarter.
That turned out to be the only moment of hope for Shanahan’s Niners, who managed 164 yards of offense and 11 first downs.
“You’re never out of the fight,” McCaffrey said. “We believed it and it just didn’t turn out our way. We got beat and wish we had another shot at it with everybody.”
IN THE HOUSE
First lady Jill Biden, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, actor Bradley Cooper, comedian Kevin Hart, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout and several 76ers, including Joel Embiid, attended the game.
The Eagles will play in the fourth Super Bowl in franchise history on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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