Dries Mertens and Fernando Llorente struck late to earn Napoli a 2-0 win at home to holders Liverpool in the first game of the Reds’ Champions League defence.Carlo Ancelotti’s men won the corresponding fixture last term with Mertens’ spot-kick and Llorente’s injury-time goal enough to ensure history was repeated in the Group E clash at the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday.Andy Robertson was deemed to have tripped Jose Callejon in the box and, after VAR ratified the penalty decision, Mertens squeezed his penalty past Adrian in the 82nd minute. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career Liverpool rode their luck in reaching the knockout rounds in 2018-19 and Jurgen Klopp’s men will again have to bounce back from an away loss to Napoli this year after Llorente’s first goal for the club sealed all three points. 81: GOOOOOOOOOOOAAALLLLLL! @dries_mertens14 scores from the penalty spot!#NAPLIV 1-0#UCL #ForzaNapoliSempre pic.twitter.com/hIkx6BA9bN — Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) September 17, 2019 Napoli had an early strike ruled out for offside when Hirving Lozano headed home the rebound after Adrian’s excellent double save from Fabian Ruiz.Sadio Mane’s shot was saved by Alex Meret in the 20th minute – Liverpool recording their first shot on target in the game having failed to manage any in last season’s visit.And the Reds should have gone into the break 1-0 up, Firmino heading wide a fine James Milner cross on the Brazil forward’s 200th Liverpool appearance.Napoli had the first big chance of the second half, Adrian showing superb reactions to prevent Mertens from turning in Fabian’s deep cross, then Mane overhit a pass to Mohamed Salah as Liverpool broke at speed.Brilliant save from Adrián to block Mertens volley!#UCL pic.twitter.com/ojsRkjMd39— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 17, 2019Liverpool were starting to build pressure and, after successive errors from Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas handed him a sight of goal in the 65th minute, Salah’s drive was turned around the post by Meret.Napoli’s goalkeeper had to deny Mane again as Liverpool looked to finish strongly, but when Callejon jinked into the box he went over Robertson’s outstretched leg to win a penalty.Mertens had to wait for the VAR check, but calmly drilled his strike past Adrian, with Virgil van Dijk’s terrible error in stoppage time ensuring former Tottenham striker Llorente could ease home a second. What does it mean? History repeated in NaplesLorenzo Insigne’s late strike earned Carlo Ancelotti’s side a 1-0 victory against Liverpool last season and lightning struck twice, with Liverpool becoming the first holders to lose the first game of their Champions League defence since AC Milan did so in 1994-95Liverpool have kept only one clean sheet in eight competitive games this season, which must worry Klopp, especially as reliable leader Van Dijk was badly at fault for Llorente’s clincher.Mertens the matchwinnerAn 11th Champions League goal from Mertens set up this win, with the Belgium international also helping to force Van Dijk’s error for Napoli’s second goal.Ancelotti named four attackers in his starting XI with the three-time Champions League winning coach’s bold selection justified by an eye-catching win.Another away blank for SalahChances were at a premium for both sides for most of the game, but Salah is a player expected to create opportunities for himself. He failed to do so against a tough defence, although Mane undoubtedly should have set him up.The Egypt star has now failed to score in all three away appearances for Liverpool this season.Key Opta Facts:- Napoli have now won five of their six Champions League home games against English opposition (L1 – a 4-2 defeat to Man City in November 2017).- Liverpool have lost their opening Champions League match of a new campaign for only the second time (P12 W6 D4 L2), and for the first time since a 2-0 defeat to Valencia in September 2002.- The Reds have lost six of their last eight away games in the Champions League (W2), as many as in their previous 25 such matches in the competition.- Napoli striker Dries Mertens has scored more Champions league goals than any other Belgian in the competition (11).- Since a 2-0 win over Udinese as Borussia Dortmund boss, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has lost on his last five visits to Italian sides in all competitions (P5 W0 D0 L5).- Napoli striker Fernando Llorente has now scored a Champions League goal for four different clubs (Juventus, Sevilla, Spurs and Napoli) – the joint-most sides of all Spaniards alongside Fernando Morientes.What’s next?Liverpool travel to Chelsea in a blockbuster Premier League clash on Sunday, the same day Napoli go to Lecce in Serie A. When the Champions League returns for matchweek two early next month, Anfield will welcome early group leaders Salzburg with Napoli going away to Genk. read more
Manchester United have been warned off making a move for John McGinn, with Aston Villa boss Dean Smith saying the midfielder’s price tag has “shot up”.The Scotland international was linked with a switch to Old Trafford over the summer, with it suggested that he could have a £50 million ($65m) valuation on his head.He had not graced the Premier League at that stage, having helped Villa to Championship play-off glory in 2018-19, but has continued to shine among English football’s elite. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career McGinn has been talked up as the kind of player that former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be advising Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Red Devils board to keep an eye on.Smith is aware of the rumours and how talented a prized asset at Villa Park is, but he has no intention of sanctioning a sale of speculating on what could happen in upcoming transfer windows.He told reporters when quizzed on the McGinn speculation: “The big clubs can come calling but they’ll get a short, swift reply! He’s a player we want here at Aston Villa.“His value shot up from the moment he stepped out onto the Villa Park pitch and showed just what a player he is.“He has an unbelievable energy level and a big, big heart, but people don’t see the technical side of it as well – he’s got that in abundance.”Villa are under no pressure to sell as they are backed by owners who have shown a willingness to continue investing, rather than cash in on those attracting admiring glances from afar.They also have McGinn tied to a long-term contract through to 2024.Breaking that agreement will not be easy for any sides plotting an approach, with Villa confident that they will be the ones to benefit from the 25-year-old’s ability for the foreseeable future.Smith added: “He’s a really top player and pivotal to us getting promoted last season.“He’s continued that form in the Premier League and his value would have certainly shot up.”McGinn contributed seven goals and 10 assists to the Villa cause last season, with another three efforts recorded in 2019-20 as Smith’s side have made a solid start to life back in the big time.
Written By: Andy Ogg – Editor for Travel Professional NEWS Taking place in sunny San Diego, the 10th Annual Avoya Travel Conference was to be held at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, about 30 minutes northeast of the downtown area of San Diego. The day arrived and we made our short commute to the Rancho Bernardo Inn. This was our 2nd time attending the Avoya Conference and we could not be more honored and thankful to be a part of their special event. Having never visited this particular property, my jaw dropped as we made our way through the entrance to this beautiful and unique hotel. The doors part way to dark wood throughout the lobby with a wood burning fireplace setting quite the ambiance prior to check in. Fresh flowers and jasmine fill the air throughout the hotel with pools, jacuzzi’s, and quiet outdoors areas are abundant and as you stroll through the property, you only seem to find more hidden gems. Once settled, we made our way to the first event, which was the Supplier Tradeshow, taking place in the Bernardo Conference Room and Patio. With an estimated 100 suppliers, the Independent Agency owners in the Avoya Network™ were given the opportunity to interact with the suppliers face to face. Representatives from some of the top suppliers in the travel industry were swamped, as agents were eager to learn about the new offerings and incentives available. As I made my way through the multiple rooms for the Tradeshow, I noticed a woman, with a heavily decorated name badge, and I just had to talk with her. Rachel Mooney, owner of Changing Your Latitude Travel, LLC is based in Birmingham, Alabama and was nice enough to take a few minutes out of her day to talk with us at Travel Professional NEWS about her career, success, and passion for selling travel. Rachel comes from the financial industry originally and has been an Independent Agency owner in the Avoya Network for just over 18 months. In that time, Rachel has managed to sell over 1.4 million dollars and has grown her business to levels that she didn’t think was initially possible. “The Live Leads and support has made it possible, it’s truly amazing,” shared Rachel. Additionally, Rachel said, “I interviewed three Host Agencies and after I spoke to Avoya and saw the affiliations, Live Lead program and support, I just knew that Avoya was the partner for me.” When asked about the relationship that she has with the Avoya Network, Rachel enthusiastically shared, “They truly care that we succeed, its not just about collecting money, but they truly care about our success.” The sun was shining and the cool breeze continued to flow through the amazing landscaping around the Rancho Bernardo inn as we made our way down the rolling walkways to the Executive Meet and Greet. The intimate patio setting overlooked the beautiful golf course that winds it’s way around the hotel and provided a fantastic location to chat with many of the Avoya team. The Anderson family continues to show their passion for this industry and the success of their Independent Agencies and without being asked, you can see the pride they have for this amazing business they have been able to create, grow and provide success with. As the sun began to fall behind the rolling hills of Rancho Bernardo, the dinner event began on the large garden surrounded lawn toward the bottom of the hotel property. As the agents, suppliers and executives made their way to the event, I stopped and took in the huge gathering of individuals that were in attendance, a record 300+ Independent Agencies had travelled from all over to be here for the education, experience and community that the Avoya Network provides. As the dinner progressed, delicious Mexican cuisine was provided as well as tasty Margarita’s. Game competitions such as bocce ball, hula hooping and much more were all taking place on the large and open lawn leading to fantastic memories and laughter for all involved. As a new day dawned, we prepared for the General Sessions by having a quick bite before heading into the very spacious conference room. The attendees were cheered as they entered the building and the excitement and enthusiasm continued it’s infectious ability throughout the day. Jeff Anderson, Executive Vice President of Avoya, took the stage for his “State of the Union,” address and the crowd listened as Jeff delivered a powerful, educational and insightful speech, thus setting the tone for the exciting news that Avoya would be sharing. During his address, Jeff Anderson shared that the Avoya Network would be experiencing a growth of 70% in the Technology portion of the business, a 40% increase in the Avoya Network growth, and an unprecedented 60% growth in the area of the customer experience, which spans from initial contact to far after the trip has taken place. This expansion can be attributed to the all-new Avoya Infinity platform. Sam McCully, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Avoya, shared the new initiative with the attentive group. The Avoya Infinity platform is truly focused on the customer experience and provides a truly cyclical system for Independent Agencies in the Avoya Network to utilize in 7 Phases of the Customer Journey. Phase 1 – Dream Ignite curiosity for our brand, our suppliers and trending destinations | Objective: AwarenessPhase 2 – Discover Illustrate the Avoya Difference to consumers beginning the planning and booking process | Objective: ConsiderationPhase 3 – Engage Enhance the shopping experience and encourage exploration of itineraries, deals and member benefits to trigger actions like lead generation and membership sign-up | Objective: ActionPhase 4 – Connect Establish the connection between the Independent Vacation Planner and potential customer to begin the booking process | Objective: Purchase IntentPhase 5 – Book The Sale! | Objective: ConversionPhase 6 – Excite Begin the nurturing process with customers by providing pre-trip guidance and value added services | Objective: RetentionPhase 7 – Enjoy Depart, enjoy, advocate and share | Objective: Loyalty + Referral The Avoya Infinity platform is not only a tool for the Independent Agencies, but an effort for the Avoya support team to understand the consumer better. In a Press meeting held at the Avoya Conference, Sam McCully shared “The Avoya Infinity allowed us to clearly layout, 1-7, the very important steps that a consumer can go through on a decision.” Moving through the day, another improvement that had the Independent Agencies in the Avoya Network excited was a completely new and interactive interface for Agent Power™. The Agent Power portal serves as a “one stop shop” for an Avoya Network members, allowing for them to make bookings, track sales, gather leads, stay up to date with their customers and more. The new interface lets the agents access vital information quickly and efficiently while enabling them to spend less time on the “work” side and more time on the “selling” side. “We are using automation to prepare the customer for their trip by reminders, packing tips and so on, all on behalf of the Independent Agency,” shared Sam McCully at the Press Meeting later that day. The Agent Power tool isn’t just for the sales side of things but also for marketing. “We take care of one of the biggest problems that Travel Agents have, which is marketing,” said Scott Koepf, Senior Vice President of Sales for Avoya. It would definitely seem that Avoya is and plans to continue the incredible level of support for travel professionals today, and well into the future. As the day progressed, I was able to speak with Eva Henry, Around the World Travel, LLC based in Eagle, Idaho. Eva has been a Travel Agent since 1983. She began in a storefront agency, however in 2013, Eva decided to join Avoya and it changed her business in a big way. “In my first 11 months, I was able to sell over $1 million dollars and join the Best of the Best!” expressed Eva. After her first year with Avoya, she found that a good “balance” of work and personal lives was the key and she has no problem working on a Saturday night when no one else wants to. “The Anderson family is amazing for creating this business and these opportunities!” The day with Avoya made way to lunch provided by the team at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, followed by an additional General Session where even more amazing news was shared about the powerful work Avoya and the Anderson family have recently done with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as many other organizations. The Anderson family is most definitely committed to not only helping, but giving back. One of the last events of the day that I was able to participate in was the “Best of the Best” cocktail party. The “Best of the Best” in the Avoya Network are Independent Agencies that sell over $1 million dollars in a year period. Now, going off of my rough count, there had to be approximately 50 agents in attendance at this cocktail party and all of them were happy and eager to share their stories of success with us here at Travel Professional NEWS®. Patricia LoBracco with LoBracco Travel LLC is based in Coral Springs, Florida and has been an Independent Agency owner in the Avoya Network for 7 years. “My business has nearly tripled since joining Avoya,” shared Patricia. She also said “The Anderson’s share the same point of view, morals and practices that I also believe in. Affiliating with them is a fantastic fit for me.” Ms. LoBracco worked in a storefront model for nearly 15 years prior to joining Avoya and her experience has most definitely been a great choice for her. When asked if there was anything she would want to share with the Avoya family “My home is Avoya, thank you!” The last individual that we were able to speak with was Jerzy Poznar, owner of Poz Travel LLC, a millennial based agent out of South Beach, Florida. Jerzy comes from a previous career in finance and has been with Avoya for 3 years. He joined Avoya with no previous travel experience and with the help of the Network, Jerzy has built quite a successful business. “In this past year, I did over 1.2 million which had tripled from the previous year,” shared Jerzy. When asked for advice that he may present to another millennial looking to enter the Travel industry, Jerzy shared “If you are looking for something flexible, unlimited potential and you’re selling happiness, you are selling something fun which is just great!” While the sun fell behind the Pacific Ocean and the conference continued, my time to depart had come. On behalf of myself and the entire Travel Professional NEWS® team, THANK YOU to the Avoya team, Anderson family and to all of the Independent Agencies that took time out of their day to spend time and share their thought with us. This is our second year attending the annual Avoya conference and I can say with confidence that Avoya has most definitely continued it’s success. Not only is the team fantastic to work with, everyone involved genuinely loves what they do. Thank you for joining us in our experience at the 10th Annual Avoya Travel Conference and we look forward to sharing more of our adventures with you all in our next issue of Travel Professional NEWS®.