Zlatan Ibrahimovic hails ‘crazy’ start to LA Galaxy career

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says history should have prepared LA Galaxy fans for his spectacular MLS debut.

It took Ibrahimovic just 20 minutes to begin his Stateside career with a bang after the former Manchester United striker came off the bench and scored a brace in the Galaxy’s dramatic comeback against neighbours LAFC.

Galaxy were trailing 3-0 in the inaugural Los Angeles derby to new MLS club LAFC, before they pegged the visitors back to 3-2.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic jumps for joy after his stunning first goal on his LA Galaxy debut

Zlatan Ibrahimovic jumps for joy after his stunning first goal on his LA Galaxy debut

Zlatan Ibrahimovic jumps for joy after his stunning first goal on his LA Galaxy debut

The striker backed up his impressive self-confidence by finding the net in fine style

The striker backed up his impressive self-confidence by finding the net in fine style

The striker backed up his impressive self-confidence by finding the net in fine style

Ibrahimovic scored twice in a memorable debut to complete LA Galaxy's comeback win

Ibrahimovic scored twice in a memorable debut to complete LA Galaxy's comeback win

Ibrahimovic scored twice in a memorable debut to complete LA Galaxy’s comeback win

Substitute Ibrahimovic then fired in a stunning 40-yard half-volley to level the scores, before heading home a 90th minute winner.

But after previously scoring on his debuts in Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League, Ibrahimovic wasn’t surprised to be Galaxy’s hero.

Ibrahimovic said: ‘If you look back, every team I played for, I scored in my first official game. I wasn’t going to let that stop today.

‘I was just waiting to come on because when you’re losing 3-0, the adrenaline is pumping even more because you want to be able to do something for your team in a difficult situation.

‘The fans were demanding something and I gave them Zlatan.

The former Manchester United striker immediately looked at home in LA Galaxy colours

‘I always say it’s difficult when you do something like that first goal. You cannot describe it. You need to go through it yourself and I’ve been through it many times. Wherever I’ve gone, the fans have gone crazy.

‘I said before I came here in Manchester with the Galaxy people, that I would make the fans enjoy me. 

‘There are kids out there and you just want to give back to them. They are the future and you want to be a good example to them in a crazy way and that’s by scoring crazy goals.’

It was Ibrahimovic’s first competitive outing since December after the final three months of his United career saw him confined to the treatment table.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored just six minutes into his LA Galaxy debut against Los Angeles FC

MATCH FACTS

LA Galaxy: Bingham; Feltscher, Steres, Skjelvik, Cole; Kitchen, Carrasco (Husidic 63); Pontius (Romney 84), Lletget (Ibrahimovic 71), Boateng; Kamara.

Subs not used: Vom Steeg, Lassiter, Hillard-Arce, Kilmenta.

Goals: Lletget 61, Pontius 73, Ibrahimovic 77, 90

Booked: Ibrahimovic 

Los Angeles FC: Miller; Beitashour, Jakovic, Ciman, Braganca; Feilhaber (Blackmon 82), Kaye; Blessing (Atuesta 68), Vela, Rossi; Urena.

Subs not used: Harvey, Kovar, Pacheco, Zimmerman, Lyon.

Goals: Vela 5, 26, Steres (o.g. 48)

And the 36-year-old admits he couldn’t have lasted any longer than his brief substitute’s outing.

He said: ‘I felt I’d played 40 games for my 20 minutes. It was everything – jet lag, didn’t play for a long time.

‘I did the first sprint and I was starting to breathe immediately, so when the second one came, I thought I’ll shoot and not run with the ball. That was the ball that went in.

‘But there was a lot of adrenaline because I hadn’t played for a long time.’

Both Ibrahimovic’s equaliser and winner sparked wild scenes of celebration inside Galaxy’s StubHub Center after fans had been calling for the Swede to be thrown into the fray, prior to his introduction.

‘It was amazing from the first step I took inside the stadium,’ he said.

‘Once I was on the bench, I could feel the support, but not just for me, for the whole team. They wanted Zlatan and I gave them Zlatan.

‘It’s easier to play when you have fans pushing you, supporting you and giving you that little bit extra you need.

‘When you have a team that welcomes you in the best way, it makes it easier for you.

‘When it goes well, you see the happiness in your team-mates and you just want to keep going.

‘But I was happy when the game finished because I don’t know if I could have played more!’

Despite his spectacular debut, Ibrahimovic hopes that his subsequent games in a Galaxy shirt can be more subdued affairs.

He added: ‘The fans enjoy a game like that, but for the players, it’s not so easy because you want to play a game where you have it under control and when you’re winning the game.

‘But when you lose 3-0 and you win 4-3, it’s fantastic for the fans.

‘I heard from a media guy that I’ve woken up the football in the US. Hopefully, but not in this way because we want to have control over the game. We hope every game is not like that because it’s not easy.

‘I can imagine LAFC now after winning 3-0 and losing 4-3. But if they had Zlatan, it would be opposite…’ 

Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker referee ‘spoilt the fight’

  • Anthony Joshua won via a points decision against Joseph Parker on Saturday 
  • There was frustration among fans that the pair weren’t able to properly engage 
  • Referee Giuseppe Quartarone broke Joshua and Parker up a number of times 
  • It was suggested afterwards that Quartarone had ‘spoilt’ the heavyweight fight

Tom Farmery For Mailonline

Referee Giuseppe Quartarone ‘spoilt’ the fight between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker after breaking the pair up too many times, according to Johnny Nelson.

Joshua beat Parker on Saturday night at the Principality Stadium after winning on a points decision.

But there were audible boos ringside after it appeared Quartarone was stopping the fight too often.

Referee Giuseppe Quartarone was accused of spoiling the fight in Cardiff on Saturday night

Referee Giuseppe Quartarone was accused of spoiling the fight in Cardiff on Saturday night

Referee Giuseppe Quartarone was accused of spoiling the fight in Cardiff on Saturday night

Joshua defeated Parker via a points decision at the Principality Stadium in front of 80,000 fans

Joshua defeated Parker via a points decision at the Principality Stadium in front of 80,000 fans

Joshua defeated Parker via a points decision at the Principality Stadium in front of 80,000 fans

Sportsmail columnist and former world cruiserweight champion Nelson said the referee’s actions killed the flow of the fight.

He said: ‘It was frustrating when they did come together there was a couple of times maybe they could have worked it out and it could have caught fire a little bit but the ref was very quick to break them but it wasn’t a war of attrition it wasn’t a fight of the year candidate but it was a good tactical fight against two undefeated heavyweight champions.

‘The referee spoilt the fight. He was poor. Every time they clinched, every time they got close.’

Nelson said that Quartarone got between the two fighters too often as they exchanged blows

Nelson said that Quartarone got between the two fighters too often as they exchanged blows

Nelson said that Quartarone got between the two fighters too often as they exchanged blows

It appeared at times as though Joshua was the one benefiting from the stoppages with the pair being separated when Parker got too close to him.

Nelson said: ‘I thought when the referee jumped in that Parker was getting up, close and personal and then slowly as the rounds wore on it was AJ… The referee… what was he thinking?’ 

Tony Bellew, who faces David Haye next month, added: ‘Every time they wanted to have a fight he was in there. Break, break, break.’ 

Former world champion Carl Frampton also had his say on Twitter. He tweeted: ‘World class amateur referee #Break #JoshuaParker.’think Anthony Joshua would have had ht 

Joshua raises his right fist in celebration after his fight with Parker went the distance

Joshua raises his right fist in celebration after his fight with Parker went the distance

Joshua raises his right fist in celebration after his fight with Parker went the distance

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Anthony Joshua calls out Deontay Wilder after beating Joseph Parker

  • Anthony Joshua has called out Deontay Wilder after beating Joseph Parker
  • The 28-year-old claimed he would ‘knock Wilder spark out’ following his victory
  • He added the WBO strap to his IBA and WBA titles with a unanimous points win

Daniel Matthews For Mailonline

Anthony Joshua threw down the gauntlet to Deontay Wilder after taking the latest step on his road to the undisputed heavyweight title, telling the WBC champion he was ‘down to ride whenever, wherever’ and would ‘knock him spark out’.

Joshua added Joseph Parker’s WBO strap to his IBA and WBA titles with a unanimous points victory in Cardiff before claiming all he needed to do to beat Wilder would be to ‘get him in the ring, I’ll knock him spark out.’

He said: ‘Are you asking me if I want to become undisputed champion of the world? IBO, IBF, WBA, WBO – 21 professional fights, six world titles fights. Does that not show how good I’m going? Forget the hype, I’m about business, let’s get the business done.’

Anthony Joshua has called out Deontay Wilder after beating Joseph Parker on Saturday night

Anthony Joshua has called out Deontay Wilder after beating Joseph Parker on Saturday night

Anthony Joshua has called out Deontay Wilder after beating Joseph Parker on Saturday night

Joshua claimed he would 'knock Wilder spark out' in an interview following his victory

Joshua claimed he would 'knock Wilder spark out' in an interview following his victory

Joshua claimed he would ‘knock Wilder spark out’ in an interview following his victory

He added: As Dillian (Whyte) said (last week): “What’s up Wilder, let’s go baby, let’s go!”‘

After another sell-out stadium fight on these shores, Joshua ruled out heading to America to face Wilder, saying: ‘All these years, British fighters have to go over to America… we’re staying over here… we can do it at Wembley!’

AJ also talked up the possibility of a fight with Tyson Fury, who is aiming to return to the sport after more than two years out.

Joshua added Parker's WBO strap to his IBA and WBA titles with a unanimous points victory

Joshua added Parker's WBO strap to his IBA and WBA titles with a unanimous points victory

Joshua added Parker’s WBO strap to his IBA and WBA titles with a unanimous points victory

On Saturday night, the British fighter was taken the distance for the first time in his career. But the scorecards of 118-110 (twice) and 119-109 were a fair reflection of his clear superiority at the Principality Stadium.

In the ring afterwards, Parker accepted the result was the right one.

‘Today i was beaten by a better champion,’ the former WBO king said. ‘There’s a lot to work on, it was a good experience.

He added: ‘No regrets, I take it on the chin, we’ll be back again.’ 

Joshua poses with his new WBO title following his unanimous points victory over Parker

Joshua poses with his new WBO title following his unanimous points victory over Parker

Joshua poses with his new WBO title following his unanimous points victory over Parker

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Clermont winger David Strettle is ready to make his Saracens comeback after Clermont spell

Most of the furniture in David Strettle’s French home has already been sold on eBay — although one prized possession still remains.

‘I’m going have to sell it,’ says the winger, steering his Harley-Davidson back into the garage. ‘There’s nowhere to store it in St Albans and I’m not sure what Smally would say if I rocked up at training on a motorbike!’

Listening in, his wife Phoebe, pregnant with their second child, adds: ‘I’m not sure it’s the best thing to drive two kids around on, either!’

David Strettle is set to sell is Harley-Davidson bike as he prepares for a return to England

David Strettle is set to sell is Harley-Davidson bike as he prepares for a return to England

David Strettle is set to sell is Harley-Davidson bike as he prepares for a return to England

Boxes are already being packed for their return to London, where Strettle will be reunited with Mark ‘Smally’ McCall at Saracens.

He will leave behind the laissez-faire French lifestyle for one final flourish with the European champions — and possibly an outside shot at the World Cup.

‘It was my cousin, Matty Hennessey, the old media officer, who called me to ask if I’d go back,’ says Strettle. ‘Next thing, Smally’s on the phone and it was a no-brainer. Everything just fell into place. Clermont needed to meet their French academy quota for young players and Saracens were offering me a move back.

‘You’re so well looked after at Saracens and that’s a luxury because I don’t want to just pick up a pay cheque. I want to play in big games. I can go back there and play for three more years.

‘Could I do that in a mid-division French club? I’m not sure. It’s different in France: you get your two-hour lunch break, clock off at five and have three bottles of wine or go for a blast on the bike.’

The books on Strettle’s coffee table provide insight into French life: a restaurant guide, a Hollywood costume hardback and Great Motorcycle Tours of Europe.

Strettle will return to former club Saracens in the summer after three years with Clermont

Strettle will return to former club Saracens in the summer after three years with Clermont

Strettle will return to former club Saracens in the summer after three years with Clermont

Even Clermont’s moves are named after the local lakes which the likes of Aurelien Rougerie visit on road trips on their days off.

‘It took Nick Abendanon a while to work out the lake theme,’ he says with a laugh, sitting in his living room which overlooks the city’s gothic-black cathedral from the hillside. ‘He’s been here for five years but he doesn’t get out much!’

This summer, Strettle will return to the St Albans home he has rented out for the last three years.

Since leaving, he has won the Top 14 title, married Phoebe, had his first child and received private acclaim from Eddie Jones for his performances. ‘Eddie called me a while ago now to give me a pat on the back and that meant a lot to me,’ says Strettle. ‘I had closed the door on England when I left in 2015 and he didn’t have to do that.

The winger is excited to return to Saracens where he hopes to get another three years

The winger is excited to return to Saracens where he hopes to get another three years

The winger is excited to return to Saracens where he hopes to get another three years

‘With England under Martin Johnson and Stuart Lancaster I tried, tried and tried. I got the s*** kicked out of me in training every week and had 14 caps to show for eight years, so I drew the line.

‘If someone said to me in five years, ‘Well done, Stretts, you moved back, carved up and played in the 2019 World Cup’, I’d say, ‘What a great story’. If you score 15 tries in 10 games, it doesn’t matter if you’re 40. If you’re good enough, you’re good enough. But I’m not moving back because I want to play for England. I’m doing it because I want to play for Saracens.’

First and foremost, however, is the Champions Cup. His form this season has been stunted by injury, and the wing will watch from the stands when Clermont host Racing 92 in Sunday’s quarter-final.

Clermont, three-times runners-up in the European final, are struggling domestically. The trophy would be a perfect send- off.

The Top 14 winner brushed aside claims he is returning to keep any World Cup hopes alive

The Top 14 winner brushed aside claims he is returning to keep any World Cup hopes alive

The Top 14 winner brushed aside claims he is returning to keep any World Cup hopes alive

‘There was some stat that Clermont got to 14 finals and won one,’ says Strettle, 34. ‘At Saracens, that would be, ‘Good work guys, we’re getting closer, we’ll build on this’. Here it’s ‘Oh, f*** this, we’ve lost everything, back to the start’.

‘Here, the mindset is different. It’s win or nothing. An emotional rollercoaster. If you win brilliantly, the guys might live off it for a week. You’ll have your cheese baguette on the bus and they’ll think, ‘Oh we don’t need to try as hard this week’. If you lose and play s***, then it’s turmoil and, ‘Bang’, you’ll get an unbelievable performance the next weekend.

‘It’s more consistent in England: Put Saracens in the Top 14 and they’d win the league but the French team might be favourites in the final because they can take the emotion to another level.’

Strettle said: 'I'm not moving back because I want to play for England'

Strettle said: 'I'm not moving back because I want to play for England'

Strettle said: ‘I’m not moving back because I want to play for England’

Should both teams progress, a Clermont v Saracens final could be on the cards. Once the final whistle is blown, Strettle will find a big screen as his former and future club take on Leinster. ‘Saracens qualified as a best runners-up but they’d be favourites to beat most of the teams in the quarter-finals,’ he says. ‘I’ve never watched much rugby but I like to see how the guys are getting on.

‘Owen Farrell, George Kruis, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, they’ve had amazing success. I don’t think they realise how lucky they are. If you’d taken those guys away from Saracens and put them in teams that were ninth or tenth, they wouldn’t have had the success they’ve had. I said to Jamie, ‘I don’t think you realise how lucky you are to have this safety blanket of your mates around you’.

‘When I first got called up for England, it was last-minute, so I walked into this hotel at night and Andy Farrell and Jonny Wilkinson were playing darts. Suddenly I’m playing rugby with guys I’ve only seen on TV. Those guys don’t know what that’s like.’

When Strettle returns to Saracens, however, the surroundings will be entirely familiar. ‘The neighbours will be shocked,’ he says. ‘When I moved out I was single — and when I get back I’ll be married with two French kids!’

Strettle learned a lot from his time in France, claiming their mindset is different to the English

Strettle learned a lot from his time in France, claiming their mindset is different to the English

Strettle learned a lot from his time in France, claiming their mindset is different to the English

What’s next for Anthony Joshua? All roads lead to Deontay Wilder

Anthony Joshua stood on the cusp of the Principality Stadium pitch, draped in a glowing white gown and shining under a sole spotlight. It was hard to imagine how much higher the heavyweight could climb.

As a packed national stadium rose to greet his latest stop on the road to the undisputed title, there was something almost messianic about AJ. But even Jesus lost his cool every once a while.

We are yet to discover the heights AJ must scale before he even looks like wobbling. Opponents may sporadically get to him, but the occasion never has thus far.

Anthony Joshua begins search for his next opponent after beating Joseph Parker

Anthony Joshua begins search for his next opponent after beating Joseph Parker

Anthony Joshua begins search for his next opponent after beating Joseph Parker

All roads lead to Deontay Wilder after AJ claimed he'd 'knock him spark out' following his win

All roads lead to Deontay Wilder after AJ claimed he'd 'knock him spark out' following his win

All roads lead to Deontay Wilder after AJ claimed he’d ‘knock him spark out’ following his win

On Saturday night, neither the bright lights nor Joseph Parker could get to him – at least not enough to dent his perfect professional record. Parker may have taken Joshua 12 rounds for the first time in his record-breaking career. But can Deontay Wilder or anyone else halt his rise to the very top? AJ doesn’t think so: ‘I’ll knock him spark out,’ he vowed in the ring afterwards.

Parker arrived at the Principality an unbeaten world champion, but still an unknown quantity on these shores. Nothing in his 24 previous victories has come close to replicating this heat of this Cardiff cauldron.

The New Zealand fighter has come a long way since first lacing up the gloves with his father and brother in his South Auckland back garden. But he had looked nothing but at home throughout the build-up, inviting media attention and retaining his charm and calmness, smiling even as entered the lions den for the biggest night of his career. 

Around 20 minutes passed between his entrance and the first bell, but not even boos for the KIwi national anthem could wipe the smile rom his face. The fight was only a couple of minutes old when Parker smirked at his opponent, goading him forward.

Joshua added Parker's WBO strap to his IBA and WBA titles with a unanimous points victory

Joshua added Parker's WBO strap to his IBA and WBA titles with a unanimous points victory

Joshua added Parker’s WBO strap to his IBA and WBA titles with a unanimous points victory

Promoter Eddie Hearn has several opponents lined up to take on Joshua for his next fight 

Promoter Eddie Hearn has several opponents lined up to take on Joshua for his next fight 

Promoter Eddie Hearn has several opponents lined up to take on Joshua for his next fight 

But he was less fleet of foot by the third as a stalking AJ began to seize control and pin his opponent to the ropes. Still Parker smiled as the fight entered the second half and began to slip from his grasp. Still he kept coming and still he took Joshua’s best shots. But it was the Briton who was doing enough to take most of the rounds.

As the final bell sounded, there seemed only one winner and only one direction for AJ and his fans to look for their next challenge.

But boxing is no friend of logic. In no other sport does what’s supposed to happen do so rarely.

Instead, Wilder is one of a number of opponents being lined up for AJ.

Dillian Whyte made his case for a rematch with a stunning sixth-round KO of Lucas Browne

Dillian Whyte made his case for a rematch with a stunning sixth-round KO of Lucas Browne

Dillian Whyte made his case for a rematch with a stunning sixth-round KO of Lucas Browne

Whyte was in Cardiff to watch AJ with their long-running beef making a fight an easy sell

Whyte was in Cardiff to watch AJ with their long-running beef making a fight an easy sell

Whyte was in Cardiff to watch AJ with their long-running beef making a fight an easy sell

Dillian Whyte, who made his case for a rematch with a stunning sixth-round KO of Lucas Browne only last week, was here in Cardiff to watch his former rival. Their long-running beef makes the fight an easy sell.

It’s a fight Eddie Hearn wants to make and a match-up AJ has been happy to tease. But for all the Brixton boxer’s legitimate claims to a place at world level, he carries neither the worldwide appeal nor big punch-power to fully whet the appetite.

But who out there does?

It’s true that America is a world Joshua still has to conquer. Despite his transcending appeal on these shores, the heavyweight is no mainstream star Stateside. That could change very quickly, if his meteoric rise to this point is anything to go by, and that’s why Hearn has touted a potential match-up with the unbeaten Jarrell Miller.

The American is part of Hearn’s burgeoning Matchroom USA venture, which would make terms far easier to agree than is normal for a fight of this magnitude.

Like Whyte, Miller has arguably earned a world title shot. Like Whyte, he would provide a new test for the unified champion. But like Whyte, he lacks any wider appeal.

Alexander Povetkin sent a message to AJ with a brutal fifth-round knockout of  David Price

Alexander Povetkin sent a message to AJ with a brutal fifth-round knockout of  David Price

Alexander Povetkin sent a message to AJ with a brutal fifth-round knockout of David Price

So too does Alexander Povetkin, who will soon become mandatory to the WBA strap.

The Russian sent a chilling message to AJ with a brutal fifth-round knockout of Britain’s David Price on the undercard. Despite being 38, he remains one of the most feared fighters in the division and, as a beast from the east with a history of doping, he is in some ways the perfect foil to AJ and squeaky-clean persona.

But the big-punching Povetkin’s poor command of the English language won’t help sell the fight. It’s a fight that will certainly happen, but no one this side of Moscow will be rushing to make.

Of course, there is also Tyson Fury, who was name-checked by AJ after the fight. But he remains well off world level, despite his impending comeback.

Ultimately, all roads lead to Wilder.

Tyson Fury is also a potential opponent who was name-checked by AJ after the fight

Tyson Fury is also a potential opponent who was name-checked by AJ after the fight

Tyson Fury is also a potential opponent who was name-checked by AJ after the fight

In the lead-up to this out, AJ made all the right noises and produced the necessary soundbites. My future ends on March 31, he claimed. I’m not looking beyond Joseph Parker, he insisted.

But there was only one man on the mind of those inside this Cardiff cauldron.

Despite deciding against coming to Cardiff for Saturday’s showdown, the Alabama banger did play a small role in proceedings. In between undercard bouts, the producers of boxing film Creed 2 used the 80,000 fans at the Principality to simulate crowd noises for the upcoming motion picture. Unsurprisingly, the loudest boos were reserved for the only heavyweight world champion not in the building.

For now, there is little more AJ himself can do. He continues to win, he continues to lead this booming resurgence in British boxing. For once, he may be powerless to get what he wants.