Chelsea crowned Premier League champions

Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions as Michy Batshuayi's late goal gave them the victory they required to secure the title at West Brom.

It looked as though Antonio Conte's side might be forced to delay their celebrations as they were frustrated for long periods by the resilience and organisation of their hosts.

But the mood changed and the title was won with eight minutes left as substitute Batshuayi, who had previously endured a season of struggle after his £33m move from Marseille, ended a scrappy passage of play by steering a finish high past Ben Foster.

The final whistle sparked wild celebrations among Chelsea's fans, and manager Conte was tossed high into the air by his squad.

The Italian can now set his sights on emulating compatriot Carlo Ancelotti's 2010 feat of winning the league and domestic Double as the Blues prepare for an FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on 27 May.

Chelsea worthy champions

Chelsea's celebrations were fully deserved - the culmination of a superb season's work by Conte and his squad.

They had to work hard for victory against a West Brom side that demonstrated all the qualities that have made this such a satisfactory season for them but, as so often, Chelsea got the job done.

The Blues' main attacking threats struggled to find a spark, with Eden Hazard's frustration summed up with one long-range shot that went out for a corner, but Conte's side found a way to win, illustrating once again why they are worthy champions.

The losses at home to Liverpool and at Arsenal in September that hinted at early struggles seemed an age away, as did the surprise defeat by struggling Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, and the setback at Manchester United.

Chelsea, even when not at their best, proved themselves the strongest and most complete side in the Premier League - and they proved it again on a night they were tested.

Conte's magic touch does it again

Conte's fingerprints are all over this title triumph - and his sure touch was on show again to fashion the victory they needed to get over the line with two games to spare.

The Italian knew his side needed a catalyst to break down West Brom, and it came with the introduction of Batshuayi and Willian for Hazard and Pedro with 15 minutes left.

Conte's masterstroke should have come as no surprise given the manner in which he has marshalled his forces, particularly the crucial switch to a three-man defence in September that turned Chelsea's season around and started a run of 13 straight league wins that led to the title.

No praise is too high for the 47-year-old, who took over a squad that looked broken after ending last season in 10th place and with the shadow of Jose Mourinho's sacking still hanging over the club.

This was his ultimate reward.

Batshuayi comes out of the shadows

Batshuayi has been a misfit for much of this season, but whatever the future holds for the 23-year-old Belgian, he will always have a goal that won the title to his name.

Before this game, he had only figured only 24 times, played for 579 minutes and scored five goals - his sixth makes its mark in Chelsea history.

The stats behind Chelsea's title win

  • Chelsea won their sixth top-flight title and fifth in the Premier League era. Only Manchester United (13) have won more Premier League titles.
  • Chelsea are the first club to win the English top-flight title on a Friday since Arsenal at Anfield in 1989.
  • Conte is the fourth Italian manager to win the English top-flight title after Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini and Claudio Ranieri.
  • Chelsea scored with their 23rd shot of the match at West Brom.
  • A Belgian player has scored the title-deciding goal in each of the past three Premier League seasons (Batshuayi v West Brom in 2016-17, Eden Hazard v Tottenham in 2015-16 and v Crystal Palace in 2014-15).

What next?

Chelsea still have two games to play in their title-winning season. They host Watford on Monday (20:00 BST) before receiving the trophy in their final game against relegated Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, 21 May (15:00 BST). They then have the FA Cup final on 27 May.

West Brom travel to Manchester City on Tuesday, 16 May before finishing their season at Swansea the following Sunday (15:00 BST).

Source: bbc.com

 

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12/May/2017

Chelsea to play Manchester United at home in the quarter-finals of this season’s FA Cup.

Chelsea football club will play Manchester United at home in the quarter-finals of this season’s FA Cup.

The match will take place the weekend of 10/11/12/13 March with the exact date and time yet to be announced. The winner will be decided on the day as there are no replays in this season’s quarter-finals.

The all-Premier League tie is the reward for Antonio Conte’s side overcoming Wolves away on Saturday evening. Manchester United beat Blackburn away 2-1 on Sunday.

This is the 12th season Chelsea have been paired with Man United in this competition. The most recent was in 2012/13, also in the quarter-finals, when following a recovery from 2-0 down to draw at Old Trafford, Chelsea won the replay at the Bridge thanks to a Demba Ba goal. 

The full Round 6 draw is:  

Chelsea v Manchester United

Middlesbrough v Huddersfield or Manchester City

Tottenham v Millwall

Sutton United or Arsenal v Lincolin

Source: www.chelseafc.com

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19/Feb/2017

AFCON 2017: Ghana beat Uganda

Ghana's Andre Ayew surpassed his father's record by scoring the goal that beat Uganda 1-0 in their Group D match at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The West Ham winger slotted in a penalty on 32 minutes after captain Asamoah Gyan had been pulled back.

Ghana also threatened through two Gyan headers, while Ayew and Christian Atsu tested Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango.

Uganda came close when Faruku Miya hit the outside of a post but they could not force their way back into the game.

It was a disappointing return for Uganda, who are playing at their first Nations Cup since 1978 when they lost in the final to then-hosts Ghana.

The Cranes created few opportunities of note and struggled against the Black Stars, who were happy to defend their lead.

Ghana were far more positive in the first half, with Andre Ayew, his brother Jordan and Atsu posing a huge problem for the Uganda defence.

Andre Ayew should have scored from a great cut-back by Jordan, while Atsu relentlessly tormented defender Isaac Isinde, whose conceded a penalty by tugging back Gyan after losing control of the ball.

The spot-kick gave Andre Ayew his seventh Nations Cup finals goal - one more than the number scored by his father and legendary former Ghana captain, Abedi Pele. But he remains one African title behind his father, who lifted the trophy in 1982.

Ghana had a good chance to add a second late on when Atsu was clean through but his 12-yard drive was superbly saved by Onyango.

The only downside for Avram Grant's side was an injury to defender Baba Rahman, who was taken off with what looked like a hamstring injury after 39 minutes.

Ghana will next take on Mali on Saturday while Uganda will face record seven-time champions Egypt on the same day.

Source: bbc.com

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17/Jan/2017

Ronaldo beats Messi to win Fifa best player award

Cristiano Ronaldo was named the world's best player at the inaugural Best Fifa Football Awards in Zurich.

Real Madrid and Portugal forward Ronaldo, 31, beat Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann to the prize.

Ronaldo also won the Ballon d'Or in December, with both honours recognition for success in the Champions League with Real and Euro 2016 with Portugal.

Carli Lloyd of the United States was named the world's best female player.

Leicester's Claudio Ranieri was named best men's coach, ex-Germany boss Silvia Neid won the female coach award, while Penang's Mohd Faiz Subri received the Puskas award for the best goal of 2016.

Hold on... haven't we already had the Ballon d'Or?

We have - but this is different.

For the past six years, the world's best player has received the Fifa Ballon d'Or award.

A version of that prize has been awarded by France Football magazine since 1956, but last year world football's governing body ended its association with that honour.

Instead, it introduced the Best Fifa Football Awards, with Ronaldo the first recipient of its main prize.

Voting for the player and coach categories was by national team captains and managers, selected journalists and, for the first time, an online poll of fans.

Each counted for 25% of the points.

2016 was quite the year for Ronaldo.

As well as scoring the decisive penalty in the shootout to win the Champions League, rescuing Real with a hat-trick in the final of the Club World Cup, captaining Portugal to Euro 2016 glory and being recognised with a fourth Ballon d'Or, he now has something Messi does not - the honour of being named best Fifa men's player.

The former Manchester United forward had been the favourite for the award, following a year in which he continued to deliver remarkable statistics. These included:

  • 44 games, 42 goals, 14 assists.
  • The third best minutes-per-goal rate (83.68) of anyone scoring a minimum of 10 goals across Europe's top five leagues during 2016, behind Luis Suarez (82.57) and Radamel Falcao (59.6)
  • Finishing top scorer in the Champions League in 2015-16 with 16 goals, seven more than second-placed Robert Lewandowski.

Fifpro World XI

Despite being on the shortlist for best individual player, Griezmann did not make the best XI.

The line-up features five players from Real Madrid, four from Barcelona, one from Juventus (Dani Alves, who was at Barca for the first half of 2016) and one, Manuel Neuer, from Bayern Munich.

That means no Premier League players were included.

Graphic of World XIGraphic of World XI

Source: bbc.com

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09/Jan/2017

Champions League last 16: Arsenal and Bayern Munich to battle it out

Arsenal will face Bayern Munich once again while EPL defending champions, Leicester City, will play Sevilla. Manchester City, on the other hand, are up against Monaco in the Champions League last 16.

The Gunners have played the German champions four times in the previous five campaigns and finished behind them in the group stage last season.

The Foxes, in their debut campaign, will have a tougher test when they come against Europa League champions, Sevilla. Manchester City's opponents, Monaco, beat Tottenham twice in Group E this year.

One of the other standout ties of the round pits Barcelona against Paris St-Germain. En route to winning the Champions League title during the 2014-15 season, Barca beat PSG in the quarter-finals.

Current holders, Real Madrid, will face Italian side, Napoli.

 

Champions League last 16 full draw

Manchester City vs. Monaco

Real Madrid vs. Napoli

Benfica vs. Borussia Dortmund

Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal

FC Porto vs. Juventus

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid

Paris St-Germain vs. Barcelona

Sevilla vs. Leicester

(First legs will played on 14 & 15 and 21 & 22 February 2017; second legs to be played on 7 & 8 and 14 & 15 March)

 

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12/Dec/2016

Ronaldo beats Lionel Messi to win Ballon d'Or 2016

Ronaldo of Real Madrid has won the prestigious Ballon d'Or award for the fourth time.

Ronaldo, 31, helped Real Madrid win last season's Champions League also scored three goals for his country, Portugal to win Euro 2016.

This win adds to the titles he won in 2008, 2013 and 2014.

Ronaldo is now one behind Barcelona forward Messi, who received the honor in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.

The former Manchester United forward has scored 19 goals in 20 games for club and country this season to add to the 54 he got last season.x

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12/Dec/2016

El Clasico: Barca held at home by Real Madrid

Real Madrid Captain, Ramos, scored a stoppage-time equalizer to extend the team’s unbeaten start to the season and deny Barcelona victory in a bad-tempered El Clasico at Nou Camp.
Suarez's glancing header from Neymar's left-wing free-kick had put Barcelona ahead. However, in a wild ending, Ronaldo went close before Ramos headed home Modric's free-kick to earn a valuable point for Zinedine Zidane's La Liga leaders.
Real Madrid remains six points clear of defending champions Barca after 14 round of matches.

 

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03/Dec/2016

Chelsea humiliate Man City at Etihad

Chelsea's eighth consecutive Premier League win cemented their place at the top of the EPL table. However, the victory at Etihad Stadium ended in confusion as Manchester City's saw two of their players, Aguero and Fernandinho sent off in injury time.

Antonio Conte's side sent an impressive statement of intent as they cut City apart after halftime. Chelse went into the break a goal down as a result of Cahill's own goal on the stroke of half-time when he diverted Navas' simple cross beyond keeper Courtois.

The game turned on De Bruyne's 56th-minute miss when City were in control, crashing Navas' cross against the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.

Chelsea were level on the hour when Diego Costa outmuscled Otamendi to score. Chelsea went ahead 10 minutes later when substitute Willian raced clear to beat City keeper Bravo with ease.

Eden Hazard completed the magnificent performance and victory for Chelsea with another classic goal on the counter attack, showing too much pace for Kolarov to wrap up three valuable points for the team.

 

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03/Dec/2016

Chelsea end Spurs’ unbeaten run

Chelsea remain top of the EPL table after coming from behind to inflict the first Premier League defeat of the season on Tottenham.

The Blues who were second best in the first half fell behind to Christian Eriksen's superb strike.

However, Pedro matched Eriksen goal with a timely curled equaliser just before halftime.

Victor Moses continued his brilliant recent by scoring the winner from close range after Costa played the ball across the face of the Tottenham’s goal. This goal which happens to be the winning goal leaves Chelsea a point above both Liverpool and Manchester City.

Spurs' miserable record at Stamford Bridge has therefore been extended to 30 games without a win since February 1990.

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26/Nov/2016

United States sack former Germany soccer player and coach

Former Germany player and soccer coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, has been fired as the coach of the United States men soccer team.

 

The 52-year-old, Klinsmann, who won the World Cup as a player with Germany in 1990, took over as US coach in the year 2011.

 

"We remain confident we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018," stated by Sunil Gulati, the US Soccer president.

 

The form and growth of the team have us convinced that we need to go in a different direction.

 

Klinsmann led the United States to the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after finishing above Portugal and Ghana in their group and just behind Germany.

 

But, USA has lost 2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 away to Costa Rica in their opening two world qualifying matches for the 2018 tournament which might be the reason behind his sacking.

 

The USA men soccer team remain pointless and bottom of the six-country qualifying group, below Panama, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago, even though they are only a fifth of the way through the qualifying process.

 

Gulati also added that with the next qualifying matches coming in late March,  there are several months to redeploy and prepare.

There is, therefore, the need to decide the best way forward to guarantee a successful journey to qualify for our eighth successive World Cup," said by Gulati.

 

Klinsmann has previously been linked with the England job after big Sam Allardyce left his post in September.

 

Source: bbc.com

 

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21/Nov/2016

Chelsea back on top of the EPL

Diego Costa's tenth goal of the season moved Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League as their 6th straight win saw off Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium today.

 

After an even start of the game, Chelsea increased the heat and deservedly scored before the break when Costa responded fastest to score from a free ball inside the Boro box.

 

The Blues kept on making shots, Pedro going nearest when he smacked a rising drive against the crossbar.

 

Boro's most obvious opportunity came when Alvaro Negredo's 78th-minute volley was spared by the Chelsea goal keeper.

 

It was the only time the home side forced Blues keeper Thibaut Courtois into a great stop.

Chelsea soared Liverpool and Manchester City to go a point clear, while Boro stay one-point clear of the relegation zone in fifteenth place.

 

Conte masterstroke moves Chelsea back on top

 

After the arrival of previous Juventus and Italy coach Conte, many anticipated that would see a defensive approach by the Blues.

 

They were permeable in the opening two months of the season, losing 3-0 at Arsenal on 24 September.

 

From that point forward, the Blues have been invulnerable in the Premier League.

 

Conte made a strategic change to a 3-4-3 development for their next match at Hull - and they have won every one of the six matches since without conceding.

 

Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso have been impactful in their embraced wing-back roles, while Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta have looked stronged in a back three.

 

It has turned out to be a masterstroke by Conte. Also, it has helped the Blues move top of the table surprisingly since they were champions in May 2015.

 

The back-to-back games against Tottenham and Manchester City will be another measure of their late change.

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20/Nov/2016

Pharaoh's dent Ghana's hopes of fourth successive World Cup appearance

The Black Stars hopes of making a fourth successive appearance at the FIFA World Cup were all but dashed tonight at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria after they lost 2-0 to the Pharaoh's of Egypt.

The Pharaoh's proved tactically superior to the Black Stars who dominated possession but conceded late goals in either half.

The first goal was scored by Mohammed Salah from a penalty in the 42nd minute after Hassan Trezequet was felled by Harrison Afful in the box.

The Roma winger scored his 27th goal in Egypt colours sending Razak Brimah the wrong way and slotting calmly.

The Stars continued to dominate the exchanges and came close to scoring several times in the first half.

Veteran Egypt goalie Essam Hadary was in superb form and on several occasions he denied the Black Stars an equaliser.

Hadary saved smartly from a thunderbolt free kick by Mubarak Wakaso and also frustrated the Stars with his playacting anytime he made a save.

Jordan Ayew also fired narrowly wide late in the first half after he managed to create space for himself.

The Stars continued to dominate the clash but after the break but the Egyptians chose to sit back and hit their opponents on the counter attack.

Christian Atsu came closest to scoring but his left footed shot was saved smartly by El Hadary who moments later saved a tame header from Agyemang Badu.

The Egyptians completed their sweet revenge for a 6-1 loss suffered to Ghana in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers when Stoke City's Ramadhan Sobhi raced away on the left flack before releasing the ball to Salah who found an unmarked Abdallah Said in the box to score.

Said allowed the ball to run across his body before swiveling to fire a low shot past a hapless Razak Brimah.

The Stars were also very wasteful from numerous set-piece opportunities that fell their way.

The Pharaoh's now lead the Group with six points followed by Uganda on four points while the Stars are in third place with one point and whipping boys Congo have no points.

Source: graphic.com.gh

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13/Nov/2016

Chelsea kept pace at the top of the EPL

Chelsea kept pace with the leading pack in the Premier League as they moved into fourth place with an impressive win at Southampton.

The Blues took the lead when Eden Hazard capitalised on poor marking before cutting inside Steven Davis and powering a shot through the legs of keeper Fraser Forster.

Southampton had plenty of the ball but could not find a way through a well-drilled Chelsea, who looked the more threatening and went close when strikes from Hazard and Diego Costa were saved.

Costa, however, beat Forster at full stretch with a wonderful curled effort from 22 yards.

Victory was Chelsea's fourth in a row in the league - a feat they last achieved in April 2015 - and put them one point behind Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Hazard getting back to his best

Eden Hazard was the 2014-15 Premier League player of the season during a campaign in which former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said the Belgian had outperformed Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Hazard struggled to maintain those heights as he struggled last season - managing just four goals and rarely showing the pace and trickery that had made him such a threat.

This season is a different story. He has already scored five goals and looks like he has regained the confidence to tease and torment defenders.

He showed skill and power with his goal at St Mary's, scoring in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time, then provided the pass from which Costa added Chelsea's second.

Italian feel about Chelsea

Chelsea were exposed defensively in consecutive league defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal this season but, since then, they have kept four clean sheets and scored 11 goals.

Manager Antonio Conte's move to a formation with three centre-backs is helping his side look more secure at the back and threatening in attack.

The Italian also appears to have implemented the sort of defending for which his country is famous, as an organised Chelsea denied Southampton's players any space in or around the penalty area and closed them down with aggression throughout.

"We've worked hard in training," said Chelsea defender Gary Cahill. "We've worked hard on the shape that the manager has brought and we are getting the rewards.

"It's OK having the shape but it's about having the mentality of the players to go out and dig in and do the business when you need to."

Southampton undone by Chelsea again

Southampton, whose most recent defeat at home in the league came against Chelsea in February, again had little answer to the Blues.

Saints had 55 shots on target this season before the game, but could muster only one on Sunday despite enjoying 55% of possession.

Their sole effort was Dusan Tadic's low effort, which was comfortably palmed wide by keeper Thibaut Courtois.

Southampton's chances were fleeting and, when they did come, striker Charlie Austin put one header wide and another high.

'It's the perfect game' - what they said

Southampton manager Claude Puel: "We played very well in the first half with so many possibilities and good play.

"But it's difficult to play against this team when you concede a goal after a few minutes. They can play their game with a strong defence and counter-attack.

"It was difficult to find solutions. It's a disappointment because we tried to play good football. We can do better."

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte: "We knew today was a test against a strong side in good shape and form. It's important to win games like this - people can increase their confidence and will to work and trust in the work.

"We created many chances. It's the perfect game when strikers score and defenders don't concede. The players deserved this; they work hard in training.

"When you see this type of game and commitment from your players, it's fantastic for a coach."

The stats you need to know

  • Chelsea have exactly double the number of points (22) that they had after 10 games last season (11)
  • Diego Costa has reached 40 Premier League goals in 64 games, the sixth fastest player to do so and seven games faster than it took Manchester City's Sergio Aguero
  • Chelsea have kept four consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since August 2010 (a run of six)
  • The Blues have won more away Premier League games than any other side in 2016 (9) - in the same time, they have won only five home matches
  • Southampton have kept only one clean sheet in their past 11 home Premier League games (1-0 v Swansea)

What's next?

Southampton are at home to Inter Milan for a 20:05 GMT kick-off on Thursday, 3 November before a league game at Hull City at 14:15 on Sunday, 6 November.

Chelsea host Everton in the 17:30 kick-off on Saturday, 5 November.

Source: bbc.com

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30/Oct/2016

Chelsea thrash Man United on Mourinho's return

Jose Mourinho was humiliated on his return to Chelsea as his former club blew away his Manchester United side at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues, who sacked Mourinho for a second time last year, led after just 30 seconds when Pedro capitalised on slack defending to roll in.

Gary Cahill smashed in the second after United allowed Eden Hazard's corner to bounce in their box.

United offered little sign of making a comeback, falling further behind when Hazard drilled in a precise 15-yard strike.

N'Golo Kante skipped around a static defence to slot in and seal victory as Chelsea moved within a point of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The comprehensive win lifted the Blues above Tottenham into fourth, with just one point separating the top five.

United stay seventh as the gap between them and the early pacesetters widens to six points, with almost a quarter of the season gone.

Analysis: Why it is too early to write Man Utd off

Relive how Chelsea ruined Mourinho's return

'You're not special anymore!'

Mourinho was making his first return to Stamford Bridge since he was sacked in December 2015, leaving when the defending champions were 16th in the Premier League.

The Portuguese boss said before the match he was unsure - and also unconcerned - about the reception he would be given by the home fans.

Unsurprisingly, for a man who delivered seven trophies in his two spells at the club, it turned out to be largely positive.

Hundreds gathered to greet Mourinho as he walked off the United team bus, while he received a warm embrace from former skipper John Terry before kick-off.

That is where the Blues' hospitality ended. Instead, it was his United team who provided the generosity.

And the home fans could not resist a cheeky dig at their former boss - chanting "you're not special anymore" to the self-proclaimed Special One.

United exposed by defensive horror show

Mourinho said before the game he would not "celebrate like a crazy kid" if his new team scored at Stamford Bridge.

Unfortunately for him, there was little sign of that resolve being put to the test as Chelsea capitalised on his side's defensive deficiencies.

United were ragged at the back, ripped open by Pedro's opener without even having a touch and left flapping from then on.

And the severity of the scoreline was emphasised by some startling statistics:

  • It was the heaviest defeat for Jose Mourinho in all competitions since Real Madrid's 5-0 defeat by Barcelona in November 2010.
  • United suffered their heaviest Premier League defeat since the 6-1 loss against Manchester City in October 2011.
  • The Red Devils lost a Premier League away match by four or more goals for the first time since 1999 - also at Chelsea.

The tone was set when Chris Smalling hesitated in dealing with a long ball, allowing Pedro to nip in and round David de Gea - and United never recovered.

The basic ability to defend a set-piece eluded them for Chelsea's second, two deflected touches helping the ball on to the unmarked Cahill, who lashed in.

United, without the injured Wayne Rooney, looked unrecognisable from the side that dug in to keep a clean sheet at Anfield on Monday. They looked unrecognisable from any Mourinho side, always expected to be well organised and difficult to break down.

A stony-faced Mourinho watched his static defenders allow Hazard and then Kante to skip into space and score after the break, leaving new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte lapping up the acclaim of a home crowd revelling in their former boss's misfortune.

"We made incredible defensive mistakes," said Mourinho. "And then you pay for that."

Conte starting to shine

Former Italy manager Antonio Conte was tasked with restoring Chelsea's fortunes after a chastening season, which started under Mourinho's leadership and ended in the defending champions finishing 10th.

Conte's start has not been smooth, however.

Back-to-back league defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal last month led to some criticism, forcing him to laugh off rumours of his imminent sacking.

But, after making a tactical switch to a 3-5-2 formation following those defeats, Conte has seen his team flourish.

Three successive victories have pushed the Blues back among the frontrunners, with the Stamford Bridge crowd showing their appreciation for the new manager as he urged them to make more noise during the second half.

"It is important for the manager to find the right solution for your team," said Conte on his team's recent revival.

"It was not a good situation when Chelsea conceded in every game - we change and now we are playing good football."

Post-match reaction

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte:

"We made a fantastic start. We scored the early goal but we continued to play good football, intensity and possession, create many chances. Today we didn't concede, which was important. It was a type of win that increases the confidence.

"We wanted to show our ambition and give the satisfaction to our fans and show last season was very bad."

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho:

"You come with a strategy, you cannot concede a goal in the way we did.

"We were coming to have an offensive approach. We wanted to create chances; we showed that after the 1-0. The second and the third were counter-attack goals.

"It is one of those days when you give the advantage to opponents by doing nothing.

"In terms of points, we got zero points, we lose three points. We are six points from the top, three from the top four, we now need to win matches. We need to win our matches now, which are not easy.

"We need to win to close that gap - after these last three matches, we made two out of nine. We now need points."

What's next?

Next comes the not-so-small matter of midweek derby matches for both teams.

Chelsea travel across London to face West Ham in the EFL Cup fourth round on Wednesday (19:45 BST), while Manchester United host neighbours City at Old Trafford in the same competition on the same day (20:00 BST).

(More) stats you need to know

  • Chelsea have gone eight league games - winning four and drawing four - without losing against Manchester United, their best run against the Red Devils in their history.
  • Pedro scored the fastest goal in the Premier League this season, finding the net after 30 seconds.
  • He was also booked after 59 seconds for his celebration, the quickest yellow this season in the Premier League.
  • This was only the sixth time Manchester United had conceded in the opening minute of a Premier League game. Gus Poyet, Jason Euell, Marlon Harewood, Jermain Defoe and Edin Dzeko were the other scorers.
  • Only twice before had Jose Mourinho seen his side concede inside the first minute - both to Southampton while at Chelsea (James Beattie in 2004 and Jay Rodriguez in 2013).
  • Manchester United have only collected fewer points from their first nine games of a Premier League season once before - in 2014-15 when they collected 13.
  • Eden Hazard has equalled his goal tally from last season in the Premier League - four - in just nine games.

Source: bbc.com

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23/Oct/2016

Joao Havelange: Former Fifa president and IOC member dies aged 100

Former Fifa president Joao Havelange has died at the age of 100.

The Brazilian was predecessor to Sepp Blatter at world football's governing body, serving from 1974 to 1998.

He resigned as Fifa's honorary president in April 2013 following an investigation into bribery allegations and was admitted to hospital the following year with a lung infection.

He was an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from 1963 until 2011, resigning because of ill health.

"He had one idea in his head, to make football a global game with his slogan 'football is the universal language', and he succeeded," said former Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Havelange represented Brazil in swimming at the 1936 Olympics - the year he qualified as a lawyer - before his election to the IOC.

As Fifa president he led the World Cup's expansion from 16 to 32 teams, with six competitions held under his tenure.

However, his career was also mired in controversy over bribery allegations.

In 2010, a BBC Panorama programme accused Havelange and son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira of taking millions of dollars in bribes from Swiss marketing agency International Sport and Leisure (ISL) to retain the company as Fifa's sole official marketer.

His resignation from the IOC five years ago avoided an investigation into the ISL allegations, which Havelange had denied.

In 2012, Teixeira stepped down as head of Brazil's football federation, a position he filled for 23 years, and resigned from the 2014 World Cup organising committee after coming under pressure over corruption allegations, which he also denied.

As well as swimming at the 1936 Olympics, Havelange was part of the Brazilian water polo team at the 1952 Helsinki Games and was chef de mission for the Brazilian delegation at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

And it was as a sports administrator, particularly in football, that Havelange made his mark.

He embarked on a career which began as president of the Metropolitan Swimming Federation in Brazil. He also became a member of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and joined the International Cycling Union in 1958.

After becoming vice-president of the Brazilian Sports Confederation, he served as president from 1958 to 1973, before he became the most powerful man in world football.

In 1974 he succeeded Britain's Sir Stanley Rous to be elected Fifa president, marshalling support among those unhappy at the perceived European domination of the world governing body.

An imposing figure, with piercing blue eyes, his astuteness as a politician and his adeptness at retaining power enabled him to hold the Fifa presidency for 24 years until being succeeded by Blatter in 1998.

When Havelange was elected president, Fifa's Zurich headquarters housed just 12 staff members. But that figure increased almost tenfold over the next two decades as Fifa's organisational responsibilities and commercial interests grew.

Increasing the size of the World Cup to 32 teams gave countries from Asia, Oceania and Africa the chance to shine on the world stage, Cameroon becoming the first African country to reach the quarter-finals in 1990.

It was Havelange who launched a wave of new tournaments, notably the world championships at Under-17 and Under-20 level in the late 1980s and the Fifa Confederations Cup and Fifa Women's World Cup at the start of the 1990s.

Gary LinekerGary LinekerGary LinekerSource: bbc.com

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17/Aug/2016

Rogers Cup: Novak Djokovic beats Kei Nishikori to win title in Toronto

World number one Novak Djokovic won his first title since his surprise exit from Wimbledon with a straight-sets win over Japan's Kei Nishikori in the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

Djokovic won 6-3 7-5 in a largely commanding performance.

The 29-year-old, who has now won seven titles this year, has beaten the Japanese on nine successive occasions.

Djokovic, who was beaten in the third round at Wimbledon by Sam Querrey, will represent Serbia at the Rio Olympics.

"I don't need to explain that every athlete dreams of being a part of the Olympic Games," he said. "I'm competing in singles and doubles.

"Hopefully I'll get at least one medal."

Source: bbc.com

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31/Jul/2016

Sam Allardyce named England manager by the Football Association

Sam Allardyce has been appointed England manager.

The 61-year-old signed an initial two-year deal after compensation was agreed with Sunderland, whom he steered to Premier League safety last season.

He succeeds Roy Hodgson, who quit after England were knocked out of Euro 2016 in the last 16 by Iceland.

Allardyce, whose first game in charge will be a friendly at Wembley on 1 September against as yet unnamed opponents, said he was "honoured".

He added: "It is no secret that this is the role I have always wanted. For me, it is absolutely the best job in English football.

"I will do everything I can to help England do well and give our nation the success our fans deserve. Above all, we have to make the people and the whole country proud."

Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn said: "His excellent managerial credentials, including his ability to realise the potential of players and teams, develop a strong team ethos and embrace modern methods that enhance performance, made him the outstanding choice.

"We could not help but be energised by his personal perspective on England's future."

A statement on the FA's website said Allardyce's primary target is the qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but he "is also charged with helping technical director Dan Ashworth integrate and strengthen the FA's elite performance and coaching programme across the England senior and development teams at St George's Park".

Allardyce's first competitive match will be in Slovakia on 4 September as England begin their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

He leaves Sunderland after nine months, and the Black Cats are now looking for their ninth manager in eight years.

A statement from the club read: "The focus of everyone at Sunderland AFC is on moving forward quickly and decisively, with the appointment of the club's new manager to be confirmed at the earliest opportunity."

Allardyce, a former Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn and West Ham boss, becomes the 14th permanent England manager.

He has never won a major trophy but did win promotion to the Premier League with Bolton and West Ham.

A popular choice

Allardyce has been endorsed by his fellow managers, including Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, former England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson and ex-Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.

Mourinho said Allardyce was "more than ready" to lead the national side, while Redknapp said he would bring "a Premier League style and pace" to the national side.

Former FA director David Davies told BBC Radio 5 live: "This is a challenge for English football. This is the person the League Managers' Association probably would have wanted. Now will the clubs actually go out of their way to help the national team because they've got the person they wanted - one of their own?"

The process

Allardyce was first interviewed for the England job following Eriksson's departure after the 2006 World Cup, but Steve McClaren was appointed. He has been vocal about his disappointment in not being selected then.

This time he was the early favourite, chosen by a three-man FA panel of Glenn, Ashworth and vice-chairman David Gill ahead of Steve Bruce, who resigned as Hull City manager on Friday.

Bournemouth's Eddie Howe and USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann were reported as potential candidates, but it is not known how many other interviews were conducted.

Why has he got the job?

The FA panel said it wanted a strong-minded, tactically savvy manager who could build a clear team identity.

Glenn told BBC sports editor Dan Roan the new manager would need to "build resilience" in players so they are able to deal with criticism on social media and the pressures of an "intensely passionate" English media.

Neil McDonald, who has worked alongside Allardyce at three Premier League clubs, said: "He gives the players everything they need to perform to the highest level and lets them express themselves as much as they possibly can.

"He's been in the game a long time, he's won a lot of games and a lot of respect off everybody and it's well deserved to be given the England job.

"He should have had one of the big four, big six jobs in the past. But the clubs he's gone to he's always improved them and improved the players."

The Allardyce effect

Allardyce is known for having an immediate impact on sides when he joins them - shown below after he arrived at Blackburn Rovers (2008-09) and Sunderland (2015-16).

The graph also shows the dip in form immediately after Allardyce has left (Newcastle 2007-08) and Blackburn (2010-11).

England have had a near-perfect qualifying record for recent tournaments, but have won just one of their past seven games in the finals.

BBC SportBBC SportSource: bbc.com

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22/Jul/2016

Brazil reviews security measures ahead of Rio Olympics

The Brazilian government has met to reassess security measures ahead of next month's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The review follows the attack in the French city of Nice on 14 July which left at least 84 people dead.

The government said that the measures may make attending the games less comfortable for visitors but they would result in greater security.

The Games are expected to attract as many as 500,000 foreign visitors.

"The attack in Nice is worrisome for us too. We will review procedures, make more barriers, more spot-checks on visitors and roadblocks", said Defence Minister Raul Jungmann.

The authorities had previously declared public holidays and banned trucks from certain areas of Rio during the Olympics to ease congestion and improve emergency response capabilities.

Rio's mayor, Eduardo Paes, said security would be beefed up for Olympic delegations from countries which have been targeted.

Mr Paes did not give any further details, but the head of French military intelligence said France had been informed of a planned terror attack on its team at the Rio Games.

Gen Christophe Gomart told a parliamentary commission in May that a "partner agency" warned of the plot by a Brazilian Islamist militant.

The transcript of the hearing was made public this week.

"Brazil is confident about its preparations. We are employing the most modern security and defence techniques", Sports Minister Leonardo Picciani told Reuters news agency.

Earlier this week, Mr Picciani said the armed forces would get an extra $24m (£18m) to help them meet security needs.

The military would begin patrolling sports venues from 24 July, he added.

More than 80,000 police and soldiers will patrol the streets of Rio for the duration of the games.

Source: bbc.com

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15/Jul/2016

Portugal overcame the early loss of captain Cristiano Ronaldo to beat hosts France

Portugal overcame the early loss of captain Cristiano Ronaldo to beat hosts France in the Euro 2016 final and win their first major tournament thanks to substitute Eder's superb extra-time strike.

Real Madrid forward Ronaldo was carried off in tears in the 25th minute at Paris' Stade de France, eight minutes after injuring his knee in a clash with France's Dimitri Payet.

France, the firm favourites, were unable to capitalise on Ronaldo's absence, although they almost won it at the end of normal time when substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac turned and hit the inside of the post.

Raphael Guerreiro hit the bar with a free-kick for Portugal after 108 minutes, but seconds later they were ahead when Eder fired a low, 25-yard drive past keeper Hugo Lloris.

Ronaldo, who had given his Portugal team-mates animated encouragement in the break before extra time, was offering as much tactical advice as coach Fernando Santos in chaotic closing moments - and he was reduced to tears once more at the final whistle before lifting the trophy that has eluded his country for so long.

Ronaldo's agony and ecstasy

Ronaldo has claimed the game's major prizes - such as the Champions League with Manchester United and Real Madrid - but a landmark victory with his country has always eluded him.

The greatest disappointment was when, as hosts of Euro 2004, Portugal were beaten 1-0 by rank outsiders Greece in the final at Lisbon's famous Stadium of Light.

Portugal also lost in the World Cup semi-finals in 2006, the quarter-finals at Euro 2008 and the semi-finals at Euro 2012 - and it looked like the curse would strike again when Ronaldo lay on the turf distraught after two attempts to play on through the pain.

What a contrasting image it was in the closing seconds of extra time as he virtually took charge of team affairs and light-heartedly bumped into coach Santos, before breaking down in tears when British referee Mark Clattenburg signalled full-time.

Ronaldo, with his knee heavily strapped, then hobbled up the steps to lift the Euro 2016 trophy and fill a gap in his glittering list of honours.

He was then centre stage in the subsequent celebrations, lying on the floor in front of his joyous team-mates.

The 31-year-old's night started and ended in tears, but this was a journey from agony to ecstasy - and his status as a Portuguese national hero was cemented even further.

Durable Portugal get the job done

Portugal may have been unspectacular winners of an unspectacular Euro 2016 - they won only one game in 90 minutes.

But this tough, resilient, organised team under coach Santos were justified in the wild celebrations that took place in front of their fans at Stade de France after the trophy presentation.

They finished third in their group, edged out of second place by Iceland's last-minute winner against Austria, a result that led to England's downfall in the last 16.

Portugal saw off the talented Croatia in extra time in the last 16, beat Poland on penalties in the quarter-finals and then ended the great Wales adventure with a 2-0 win in the semi-finals.

Every quality that kept them in contention - but never earned the plaudits - was on show here as they inflicted on France what Greece had inflicted on them at Euro 2004.

With goalkeeper Rui Patricio heroic and defenders Pepe and Jose Fonte outstanding, they frustrated France, growing in threat and strength as a largely tedious final ran on.

This was the greatest moment in Portugal's football history and the celebrations were worthy of the occasion.

Heartbreak for hosts France

France went into this Euro 2016 final backed by a tide of emotion and expectation after victory against World Cup holders Germany in Thursday's semi-final in Marseille.

Goalkeeper Lloris, one of France's senior figures, spoke of how Euro 2016 had helped the population "escape" the suffering of the Paris attacks in November, in which 130 people died and hundreds more were injured.

France's players have been dignified and carried that burden confidently to reach the final against Portugal, but there was to be no happy conclusion to this campaign as they failed to reproduce the form that beat Germany.

Perhaps that weight was finally too much for them here with the nation behind them. They were unable to take advantage of what should have been a huge lift to their hopes when Ronaldo went off - indeed his departure seemed to effect the hosts more than Portugal.

Gignac almost provided a dramatic winning goal in the final seconds of normal time, but in the final reckoning Didier Deschamps' side were unable to rise to the occasion and suffered the bitter disappointment of defeat in a major final in their own capital city.

Invasion of the moths

The Stade de France was invaded by moths in the hours before kick-off, making life uncomfortable for fans, players and officials.

Floodlights were left on at the stadium the night before the game, attracting moths who were still there when the teams and supporters arrived.

France coach Deschamps, referee Clattenburg and his team, plus players in the warm-up were under siege, swatting them away while staff in the stadium used brushes to attempt to get rid of the insects.

And in an image that was seen around the world, a moth landed on Ronaldo's face as he sat in tears on the turf after succumbing to a knee injury only 25 minutes into the Euro 2016 final.

What they said

France boss Didier Deschamps: "The disappointment is there and it's immense. There are no words to describe this feeling.

"Clearly we had our chances but we weren't cool-headed enough. My players gave everything tonight but unfortunately we lacked what is essential. We have to try and digest this.

"There is no way of reducing their disappointment, but we must not forget the enthusiasm of millions of people which our run generated. It is hard to look at the positives now but there are many.

"We did not play with the brakes on but Portugal are good at stopping you from playing. They play as a unit. Without Cristiano Ronaldo they had one fewer attacking option.

"We didn't play a bad game. We went for it."

Portugal boss Fernando Santos: "First of all I'd like to thank God for being with us, my wife, my mother, my grandson. My father wherever he is, he's probably having a few beers.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is an amazing example. Today he tried to remain on the pitch. He was very strong in the locker room, he helped all of the boys, that's the definition of teamwork.

"We have a bright future but right now we need to celebrate."

Former England captain Alan Shearer, speaking on Match of the Day: "Portugal set their system up and said, 'this is how we'll play, come and try to break us down'. It was a brilliant goal to win it, he was big and strong. The finish was sublime."

Former England midfielder Danny Murphy, speaking on Match of the Day: "It's an amazing story for a team who weren't fancied before or during the tournament.

"Portugal have shown they possess character and quality. Tonight they didn't need Cristiano Ronaldo. People won't remember he didn't play much tonight, they'll remember he captained them to their first major trophy.

France 1998 World Cup winner Thierry Henry, speaking on Match of the Day: "It's a sad day. We have a lot of Portuguese in France. We'll hear about this for a looong time.

"You can only win a tournament as a team - perfect example, Ronaldo comes out and Portugal win it. It was like, 'let's do it for him'."

The final in numbers

35: Portugal have won their first European Championship after 35 games at the tournament.

10: They are the 10th different nation to be European champions.

6: Eder is the sixth substitute to score in a European Championship final, along with Oliver Bierhoff, Sylvain Wiltord, David Trezeguet, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres.

3: Portugal become the first team in European Championship history to go to extra time three times in the same tournament.

80: They took until the 80th minute to register a shot on target, the longest wait for a team in a European Championship final.

Source: bbc.com

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11/Jul/2016

Brilliant Wales beat Belgium to reach Euro 2016 semi-finals

Wales reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time after a stirring fightback to defeat Belgium in the European Championship quarter-final in Lille.

Radja Nainggolan put Belgium ahead with a thunderous 25-yard strike but Wales captain Ashley Williams headed in from a corner to equalise in a breathless first half littered with chances at both ends.

Welsh celebrations reached stratospheric levels when Hal Robson-Kanu, a striker without a club, gave them the lead with a divine turn and finish.

After withstanding late Belgium pressure, Wales sealed victory through a header from substitute Sam Vokes that set up a semi-final against Portugal and a mouth-watering duel between Real Madrid team-mates Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Wales manager Chris Coleman had described the last-eight tie as Wales' biggest match since their 1958 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Brazil, their only previous appearance in the knockout stages of a major tournament.

His players rose to the occasion wonderfully, recovering from a difficult start to claim what must rank as the greatest win in Welsh football history.

Ultimate team display creates history

Absent from major tournaments for 58 years, Wales have not only ended a barren half a century but propelled Welsh football into unchartered territory.

Previous Welsh sides have claimed iconic results, such as a 2-1 win over Hungary at the 1958 World Cup, a 1991 victory against then world champions Germany and a qualifying triumph against Italy in 2002.

However, those were in isolation and failed to propel Wales on to greater achievements.

Former Wales striker Dean Saunders said: "Heart, desire, determination, organisation - there has a plan that has been put in place and it shows what you can achieve - you start thinking - is our name on it?"

Bale has been a key figure in Wales' success at Euro 2016, scoring three times in the group stages, but this victory highlighted the team spirit that Coleman and his side have spoken of throughout their time together in France.

The Real Madrid forward worked industriously throughout, but his efforts were eclipsed by others such as Williams, who scored despite a shoulder injury which made him a doubt for the game.

Aaron Ramsey was Wales' creative heart - setting up two of the three goals - and it is crushing blow that both the Arsenal midfielder and Ben Davies will miss the semi-final after picking up a second tournament booking.

And then there was the display from Robson-Kanu, a player who has been inspired by Wales' historic run in this tournament.

Robson-Kanu's moment of genius

Wales had to weather several periods of heavy Belgian pressure but, once they had gained a foothold in the game, they took the lead in spectacular fashion against a Belgian team ranked second in the world, playing only 10 miles from the Belgian border.

A neat move saw Ramsey pass to Robson-Kanu, who bamboozled the defenders surrounding him with a graceful turn which allowed him the space to calmly finish.

There was a symbolism to the goal as Robson-Kanu - a free agent following his release from Championship club Reading - swept his shot past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Former Wales forward John Hartson said: "If I was a chairman of a Premier League club I would be making Hal Robson-Kanu my next signing. What a goal. He sent Thomas Meunier for a cup of tea and a piece of toast with that turn."

This was a goal which embodied Wales' odds-defying run at Euro 2016, after languishing as low as 117th in the world rankings in 2011.

Next up - Bale v Ronaldo

Coleman stressed before the match Wales were not content with reaching the quarter-finals, convinced there was more to come from this team.

He has his wish, a semi-final against a Portugal side who have yet to win a game in 90 minutes at Euro 2016.

The match in Lyon on Wednesday pits Bale against Ronaldo, talismen for their country and team-mates for Real Madrid whose occasionally fractious relationship has been the subject of much attention in Spain.

For Wales, however, they will have to play for a place in the final without Arsenal midfielder Ramsey and Tottenham defender Davies, whose bookings against Belgium mean they will be suspended.

Saunders added: "Everything Chris Coleman is doing at the moment is working, we've got every chance of going through and winning it."

Manager reaction

Wales manager Chris Coleman: "I said before we kicked the ball today, we are not here to enjoy it, we are here to compete.

"We defended like soldiers. All I can do is reiterating for the players never to forget what it took to get here. I know my team are good enough to perform against anybody."

On Ramsey and Davies missing the semi-final, he added: "I'm gutted for Aaron. He's been one of the best players of the tournament."

Belgium boss Marc Wilmots on his future: "I said I'd make my decision after the European Championship. I won't make one straight after the game. There's a lot of adrenaline going. We'll have to see."

Stats you need to know

  • Wales have become the first team to reach the semi-final on their European Championship debut since Sweden in 1992.
  • The Dragons have scored 10 goals at Euro 2016, only once has a British team scored more at a major tournament (England, 11 in World Cup 1966).
  • Sam Vokes scored his first goal in 12 games for Wales, since netting against Iceland in March 2014.
  • Both Eden Hazard and Aaron Ramsey have four assists at Euro 2016, the joint most by a player in a single tournament since 1980.

Source: bbc.com

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01/Jul/2016

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Manchester United complete signing of Swedish striker

Manchester United have completed the signing of out-of-contract striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a one-year deal.

The 34-year-old, capped 116 times by Sweden, left French champions Paris St-Germain at the end of last season.

"I am absolutely delighted to be joining Manchester United and looking forward to playing in the Premier League," he told the club's website.

Ibrahimovic is United's second signing of the summer after Villarreal defender Eric Bailly joined for £30m.

The former Barcelona and Juventus player has scored 392 goals in 677 games and won a trophy every season of his career since 2001, including 13 league titles.

Last season was his most prolific, scoring 50 goals in 51 matches, a record for PSG. His tally of 38 league goals was also a club record.

In his four seasons at the French club, he won 12 trophies, including the domestic quadruple twice. On announcing he was leaving the Ligue 1 club, he tweeted: "I came like a king, left like a legend."

 

"Zlatan needs no introduction. The statistics speak for themselves" Jose MourinhoManchester United manager

He links up with his former Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford.

Ibrahimovic added: "I cannot wait to work with Jose Mourinho once again. He is a fantastic manager and I am ready for this new and exciting challenge.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my career so far and have some great memories. I am now ready to create more special memories in England."

Ibrahimovic quit international football after Sweden were knocked out of Euro 2016 in the group stages.

Portuguese Mourinho, who took charge after the sacking of Dutchman Louis van Gaal, said: "Zlatan needs no introduction. The statistics speak for themselves. Ibra is one of the best strikers in the world.

"He has won the most important league championships in the world of football, now he has the opportunity to play in the best league in the world and I know he will grasp this opportunity and will work hard to help the team win titles.

"I am certain that his talent will delight fans at Old Trafford next season and that his experience will be invaluable in helping to develop the younger players in the squad."

Source: bbc.com

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01/Jul/2016

Euro 2016: Wales set for 'biggest game' since 1958 World Cup

Wales' Euro 2016 quarter-final against Belgium on Friday is their biggest match since the 1958 World Cup, according to manager Chris Coleman.

Wales have not reached a major finals since they were beaten by Brazil in the last eight 58 years ago.

Ranked 26th in the world, Coleman's team take on a side 24 places above them - with a semi-final in Lyon on 6 July the reward for the winner.

"We know what's at stake - it's a fantastic pressure to have," he said.

"Since that 1958 quarter-final, we have to put this down as the biggest game our country's ever been involved in.

"People have already said: 'Wales can't lose, they weren't meant to get to the quarter-final, they're the underdogs.' This definitely isn't the way we see it."

Wales are in the habit of defying the odds as a team whose unity - and sprinkling of star quality in the form of Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey - compensates for a squad lacking the strength in depth of their illustrious opponents.

Belgium, who were in the same qualifying group as Wales, lost their opening game 2-0 against Italy but have won their three matches since and have several Premier League players in their squad, including Chelsea winger Eden Hazard, Manchester City forward Kevin de Bruyne and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku.

"I'm not going to play the occasion down," added Coleman, whose team lost to England before going on to win Group B and then defeating Northern Ireland in the last 16.

"I'm going to enjoy it and savour it - but we'll only enjoy it when we perform.

"I don't need to ham this game up. We are where we are, it is what it is, we've earned it."

Determined to continue the adventure

It was possible to detect a hint of finality in the Football Association of Wales' video thanking the people of Dinard, the quaint seaside town in Brittany which has been Wales' home for Euro 2016, for their hospitality.

Paying tribute in Bretagne, French, Welsh and English, there was a faint sense of bidding farewell, perhaps mindful that Wales' first European Championship campaign could be nearing its end.

However, a moment in the company of Wales' players is enough to realise how determined they are to ensure their French adventure continues.

"We have done well to get this far, but when you are in the quarter-final of the tournament knowing if we can get it right there are great possibilities, it is different," said Coleman.

"There is more football and more performances in this team."

Wales fans set to be outnumbered

Belgium fanshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/1797D/production/_90173669_belgiumfans.jpg

Belgium fans are expected to heavily outnumber their Welsh counterparts in Lille on game day

It is thought there will be around 20,000 Wales fans in Lille for the match.

But with Lille just 10 miles from the Belgian border it has been estimated that there will be up to 150,000 Belgium fans making the trip for the game.

This has led to concerns that many ticketless Welsh fans may not even be able to get into the Lille fan zone, which holds 30,000. Paul Corkery, of the Football Supporters' Federation Cymru, warned: "Once it's full it's shut."

Belgium manager Marc Wilmots said his team will have home advantage, adding: "We have a team with a few worries. So it's good to have a 12th man."

In Wales, there are fan zones open on Friday in various locations, including Cardiff, Newport, Pontypridd and Anglesey.

A butcher in Cardiff has produced a special Euro Burger, while Neil Ward, the chief executive of the Football Association of Wales Trust, claimed that the team's progress has got even passionate rugby union fans talking about the side.

Are Wales Belgium's bogey team?

Unbeaten in their past three meetings with Belgium, Bale has suggested Wales are a "bogey team" for the Red Devils, who are ranked second in the world and have scored eight goals without conceding in their past three games.

The 26-year-old does so with some justification, having scored the winning goal in their last encounter - a highly charged 1-0 victory for Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium in June 2015.

Coleman and his players have described that as the turning point of Wales' Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, the moment they really started to believe they would end their 58-year wait for major tournament appearance.

Both teams have evolved since the match in Cardiff. Wales are revelling in their Euro 2016 adventure, sweeping into the last 16 with a spectacular demolition of Russia, then grinding out a nervous win over Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Belgium - until now significantly less than the sum of their world-class individual parts - appear to be finally click into gear with a ruthless 4-0 second-round thrashing of Hungary.

"They won convincingly against Hungary and they looked good, but they don't always play like they can and they make mistakes like anyone else," said Coleman. "It is up to us to make sure that side comes out."

Recent meetings
12 June 2015: Wales 1-0 Belgium, Euro 2016 qualifier - Gareth Bale scored the goal
16 Nov 2014: Belgium 0-0 Wales, Euro 2016 qualifier
15 Oct 2013: Belgium 1-1 Wales, World Cup qualifier - Kevin de Bruyne scored opener, Aaron Ramsey equalised
7 Sep 2012: Wales 0-2 Belgium, World Cup qualifier - Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen scored the goals

 

Don't forget the unsung heroes

Bale and Ramsey might grab most of the headlines but the importance of the Wales defence should not be underestimated.

Wales drew 1-1 in Brussels towards the end of their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign thanks to excellent defensive foundations and ground out a goalless draw in the same city on their way to qualifying for Euro 2016.

"Whether that's a back four, a back five or whatever, there's never been a time going into a game with this manager that we've felt anything other than prepared," said right-back Chris Gunter.

Gunter and fellow full-back Neil Taylor can often go unnoticed in the grand narrative of Wales' recent achievements, but the side conceded just four goals in their 10 qualifiers and, at Euro 2016 itself, have kept clean sheets in their past two games.

Wales defence has been built around captain Ashley Williams in recent years, though it is two other less celebrated players who have shone brightest in France: Ben Davies and James Chester.

Tottenham's Davies made a crucial goal-line clearance in the opening win over Slovakia and has been consistently impressive in possession on the left side of Wales' three-man central defence.

Chester, meanwhile, has defied his status as a peripheral figure at West Brom with a string of solid displays.

The former Hull defender has made 14 tackles and 13 interceptions in his four appearances, while 88% of his 172 passes have been accurate.

Chester missed last year's win in Cardiff through injury, but his presence in the goalless draw in Brussels means all five members of Wales' defence - and goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey - have contributed to a clean sheet against Belgium.

Can Wales do it?

Confidence has been a commodity in rich supply at Wales' training base in Dinard. No occasion, no matter how significant, looks like unsettling Coleman's men.

They will be the underdogs against a Belgium side whose strength in depth is the envy of most teams in Europe.

However, that could suit Wales, who are at their most effective when counter-attacking with Bale and Ramsey allowed to roam.

They demonstrated against Northern Ireland how they can struggle to unlock deep-lying defences and, while Belgium will not be as naive and loose as Russia, they will want to seize the initiative.

"Belgium will play with imagination," added Coleman. "They have got pace and power.

"When it is time to defend we will defend with our lives and when it is time to attack we will attack with our lives. If we do that Belgium will be in for a hell of a game."

Wales at Euro 2016
Wales have trailed for only two minutes and 31 seconds at Euro 2016. The three goals Wales have conceded have all been scored by substitutes in the second half.
Wales have kept two consecutive clean sheets for the first time at a major tournament. Wales have never reached the semi-finals of a major tournament before.

 

Source: bbc.com

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01/Jul/2016

Portugal win shootout to reach the semi-finals of the European Championship

Portugal reached the semi-finals of the European Championship for the fourth time in five tournaments with a penalty shootout victory over Poland.

Ricardo Quaresma scored the winning spot-kick after Jakub Blaszczykowski's effort was saved by Rui Patricio.

Robert Lewandowski had fired Poland ahead in the second minute with teenager Renato Sanches equalising via a deflected strike.

Portugal's semi-final opponents will be either Wales or Belgium.

Remarkably, Portugal have reached the last four without winning a game in normal time following three draws in a group in which they finished third and an extra-time win over Croatia in the last 16.

No side has ever got this far in a European Championship without winning a match inside 90 minutes.

Portugal have also only led a match for 22 minutes during the whole tournament, while Poland have not trailed for a single minute.

However, for a second dour and conservative knockout game running, Fernando Santos' side did what was required when it mattered.

How the penalty shootout was won

Neither goalkeeper came close to saving the first three penalties from either side.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Sanches and Joao Moutinho all scored excellent penalties for Portugal, with Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik and Kamil Glik following suit for Poland.

However, after Nani had put Portugal 4-3 ahead, Patricio dived full length to his left to palm away Blaszczykowski's effort with one hand.

Lukasz Fabianski got his fingertips to Quaresma's decisive effort but could not prevent it finding the roof of the net.

Ronaldo's redemption of sorts

For much of the game, the overriding image of Ronaldo was of him slapping his thigh and screaming towards the French sky in frustration.

Barring a few exceptional moments - his two goals against Hungary and assisting Quaresma's winner to see off Croatia - this has been a disappointing tournament for the finest European player of his generation.

He was barely recognisable from the figure who has terrorised defences across the continent for more than a decade as a series of scuffed and miscued strikes took him from 31 to 36 efforts for the tournament without an addition to his two group-stage goals.

Worst of all was a couple of air shots - one from a low Nani cross, the other following a chipped ball over the defence and into the box by substitute Joao Moutinho.

He should have had a first-half penalty, when he was clumsily shoved in the back in the box by Michal Pazdan, but his anguished appeals were waved away by referee Felix Brych.

However, he led from the front in the shootout, firing home the first penalty with aplomb and remains in the tournament, unlike Poland's own star man.

Lewandowski offers hope

Robert Lewandowski scoreshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/1177B/production/_90174517_lewandowski_reuters.jpg

Robert Lewandowski ended 645 minutes without a goal at Euros finals

Having scored 13 goals in qualifying and 42 in 51 appearances for club Bayern Munich in 2015-16, Lewandowski had spent much of Poland's four games prior to Thursday being frustrated, through both fair and foul means from opponents - he is the most fouled man in the tournament.

It was only a matter of time, though, before a striker of his class made an impression on the tournament, although few would have imagined Portugal to be so accommodating so early in Marseille.

Southampton full-back Cedric Soares was at fault, allowing a cross-field ball to evade him and reach Kamil Grosicki, whose low cross was struck home first-time by his captain with just one minute and 40 seconds on the clock.

It is the second fastest goal in Euros history - beaten only by Dmitri Kirichenko's 65-second strike for Russia against Greece in 2004 - and ends a 645-minute goal-drought for Lewandowski in the finals of this competition.

Now brimming with confidence, the 27-year-old then beat Pepe to the ball in the box but saw his low shot saved by Patricio as Poland took the game to their opponents in the first 25 minutes.

Unfortunately, they were unable to build on this, offering precious little in attack and relying instead on a resolute defence that has conceded just twice in five games (two of which have gone to extra-time) to see give them through to the shoot-out.

The next Portuguese superstar?

It has been some year for Sanches.

The teenager only made his first-team debut for Benfica in November, but since then he has made his international bow, claimed a Primeira Liga winners' medal and agreed to join Bayern Munich for £27.5m.

He now has a full-debut international goal to his name, making him - at 18 years and 316 days - the youngest goalscorer in the knockout stages of a European Championship.

Picking up the ball wide right he played a superb one-two with Nani before finding the net with a well-struck shot from the edge of the box that took a deflection off Grzegorz Krychowiak.

However, barring an extra-time pitch-invader, this was to be the last real moment of excitement until the shootout.

What they said

Portugal goalscorer Sanches: "It is a wonderful moment for the team and for me for scoring. We have been working very hard and we have been doing our best. People criticise us but we don't care because we are in the semis."

Poland coach Adam Nawalka: "It's definitely a tough moment for us. The players put a lot of heart into this match and played bravely throughout this tournament. We haven't lost a match - we were knocked out on penalties. We have to look with optimism to the future and the European qualifiers. There will soon be time for detailed analysis but this defeat hurts."

The stats you need to know

  • This is the fifth time Portugal have reached a Euro semi-final (1984, 2000, 2004, 2012, 2016).
  • Portugal have won three of their four shootouts at major tournaments.
  • Renato Sanches became the youngest player to score in a knockout game at the Euros ever (18y 316d), and the third youngest overall to score in Euros history (behind Volanthen and Rooney).
  • Only Luis Figo (5) has more assists at the Euros for Portugal than Nani (4).
  • Nani has been involved in 50% of Portugal's goals at this tournament (3/6, two goals and one assist).
  • Poland and Portugal entered extra time for the second time at Euro 2016 - the last teams to do be in extra time twice at same Euros were France and Italy in 2000.
  • Only the Netherlands (7) have played more extra time game at the Euros than Portugal (6).

What next?

Wales and Belgium face each other in Lille on Friday to decide Portugal's last-four opponent in Lyon on Wednesday, 6 July.

Source: bbc.com

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01/Jul/2016

England out of Euro 2016 after shock defeat by Iceland

England suffered their worst humiliation since they were knocked out of the 1950 World Cup by USA in Brazil as Iceland shocked them in the last 16 of Euro 2016.

Manager Roy Hodgson resigned after the abject embarrassment of losing to a nation ranked 34th in the world - and with a population of just 330,000 - despite taking the lead through Wayne Rooney's fourth-minute penalty.

Iceland equalised within a minute as England failed to deal with a trademark long throw and Ragnar Sigurdsson bundled home from close range.

England's shameful performance was summed up by Iceland's 18th-minute winner when goalkeeper Joe Hart was badly at fault - just as in the win over Wales - as he let Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's shot through his hand.

Hodgson made changes as Iceland dug in, but the underdogs had as many chances as England before the final whistle blew on their Euro 2016 hopes and his four-year tenure as manager.

Is it all Hodgson's fault?

The ultimate responsibility lies with the manager but, make no mistake, he was badly let down by players capable of so much better - not just on this black night for English sport but throughout Euro 2016.

Hart has had a nightmare tournament, young hopes such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli failed to live up to their performances last season, and captain Rooney, who had been England's best player up until this game, chose this night to give one of his worst performances in an international.

England were shown up by the work-rate, desire and sheer physical commitment of their counterparts. Yes, Hodgson will take the blame and has paid the price but these highly paid Premier League players should not escape criticism.

A reputation scarred

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke had flagged up a quarter-final place as a minimum requirement, but Hodgson's England could not even achieve that.

Hodgson's thinking had been muddled even before England arrived in France, with constant changes of personnel and approach exemplified by the sudden re-introduction - and subsequent substitution - of Raheem Sterling, although the Manchester City forward did win the penalty from which Rooney scored.

As the game went on, Hodgson cut a detached figure, seemingly powerless to influence the game - and he waited too long to introduce the fearless pace and direct running of Marcus Rashford, who posed more problems in four minutes than most of those who had gone before.

Hodgson has never given off any sort of assurance during Euro 2016, unsure of his best team and strategy.

England have won one game out of four, with a last-minute winner from Daniel Sturridge against Wales - and this defeat will be a scar forever on Hodgson's record and reputation.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

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27/Jun/2016

Italy knock out defending champions Spain

Italy produced a passionate and tactically superior display to end Spain's quest for a third consecutive European Championship title and secure a mouth-watering quarter-final tie against world champions Germany.

Using wing-backs Mattia de Sciglio and Alessandro Florenzi to brilliant effect, they were the more potent attacking team until they withdrew in defence of their lead in the final stages.

Giorgio Chiellini scored the game's opening goal, bundling home from close range after David de Gea had parried an Eder free-kick in greasy conditions in the first half.

And Southampton striker Graziano Pelle sealed victory in injury time, volleying home from eight yards after an attempted clearance from substitute Matteo Darmian's cross had looped up invitingly as Italy hit a tiring team on the break.

The scoreline could have been a lot worse for Spain were in not for a series of outstanding saves by Manchester United keeper De Gea. He made three in the first 45 minutes before smothering an effort from Eder in the second half after he had been put clean through by a sublime flick from Pelle.

Italy played with an intensity and fierce determination that hinted at their ambition to avenge their 4-0 defeat in the 2012 final.

It was only in the latter stages that they were subjected to any threatening, sustained pressure - but Sergio Ramos headed wide and Gianluigi Buffon saved long-range efforts from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique.

And with full-time looming, Buffon made a brilliant dive to his right to save a close-range effort from Pique before Italy broke clear to score their decisive second.

The end for Spain?

Spanish newspaper Marca ran the headline 'The End' after Spain were eliminated from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after just two matches.

If it was not true then it certainly looks it now after La Roja's run as European champions was ended by a team that swarmed all over them and seemed to have a hunger and desire no longer present in their opponents.

Spain boss Vicente del Bosque is out of contract and the side he has so memorably coached since taking over from Luis Aragones after the 2008 European Championship seems in need of fresh impetus.

The fact that they brought on a 35-year-old striker with just one previous international goal in Aritz Aduriz at the break perhaps hints that they are a team that needs a new direction.

Former Spain international Xavi had said in the build-up that this would be a "troublesome match" - and he was correct.

Spain looked like a boxer with too many rounds in the legs and only the imperious Iniesta offered any sense of attacking drive and craft.

Sergio Busquets failed to exert much influence on the tie and David Silva was another peripheral figure on a night when Italy seldom allowed their opponents any time on the ball.

Indeed, if it were not for the brilliance of De Gea the tie would surely have been over by the break. He made three sensational saves - a Pelle header, a brilliant and acrobatic over-head kick from Emanuele Giaccherini that he tipped on to the post and a one-handed effort at full stretch to thwart the same player after he drifted inside from the left.

A storm that blew Spain away

Chiellini - part of an all-Juventus back three with Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli - said before the match that it would be settled by the small details and his side played like a team that left nothing to chance.

From the intensity with which they sang the national anthem to the way in which they took the match to Spain as the heavens opened at the start, they played with an incomparable determination.

And all the while coach Antonio Conte prowled his touchline. He must issue more than a thousand positional instructions during a match and Chelsea fans can look forward to an electrifying presence in the dugout next season.

The speed with which Italy - playing 3-5-2 - transitioned from defence to attack and made the most of wide areas was something their opponents could not contend with.

Spain could not pass their way through a superbly organised Italian side and did not have the speed to get around the edges.

When Pelle scored the decisive second goal with seconds remaining Conte leapt on to his team's dugout.

He might have come into this tournament talking down his team's chances - and said before the match on Monday that Spain were "big favourites" - but he exhibits the body language and drive of a man who believes his side can go a long way.

What they said

Italy goalscorer Giorgio Chiellini: "We deserved this win. We could have killed the game off earlier.

"After years of Spain dominating, we have been able to get some revenge. This is just the beginning, we will enjoy this victory but there is still a long way to go until the end. The best is to come."

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said: "They were probably better. They don't play great football but they are strong in the air, very physical and they were dangerous.

"We came out in the second half with a chance and the players tried to do the best they could. We tried everything but we couldn't score."

The stats you need to know

  • Italy ended a run of five matches against Spain without a win (L2 D3) and defeated them for the first time since August 2011.
  • This was Italy's first competitive victory over Spain since the 1994 World Cup (2-1 in the quarter-finals).
  • Spain have lost four of their past seven games (W3 D0 L4) at major international finals tournaments - this after going the previous 12 unbeaten (W10 D2 L0).
  • Three of Italy's five goals at Euro 2016 have come in the 88th minute or later, including both of Pelle's.
  • Chiellini's goal was the first Spain have conceded in the knockout stages of a major international tournament since 2006 (v France).

What next?

Spain go home after suffering their first knockout defeat at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup, when they undone by Zinedine Zidane's France in Hannover.

Italy can look forward to a quarter-final tie against Germany in Bordeaux on Saturday. They have never lost to the Germans at a major finals - but they will have to do without the suspended Thiago Motta.

Source: bbc.com

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27/Jun/2016

Lionel Messi: Argentina forward retires from international football

Lionel Messi announced his retirement from international duty after missing in a penalty shootout as Argentina lost a fourth major final in nine years.

"It's not meant for me. For me the national team is over. I've done all I can, it hurts not to be a champion," the 29-year-old said after defeat by Chile at the Copa America.

With Barcelona, Messi has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.

But his only major international honour is 2008 Olympic gold.

Argentina were beaten 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup final by Germany before two Copa America final defeats by Chile on penalties. Messi was also on the losing side against Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final.

"It's been four finals, I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over," he added.

"I think this is best for everyone. First of all for me, and then for everyone. I think there's a lot of people who want this, who obviously are not satisfied, as we are not satisfied reaching a final and not winning it.

"It's very hard, but the decision is taken. Now I will not try more and there will be no going back."

Messi had scored five times at the tournament, including a superb free-kick in the semi-final against hosts the USA to become his country's record scorer with 55 goals.

Argentina and Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero said he hoped Messi would "reflect" on his decision and reconsider, adding: "I think he spoke while he was heated, because a beautiful opportunity escaped us. I can't imagine a national team without Messi."

Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero described the mood in the Argentina dressing room as "the worst I've ever been in", and was quoted by South American media as saying: "There are several players who are evaluating not continuing with the national team."

After Sunday's match finished 0-0 in 120 minutes, Chile won 4-2 on penalties.

Messi's miss was Argentina's first attempt in the shootout and it ballooned over the bar after Romero had denied Chile's Arturo Vidal.

Lucas Biglia also missed from 12 yards, with Chilean substitute Francisco Silva scoring the decisive spot-kick in the final in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Messi made his debut for Argentina in 2005, going on to make 113 appearances.

For Barca he has scored 453 times in 531 games, including a La Liga record 312 goals. He has won the Ballon d'Or award for the world's best player five times.

In 2014 he was named as the best player at the World Cup, with then-Fifa president Sepp Blatter saying he was "a little bit surprised" and Argentina legend Diego Maradona calling the decision "unfair".

Argentina are already six games into their qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup. They are third in the table, two points behind leaders Uruguay.

The top four teams progress automatically to the finals in Russia, while the team finishing fifth qualifies for a two-legged play-off against the best team from Oceania.

MessiMessihttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/3860/production/_90123441_messi_sitting_afp.jpg

Lucas Biglia also missed his penalty as Argentina lost a second Copa America final in a row to Chile

Source: bbc.com

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27/Jun/2016

Euro 2016: Albania welcomed home as Euro 2016 heroes despite group exit

A red-carpet welcome; an open-top bus tour; a key to the city for the captain; a 1m euro team bonus and their squad's names etched into the national football stadium.

It might sound like an odd reward for getting knocked out of the group stage with one win and a solitary goal scored. But Albania's Euro 2016 squad were feted as heroes on their return to the capital Tirana on Thursday.

Perhaps the greeting was understandable - the European Championship debutants beat Romania 1-0 in their final Group A game to record a first goal and victory in a major international tournament.

They narrowly missed out on a place in the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed teams.

Captain Lorik Cana was given the key to the city of Tirana as a sign of respect and a government minister has promised diplomatic passports.

"You have given us what we have been missing for decades," said Skender Bellova, a football radio commentator in the Balkan country.

Italian coach Gianni de Biasi said: "I think the soccer world is taking us seriously. If miracles could be built on defeats, what we did in France could be the start of a miracle. I will continue to stay on to keep working towards that miracle."

Prime Minister Edi Rama's told the team at a reception: "Your names will be etched at the entrance of the new national soccer stadium."

From left, Albanian PM Edi Rama, Captain Lorik Cana and head coach Gianni de Biasi arrive home at the Mother Teresa Airporthttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/111D1/production/_90079007_albanianpmediramalcaptainlorikcanacandheadcoachgiannidebiasi_getty.jpg

From left, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, captain Lorik Cana and head coach

Gianni de Biasi arrive home at the Mother Theresa Airport

Source: bbc.com

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23/Jun/2016

Rio 2016: Jaguar in Amazon torch relay shot dead

A jaguar has been shot dead shortly after it was used in an Olympic torch relay at a zoo in the Brazilian city of Manaus, the army said.

The female jaguar escaped its handlers after the ceremony on Monday and attacked a soldier, a spokesman said.

Four tranquiliser darts failed to stop it and a soldier shot it with a pistol.

Organisers for the Rio Games said it had been a mistake to exhibit the Olympic torch next to a chained wild animal.

Animal rights groups have condemned the killing, with some questioning why the animal was involved in the Olympic event.

"When will we learn? Wild animals held captive and forced to do things that are frightening, sometimes painful, and always unnatural are ticking time bombs," Brittany Peet, director of captive animal law enforcement at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said in a statement.

Brazilian physiotherapist Igor Simoes Andrade poses for picture next to jaguar Juma as he takes part in the Olympic Flame torch relay in Manaus, Brazil, 20 June 2016.

Rio 2016 organisers promised there would be no more such incidents

The animal, called Juma, had been raised in the zoo in the Amazon since it was a cub along with half-a-dozen siblings.

The Olympic torch is relayed through Brazil leading up to the August opening ceremony.

Source: bbc.com

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21/Jun/2016

Australian Paralympian robbed at gunpoint in Rio

An Australian athlete who has competed in six Paralympic Games has been robbed at gunpoint in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.

Liesl Tesch said a man brandishing a gun pushed her off her bicycle and stole it on Sunday.

Australian Paralympic team physiotherapist Sarah Ross also lost her bicycle in the attack.

Tesch, who has won medals in wheelchair basketball and sailing, said athletes needed to be on their guard.

The 47-year-old said the two men who robbed her and Ms Ross initially demanded money.

"He was pointing the gun down, and he said 'dinero', which means money, I speak some Spanish, but I lifted up my shirt and I said 'no I don't have any'," Tesch told Australia's Seven Network.

"Then he just pushed me on the shoulder with his bare hand and I just fell down on the cobblestones."

Person holds tickets to Rio Olympics sporting event

Rio is expecting about 380,000 visitors to come to the city during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in August

The two women were training near Flamengo Beach. Tesch said several people saw the incident but no-one came to their aid.

Brazilian authorities insist that the Olympic and Paralympic Games in August will be safe for athletes and tourists, with 85,000 soldiers and police officers deployed in Rio.

But recent reports have indicated an upswing in crime. Three members of the Spanish Olympics sailing team were robbed at gunpoint while walking through the city in May.

Rio State Security Secretary José Beltrame told the Washington Post that a recession and police funding problem had contributed to the issue.

Mr Beltrame said the funding issues were being solved and insisted that Rio was ready to host the Olympics.

Concerns over the Zika virus have also weighed heavily on Rio's Olympic preparations, but authorities insist proper precautions are in place.

Source: bbc.com

 

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21/Jun/2016

LeBron James wins NBA Finals MVP for 3rd time

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — LeBron James is a champion again, and the NBA Finals MVP again.

By unanimous vote, James was selected as MVP of the title series, accepting his trophy from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after Cleveland beat Golden State 93-89 in Game 7 on Sunday night.

"This is what I came back for," James said.

James was overcome by emotion after the final horn. He's the finals MVP for the third time, also winning in 2012 and 2013 when he was a member of the Miami Heat.

"Best player on the planet," Cavs teammate Kyrie Irving said.

James became the third player to have a triple-double in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, joining Jerry West in 1969 and James Worthy in 1988. He had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the clincher, capping a series where the Cavaliers became the first team to successfully overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals.

"You see his basketball talent, the way he can control a game," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "But the reason why he deserves this is because he has a great heart ... and great things happen to great people."

James is now 4-2 all-time in Game 7s, including 2-0 when those ultimate games come in the NBA Finals.

Source: nba.com

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20/Jun/2016

James and Cavaliers win thrilling NBA Finals Game 7, 93-89

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) LeBron James cradled the shiny gold trophy and struggled to sum up what might be his sweetest championship yet, the one he is so proudly bringing home to his native northeast Ohio just as he promised to do when he returned to the Cavaliers two summers ago.

Later, flanked by his three children on Father's Day, a cigar between his lips and winning net as a necklace with the lingering stench of champagne, James began to understand the magnitude of his accomplishment for Cleveland after a half-century wait.

"I'm coming home with what I said I was going to do," he said, adding, "I can't wait to get off that plane, hold that trophy up and see all our fans at the terminal."

James and his relentless, never-count-them-out Cavs pulled off an improbable NBA Finals comeback, and Cleveland is title town again at long last.

James delivered on a vow to his home state and brought the Cavs back from the brink as they became the first team to rally from a 3-1 finals deficit, beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors 93-89 on Sunday night to end a 52-year major sports championship drought in Cleveland.

"I've never seen a man in my life tell an entire state: `Get on my back, I got you. Get on my back and I'm going to carry you. I don't care if we fail, I'm going to wake up the next morning and I'm going to start working out and prepare for the next year,"' Richard Jefferson said. "... He was like, `I'm going to come back home because I promised them that I would do something.' And he carried us the whole way."

In a testy series of blowouts - and a few blowups - the winner-take-all Game 7 provided the thrilling finale with James as the finals MVP disarming two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and his record-setting Warriors.

The native of Akron rattled off moments from the lengthy list of Cleveland sports heartbreak and said what it meant for him to personally bring the Cavaliers their first championship.

Playing his sixth straight finals, James almost single-handedly carried the Cavs back into this series and finished with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds as the Cavs gave their city its first major sports winner since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. He also had three blocked shots and two steals, overcoming five turnovers.

An emotional James fell to the floor when this one ended with a second win in a week on Golden State's imposing home floor, surrounded by his teammates. Only moments earlier, he went down in pain with 10.6 seconds left after being fouled by Draymond Green while going for a dunk, then came back out to make the second of two free throws.

After four successful seasons in Miami and two titles with the Heat, James came back to the Cavs in hopes of winning the title this franchise and championship-starved city so coveted. It took a second try against Golden State after Cleveland lost to the Warriors in six games last year.

"I was calm. I was focused. I was locked in," James said.

Cleveland did it after a coaching change, with Tyronn Lue taking over in January for the fired David Blatt.

"We made history tonight," Lue said. "Cleveland, Ohio, we're coming back, baby!"

Kyrie Irving scored 26 points to cap his brilliant finals, including a 3-pointer over Curry with 53 seconds left.

Curry sat briefly on the bench to take in the scene after the Warriors made their last basket with 4:39 left.

"It hurts, man," Curry said. "Just proud of every single guy that stepped foot on the floor for our team this year. ... Hopefully we'll have many more opportunities to fight for championships and be on this stage because this is what it's all about."

Green had 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, but the Warriors' record-setting season ended without the only prize this close-knit "Strength In Numbers" crew cared about from way back in the beginning - through the record 24-0 start as Coach of the Year Steve Kerr was out, Curry's second consecutive MVP campaign, and the 73 regular-season wins to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' mark.

As Cleveland celebrated in the trophy ceremony, Green returned to the floor to congratulate the Cavs. He stopped by the winning locker room, too, and Warriors general manager Bob Myers brought in the freshly cut nets.

Golden State might always be remembered as one of the best teams ever that couldn't close it out, and Green is taking at least a good share of the blame after he sat out Game 5 on Monday night suspended for flagrant fouls.

The Cavs staved off elimination twice to force Game 7 back at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors went up 2-0 with a pair of lopsided wins to start this series.

Cleveland became just the fourth team to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road.

Curry - who said beforehand he needed the best game of his career - scored 17 points on 6-for-19 shooting, while Splash Brother Klay Thompson added 14 points while making 6 of 17 shots.

"I didn't do enough to help my team win," Curry said. "It will haunt me for a while."

President Barack Obama, an avid basketball fan, returned to Washington aboard Air Force One late Sunday as the game entered its final, tense minutes. He watched until the end and did not come down the stairs until moments after the Cavs won.

This time, it will be Cleveland hosting the victory parade. A year ago at home, the Cavs had to watch Golden State win its first title in 40 years.

"Now we have our own parade," Irving said, "and we'll celebrate it the way it's supposed to be celebrated in Cleveland."

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: James missed scoring at least 30 points for the first time in his last five Game 7s. ... The Warriors and Cavs faced off in their 13th finals game in two seasons, matching the highest total in NBA history over a two-year span.

Warriors: Golden State played the first finals Game 7 in franchise history. ... Not since the Oakland Athletics won the World Series in 1974 has a Bay Area team won a championship at its home venue.

Source: nba.com

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19/Jun/2016

Euro 2016: Croatia boss Ante Cacic criticises 'sports terrorists' after crowd trouble

Croatia boss Ante Cacic has called the supporters who threw flares on to the pitch in their Euro 2016 draw with the Czech Republic "sports terrorists".

The match, which ended 2-2, was halted in the 86th minute when flares from the Croatia end rained down on the Saint-Etienne pitch.

Uefa has confirmed it will investigate the incident.

"They are not really Croatia supporters. These people are scary and I call them hooligans," said Cacic.

Croatia has already been charged by Uefa after crowd trouble in their opening Group D game against Turkey.

Uefa said disciplinary proceedings would be opened on Saturday once they had received the official reports about the trouble from the match delegate and English referee Mark Clattenburg.

Cacic also hopes the Croatian FA will take action, adding: "The 95% of Croatian supporters are ashamed in front of Europe.

"These are sports terrorists. This is maybe just a question about six to 10 individuals. I hope they can be identified and punished. I hope the Croatia FA is doing everything to prevent this, but it is impossible to avoid."

Uefa is also expected to open disciplinary proceedings against the Turkish FA after some of the country's fans set off flares at the end of their 3-0 defeat by Spain in Nice.

Before that game, three Spanish "ultras" fans were arrested for trying to bring flares into the stadium, while another three were arrested for carrying neo-Nazi banners.

Croatia 'sorry to everyone around the world'

CroatiaCroatiaCroatiahttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/5C77/production/_90017632_flareepa1.jpg

A steward escaped serious injury when one of the flares thrown from the stands exploded

Croatia was winning 2-1 when trouble broke out, with a number of flares thrown onto the corner of the pitch, while some Croatia fans began fighting among themselves.

Journalist Andy Mitten, who was at the game, told BBC Radio 5 live: "I was in a section full of Croatia fans. The team was playing really well, everything was good, the people around me were happy but then I noticed a big line of police and soldiers building up in front of the Croatia end.

"It became clear they knew something was going to happen and it did happen. I saw fighting. It was horrible to watch."

The Croatian players appealed to their fans to calm down, and after several minutes, play was finally able to resume.

However, with Cacic's side seemingly affected by the events, the Czech Republic equalised in the 93rd minute through Tomas Necid's penalty after a handball.

"We have to say sorry to Uefa, sorry to the Czech Republic and to everyone around the world who loves football," said Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

"Most supporters support this team and are real supporters. But 10 individuals can make all these problems. It is clear that the Croatian FA and [Croatian FA president] Davor Suker are fighting against this.

"I hope Uefa can understand this."

Croatia was sanctioned by Fifa last month because of "discriminatory chants by fans" during friendlies with Israel and Hungary in March, meaning they will play their next two 2018 World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors.

Bilic fears there will be more trouble

Former Croatia boss Slaven Bilic condemned the scenes but warned there will be more crowd trouble.

The West Ham manager suggested some fans had only travelled to the tournament from Croatia to cause trouble.

"It's unbelievable what those people are doing," Bilic told ITV. "Some of them are there on a mission. It's probably not the last time they'll do it," he said.

"Back home it's not the greatest league, but it's competitive. When there's a big derby between Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split people are not taking their kids because they know it'll be dangerous."

CroatiaSource: bbc.com

 

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18/Jun/2016

Going back to Cali: LeBron, Cavs down Warriors, force Game 7

CLEVELAND (AP) From the edge of elimination to the brink of history.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have pushed the NBA Finals to their limit. Game 7 is necessary.

James scored 41 points, delivering another magnificent performance with no margin for error, Kyrie Irving added 23 and the Cavs sent the finals packing for California by beating the rattled Golden State Warriors 115-101 on Thursday night to even this unpredictable series and force a decisive finale.

Cleveland saved its season for the second time in four days and will head back to Oakland's Oracle Arena for Sunday's climactic game with a chance to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, and give this title-starved city its first major sports championship since Dec. 27, 1964.

"One more game left," James said. "I'll play it anywhere."

James added 11 assists, eight rebounds and again outplayed two-time MVP Stephen Curry, who fouled out and was ejected in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors never imagined being in this spot. The defending champions, who powered their way to a record 73 wins in the regular season, won the first two games by 48 combined points. But Curry and Co. have lost their touch, their poise and are in danger of seeing their historic season - and a second title - vanish.

Curry got tossed with 4:22 left after he was called for his sixth personal foul, cursed several times at an official and fired his mouthpiece into the front row, striking a fan. Curry finished with 30 points, Klay Thompson had 25 and Draymond Green, back from a one-game suspension, had 10 rebounds.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr felt the officiating was biased against Curry, who had never been tossed before.

"He gets six fouls called on him, three of them were absolutely ridiculous," Kerr said. "As the MVP of the league, we're talking about these touch fouls in the NBA Finals. I'm happy he threw his mouthpiece."

Curry walked off the floor smiling before making the long walk to the locker room.

"I didn't think I fouled either Kyrie or LeBron," said Curry, recounting fouls No. 5 and 6. "It was obviously frustrating fouling out in the fourth quarter of a clinching game and not being out there with my teammates. So it got the best of me, but I'll be all right for the next game."

On Wednesday, James called Game 7, "the two best words ever."

He'll live them once more, thanks to a spell-binding effort - the two-time champion had a hand in 27 consecutive points and 35 of 36 during a stretch in the second half - and put away the Warriors after they trimmed a 24-point deficit to seven in the final period. James scored 17 in the fourth before checking out to a thunderous ovation in the final minutes as Cleveland fans chanted, "Cavs in 7!" and "See you Sunday!"

"It's LeBron being LeBron," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He's one of the greatest of all-time. Our back was against the wall and he took it upon himself, him and Kyrie, they put us on their backs. They've got us to where we wanted to be - and that's Game 7."

James is one win from cementing his legacy by ending Cleveland's 52-year sports championship drought and winning his third title, the one the kid from Akron came home to win.

In typical Cleveland fashion, there were some heart palpitations in the fourth. The Cavs were up 70-46 in the third, and when J.R. Smith blindly dropped a lob pass to a trailing James for a dunk, Quicken Loans shook with noise and thousands of fans packing a plaza outside the building began thinking about where they might spend Father's Day.

The Warriors, though, weren't done. On the same floor where they won their title exactly one year ago, Thompson made a pair of 3-pointers as Golden State, playing without injured center Andrew Bogut, used a 25-10 run to pull within 80-71 entering the final 12 minutes.

But James, as he did while winning two titles in Miami, made sure those belonged to him and extended Cleveland's dream season.

For the Warriors, a golden year is suddenly stained.

"The playoffs haven't been easy," Curry said. "But we've given ourselves a chance with Game 7 at home."

BIG GAME JAMES

James has scored 41 points in the past two games, continuing a trend of bailing his team out in its darkest hour. He's now 9-8 in elimination games.

"He's a fantastic player, brilliant player," said Kerr, who played with Michael Jordan.

TIP-INS

Warriors: F Harrison Barnes missed all eight shots. ... Green and Thompson played in their 103rd game this season, most in the NBA. That was also the highest total in the league a year ago, with Barnes getting to 103. ... Andre Iguodala's start was his third of these playoffs. He had 5 points in 30 minutes. ... Bogut's injury will take 6-to-8 weeks to heal, essentially knocking him out of playing for Australia in the Rio Olympics.

Cavaliers: James is the first player to have consecutive 40-point games in the finals since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000. ... Cleveland joined Rochester (1951) and Boston (1966) as the only teams to trail 3-1 and force a Game 7. ... Tristan Thompson had 16 rebounds and went 6 of 6 from the floor. ... Seldom-used reserve G Dahntay Jones came off the bench in the last two minutes of the first half and scored 5 points.

Source: nba.com

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17/Jun/2016

Former Hearts midfielder Uriah Asante dies aged 24

Former Hearts of Oak offensive midfielder Uriah Asante has died after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The tragic incident happened onMonday afternoon after he was rushed to the hospital.

His cousin Adolf Gyimah confirmed the tragic news on Kumasi-based Ashh FM on Monday.

The University of Ghana graduate had two seasons for the Phobians where he became one of the mainstays of the team before leaving for Etoile du Sahel in Tunisia.

Watch video of Uriah Asante's two years with Hearts of Oak.

Source: myjoyonline.com

 

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14/Jun/2016

Cavs stay alive in NBA Finals; James, Irving each score 41

Booed every time he touched the ball, LeBron James cut through Golden State's defense and made layups look easy. Dunks and 3-pointers, so smooth, too.

And Kyrie Irving also completely had his way with the Warriors.

King James and Irving thoroughly overpowered the defending champions from every spot on the floor, and the Cavaliers are still alive to chase that elusive championship.

The unflappable, determined-as-ever James had 41 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, Irving also scored 41 points and Cleveland capitalized on the absence of suspended star Draymond Green, staving off NBA Finals elimination with a 112-97 victory in Game 5 on Monday night.

"We had a mindset that we wanted to come here and just extend our period and have another opportunity to fight for another day," James said. "That was our main concern, and we were able to do that."

James and Irving became the first teammates to score 40 points in an NBA Finals game as the Cavaliers pulled within 3-2 and sent their best-of-seven series back to Ohio.

Afterward, sitting side by side on the podium, they offered back-and-forth shoutouts, with James noting of Irving, "It's probably one of the greatest performances I've ever seen live."

Take that, haters. James has much more to say about these playoffs before he's done - and not with his mouth, even as the criticism came from all directions following his Game 4 tussle with Green and reaction to what he considered the Golden State forward's inappropriate words. James was booed again as the Cavs left the court for their locker room, but thousands of fans had already made for the exits minutes earlier.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) gestures during the first half of Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.

"Now, mind you, to repeat a performance like this would definitely be tough, but whatever it takes to win," Irving said.

Cleveland handed Golden State just its fourth defeat all season at sold-out Oracle Arena, denying MVP Stephen Curry and the Warriors a chance to celebrate another championship with their golden-clad "Strength In Numbers" supporters. Now, Curry and Co. must try to win on the road, just the way the Warriors did last year and also in their only other championship season out West in 1975.

The Warriors will get Green back Thursday as they try again for that repeat title.

"I kind of like our position," coach Steve Kerr said. "... I like our position a lot better than theirs."

Banned from the arena, Green watched from a baseball suite in the Oakland Coliseum next door, joined by Golden State general manager Bob Myers.

The All-Star forward was suspended Sunday for his fourth flagrant point of the postseason. He was assessed a retroactive Flagrant-1 for his swipe at James in the fourth quarter of Friday's Game 4.

Tied 61-all at halftime Monday, the Warriors missed 14 of their first 20 shots out of intermission and shot 7 for 24 in the third as James and the Cavs grabbed command by doing all of the little things on both ends of the floor - the very intangibles Golden State desperately missed without Green's high-energy presence on both ends. James jumped in the passing lanes to create defensive havoc, flipped passes around and got open.

Klay Thompson scored 37 points with six 3-pointers and Curry added 25 points with five 3s, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. But as the game wore on, the Splash Brothers shot airballs and clanked 3-point tries off the front rim. The Warriors often failed to get a hand in the face of Cleveland's shooters.

"We weren't very good defensively," Kerr said. "We obviously knew we were without Draymond, so there's no point in harping on that. We had to play better, and we didn't."

James and Irving combined to shoot 33 for 54, while the Warriors went cold and finished 36.4 percent from the field. James also had three steals and three blocked shots.

Andre Iguodala had 15 points, 11 rebounds and six assists starting in place of Green, but Oakland must hold off in planning another victory parade for now.

"We like our chances going forward and continuing to just try to be us, the best we can, and get one more win," Curry said.

Warriors center Andrew Bogut went down early in the third grabbing his left knee and writhing in pain, and will have an MRI exam on his sprained knee Tuesday.

Irving's three-point play with 7:30 remaining put Cleveland ahead 102-92, and the Cavs kept pushing. They answered on offense and made all the key stops on defense.

"It obviously stings real bad," Thompson said. "We'll come back stronger."

MOMENT OF SILENCE

Former Orlando Magic star Grant Hill spoke on behalf of the NBA in offering support, thoughts and prayers to victims in the Orlando mass shooting before a moment of silence.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Kevin Love returned to the starting lineup for the first time since sustaining a concussion in Game 2 here on June 5. ... James extended his NBA-record streak to 26 straight playoff series with at least one road win. ... James played his 197th postseason game, tying him with Manu Ginobili for No. 9 on the NBA's career list. He also passed Elgin Baylor (1,724) for No. 9 on the rebounds list.

Warriors: Golden State committed 17 turnovers. ... The Warriors had won their last four against the Cavs on their home court, outscoring Cleveland by a combined 48 points in Games 1 and 2 of these finals. ... Golden State had its streak of six straight Game 5 victories in the postseason dating to last year's Western Conference semifinals snapped.

Source: nba.com

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14/Jun/2016

England held by Russia

England once again failed to start a major tournament with victory as Vasili Berezutski's stoppage-time header gave Russia a draw they barely deserved in the Stade Velodrome.

Roy Hodgson's side were dominant and fully merited the lead given to them when Eric Dier crashed a 20-yard free-kick high past keeper Igor Akinfeev with 17 minutes left.

Hodgson then removed man of the match Wayne Rooney, who had earlier seen a shot pushed superbly on to the post by Akinfeev, and replaced him with Jack Wilshere to preserve England's advantage.

It was move that failed when Russia snatched a point - and extended England's record of never starting a European Championship with a win - two minutes into four minutes of stoppage time, Berezutski soaring above Danny Rose at the far post to send Georgi Schennikov's header looping over keeper Joe Hart.

The final whistle was the cue for more of the violence that has marred the build-up to this fixture, as Russian fans appeared to charge at English supporters behind the goal where Berezutski scored.

Follow all the post-match reaction to England's draw

Did Hodgson cost England victory?

England manager Roy Hodgson got plenty right with a positive selection and the decision to play Rooney in midfield reaped a rich reward - but his boldest move may also have been his biggest mistake.

He removed Rooney straight after Dier's goal and introduced Wilshere in an attempt to retain possession, but Rooney was the player giving England control and while it was a warm night in the south of France, the 30-year-old looked fresh and fit for the fight.

True, it was a sucker punch that cost England victory but experience is needed to close out crucial wins and ultimately they did not manage it.

England should have had enough against a very ordinary Russia to complete the job but Rooney's removal robbed them of his craft and guidance and now increases the pressure on Thursday's meeting with Wales in Lens.

In Hodgson's defence, it must be stated that in large parts this was a vibrant, energetic performance with the emphasis almost exclusively on attack.

England were hugely impressive in the first half in particular, when their supporters inside this magnificent bowl at Stade Velodrome roared their approval as Russia were pressed into submission and made to look pedestrian.

It made that cruel conclusion even more painful.

Rooney's midfield masterclass

Rooney was the subject of some mischievous probing from the Russia media before the game as they suggested his retreat into midfield was a measure of his declining powers.

England's captain insisted he did not have to defend himself to them - and the midfield masterclass he delivered here was the most eloquent answer he could give.

Rooney's display must be placed in context. It came against a very poor Russia side who allowed him time and space he may not get against Wales until they exerted a measure of control in the second half.

He was, however, the orchestrator of this England performance as he showed maturity and an impressive range of passing to set off a succession of attacks, especially in the first 45 minutes.

The Manchester United man drew applause from England's fans for defensive work and could have had a goal when Russia keeper Akinfeev produced a stunning save to turn his shot on to the upright.

He still has his detractors but this was a show of quality that demonstrated plenty of the old powers remain intact.

England must be more ruthless

As the chances racked up - and were not taken - in a fine first half, the argument that this England side lack a ruthless streak gained weight.

Russia looked off the pace and ageing in the face of England's exuberance.

And while Rooney's switch to midfield was a resounding success and Adam Lallana justified his selection, Raheem Sterling struggled desperately and will be fortunate to keep his place against Wales.

Source: bbc.com

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11/Jun/2016

Euro 2016: England fans in fresh clashes with police

Police in Marseille have deployed tear gas for a second evening to disperse England fans gathered ahead of the Euro 2016 football championships.

Officers in riot gear clashed with fans who threw bottles at police in the streets of the Old Port district.

BBC 5 live sports presenter George Riley said a group of England fans had appeared to be goading either the police or locals in the area.

France won the opening match in the tournament beating Romania 2-1.

The fresh clashes in Marseille began outside a pub in the same area that had been affected by trouble on Thursday and continued well into the night.

One England fan and one local man were arrested in the early hours of Friday after police had moved in with tear gas.

George Riley said the group he had seen gathering on Friday evening appeared "quite menacing", which prompted the 5 live team to leave.

An England fan walks through tear gas in Marseille

Tear gas was deployed by police for a second day

BBC Newsnight producer Alex Campbell, who is also at the scene, tweeted: "Most England fans here are simply drunk and singing. But the glass bottles aimed at police are becoming more regular."

He later added: "Police just took their moment to charge England fans, who have now been pushed back. Some into a side road."

BBC Newsbeat presenter Ben Mundy said police had earlier told bars in the Old Port area to stop serving English fans beer because they were singing loudly.

This had antagonised them and made them more aggressive, he said.

Police injured

On Thursday four French policemen were injured as they moved in on England fans, the news website France Bleu reported. Many of the fans had been drunk, it said.

After the tear gas was released, the police restored calm to the area at about 02:30 local time.

There had been no damage to local property, they said.

English fans are in Marseille ahead of England's game with Russia on Saturday.

Source: bbc.com

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11/Jun/2016

Spain goalkeeper David de Gea denies forced sex party claim

Spain and Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has denied a claim reported in a Spanish newspaper that he organised a sex party with prostitutes for teammates in which a woman was made to take part against her will.

"It's all false," de Gea said.

The claims are contained in court papers in a trial against a pornography baron seen by El Diario newspaper.

A witness claims the defendant forced her and another girl into sex with two Under-21 internationals in 2012.

"I am the first one to be surprised by this report. I deny it, it is false and nothing more, it is a lie and false," de Gea told a press conference at Spain's Euro 2016 training base.

"It is false what is coming out in the press and it will be in the hands of my lawyers," he added.

The claims are part of a continuing case against pornographer Ignacio Allende Fernández, known as Torbe, who is accused of being the head of a prostitution network that abused Spanish and foreign women, some of them underage.

Torbe was remanded in custody in April charged with offences including sex attacks, sexual exploitation and child pornography.

The protected witness, who claims she was forced into the prostitution ring, said she was taken to a Madrid hotel and introduced to another girl and two footballers.

Once in a room with the other girl, the witness - known in police interview papers as TP3 - said that she was told by Torbe that she had to comply with the sexual demands of the two Under-21 internationals.

When she said she did not wish to take part, she claimed to police that Torbe "grabbed her forcefully by the arm".

The witness said she had told Torbe in front of the footballers that she did not want to take part in the sexual encounter, El Diario reported.

El Diario claimed the players said they did not want any recordings of the encounter to be made in case their playing careers were affected.

The witness claimed the encounter had been arranged by de Gea, according to the police report published by El Diario.

Source: bbc.com

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10/Jun/2016

Maria Sharapova banned for two years for failed drugs test but will appeal

Maria Sharapova has been banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation for using a prohibited drug.

The Russian was provisionally banned in March after testing positive for meldonium at January's Australian Open.

The heart disease drug, which 29-year-old Sharapova says she has been taking since 2006 for health issues, became a banned substance on 1 January 2016.

The five-time Grand Slam winner said she "cannot accept" the "unfairly harsh" ban - and will appeal.

Sharapova will challenge the suspension, which is backdated to 26 January 2016, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

In a statement, she said the tribunal concluded her offence was "unintentional" and that she had not tried to use a "performance-enhancing substance".

But she claimed the ITF had asked the tribunal to impose a four-year ban, adding it "spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the anti-doping rules".

The tribunal ruling said Sharapova tested positive for meldonium in an out-of competition test on 2 February, as well as in the aftermath of her Australian Open quarter-final defeat by Serena Williams on 26 January. It treated both results as a single anti-doping violation.

The London 2012 Olympic silver medallist added: "I have missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans... your love and support has gotten me through these tough days.

"I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that's why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible."

The ITF will not appeal against the tribunal's decision.

Nike, which suspended its relationship with Sharapova in January, said it would "continue to partner" the Russian, based on the tribunal's findings.

Sharapova was Forbes' highest-paid female athlete for 11 consecutive years, until Williams moved above her this year. The American made £28.9m from winnings and endorsements to Sharapova's £21.9m.

Aged 17, Sharapova became the first Russian to win Wimbledon in 2004, added the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008, before completing a career Grand Slam with the French Open title in 2012.

She won the French Open again in 2014, but the 2018 tournament in Paris is the next major Sharapova can enter, when she will be 31.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said in April that scientists were unsure how long meldonium stayed in the system, and suggested athletes who tested positive before 1 March could avoid bans, provided they had stopped taking it before 1 January.

However, Sharapova had already admitted she continued taking the substance past that date, saying she was unaware it had been added to the banned list as she knew it by another name - mildronate.

Meldonium
Thought to improve stamina and endurance
Designed to treat ischemia and used by diabetes suffers
Banned by Wada since 1 January 2016
Featured on Wada's watch list in 2015

In reaching its verdict, the ITF recognised Sharapova had not intentionally broken anti-doping rules, as she did not know that mildronate contained a banned substance from January of this year.

But the federation said the Russian was "the sole author of her own misfortune", as she had "failed to take any steps to check whether continued use of the medicine was permissible".

Reaction

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki described Sharapova's case as a "sad situation".

"Tennis has a really strong anti-drug policy in place and it helps the sport really keep clean," the 25-year-old told BBC Sport.

"It's always a sad situation when someone is getting banned or you have heard they have failed a drug test - not only for Maria but for tennis in general.

"The ITF is doing its best to make sure nobody tries to go that route of taking any enhancing drugs, it's unfortunate for anyone who did that unintentionally as well."

Meanwhile, Wada said it would "review the decision, including its reasoning" and decide whether to appeal.

Source: bbc.com

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09/Jun/2016

Stephen Keshi: Nigeria football legend dies aged 54

One of African football's best-known figures, Stephen Keshi, has died at the age of 54, the Nigeria Football Association has said.

A former captain of the Nigeria national team, Keshi was one of only two men to win the Africa Cup of Nations both as a player and a coach.

He also managed Togo and Mali, and his playing career included a spell for Belgian club side Anderlecht.

He is thought to have suffered a heart attack, local media reported.

As a player, Keshi was part of the Super Eagles team that won the Nations Cup in 1994 and narrowly missed out on a World Cup quarter-final place the same year.

He coached the national side over three spells, leading Nigeria to the 2013 Nations Cup title in South Africa and the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

His contract was not renewed after the World Cup but he later returned on a match-by-match deal following the team's failure to reach the 2015 Nations Cup finals.

He was then sacked as caretaker coach but reinstated after intervention from then Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan. He was sacked for a final time last July.

Source: bbc.com

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08/Jun/2016

Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro settles dismissal case

Former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro has settled her dismissal claim against the club on confidential terms.

Dr Carneiro, who claimed constructive dismissal against Chelsea, also reached a discrimination settlement against the club's former manager Jose Mourinho.

Dr Carneiro said her priority has always been the health and safety of the players.

Chelsea said it apologised "unreservedly" to the former first team doctor for the distress caused.

On Monday it emerged Chelsea had offered Dr Carneiro £1.2m to settle her claims, which she had rejected.

In a statement, Dr Carneiro said: "I am relieved that today we have been able to conclude this tribunal case. It has been an extremely difficult and distressing time for me and my family and I now look forward to moving forward with my life.

"My priority has always been the health and safety of the players and fulfilling my duty of care as a doctor."

Addressing the London South Employment Tribunal centre in Croydon, Daniel Stilitz QC, for Chelsea and Mr Mourinho, said: "We are pleased to be able to tell the tribunal that the parties agreed a settlement on confidential terms."

Dr Carneiro claimed she was sexually discriminated against after she went on to the pitch to treat Chelsea player Eden Hazard during the opening day of the Premier League season last August.

She claimed that Mr Mourinho shouted the Portuguese phrase "filha da puta" at her, which means "daughter of a whore", as she ran on to the pitch.

Hazard had to leave the pitch, briefly leaving the team with only nine men at what Mr Mourinho claimed was a crucial stage in the game.

Chelsea went on to draw 2-2 with Swansea and Mr Mourinho publicly criticised both Dr Carneiro and first team physio Jon Fearn for being "impulsive and naive".

Dr Carneiro left the club in September after being demoted.


Analysis: BBC News correspondent Will Ross

Many will guess but we may never know how much money is winging its way into Dr Eva Carneiro's bank account. She did not accept a £1.2m settlement offer so this was no small business.

It seems bizarre that a dispute that began with a doctor running onto a football pitch to help an injured player would end 10 months later with a flurry of negotiations along the nondescript corridors of a building in Croydon.

Although she will have her critics, this was a major victory for Dr Carneiro who fought for justice in the male dominated world of Premier League football.

Chelsea Football Club would have been keen to avoid the potential embarrassment of a personal feud going even more public.

Jose Mourinho's new employers, Manchester United, would also have been keen to ensure that this did not drag on any longer.

Mr Mourinho will find watching the European Championships better preparation for rebuilding a reputation as a winner than being grilled in Croydon.

As for the public? We had already been treated to the subtleties of swearing in Portuguese. It was time to move on.


Chelsea said in a statement: "The club regrets the circumstances which led to Dr Carneiro leaving the club and apologises unreservedly to her and her family for the distress caused.

"We wish to place on record that in running onto the pitch Dr Carneiro was following both the rules of the game and fulfilling her responsibility to the players as a doctor, putting their safety first.

It added: "Jose Mourinho also thanked Dr Carneiro for the excellent and dedicated support she provided as first team doctor and he wishes her a successful career."

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho leaves the employment tribunal after settling the claims of Dr Carneiro

In a statement to the tribunal, Mr Mourinho - who was sacked by Chelsea in December after a run of poor form - conceded that he used the term "filho da puta", meaning "son of a whore" and insisted he had been using it throughout the match.

But Mary O'Rourke QC, acting for Dr Carneiro, told the tribunal on Monday: "He [Mourinho] uses the word 'filha' because he is abusing a woman."

The FA ruled on 30 September 2015 that the words did not constitute "discriminatory language" after consulting an independent academic expert in Portuguese linguistics.


Women in Football reaction

A spokesman for Women in Football said: "Women in Football are delighted that Eva's name has been rightly cleared and her professional reputation as a doctor upheld.

"Eva has been courageous in her fight for a public apology from Chelsea and acknowledgement that on the day in question she was simply doing her job.

"We completely deplore and condemn her treatment by the club since and welcome their unreserved apology."


Mr Mourinho's presence at the tribunal on Tuesday was unexpected because it was not thought he was going to give evidence until next week.

Also in attendance were Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia, chairman Bruce Buck, head physio Jason Palmer and head of communications and PR, Steve Atkins.

The case was expected to last seven to 10 days and could have led to potentially embarrassing witness statements and documents - including texts and emails - being made public.

Dr Carneiro alleged that on 10 August last year Mr Mourinho told Mr Atkins that he did not want Dr Carneiro on the bench at the next match, adding: "She works in academy team or ladies team, not with me."

She also claimed Chelsea took no action following complaints about sexually explicit chanting at various away games - in particular at Manchester United and West Ham - and a lack of female changing facilities.

Further allegations were that she was not provided with a club suit, and regularly had to endure sexually explicit comments from her colleagues.


Jose Mourinho profiled

  • Portuguese football manager born in 1963
  • The self-styled "Special One" of managers
  • One of only five managers to have won European Cup with two different teams
  • In 2012 became fifth manager to have won league titles in at least four different countries
  • Led Chelsea to first English league title in 50 years in 2005
  • Won title again in 2006, but sacked by Chelsea in 2007
  • Returned to Chelsea in 2013 and won another league title in 2015
  • Sacked by Chelsea again last December after disastrous start to season
  • Appointed manager of Manchester United in May

Source: bbc.com

 

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08/Jun/2016

Muhammad Ali death: Obama will not attend memorial

US President Barack Obama will not attend a memorial to the late boxer Muhammad Ali on Friday, the White House says.

Ali died last Friday at the age of 74 in hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.

World leaders will be among thousands attending Friday's procession and memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky, where Ali was born.

The White House said Mr Obama and his wife Michelle will be at daughter Malia's high school graduation.

They will send a letter to the Ali family with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who knew Ali.

Obituary: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali - in his own words

World pays tribute to boxing legend

Bob Gunnell, a spokesman for the Ali family, said Mr Obama and Ali's widow Lonnie had spoken by telephone.

Among those attending will be the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and King Abdullah of Jordan.

British former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and actor Will Smith, who once portrayed Ali on screen, will be among the pallbearers.

Former US President Bill Clinton and actor Billy Crystal are also set to speak.

Map of Muhammad Ali's funeral procession

After Ali's death, Mr Obama said he kept a pair of his gloves in his private study below the photograph of Ali beating Sonny Liston in 1964.

Ali would be remembered, he said, "not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us."

On Thursday, a traditional Muslim funeral service will be held at the 18,000-seat Freedom Hall, where Ali fought and won his first professional fight in 1960.

People queued from the middle of the night on Tuesday to get the first tickets.

"I am here to get tickets for my grandson. He is eight," Angela Smith Ward, a former Army employee, told Agence France-Presse. "I want him to know that you can be great no matter where you come from."

On Friday, from 09:00 local time (13:00 GMT), the coffin will be taken on a procession through the streets of Louisville, passing by locations historically important to Ali.

Ali's funeral will then take place at a large concert and sports arena, the KFC Yum! Center, from 14:00. The service will be open to the public.

The boxer will be buried in a private service at the city's Cave Hill Cemetery.

The funeral will be broadcast live on the internet.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Jun/2016

French Open 2016: Garbine Muguruza upsets Serena Williams to win title

Spain's Garbine Muguruza beat world number one Serena Williams in straight sets to win her first Grand Slam title at the French Open.

Fourth seed Muguruza won 7-5 6-4 to make amends for losing last year's Wimbledon final against Williams.

The 22-year-old is Spain's first female champion at Roland Garros since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1998.

Williams, 34, had hoped to win a 22nd Grand Slam singles title and tie Steffi Graf's Open-era record.

"I'm so, so excited - to play in a Grand Slam against one of the best players, it's the perfect final," Muguruza said.

"I'm so happy. I had to be very ready and concentrated on all the points and just to fight as much as I can.

"All the matches I've played against her helped me. It's our favourite tournament in Spain and I want to thank all my Spanish supporters."

Muguruza wins power game

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Williams had reached the final despite reportedly struggling with a thigh problem, but the defending champion began in terrific form, moving freely as she made the early running.

It was all Muguruza could do to hang on, a forehand and an ace seeing off early break points, and it was Williams who faltered first by dropping serve with a double fault at 2-2.

With both players hitting huge groundstrokes and vying for control of the rallies, Williams looked to have gained the upper hand with three games in a row taking her 5-4 in front.

However, Muguruza played a nerveless service game to stay in the set and then clinched it with some wonderful hitting down both tram lines.

The second set began with three breaks of serve but it was still Muguruza who was dictating, another stunning forehand into the corner moving her into a 3-1 lead.

Muguruza was prepared to concede double-faults - her tally ending up at nine - to keep Williams at bay on her second serve and it proved a successful tactic.

Williams could not fashion a break point in the latter stages of the second set and did well to fend off four match points on her own serve in game nine.

Muguruza remained rock solid, however, finally converting on her own serve with a lob that caught both players by surprise, before the Spaniard fell to the clay in celebration.

No excuses from Williams

Williams suffered only her sixth defeat in 27 Grand Slam finals stretching back to 1999, but did not blame her injury issues.

Williams was trying to win her fourth French Open title - the first came back in 2002.

"It was OK," she said. "I'm not one to ever make excuses and say, like, 'Oh, my adductor was hurting,' or whatever.

"At the end of the day I didn't play the game I needed to play to win and she did. Adductor or not, she played to win.

"She won the first set by one point. I mean, that just goes to show you that you really have to play the big points well, and she played the big points really well.''

The American has now missed out in three consecutive Grand Slams, and will head to Wimbledon later this month looking to defend her title and finally land a 22nd major.

Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

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"Grand Slam singles champions born in the 1990s are no longer unique. Muguruza emulated Petra Kvitova's achievement by winning here at the age of 22, which is very young by modern standards.

"She has the big serve, lethal power from the baseline, and showed a cool head and a strong heart to close out the match after Williams had saved those four championship points. Players are developing the belief to beat the world number one, but a semi-final and two finals from the last three Grand Slams show Williams is far from done yet."

Source: bbc.com

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06/Jun/2016

Novak Djokovic beats Andy Murray to win first French Open title

World number one Novak Djokovic beat Britain's Andy Murray to win his first French Open title and complete the career Grand Slam.

The Serb, 29, won 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 to win his 12th major title and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slams at once.

Murray had hoped to secure the third leg of his own career Slam, having already won Wimbledon and the US Open.

The Scot, 29, was Britain's first male finalist in Paris since 1937.

Second seed Murray played superbly to win the first set but could not convert a break point early in the second, and Djokovic took control to win in three hours.

He becomes only the eighth man in history to have won all four of the sport's major singles prizes - and could yet match Laver's achievement of winning all four in a calendar year.

Listen to BBC Radio 5 live's commentary on the moment Djokovic won the title

'Biggest moment of my career' - Djokovic

Djokovic fell back on the clay in delight and relief after requiring two breaks of serve and four match points in a desperately tense end to the final.

With three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten watching from the stands, Djokovic then emulated the Brazilian by drawing a heart in the clay with his racquet.

"It's a very special moment, the biggest of my career," said Djokovic. "I felt today something that I never felt before at Roland Garros, I felt the love of the crowd.

"I drew the heart on the court, like Guga, which he gave me permission to do. My heart will always be with you on this court."

Murray, who has now lost five Grand Slam finals to Djokovic, had looked capable of causing an upset with an aggressive display in the opening set.

However, Djokovic turned the match around early in the second set and Murray, who had played five hours' more tennis in reaching the final, could not keep pace.

"To Novak, this is his day," said Murray. "What he's achieved the last 12 months is phenomenal; winning all the Grand Slams in one year is an amazing achievement.

"It's so rare in tennis, and for me personally, it sucks to lose the match, but I'm proud to have been part of today."

Murray cannot capitalise on early lead

Djokovic looked determined to make up for losing in three previous Paris finals when he broke the Murray serve to love with a brilliant opening game, but the nerves were soon apparent.

A beautiful lob saw Murray hit straight back in game two and, playing aggressively at every opportunity, he powered into a 4-1 lead as Djokovic misfired with his forehand.

Murray clinched the set at the third opportunity - after a generous overrule that drew boos from a crowd seemingly backing Djokovic - and some stunning defence earned the Scot a break point at the start of the second set.

Djokovic needed to turn the tide and he did so with a smash, before grabbing the lead when Murray double-faulted at break point down.

The Serb then began to dictate with his backhand, firing a winner down the line for a decisive second break as Murray's first-serve percentage slipped below the 50% mark.

Djokovic continued to press, setting up break points at 1-1 in the third set with a forehand winner and watching as Murray dropped a volley into the net with the court gaping.

The crowd chanted "Nole! Nole!" as the world number one finally regained the lead he had surrendered after the opening game of the match, and he broke again with a terrific sliding winner on his way to a two-sets-to-one lead.

With a 5-2 lead in the fourth set, and his friends and supporters preparing to celebrate in the stands, Djokovic suffered a tortuous few minutes as Murray refused to give up.

The Briton got one of the breaks back and saved two match points, before finally netting a backhand as Djokovic clinched a historic win.

Analysis

Novak DjokovicNovak Djokovichttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/111C8/production/_89888007_033303506-1.jpg

Djokovic follows Rod Laver and Don Budge as holder of all four Slams at once

Pat Cash, former Wimbledon champion: "This has been the tricky one for Djokovic but he's come out and played some great tennis. He's rock solid, he knows his game so well and he's mentally focused. From where he started off in this match to where he finished, what a contrast, and it just goes to show how great a champion he is."

Source: bbc.com

 

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06/Jun/2016

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies aged 74

Muhammad Ali has died at the age of 74, a family spokesman has said.

The former world heavyweight boxing champion, one of the world's best-known sportsmen, died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona, after being admitted on Thursday.

He was suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson's disease.

The funeral will take place in Ali's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, his family said in a statement.

Ali dies: Live reaction

Obituary: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali in his own words

Latest tributes

Nick Bryant: How Ali changed his sport and country

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali shot to fame by winning light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Nicknamed "The Greatest", the American beat Sonny Liston in 1964 to win his first world title and became the first boxer to capture a world heavyweight title on three separate occasions.

He eventually retired in 1981, having won 56 of his 61 fights.

Crowned "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated and "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC, Ali was noted for his pre- and post-fight talk and bold fight predictions just as much as his boxing skills inside the ring.

But he was also a civil rights campaigner and poet who transcended the bounds of sport, race and nationality.

Asked how he would like to be remembered, he once said: "As a man who never sold out his people. But if that's too much, then just a good boxer. I won't even mind if you don't mention how pretty I was."

Ali turned professional immediately after the Rome Olympics and rose through the heavyweight ranks, delighting crowds with his showboating, shuffling feet and lightning reflexes.

British champion Henry Cooper came close to stopping Clay, as he was still known, when they met in a non-title bout in London in 1963.

Cooper floored the American with a left hook, but Clay picked himself up off the canvas and won the fight in the next round when a severe cut around Cooper's left eye forced the Englishman to retire.

Ali's boxing career

  • Won Olympic light-heavyweight gold in 1960
  • Turned professional that year and was world heavyweight champion from 1964 to 1967, 1974 to 1978 and 1978 to 1979
  • Had 61 professional bouts, winning 56 (37 knockouts, 19 decisions), and losing five (4 decisions, 1 retirement)

In February the following year, Clay stunned the boxing world by winning his first world heavyweight title at the age of 22.

He predicted he would beat Liston, who had never lost, but few believed he could do it.

Yet, after six stunning rounds, Liston quit on his stool, unable to cope with his brash, young opponent.

At the time of his first fight with Liston, Clay was already involved with the Nation of Islam, a religious movement whose stated goals were to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African Americans in the United States.

But in contrast to the inclusive approach favoured by civil rights leaders like Dr Martin Luther King, the Nation of Islam called for separate black development and was treated by suspicion by the American public.

Ali eventually converted to Islam, ditching what he perceived was his "slave name" and becoming Cassius X and then Muhammad Ali.

How world remembers Ali

In 1967, Ali took the momentous decision of opposing the US war in Vietnam, a move that was widely criticised by his fellow Americans.

He refused to be drafted into the US military and was subsequently stripped of his world title and boxing licence. He would not fight again for nearly four years.

After his conviction for refusing the draft was overturned in 1971, Ali returned to the ring and fought in three of the most iconic contests in boxing history, helping restore his reputation with the public.

He was handed his first professional defeat by Joe Frazier in the "Fight of the Century" in New York on 8 March 1971, only to regain his title with an eighth-round knockout of George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) on 30 October 1974.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali blows a kiss after receiving Sports Illustrateds 20th Century Sportsman of the Century Award in 1999

Muhammad Ali was crowned Sportsman of the Century in 1999

Ali fought Frazier for a third and final time in the Philippines on 1 October 1975, coming out on top in the "Thrilla in Manila" when Frazier failed to emerge for the 15th and final round.

Six defences of his title followed before Ali lost on points to Leon Spinks in February 1978, although he regained the world title by the end of the year, avenging his defeat at the hands of the 1976 Olympic light-heavyweight champion.

Ali's career ended with one-sided defeats by Larry Holmes in 1980 and Trevor Berbick in 1981, many thinking he should have retired long before.

He fought a total of 61 times as a professional, losing five times and winning 37 bouts by knockout.

Soon after retiring, rumours began to circulate about the state of Ali's health. His speech had become slurred, he shuffled and he was often drowsy.

Parkinson's Syndrome was eventually diagnosed but Ali continued to make public appearances, receiving warm welcomes wherever he travelled.

He lit the Olympic cauldron at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and carried the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Games in London.


How Ali wanted people to remember him

"I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him...who stood up for his beliefs...who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.

"And if all that's too much, then I guess I'd settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn't even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was."

Source: bbc.com

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04/Jun/2016

Jamie Vardy: Arsenal bid for Leicester City striker meets release clause

Arsenal are in talks with Leicester City in an attempt to try to sign striker Jamie Vardy.

The Gunners' bid for the 29-year-old England international is reported to be in the region of £20m and has triggered the release clause in his contract.

Vardy scored 24 goals in the Premier League for Leicester as the Foxes won the 2015-16 title.

The forward, who is currently preparing for Euro 2016, joined City for £1m from Fleetwood in 2012.

Vardy rose through non-league football after being released by Sheffield Wednesday at 16 for being too small, and was named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year for 2015-16.

Since making his England debut in 2015, he has scored three times in eight internationals.

Arsenal, who finished second in the league, 10 points behind Leicester, have already signed Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Vardy to Arsenal: The case for and against

Former QPR winger Trevor Sinclair on BBC Radio 5 live: "I am a big believer in karma. He has won the Premier League, he is happy and has a great group of brothers around him. He is settled, so why move?

"When you are a striker you can be in top form but then go to a club, not hit the ground running and then it can gobble you up. I would stay where he is."

Ex-Everton winger Kevin Kilbane on BBC Radio 5 live: "When the big clubs come calling, they might not come again. I think you go.

"You want to test yourself against the best and with better players. Technically, Arsenal are a better side than Leicester."

Source: bbc.com

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03/Jun/2016

Rio 2016: Olympic Games refugees team unveiled

The International Olympic Committee has unveiled its first team of refugees to compete at Rio 2016 under the Olympic banner.

The Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes has 10 members - five from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from DR Congo and one from Ethiopia.

The six men and four women will compete in swimming, judo and athletics.

"These refugee athletes have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem," said IOC president Thomas Bach.

"The invention of this refugee team is to give them a home in the Olympic village together with all the athletes around the world."

The team includes swimmer Yusra Mardini from Syria, who trains in Germany, South Sudanese middle-distance runner Rose Nathike Lokonyen, who is living in a refugee camp in Kenya, and DR Congo judoka Yolande Bukasa Mabika, who trains in Brazil.

They will enter the opening ceremony as the penultimate team, before hosts Brazil.

Bach added: "It can send a symbol of hope for all refugees in the world and can send a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society."

The Olympics run from 5-21 August.

Source: bbc.com

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03/Jun/2016

Muhammad Ali: Boxing legend remains in hospital with respiratory issue

Muhammad Ali is still in hospital two days after being admitted with a respiratory issue.

There has been no official update on Ali's condition and concern has grown throughout Friday.

An enormous number of goodwill messages for the 74-year-old, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1984, have been posted on social media.

The former heavyweight world champion was admitted to hospital in December 2014 with a urinary tract infection.

Great Britain's newest world champion Tony Bellew has been among those expressing hope for his recovery.

One of the most high-profile global sporting stars, Ali's name transcends sport like few others.

He became the first three-time world heavyweight champion in 1978, having first won the title in 1964 and again in 1974.

Source: bbc.com

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03/Jun/2016

Fifa: Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke & Markus Kattner 'awarded themselves £55m'

Former high-ranking Fifa officials Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Markus Kattner awarded themselves pay rises and bonuses worth $80m (£55m) over five years, say Fifa lawyers.

Football's governing body revealed the contracts of ex-president Blatter, fired ex-secretary general Valcke and sacked former finance director Kattner one day after a Swiss police raid.

Fifa's lawyers said there was evidence that the trio made "a coordinated effort" to "enrich themselves" between 2011 and 2015.

Documents and electronic data were seized from Kattner's old office during Thursday's operation, which relates to investigations into Blatter and Valcke, according to sources close to Fifa's internal investigation.

Suspected of criminal mismanagement of Fifa money, Blatter and Valcke were banned for six and 12 years respectively by the governing body's ethics committee in February. Both deny wrongdoing.

A statement for the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), which carried out the investigations, read: "Documents and electronic data were seized and will now be examined to determine their relevance to the ongoing proceedings."

Fifa said the evidence uncovered by its own internal investigation would be shared with the Swiss Attorney General's office and the US Department of Justice.

Richard Cullen, Blatter's lawyer, said: "We look forward to showing Fifa that Mr Blatter's compensation payments were proper, fair and in line with the heads of major professional sports leagues around the world."

Meanwhile, Blatter's long-time public relations advisor Klaus Stoehlker told BBC Sport he would be ending their professional relationship, adding: "The Fifa volcano is exploding now."

Fifa has been in turmoil since May 2015, when a US investigation exposed widespread corruption at the top of the organisation.

Analysis

Richard Conway, BBC sports news correspondent

"Fifa has "victim status" right now from the US Department of Justice and the Swiss authorities. It acknowledges that the institution itself is not at fault for the corrupt acts of its senior members in recent times.

"But that could easily change and it's why Fifa's own legal team have been digging through millions of documents to uncover any previously unknown historic wrongdoing.

"Over the past few days they say they uncovered information which revealed the secret deals that allowed Blatter, Valcke and Kattner to gorge on huge multi-million dollar bonuses.

"Some of the provisions in the contracts could breach Swiss law.

"Now they've gone public with the information in an attempt to demonstrate to the legal authorities and fans they are serious about long term reform and regaining trust."

Source: bbc.com

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03/Jun/2016

Olympic professional boxing vote is criticised by Carl Frampton

Former world champion Carl Frampton and a number of other high-profile fighters have hit out at the decision to allow professionals to box at the Olympics.

International boxing federations voted in the rule change just weeks before the Rio Games start on 5 August.

Northern Irishman Frampton says amateur and pro boxing are "two different sports", claiming: "It's like a badminton player playing tennis."

Ricky Hatton and Stephen Smith have also criticised the move.

"Goodbye amateur boxing now as far as I'm concerned," tweeted former welterweight and light-welterweight world champion Hatton. "Can't say I'm a fan of this."

Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Smith, who has had 28 fights as a pro, said he was "gutted" to learn the news.

"Absolutely ruins amateur boxing that in my opinion," he tweeted. "Wrong."

However, Olympic medallist Michael Conlan say he is happy to fight against professionals as he seeks to add gold to the bronze he won in London.

"It wouldn't bother me, I'll beat all of them," said the Northern Ireland bantamweight.

The vote to allow pro boxers to fight at the Olympics took place at a meeting of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in Switzerland.

The decision means any professional can enter a qualifying event in Venezuela next month in an attempt to win selection, with 26 entry places up for grabs.

AIBA president CK Wu said it was "difficult to anticipate" how many pros would attempt to qualify for Rio.

Former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has indicated he would like to box at the Olympics.

But the 40-year-old Ukrainian, who won super-heavyweight gold at the Atlanta Games in 1996, is unlikely to take part in qualifying.

He takes on Britain's Tyson Fury in a title rematch in Manchester on 9 July.

Source: bbc.com

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01/Jun/2016

Danny Drinkwater: Alan Shearer says Roy Hodgson wrong to drop England midfielder

England manager Roy Hodgson opted for "reputation rather than form" by dropping Danny Drinkwater from his Euro 2016 squad, says former striker Alan Shearer.

Leicester midfielder Drinkwater was left out of the final 23-man squad.

Shearer said that by selecting Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson, Hodgson was taking a "gamble" on their fitness.

"Drinkwater should have been in. He's been one of the standout players this season," Shearer told BBC Radio 5 live.

"He'll be very disappointed, and rightly so because he's been absolutely magnificent."

Drinkwater, who has won three caps, was voted man of the match on his debut in the 2-1 defeat by the Netherlands in March.

Arsenal midfielder Wilshere played only 141 minutes in the Premier League this season following a broken leg, while Liverpool Jordan Henderson missed the final six weeks of the campaign with a knee injury.

Match of the Day pundit Shearer, who scored 30 goals in 63 games for England between 1992 and 2000, said: "Once again England have gone for reputation rather than form.

"I hope the manager doesn't regret it."

BBC Sport team selector users agree with Shearer

The verdict of BBC Sport's England Euro 2016 team selector - after it passed 1m users - matches Shearer's.

Although BBC Sport users are asked to pick an England XI, rather than a 23-man squad, one third of people (358,000) chose Drinkwater.

In the total selections for midfield options, Drinkwater came fifth behind Spurs' duo Dele Alli (900,000) and Eric Dier (673,000), Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney (580,000) and Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling (378,000).

A Premier League champion with Leicester City this season, Drinkwater was a more popular midfield choice than Everton's Ross Barkley (322,000), Liverpool trio James Milner (286,000), Adam Lallana (282,000) and Jordan Henderson (230,000), and Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (253,000).

On Hodgson's other two omissions, BBC Sport users largely agree, with City's Fabian Delph (34,000) and Newcastle winger Andros Townsend (175,000) the bottom two midfield picks.

But few users chose teenage striker Marcus Rashford (116,000) to start for England in France, despite scoring on his international debut against Australia on Friday - perhaps seeing the Manchester United striker as an option from the bench.

On Rashford, Shearer said the 18-year-old was "ready" after an "incredible rise" this season and that he "deserves to go because of his performances in the last three months".

"I'd be very surprised if he started," added Shearer. "If needs be he can come and make an impact if England are chasing the game. Once he gets on, he may force the manager's hand."

According to data from the 1m uses so far, a BBC Sport team selector XI for England's first game against Russia in Marseille on 11 June, would be:

BBC Sport users' England XI at Euro 2016BBC Sport users' England XI at Euro 2016http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/184B1/production/_89850599_englandstartingxi.jpg

Source: bbc.com

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01/Jun/2016

Euro 2016: Marcus Rashford in England squad - Townsend and Drinkwater miss out

Manchester United's teenage striker Marcus Rashford has been named in Roy Hodgson's 23-man England squad for the 2016 European Championship in France.

Rashford, 18, scored on his international debut in the 2-1 friendly victory over Australia on Friday.

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is also included, but Newcastle United's Andros Townsend and Leicester City's Danny Drinkwater both miss out.

England face Portugal in their last Euro 2016 warm-up match on Thursday.

Hodgson's side begin their campaign in France by playing Russia on 11 June, before meeting Wales on 16 June and Slovakia on 20 June.

Rashford, who signed a new four-year contract with Manchester United on Monday, only made his first-team debut on 25 February, but scored eight goals in 18 club games to earn an international call-up.

Sturridge, 26, missed England's last two friendly matches but did take part in a training session on Monday.

He also trained at Watford's training ground on Tuesday, along with Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, with all three considered fully fit.

Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand, 26, is carrying an unspecified injury but even if he does not play against Portugal at Wembley, he is not regarded as a fitness concern for the tournament.

Drinkwater helped Leicester claim a shock Premier League title, while Townsend - included in the preliminary squad predominantly as cover - was a member of the Newcastle team relegated from the top flight.

The pair were told of their omissions by Hodgson on an individual basis in the manager's hotel room following training.

BBC Sport understands both took the news in a respectful, professional way and wished Hodgson and the team well.

The rest of the squad were informed of Hodgson's selections at a team meeting shortly afterwards.

Drinkwater and Townsend said goodbye to everyone involved before leaving the England camp and will not be on standby for the tournament.

Drinkwater said later he was "disappointed" not to make the final 23 but described the season as a "huge positive".

Former England winger Trevor Sinclair told BBC Radio 5 live: "For me Drinkwater has had such a good season and played such a pivotal part in Leicester's success, he deserves to be in the squad.

"I think he's had an absolutely outstanding season. He's shown what he can do at international level. What he does on the pitch a lot of the time goes unnoticed. He works so unselfishly for the team, I think he may be a big miss for the England squad.

"Townsend will feel unlucky because he's had a great finish to the season, despite Newcastle getting relegated.

"What I will say is, at least he's getting looked at. While he was at Tottenham he wasn't even getting the opportunity because he wasn't playing."

Hodgson initially named a 26-man squad after the final round of Premier League games, having intended to reveal his final selection on 12 May until injury concerns prompted a delay.

That was cut to 25 when Manchester City midfielder Fabian Delph was moved to the standby list after picking up an injury.

Hodgson's squad is the youngest to represent England at a European Championship, with an average age of 25.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley).

Defenders: Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool).

Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).

Source: bbc.com

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31/May/2016

Alan Pulido: Freed Mexico footballer is 'safe and sound'

International football player Alan Pulido is "safe and sound" after police rescued him from kidnappers who seized him in north-eastern Mexico.

Pulido, 25, was abducted at gunpoint on Saturday night in his home town of Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas state.

The striker, who plays for Greek team Olympiakos, phoned police while his captors were distracted, officials say.

A 38-year-old man has been arrested. Officials say he confessed to belonging to a local criminal gang.

Police are searching for another three men believed to have been involved in the kidnapping.

Pulido's car was surrounded by several vehicles as he was leaving a party with his girlfriend on Saturday night.

Map of Tamaulipas

Masked men took him away, leaving his girlfriend unharmed in the car park where the incident took place.

Pulido's family received a phone call on Sunday demanding a ransom payment, state prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla told journalists.

It is not clear whether the family were planning to meet the kidnappers' demands or how big the ransom demand was.

Mr Quintanilla said that the security forces were able to locate Pulido thanks to the phone call he managed to make to police.

He said no shots had been fired and Pulido only sustained a minor injury.

One of his hands bandaged, Pulido told reporters early hours on Monday: "[I am] very well, thank God.'

Tamaulipas is one of Mexico's most violent states, and Mexico recently deployed more security forces to tackle cartels operating in the area.

The country has one of the world's highest kidnapping rates, with government figures saying some 1,000 people are abducted every year.

Others argue that the true figure could be almost 10 times as high.

Pulido joined Olympiakos last July and finished the season with six goals in 15 games.

He was part of Mexico's squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but was not called up for the upcoming Copa America tournament.

Source: bbc.com

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30/May/2016

German row over right-winger's 'racist' Boateng remark

The German right-wing Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party has come under fire over comments by one of its leaders about footballer Jerome Boateng that are widely regarded as racist.

AfD deputy chief Alexander Gauland told a newspaper that Germans would not like to have Boateng, whose father is Ghanaian, as a neighbour.

Boateng, 27, is a defender for German champions Bayern Munich and the national team.

The remark drew immediate condemnation.

Mr Gauland later denied it reflected his own views.

The leader of the AfD, Frauke Petry, apologised for the "impression that has arisen".

The comment was carried by the Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Under the headline "Gauland insults Boateng", the article quotes the politician as saying: "People find him good as a footballer, but they don't want to have Boateng as a neighbour."

Germany manager Oliver Bierhoff said people who made such comments "are simply discrediting themselves".

Justice Minister Heiko Maas called them "unacceptable and shabby".

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the comment showed "that Gauland is not just against foreigners but against the good things about Germany".

'Super footballer'

Mr Gauland said that he had "never insulted Mr Boateng", whom he did not know. He added that he had only "described some people's attitudes'' in a background conversation with the journalists.

AfD leader Frauke Petry told the Bild newspaper that her deputy could not remember making the comment, saying: "Independently of that. I apologise to Mr Boateng for the impression that has arisen."

She later tweeted: "Jerome Boateng is a super footballer who is rightly a member of the German national team. I'm looking forward to the European Championship."

The AfD was started three years ago with a Eurosceptic message and has attracted many voters who are angered by an influx of migrants and by Chancellor Angela Merkel's pro-refugee approach.

Source: bbc.com

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29/May/2016

Olympiakos footballer Alan Pulido kidnapped in Mexico

Mexican footballer Alan Pulido has been kidnapped in the northern border state of Tamaulipas, officials say.

The 25-year-old striker was reportedly kidnapped on Sunday near his home in Ciudad Victoria after leaving a party.

He plays for the Greek team Olympiakos and has made several appearances for Mexico's national team.

Mexico has the one of the world's highest kidnapping rates, with government figures saying some 1,000 people are taken every year.

Others argue that the true figure could be almost 10 times as high.

Criss-crossed by drug smugglers

Local media reports said Pulido had been leaving a party with his girlfriend late on Saturday night when their car was surrounded by several trucks.

Map of Tamaulipas

Six masked men reportedly took the striker away "by force" while his girlfriend was left unharmed in the car park where the incident took place.

Tamaulipas is one of Mexico's most violent states, and Mexico recently deployed more security forces to tackle cartels operating in the area.

Dozens of people have been killed in recent weeks in the border state, which is criss-crossed by drug-smuggling routes to the United States.

Pulido joined Olympiakos last July and finished the season with six goals in 15 games.

Source: bbc.com

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29/May/2016

Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid in a dramatic penalty shootout in Milan

Real Madrid were crowned champions of Europe for the 11th time after beating Atletico Madrid in a dramatic penalty shootout in Milan.

Sergio Ramos' controversial finish put Zinedine Zidane's side ahead before Atletico striker Antoine Griezmann missed a penalty.

However, substitute Yannick Carrasco sent the Champions League final into extra-time with a close-range finish.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck the winning penalty after Juanfran had missed.

How the Champions League final was won: Relive the drama from the San Siro

How the penalty shootout unfolded

In the shootout, Lucas Vazquez, Marcelo and Gareth Bale scored for Real, with Griezmann, Gabi and Saul Niguez replying to make it 3-3.

After Ramos stepped up to make it 4-3, Juanfran hit the post, leaving Ronaldo with the chance to win the cup.

http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/1072C/production/_89827376_pen.jpg

Cristiano Ronaldo scores the winning penalty in the 2016 Champions League final

The competition's all-time leading scorer kept his composure to win it - his third individual Champions League triumph following on his from his successes with Manchester United in 2008 and Real in 2014.

Zidane's tactics deliver silverware

Zidane, a Champions League winner with Real as a player in 2002, replaced Rafael Benitez as manager at the Bernabeu in January, with Real still reeling from a bruising 4-0 hammering by Barcelona earlier in the season and facing the prospect of a second successive campaign without major silverware.

The 43-year-old finishes it as the seventh different manager to deliver a European Cup to Real.

As stylish as his side were going forward, they were just as impressive at the back as Atletico's attacking duo of Griezmann and Fernando Torres were starved of service before the interval.

Bale and Ronaldo repeatedly dropped back into midfield to help cut out the supply routes to Griezmann and Torres, while Karim Benzema also typified Real's work rate by doing his defensive duties.

Atletico were the better side after the break yet fortune was on Real's side as Pepe's rash challenge on Torres went unpunished and Stefan Savic stabbed another golden chance wide.

Bale shines ahead of Euro 2016

Bale was excellent as Real dominated the first half - powerful going forward and quick to help out at the back when required.

The Wales international was a danger at set pieces while he was heavily involved as his side took the lead.

Despite having an effort cleared off the line, Bale faded after the break and he spent most of extra-time limping around the pitch with cramp, unsurprising considering his work rate.

Yet he still put himself forward for the decisive shootout - and scored with a cool, low finish to help his team to a famous win.

What now for Simeone and Atletico?

Three weeks ago, Atletico were on course for a La Liga and Champions League double, yet Diego Simeone's side end the season without a trophy after the most heartbreaking of defeats.

Having finished three points behind champions Barcelona in Spain, they are left to reflect on what might have been despite an impressive second-half performance at the San Siro.

Griezmann became more dangerous but his missed penalty proved crucial, even though Carrasco later levelled after Juanfran's brilliant volleyed cross.

It is the third time Atletico have reached the final and failed to win yet the future remains bright, with Simeone likely to remain in charge next season despite earlier reported interest from Premier League clubs.

His task this summer will be keeping his assets, with Griezmann and midfielder Saul having been linked with moves to Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.

Clattenburg emerges with praise

England's Mark Clattenburg had his work cut out as he refereed a tempestuous derby, which saw eight bookings.

Real defender Pepe was at his theatrical best from the start as he tried to influence the Premier League official, who also had to calm down Simeone after Dani Carvajal's early foul on Griezmann.

Ramos put Real ahead from what looked like an offside position but Clattenburg's assistant kept his flag down.

However the 41-year-old from County Durham, who will be officiating at Euro 2016, was right to award the penalty which saw Griezmann hit the underside of the bar in the 47th minute.

The stats you need to know

  • Atletico have now contested more European Cup/Champions League finals without winning the trophy than any other club (three).
  • This was the eighth Champions League final to go to extra-time, and the seventh to go to a penalty shootout.
  • Zinedine Zidane is the second man (after Miguel Munoz) to win the European Cup/Champions League with Real Madrid as both a player and a manager.
  • Zidane is the first French manager to win the Champions League.
  • Sergio Ramos became the fifth player to score in two different Champions League finals, and the first defender to do so (also Raul, Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo).
  • Indeed, Ramos joins Messi and Eto'o as one of three players to score in his first two Champions League finals.
  • Antoine Griezmann became the first player since Arjen Robben in 2012 to miss a penalty in the Champions League final (excluding shootouts).
  • Only Marcello Lippi (three) has lost more Champions League finals as a manager than Diego Simeone (two).

Source: bbc.com

 

 

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28/May/2016

Jose Mourinho: Manchester United to appoint former Chelsea boss

Manchester United are set to appoint Jose Mourinho as their new manager, BBC Sport understands.

It is believed a deal with the 53-year-old Portuguese was agreed in principle before United's FA Cup final win against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

With United failing to qualify for the Champions League under Louis van Gaal, the Old Trafford hierarchy is thought to have decided a change is required.

Mourinho has been out of work since he was sacked by Chelsea in December.

The club plan to announce his arrival early next week after telling Van Gaal, 64, his reign has come to an end.

Van Gaal remains defiant

In the post-match news conference following United's FA Cup win, the Dutchman said: "I show you the cup and I don't discuss it [my future] with my friends of the media, who already sacked me for six months. Which manager can do what I have done?"

When pressed on whether he will be at Old Trafford as manager of United next season, he replied: "I hope to see you. I don't want to talk about about leaving this club."

The Dutchman still has one season remaining on his three-year deal, but despite spending £250m on new players, his tenure has disappointed many fans, the club finishing fourth and then fifth in the Premier League.

Mourinho remains silent

Van Gaal's grip on his job has seemed increasingly fragile this season, with Mourinho known to covet the task of masterminding a revival at United three years after legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down.

The Portuguese was at heavyweight boxer David Haye's win in London on Saturday evening but repeatedly declined to comment on whether he was about to succeed Van Gaal.

Mourinho is one of the game's most successful coaches, winning three league titles in his two spells at Stamford Bridge, as well as guiding Porto and Inter Milan to Champions League victories in 2004 and 2010 respectively.

He also led Real Madrid to the Spanish La Liga title in 2012, and his arrival will mean a mouthwatering resumption of his rivalry with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard will take over at United's arch-rivals Manchester City this summer.

Having sacked previous manager David Moyes just 10 months after he succeeded Ferguson, United's executive vice chairman Ed Woodward was desperate for Van Gaal to see out his contract.

Some senior figures at United were also known to have serious reservations about the prospect of the controversial Mourinho, with some preferring Ryan Giggs as an alternative.

The Welshman, who made a record 963 appearances for the club, took over as manager on an interim basis in April 2014 following the sacking of Moyes, and was understood to be keen on the job.

In February however, BBC Sport revealed that United had held talks with Mourinho's representatives, and they have now come to fruition.

Woodward - and United's American owners, the Glazer family - still hoped Van Gaal would lead the club to a top four finish, and up until last month Mourinho's advisers were concerned the club might remain loyal to the Dutch coach.

But fans were not convinced by Van Gaal's tactics. The club's 49 goals in the Premier League this season was United's lowest total since 1989-90, coincidentally a season that also ended with an FA Cup final win over Crystal Palace.

There were occasional high points, not least Van Gaal's theatrical dive in front of the dug-outs during the 3-2 win over Arsenal in February as he accused the Gunners of diving.

But since collecting only three points in six games at the end of 2015, Van Gaal has been under intense pressure.

He has accused the media and former players of "sacking him", and cited injuries as the reason why United have been unable to sustain a title challenge.

Nevertheless, Van Gaal's side still had Champions League qualification in their own hands 14 minutes from the end of their penultimate Premier League game at West Ham, only to concede two late goals, lose 3-2 and allow Manchester City to claim the fourth qualifying slot.

And, after members of the United hierarchy suggested in December that the season was 80% about the Premier League, it is the failure to qualify for the Champions League that has appeared to seal Van Gaal's fate.

Despite his track record, some will question United's decision to appoint Mourinho.

He was sacked by Chelsea in December just seven months after leading them to the Premier League title, with their season overshadowed by a spectacular slump in form and issues off the pitch that included a public fallout with club doctor Eva Carneiro.

Ultimately however, United appear to have decided it is a risk worth taking.

Mourinho has never hidden his admiration for United, and for Ferguson. Now it seems he will have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

The appointment will mean some long overdue issues can be dealt with, not least whether the club's second longest-serving player Michael Carrick should be awarded a new contract.

It remains to be seen what Giggs will do.

Having served under Moyes and Van Gaal, the prospect of continuing his apprenticeship under a third United boss may not appeal.

It remains to be seen whether the club can find an alternative role for their most decorated player.

Giggs would not be short of offers if he decided to join the management ranks.

But many of the Welshman's former team-mates - most recently close friend Gary Neville at Valencia - have not found management easy.

Source: bbc.com

 

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21/May/2016

Euro 2016: Diego Costa, Juan Mata & Fernando Torres not in Spain squad

Chelsea striker Diego Costa has been left out of Spain's provisional squad for Euro 2016.

Coach Vicente del Bosque has also overlooked Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata and Atletico Madrid's former Liverpool forward Fernando Torres.

Holders Spain are in Group D, along with Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey as they chase a third successive European Championship title.

Brazil-born Costa has scored one goal in 10 games since switching allegiance.

The 27-year-old netted 16 goals in 41 appearances for Chelsea this season, but missed their final two games with a persistent hamstring injury.

"We didn't want to have too many players with doubts regarding their physical condition," said Del Bosque, who led Spain to the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 titles.

Mata, 28, featured in both of Spain's friendly matches in March, but misses out after a season where he scored nine goals and provided eight assists for his club.

Torres, 31, has scored seven goals in his past 11 games, leading to speculation he might be recalled for the first time since Spain's embarrassing exit at the group at the 2014 World Cup.

Bayern Munich defender Javi Martinez and Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla are other notable omissions, while coach Del Bosque has included Athletic Bilbao's 35-year-old striker Aritz Aduriz.

There were also call-ups for uncapped pair Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez.

The Premier League-based players are: Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, Chelsea trio Pedro, Cesar Azpilicueta and Cesc Fabregas and Manchester City playmaker David Silva.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Porto), David de Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Rico (Sevilla)

Defenders: Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Marc Bartra (all Barcelona), Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta (both Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Koke, Saul Niguez (both Atletico Madrid), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Isco (Real Madrid), Bruno Soriano (Villarreal)

Forwards: Pedro Rodriguez (Chelsea), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao), Nolito (Celta Vigo), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid)

Source: bbc.com

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17/May/2016

Rio 2016: Up to 31 athletes could be banned after Beijing retests

Up to 31 athletes from six sports could be banned from competing at the Rio Games, Olympic chiefs have said.

The announcement comes after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) retested 454 selected doping samples from the 2008 Games in Beijing.

The IOC said the retests were conducted using the very latest scientific analysis methods.

It also revealed it is awaiting the results of 250 retests from the 2012 Olympics in London.

"All these measures are a powerful strike against the cheats we do not allow to win," IOC president Thomas Bach said.

"They show once again that dopers have no place to hide. We keep samples for 10 years so that the cheats know that they can never rest.

"By stopping so many doped athletes from participating in Rio, we are showing once more our determination to protect the integrity of the Olympic competition."

More than 4,500 tests were carried out at the Beijing Games in 2008 - but just nine athletes were caught cheating.

The IOC said the retests were focused on athletes who could potentially take part in Rio.

It added 12 affected national Olympic associations would be informed in the coming days.

However, the IOC said it would not be revealing the names of athletes who had returned adverse findings until B-samples had been tested and individuals informed.

The British Olympic Association said it has not been contacted by the IOC.

The organisation also confirmed it is to start re-testing samples from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Last week, a whistleblower alleged Russian secret service agents helped to protect drug cheats in Sochi, although the Russian authorities denied the claims.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is now investigating those allegations and on Tuesday announced it had appointed former Interpol agent and French Gendarmerie major Mathieu Holz to lead the inquiry.

IOC steps up doping fight

The latest measures taken by the IOC come after Russia and Kenya were found to have breached anti-doping rules in recent months.

Russia was banned from athletics competition in November after a Wada commission report recommended the sanction.

The nation's athletics federation accepted its ban from international competition, with sports minister Vitaly Mutko saying this week Russia was "very sorry" and "ashamed" of cheating athletes who were not caught by its anti-doping systems.

But he argued not lifting the ban for the Rio Games would be "unfair and disproportionate" and that clean athletes should not be punished.

Meanwhile, Kenyan sports minister Hassan Wario is confident the nation will not be banned from Rio despite being judged to be non-compliant with the global anti-doping code.

Wada has written to Kenya, outlining what it must do to meet the anti-doping code.

The IOC said it is funding Wada to carry out intelligence-gathering before the Rio Games to make pre-event testing "as efficient and independent as possible".

Source: bbc.com

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17/May/2016

City miss out on Champoins League final spot

Manchester City failed to reach their first Champions League final after an uninspiring semi-final second-leg display at 10-time winners Real Madrid.

After a goalless draw in the first leg, Real took the lead when Gareth Bale's cross deflected off City's Fernando.

Fernandinho clipped the post in a rare City chance, but Real dominated as Bale hit the bar and Joe Hart saved from Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real saw out the win to meet Atletico Madrid in the final later this month.

The English side knew they potentially only needed one away goal to progress, but appeared reluctant to go for broke in the final stages - despite being encouraged to attack by the vocal 4,500 away supporters.

The home side's only other moment of concern came in the closing minutes when Sergio Aguero's speculative effort flew on to the roof of the goal.

Now they will meet Atletico at Milan's San Siro on 28 May, in a repeat of the 2014 final which Real won 4-1 after extra-time.

No dream goodbye for Pellegrini

City started the second leg knowing there would be no potentially awkward meeting with incoming manager Pep Guardiola in the final, his Bayern Munich side having fallen in their last-four tie against Atletico on Tuesday.

Now Pellegrini, like his Spanish successor at Bayern, will end his three-year reign without a dream goodbye in the San Siro.

Nevertheless, the Chilean will always be remembered for taking the Blues into the Champions League knockout stage for the first time.

Pellegrini finally succeeded where predecessor Roberto Mancini failed, but City's demanding owners will be expecting Guardiola to take their club into the latter stages as a minimum requirement.

Judging by their performance over the two legs against Real, the former Barcelona coach may decide his inherited squad needs an injection of world-class talent to regularly compete with Europe's elite.

For large periods, City lacked pace and energy against the Spanish title hopefuls - and, crucially, offered little attacking threat.

Key centre-back Vincent Kompany's early departure through injury left them lacking defensive organisation, while Yaya Toure's return failed to add any intensity to a midfield lacking bite in the Bernabeu.

And mustering only one shot on target in each leg was a telling statistic.

City's hopes hit by Kompany injury

City suffered a cruel blow inside the opening 10 minutes when skipper Kompany trudged off, a familiar sight this season.

The Belgium centre-half's miserable luck with injuries continues, and the English visitors looked far less assured at the back without their leader.

His departure disrupted an encouraging start by the visitors - and they were punished shortly afterwards.

The away defence, still regrouping, stood off a Madrid attack down the right, allowing Bale to run behind them on to right-back Carvajal's pass and thump the ball in off Fernando's outstretched foot.

Hart rightly described the winner as "lucky", but in truth City could have conceded more over the two legs.

At the Bernabeu, the home players - particularly Bale and the returning Ronaldo - often ghosted between centre-halves Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi too easily.

England keeper Hart, who saved City from losing the first leg, again came to the rescue to give City hope until the final whistle.

Should Real have been reduced to 10 men?

Raheem Sterling has struggled to live up to his £49m price tag since arriving from Liverpool last summer, but the England international's introduction as a second-half substitute provided a little more spark for the visitors.

The attacking midfielder was scythed down by home substitute Lucas Vazquez, who lunged in with an awful challenge close to the corner flag.

Vazquez was booked by Slovenian referee Damir Skomina - but was lucky to escape a red card for the 83rd-minute tackle.

Had he been dismissed, the numerical advantage might just have given City a better chance in the final 10 minutes.

Bale 'turns a corner' in Spain

While all the pre-match talk centred around the threat to City from Ronaldo, Wales forward Bale again demonstrated his emergence as one of Real's most important players - little over a year after he was jeered by fans.

"I feel like I am maturing," said the 26-year-old, who cost a world-record £85m fee when he joined Real in September 2013.

"My Spanish is getting better and I'm integrating more with the team. I feel like I have turned a corner in that sense and I'm enjoying my football here."

What's next?

City must put this disappointing defeat behind them and focus on making sure they play in the Champions League under Guardiola next season.

The Blues currently occupy the Premier League's fourth and final qualification spot, four points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United who have played a game fewer.

Pellegrini's side host third-placed Arsenal on Sunday - a key game in deciding the top four.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid have a Spanish title race to concentrate on. Zinedine Zidane's third-placed side trail both Barcelona and Atletico by one point with two rounds of matches left.

The stats you need to know

  • Real Madrid have reached their 14th European Cup/Champions League final, a record in the competition.
  • It will be the third time in the past four years that the Champions League final has been contested by teams from the same nation.
  • The Spanish giants have won all six of their Champions League home games this season, keeping a clean sheet each time.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo played in his 17th Champions League semi-final - the joint most in the competition along with Xabi Alonso.
  • Sergio Aguero has failed to score in his past five Champions League games - his joint-longest drought in the competition with Manchester City (also between November 2011 and December 2012).
  • Aguero has not managed a shot on target in his last 522 minutes of Champions League action.
  • Keylor Navas has kept 11 clean sheets in his 12 Champions League appearances, including all six at the Bernabeu.
  • Manchester City have been eliminated by Spanish opposition for the third consecutive Champions League season.
  • For the third season in a row, a manager has reached the Champions League final in his first season in the competition (Diego Simeone 2014, Luis Enrique 2015, Zinedine Zidane 2016).

Source: bbc.com

 

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05/May/2016

Is Pep a one team coach?

Atletico Madrid reached their second Champions League final in three years by edging past Bayern Munich on away goals in a pulsating semi-final.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Spain, Bayern levelled the tie through Xabi Alonso's deflected free-kick.

Atletico keeper Jan Oblak saved Thomas Muller's low penalty, before Antoine Griezmann coolly fired in an equaliser.

Robert Lewandowski's header set up a tense finish, but Atletico held on after Fernando Torres missed a penalty.

Bayern, backed by a vociferous home crowd, desperately pressed for a third goal that would send them through.

However, they could not find a way past Oblak, who blocked David Alaba's 20-yard volley in injury time.

Atletico, aiming to be crowned European champions for the first time, will meet Manchester City or Real Madrid in the final in Milan on 28 May.

City face Atletico's neighbours at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday after the teams drew 0-0 in last week's first leg.

Relive an eventful night in Munich

Decisions, decisions, decisions...and drama

There was a tense atmosphere throughout the second leg in Munich, with the tie delicately balanced until the final whistle.

Bayern's opening goal, Muller's penalty miss and tempers flaring on the touchline - Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone animatedly disagreeing over a decision - had already made for an entertaining first half.

Griezmann's vital away goal and Lewandowski's close-range finish - nodding in Arturo Vidal's headed cross from four yards - pointed towards even more drama in the final 15 minutes.

However, the anticipated Bayern onslaught failed to materialise.

Instead, Atletico won a penalty, despite Torres being fouled outside the box, before Simeone lost his cool again when he appeared to strike a member of his own staff.

Still Bayern needed only one goal to progress - and had five minutes of added time to score it. But Atletico survived, sparking wild celebrations among Simeone and his players.

Third time lucky for Atletico?

Atletico have lost twice in the final of Europe's leading club competition - to Bayern in the 1974 European Cup and against neighbours Real two years ago.

Against a team playing in their fifth successive semi-final, they produced another display of remarkable defiance at the Allianz Arena.

German champions Bayern had 33 attempts on goal and 72% of possession - but it still was not enough to beat the gritty Spaniards.

The hallmark of Atletico's recent success has been their strength in defence, with Simeone's side developing a reputation as one of the toughest teams in Europe to break down.

However, the quality of their clinical attack should not be overlooked.

Atletico had not even managed a single touch in the Bayern penalty area until Griezmann fired in from the edge of the box.

The France striker marginally beat the Bayern offside trap, latching on to Torres' through ball before coolly drilling underneath Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer.

More Spanish misery for Pep

Guardiola is regarded as one of the world's greatest coaches, having won trophies galore with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

But the Spaniard will leave for Manchester City in the summer having failed to deliver the Champions League in his three-year spell in Bavaria.

Guardiola had acknowledged that winning the club's sixth European crown - or not - would be how his reign at Bayern was judged.

His side lost against Spanish opposition in the semi-finals in each of the past two seasons - to Real Madrid in 2014 and his former club Barcelona last year.

Atletico were well placed to make it an unwanted hat-trick after Saul Niguez's sublime first-leg goal in Madrid put them in control.

The Spanish title hopefuls rode their luck at times after Alonso's opener, particularly in the first half when they were outclassed by an aggressive and high-pressing Bayern side.

But they regrouped after the break, keeping their discipline and shape as Bayern's 12th successive Champions League home win proved meaningless.

"We tried to press them high, have counter-attacks and this was why we got the goal," said former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Torres.

Not Muller time

Muller was named in the Bayern starting line-up after he was surprisingly left on the bench in Madrid last week.

Guardiola was heavily criticised in the German media for that decision, with Muller - who has scored 32 goals in 46 matches this season - so often a match-winner for club and country.

But the Germany forward's most decisive contribution in the second leg was failing to convert his first-half spot-kick.

That would have put Bayern ahead in the tie for the first time, just as Atletico's usually unruffled defence started to look rattled.

"The missed penalty gave us life," said Atletico coach Simeone, who was close to tears after Griezmann's goal.

The stats you need to know

  • Atletico Madrid progressed to the final after their 100th tie in Europe's leading club competition.
  • Antoine Griezmann is Atletico Madrid's top scorer in Champions League history with nine goals.
  • Thomas Muller has missed his past two penalties in the Champions League, scoring seven out of 10 in the competition.
  • Jan Oblak has saved two of the three penalties he has faced as Atletico Madrid's keeper (all competitions).
  • All six of Xabi Alonso's goals for Bayern have been scored from outside the box.
  • Alonso's goal was the first Atleti had conceded in 632 minutes in any competition.
  • Only Cristiano Ronaldo (10) has more goals in the Champions League semi-finals than Robert Lewandowski (six).
  • Pep Guardiola has been knocked out in his past four Champions League semi-finals.

What next?

Before Atletico can turn their attention to the Champions League final, they must focus on a thrilling Spanish title race.

Simeone's second-placed side, who won La Liga in 2014, are level on points with defending champions Barcelona with two games left. Third-placed Real Madrid are a point further behind.

Bayern, meanwhile, can still win the domestic double in Guardiola's final season in charge.

Two more points will clinch their fourth straight Bundesliga title even if nearest rivals Borussia Dortmund win both of their final two games.

They face Dortmund in the German Cup final on 21 May.

Source: bbc.com

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04/May/2016

Saul Niguez's sublime solo goal put Atletico Madrid ahead of Bayern in UCL

Saul Niguez's sublime solo goal put Atletico Madrid in control of their Champions League semi-final against German giants Bayern Munich.

Niguez jinked past a clutch of Bayern defenders before curling into the corner, giving the home side a narrow first-leg lead to take to Germany.

Bayern dominated the second half, David Alaba hitting the bar from 35 yards and Arturo Vidal's strike forcing a save.

Fernando Torres poked against the post in a rare counter as Atletico held on.

The teams will meet at Bayern's Allianz Arena on Tuesday to decide who will meet Manchester City or Real Madrid in the final on 28 May.

Relive Atletico's tense win at the Vicente Calderon

Better call Saul

Atletico - for so many years in the shadow of illustrious neighbours Real Madrid - have never been crowned European champions, twice losing in the final of the continent's leading club competition.

Under coach Diego Simeone, Los Rojiblancos have emerged as serious challengers to Spain's regular duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid and have now put themselves in a decent position to create history by winning the Champions League.

With Bayern boasting a remarkable home record of only one defeat in 24 matches, the tie is far from over.

But Niguez - a Spain Under-21 international who has cemented his place in the Atletico side this season - extended the Spanish title-chasing side's own excellent form at a raucous Vicente Calderon.

The 21-year-old midfielder picked up the ball about 35 yards from goal, dancing through flimsy challenges from Bayern trio Thiago Alcantara, Juan Bernat and Xabi Alonso, then keeping his composure to steer the ball into the bottom corner.

Atletico defence blunts Bayern attack

Much of Atletico's success under Simeone has been built on defensive resilience, with his organised side conceding just five goals in this season's Champions League.

Atletico had also kept clean sheets in their previous four La Liga games but faced Bayern - the competition's top scorers with 28 goals in 10 matches - without defensive lynchpin Diego Godin.

However, the injured Uruguay centre-back, 30, was barely missed as a typically determined Atletico display shut out Bayern.

Atletico v Bayern

Former Argentina midfielder Simeone slightly altered his side's defensive tactics in the first half, occasionally pressing Bayern higher up the pitch, before reverting to their deep and compact shape after the break.

The German side, who are one win away from a fourth consecutive Bundesliga title, totally dominated in the second half as Alaba and Vidal went closest to equalising.

Home keeper Jan Oblak also blocked Javi Martinez's close-range header in-between, helping Atletico secure a 14th clean sheet in 16 Champions League home matches.

Uno, dos, tres - third time unlucky for Pep?

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola's three-year reign ends in the summer when he moves to Manchester City, with the Spaniard admitting his time in Germany will be judged on his ability to win the Champions League.

His side have lost to Spanish opposition at the semi-final stage in each of the past two seasons, knocked out by Real Madrid in 2014 and Guardiola's former club Barcelona last year.

Now the Catalan coach must outwit Simeone next week to avoid a clean sweep of defeats by La Liga's big three.

Guardiola, on course to comfortably win the Bundesliga in each of his three seasons, may reflect on his decision to leave Germany forward Thomas Muller on the bench until the final quarter of the match.

Muller is their joint top scorer in the Champions League having scored eight goals in his 10 appearances this season.

With Guardiola's gameplan seemingly relying heavily on crosses into the Atletico box, the absence of the predatory Muller appeared even more strange.

Post-match reaction

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone:

"The first half was very close to what we wanted. In the second half they were better and got in behind but we felt comfortable, we defended well.

"It was a great piece of individual skill with lots of creativity, Saul Niguez is developing well which is great for us.

"I think it's still an open tie, they will be playing at home next week with their fans behind them but we have the chance to get an away goal. It'll be a close game like today, we'll see who makes the most of their chances."

Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres:

"It was a fantastic night and I'm happy for all Atleticos. We've got the lead we wanted.

"We kept fighting, that's what we do. Bayern have a level that few other teams have but we kept on doing our thing."

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola:

"Their goal is a brilliant goal, but it's our mistake. We kept standing off. I'm not happy with how we played.

"It was a good game overall, but we started badly. The goal was a consequence of our slow play."

What's next?

Both teams continue the pursuit of their domestic league titles this weekend.

Second-placed Atletico, who are level on points with leaders Barcelona, host lowly Rayo Vallecano as they bid for a second La Liga title in three seasons.

Bundesliga champions-elect Bayern also play on Saturday when they host fifth-placed Borussia Monchengladbach.

Stats of the day

  • Atletico have won 13 of their 17 home Champions League games under Diego Simeone, drawing three and losing one.
  • Atletico have scored against 23 of the 25 teams they have faced this season in all competitions, only failing to score against Villarreal and PSV Eindhoven.
  • Bayern Munich are winless in their past eight away games in the Champions League knockout stages, drawing four and losing four.
  • Robert Lewandowski has failed to score in eight of his past nine Champions League games outside the Allianz Arena.
  • Bayern defender David Alaba made his 50th appearance in the Champions league - more than any other Austrian player.

Source: bbc.com

 

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27/Apr/2016

City draw with Madrid at Etihad

Joe Hart kept Manchester City's hopes of reaching their first Champions League final alive with two brilliant late saves that ensured their semi-final first leg with Real Madrid finished goalless.

With star striker Cristiano Ronaldo missing because of a thigh injury, a cautious Real side offered little goal threat until the closing stages.

But in the last 20 minutes, Jese headed against the bar for the Spanish side before Hart brilliantly denied Casemiro and Pepe from corners.

Hart showed great reactions to keep out Casemiro's header with his foot but his block to deny Pepe, who was unmarked and five yards from goal, is the standout reason City will travel to Spain next week with a precious clean sheet.

The closest City came to a goal of their own was when Keylor Navas tipped over Kevin de Bruyne's dipping free-kick in stoppage time.

Relive a tense first leg at Etihad Stadium

Football Daily podcast: 'A professional European display by Manchester City'

That was Navas' only save of a game that was billed as a shootout between two attacking sides but was, in fact, a game largely devoid of goalmouth action.

City will take the positives from denying Real an away goal but England's last remaining representatives in Europe's elite competition still face a huge task if they are to reach the final, in Milan on 28 May.

Their failure to score at home means former Real boss Manuel Pellegrini does not have a lead to take back to the Bernabeu, where Zinedine Zidane's side have not conceded a goal in the Champions League all season.

No Ronaldo, no Real threat

The news Ronaldo's thigh muscle was deemed too tight for him to play was clearly a massive boost for City before their first Champions League semi-final.

Without their 47-goal top scorer, a Real side that had scored 133 goals in their previous 46 games this season seemed reluctant to commit men forward and struggled to create chances.

Gareth Bale, playing his first game in England since his £85m move to Real from Spurs in 2013, was unable to provide the spark in Ronaldo's absence.

Bale did get the better of Gael Clichy early on down the right but failed to find a team-mate with his crosses and his finishing was also below his usual standards.

The Wales winger cut in to send one curling shot bouncing wide in the second half but disappointed with a free-kick from the edge of the box which he fired against the City wall.

Both of Real's late chances came from set-pieces and they struggled to open up City.

City also shot-shy

The home side were not helped by David Silva being forced off by injury before half-time and were short of their customary zip in the final third.

Sergio Aguero was starved of service and only managed one shot at goal, which came when he fired over from the edge of the box at the start of the second half.

The former Atletico Madrid striker has now played Real 13 times in his career and has still never beaten them, but will get another chance on Wednesday, 4 May.

In truth, City's whole attack will have to do better in the second leg.

De Bruyne, who started in the number 10 role but ended up on the left after Silva's injury, was also short of inspiration, Jesus Navas made few inroads down the right and Kelechi Iheanacho's pace had little impact.

Post-match reaction

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini:

"We played a very intense game and defended well. We tried to create until David Silva got injured then we lost the ball too much. If you cannot win then a 0-0 draw is good.

"We knew they were going to play a slow game and that is why we pressed as a team. When we had the ball, we could not make the difference. We could not score."

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany:

"It is too close to call at the moment - 0-0 is a very dangerous scoreline.

"From the moment we manage to score in Madrid, it will be very different.

"It is hard to keep a clean sheet against such an attacking team. We can be proud of what we have achieved in this first leg."

What next?

The first leg of the other semi-final, between Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, takes place in Spain on Wednesday.

Before their trip to Madrid, City travel to Southampton on Sunday in a 16:30 BST kick-off. With three league games remaining, Pellegrini's side are still in need of Premier League points to secure a top-four finish that will make sure of Champions League football next season too.

Real, third in La Liga and a point behind leaders Barcelona, are already certain of their Champions League place but are still in the title race. They also have an away game this weekend - against Real Sociedad at 15:00 BST on Saturday.

Stats of the day

  • The first goal attempt of the game - by City defender Nicolas Otamendi - came after 27 minutes, the latest in any Champions League game this season.
  • Real Madrid were involved in only their ninth goalless draw in their 223rd Champions League game.
  • They have won just 43% of their Champions League games without Ronaldo since 2009-10 (3/7), and 71% with him.
  • This was just the fourth Champions League game this season without a first-half shot on target.
  • City have managed only three shots on target in total their past three Champions League home games (one in each).
  • Aguero has now gone 432 minutes without having a shot on target in the Champions League.
  • De Bruyne completed just 62.8% of his passes, the lowest figure for any outfield player.

Source: bbc.com

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26/Apr/2016

High school basketball star Jonathan Nicola is 30 years old

An African man who has emerged as a basketball star at a high school in Canada is supposedly 30 years old.

Jonathan Nicola, who left South Sudan and arrived in Windsor, Ontario last November, was arrested Wednesday at the Canadian border. The Windsor Star reports that Nicola was still being held by the Canada Border Services Agency as of Wednesday afternoon for allegedly contravening the Immigration Refugee Protection Act. The agency did not elaborate on what Nicola was accused of doing.

Nicola said back in January that he turned 17 on Nov. 25, 2015. He also spoke about diseases and war in his home country of South Sudan and the long process he went through to obtain a Canadian student visa.

“A few of my friends know of my background, how we live over there,” Nicola explained at the time. “I don’t know how many of them have a clue of how it is in Africa. With the war going on, terrorism and all this, they make it real double hard (to obtain a visa).”

Authorities believe Nicola is 30. Catholic Central High School spokesman Stephen Fields said the school cannot comment on Nicola’s case.

“Generally I can tell you that we have a system of checks and balances in place that whenever international students are coming into any of our schools, we make sure that they have all of the necessary government documentation that they require in order to be in one of our schools,” said Fields. “Again, generally speaking, if we felt at any time that there is any kind of threat to any of our students at any of our schools, then we would act appropriately.”

Nicola stands at 6-foot-9 and is enrolled as an 11th grader. Catholic Central basketball coach Pete Cusumano said a few months ago that he believes Nicola has a shot at going pro.

Whenever we hear that minors who are playing sports have lied about their age, there is one story that comes to mind. You have feel sorry for Nicola for the situation he came from, but there are going to be a lot of furious people if it is determined that he is, in fact, a 30-year-old man.

Source: larrybrownsports.com

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21/Apr/2016

Champions League: Man City drawn against Real Madrid in semi-final

Manchester City will play Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals.

That means City could face incoming manager Pep Guardiola in the final, after his Bayern Munich side were drawn against Atletico Madrid in the other tie.

Guardiola will replace current City boss Manuel Pellegrini in the summer.

The first leg will take place in Manchester at Etihad Stadium on 26 April, with the return leg in Spain's capital on 4 May.

"It is a difficult draw," said former Real Madrid boss Pellegrini. "It doesn't matter which team we played. The options are the same.

"I always prefer to finish at home but that is not the most important thing."

The final takes place at Milan's San Siro Stadium on 28 May.

More on the Champions League
Man City: 'Personal pride and giant step forward'
Uefa opens Man City disciplinary case
Hat-trick answers critics - Ronaldo
Barcelona are in a hole, says Enrique

Ronaldo back in Manchester

Pellegrini was manager at Real Madrid from 2009 to 2010, during which time Cristiano Ronaldo was bought from Manchester United for £80m, while Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso were also signed.

However, the Chilean was sacked after only one season and replaced by Jose Mourinho, following early elimination from the Champions League and also missing out on the domestic championship to Barcelona.

Former Manchester United forward Ronaldo, 31, is the leading scorer in this season's Champions League with 16 goals.

He is also the competition's all-time record goalscorer, with 93 in 125 appearances, and scored a hat-trick as Real overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit against Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals.

What happens if Manchester City and Liverpool win the Champions League and Europa League?
Winners of the Champions League and Europa League are guaranteed to qualify for next season's Champions League
A maximum of five clubs per country are allowed to compete in the Champions League
So should Manchester City and Liverpool win their respective titles but finish outside the top four, only the Premier League's top three would qualify for the Champions League, alongside the two European competition winners
A European trophy for both Manchester City and Liverpool would mean Manchester United or West Ham missing out on the Champions League even if they finish fourth in the Premier League
England would not gain an extra spot in the Champions League if Manchester City or Liverpool win their respective competitions and finish in the top four

Repeat of 2014 final a possibility

Friday's draw means there is still the prospect of a repeat of the 2014 final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, when Real scored three times in extra-time to beat their city rivals.

Atletico reached the last four by knocking out reigning champions Barcelona in the quarter-finals.

Bayern Munich, top of the Bundesliga table, are five-time champions of Europe, their last success coming in 2013.

The draw means four Spanish clubs could contest both the Champions League and Europa League finals after Sevilla and Villarreal were kept apart in the Europa League semi-finals.

We don't get 'easy' ties - Zidane

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has dismissed suggestions from the Spanish media that facing Man City represents another favourable draw for his side after they avoided Atletico and Bayern.

The 10-time European champions knocked out Italian side Roma in the last 16, before beating Wolfsburg - currently eighth in the German Bundesliga - to reach the last four.

"I don't agree that our knockout ties are always the easiest," said Zidane. "You've already seen us lose 2-0 in the first leg against Wolfsburg, so I don't want to hear this.

"Everyone we've faced so far have been strong: Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City.

"It will be a very difficult knockout tie. The only positive is that we play the second leg at home. I'm certain that it will be a real battle."

Bayern face 'monsters of passion'

Bayern's former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola will try to outwit Atletico counterpart Diego Simeone when the pair meet again in the other semi-final.

The sides play at Atletico's Vicente Calderon stadium on 27 April, with the return leg at the Allianz Arena on 3 May.

"I know the Spanish league very well and I know how strong Atletico are," said Guardiola.

"They know exactly what they have to do. It's always very complicated against them. We need 90 minutes and then another 90 minutes of full concentration.

"Diego Simeone is one of the best coaches in the world. He's changed the club; Atletico have reached a new level over the last five years."

Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer added: "Atletico are monsters of passion. They are honest and authentic."

Source: bbc.com

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15/Apr/2016

Video referees in football 'no later' than 2017-18 - IFAB

A trial of the use of video assistant referees for "game-changing decisions" in football will begin no later than the 2017-18 season.

Technology would only be applied to key incidents concerning goals, red cards, mistaken identities and penalties.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) says it has had interest in hosting live trials from 12 national associations and one confederation.

The news was announced following a meeting of the IFAB in Cardiff.

New Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who believes greater use of technology within the game is inevitable, called it a "historic" day for the sport and said the decision proved the game's leaders were "listening to football".

The IFAB, which is made up of the four British football associations and Fifa, says a final decision on approving the technology for use throughout the game will only be made following a thorough period of testing and an agreement on the protocols for its use.

Infantino said: "We cannot close our eyes to the future but it doesn't mean to say it will work.

"The flow of the game is crucial. We cannot put that in danger. That is why we have to be open to test."

In addition to the video technology trials, the IFAB has also decided to end the 'triple punishment rule'.

It means in instances in which the referee feels defenders have made a legitimate attempt to make a tackle inside the penalty area, they will not be sent off if they commit a foul. A penalty and, possible goal against their team, is deemed sufficient punishment.

This would not apply when the offence is holding, pushing or pulling, the defender does not attempt to play the ball or the offence would be worthy of a red card if it had been committed elsewhere in the penalty area.

How will video referees work?

Will the natural flow of the game be disrupted?

The IFAB is determined this must not happen. At their news conference on Saturday, it was stressed repeatedly that if the flow of the game was hindered, the video experiment would not be implemented on a full-time basis. Logistical issues, such as when a referee stops the game for a video review, are the major reasons the IFAB have been so reluctant to say when the experiment will begin.

What about offside?

Ordinarily, referees will not stop the game to review an offside decision. However, there is a caveat. Goals can be reviewed so if there is a potential offside in the build-up to a goal, this can be checked.

Will we see it in Britain?

It is possible. The IFAB says 12 countries have expressed interest in hosting trials. Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan said the Scottish Cup could be the ideal vehicle, so it is fair to assume Scotland is one of those interested.

At which levels of the game will it be used?

This is still to be decided. Football has always been proud of the fact the game is essentially the same, whether it is played on a park or in the biggest stadiums. Technology, clearly, is not available to all. However, even at a professional level, not all grounds in all countries have access to the number of cameras needed to provide adequate cover to make key decisions.

Will players like it?

Generally speaking, those involved in the game - be they players, managers or officials - are willing to embrace anything that ensures more correct decisions are made. No system is 100% foolproof. But tight goalline decisions, such as the one that went against Tottenham in Saturday's north London derby, are now being made correctly because of video technology. Provided it is implemented properly, there is no reason to believe further improvement will not be made with the forthcoming trials.

Further rule changes

The IFAB unanimously approved a comprehensive revision of the Laws of the Game - an 18-month project, led by former English referee David Elleray. It is the most comprehensive revision of the laws undertaken during the IFAB's 130-year existence.

The word count has been halved and gender neutral language introduced throughout.

One of the amendments relates to a player who is injured by a challenge punished by a yellow or red card. Rather than the injured player having to leave the field, which gives the offending team a numerical advantage, the player will be able to have treatment on the pitch (Law 5).

The kick-off is also changing, with players able to move the ball in any direction, rather than just forward (Law 8),

There will also be experimentation with a fourth substitution within extra time, although the league or competition for the trial is yet to be decided.

Source: bbc.com

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15/Apr/2016

Denying a goalscoring opportunity: Red card rule relaxed by IFAB

Players who commit a foul to deny a goalscoring opportunity will no longer automatically be sent off, football's rule-making body has confirmed.

The previous 'triple-punishment' rule required a red card - and therefore a suspension - as well as the award of a penalty under those circumstances.

However, players committing accidental fouls that deny a goalscoring chance will now be cautioned instead.

But deliberate fouls will still incur a red card.

Those include holding, pulling or pushing, not playing the ball, serious foul play, violent conduct or deliberate handball in order to deny a goalscoring opportunity.

The change has been ratified by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) - a body made up of the four British football associations and Fifa - which decides on changes to the Laws of the Game.

It follows a comprehensive, 18-month review, led by former Premier League referee David Elleray.

Italy to trial video replays for penalties

Meanwhile, the IFAB has selected the Italian Football Federation to carry out a new trial of video replays.

The technology will be used to help referees decide whether a goal has been scored, whether a penalty should be awarded, whether a player should be sent off, or in cases of mistaken identity.

Italian Football Federation president Carlo Tavecchio said: "We were among the first supporters of using technology on the pitch and we believe we have everything required to offer our contribution to this important experiment."

Tests initially will be in private before moving to a live pilot phase with replay assistance by the 2017-18 season at the latest.

Source: bbc.com

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15/Apr/2016

Liverpool into last four After Anfield thriller

Liverpool staged one of the most dramatic comebacks Anfield has seen to overcome Borussia Dortmund in a classic and reach the Europa League semi-finals.

Jurgen Klopp's side were twice left needing three goals to go through in the face of Dortmund's rapier attacks - but climbed the mountain twice with Dejan Lovren's injury-time header from James Milner's cross concluding a night packed with drama and emotion.

Anfield commemorated the 27th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 supporters died, with an impeccably observed minute's silence before kick-off - followed by a thriller that will be recalled for generations for sheer excitement and a finale that sent Anfield wild.

The Bundesliga side struck twice inside the first nine minutes through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - both after swift breaks, with the latter sealed by a crisp 14-yard strike - to take a 3-1 aggregate lead in the tie.

The German side missed numerous more chances to extend their lead as Liverpool struggled to cope with their attacking threat.

The Reds slowly grew into the game, creating and missing a succession of chances. Even when Divock Origi gave them hope early in the second half - slotting the ball through the legs of keeper Roman Weidenfeller - it seemed to have been snuffed out by Marco Reus's cool 57th-minute finish.

They still needed three goals with less than 25 minutes left but Philippe Coutinho's low shot cut the deficit and when Mamadou Sakho headed in after 77 minutes, Liverpool stood on the brink of something remarkable.

Amid riotous scenes, Lovren rose to head home in stoppage time in front of the Kop to spark chaotic celebrations and seal a win that will take its place in Anfield folklore.

'You could feel it, hear it, smell it' - Klopp likens win to Istanbul 2005

Relive the goals from BBC Radio 5 live

Liverpool fan to call newborn baby Dejan

The Klopp effect

Klopp received a rapturous reception from the fans who idolised him in Dortmund when he walked along the Anfield touchline before kick-off - but he then inflicted agony on the club he took to two Bundesliga titles and the Champions League final.

As Liverpool chased the game in the closing stages, Klopp was almost wound up to the point of frenzy, turning around to the crowd beneath Anfield's directors' box whirling his arms in encouragement and gesturing wildly for more vocal support.

It kept the momentum going and Liverpool's supporters believing right through the dark moments when Dortmund controlled the game, inspiring his players to that sensational finale.

The turnaround revived memories of the so-called 'Miracle of Istanbul' in 2005 when they came from 3-0 down at half-time to win the Champions League final against AC Milan.

This may not bring a trophy, but Klopp can now take his place alongside other Liverpool managers who have their names alongside famous victories.

Take a bow, Liverpool

When Klopp urged Liverpool's players to take a bow in front of the Kop after they claimed a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion in injury time earlier this season, he was mocked and the gesture was taken as a signal of how low expectations had fallen.

The bow was back at the final whistle here and no-one would begrudge Klopp or anyone else for taking in the acclaim.

When Klopp took over from sacked Brendan Rodgers in October, he set about rebuilding the relationship between Liverpool's players and disillusioned supporters. He has already forged the bond and nights like this will only cement it further.

Liverpool could have gone under when they needed three goals to go through but they created a host of chances throughout the game and not for one moment did they resemble a team who felt the task was beyond them.

On and on they came against a Dortmund side who, while dangerous in attack, gave Liverpool a chance at the back all night - one chance too many in the end.

Anfield has seen many great nights and this can be added to the list.

Liverpool still have problems

It almost seems an insult to suggest it after the feast of football witnessed, but for all the drama and the surge of attacking football that eventually swept Dortmund aside, Liverpool still look so vulnerable at the back.

Sakho is a fans' favourite and contributed a goal but he was guilty of poor positioning that contributed to all three Dortmund goals.

With left-back Alberto Moreno also a weak link, Klopp has work to do in the defensive areas - but no-one was too concerned with that after a truly remarkable night.

Liverpool's greatest comebacks

The victory over Dortmund continued a long tradition of famous and emotional European nights for Liverpool.

The most memorable of these surely remains the 2005 Champions League final, when Rafael Benitez's team came from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3 with AC Milan before winning the match on penalties. Liverpool fans often talk about the spirit of Istanbul - and it was clearly in evidence on Thursday.

Liverpool won Europe's top competition for a fifth time with victory in Istanbul

But it is not the only memorable European night for the club. In December 2004, Liverpool needed to win by a margin of two clear goals against Olympiakos to qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League.

Rivaldo put the Greek side ahead but Liverpool fought back with Steven Gerrard scoring a late winner.

In 1977, Liverpool returned to Anfield for the second leg of a European Cup tie against French side St-Etienne trailing 1-0.

The Reds took the lead but needed to score twice more after Dominique Bathenay's equaliser. However, goals from Ray Kennedy and super-sub David Fairclough ensured they did just that.

The stats you need to know

  • Divock Origi has netted four goals in his past three Liverpool games after failing to score in nine games previous to that
  • James Milner has now been involved in more Liverpool goals than any other player in 2015-16 (19 - seven goals, 12 assists)
  • Liverpool have never lost at home to German opposition in European competition (W11 D3)
  • Liverpool's four goals came from their only four shots on target in the entire game
  • The Reds conceded three goals at Anfield in a European tie for only the sixth time in their history
  • Aubameyang has now scored 37 goals in 44 games for Borussia Dortmund this season
  • Dortmund scored more goals (2) in the opening nine minutes of the game on Thursday than German opposition had managed in 13 previous trips to Anfield (1).

What next?

Liverpool will be in Friday's draw for the last four of the Europa League. That will be covered in Sportsday on the BBC Sport website.

Klopp's team return to Premier League action when they play at Bournemouth on Sunday, with kick-off at 13:30 BST.

Dortmund, who are seven points behind leaders Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, host Hamburg on Sunday.

Source: bbc.com

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15/Apr/2016

Didier Drogba charity: Striker welcomes investigation amid 'serious concerns'

Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba has welcomed an investigation into his charity over "serious regulatory concerns".

The Daily Mail claimed only £14,115 out of £1.7m donated to the Didier Drogba Foundation had helped causes in Africa.

The Charity Commission has opened a case to review concerns about the charity's administration.

But Drogba, 38, said "everything is clear" and "this money will be spent when it needs to be spent".

In the article, the Mail said £439,321 was spent putting on lavish fundraising parties attended by celebrities, and more than £1m languished in bank accounts.

Speaking to the BBC from Montreal, Canada, where he is playing for MLS side Montreal Impact, Drogba said all charity projects so far had been funded by his own sponsorship deals, rather than money from UK fundraisers.

The former Ivory Coast international said: "I'm responsible for this money; I'm not going to spend it just to spend it.

"I have projects for the long term and I know what I want to do."

The African charity, established in 2007, is run in the Ivory Coast but is also registered in the UK.

In an earlier statement, Drogba said he had spent 3.7m euros (£2.9m) on projects in the Ivory Coast, including building a mobile clinic and investing in orphanages.

Drogba said he will take legal action against the Mail, which said in a statement that it "stands by every word of this important story".

The Charity Commission said it wanted "further information" about the foundation's spending plans and would look into "allegations that the charity has provided misleading information to donors and the public".

Source: bbc.com

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15/Apr/2016

Holders Barcelona suffered a shock Champions League exit

Holders Barcelona suffered a shock Champions League exit as Antoine Griezmann's double sent Atletico Madrid into the semi-finals.

Barca arrived in Spain's capital with a 2-1 advantage from the first leg but poor defending allowed the unmarked Griezmann to power home Saul's cross.

Saul headed against the bar as Barca toiled before Griezmann scored a late penalty after Andres Iniesta handled.

Barca were denied a penalty when Gabi handled just inside the area.

The defeat ended Luis Enrique's hopes of securing a La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey treble, while Atletico join Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Real Madrid in Friday's semi-final draw (11:30 BST).

Barcelona's players surrounded the referee after Gabi clearly handled inside the area though he was standing outside it, the referee awarding only a free-kick.

Listen again:'Simeone is the archetypal baddie'

But Barca were a shadow of the team that conquered Europe so convincingly last season and have now lost three of the last four games in all competitions.

In addition, Lionel Messi failed to score for the fifth game in a row for his club, and Neymar and Luis Suarez were frustrated by excellent home defending.

More on the Champions League
Enrique takes blame for Barca exit
Hat-trick answers critics - Ronaldo
Pellegrini targets Champions League glory
Bayern Munich ease through to semi-finals

On the rare occasions Suarez managed to work an opening he found Jan Oblak in fine form on a great night for Atletico.

Barca's bad-tempered exit

The tie was littered with late challenges - there were eight bookings in total - while there were two flashpoints as Barca exited the competition on a bad-tempered note.

Suarez caught Uruguay team-mate Diego Godin with an elbow that left the Atletico defender with a swelling above his eye.

Atletico Madrid defender Diego GodinAtletico Madrid defender Diego GodinAtletico Madrid defender Diego Godin

And another scuffle between the top two clubs in Spain broke out when Neymar appeared to lash out at Juanfran from behind.

Barca enjoyed 77% possession and had more shots than Atletico , yet could not disguise their frustration as they were undone by Griezmann's double.

History repeats itself

This was the eighth meeting in 15 months between the sides, with Barcelona having won the previous seven.

Indeed, Atletico's most recent win over their oppoents was at this stage of the Champions League two years ago.

Barcelona suffered a 2-1 aggregate defeat in 2014 with Diego Simeone's side eventually reaching the final - only to lose 4-1 to Real Madrid after extra time.

Simeone will be confident after this fine performance that his side can go one better this time.

Wait goes on for Messi

Messi remains on 499 career goals, just as he has done since 30 March when he scored for Argentina.

He has gone 452 minutes without scoring for Barcelona.

On Wednesday, Messi did not look like finding the net as he failed to register a shot on target in a Champions League game for the first time since 2014 - also against Atletico.

The 28-year-old cut a frustrated figure as Godin and Lucas Hernandez produced commanding performances at the heart of the home defence.

Messi's last touch of the game was a free-kick on the edge of the area, when they should have had a penalty, which flew wide.

It summed up Barcelona's night.

The stats you need to know

  • No team has still ever retained the Champions League since its inception in 1992/93.
  • Only Diego Costa in 2013/14 (8 goals) has scored more for Atletico Madrid in a Champions League season than Antoine Griezmann has for them this campaign (6).
  • It was Griezmann's third Champions League brace this season, after scoring two in both matches against Galatasaray
  • Barcelona failed to score in a Champions League game for the first time since April 2014, which was also against Atletico Madrid.

What's next?

Barcelona are three points clear at the top of La Liga with six games remaining. They will look to put this result behind them when they entertain Valencia on Sunday (19:30 BST)

Atletico host Granada on the same day at 17:15 BST.

Source: bbc.com

 

 

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13/Apr/2016

Will Smith, retired NFL star, was shot in the back seven times

A "rageful" driver shot retired US football star Will Smith in the back seven times, killing him, the Smith family has said.

The former New Orleans Saints player was driving with his wife in the city on Saturday when a Humvee crashed into Smith's car.

Police said the crash set off a row and the Humvee's driver, Cardell Hayes, killed Smith and wounded his wife.

Smith's family told reporters Mr Hayes was "remorseless" after the shooting.

Mr Hayes ignored the pleas of Smith's wife to leave the couple alone and stood over Smith's dead body yelling, said Peter Thomson, an attorney for the Smith family.

Mr Thomson said Smith's wife, Racquel, said her husband died trying to protect her. She called him "her superman".

"Go back to your car. We have children. This is not worth this," Racquel Smith reportedly told Mr Hayes before he opened fire.

She is being treated at hospital and is expected to recover.

Police said Smith had a gun in his car the night he was shot but it was never fired and he did not have it on him.

Mr Hayes, who has been charged with murder, said Smith was the aggressor.

Smith, a 34-year-old father of three, played with the Saints for his entire career and won a Super Bowl with the team in 2009.

He retired in 2012 after he was implicated in the "Bounty Bowl" scandal.

The NFL accused of Smith of being part of a locker-room pool that paid cash bonuses for heavy and even injurious hits.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Apr/2016

Klopp guides Liverpool to draw with former team, Dortmund

Divock Origi gave Liverpool a potentially crucial away goal in their Europa League quarter-final tie with Borussia Dortmund as the first leg in Germany ended in a draw.

The Belgium striker struck on Reds boss Jurgen Klopp's return to his former club with a low finish across goal.

Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller then denied Origi one-on-one.

Mats Hummels headed in an equaliser and the hosts pressed in search of a winner, but Liverpool kept them at bay.

More on the Europa League
Henderson set for knee scan
Relive how the action unfolded
Sevilla take control of quarter-final tie
You'll Never Walk Alone rendition 'a wow moment'

In the end it was a fair result as Dortmund, favourites to win the Europa League, dominated possession but Klopp's tactics ensured Liverpool frustrated their opponents, restricting them to few real chances.

A stirring rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone - a song both teams have adopted as their football anthem - before kick-off set the tone for the game, with a special atmosphere playing its part in an encounter that was tense and, at times, thrilling.

Klopp gets his tactics right

Some eyebrows were raised before kick-off when Klopp decided to start Origi instead of England international Daniel Sturridge.

Origi had not scored since 14 February, while Sturridge appeared to be finding his form after returning from injury with three goals in nine games.

The 20-year-old was nothing more than a spectator in the opening stages as Liverpool soaked up some early pressure, but Klopp said before the game that he had given him the nod because of his pace and power - and both were on show when the visitors took the lead.

He controlled captain Jordan Henderson's slightly awkward ball superbly before turning towards goal and steering a low strike into the far corner.

From then on, Origi held up the ball excellently to relieve some pressure on a defence that unsurprisingly came under some heavy pressure at times.

In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Dortmund possess one of the most lethal finishers in Europe, but Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho stood up to the task of nullifying the 33-goal Gabon striker.

He was limited to one real chance, an effort from close range that was blocked by Lovren, while Sakho threw his body in the way of Henrikh Mkhitaryan to deny what was an almost certain goal.

Eyes on Klopp for 'El Kloppico'

Interest in Klopp's return to Dortmund was huge in the build-up.

The 48-year-old German is fondly remembered for his achievements at the club he managed for seven years from 2008, having led them to two Bundesliga titles as well the final of the Champions League in 2013.

Around 20 television crews and some 100 journalists were in attendance for his pre-match news conference, while one German TV had been planning a 'Klopp Cam', which would have focused on the Liverpool boss for the full 90 minutes - although that idea was ultimately shelved.

When Klopp emerged before the match, his name was chanted by the home fans but the Liverpool boss was evidently keen to make sure he was not the centre of attention.

After acknowledging the home fans with a clap, he switched focus firmly to his own players warming up and there was no doubt about where his allegiances lie when he thumped his chest and roared in delight after Origi's goal.

Advantage Liverpool?

Despite the away goal, the tie is far from over. Dortmund have scored in each of their previous six away games, including two goals at Tottenham in the previous round of the competition.

Improving their defending at set-pieces will also be key for Liverpool. Hummels was left unmarked to head in the simplest of goals from a corner, meaning the past three goals Liverpool have conceded in the Europa League have been from set-pieces.

History is on Liverpool's side, though. They have progressed from 11 of their past 12 European ties in which they have drawn the first leg away from home.

What they said

Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel: "In a quarter-final it can be that you don't deserve to win and that was the case.

"This was exactly what we expected from Liverpool - but we expected ourselves to be better, freer in our passing and with a better rhythm.

"We are able to score away goals as well. We are not frightened and we are not too disappointed. Tonight was not our top performance and to win you need a top performance.

"We have been to a lot of places and scored and won. It's half-time and the players are confident. We are looking forward to the game at Anfield."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "Dortmund is a pretty good side and everyone could see that, but we had our moments and we could have won the game.

"I'm pretty sure a lot of people thought we would lose 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0. But at some moments we had Dortmund and around our goal we were brilliant.

"We are not that far on our way to being like they are. We cannot at the moment play like they play, but we can defend and score goals so we can win."

On his own reception from the Dortmund fans: "It was nice. A lot of people spoke about it but when I came onto the pitch it was respectful applause and that's nice. That's how it should be."

The stats you need to know

  • Divock Origi scored his first Europa League goal for Liverpool and his first since October 2014 for Lille against Wolfsburg.
  • Origi is the ninth different Liverpool player to score in the Europa League this season, with only Lazio and Napoli (10) having more different scorers.
  • Five of Origi's six Liverpool goals have been scored away from home.
  • Mats Hummels scored Borussia Dortmund's fifth goal from a corner in the Europa League, more than any other side in the competition.
  • Dortmund have been eliminated on five of the six occasions they've drawn the first leg of a European tie at home.

What next?

Liverpool host Stoke in the Premier League on Sunday, while Dortmund travel to Schalke in the Bundesliga on the same day. The two sides then meet at Anfield in the Europa League quarter-final second leg on Thursday, 14 April.

Source: bbc.com

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08/Apr/2016

Abby Wambach: Former US striker arrested for drink-driving

Abby Wambach, the world's all-time leading international goalscorer, was arrested on Saturday night for driving under the influence of alcohol.

American Wambach, 35, retired in December 2015 having scored 184 goals in 255 games, a record unmatched by any man or woman in international history.

"I take full responsibility for my actions. This is all on me," Wambach said in a statement on Facebook.

Wambach helped the United States women's team to 2015 World Cup glory.

According to local police, she was arrested in Portland, Oregon after being seen running a red light.

Wambach failed sobriety tests and was booked into the Multnomah County Jail on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol. She was later released.

In her statement, Wambach promised not to repeat her "horrible mistake" and apologised to her friends, her family, her fans, "and those that look to follow a better example".

She added: "Those that know me, know that I have always demanded excellence from myself. I have let myself and others down."

Wambach was named the 2012 Fifa Women's World Player of the Year and is also a six-time US Soccer Female Athlete of the Year winner.

Honours and awards
2015 World Cup winner
2004 and 2012 Olympic gold medallist
2012 Fifa world player of the year
2011 Associated Press female athlete of the year

Six-time US soccer athlete of the year (2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013)

 

Source: bbc.com

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03/Apr/2016

Top US women footballers file complaint for equal pay

Five senior members of the World Cup-winning US football team have filed a complaint against the national federation for wage discrimination.

Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo say they are paid less than half of what the male USA players receive.

"The numbers speak for themselves," said goalkeeper Solo in a statement.

The US Soccer Federation said it was disappointed, given the work it had done in building the women's game.

American women's football has dominated the international game in recent decades, with a string of titles.

"We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the USMNT [men's team] get paid more just to show up than we get paid to win major championships," said Solo.

Her team-mate Lloyd, who was named the best player at last year's World Cup, said they had been patient over the years in waiting for action to deliver fair pay.

Former Everton and LA Galaxy winger Landon Donovan - who won 157 caps for the US men's team - tweeted his support for the women's team's cause.

"#USWNT absolutely deserve to be treated fairly in all ways," he said.

"Important to remember that these issues are/can be collectively bargained."

US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said: "Wouldn't want to face these women on the field or in the courtroom. Every woman deserves equal pay."

The complaint against the US Soccer Federation was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Thursday morning.

One of the lawyers representing the players, Jeffrey Kessler, said the women's game generated more income for US Soccer than the men's and it was time to address the "discriminatory and unfair treatment'' they have endured for years.

The five players were acting on behalf of all the players, he said.

There has been an ongoing legal battle between the federation and the players' union over collective bargaining.

A statement from US Soccer said it had not yet seen the complaint.

But it added: "We have been a world leader in women's soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women's game in the United States over the past 30 years."

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said the women players filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation. They have actually filed a wage-discrimination action against USSF with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Source: bbc.com

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01/Apr/2016

Afcon 2017: Nigeria qualification hopes on the line against Egypt

Nigeria will be eliminated from qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations if they lose away to Egypt in their Group G tie on Tuesday.

Results against group rivals Chad have been erased after their withdrawal on Sunday, meaning only the group winners will make it to next year's finals.

Nigeria have two points and Egypt have four, while Tanzania have one.

A win for Egypt would put them in a strong position to qualify but they could still be caught by Tanzania.

Mathematically the countries could both finish on seven points, although Egypt have a far superior goal difference and a 3-0 win over Tanzania from their match last June.

Each country in Group G now plays a maximum of four qualifiers.

Home success at the Borg El Arab will lift Egypt to seven points and put the Pharaohs out of the reach of Nigeria, who will have just one game (at home against Tanzania) left.

If the Super Eagles win, then they would hold the upper hand but would still need to win their last group game to make sure of qualification.

Nigeria missed out on the last Nations Cup finals in Equatorial Guinea despite winning the 2013 edition in South Africa. Egypt have remarkably not competed at the finals since winning the last of three back-to-back titles in 2010.

'We have to believe'

In Group M, South Africa know they must beat Cameroon if they are to keep alive their hops of qualifying.

Bafana Bafana drew 2-2 away to Cameroon on Saturday and are hoping home advantage will help them achieve a better result on Tuesday.

However, they go into the game with a significant injury list: goalkeeper Darren Keet, defenders Anele Ngcongca and Thabo Matlaba as well as midfielder Mpho Makola are all ruled out.

Goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune said: "It is still possible to get to Gabon, but we have to keep our heads high and fight for the remaining nine points.

"We cannot afford to throw the towel in now - we have to start with Tuesday's clash to start collecting the points. With the kind of football we are playing we can still do it, but it starts with us, we have to believe that we can.

"We cannot afford to drop any more points."

Return of Togo talisman?

Emmanuel Adebayor could make a surprise return for Togo in their Group A match against Tunisia.

The Crystal Palace striker last played for his country in June 2015 and rejected a call-up for the first match between the sides, which was played in Monastir on Friday and was won 1-0 by Tunisia.

However, he has been photographed training and eating with the Togo squad in Lome ahead of the return match and could be set to end his self-imposed exile.

Tunisia, Togo and Liberia all have six points, with three games remaining.

Source: bbc.com

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28/Mar/2016

Afcon 2017: Equatorial Guinea go out after defeat to Mali

Equatorial Guinea, who hosted last year's Africa Cup of Nations, became the first team to be eliminated from the qualifiers for the 2017 tournament in Gabon after a 1-0 home defeat to Mali.

Mustapha Yatabare hit Mali's winner in the 89th minute in Malabo to put his team top of Group C, two points above Benin on 10 points.

Equatorial Guinea, who reached the semi-finals on home soil in 2015, are now bottom of the group on one point with two games to play.

South Sudan are third, on three points, and still have a slim chance of qualifying as one of the best two runners-up.

Elsewhere on Monday, Zimbabwe swept aside Swaziland 4-0 in their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Group L qualifier.

The hosts, who earned a 1-1 draw in Swaziland on Friday, dominated the return match in Harare to move three points clear at the top of the table.

Knowledge Musona opened the scoring on 53 minutes from the penalty spot and Costa Nhamoinesu made it 2-0 six minutes later.

Evans Rusike extended the advantage and Khama Billiat sealed the win late on.

Musona told BBC Sport: "I am feeling very happy. The team collected maximum points at home, we are top of the group and we have a big chance to qualify.

"It is crucial we take maximum points from our next game at home (against Malawi on 3 June)."

Swaziland remain on five points, three points above Malawi and Guinea who play each other on Tuesday.

Each of the group winners and the two best runners-up qualify for next year's finals in Gabon.

In Group B Central African Republic came back from a goal down to beat Madagascar 2-1.

Faneva Andriatsima opened the scoring for the visitors on 35 minutes and they went into the half-time break 1-0 up.

But two goals in 12 minutes turned the game on its head as Salif Keita stuck the equaliser on 53 minutes for CAR and then Limane Moussa hit the winner.

The result puts CAR top of the table by a point from DR Congo, who play Angola on Tuesday.

Libya got their first points of Group F with a 4-0 win over Sao Tome e Principe.

In a match played in Egypt on security grounds, Libya's Mohamed Zubya hit a second half hat-trick.

Source: bbc.com

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28/Mar/2016

Adam Johnson jailed for six years

Footballer Adam Johnson has been jailed for six years for grooming and sexual activity with a girl aged 15.

Sentencing the ex-Sunderland player, Judge Jonathan Rose told him he had abused a position of trust and caused his victim "severe psychological harm".

The judge told Johnson, 28, he had engaged in sexual activity with her knowing she was under 16.

It can now be reported police found extreme pornography involving animals on Johnson's laptop.

The matter is not being taken any further, Bradford Crown Court heard.

The sexual activity with the girl happened in the footballer's Range Rover in January 2015 after he had groomed her using social media apps.

Johnson jailed: Updates

Judge Rose told the footballer, who played 12 times for England, there had been "an abuse of trust - you are trusted by young fans to behave properly".

He said: "She had only just turned 15 when you began grooming her, because, as you were to admit, you found her sexually attractive."

The judge told Johnson the offences happened "at a time when you were engaged in frequent sexual intercourse with multiple partners".

At the start of his trial last month, Johnson had admitted grooming the girl and one charge of sexual activity, relating to kissing her. He was found guilty of sexual touching and cleared of one charge relating to another sexual act.

Judge Rose said Johnson had had "every opportunity" to enter guilty pleas to the charges he finally admitted. He ordered the footballer to pay £50,000 of the prosecution's £67,132 costs.

During the three-week trial the jury heard the former winger met the girl after agreeing to sign football shirts for her.

How apps helped to convict Adam Johnson

He admitted kissing the teenager but told the jury an encounter in his Range Rover "went no further".

The girl told the court he had "put his hands down her pants" and she performed a sex act on him.

The jury cleared Johnson over the sex act claim but convicted him by a 10-2 majority on the sexual touching charge.

Restrictions have now been lifted that prevented it being reported that, when Johnson was arrested, police found medicines in a safe indicating he may have been suffering from sexually transmitted infections.

In a victim impact statement read to court, the girl said she had been forced to endure thousands of malicious and slanderous remarks on social media and had been approached by a stranger asking about her relationship with the footballer.

She felt at risk going out and her schoolwork had suffered "massively", the court was told.

"I have entered many dark places over this 12-month period," she said.

"Ultimately, it was like I was being taunted as if to say he could do what he wants and get away with it."

In another statement to the court, her mother said there "had been no winners" and defended the decision to report the matter to police in order to "protect other vulnerable children".

She stressed the family had never sought financial gain.

Why Johnson's chances of playing again are "very remote"

Earlier, Dr Philip Hopley, a consultant psychiatrist giving evidence for the defence, told the court: "This is a man who, at the age of 28, is socially and psychologically immature."

The doctor said he found no evidence in Johnson of an attraction to pre-pubescent children or "sexual perversion".

Speaking after Johnson was sentenced, Det Insp Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham Police, said: "Fame, celebrity and a position of power does not give you the right to break the law in pursuit of whatever you desire.

"This girl should have been safe but she was used by the public figure she looked up to most."

Jon Brown, from children's charity the NSPCC, questioned whether the Football Association's "really comprehensive high quality rules and regulations and policies" for child protection were followed throughout the game's hierarchy.

"We are concerned about the extent to which they're actually being embedded and implemented at club level," he said.

"We're concerned that may not be the case right across the country."

Outside the court, Gerry Wareham from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Adam Johnson exploited a young star-struck fan, actively grooming her over a number of months in single-minded pursuit of his own sexual gratification."

Earlier, the court was told the player had lodged an appeal against his conviction for sexual activity with the girl.

Johnson began his career at Middlesbrough before moving to Manchester City and then on to Sunderland in 2012.

Adam Johnson's car

The footballer met the girl in his luxury car

Source: bbc.com

 

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24/Mar/2016

Hulk Hogan awarded $115m in Gawker sex tape case

A Florida jury has awarded Hulk Hogan $115m (£79m) after the gossip news website Gawker published a sex tape of the retired professional wrestler.

Mr Hogan's legal team argued the New York-based website violated his privacy and the video was not newsworthy.

The case, which pitted freedom of the press against a celebrity's right to privacy, has been closely watched.

The video was posted in 2012 after Mr Hogan was secretly recorded having sex with his friend's wife.

Lawyers for Gawker argued that although jurors might find the website's actions distasteful, the concept of freedom of the press was more important to uphold.

Mr Hogan's lawyers said Gawker did not contact him or the woman in the video before the video was published.

"This is not only his victory today, but also anyone else who's been victimised by tabloid journalism," Hogan lawyer David Houston said outside the courtroom.

Gawker, known for its acerbic tone and aggressive coverage of celebrities, maintained that Mr Hogan's private life was newsworthy because he made it part of his public persona.

"He has consistently chosen to put his private life out there, for public consumption," Gawker's lawyer Michael Sullivan said during the trial.

However, Hogan lawyer Kenneth Turkel said during the trial that Gawker typified the often anything-goes world of internet publishing.

The verdict could lead to more caution among Internet news websites, which frequently have less editorial oversight than traditional media outlets.

Gawker's founder Nick Denton and journalist AJ Daulerio were held liable in the lawsuit.

Even before the verdict was announced, Gawker said in a statement that an appeal was likely. Large jury awards are often reduced during the appeals process.

Mr Hogan, whose given name is Terry Bollea, said the release of the sex tape hurt his career.

He was one of the most popular professional wrestlers of the 1980s and 1990s and later starred in his own reality television show with his family.

In recent years, Mr Hogan's personal problems have conflicted with his one-time child-friendly persona.

His longtime employer World Wrestling Entertainment cut ties with Mr Hogan in July after he was recorded using racial slurs.

Source: bbc.com

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18/Mar/2016

United crush out of Europe

Philippe Coutinho's brilliant solo goal killed Manchester United's hopes of a Europa League comeback and sent Liverpool into the last eight in comfort at Old Trafford.

Jurgen Klopp's side were protecting a two-goal lead from the first leg at Anfield but Anthony Martial's 32nd-minute penalty offered United brief hope after he was fouled by Nathaniel Clyne.

Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata had missed clear opportunities for United but Liverpool were also a threat as David de Gea saved superbly from Coutinho while Daniel Sturridge hit the bar with a free-kick and Jordan Henderson missed an open goal.

The away goal Liverpool threatened, and which left United needing four on the night, came right on half-time when Coutinho beat Guillermo Varela with ease before lifting a near-post finish past De Gea.

It ended the game as a contest with United unable to rouse themselves again as Liverpool completed the formalities to win the first European meeting between the two clubs.

Sadly, the final stages of the match were marred by clashes between supporters near the Liverpool corner of the ground - and it remains to be seen if Uefa take any action.

Too little too late for Man Utd

Manchester United, in the first half at least, played with a pace, and showed a spirit and endeavour, that has rarely been displayed at Old Trafford this season - but the task was too much.

And that was down to the lamentable performance at Anfield last Thursday when Liverpool dominated every facet of the first leg to secure a two-goal lead that could actually have been much more.

It left United vulnerable to one goal from Liverpool that would leave them needing four, and so it proved when Coutinho's brilliant dribble provided that crucial away strike.

United, from that point on, looked like the team they have been for most of this season - pedestrian, uninspired and struggling to illuminate an Old Trafford stage that has suffered much this season.

And there was suffering in hearing songs of celebration from 3,000 Liverpool fans tucked away in one corner of the stadium as their arch-rivals celebrated victory in the first European meeting between the two sides and a place in the last eight of the Europa League.

It was also further evidence that, for all those who still feel United might be better off without Wayne Rooney, that this team still misses him very badly as he was reduced to watching the game from the stands with his son as the England captain recovers from a knee injury.

Can Liverpool go all the way?

Liverpool are progressing rapidly under Klopp, who is putting his imprint on the side six months after he succeeded sacked Brendan Rodgers.

And some of the old European anticipation will be rising at Anfield as they contemplate Friday's quarter-final draw.

Time for some perspective, though, and a warning that Klopp is embarking on a rebuilding programme that will not be a quick fix.

There are still some tasty potential opponents lying in wait, none more so than Klopp's old club Borussia Dortmund, tournament favourites and impressive winners against Tottenham over two legs.

The notion of Klopp facing Dortmund is an enticing one and he would be guaranteed a rapturous reception at the club he took to two Bundesliga titles and the Champions League final.

And that is before you even get to Sevilla, winners in the past two seasons and who cruised into the last eight against FC Basel.

Young guns offer hope for Man Utd

This was another disappointing night in a disappointing season for Manchester United - and there will be extra pain in losing a European tie to such fierce adversaries.

If there is some comfort, it can be gained in the performances of young strike duo Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

Rashford, just 18, never gave up at any point, chasing lost causes endlessly while trying to provide United's lost spark.

Martial, 20, tormented Clyne with his pace in the first half to earn - and score - the penalty that gave United some hope.

They are small crumbs of comfort on a miserable night for United but they need all the hope they can get after this.

'Punches and seats thrown'

Liverpool's on-field celebrations were marred by trouble in the stands in the closing minutes and after the final whistle.

BBC Radio 5 live commentator Ian Dennis had a clear view of the disturbances in the crowd and said he saw fighting and seats being ripped out.

"Punches are being traded by rival supporters," he said.

"I have seen three red seats from the Liverpool section being thrown into the Manchester United fans.

"There are about 10 Liverpool supporters sat on the front row of the top tier and there is a human wall of police officers in luminous clothing protecting the Liverpool fans sat in the Manchester United end.

"Uefa will take action - mark my words."

What the managers said

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal: "I am not angry, I am not frustrated. I was very proud of my players.

"They gave everything and I was very pleased the fans recognised that. They applauded after the match despite us being out - that was remarkable I think.

"I hope Man City is the catalyst. We have to beat City and we have a chance to still qualify (for the Champions League)."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "They got a penalty - it was a penalty - and Phil had a genius moment.

"I love it two minutes before half-time because he twice reacted quicker than his opponent.

"It was the most unexpected that he could do in a situation like this."

What next?

Manchester United will travel to the Etihad for a Premier League derby against neighbours Manchester City on Sunday, the same day as Liverpool play Southampton.

The stats you need to know

  • Anthony Martial has scored in back-to-back games for Manchester United for the first time since September 2015
  • Coutinho has equalled his best goals tally in a season for Liverpool (8) in all competitions, a feat he achieved last season
  • The Red Devils have been eliminated from the Europa League at the last-16 stage in both of their appearances in the competition (also 2011/12 versus Athletic Bilbao)
  • Liverpool have reached the quarter-final of a European competition for the first time since 2009/10, when they faced Benfica in the Europa League on their way to the semi-finals
  • Jurgen Klopp is the first Liverpool manager since Graeme Souness in October 1991 to avoid defeat in his first game at Old Trafford as Reds boss

Source: bbc.com

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17/Mar/2016

Peyton Manning: Denver Broncos quarterback retires from NFL

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has announced his retirement, ending a sparkling 18-year career in the NFL.

Manning struggled to hold back tears as he confirmed the news at a media conference in Denver on Monday.

He said: "I fought a good fight. I finished my football race. After 18 years it is time."

Manning, who turns 40 on 24 March, played his last game when he helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl in February.

It was his second Super Bowl win, the first coming in 2007 during a 14-year spell with the Indianapolis Colts.

One of the game's most prolific passers, he was voted the NFL's most valuable player a record five times.

Manning retires as the NFL's all-time leader in passing touchdowns (539), passing yards (71,940) and quarterback wins (186, tied with Brett Favre).

His teams made the play-offs in 15 of his 18 seasons.

"You don't have to wonder if I will miss it. Absolutely I will," Manning added.

"There are players who were more talented - but none could out prepare me. I have no regrets."

'Perfect way to end a career'

One of his biggest rivals, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, said Manning "set the standard for how to play the quarterback position".

He told Sports Illustrated: "What just happened, winning the Super Bowl in his last game, is a perfect way to end a career. But what he's accomplished through all these years, what makes it so admirable, is the pressure he's had on him his whole life.

"Who has lived up to the expectations year after year after year as well as Peyton? He's done it so gracefully, so admirably."

Recently, Manning has also faced controversy. Before this year's Super Bowl, the NFL began an investigation into allegations that banned substance human growth hormone was sent to his house when he was recovering from neck surgery in 2011.

He has described the allegations, made by broadcaster Al Jazeera, as "complete garbage".

During his retirement news conference, he also denied allegations of sexual misconduct stemming from his college playing days at Tennessee.

"I did not do what has been alleged and I am not interested in re-litigating something that happened when I was 19," he said.

In defeating the Carolina Panthers on 7 February, Manning became the oldest quarterback to win the showpiece event - and the first starting quarterback to win it with two different teams.

It had been rumoured the surprise 24-10 victory would be his last game, but he said afterwards he would "take time to reflect".

source: bbc.com

Justin Tuck tweet about Peyton Manning

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07/Mar/2016

Adam Johnson guilty of child sex charge

Ex-England footballer Adam Johnson has been found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a girl aged 15.

The jury at Bradford Crown Court found Johnson guilty of a charge of sexual touching, but not guilty on a charge relating to another sexual act.

The former Sunderland player had previously admitted grooming the girl and one charge of sexual activity.

Judge Jonathan Rose has warned Johnson he faces jail and told him to "say goodbye to your daughter".

Reaction to Adam Johnson's conviction

In a statement, Johnson's victim said she had been through the "hardest year" of her life.

She said meeting her hero felt "surreal" at first but she now feels "used and let down" by Johnson.

She said: "I have had to face so much abuse after he claimed his innocence and I was made out to be a liar.

"What happened in his car has turned my life upside down.

"There are people who have made assumptions about me and this has been hard to deal with... Him being found guilty shows everyone I was telling the truth."

'Significant sentence'

The judge said his preliminary view was that the case falls into the category of a five-year prison sentence with a range of four to 10 years.

He said: "The defendant must understand there is a very high probability of a significant custodial sentence."

The judge told Johnson he would be released on bail so he could get his "affairs in order".

He said: "You can say goodbye to your daughter. A prison sentence will mean you will not see her for some time."

Johnson, 28, showed no emotion as the verdicts were delivered and he has been granted bail until his sentencing, which is due to take place in two to three weeks.

Johnson met up with the girl on 30 January 2015 after agreeing to sign football shirts for her, the court heard.

The player admitted kissing the teenager but told the jury the encounter in his Range Rover "went no further".

However the girl told the court the former winger "put his hands down her pants" and she performed an oral sex act on him.

The jury, which had been deliberating since Tuesday morning following a three-week trial, cleared Johnson over the oral sex claim but convicted him by a 10-2 majority on the sexual touching charge.

Johnson was sacked by Sunderland after admitting on the first day of his trial that he had kissed the girl.

'Gifted' footballer's fall from grace

He began communicating with the girl at the very end of 2014 while his partner, Stacey Flounders, was heavily pregnant with their first child.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a Sunderland season ticket holder and was "infatuated" with Johnson.

Johnson told the jury that when she sent him a friend request on Facebook he recognised her as a Sunderland fan.

After he accepted the request he began a communication which involved 834 WhatsApp messages in little more than a month before the exchanges moved on to SnapChat and were not recorded.

During the trial, prosecutors accused Johnson of delaying his admission to the lesser offences until the start of his trial so he could still play for Sunderland, from whom he earned £60,000 a week.

Johnson told the court the club knew he had kissed the girl, but in a statement issued after the verdict Sunderland denied the claim.

The club said it played no part in Johnson's plea decisions and only became aware he had kissed the girl when he admitted it in court, at which point they sacked him.

Sunderland's statement said: "Had the club known that Mr Johnson intended to plead guilty to any of these charges then his employment would have been terminated immediately.

"Indeed, upon learning of the guilty plea on 11 February 2016, the club acted quickly and decisively in terminating Adam Johnson's contract without notice.

"This has been an extremely difficult time for all involved. The victim and her family have endured an unimaginable ordeal in the last 12 months and we trust that they will now be allowed to move on with their lives without further intrusion or public scrutiny."

Speaking after the verdicts, Det Insp Aelfwynn Sampson from Durham Police praised the victim for her bravery.

She said: "In our football-obsessed region, Adam Johnson had a responsibility as a professional footballer to be a role model, a role he did not fulfil."

Children's charity the NSPCC also condemned Johnson after his trial.

A spokesperson said: "Adam Johnson cynically used his celebrity status as a professional footballer to groom and sexually abuse an impressionable schoolgirl.

"His behaviour throughout was inexcusable, made even worse by the fact his not guilty pleas forced his young victim to suffer the harrowing experience of giving evidence in court."

Source: bbc.com

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02/Mar/2016

Chelsea send Norwich into relegation zone

Norwich fell into the Premier League relegation zone as Chelsea continued their impressive form under Guus Hiddink with victory at Carrow Road.

Blues full-back Kenedy drilled in from 20 yards after 39 seconds - the fastest goal of the Premier League season.

Diego Costa doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time, running from an offside position to lift the ball home.

Cameron Jerome hit the bar before Nathan Redmond scored as Norwich lost for the eighth time in nine games.

The Canaries have taken just one point from a possible 24 - finding ugly form at the wrong time of the season.

Though they rallied late on, with Redmond and substitute Gary O'Neil going close, Norwich needs points, not performances, with just 10 games to go.

Look back on how Chelsea overcame Norwich

All the reaction from Tuesday's Premier League matches

Norwich going down?

The downward momentum Norwich have will worry both playing staff and board members, as missing out on an enhanced Premier League TV deal next season would be a tough financial pill to swallow.

But the reality is Alex Neil's side are coming up short. They have scored in just four of their past eight league games and, for all their effort, seem light up front when it matters.

Jerome hit the bar early from six yards in the second period when he should have scored and his lack of killer instinct summed up a display which was admirable if uninspiring.

Fellow relegation strugglers Sunderland and Newcastle visit Carrow Road in the run-in, but Norwich - 18th in the table on goal difference - must find their form soon.

Before Chelsea's visit they had fewer touches in opponents' area than any other side in the league. So is a change in style needed? Or are Neil's side simply doomed?

Blame the referee?

Redmond's strike - from a Wes Hoolahan pass - and performance will be one positive, and perhaps Norwich fans can draw some comfort from their early misfortune.

Referee Lee Mason was a clear target of home fans' frustration in the opening period as a succession of 50-50 calls went the way of the champions.

Thibaut Courtois seemed to pick up a clear backpass and Costa was a yard offside in running onto Bertrand Traore's pass in first-half injury time.

It proved key and was tough on the Canaries, but they must look at their own shortcomings too as Kenedy's early rocket arrived after the full-back was given plenty of time to fashion his shot.

Being undone inside a minute was exactly what Norwich did not need on a night when they were desperate to right a poor run of form. Another worry will be an injury sustained by Alexander Tettey, while Gary O'Neil suffered a head wound as he collided with Robbie Brady.

"Gary has a nasty gash and needs a few stitches, Robbie's lost two teeth and Alex is getting an X-ray on his leg," Neil said afterwards.

Chelsea have their groove back

Focus on the relegation zone could overshadow the fact Chelsea - in eighth - are in the top half for the first time since the opening week of the season.

Their remarkable slump under Jose Mourinho is long finished, with key players returning to form to fashion a run of 12 league games unbeaten.

Hiddink is yet to lose a league game since returning to the club and deserves praise for starting Kenedy and Traore.

Costa seems hungry again and has eight goals and four assists in his past 10 league games, while Cesc Fabregas looked in control in midfield throughout.

Hiddink is concerned his side will lose focus in league games with one eye on Champions League commitments but they showed they have the talent to come through such tests when not at their best. A top six-finish looks possible.

"Now with the ambition of Chelsea we must set a new target and see what we can do in the direction of Europe," Hiddink said afterwards.

What the managers said...

Norwich manager Alex Neil: "The first goal is a real disappointment for us. We have six behind the ball and the left back scores. The second is offside and you expect the officials to get that. The fact is we didn't really get exposed for the first goal but didn't deal with it and shut down quick enough."

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: "We didn't want to go into the battle but they forced us. We were sloppy in the first half, starting well with a beautiful goal and I think we could have finished it in the first half. We were complacent in the last pass. They made our life difficult."

The stats you need to know

  • Chelsea have won three successive Premier League games for the first time since April.
  • Eden Hazard ended a run of 17 Premier League games without an assist by setting up Kenedy for Chelsea's opener.
  • Nathan Redmond scored his first Premier League goal since October.
  • Wes Hoolahan has recorded his best season for assists in a Premier League campaign with eight.

Up next?

Norwich travel to Swansea - who are three points above them - on Saturday, while Chelsea host Stoke four days before their Champions League last-16 second leg against Paris St-Germain.

Source: bbc.com

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01/Mar/2016

Leicester held at home by West Brom

Leicester missed the chance to go five points clear at the top of the Premier League as West Brom came from behind to claim a thrilling draw.

Salomon Rondon shrugged off Robert Huth to give West Brom the lead, but a Danny Drinkwater deflected shot levelled it.

Andy King finished a wonderful move to put Leicester ahead only for Craig Gardner to equalise with a free-kick.

Leicester twice hit the bar at a raucous King Power Stadium, but could not find a winner.

The draw leaves the Foxes three points ahead of Tottenham, who can go top with victory at West Ham on Wednesday, and six ahead of Arsenal, who face Swansea.

West Brom, who have now lost only two of their past 10 league games, stay 13th - 12 points clear of the relegation zone.

Relive Leicester's thrilling draw with West Brom

No more late drama

Leicester were below their best on Saturday but still managed to beat Norwich thanks to a late winner - here they were much improved, but could not conjure similar drama despite laying siege to the West Brom goal.

West Brom may have planned to concede possession and defend deep, and they were duly bombarded by wave after wave of Leicester attacks, mainly down the flanks through the excellent pair of Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton.

On Saturday, the Foxes had 13 attempts on goal - here they had 22, with headers from Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki hitting the woodwork.

Ben Foster also saved well from Jeffrey Schlupp and Wes Morgan, while Leonardo Ulloa could not repeat his weekend heroics when the ball flashed across the face of goal in the very last minute.

Baggies forced out of their shell

West Brom could have been forgiven for thinking that allowing Leicester the lion's share of possession was a sound approach.

Against Norwich, Leicester had the majority of the ball for only the third time this season and struggled. Whether by design or necessity, the Baggies were happy to sit back in the first period, especially after Rondon got on the end of Darren Fletcher's through ball to put the visitors ahead.

However, even with nine red shirts behind the ball, Leicester still found a way to lead, meaning West Brom had to make more of the play in the second half. It worked to their advantage as, after Mahrez needlessly handballed, Gardner curled in a sublime free-kick.

Rondon could even have won it but somehow turned over from inside the six-yard box, and the Baggies ultimately needed some fortune to hang on at the end of a breathless night.

King of the King Power

King was making only his seventh league start of the season, in the side for the injured N'Golo Kante.

The Welsh midfielder is the only member of the Foxes squad remaining from their time in the third tier seven years ago and has winners' medals from both League One and the Championship.

Here he looked to have taken a stride towards adding a Premier League medal when he met Mahrez's athletic back-heel to finish sharply past Foster.

But in the end the odds on King completing an unlikely hat-trick lengthened - and Leicester could be back to second in the table as early as Wednesday night.

What they said

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri: "I am very pleased with our performance. They played so well - there was no panic after the first goal. We played much better than against Norwich. I am satisfied with the performance. Just sometimes you can do everything but the ball doesn't want to go in.

"I want to create a lot of chances and sooner or later we score. Tonight wasn't the right moment but we are alive and we fight to the end. Everybody is ready to fight, to play well, to create chances. Only the victory was missing.

"We tried to do everything and well done to my players. We never never give up. We always try the best in every situation. Every team plays football and we have to find the solution and try to win. It is important not to lose the match too as they could have counter-attacked."

West Brom manager Tony Pulis: "Leicester are a good side. They ask questions of you.

"It's another point on the way for us. It's important for us to get to 40 points and we are happy with the way things are going. We need the hunger and desire to get to 40 points. We should have kept the ball better tonight. I'm really pleased with the players though.

"I'd love to see Leicester win the title."

The stats

  • Leicester are the first Premier League team this season to score 50+ goals in the competition.
  • Two of Leicester's three top-flight goals from outside the area this season have been scored by Danny Drinkwater.
  • Leicester's record as the only Premier League side not to concede at home in 2016 ended.
  • Riyad Mahrez has had a part in a league-high 25 Premier League goals this season (14 goals, 11 assists).
  • Salomon Rondon has scored in three of his past five Premier League games, having failed to score in his previous nine in the competition.
  • Andy King is the fourth Welshman to score on St David's Day in Premier League history (also Pembridge, Saunders and Collison).
  • Craig Gardner has had a role in three of the Baggies' last five Premier League goals (scored two, assisted one).
  • Gardner has also scored in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since last April (also v Palace and Leicester).

What's next?

Leicester travel to Watford on Saturday, while West Brom welcome Manchester United on Sunday.

Source: bbc.com

 

 

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01/Mar/2016

Man City beat Liverpool in a dramatic shootout

Willy Caballero was Manchester City's hero as they beat Liverpool on penalties to win the Capital One Cup at Wembley.

The 34-year-old Argentine goalkeeper spectacularly rewarded the faith of manager Manuel Pellegrini with saves from Lucas, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana in the shoot-out after he was selected ahead of first-choice Joe Hart.

Fernandinho put City ahead just after the break after an error by Liverpool's otherwise heroic keeper Simon Mignolet. But two glaring misses from former Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling opened the door for Coutinho's late leveller.

In the shootout, Fernandinho hit a post with City's first kick, but Jesus Navas and Sergio Aguero were on target as Caballero made his decisive saves, allowing Yaya Toure to convert the winning penalty.

Pellegrini's loyalty rewarded

Manuel Pellegrini

Pellegrini made a huge call in selecting the veteran Caballero ahead of Hart, particularly in the light of his dreadful display in the 5-1 FA Cup fifth-round defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge a week earlier.

City's manager has always trusted the keeper he coached at Malaga before bringing him to Manchester - and it was repaid with interest as Caballero made a magnificent stop from Divock Origi's header before defying Liverpool in the shootout.

The temptation would have been to reinstate Hart after Caballero's struggles last Sunday but Pellegrini kept to his tried and trusted policy in this competition - and came out a deserved winner.

It ensured at least one trophy for the Chilean coach in his final season before Pep Guardiola takes over, with success in the Premier League and Champions League still a possibility.

Mignolet's mixed bag

Liverpool keeper Mignolet showed the inconsistency that brings him as much criticism as praise.

The Belgian was badly at fault for letting Fernandinho's shot slip under his body but redeemed hlmself - and more besides - with some stunning stops from Aguero, and also dived bravely into a six-yard box scramble to clear as City threatened once more.

This, it seems, will always be life with Mignolet in goal but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp trusts the keeper the extent that he was recently awarded a five-year contract.

It still remains to be seen whether he is the long-term solution because he simply cannot eradicate important errors from his game.

Relieved Raheem

If Raheem Sterling joined Manchester City's celebrations with even more gusto than his team-mates, it may have been through relief as much as joy.

This is because if City had lost, the forward who made an acrimonious £49m move from Liverpool in the summer would have carried a large portion of the blame.

Sterling was guilty of two dreadful misses when City were 1-0 up and seeking the second goal that would have eased their path to victory.

The England international steered wide of an open goal when it seemed so much easier to score, then was off target with another perfect opportunity after being set up by Aguero.

Sterling, whose every touch was jeered by Liverpool's fans after the manner of his departure from the club, got away with it but this was further proof that the weaknesses that have lingered in his game, namely finishing and decision-making, still exist. A work in progress.

Manager reaction

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: "We feel down but now we have to stand up. Only silly idiots stay on the floor and wait for the next defeat.

"We will strike back. We have felt how it is to lose. It is not the best moment but on Monday morning maybe we can change everything.

"We will go on and we will get better. We have to work really hard, carry on and there is light at the end of the tunnel. This important."

Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini: "I was concerned about the amount of chances we missed. After that we played better in extra-time.

"It's a very important moment, and it's always very special to win a title at Wembley."

The key stats

  • Manchester City have won four of their five League Cup finals (1970, 1976, 2014 and 2016)
  • Liverpool lost a League Cup final for the fourth time (1978, 1987, 2005 and 2016)
  • Fernandinho has scored in his last two League Cup appearances - having failed to score in his previous seven
  • Philippe Coutinho has scored in five of his six appearances against Manchester City in all competitions
  • This was only the fourth time that Liverpool have lost a penalty shootout - having faced 18 in total
  • Liverpool had previously won all five cup finals that had gone to a penalty shootout
  • Jurgen Klopp has reached a cup final in each of his last five seasons as a manager, but has lost the last four

What next?

There's little chance for Liverpool and Manchester City to catch a breather before they meet each other again - in the Premier League at Anfield on Wednesday.

Source: bbc.com

 

 

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28/Feb/2016

Spurs came from behind to beat Swansea

Tottenham moved back to within two points of Premier League leaders Leicester after battling back from behind to beat a dogged Swansea side.

Alberto Paloschi gave the visitors the lead after Angel Rangel's shot fell to him via team-mate Jack Cork.

Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made a series of superb saves, before Nacer Chadli deflected in Kyle Walker's shot to equalise with 20 minutes left.

Danny Rose then drove in the winner after Swansea failed to clear a corner.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

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28/Feb/2016

Rashford brace helps sink Arsenal

Teenager Marcus Rashford scored twice and set up the third as Manchester United derailed Arsenal's Premier League title challenge at Old Trafford.

Rashford, who scored twice on his debut against FC Midtjylland on Thursday, steered in a loose ball for the opener then headed in three minutes later.

Danny Welbeck nodded Arsenal back into the game, but Rashford picked out Ander Herrera whose shot was deflected in.

Mesut Ozil's volley gave third-placed Arsenal hope, but United held on.

Arsenal - who have not won the title since 2004 - remain in third place, five points adrift of leaders Leicester having now played the same number of matches.

The Red Devils moved back into fifth position with their first win in three Premier League games.

Follow all the post-match reaction here

Rashford makes his Marc again...

Barely anyone outside Old Trafford had heard of Marcus Rashford less than week ago - now the teenage United striker is a household name across the country.

Two goals on his senior debut against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League catapulted him into the national spotlight.

But, many asked, how would he fare against a Premier League title-chasing side in the heat of a battle between two fierce rivals? Coolly, calmly and clinically, as it turned out.

Rashford showed signs of his youthful exuberance in the early stages, darting inside a pair of Arsenal defenders from the left touchline before being hauled down on the edge of the penalty area.

The opportunity of that set-piece was not taken by the Red Devils, but it mattered little as Rashford soon put them into a two-goal lead.

The young Mancunian pounced on a poor clearance by Arsenal centre-back Gabriel to slot in his first Premier League goal, then waltzed into space to powerfully head in Jesse Lingard's floated cross.

But it was not just his finishing that caught the eye. Rashford showed great awareness and composure to pick out the run of Herrera, whose 20-yard shot took a wicked deflection off Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny.

No wonder he was given a standing ovation from the Old Trafford crowd when he was replaced in the 80th minute.

Former England winger Trevor Sinclair on BBC Radio 5 live:
"It's not just about the goals with Marcus Rashford. He has a cultured touch, his awareness is great and his link play is very good.
Something else impressed me too; the way he went to close down Petr Cech when the Arsenal goalkeeper received a back pass.
"Most young players would just close down the keeper, but Rashford shut off the pass out as well, and Cech ended up giving away the ball. That tells me he has been coached properly."

More to follow.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Source: bbc.com

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28/Feb/2016

Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid forward appears unhappy with team-mates

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo said "if we were all at my level maybe we would be leaders" after his side's 1-0 derby defeat by Atletico Madrid.

A first defeat under Zinedine Zidane leaves Real nine points off leaders Barcelona, and four below Atletico.

Real were missing Gareth Bale and Marcelo through injury, while Karim Benzema was replaced at half-time.

"I don't want to disrespect anyone, but when the best players aren't available it's harder to win," Ronaldo said.

"I like to play with Karim, with Bale, with Marcelo.

"I'm not saying the others like Lucas Vazquez, Jese and Mateo Kovacic are not good players - they are very good players - but it's not the same."

Afterwards he sought to clarify his quotes, telling Marca: "When I say that, I am talking about my fitness level, not my level as a player. I am no better than any of my team-mates".

Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal of the derby as Atletico became the first team to win in three consecutive La Liga trips to the Bernabeu.

Ronaldo used an expletive to describe how he feels the media describe him and added "but I don't listen to what the press say. The statistics and numbers don't lie".

Zidane had been unbeaten in his first eight La Liga games, although they have dropped from two points behind Barca to nine.

Atletico played in the Champions League away to PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, drawing 0-0, while Real had not played since last weekend.

Zidane said: "We were not as ready for the game as we thought we were. All I can say is that it's not just about our fitness.

"The players are not unfit, it's a question of everything. We didn't play the game we had prepared.

"They played on Wednesday and had less time to recover, and look at the game they played. So it is a mental question. We lacked a bit of everything.

"I told the players that we have to keep on going, I can't be happy with this performance and neither are they, but we can't give up. I have a clear idea of what went wrong today."

Source: bbc.com

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27/Feb/2016

Atletico Madrid win derby against Real

Atletico Madrid won a third consecutive La Liga Bernabeu derby to practically end Real Madrid's title hopes.

Diego Simeone's visitors are now five points off leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand, while Real are nine points below the champions.

Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal, early in the second half, when he steered Filipe Luis' pass home.

Real, who were two points off Barca when Zinedine Zidane took over, had not lost in his first eight games as boss.

The result means Atletico are the first side in La Liga history to win three times in a row at the Bernabeu, as Real fans called for club president Florentino Perez to resign.

Source: bbc.com

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27/Feb/2016

Leicester strike late against Norwich

Leonardo Ulloa's 89th-minute goal extended Leicester's lead at the top of the Premier League to five points and denied Norwich a deserved draw.

Ulloa slid in at the far post to convert Marc Albrighton's cross at the end of an otherwise limp Foxes display.

Norwich earlier had the better chances, Cameron Jerome heading wide and Nathan Redmond off target from distance.

Leicester had largely been restricted to shots from distance until substitute Ulloa had the final say.

Until the Argentine's intervention, the Foxes were facing the prospect of losing top spot if either of Arsenal or Tottenham win on Sunday - instead they are guaranteed to remain at the summit with 11 games remaining.

Norwich are still outside the relegation places, but level on points with Newcastle, who have a game in hand.

Stuff of champions?

For so long, Leicester looked likely to be frustrated into a stalemate by a tactically sound Norwich performance and their own lack of guile.

As the Canaries dropped deep, forming a five-man defence when they did not have the ball, Leicester looked to the trickery of Riyad Mahrez. As the clock ticked down, the hosts had only managed two shots on target - both from distance, both dealt with by John Ruddy.

Enter Ulloa, who arrived at the back post to convert into an empty net after Albrighton's low cross had crucially been poked past Ruddy by Jamie Vardy.

If champions find a way to win when they are not at their best, then Leicester have hinted at another reason why the Premier League title could be coming their way.

Cruel on the Canaries

It was so cruel on Norwich, who arrived at the King Power with the perfect plan to prevent Leicester from the sort of pacy counter-attacks that have carried them to the top of the league.

Vardy was given no space behind the defence and was largely anonymous, while the tricky Mahrez, bar a couple of jinking runs, was often crowded out.

But Norwich did not only defend - they had opportunities to win it.

Jerome should have scored when he climbed highest to meet a first-half corner, while Redmond fizzed a shot past the post from long range with home goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel beaten.

More of the same?

While Leicester can revel in a dramatic win that keeps their unlikely title bid on track, they must also consider how to better cope when teams set up in the same manner as the Canaries.

This was only the third time this season that Leicester had the most possession in a Premier League match as Norwich were happy to concede the ball in order to not leave the sort of space in which Vardy and Mahrez have thrived.

In their final 11 fixtures, Leicester will face only three clubs in the current top nine, and perhaps plenty of others willing to follow the template set by the Canaries.

Ulloa's late winner was further evidence of the momentum and belief that has carried Claudio Ranieri's men this far in a remarkable story, but problems that the Foxes may yet encounter had already been revealed.

What they said

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri: "It was a difficult match. Norwich played well and closed the space, but we believed until the end. This victory was very important to restart after the Arsenal defeat.

"I said before the Arsenal match that Norwich would be more difficult. Both teams could have scored a goal in the final 20 minutes.

"The conclusion I have drawn from this is that my players believe until the end. That, for me, is very important. If the other teams start to win, they can win all the matches. But for us, the next match is always the final match. That is our mentality."

Norwich manager Alex Neil: "I don't think we deserved that. In the game we had good chances and defensively we were solid.

"We kept Vardy and Mahrez quiet and we certainly deserved something. There are a lot of things to take from it.

"We have a game on Tuesday and we'll get it out of our system before then."

The stats

  • Leicester did not record a shot on target until the 58th minute
  • Norwich's only shot on target in this game came in the 43rd minute
  • Leicester have won four of their last five games
  • Two of Leonardo Ulloa's three Premier League goals this season have come as a sub
  • Norwich have taken one point from their last seven Premier League games
  • The Canaries have gone 14 Premier League games on the road without a clean sheet
  • Leicester have conceded only four goals in their last nine Premier League games

What next?

Leicester welcome West Brom to the King Power on Tuesday, while Norwich entertain Chelsea on the same night.

Source: bbc.com

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27/Feb/2016

Ivanovic heads late Chelsea winner

Chelsea moved up to 11th after coming back from a goal down to beat Southampton with a late Branislav Ivanovic header.

Shane Long headed high for the home side but atoned when he pounced on a Baba Rahman blunder before clipping a shot over keeper Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Costa volleyed wide for Chelsea but the visitors equalised when a Cesc Fabregas cross crept in.

Chelsea finished strongly and Ivanovic headed in from a Willian corner.

Follow reaction to Saturday's games here

Hiddink comes out on top against Koeman

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink managed Southampton counterpart Ronald Koeman when the pair won the European Cup with PSV Eindhoven in 1988.

They later fell out over Hiddink's appointment as Netherlands manager in 2014, although both have said there were no hard feelings.

They shared a handshake and a few words before their teams competed in a fascinating match.

Southampton were initially on top but Chelsea showed they had the greater stamina and capitalised on the home side dropping back too much after the break.

Hiddink will not only be pleased with his side's desire and commitment but the fact they recovered from conceding against a team who had not let in a goal in six games.

The Blues remain unbeaten in the Dutchman's 11 league games since he took over from Jose Mourinho.

Do Southampton have cause for complaint?

Southampton had been unbeaten in six league games, including five wins, before this match.

Keeper Fraser Forster set a top-flight league record of going 667 minutes without being beaten when the clock reached 34 minutes at St Mary's and, when he did eventually let a goal in, it was in bizarre circumstances.

The assistant was flagging for a foul by Chelsea's Kenedy on Cedric Soares but referee Martin Atkinson overruled and Fabregas sent in a low curling cross, which Forster misjudged as it went across him and in at the far post.

"I don't understand that. The linesman is the closest to the situation. If it is a fault by Kenedy then you have to listen to the linesman. That's why you have linesmen - to help you," Koeman said.

When asked about his view, Hiddink said: "There are many duels and referees in England usually let a lot of duels go."

Manager reaction:

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: "I think it was a deserved win for us. They haven't conceded in the last six, seven games so it was successful for us.

"We had a setback when we went 1-0 down - it was a present from our defence - but we did very well in the second half. We were well organised and then got the goals."

On replacing Baba Rahman, whose mistake led to Southampton's goal, at half-time: "I don't want to make a fake injury. I took him off because of the error. He has to cope with that. He was very down in the locker room about his mistake, but we have to make decisions like we did."

The stats you need to know

  • Shane Long has scored in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since he did so for Hull City in February 2014.
  • Southampton have led in 10 Premier League home games this season, the joint-most along with Chelsea.
  • Fraser Forster conceded his first goal in 708 minutes of Premier League action.
  • Cesc Fabregas scored just his third goal in his 40th appearance this season and his first away from Stamford Bridge since scoring at QPR in April 2015.
  • Reigning champions Chelsea have won back-to-back games for the first time this season and the first time since May 2015.

What next?

Chelsea face another away trip as they travel to Norwich for a top-flight game on Tuesday (19:45 GMT), while Southampton are at Bournemouth the same evening.

Source: bbc.com

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27/Feb/2016

Fifa presidential election: Gianni Infantino succeeds Sepp Blatter

Gianni Infantino has succeeded fellow Swiss Sepp Blatter as president of world football's governing body Fifa.

The Uefa secretary general polled 115 votes, 27 more than closest rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa.

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein (4 votes) and Jerome Champagne (0) were third and fourth respectively.

Blatter, who had led Fifa since 1998, stood down last year and was later banned from football for six years for breaching ethics guidelines.

Infantino is a 45-year-old lawyer from Brig in the Valais region of Switzerland, less than six miles from Blatter's hometown of Visp.

He only entered the presidential race when it became clear that Michael Platini, boss of European football's governing body Uefa, would not be allowed to stand.

The election was due to be fought between five candidates, but South African Tokyo Sexwale withdrew before voting began in Zurich.

The first round of voting failed to determine an outright winner, though Infantino led with 88, three more than pre-vote favourite Sheikh Salman.

A simple majority of more than 50% - 104 of 207 available votes - was sufficient for victory in round two.

Not since 1974, when Joao Havelange of Brazil beat 13-year incumbent Stanley Rous of England, has a second round been needed.

What will Infantino do now?

An emotional Infantino told delegates that he was finding it hard to "express my feelings in this moment".

But he told delegates that together they would "restore the image of Fifa and the respect of Fifa".

He added: "I want to work with all of you together in order to restore and rebuild a new era of Fifa where we can put again football at the centre of the stage.

"Fifa has gone through sad times, moments of crisis, but those times are over. We need to implement the reform and implement good governance and transparency. We also need to have respect.

"We're going to win back this respect through hard work, commitment and we're going to make sure we can finally focus on this wonderful game."

How has his election been received?

Gary Lineker, an outspoken critic of Fifa and former president Blatter, wished Infantino "all the best" following his appointment.

The former England striker added on Twitter: "He's got one hell of a job on his hands but seems a decent chap. Needs a sizeable new broom."

The television presenter then joked: "Have this weird feeling that Gianni Infantino will pull off his mask to reveal Sepp Blatter."

Portuguese great Luis Figo added his congratulations, tweeting: "Finally the change arrived. It's time for a new era in Fifa."

Russian sports minister Vitaly said: "I am happy. We supported him from the start. World football needs such a pragmatist."

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he was looking forward to working with Infantino for "the sake of sport".

Has Blatter reacted?

Yes, the 79-year-old issued a statement following the election.

It read: "I congratulate Gianni Infantino sincerely and warmly on his election as the new president.

"With his experience, expertise, strategic and diplomatic skills he has all the qualities to continue my work and to stabilize Fifa again."

What now for Fifa?

Infantino has a hard job resurrecting he fortunes after a number of damaging episode's in the organisation's history.

Criminal investigations in the United States and Switzerland have resulted in the indictment of dozens of football officials and other entities for corruption, many of them serving or former presidents of national or continental associations.

In addition, Fifa has been forced to investigate the awarding of several World Cup finals, especially the decision to grant the 2018 tournament to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar.

Swiss authorities are reviewing more than 150 reports of suspicious financial activity linked to those awards and said they had sent more documents, including an internal Fifa report to US investigators.

What else happened in Zurich?

To help the new president tackle the crisis that has enveloped Fifa, key reforms were passed to help make it a more transparent and accountable organisation.

All salaries of Fifa officials will be disclosed, while a limit of four years has been placed on a president's term.

A new council to replace the current executive committee has also been introduced, featuring a female representative from each confederation.

English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said the reforms were "more important" than the new leader as they will provide an "opportunity for Fifa to start again".

Source: bbc.com

 

 

 

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26/Feb/2016

Fifa presidential election: No winner after first round of voting

Gianni Infantino caused a surprise by polling the most votes in round one of voting in Friday's election to succeed Sepp Blatter as Fifa president.

The Uefa secretary general failed to get enough to seal outright victory, claiming 88 of the 207 votes available at an extraordinary congress in Zurich.

Pre-vote favourite Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa won 85.

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein was next with 27, followed by Jerome Champagne on seven. Tokyo Sexwale withdrew earlier.

It is the first time voting for the presidential election had reached a second round since 1974, when Joao Havelange of Brazil became the first non-European president ahead of England's Sir Stanley Rous.

Blatter, who led world football's governing body since 1998, stood down last year and was later banned from football for six years.

Analysis

"Infantino's camp has consistently maintained an air of optimism throughout the final days of this election campaign," said BBC Radio 5 live's sports news correspondent Richard Conway.

"They were not surprised at how well he performed in round one.

"What was surprising according to those close to Shaikh Salman is that pledges of support from Asia and Africa failed to materialise for the Bahraini."

What happens now?

To become president after the first round of voting, a candidate needed to secure two-thirds of the available votes, which equated to 138.

In round two, a simple majority is required, which means Infantino needs another 16 votes to become Fifa's ninth president.

"This election is being fought on the floor of the congress hall right now, with supporters of both Shaikh Salman, Gianni Infantino and Prince Ali talking to voterw," added Conway. "We could be in for a long night."

What else has happened?

Before voting began, reforms were passed to help make Fifa a more transparent and accountable organisation.

All salaries will be disclosed, while a limit of four years has been placed on a president's term.

A new council to replace the current executive committee has also been introduced, featuring a female representative from each confederation.

Greg Dyke, who will cast a vote as chairman of the English Football Association, says the reforms are "more important" than the new leader as it will provide an "opportunity for Fifa to start again".

Before voting began, reforms were passed to help make Fifa a more transparent and accountable organisation.

All salaries will be disclosed, while a limit of four years has been placed on a president's term.

A new council to replace the current executive committee has also been introduced, featuring a female representative from each confederation.

Greg Dyke, who will cast a vote as chairman of the English Football Association, says the reforms are "more important" than the new leader as it will provide an "opportunity for Fifa to start again".

How does voting work?

There are 209 Fifa nations but Kuwait and Indonesia are currently barred from taking part, meaning there are 207 eligible voters.

To become president after the first round of voting, a candidate must secure two-thirds of the available votes. If no candidate achieves that mark, a simple majority is required in the second round.

If there is still no winner, a third round will take place, minus the candidate with the fewest votes in round two.

Fifa says a winner must be declared on Friday because an ice hockey rink is due to be installed at the Hallenstadion venue at midnight.

Fifa votes

How significant is Friday's election?

Given everything that has happened to Fifa, this is seen as a pivotal moment for an organisation which has been heavily criticised for its lack of transparency and for failing to clamp down on corruption within it.

A new leader, together with a raft of reform measures, is seen as a chance to start afresh.

Acting president Issa Hayatou said Friday can "signal a new dawn", adding: "This is our opportunity to show we are united in building a stronger Fifa."

How bad has it got for Fifa?

There have been widespread allegations of corruption, the arrest of leading officials, the banning of its president and the sight of big-name sponsors deserting the organisation.

Numerous Fifa officials have been indicted in the United States, while Swiss authorities are also investigating the organisation.

Blatter has also been banned from all football activity for six years after being found guilty of breaching Fifa's ethics rules over a $2m (£1.3m) "disloyal payment" to the head of European football's governing body Uefa, Michel Platini, who had been favourite to succeed the Swiss.

Former France captain Platini was also suspended. Both men deny any wrongdoing and are appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Furthermore, Jerome Valcke, Fifa's secretary general and formerly Blatter's right-hand man, was banned for 12 years following allegations - which he denies - of misconduct while in office.

How important is the president?

Fifa's leader is the figurehead for world football, often seen in public alongside presidents, prime ministers and royalty.

There have been eight of them so far, presiding over the organisation's executive committee, which is where the real decision-making power lies.

Fifa organises World Cups and other international tournaments, distributes broadcasting rights and should both protect and develop the world's most popular sport.

The president also "legally represents" the organisation, "maintains relations between Fifa and the confederations, members, political bodies and international organisations", and "implements the decisions passed by the congress and the executive committee".

Who wants to take over?

There are four candidates following Sexwale's withdrawal. They are:

  • Prince Ali bin al-Hussein: Aged 40, president of the Jordanian Football Association
  • Jerome Champagne: Aged 57, a former Fifa executive from France
  • Gianni Infantino: Aged 45, the Swiss is Uefa's general secretary
  • Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa: Aged 50, the Bahraini is Asian Football Confederation president

Read more: the five candidates profiled

What do they say?

Prince Ali: "I'm a candidate beholden to no one. I wouldn't apply political pressure or coercion. I'm the only candidate from a national association."

Infantino: "I'm not a politician, I'm football person and I'm a worker. If we stop doing politics and start doing football, the world will admire us."

Sheikh Salman: "My past and my track record speaks for itself. We want someone who is responsible and can deliver the promises he says."

Champagne: "I want a Fifa that serves football, that serves you. The Fifa I dream of is one which correct the inequalities."

What do they stand for?

Prince Ali wants to quadruple the amount Fifa's member associations receive - believing it will increase their sustainability - but wants the money properly accounted for.

Infantino would expand the World Cup to 40 teams to ensure more smaller nations can participate. He also wants to hugely expand Fifa's development plan by investing £860m of its revenues and giving £3.6m to each member association.

Sheikh Salman's big idea is to split Fifa in two with a business side handling commercial issues and the football side organising World Cups and developing the game. He believes this would stop executives making self-interested decisions.

Champagne's most recent manifesto emphasised "rebalancing" the inequality in football and "reconciling" the game's "protagonists". He wants to introduce technology to help referees and appoint women to key Fifa roles. He also wants Fifa to be run like a public sector organisation.

Will it really be a new era?

BBC sports editor Dan Roan in Zurich:

"Few fans or players would recognise these individuals, let alone know about their policies or have trust in their leadership.

"The selection of Sepp Blatter's successor should be the moment the governing body finally consigns the tainted tenure of their former president to history and symbolically moves on from the stranglehold he held over the organisation for so long. Except to many, it simply does not feel like that.

"All of the men running for president are members of the football establishment. Four of them have spoken to Blatter in the build up to the election, presumably to ask for advice. All are loathe to condemn the disgraced former president.

"The next 24 hours matters a great deal, and much is at stake. But do not assume that it represents the end of this great scandal, or the solution to FIFA's troubles. We should all know better by now."

Source: bbc.com

 

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26/Feb/2016

Manchester United draw Liverpool in Europa League

Liverpool will face rivals Manchester United in the Europa League last 16, while Tottenham have been drawn against Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.

The games will be played on Thursday, 10 and 17 March.

Liverpool's home leg will kick-off at 20:05 GMT with the second game at Old Trafford starting at 18:00 GMT.

Valencia, managed by Gary Neville, face fellow Spanish side Athletic Bilbao, while Sevilla - the winners of the last two Europa League titles - play Basel.

The Swiss side's St Jakob-Park ground will host the final.

The winners of the tournament qualify for next season's Champions League.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: "You can ask my staff but when they asked me yesterday who I wanted, I said 'Man United'.

"I think we have to clear something. We had a good game when we lost 1-0 (in the Premier League in January) but it was not what we deserved.

"It gives us a chance to make it better and that is what we will try to do."

United, who have never won the tournament, beat FC Midtjylland 6-3 on aggregate with Marcus Rashford scoring twice on his debut as United won the second leg 5-1.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool beat Augsburg 1-0 on aggregate with James Milner scoring the only goal of the tie on Thursday. The Reds won the old Uefa Cup three times, in 1973, 1976 and 2001.

It will be the first time United and Liverpool have faced each other in European competition.

The last all-English match in the Uefa Cup or Europa League was Liverpool v Tottenham in April 1973.

Spurs, who beat Fiorentina 3-0 on Thursday to seal their tie 4-1 on aggregate, won the 1972 and 1984 Uefa Cups.

Sevilla - who have won the tournament a record four times - are bidding to become the first side to win it three years in a row.

Europa League round of 16 draw

Shakhtar Donetsk v Anderlecht

Basel v Sevilla

Villarreal v Bayer Leverkusen

Athletic Bilbao v Valencia

Liverpool v Manchester United

Sparta Prague v Lazio

Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham

Fenerbahce v Braga

Source: bbc.com

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26/Feb/2016

Remi Garde: Aston Villa players not giving everything

Aston Villa manager Remi Garde says not all of his players are giving everything in the club's bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

Villa are seven points adrift at the bottom of the table after just three league wins all season.

They lost 6-0 to Liverpool 11 days ago, a heaviest home defeat for 81 years.

"I don't see the commitment from all the players every day in training sessions," said Garde, whose side play at Stoke on Saturday (15:00 GMT).

Former Lyon boss Garde, appointed at the start of November, was unable to make any signings during the January transfer window.

The 49-year-old Frenchman added: "If I had the choice of other players I would like to select, I would like to - but I don't have the possibility.

"Sometimes it's about fighting and commitment. It's the first thing professional players should have on the pitch. How can you be confident if you're not fighting?"

Meanwhile, Garde confirmed he had spoken to Joleon Lescott about the defender posting a picture on social media of an expensive car just an hour after the defeat by Liverpool.

Lescott, who was widely criticised by supporters, has apologised and said the message had been sent accidentally from his pocket.

Garde said: "He told me the same thing that he said to the press. He told me it was an accident. I have no reason not to believe Joleon.

"We were together speaking face to face. I believe what he said. I just said to him that I was not expecting from an experienced player such an accident."

Source: bbc.com

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25/Feb/2016

Liverpool edge past Augsburg in Europa League

Liverpool warmed up for the Capital One Cup final on Sunday by reaching the last 16 of the Europa League with a tense win over Augsburg at Anfield.

Following a goalless first leg, James Milner scored a penalty after Dominik Kohr's handball to put the Reds ahead.

Liverpool failed to take their chances and a Lucas Leiva back-pass released Augsburg's Caiuby but he shot wide.

An away goal would have put the Germans through and Reds keeper Simon Mignolet had to save from Tobias Werner late on.

Liverpool ended up hanging on as they made it into Friday's draw in which there are no seedings or restrictions on facing teams from your own country.

Follow Thursday's Europa League action here

Liverpool lack cutting edge

The Reds would have wanted to put this tie to bed as quickly as possible with the Wembley showpiece against Manchester City on Sunday and they were aided by the early penalty.

Liverpool pressed high up the pitch and played some stylish football but, with six goals in seven previous Europa League outings this season, they again struggled in front of goal and failed to turn their superiority into a bigger lead.

Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho had a promising chance when he was set up by the impressive Daniel Sturridge, only to see his stabbed shot from eight yards saved by keeper Marwin Hitz.

England international Sturridge had a shot palmed on to a post after a Coutinho pull-back and the striker also sent a shot just wide when he was not flagged after appearing offside.

The anxiety for the home side increased as the game went on - and Reds captain Jordan Henderson had a close-range shot saved before the relief of the final whistle.

"It is frustrating. We should be scoring two or three and killing the game off and it makes it tough second half as you know if they score they go through," England midfielder Henderson told BT Sport.

"We have to give credit to Augsburg as well. They are a quality team and put us under pressure."

Were Liverpool lucky?

The hosts were the better team but Augsburg, who are 13th in the Bundesliga, had their chances as they almost capitalised on Liverpool's lack of ruthlessness.

Kostas Stafylidis had a well-struck shot parried away by Reds keeper Mignolet and Caiuby missed after Lucas' back-pass.

Mignolet also rescued his side when he quickly came of his line to block a Werrner shot when he had been put clean through on goal.

A late 20-yard free-kick from Stafylidis also curled just the wrong side of the post as the German side's debut season in European competition came to an end.

What shape are the Reds in for Sunday's final?

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp chose to play a strong line-up, despite the game being just three days before the trip to Wembley.

Sturridge and Coutinho had only recently returned from hamstring injuries but both played, with the former being taken off after 66 minutes and the Brazilian playmaker being substituted after 80 minutes.

Milner did go down at one point following an accidental clash with Stafylidis, but there did not appear to be any other injury worries for Klopp.

"Phil had one or two situations after challenges but we need to find new faith or trust in the body of the players," said the 48-year-old German.

"They (Sturridge and Coutinho) are very important for us but we need them in their best shape and you can only get this from training and matches."

Manager reaction

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "It was absolutely deserved. We were the better team, we created chances but we had one problem in that we didn't use them.

"We couldn't control the game in the last 20 minutes and it was hard, that is how it should be, but we are in the next round."

Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl: "I think we were a little unlucky with the penalty but we kept it going right till the end and that says a lot for our team and I am very proud of the players and the club."

The stats you need to know

  • Two of Liverpool's three fastest goals in all competitions this season have been scored in the Europa League - Adam Lallana v FC Sion (3:47) and Milner v Augsburg tonight (4:29).
  • This was Liverpool's first clean sheet at Anfield in Europe since last season's last-32 Europa League game against Besiktas, also a 1-0 win.
  • Augsburg scored against all three of their other opponents (Athletic Club, Partizan Belgrade and AZ) in their maiden European season but failed to do so in two games against Liverpool.
  • Liverpool have reached the last 16 of a European competition for the first time since the 2010-11 season when they did so in the Europa League.

What next?

As mentioned, Liverpool are back in action on Sunday as they face Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final as the Premier League rivals compete for the first piece of major silverware of the English domestic season.

Source: bbc.com

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25/Feb/2016

Rashford stars as Man U hit five

Teenager Marcus Rashford scored twice on his debut as Manchester United came from behind to thrash FC Midtjylland and reach the Europa League last 16.

The Danish champions led 2-1 from the first leg and Pione Sisto increased their advantage.

Nikolay Bodurov's own goal reduced the deficit before Rashford, who only started after Anthony Martial was injured in the warm-up, struck twice.

Ander Herrera's penalty and Memphis Depay's late goal completed the rout.

Juan Mata missed a penalty at 1-1, while Midtjylland finished with 10 men after Andre Romer was sent off for a second yellow card.

Relive all the drama from Old Trafford

Rashford to the rescue

While the scoreline was emphatic in the end, United were looking at an embarrassing exit before Rashford netted twice in the space of 12 second half minutes in front of the Stretford End.

Manchester United debutant Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring in the Europa LeagueManchester United debutant Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring in the Europa LeagueManchester United debutant Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring in the Europa League

The 18-year-old, named as a substitute on the team sheet, was only elevated to the starting line-up after Martial damaged his hamstring in the warm-up.

Manchester-born Rashford showed confidence beyond his tender years from the start, but Sisto's tidy finish left Louis van Gaal staring at an embarrassing exit at the hands of a team formed in 1999.

Bodurov lifted the mood inside Old Trafford when he sliced Memphis' cutback into his own net before Mata's spot-kick was saved by Mikkel Andersen after Ander Herrera was clipped by Kian Hansen.

Like this? Read these...
Who is Marcus Rashford? Two key people from his development explain
Liverpool 1-0 Augsburg
Tottenham 3-0 Fiorentina

The exciting Rashford put United ahead when he tucked home from seven yards in front of the Stretford End before repeating the trick with a half-volley to make it 3-1.

Herrera added his side's fourth from the penalty spot after Hansen handled before Depay's thumping effort completed the scoring.

How's your luck

It looked like another sorry chapter in United's season of under-achievement even before a ball had been kicked.

Defender Chris Smalling was ruled out earlier on Thursday with a shoulder problem, paving the way for 19-year-old Joe Riley, a substitute in United's FA Cup win at Shrewsbury three days earlier, to make his first senior start.

Martial's injury paved the way for Rashford's debut, but after recovering from falling behind on the night, United scored four times inside the final half hour to pull away.

Analysis: BBC Sport's Simon Stone at Old Trafford:
"Manchester United are fond of talking about their 'great' European nights. The last came against Olympiakos under David Moyes two years ago when United overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit to win 3-2.
"This result will be added to the list. Any doubts - and there remain plenty - amongst the United fans about manager Louis van Gaal were set aside for the good of the team.
"They stuck with them when their team went a goal down - and again when Juan Mata missed his penalty. Slight murmurings were beginning with Marcus Rashford took centre stage, and after that the decibel levels went right up.
"So young is Rashford - a product of the same Fletcher Moss club where Wes Brown and Danny Welbeck cut their teeth - he has become United's youngest goalscorer in Europe."

They could even afford to end the match with another teenage debutant on the pitch in the shape of 17-year-old Regan Poole.

Embattled manager Louis van Gaal managed a smile at the end after his side scored five in a match for the first time under his control in front of a 58,609 crowd.

United could face Gary Neville in the last 16

The draw for the last-16 stage takes place on Friday and there is a chance United could be paired with a friendly face - as well as a bitter rival.

Liverpool and Tottenham are also through and, with no country protection, teams from the same league can be drawn against one another.

Valencia, managed by former United defender Gary Neville, are also through after a 10-0 aggregate win over Rapid Vienna.

The stats you need to know

  • United have scored five goals in a European game at Old Trafford for the first time since April 2007
  • Midtjylland scored with their first shot of the match
  • United are unbeaten in 10 European home games
  • The Danish champions have lost their last three European away games, conceding 11 in the process

Next up?

United have just two full days to recover before they entertain Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday (14:05 GMT). The Gunners are seeking to do the double over Van Gaal's side having defeated the Red Devils 3-0 at the Emirates on 4 October.

Marcus Rashford tweetSource: bbc.com

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25/Feb/2016

City win in Kiev

A full-strength Manchester City took command of their Champions League last-16 tie against Dynamo Kiev with an impressive first-leg win in Ukraine.

City dominated the first half and Sergio Aguero slotted in an opener before a slick move let David Silva side-foot in a second.

Vitaliy Buyalsky pulled one back with a deflected shot before he had another effort superbly saved by Joe Hart.

Yaya Toure curled in a superb shot late on to restore City's two-goal lead.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini fielded a weakened side in the FA Cup defeat by Chelsea on Sunday.

But the City boss made 10 changes as he restored his side's stars to the starting line-up on Wednesday and they put the club within reach of the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.

Follow reaction to tonight's Champions League games here.

City show return to form

City went into the game with just one win in the four matches since it was announced Pep Guardiola would be replacing Pellegrini in the summer.

Pellegrini's selection in the FA Cup also put his side under increased pressure as he clearly prioritised the club's Champions League campaign.

However, he was rewarded with a first-half display which saw his side constantly winning the ball high up the pitch and overwhelming their hosts.

Aguero put the visitors ahead and sent two further efforts wide. He also had another shot parried away by 41-year-old keeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy.

City had to withstand some pressure as the home side regrouped and improved after the break and, despite conceding a goal, Toure's finish put them in control.

"The performance was good, with a lot of high pressing, 3-1 is a good result and we are happy with it," said City captain Vincent Kompany.

"We are going into the second leg with a fairly good chance to go through, which has not been the case before. We looked like a team that was hungry for success."

The Silva & Kompany effect

Pellegrini usually plays Silva on the right wing but moved the Spanish playmaker in a central role behind striker Aguero for this game, and the move paid off handsomely.

Fernandinho was played on the right wing, with Toure dropping back to form a two-man midfield with Fernando to allow Silva to showcase the threat he poses.

Silva's movement and passing proved a constant menace in the first half, while centre-back Kompany had to come to the fore after the break.

Kompany, who was playing only his second game since returning from seven weeks out with a calf injury, gave his side a more assured look at the back when they had to deal with a more threatening home side in the second half.

Kiev off the pace

Dynamo Kiev had not played a competitive game since a Champions League group-stage win over Maccabi Tel Aviv on 9 December because of Ukrainian football's winter break - and it showed.

They lacked rhythm and looked off the pace as they struggled to deal with the intensity of City's pressing game in the first half as their star player Andriy Yarmolenko struggled to make an impact.

Yarmolenko, who had been a doubt with a knee injury, became more of a threat for a brief spell as the home side pulled one back but they could not maintain their pressure.

Dynamo did nearly equalise but Hart brilliantly kept out Buyalsky's effort and the save proved crucial as City went on to restore their two-goal advantage.

Manager reaction

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini speaking to BT Sport: "I'm very happy because it is a very good result.

"It is not finished but playing away and having a two-goal lead is very good. The team played well and had lots of chances. Maybe when it was 2-1 we had moments of doubt, but then we got the third goal.

"Is the tie settled? No, it is important in football to never think it is finished. But to have that third goal gives us more confidence for the second leg."

Dynamo Kiev boss Sergei Rebrov speaking to BT Sport: "The winter break didn't affect us, the fact is we played one of the best teams in Europe. The players were a little nervous, it was their first time in the last 16 and they felt that. When Man City scored we lost confidence.

"When we scored I hoped we could get back into it. We had chances but couldn't score."

Pundit analysis

BBC Sport football expert Mark Lawrenson: "Man City were very, very good - there was a little spell at the start of the second half when Kiev came at them, but in the end City might feel they could probably have won by another goal or so.

"City won this game comfortably. Yes, Kiev had 11 weeks off but that was not City's problem."

The stats you need to know

  • Manchester City are the first English team to win an away Champions League game against Ukrainian opposition since Manchester United versus Dynamo Kiev in October 2007.
  • Sergio Aguero has scored 16 goals in his past 17 Champions League starts.
  • None of Manchester City's 35 Champions League games have ended goalless. They've kept just four clean sheets in 35 CL games.
  • Raheem Sterling has had a hand in five goals in his past four Champions League games (three goals, two assists).
  • David Silva scored in consecutive Champions League appearances for the first time.

What next?

Manchester City have a trip to Wembley to face Liverpool in the League Cup final on Sunday, 28 February, with the game kicking off at 16:30 GMT. Dynamo Kiev restart their league challenge with a home game against Dnipro in the first of two domestic games before the return leg at City on 15 March.

Source: bbc.com

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25/Feb/2016

Sepp Blatter & Michel Platini lose Fifa appeals but bans reduced

Outgoing Fifa president Sepp Blatter and suspended Uefa boss Michel Platini have had bans from all football-related activities upheld.

But the suspensions have been reduced from eight to six years by Fifa's appeals committee.

Both were found guilty of breaches surrounding a £1.3m ($2m) "disloyal payment" to Platini.

They both deny any wrongdoing and have said they will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Blatter and Platini said the payment honoured a verbal or gentleman's agreement made in 1998 for work carried out by the Frenchman when he was a technical advisor for Blatter.

Blatter, 79, added in a statement that he was "very disappointed by the appeal committee of Fifa".

Platini, 60, said it was "insulting and shameful" and a "political decision".

The committee said "activities and services rendered to Fifa, Uefa and football" was a mitigating factor.

Fifa's presidential election is due to take place on Friday to find Swiss Blatter's replacement.

Fifa boss since 1998, Blatter had already announced he was quitting after reports emerged he was under investigation in the United States.

Platini had been tipped as a future leader of football's world governing body and is a three-time European Footballer of the Year.

He is also a former captain of France and has been in charge of Uefa - European football's governing body - since 2007.

In a statement released after the announcement, Platini said the accusations were without foundation and completely made up "beyond reality".

He said the communication of the decision was done with "an unbearable arrogance" and that Friday's congress would be remembered in history with the "mark of illegitimacy".

"I am the victim of a system which has only had one goal - to stop me standing for the president of Fifa," Platini added.

The decision not to overturn the suspensions follows a 12-year ban imposed on Jerome Valcke, who was sacked as secretary general of world football's governing body last month.

Valcke, the man responsible for running Fifa's day-to-day administration, was found guilty of misconduct over the sale of World Cup tickets, abuse of travel expenses, attempting to sell TV rights below their market value and destruction of evidence.

He also denies wrongdoing.

He is also a former captain of France and has been in charge of Uefa - European football's governing body - since 2007.

In a statement released after the announcement, Platini said the accusations were without foundation and completely made up "beyond reality".

He said the communication of the decision was done with "an unbearable arrogance" and that Friday's congress would be remembered in history with the "mark of illegitimacy".

"I am the victim of a system which has only had one goal - to stop me standing for the president of Fifa," Platini added.

The decision not to overturn the suspensions follows a 12-year ban imposed on Jerome Valcke, who was sacked as secretary general of world football's governing body last month.

Valcke, the man responsible for running Fifa's day-to-day administration, was found guilty of misconduct over the sale of World Cup tickets, abuse of travel expenses, attempting to sell TV rights below their market value and destruction of evidence.

He also denies wrongdoing.

Source: bbc.com

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24/Feb/2016

Juventus fightback denies Bayern

Juventus produced a remarkable second-half fightback against Bayern Munich to give themselves hope going into the Champions League last 16 second leg.

The Bundesliga leaders overwhelmed their Serie A counterparts in the first half, and took the lead when Thomas Muller slotted in before Arjen Robben curled in the second.

Juve pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute when Paulo Dybala tucked home.

The comeback was complete when Stefano Sturaro poked in from close range.

Juve's first-half humbling

At half-time, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri must have thought "let's keep this respectable".

His team were pummelled in the first half. The graphic shows that they were camped in their own half by wave after wave of Bayern attacks.

Juve went into the match having conceded only once in the 11 matches they had played since the start of 2016 - however, they had yet to play a team of Bayern's potency.

Arturo Vidal and Juan Bernat tested veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon and Muller went close, before they took the lead. It came when defender Andrea Barzagli's clearance from Douglas Costa's volleyed cross fell at the feet of Muller, who did the rest from 10 yards,

Bayern went again and this time it was a three-man break. Striker Robert Lewandowski appeared to send Robben too far wide with his pass into the area, but the Dutchman - in customary style - cut in and feigned to shoot before sending his effort past the reach of Buffon.

The Old Lady finds her teeth

Even the most adventurous punter would have hesitated putting money on Juve to turn this around.

The key to the change in fortunes were the substitutions. Hernanes, Sturaro and Alvaro Morata provided more energy to the attack, as Allegri experimented with his tactics.

There was a bit of luck with the first as Joshua Kimmich lost the ball 25 yards from goal. This allowed Mario Mandzukic to play in Dybala, who converted with a composed finish.

The Bayern defence was breached again when Morata's headed pass into the six-yard area was slammed in by fellow substitute Sturaro.

Bayern are still favourites to go through because of their two away goals, but Juve's second-half display makes this next match an intriguing prospect.

Manager reaction

Bayern manager Pep Guardiola: "Juventus made it to last year's final, not us. We're not dealing with a team from the provinces.

"I'm really happy with how we played. It's one of the matches from my career that I want to remember the most.

"You cannot really expect that your opponent will not get a single chance. That's football. Sometimes you can't look at just the result. We played with character."

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri: "In the first half they pushed us hard in our own half and we just couldn't settle. We started making a lot of mistakes with our passes and didn't use the space well, but let's not forget we were playing Bayern.

"After the interval we played a lot better.

"We might have even snatched the win at the end, but we will need to make sure there's no repeat of our first half when we go to Munich."

Source: bbc.com

 

 

Paulo Dybala

 

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24/Feb/2016

Messi puts Barca ahead in game one

Lionel Messi effectively condemned Arsenal to a sixth successive exit at the last-16 stage of the Champions League with two decisive goals at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal battled gallantly to give themselves a chance going into the second leg at the Nou Camp in three weeks' time - but suffered at the hands of Barcelona's superstar trio Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

After Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud had come close to giving Arsenal the lead, Messi scored his first goal against keeper Petr Cech at the seventh attempt when he crowned a blistering a counter-attack involving Suarez and Neymar to sweep home a finish after 71 minutes.

And further damage was inflicted seven minutes from time when Arsenal substitute Mathieu Flamini floored Messi with a mistimed challenge and he got up to send Cech the wrong way from the spot. It was his eighth goal against Arsenal in the Champions League.

Suarez hit the post and Cech saved from Neymar as Barcelona took control - but this tie already looks well out of Arsenal's reach.

Watch Phil McNulty's post-match Facebook Q&A here

Listen to highlights of the match on BBC Radio 5 live

Listen to Wenger's reaction to the game

All over for Arsenal

Arsenal went out to Barcelona in 2010 and 2011 and that was after a draw and a win at Emirates Stadium - so their chances can be all but written off after this defeat.

The Gunners had their chances but they came to nothing, with Oxlade-Chamberlain a culprit when he allowed Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to save from a huge opportunity before Giroud saw a second-half header well saved.

Such is the ruthlessness of this Barcelona side that even half-chances (or less) have to be accepted and, if they are not, there is almost an inevitability about the outcome.

Wenger can make the usual optimistic noises about the second leg in the Nou Camp but it would be the greatest result of his reign if he managed to inspire a turnaround from this position.

It is, perhaps, on nights like these that those calls for Wenger to sign a world-class striker carry greater resonance because even the smallest opportunities have to count and Arsenal were unable to do so.

Unstoppable MSN

The big fear before the game was that Arsenal would be unable to keep Barca's big three quiet for 90 minutes no matter how hard they tried - and so it proved.

Strange as it may seem, this was not Messi, Neymar and Suarez at their very best but they still cast a huge shadow over Arsenal and created havoc.

Suarez had two missed opportunities at the end of the first half, Cech made two magnificent saves from Neymar and Messi contributed to the two decisive goals. This on a night when even the three themselves will admit they have played much better.

All three carry a touch of genius while offering contrasting qualities. Neymar's change of pace was startling, Suarez is like a shark as he makes his way around defences spreading chaos while Messi remains peerless.

Any team hoping to take the Champions League crown from Barcelona will have to work out how to stop the great Barcelona trinity - easier said than done.

Arsenal deserve credit

Arsenal and manager Wenger will be desolate after this result effectively consigns them to yet another last 16 exit - but they deserve a measure of credit for their display.

In the first half they were hugely disciplined to keep Barcelona at bay, indeed in the first 30 minutes the holders only had two touches in Arsenal's penalty area compared to 11 from Wenger's team.

Goalkeeper Cech was immense while Nacho Monreal and Aaron Ramsey were also excellent.

Ultimately, however, Arsenal were not good enough - no shame in that - but all that is left is for Barcelona to complete the formalities in Catalonia in three weeks.

Manager reaction

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on BT Sport: "Barcelona are a great team. We put a lot of energy in the game and technically we were very average.

"The regret I had was once we looked like we dominated the game, we give the goal away. Similar to Monaco last season, naive, and that is frustrating. When we looked like we could win the game, we just gave it away.

"Realistically it is very, very difficult, if not impossible. We have to go there and fight. We had the chances, we didn't score."

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique: "I am happy with everything. There was nothing that I didn't like. Nothing.

"The result is really good, but the tie is not over. We will have to go out to win."

'Arsenal lacked quality in final third'

Former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas on BBC Radio 5 live: "I felt the Arsenal players gave a good account of themselves in parts of the game but this Barcelona side have got too much class.

"Arsenal will be thinking what could have been. They didn't capitalise on the opportunities they had. They didn't seem to have enough when Barcelona ramped it up.

"I was really happy with Arsenal's tactics for once but I don't think they had the quality in the final third."

The stats you need to know

  • Lionel Messi ended a run of 10 hours and 11 minutes without a goal against Petr Cech (seventh game against him).
  • Messi now has eight Champions League goals versus Arsenal - only against and AC Milan (eight) has he scored as often.
  • There were just 47 seconds between Mathieu Flamini coming on to the pitch and him giving away a penalty.
  • Barcelona are unbeaten in 33 competitive games - their best ever run in all competitions. The record for a Spanish team is for Real Madrid with 34 games in a row without defeat back in 1987-88.
  • Arsenal failed to score for the first time in 14 Champions League matches.

What next?

Arsenal will have to raise themselves quickly after this defeat as they get back to their Premier League title chase with a game at Manchester United on Sunday, 28 February (14:05 GMT). Spanish league leaders Barcelona host Sevilla in La Liga on the same day.

Source: bbc.com

 

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24/Feb/2016

FA Cup: Chelsea put 5 past Man City

Chelsea swept aside a below-strength Manchester City team containing five teenage full debutants to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini warned he would select a shadow side after the game was scheduled for late on Sunday, before Wednesday's Champions League match against Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine.

And he was true to his word as most of City's big players were missing and defender Tosin Adarabioyo and young midfielders Manu Garcia and Aleix Garcia were selected, along with Bersant Celina and David Faupala.

Faupala actually gave City hope when he scrambled in an equaliser, after Diego Costa headed Chelsea in front 10 minutes before half-time.

The leveller was met with several coins being thrown on to the pitch from the Chelsea supporters' end.

The hosts, however, over-ran City after the break with Willian scoring from close range and Gary Cahill putting the result beyond doubt with a powerful finish from Fernando's poor clearance.

The excellent Eden Hazard curled in a free-kick and Bertrand Traore's header looped over dreadful City keeper Willy Caballero to complete an emphatic win for Chelsea, who were even allowed the luxury of seeing Oscar's penalty saved.

Chelsea will travel to Everton in the quarter-finals.

There are two distinct sides to this argument - those who believe in the power of the FA Cup to such an extent that anything less than a full-strength side is abhorrent, and those who believe City have higher priorities.

Pellegrini, in his defence, has always played strong sides in domestic cup competitions and his anger (and consequently his selection) here came from this game being scheduled for 16:00 GMT on a Sunday before Wednesday's Champions League trip to the Ukraine.

A side with so many full debutants was on a hiding to nothing and so it proved as Chelsea's strength and superior class wore them down.

The eventual result will inevitably draw criticism for Pellegrini but he will insist he does respect the FA Cup, has a track record that proves it, and that his hand was forced by City's arduous schedule, which also includes the Capital One Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley next Sunday.

Hazard shows signs of life

Eden Hazard's form has come under intense scrutiny this season, with many Chelsea fans blaming his lack of impact for the sacking of manager Jose Mourinho.

He was also criticised for his display in the Champions League loss to Paris St-Germain, a club who - along with Real Madrid, have been strongly linked with the Belgian.

Here, he was back to something like his mercurial best, crossing for Costa's opener, playing in Willian for the second before getting his first home goal this season with a swerving free-kick that deceived City keeper Caballero.

Hazard still has some way to go before reaching the standards that inspired Chelsea's title win last season but this was another big step forward and history shows that when he plays well Chelsea are a very potent force.

And the chants at the end suggests he is back in the good books of Chelsea's fans.

So how did City's youngsters fare?

The answer is a simple one - just about as well as could be expected in the circumstances.

And to place their efforts in context against a Chelsea side that was simply too strong and too good for them, it should be noted that keeper Caballero (34), Martin Demichelis (35) and Fernando (28) were quite comfortably among City's worst players.

Caballero was uncertain throughout and might have done better with Chelsea's last three goals, although he saved Oscar's penalty. Demichelis was desperate, fouling Bertrand Traore to concede a penalty, while it was Fernando's clearance that fell invitingly for Cahill's third.

It was certainly not the youngsters who let Pellegrini down.

Young striker Faupala, his goal apart, showed great energy and promise. The 19-year-old almost opened the scoring in the opening moments, following up two nutmegs with a shot that brought a smart save from Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois.

And young defender Adarabioyo, 18, was dealt a tough hand in dealing with the bustling Costa but stuck to his task and acquitted himself better than the vastly-experienced Demichelis.

This was a very steep learning curve for City's kids and they can now return to the junior ranks having had a taste, albeit a painful one, of life at the highest level.

What the managers said

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: "Manchester City made changes but that doesn't make it easy because the youngsters that came in were dangerous. It was key that we started well in the second half, got an early second and third goal."

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini: "We were forced to select that team, we couldn't play another day and didn't have any more fit players. We knew it was a difficult chance to carry on in the FA Cup. We cannot do anything more.

"If we play on Saturday, it is better for us, then we play in the Champions League for England. We have six players injured and cannot take any more risks. We played against a very good team and that's why they won."

The stats you need to know

  • Guus Hiddink has never lost an FA Cup match with Chelsea (played six, won six), guiding them to the trophy in 2009
  • Manchester City conceded five goals in an FA Cup game for the first time since January 2000 (2-5 v Leeds)
  • David Faupala scored on his first ever senior appearance in English football
  • Diego Costa has scored seven goals in his last seven games in all competitions at Stamford Bridge
  • Eden Hazard has scored and assisted in both of his two FA Cup appearances this season (two goals, three assists in total)
  • Hazard has assisted two goals in a game (all comps) for Chelsea for the first time since March 2014
  • Chelsea (eight) have scored more direct free-kicks than any other team in Europe's top five leagues (all comps)

What next?

Chelsea travel to Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday and Manchester City face a trip to Ukraine on Wednesday to play Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League. They then play Liverpool in the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Source: bbc.com

 
 
 
 
 
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21/Feb/2016

Manchester City will 'prioritize' Champions League over FA Cup

Manchester City will prioritise the Champions League above their FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea on Sunday, according to boss Manuel Pellegrini.

City play the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match at Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday, four days before the Capital One Cup final.

The Chilean said: "The priority is always the next game, but we must make an exception because of many injuries."

City's visit to Chelsea will be shown live on BBC One on Sunday at 16:00 GMT.

The 2012 FA Cup winners are still in contention to a complete an unprecedented quadruple by winning the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League.

They will have to play a game in each competition in an 11-day span between 21 February and 2 March.

Man City's four competitions in 11 days
Sunday, 21 February: Chelsea in FA Cup fifth round in London
Wednesday, 24 February: Dynamo Kiev in Champions League last 16 in Kiev
Sunday, 28 February: Liverpool in the League Cup final in London*
Wednesday, 2 March: Liverpool in the Premier League at Anfield
*City's league game against Newcastle was set for this date and must be rescheduled

Pellegrini added: "We have just 13 players available to play and have to play the Champions League on Wednesday. We'll see the best team we can play on Sunday.

"I always try to play with a strong team in every competition. They are all important but we must prioritise the Champions League."

Chelsea, who are currently 12th in the Premier League, played their Champions League first-leg tie away to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

Interim manager Guus Hiddink, who won the FA Cup during his previous spell in charge in 2009, said: "We have a serious approach to the FA Cup."

Chelsea skipper John Terry has been ruled out of the tie.

Source: bbc.com

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19/Feb/2016

Poor United beaten by FC Midtjylland

Manchester United produced another underwhelming display as they lost to Danish side FC Midtjylland in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

United were without a number of injured players, including Wayne Rooney, and lost David de Gea in the warm-up.

They took the lead through Memphis Depay's shot but Sergio Romero, who stepped in for De Gea, was unable to prevent Pione Sisto equalising.

United's Jesse Lingard hit the bar before Paul Onuachu struck the winner.

After losing to Sunderland 2-1 on Saturday, the Red Devils are six points shy of the top four in the Premier League, leaving qualification for next season's Champions League very much in the balance.

Winning the Europa League could represent their best chance of reclaiming a place in Europe's elite club competition, but if they are to do that they will have to be much better than they were against opponents who had not played for 71 days because of the Danish winter break.

That includes in the second leg of this tie, which is at Old Trafford in a week's time.

Midtjylland were only formed in 1999, the year United won their famous Treble, but what they lack in history they made up for with application and ability.

De Gea injury begins bad night for UnitedMan Utd injury XI

With 13 first-team players out and facing a side whose analytical tactical approach makes them a serious threat from set-pieces, United suffered a major setback when goalkeeper De Gea injured himself in the warm-up.

That meant a first United start in four months for Romero, but the Argentine proved an able replacement with three good saves.

One was a block to deny Vaclav Kadlec, who ran through unchallenged, just 56 seconds before United broke the deadlock through Depay's close-range finish from Lingard's cross.

Romero also produced a superb one-handed diving stop to keep out a powerful goalbound header from Onuachu in the second half.

Between those two saves, he could not stop Sisto pulling the hosts level with a shot that found the net via the shin of Chris Smalling.

Romero was equally powerless to keep out Onuachu's winner - a low drive after the substitute beat Juan Mata on the edge of the box.

Life without Rooney

A knee injury means United face a six-week insight into life without captain Rooney - an absence that could become permanent if reports of a move to China prove correct.

United have refused to comment on speculation about the striker's future, but his absence allowed Depay to make his first start since Boxing Day and gave Anthony Martial the chance to start up front.

Depay, the top scorer in the Dutch league last season prior to his £31m move to Old Trafford, had scored once in his previous 20 United appearances.

And while his display in Denmark was not a notable improvement on past performances in a United shirt he was able to add a goal to his modest tally of goals for the season, which now stands at six.

But the Dutchman, like the rest of the United team, offered little in the second half as the home side came back to win.

Martial, who has operated primarily on the left since joining the club for £36m in September, was largely anonymous in his central role.

Lingard struck the bar with a volley while the score was 1-1, but United rarely threatened as the clock ticked down.

What next?

United travel to Shrewsbury for an FA Cup fifth-round tie next Monday, followed three days later by the return leg against Midtjylland at Old Trafford.

Source: bbc.com

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18/Feb/2016

Chelsea lose to Paris St-Germain

Edinson Cavani came off the bench to give Paris St-Germain the advantage after the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Chelsea.

The hosts went ahead through Zlatan Ibrahimovic's deflected free-kick.

But John Mikel Obi scored a precious away goal, capitalising on some terrible defending to sweep home a deserved leveller from six yards.

Chelsea's stoic defending seemed on course to secure a draw before Cavani steered home Angel di Maria's pass.

The 29-year-old Uruguay striker, who has been used primarily as back-up to Ibrahimovic this season, scored moments after substitute Oscar spurned a chance for the visitors.

But with the second leg to come at Stamford Bridge on 9 March, the Blues are still very much in contention thanks to Mikel's goal - and Thibaut Courtois' late save from Ibrahimovic.

Tie perfectly poised

Some have called this a make-or-break week for Chelsea, with this match followed by an FA Cup tie against Manchester City on Sunday.

With their Premier League title defence already over, Guus Hiddink's men will know by the end of the weekend whether they can salvage anything from a disappointing domestic season.

But whatever happens against City, they will be hopeful of progressing in this competition after a promising performance in the French capital.

This is the third successive season these teams have been drawn against each other, and both previous ties were decided on away goals. Chelsea progressed in 2014 despite losing the first leg 3-1 in Parc des Princes.

And Hiddink described Mikel's goal as "important", adding his team was "still in the race".

Blues step up to the challenge

This was Chelsea's first defeat since Hiddink took charge after Jose Mourinho's sacking in November, leading his team to a 12-match unbeaten run.

The Blues thumped Newcastle 5-1 at the weekend, but Laurent Blanc's men were a step up in class.

The Ligue 1 leaders are unbeaten in 44 league games and lead second-placed Monaco by 24 points, though before the match Hiddink questioned the quality of the French top flight.

There is no doubting the quality of players at PSG's disposal, however, with Blanc able to recall the likes of of Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti and Lucas Moura after resting them at the weekend.

The hosts were by far the superior side in the opening 17 minutes, enjoying 74% of possession, but all they had to show for it was a long-range Lucas strike.

As the visitors dragged themselves back into the match, Ibrahimovic scored against the run of play. Indeed, were it not for Kevin Trapp's fingertips diverting Diego Costa's header onto the crossbar, the Blues would have been ahead before the Swede scored his first goal against the Blues.

Ibrahimovic's free-kick struck Mikel en route to beating Courtois, but the Nigeria midfielder quickly made amends by capitalising on poor PSG defending from a corner.

Makeshift defence gives Chelsea hope

With John Terry and Kurt Zouma injured, Chelsea were without their first-choice centre-backs.

But the makeshift partnership of Gary Cahill - who blocked bravely from Blaise Matuidi - and Branislav Ivanovic withstood wave after wave of second-half PSG attacks until they were eventually breached in the closing stages.

They were ably supported by Courtois, who made a series of saves, though he was culpable for allowing Cavani to thread the ball between his legs and in at the near post.

Terry's hamstring injury resulted in a promotion for Ghana defender Baba Rahman, and the left-back played his part in the Blues' rearguard display.

Manager reaction

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink: "The result is negative but, on the other hand, an away goal is important. It hurt a bit because the team was playing decently against a team with capacity to play. But we are still in the race.

"We were not lethal enough at times but otherwise we can be relatively happy.

"We didn't moan a lot about the absence of players and the rest got the confidence and did what they were asked. Over two legs, it is important you have the away goal.

"If we can do it at Stamford Bridge then a defeat doesn't count so much."

Source: bbc.com

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16/Feb/2016

Newcastle in drop zone after Chelsea loss

Newcastle dropped into the relegation zone on goal difference after three goals in the first 17 minutes set Chelsea on their way to an easy win.

Diego Costa opened the scoring when he slid home Willian's pass.

A mistake by Rolando Aarons let Pedro make it 2-0 and Costa played in Willian to score from close range.

Cesc Fabregas set up Pedro for his second and Bertrand Traore turned in Cesar Azpilicueta's cross, before Andros Townsend's late consolation.

Chelsea's interim manager Guus Hiddink remains unbeaten in 12 games in all competitions, and his side are now unbeaten in their past 10 Premier League games.

The only thing to spoil their evening was an injury to captain John Terry that saw the centre-half limp off before half-time and leave him as a doubt for Tuesday's trip to play Paris St-Germain in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

Magpies suffer again on the road

Newcastle have only scored seven goals on their travels this season, the worst record in the top four divisions in England, but it was their defence that let them down at Stamford Bridge.

Magpies boss Steve McClaren said in his pre-match TV interview that the first 20 minutes would be crucial to the outcome of the match. He was right, but not in the way he would have wanted.

By then, his side had suffered a complete collapse at the back which was summed up by Chelsea's second goal.

That came from a Newcastle free-kick near the home side's corner flag that was cleared to the halfway line before Aarons' horrendous cross-field pass allowed Pedro to gallop clear.

McClaren's side never looked capable of a comeback as they slipped to a fifth successive away defeat.

Andros Townsend's first goal since his £12m move from Tottenham reduced the damage at the end but Newcastle's goal-difference still took a battering and at -22 it is now the worst in the top flight.

Chelsea's injury problems continue

Chelsea's own defensive problems were of a very different sort.

With Kurt Zouma out for the season, the last thing Hiddink needed before a busy fortnight was to see Terry limp off.

Terry appeared to fall awkwardly after a clash with Magpies striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and will have a scan to assess the severity of his hamstring injury.

Gary Cahill only returned to the starting line-up on Saturday because of Zouma's serious knee injury, but could end up being a key figure at the back for his side in the next few weeks.

Man of the match - Chelsea's Diego Costa

Chelsea striker Diego Costa

He was playing with a broken nose, but Chelsea's man in the mask did not miss his mark.

Along with the impressive Willian, Costa scored one goal and made another but he edged the individual accolade because of his delightful finish to give his side an early lead.

"We caused our own problems" - McClaren

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: "We got exposed on quite a few occasions in terms of defensive frailties. Rolando Aarons had to play at left-back and it was Steven Taylor's second game in six months.

"We caused our own problems. We knew Chelsea would come out quick. They wanted to win that game by half-time with the week they have ahead of them.

"You get one or two of these games a season. I've told the players don't let that derail us. It was damage limitation by half-time.

"I just wanted to make sure we scored a goal and stayed in the game."

What next?

Newcastle are out of the FA Cup and their Premier League game with Manchester City on 28 February has been postponed because City are in the Capital One Cup final.

So the Magpies do not have a game for 18 days until they travel to Stoke on 2 March, and are heading for a training camp in Spain.

In that time, Chelsea play four matches, starting with Tuesday's trip to Paris.

The stats you need to know

  • Chelsea are on the current longest unbeaten run in the Premier League - 10 games (won four, drew six).
  • Newcastle United have won only two of their last 20 Premier League away games (drew two, lost 16).
  • Pedro has scored as many Premier League goals versus Newcastle in this match as he did in his previous 19 apps combined (two).
  • All four of Cesc Fabregas' PL assists this season have arrived at Stamford Bridge.
  • Bertrand Traore is the first player from Burkina Faso to score in the Premier League.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Feb/2016

Sunderland beat uninspired Man Utd

Sunderland boosted their Premier League survival hopes with a deserved victory over an uninspired Manchester United.

Wahbi Khazri put the strugglers ahead after three minutes with a free-kick from the left that eluded everyone.

Anthony Martial levelled after he clipped the ball over Vito Mannone, who had parried Juan Mata's shot.

But the Black Cats won it when Lamine Kone's header from Khazri's corner went in via a deflection off David de Gea to dent United's top-four bid.

Will Allardyce's signings keep Sunderland up?

Sunderland's win takes them to within one point of rivals Newcastle and safety after a game inspired by manager Sam Allardyce's January signings.

Tunisia forward Khazri made his first Premier League start in their last game, a 2-2 draw with Liverpool where he assisted Jermain Defoe's equaliser.

And the signing from Bordeaux was inspired again, scoring early on against United with a free-kick which Defoe stepped over to bamboozle United's defence and De Gea.

And their winner - while credited as a De Gea own goal - was all thanks to the powerful header from Kone, a signing from Lorient.

De Gea got a touch, with Martial appearing to hit the ball off his own keeper on the way in.

Allardyce told BBC MOTD: "The new players have been on the list before January. The problem is can you get them here and do they want to come and join the fight? They were desperate to come here."

Pressure will not ease on Van Gaal

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has been frustrated this week by media reports, including from BBC Sport, saying that Jose Mourinho's representatives have spoken to the club about their client replacing the Dutchman.

Van Gaal had continued to insist that the club can finish in the top four, although the defeat keeps fifth-placed United six points behind Manchester City, who now have a game in hand.

And, after the game, Van Gaal said it will be "very difficult" for them to qualify for the Champions League. The result has done nothing either to boost his chances of keeping his job.

United dominated the final stages of the first half, but other than that they were matched or outplayed by Sunderland, who could have scored more.

Love appears on Valentine's weekend

Manchester United now have seven defenders injured after they lost Matteo Darmian to a shoulder injury during the first half.

On Saturday, the day before Valentine's Day, Van Gaal brought on the appropriately named Donald Love, a Scotland Under-21 international. The former Wigan loanee had a solid performance on his debut at right-back.

The 21-year-old joined in United's attack at will and showed he was not overawed when he screamed at captain Wayne Rooney for over-hitting the return ball of a one-two.

The stats you need to know

  • Sunderland recorded their first ever Premier League win against Manchester United at the Stadium of Light in their 14th attempt.
  • United have earned fewer points this season than in any other Premier League campaign after 26 games (41).
  • United have won none of the past seven league games where they conceded the first goal (D1 L6).
  • Sunderland attempted more shots (including blocks) versus United than in any other league game this season (21 shots).
  • The Red Devils have collected just six points from their past seven league away games (W1 D3 L3).
  • Only Wayne Rooney (18) has scored or assisted more goals in all competitions for United this season than Anthony Martial (15 - 10 goals, five assists).
  • Sunderland have gone 12 games without a clean sheet in the league, the longest current run in the division.
  • United have earned fewer points this season than in any other Premier League campaign after 26 games (41).

'We deserved to win'

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce told BBC Match of the Day: "I thought the result was right. On the balance of chances created, a 2-1 win was no more than we deserved.

"It shows the importance of set plays. We've found a lad who delivers a great ball. One, he's scored himself and the second ball for Lamine's goal was quality.

"I thought Jermain Defoe was going to make it 2-0 and then Dame N'Doye got in one-on-one. We all prayed he would score. When he missed I wondered if it would be one of those days.

"Everyone is very happy at the moment. I've sensed a commitment and a desire and will to get out of the problems."

Next up for both sides...

Sunderland have two weeks until their next game, away to West Ham, and are heading to Dubai next week for warm weather training.

United will have no such luxury, as they face Danish side Midtjylland on Thursday in the Europa League, before an FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury the following Monday and the reverse European tie three days later.

United's next league involvement is at home to Arsenal on Sunday, 28 February.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Feb/2016

Chelsea must reach final to save season - Thibaut Courtois

Chelsea must reach the final of the Champions League or the FA Cup to save their season, says goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea face Paris St-Germain on 16 February before their fifth-round FA Cup tie with Manchester City.

"We play against two great sides and we have to try to win those games," said the Blues number one.

"The only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them."

Following their 1-1 Premier League draw with Manchester United, Chelsea still sit low down the Premier League table in 13th position, 17 points from a Champions League spot.

"Obviously every time we don't win in the league, and there is one game less, there is less chance to get into the top four," the 23-year-old told Chelseafc.com

Chelsea have gone nine matches without defeat under interim manager Guus Hiddink and they have not given up on reaching a top-four spot.

"We will see where we are with five-six games in a row and see whether we can get there or not."

The Blues next league game is against relegation-threatened Newcastle on Saturday.

Source: bbc.com

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09/Feb/2016

Ogbonna's extra-time header put West Ham into the last 16 of the FA Cup

Angelo Ogbonna's extra-time header put West Ham into the last 16 of the FA Cup with a dramatic fourth-round replay win against Liverpool.

The Hammers led before half-time when Michail Antonio guided in Enner Valencia's cross at the far post.

Liverpool responded shortly after the restart when Philippe Coutinho's low free-kick sneaked under the home wall.

Both sides hit the woodwork in an open tie, before Ogbonna met Dimitri Payet's free-kick to delight the home fans.

The Hammers will visit Championship side Blackburn in the fifth round on Sunday, 21 February.

Re-live a dramatic night at the Boleyn Ground

Magic of the cup?

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has said he would rather win the FA Cup than finish in the Premier League top four, and he showed his intent by picking a near full-strength side against an inexperienced Liverpool team.

Reds counterpart Jurgen Klopp, as he had in his previous three FA Cup matches, rang the changes with only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet surviving from Saturday's Premier League draw against Sunderland.

But any worries - for the neutral observer, at least - that the hosts would dominate their youthful opponents proved unfounded.

The two sides were evenly matched throughout the 120 minutes as a high-tempo game, containing plenty of goalscoring chances and drama, provided a sharp contrast to the dour 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Either side could have nicked an extra-time winner, with Christian Benteke missing three clear-cut opportunities for Liverpool.

And former Juventus defender Ogbonna's first Hammers goal provided the perfect finale for the hosts in what might be the final FA Cup tie at the Boleyn Ground before their move to the Olympic Stadium.

Hammers up for the cup?

West Ham are three-time winners of the FA Cup, but have not lifted the trophy since Trevor Brooking's famous header gave them victory in the 1980 final.

But with Bilic keen to focus on the competition, could he lead the east London club to silverware in his first season as Hammers boss?

The Croat will not publicly admit it, but he must realise his team have a great chance of reaching the last eight as they face a Blackburn side winless in eight league matches and in the lower reaches of the Championship.

France international Dimitri Payet will be central to their ambitions of a possible run to Wembley, with the mercurial midfielder again instrumental in this victory.

The 28-year-old, who the Hammers want to sign an improved deal, outlined his worth by starting the move that led to Antonio's goal and supplying the teasing free-kick that Ogbonna converted.

Benteke to blame?

Since his £32m summer arrival from Aston Villa, Benteke has failed to win over many Liverpool fans, who have questioned the wisdom in spending so much on a striker who has struggled to fit into the Reds' system.

And the Belgian missed the chance to win over the doubters by firing Liverpool, seven-time winners of the FA Cup, past the Hammers.

Benteke had nine efforts at goal - three times as many as any other player - but extended his goalless run to 11 matches in 2016.

Hammers keeper Darren Randolph denied him from close range in both halves of normal time, but Benteke should have scored when put clean through in extra time.

However, he could only shoot at the legs of the Republic of Ireland international - a miss which proved costly.

"It's not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard," said Klopp.

"He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months."

Sturridge return boosts Liverpool

Despite the defeat, there were some positives for Liverpool fans - most notably Daniel Sturridge returning from a hamstring injury to make his first appearance since early December.

Sturridge has spent almost 55% of his time at Anfield injured, but once again showed how important he could be if he manages to stay fit.

The England international gradually grew into the game after arriving as a 59th-minute substitute, showing glimpses of neat footwork and his sharp eye for goal.

His best opportunity came early in the second half of extra time, when he picked the ball up near the halfway line before driving forward unopposed and fizzing a shot inches over the Hammers crossbar.

Too early to start thinking of an England recall?

What's next?

Back to Premier League action. Sixth-placed West Ham go to relegation battlers Norwich on Saturday, while ninth-placed Liverpool visit bottom side Aston Villa on Sunday.

Stats you need to know

  • Liverpool played their 40th game in all competitions in 2015-16, more than any other Premier League team
  • Philippe Coutinho's goal was Liverpool's first in 318 minutes of action against West Ham in all competitions this season
  • The Hammers have lost just one of their past 11 FA Cup games at home, winning six and drawing four
  • West Ham's win was their first in eight FA Cup meetings with the Reds, drawing three and losing four
  • Benteke has gone 11 games without scoring for Liverpool in all competitions, mustering 30 shots in those matches

Source: bbc.com

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09/Feb/2016

Broncos LB Von Miller named Super Bowl 50 MVP

No. 2 was greater than No. 1 in Super Bowl 50.

Von Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, snagged the Super Bowl MVP award after leading a dominant Denver Broncos defense that shut down the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense and league MVP Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011.

The Broncos forced four turnovers and sacked Newton seven times in the 24-10 win.

Miller was unstoppable all night off the edge. He harassed Newton to the tune 2.5 sacks and a huge strip of Newton in the closing minutes to seal the victory.

The linebacker highlighted his night early with a monstrous strip sack of Newton in the opening quarter that resulted in the Broncos' first touchdown of the game and set the tone for the contest. The play showed off Miller's combination of lightning quickness off the edge and massive strength. Small men don't rip the ball out of Cam Newton's hands.

Miller took home the award, but it could have gone to the entire defensive front. DeMarcus Ware (2 sacks, 4 QB hits) was all over the field, chasing Newton seemingly every play. The middle of the Broncos' defense, led by Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe, pushed the pocket, not allowing Newton to step up or scurry though the line on scrambles. The Broncos defense allowed the Panthers' No. 2 ranked rushing offense no holes, holding Carolina to a combined 118 yards on the ground.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Miller wants to be the highest paid defensive player in the NFL -- the Broncos will first slap the franchise tag on the linebacker. His performance in Super Bowl 50 justified those demands.

Source: nfl.com

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07/Feb/2016

Broncos outlast Panthers, claim third Super Bowl title

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The Denver Broncos authored one of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl 50, helping Peyton Manning write one of the game's most improbable stories in the process.

The Broncos are Super Bowl champions for a third time after dismantling the Panthers 24-10 inside a raucous Levi's Stadium. It was only fitting that the game's decisive moment was made by Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Miller was named Super Bowl 50 MVP.

Late in the fourth quarter in a one score game, Miller fought off Panthers tackle Mike Remmer's initial block, dipped his shoulder, kept his balance and reach his long left arm at Cam Newton. The ensuing fumble was Carolina's fourth of the day and fourth turnover overall. Like the high-powered Steelers and Patriots offense before them, the Panthers offense had no answers for this incredible Broncos group.

Around The NFL will have more on this shortly.

Source: nfl.com

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07/Feb/2016

Late Costa strike denies Man Utd win

Diego Costa scored a late equaliser to preserve Chelsea's unbeaten record under interim boss Guus Hiddink and deny Manchester United a win.

United dominated early on, Thibaut Courtois producing a fine one-handed save to keep out Anthony Martial.

David de Gea saved well from Nemanja Matic's header before Jesse Lingard's fine turn and shot put United ahead.

Costa rescued a point in the 91st minute after rounding De Gea following Cesc Fabregas' pass.

United were moments away from moving to within four points of the top four when Costa scored his seventh goal in eight games.

Chelsea, who lost defender Kurt Zouma to a serious injury, remain 13th in the table.

Relive all the drama from Stamford Bridge

A United performance to offer encouragement

This will feel like a defeat for United after a bright start and a wonderful goal to give them the lead in what was an entertaining draw between two teams struggling for form.

Apart from the late equaliser, Louis van Gaal's side produced a display full of positives after recent criticism about the team's style and reports linking former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho with the United job.

They started well and offered more zip and energy than their cumbersome hosts.

Courtois' flying save to keep out Martial's curling attempt was excellent, while United forced 10 corners before the end of the first half.

The visitors looked set for a rare win over Chelsea when Lingard displayed terrific balance and agility to break the deadlock with a sublime spin and shot inside the area.

However, United backed off after scoring and invited pressure, Costa pouncing from close range after a terrific Fabregas pass.

Instead of closing the gap on fourth place to four points, they now find themselves six points adrift.

Chelsea leave it late again

De Gea was at his magnificent best to keep out a thunderous attempt by Branislav Ivanovic and then Fabregas as Chelsea surged forward in the final quarter in search of an equaliser.

When Costa blazed over the bar after a free-kick it looked all up for the hosts.

Yet for the second league home game in a row, they rescued a point in stoppage time.

Hiddink's sixth draw in eight league games in charge leaves the defending champions seven points above the relegation zone with 13 games remaining.

Will Terry stay?

This was Chelsea's first game back at Stamford Bridge since captain John Terry announced he was set to leave at the end of the season.

There was no mention of Terry leaving in the captain's programme notes and Blues fans will still be hoping he may yet extend his stay.

They chanted his name throughout as Terry produced an assured performance at the heart of the defence, while he was denied a penalty when his goal-bound shot at the end of the first half struck the arm of Daley Blind.

Terry's importance to the team was underlined by Zouma's nasty-looking injury, the France international landing awkwardly on his right knee after volleying the ball away.

What the managers said

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink:

"I am happy with the reaction of the team. Manchester United did a good job in the first half and in the beginning of the second, they are not an easy team to beat.

"But we deserved a point. We dropped too far back after the first 20 minutes when they dominated us but later on we closed a little more.

"They made a beautiful goal - without good marking from our side - but after I think the team reacted very well."

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal:

"I feel we didn't reward ourselves with a victory because we were the better team. Until the last quarter we played very well and could have scored more goals. But you have to control the game better and we did not do that.

"It isn't a lack of concentration it is not being composed when you are defending. When we have the ball we have to keep the ball.

"You need to give the right pass at the right moment and we did not do that [before Chelsea scored]. Chelsea are a very good team and you play like we played and don't reward yourself, it is frustrating."

The stats you need to know

  • Despite still being unbeaten under Guus Hiddink this season, Chelsea are winless in four consecutive Premier League home games for the first time since November 2012.
  • Indeed, it is the first time they have ever drawn four consecutive home games in the Premier League.
  • Jesse Lingard has scored three goals from his last four shots on target in the Premier League.

Up next?

Both teams are in Premier League action on Saturday at different times of the day. While Chelsea entertain struggling Newcastle United (17:30 GMT), Manchester United travel to Wearside to face relegation-threatened Sunderland (12:45 GMT).

Source: bbc.com

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07/Feb/2016

Spurs beat Watford to move second

Tottenham moved into second place in the Premier League table as Kieran Trippier's first goal for the club sealed a dominant win over Watford.

The former Burnley full-back was in the right place to tap in substitute Dele Alli's fine low cross.

Spurs were always in control against a lacklustre Watford side, but were continually denied by their former goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

The Hornets failed to record a shot on target and fall to 10th in the table.

Spurs were always well on top, having 26 efforts on goal, but lacked the killer touch until Alli came off the bench to continue his superb season and tee up Trippier for the winner.

Alli was left out after feeling unwell during the 3-0 win at Norwich in midweek but quickly made the difference for Mauricio Pochettino's side once more.

Spurs under the radar?

You would have been forgiven for thinking on Saturday morning that the Premier League title was a two-horse race, such was the focus on leaders Leicester's trip to Manchester City.

But Spurs, with just three league defeats all season and seven wins from their last nine games, have crept under the radar to move into a great position to fight for their first title since 1961.

They have not finished second since 1963 but now have a squad who look capable of pushing Leicester and Manchester City all the way.

Leicester's stunning lunchtime win meant Spurs kicked off in the knowledge that a win would put them second overnight.

And their win against the Hornets would have been secured far earlier had Gomes - who had an eventful six-year stay at White Hart Lane - not made eight saves.

Spurs may be five points behind the Foxes but with Leicester facing Arsenal next weekend, while Spurs take on City, that could soon change.

Full-backs key for Spurs

Pochettino rotated his full-backs. leaving out Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, with Ben Davies and Trippier starting instead.

And both players fully justified their selection with superb attacking displays, providing the width in a patient, but attacking display.

In the first half Davies was twice denied by Gomes' reflex saves, and Trippier - who made 10 crosses from right-back - popped up in space to grab the winner when Alli's cross with the outside of his boot picked him out at the far post.

Friends reunited?

For Watford it was largely a day to forget. A damaging run of four straight defeats was arrested at the end of January but there was no sign of a side who had held Chelsea in midweek.

Manager Quique Sanchez Flores chose to split up his 20-goal strike partnership of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, with Deeney tired after a gruelling run of games, but the change in system only served to leave Ighalo woefully isolated in the first half. Ighalo had the fewest touches (14) of any outfield player before Deeney came on at the break.

The captain's return made little difference though, as the Hornets ended the game without a single effort on target.

'We need to be calm'

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, speaking to BBC Sport: "I feel very proud of the players.

"We need to be calm. We are in a very good position in the league but the philosophy from the beginning of the season has been to go step by step. We are a very young squad so it is important to keep going and take every game and competition and be ready to compete.

"We still need to be more clinical, we created a lot of chances but need to score more."

'It was completely difficult'

Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores: "It was completely difficult. We expected a tough match. Tottenham play really quick, play intelligent balls, they have a lot of good players so it was very difficult to stop their attacks.

"Tottenham have improved since the last time we played. They have more confidence and they are one of the best teams. They have the chance to win the league.

"Playing against Chelsea and Tottenham in four days is too much. We did all the best we could but it was not enough."

What next?

Tottenham could put a gap between themselves and third-placed Manchester City with a win at the Etihad next Sunday, while Watford face a short trip to freefalling Crystal Palace.

The stats you need to know

  • Spurs have had a league-high 72 shots in the first half of games in 2016 so far but they have scored with just four of those.
  • Kieran Trippier bagged his first Premier League goal in his 43rd appearance.
  • Dele Alli assisted Trippier's goal just 176 seconds after entering the field of play.
  • Alli has had a hand in 11 goals in his last 14 Premier League games for Spurs (six goals, five assists).
  • Spurs had 26 shots, their joint-most in a Premier League game this season - level with their tally against Sunderland at home in January.
  • The Hornets have failed to score in four of their last five Premier League games.
  • Watford have mustered just one shot on target in their two Premier League games against Spurs in 2015-16.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Feb/2016

Leicester stun Man City to extend lead

Premier League leaders Leicester stunned nearest rivals Manchester City with a convincing victory at Etihad Stadium to move five points clear.

Robert Huth met Riyad Mahrez's free-kick to give the Foxes an early lead.

City rarely looked like breaking down the visitors' defence, while their own back line appeared vulnerable.

Mahrez made it 2-0 with a step-over and finish, and Huth found space to head home a Christian Fuchs corner before Sergio Aguero's late consolation.

Follow all the reaction to this match and Saturday's other games

Foxes continue fine away form

Leicester had already beaten third-placed Tottenham at White Hart Lane in January but this resounding result against Manchester City was their most significant in a remarkable season.

The Foxes have now picked up 28 points on their travels and, although they were denied a sixth clean sheet in their past seven matches, this was another win earned by their solid defence.

Aguero's glancing header from teenage substitute Bersant Celina's cross meant Manchester City retained their record of only failing to score once at home this season, but they had toiled in front of goal for much of the match.

Claudio Ranieri's side travel to fourth-placed Arsenal next weekend - win there too, and people might be asking 'who can catch Leicester?' rather than 'can the Foxes really win the title?'.

Manchester City's defence again at fault

While Leicester's defence was a solid and well-organised unit, given further protection by N'Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater in central midfield, Manchester City looked nervy whenever the visitors came forward.

Martin Demichelis was left flat-footed by Robert Huth for Leicester's first goal and was beaten with ease by Mahrez for their second, while Huth was completely unmarked when he made it 3-0.

Things could easily have been even worse for home boss Manuel Pellegrini in his first game at the Etihad since it was announced Pep Guardiola would be replacing him in the summer.

Leicester's Jamie Vardy twice broke clear to latch on to balls over the top and was only prevented from inflicting further damage by smart blocks by Joe Hart.

'Nothing is finished' - Pellegrini

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini said he had "no complaints" about the result but insists his side's hopes of winning the title are not over.

Pellegrini told BBC Sport: "Leicester played better than us. Conceding a goal from a set piece after two minutes was very important for the game.

"We had chances but it was a difficult game. I expected more from the beginning because it was very important, we are at home and playing top of the table, but we couldn't do it.

"There are 36 points to play for, nothing is finished. It is important for us to recover our players and I am continuing to not give up because we got an unexpected defeat but we must continue."

'We play without pressure' - Ranieri

Ranieri saluted his side's defensive discipline at the final whistle, telling BBC Sport: "We played very, very compact and believed everything could be possible.

"We play without pressure because we don't have to win the league. We must enjoy. This league is so strange and now it is important to think about Arsenal.

"I want to wait until the end of April because I know the last matches are very tough. This is a fantastic moment for the Premier League, nobody knows who can win it."

What next?

While Leicester head for the Emirates and another test of their title mettle, Manchester City must pick themselves up for the visit of another in-form team, Tottenham, before starting a run of fixtures that sees them play in the FA Cup, Champions League and the Capital One Cup final in the space of a week.

BBC Radio 5 live In Short: Leicester City: Champions League to Championship?

The stats you need to know

  • Robert Huth has scored more goals in his last five Premier League appearances (3) as he had in his previous 86 in the competition (2).
  • This was only the second time in his Premier League career that he's scored more than once in a game, with the German last scoring two in February 2011 for Stoke v Sunderland.
  • Riyad Mahrez (14 goals, 10 assists) became the first player to reach double figures in terms of both goals and assists in the Premier League this season.
  • Mahrez ended a personal Premier League goal drought of 11 hours and two minutes with his strike in this match.
  • Manchester City have not beaten any side currently in the top six of the league this season (W0 D3 L4).
  • Manchester City have lost as many league home games this season (3) as they had in 2014-15 and 2013-14 combined under Manuel Pellegrini (3).
  • Leicester City have lost just one of their last 16 league away games (W10 D5 L1).

Source: bbc.com

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07/Feb/2016

Jose Mourinho: Man Utd hold talks with former Chelsea manager

Manchester United have held talks with representatives of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

The 53-year-old Portuguese, who was sacked by the Blues in December, is increasingly hopeful of succeeding Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford.

No agreement has been reached, and the club have made no comment, but negotiations have begun.

Dutchman Van Gaal, 64, is expected to leave United at the end of the season - one year earlier than scheduled.

That would leave the way clear for Mourinho, who is known to be excited by the prospect of taking over at Old Trafford.

Jose Mourinho scarf held by a Man Utd fan

Sections of the United support have called for Jose Mourinho to become their new manager

The United hierarchy are thought to be keen to respond after Manchester City secured the services of coveted former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola earlier this week.

Mourinho's arrival would mean a resumption of a rivalry that began in Spain when he was coach of Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013.

Twice in recent weeks, Van Gaal's tenure has seemed perilous.

However, defeats by Stoke on Boxing Day and Southampton on 23 January have been followed by an improvement in both form and performance.

United, who are five points adrift of the Champions League places, play Chelsea on Sunday (16:00 GMT).

Who else is in the frame?

It is widely assumed the most obvious alternative to Mourinho is Ryan Giggs, Van Gaal's assistant.

The Welshman, who joined United aged 14, made a record 963 appearances for the club and won 13 Premier League titles.

The 42-year-old took over as manager on an interim basis in April 2014 following the sacking of David Moyes.

Although he has not spoken about the United job since Van Gaal took over, it would be a surprise were he not interested in replacing the Dutchman should the opportunity arise.

However, while Giggs was happy to further his education under Van Gaal, he is unlikely to be as willing to work with Mourinho.

What went wrong for Mourinho at Chelsea?

Mourinho's first spell as Chelsea manager lasted from 2004 to 2007, and included two Premier League titles.

On his return, he again led the London club to the title, but left just seven months later.

He made a disastrous start to this season, losing nine of the first 16 league games, and departed with the team 16th in the league, one point above the relegation zone.

The former Porto boss fell out with the Blues' medical team, in particular club doctor Eva Carneiro, after describing them as "naive" for running on to the pitch to treat midfielder Eden Hazard during a draw against Swansea in August.

Carneiro, who left the club on 22 September, is taking legal action against Mourinho and the Blues.

How is his relationship with Man Utd?

Mourinho has never hidden his admiration for United, and particularly their legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Speaking before taking his Inter Milan side to Old Trafford for a Champions League last-16 tie in 2009, he said: "I want to face the best and United are a team of champions with a super coach in Alex Ferguson."

But after being linked with the manager's job following the departure of Ferguson in 2013, he declared his allegiance to Chelsea.

"I would have turned down every job in the world - the Manchester United job, every one - for Chelsea," he said.

There were reports last month that Mourinho had written a six-page letter outlining his suitability for the United role, but that was dismissed as "absurd" by his agent.

Analysis

Simon Stone - BBC Sport football reporter

Before the red carpet is rolled out to welcome Manchester United's new manager, a word of warning.

Talks should not be interpreted as an agreement, as an offer, or even the promise of one. None of that has happened.

Neither should we assume Ryan Giggs is out of the running, nor that the merits of Laurent Blanc and Mauricio Pochettino, the two other realistic candidates for the job, have been discarded.

The fact is, given the pressure Louis van Gaal has been under recently, United's hierarchy simply would not be doing their jobs properly if they did not at least get some idea of the thinking behind the major candidates.

And what of Van Gaal?

He may have twice looked as though he was on the brink of being sacked, but he is still in a job and on Tuesday his side delivered their best performance of the season in beating Stoke 3-0.

Even Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini accepts United are not out of the Premier League title race just yet - and if they did win it, there would be no vacancy for Mourinho to fill at the end of the season anyway.

Source: bbc.com

 

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05/Feb/2016

Lazio: Serie A club fined for racist chanting against Napoli

Lazio have been fined 50,000 euros (£38,250) after their match against Napoli on Wednesday was temporarily halted following racist chants.

The Rome club will also have to close three sections of the Stadio Olimpico ground for their next two Serie A home games.

The match was stopped for three minutes in the second half after some fans aimed racist chants at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

League leaders Napoli won 2-0.

Senegal international Koulibaly, 24, praised referee Massimiliano Irrati for stopping the match.

After the match, Lazio manager Stefano Pioli said: "I would not have stopped the match. It was chanting from the minority, but I don't think they were racist. We also have players of colour and they are treated well."

The club have frequently been punished in the past for similar offences.

A spokesman for Serie A's disciplinary office said the club's North End, Tevere North End and Monte Mario North End must be closed for two matches.

This includes a one-match sanction which had been suspended for a year after racist chants from some fans in their home match against Genoa on 10 February 2015.

Source: bbc.com

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04/Feb/2016

Arsenal playing catch up in the Premier League - Arsene Wenger

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says his side are now playing catch-up in the Premier League title race after their goalless home draw with Southampton.

The Gunners are without a win in four league games and have failed to score in the past three.

They are fourth in table, five points behind leaders Leicester.

"We have to catch that back and we have a difficult programme, especially away from home," Wenger told the club's official website.

"We need to respond quickly away from home now."

Arsenal's tricky away days
Bournemouth v Arsenal (Premier League, 7 February)
Man Utd v Arsenal (Premier League 28 February)
Tottenham v Arsenal (Premier League 5 March)
Barcelona (Champions League last 16 second leg, 16 March)
Everton v Arsenal (Premier League, 19 March)

Arsenal have only won once in the league this year, drawing 3-3 at Liverpool and 0-0 at Stoke, and losing 1-0 at home to Chelsea prior to Tuesday's match.

When asked if he was worried that Arsenal's season would tail off, Wenger replied: "It's too early to say that. It's true that we've had a stuttering start in 2016.

"Our January was bad, starting from the last minute at Liverpool, and then at Stoke.

"Where we especially have a big deficit is in our two home games. We played with 10 men for the whole game against Chelsea and today we created 10 chances and didn't score."

Leicester's 2-0 win over Liverpool means they retain top spot in the division, but Arsenal have now dropped below Manchester City and Tottenham, who won at Sunderland and Norwich respectively on Tuesday.

"Leicester won again and now I am sure that everybody will take them very seriously, especially in the media, so they will be under pressure as well," said Wenger.

"But we have not to look too much at Leicester or Man City, we have to win football games. We have to focus on how to respond quickly and win our next game, that's all we can do."

Arsenal's 'bad' January
Arsenal 2-1 Burnley (FA Cup third round, 30 January)
Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea (Premier League, 24 January)
Stoke 0-0 Arsenal (Premier League, 17 January)
Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal (Premier League, 13 January

The Gunners created a number of good chances against Southampton but were unable to convert them, with Fraser Forster excelling in the Saints goal.

"The quality of the chances we created today, considering it's a Premier League game, was high," added Wenger. "The quality of the finishing was poor.

"Our finishing is very bad at the moment - we have played three [league] games now without scoring a goal. In all those three games we had chances that we didn't take. At that level it's important."

 

Source: bbc.com

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2/Feb/2016

Man U Beat Stoke as they hit scoring form

Manchester United kept in contention for a top-four Premier League place and gave manager Louis van Gaal a rare night of relaxation as Stoke City were outclassed at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal and his players were jeered after defeat by Southampton in their previous home game - but it was all a sharp contrast here as United, inspired by youngster Antony Martial, won at a canter.

Jesse Lingard headed in Cameron Borthwick-Jackson's perfect delivery after 14 minutes to end a shocking sequence of 11 matches without a first-half goal at home stretching over a period of eight hours 40 minutes.

Martial scored the goal his performance merited with a fine curled finish shortly after before setting up the third for Wayne Rooney from close range eight minutes after the break.

It was a win United's performance fully deserved and the victory margin could have been even greater, leaving them in fifth place, five points behind fourth-placed Arsenal.

Magnificent Martial

As Manchester United have struggled through this colourless, painful season there has been one shaft of light offering real hope for the present and the future.

Anthony Martial's £36.5m signing from Monaco, when he was only 19, in September was regarded as a gamble by Van Gaal.

On this night of rejuvenation at Old Trafford it looks even more like money well spent.

The wisdom is that the rangy youngster will end up playing as a central striker, but Van Gaal has used him regularly from wide positions and, stationed on the left flank here, he tortured Stoke's defence and made former England defender Glen Johnson's night a misery.

He showed all the pace and athleticism that will be an asset to United for years to come as he was a threat all night, showing wonderful technique and composure to curl in a right-foot shot for the second goal then showed calmness and vision to lay the third on a plate for Rooney.

It was his sixth goal and third assist in the league, with the promise of plenty more to come. He departed to a deserved standing ovation with 11 minutes left.

Some of United's work in the transfer market since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson has been justifiably criticised - not a bit of it with Martial.

Relief at last for Van Gaal

Manchester United's 64-year-old manager has been a besieged figure this season, seemingly facing a crisis and an uncertain future on a weekly basis, scrutinised once more on Monday when neighbours Manchester City announced the world's most coveted coach, Pep Guardiola, would be joining them in the summer.

He received a subdued welcome as he made his way down the Old Trafford touchline to his technical area before kick-off, acknowledging a smattering of applause with a couple of waves.

Van Gaal was able to make the return journey at the final whistle with cheers ringing around Old Trafford after their most impressive performance in months, a display designed to support his theory that things will eventually get better.

It has been a good few days for Van Gaal, with a potentially hazardous FA Cup fourth-round trip to Derby County safely negotiated last Friday and now this convincing victory.

Old Trafford elated

When Lingard stooped to head in Borthwick-Jackson's superb cross after 14 minutes, the roar that went around Old Trafford was tinged with relief and delight.

How United and Van Gaal needed that. The first groans of frustration had surfaced moments earlier when Chris Smalling drove into Stoke City's half but lost momentum because of lack of movement from his team-mates - but the pressure valve was released by Lingard's goal.

Old Trafford was in buoyant mood for the rest of game, United's supporters able to sit back and enjoy their team exerting total control and playing with a fluency rarely seen this season.

What they said:

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal: "I think we have played in the first half attacking- wise very good. In the second half we were more controlling and we didn't give any chances away against a team like Stoke. That is remarkable because they always make it difficult."

Stoke boss Mark Hughes: "We didn't start in the right manner. We conceded early on, were too passive and for the first goal we didn't get close enough to people. Avoiding going 1-0 down early on is what you talk about before coming to Old Trafford, and unfortunately we conceded another poor goal for the second."

What's next?

Manchester United travel to Chelsea on Sunday (16:00 kick-off), while Stoke host Everton on Saturday (15:00 GMT).

The stats you need to know:

  • Jesse Lingard scored Manchester United's first first-half goal at Old Trafford since they netted one against Wolfsburg in the Champions League in September 2015
  • It was the first time since April 2015 against Manchester City that the Red Devils had scored twice in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game at home
  • Wayne Rooney scored his 99th Premier League goal at Old Trafford
  • Rooney scored and provided an assist at Old Trafford in a Premier League game for the first time since Boxing Day 2014 against Newcastle

Source: bbc.com

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02/Feb/2016

Alli & Kane SendTottenham 3rd

England striker Harry Kane scored twice as Tottenham kept up the chase at the top with an easy win at Norwich.

Dele Alli tapped in inside the first two minutes after Christian Eriksen's low shot had been blocked.

Kane then stroked in the second from the spot after Alli, who came off with an illness at half-time, was fouled in trying to follow up Kane's saved shot.

He then fired his second of the night from 15 yards after Eriksen had dispossessed Martin Olsson.

The victory lifts Spurs up to third, above Arsenal on goal difference. Norwich could find themselves in the bottom three on Wednesday if Newcastle defeat Everton.

Re-live the action from Carrow Road

All the action from Tuesday's Premier League matches

The Kane and Alli show on extended run

Keegan-Toshack, Cole-Beardsley, Shearer-Sheringham - Kane and Alli just seem to have an understanding that some of the game's legendary link-ups possessed.

The wholesome twosome have formed a formidable attack at Spurs. Alli has had a hand in 10 goals in his last 13 Premier League games for Spurs, and Kane has scored eight in his last eight. They are a fantasy football player's dream combo.

Kane was his usual hungry self - snapping at the heels of the last defender. He should have got his reward for his doggedness when late in the game he stole the ball from Youssouf Mulumbu, surged towards goal but saw his shot rebound off the post.

However, with seconds remaining he did grab his second when he pounced on the loose ball after good work from Eriksen and fired past Declan Rudd.

As for Alli, he only played a cameo today, but it was a memorable one. The 19-year-old is both a threat outside the area and inside, as proved today. He anticipated brilliantly for the first, and repeated the trick when he won the penalty, which was conceded by Sebastian Bassong.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said he was brought off at half-time because he felt unwell. Spurs fans will be praying he is fit for Saturday's home clash against Watford.

Where do Norwich go from here?

The Canaries were the most active team in the transfer window, but have they made the right purchases?

One of their buys was Portuguese right-back Ivo Pinto. He made his debut in the 5-4 defeat against Liverpool, and followed that up with a truly awful first-half display against Spurs.

He allowed Christian Eriksen far too much space down that flank and was then put into a spin by Kane, who forced a good save from the impressive Declan Rudd.

At the other end, there was little bite. Tall forward Dieumerci Mbokani looked the most potent, and had his side's best chance - a low drive that keeper Hugo Lloris was equal to.

Another new signing Steven Naismith had a relatively quiet game, but perhaps the Scot, his team-mates and manager Alex Neil will have been slightly aggrieved that a penalty was not awarded when he fell under the challenge of defender Kevin Wimmer.

What the managers said

Norwich manager Alex Neil: "Once you concede in the first minute and a half, we make it difficult for ourselves.

"The Spurs penalty is the softest penalty I've seen all season. We didn't get the fair share of the decisions and that cost us.

"If it was a clear penalty, I'd be the first to hold my hands up. The next game becomes huge for us now."

Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino: "The performance was very good. I'm happy with three points. The first half was fantastic.

"Dele felt unwell, but he's OK now.

"Harry is still very young and has big potential to improve."

The stats you need to know

  • Alli has scored in consecutive games for the first time since April 2015 (in all comps), when he netted for MK Dons against Fleetwood and then Leyton Orient.
  • Alli's goal was the fourth quickest in the Premier League this season (1:36) and Tottenham's quickest in the Premier League since Boxing Day 2014 (Kane v Leicester, 0:57).
  • Tottenham have gone 11 games unbeaten away from home in the league for the first time since a run of 16 in 1985.
  • Norwich City failed to score at home in the league for the only the second time in their last 12 fixtures at Carrow Road.

What next?

Norwich face what you can call a relegation six-pointer against Villa at home on Saturday. Spurs are at home to Watford on the same day.

Source: bbc.com

 

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02/Feb/2016

Vardy scored twice as Leicester beat Liverpool to stay three points clear

Jamie Vardy scored twice as Leicester beat Liverpool to stay three points clear at the top of the Premier League.

The England striker opened the scoring with a brilliant 25-yard strike over goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from Riyad Mahrez's long ball forward.

And he sealed the victory when he turned home Shinji Okazaki's deflected shot from close range.

The Foxes fully deserved their victory, with Mignolet touching an Okazaki header onto the bar in the first half.

Leicester's title bid is unique in the Premier League age and with each victory, they move one game closer to winning their first ever top-flight title.

There was a feeling the next two weeks could define Leicester's season - this game against Liverpool is followed by trips to title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal.

But they came through the first of those three games in style. Vardy caught Mignolet off his line with his goal-of-the-season contender and then added a second 11 minutes later.

The Foxes had most of the game's big chances, Mignolet brilliantly denying a Mahrez curling strike as well as touching Okazaki's effort onto the crossbar. Moments before Vardy's second, the hosts should have had a penalty when Mamadou Sakho brought down Okazaki.

Foxes midfielder Danny Drinkwater said: "We're staying on the ground but if we carry on the way we are then why not have the belief [to win the league]? It would go down in history surely."

How man-of-the-match Vardy scored his goal

Vardy - who is set to sign a new three-and-a-half-year deal with the Foxes - had never scored a Premier League goal from outside the box with his first 21 top-flight attempts.

He let Mahrez's long ball bounce before smashing it over Mignolet. After the game he revealed he had seen the keeper stray off his line on previous occasions and decided to try his luck.

Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy

Vardy hit the ball with power after letting it bounce

Jamie Vardy

Simon Mignolet

Goal sums his season up'

Leicester midfielder Drinkwater told BBC Match of the Day: "His first goal was incredible. You think he's going to square it but he hits it top corner. It sums his season up. He can turn an average ball into a great ball."

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri said: "Amazing. The first goal was unbelievable. Jamie is very fast and can create a lot but it was unbelievable how Mahrez found him and how he had the time to see the keeper out of the goal and score a fantastic goal."

Reds look out of form

Liverpool, who are now eighth and 16 points off top, look a long way from the side who beat Manchester City 4-1 and Southampton 6-1 in November and December.

With Daniel Sturridge frequently injured and Christian Benteke out of favour, the Reds started with Roberto Firmino as their central forward but the Brazilian only had two efforts, one blocked and one off target.

When BBC Match of the Day's Jonathan Pearce praised Liverpool's work ethic to Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, the German replied: "It's rare a journalist says something more positive than the manager.

"I'm not too fine with our game today. We could have played much better. We had a few shots where we could pass and a few passes where we could shoot. We created half chances but not real chances. Today would have been a good day to show we are ready for this. I need a few more seconds to calm down. I have to watch it again."

What's up next?

Leicester's next game is their biggest of the season to date. They visit second-placed Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime, knowing they could either be knocked off top - or go six points clear.

"The team is in good condition," said Ranieri. "Now it is important to recover the energy because we have to run a lot against Manchester City. We are free of pressure. The players have a good feeling."

Liverpool are at home to second-from-bottom Sunderland.

The stats you need to know

  • Liverpool prevented the opposition scoring with their first shot on target for the first time in 2016 in the Premier League.
  • Mahrez and Vardy have combined for seven Premier League goals this season - the joint most with Ozil/Giroud and Ighalo/Deeney.
  • Vardy has 18 league goals for the season, only one fewer than Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.
  • Leicester have 50 points, only five short of their all-time top-flight record total (55 in 1999-2000).
  • Liverpool have conceded 13 goals in their past six Premier League away games.

Source: bbc.com

 

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02/Feb/2016

Sepp Blatter: Whistleblower gives evidence in criminal case

A whistleblower has given evidence on Sepp Blatter that may be "very helpful" in the criminal case against the banned Fifa president, say Swiss prosecutors.

Blatter was banned from football for eight years for making a "disloyal payment" of £1.3m to Uefa president Michel Platini, and is also under investigation by Swiss state lawyers for alleged criminal mismanagement.

"The Swiss Attorney General's office received valuable information from a testimony that might be very helpful," a spokesman told BBC Sport.

Blatter, 79, is suspected of signing a contract that was "unfavourable to Fifa".

The contract is thought to refer to a 2005 TV rights deal between Fifa and Jack Warner, the former president of Concacaf, the governing body of football in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Blatter, who has always denied any wrongdoing, is appealing against his ban from football. But Fifa's ethics committee hopes to increase his punishment to a lifetime ban.

He won a fifth Fifa presidential election in May, but his 17-year reign at the top of the game's global governing body is set to come to an end in February when the organisation elects a successor.

Platini, who received the money from Blatter in 2011 for work the pair say he did between 1998 and 2002, has also been suspended from football for eight years. He too is appealing against the punishment.

The Swiss criminal investigation against Blatter is ongoing, with German media reports suggesting formal proceedings may start in late 2016 or early 2017.

Source: bbc.com

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28/Jan/2016

Juju man wants attention…Allah will fight for me – Black Stars player Sumaila hits back

Ghana defender Rashid Sumaila has hit back at Malam Isaku Salia over claims that he is responsible for the injury suffered by Black Stars team-mate Jerry Akaminko ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The spiritualist who alleges that the Al Qadsia defender approached him ahead of the World Cup to help him spiritually to be named in the final squad for the tournament has publicly branded the former Asante Kotoko defender a bad player who uses spirituality to afflict his colleagues with injuries.

But the talented defender has denied the allegations saying the spiritualist is only using his [Sumaila] name to be famous.

“I am a staunch Muslim and I don’t engage in that. I am shocked because I don’t know what he is talking about,” Rashid told Ghanasoccernet.com.

“How would I even want to do that when we were only four defenders in the team? I believe in my prayer as my weapon and I pray five times a day. So what at all will I be seeking from a spiritualist? The troubled player questioned.

The former Sundowns defender added that he does not even know the said spiritualist who claims he is the cause of Akaminko’s predicament.

“Wallahi I don’t even know him. I just heard the news this morning and I was shocked.”

“I have never been to any spiritualist in my entire career before so he should come again.”

“This man only wants attention and is trying to pitch me and Jerry at each other. But Allah will punish him.”

The defender concluded that Malam Isaku Salia is only an attention seeker and muat not be taken serious.

“He want to make a name for himself but I think he has chosen the wrong person. He only wants attention and is just trying to use me. My Allah will fight for me,” Rashid retorted.

Jerry Akaminko’s injury laid him off for close to nine months, thwarting his World Cup dream with the Black Stars.

Source: kasapafmonline.com

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27/Jan/2016

JUJU Scare hits Black Stars as Spiritualist says he’s behind Akaminko’s 2014 injury

Malam Isaka Salia, a spiritualist based in the Western Region of Ghana has laid a wild allegation against former Black Stars defender Rashid Sumaila for the pre-World Cup injury suffered by team mate Jerry Akaminko.

Akaminko sustained a serious career threatening injury in Ghana’s pre-World Cup friendly with the Netherlands which ruled him out of the competition.

The aggrieved spiritualist who claims the Al Qadsia defender has failed to honour his part of the deal in sidelining Akaminko says Rashid came to him for spiritual assistance to gain a position in the Black Stars set up ahead of the naming of the squad for the tournament.

The 2014 injury. How it happened

“He came to me for assistance ahead of the World Cup and I promised to help him,” Malam Isaka told Takoradi-based Kyzz FM.

“I told him he could only get a position in the squad if one of the center backs is injured. He accepted and asked me to do it to Jerry Akaminko. So I made sure Akaminko was injured so that Rashid’s name will be in the squad. I am now saying this public because he has failed to pay me,”Malam Isaka added.

The troubled spiritual giant added that Rashid Sumaiala sent a delegation to him in a hotel in Kumasi who drove to him in Tahim Ayew’s salon car after the Black Stars game with Egypt at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium.

The spiritualist who claims he has helped many prominent Ghanaians to achieve greater heights warned that the former Black Stars defender has just a week to pay him for what he was contracted to do or risk being exposed with text messages sent to him by the player.

Source: kasapafmonline.com

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27/Jan/2016

Chelsea beat Arsenal once again

Ten-man Arsenal missed the chance to go top of the Premier League as Diego Costa's winner gave Chelsea victory at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners never fully recovered from defender Per Mertesacker's 18th-minute red card, awarded by referee Mark Clattenburg after he hauled down Costa as the striker raced clear.

The revitalised Costa scored the decisive goal five minutes later, turning in Branislav Ivanovic's cross at the near post to make it nine Premier League games without defeat for Chelsea against Arsenal.

Arsenal's potency suffered after manager Arsene Wenger decided to replace striker Olivier Giroud and introduce defender Gabriel to compensate for Mertesacker's dismissal.

Victory would have put Arsenal back on top but Chelsea survived in relative comfort to leave the Gunners in third place with Leicester City now holding a three-point lead over Manchester City at the Premier League summit.

Arsenal suffer pure frustration

Per Mertesacker is sent off

This was the day Arsenal were meant to lay the ghost of Chelsea, who went into this game unbeaten in their last eight Premier League games against the Gunners.

 

Even Wenger's bogey man, Jose Mourinho, was out of the picture after his sacking. Wenger has lost five and drawn six of eleven league meetings with his old adversary.

And yet it was the same old story for Arsenal as the frustration of their players and fans inside the Emirates reached boiling point long before the final whistle.

There was no shortage of spirit and endeavour from Arsenal in the face of the numerical disadvantage inflicted on them after Mertesacker's early red card.

If anything, it was inspiration and a little self-belief Arsenal lacked against a side that looked physically stronger in a game where Wenger's side was missing a warrior who could get in and among the visitors in those exchanges.

Their best effort of the match fell to Mathieu Flamini who attempted to convert Aaron Ramsey's through-ball with a kung-fu kick, where a header might have been more appropriate.

The result is hardly a terminal blow to Arsenal's ambitions but a wound inflicted in familiar fashion. It now remains to be seen how much of an after-effect there is.

Costa revival sparks Chelsea

Diego Costa goal

Branislav Ivanovic's pinpoint cross was converted by Diego Costa

 

Diego Costa suffered the abuse of Chelsea's fans in the aftermath of Jose Mourinho's sacking as they regarded his poor form and attitude as a key factor in the sacking of "The Special One".

The relationship is repaired now, with Costa regaining that mixture of marksmanship and menace that made him so significant in last season's Premier League title win.

Costa's near-post finish from Ivanovic's delivery was his sixth in eight games since Mourinho left - and it was not just that quality that helped Chelsea look much more like their old selves.

He got under the skin of Arsenal's players and fans, although he could hardly be blamed for his involvement in Mertesacker's red card when he was unceremoniously bundled over as he tried to race clear.

Costa departed to the resounding jeers of Arsenal's fans and cheers of Chelsea's supporters when he was replaced by Loic Remy after 68 minutes - job done and proof Hiddink's side are so much more effective when the Premier League's pantomime villain is on song.

Sanchez key to Arsenal title hopes

Having talked about the lack of warriors in Arsenal's line-up, one look at Alexis Sanchez back in action shows how he can fit the bill.

The huge roar that swirled around the Emirates when he emerged after 57 minutes to replace Joel Campbell was not simply out of a growing desperation as Arsenal struggled against Chelsea - it was a signal that so much of the rest of the Gunners' season rests on the shoulders of the world-class Chilean.

It was his first appearance since sustaining a hamstring injury at Norwich City on 29 November and it was understandable he looked a little rusty, but the strength, perseverance and sheer force of will to influence a game were still in evidence in this cameo.

This was a major setback for Arsenal's title hopes - but the return of Sanchez confirms all is not lost if they keep him fit.

The stats you need to know

  • Arsenal have now gone nine hours and 32 minutes without a Premier League goal against Chelsea
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in nine Premier League meetings with Arsenal (W6 D3)
  • Costa has scored six goals in six games under Guus Hiddink (all competitions)
  • Chelsea have won back-to-back Premier League away games for the first time this season
  • The Blues are on the current longest unbeaten run in the Premier League (W3 D4)
  • The Gunners have failed to score in consecutive league games for the first time since August 2012

What next?

The Gunners are at home to Burnley in the FA Cup next weekend, and the Blues are away at the MK Dons in the same competition.

Source: bbc.com

 

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24/Jan/2016

Australian Open: Novak Djokovic beats Gilles Simon in last 16

Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived a scare against Gilles Simon to reach the last eight of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Five-time champion Djokovic made 100 unforced errors but prevailed 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 4-6 6-3 after four hours and 32 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Djokovic, 28, is through to his 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final.

Four-time champion Roger Federer was in vintage form in beating Belgium's David Goffin 6-2 6-1 6-4.

Djokovic plays Japan's Kei Nishikori in the last eight after the seventh seed beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 6-2 6-4, while third seed Federer plays Tomas Berdych.

The Czech sixth seed came through a testing encounter against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6 6-4 6-3 1-6 6-3.

'Just happy to get through'

"Playing against a player like Gilles you can expect a lot of rallies," said Djokovic, who is also through to his ninth successive Australian Open quarter-final.

"He is always making you play an extra shot. I made a lot of unforced errors today but he was fighting, he was playing well, physically it was very demanding and I'm just happy to get through this one."

Two breaks were enough for Djokovic to win the first set but the 10-time major champion spurned 11 break points in the second before winning the tie-break 7-1.

Djokovic broke twice again in the third but dabbed two limp drop-shots into the net when serving to stay in the set before missing a backhand to send the contest to a decider.

But Djokovic raised his game at the decisive moment, racing into a 4-1 lead in the fifth and serving out for the victory after Simon had saved two match points.

'No more drop-shots!'

When a spectator shouted out during Djokovic's on-court interview, the defending champion asked him to repeat what he had said.

When the member of the crowd repeated "no more drop-shots", the Serb shrugged and replied: "I hate to say it, but you're absolutely right."

Djokovic's tally of unforced errors is not a record - Yevgeny Kafelnikov hit 112 in defeating Fernando Vicente at the 2000 French Open.

On the plus side, Djokovic equalled Jimmy Connors' career mark of consecutive quarter-finals - only Federer has more with 36.

Federer sublime

Roger Federer

Federer won in Melbourne in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010 but was knocked out in round three last year

Seventeen-time major champion Federer, 34, barely put a foot wrong against 15th seed Goffin in the night match on Rod Laver Arena.

Federer raced through the first two sets in 50 minutes, hitting winners on both flanks and showing some beautiful touches at the net.

Goffin did finally break Federer in the third, but the Swiss wrapped up the match in an hour and 28 minutes, finishing with 39 winners and losing only 15 points on serve.

"I'm pleased with how I played," said Federer. "David normally gives me a hard time in practice so I was surprised at how well I went."

Nishikori surprised

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori also reached the last eight in Melbourne in 2012 and 2015

Nishikori broke ninth seed Tsonga's serve five times while the Frenchman hit eight double-faults in a flat display.

"Today was one of the best matches I've had this week," said 28-year-old Nishikori, a US Open finalist in 2014.

"I'm surprised that I broke him early every set. I was returning well, so that made it tough for him to have a good serve all the time."

Nishikori, 26, has never reached the semi-finals in Melbourne and trails Djokovic 5-2 in head-to-heads.

Hewitt's final farewell

Australian Lleyton Hewitt bowed out of professional tennis when he and compatriot Sam Groth lost their men's doubles match 6-4 6-2 to American Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil of Canada.

Hewitt, who lost to Spaniard David Ferrer in the second round of the singles, bows out at the age of 34, having won two Grand Slam titles and helping Australia lift the Davis Cup twice.

Source: bbc.com

 

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24/Jan/2016

Swansea win at Everton as Ayew scores

Francesco Guidolin's reign as Swansea head coach began with an impressive and much-needed victory at Everton.

The Italian oversaw an improved display from the Swans, who led through Gylfi Sigurdsson's penalty.

The hosts levelled when Gareth Barry's near-post flick from a corner was touched into his own net by Jack Cork but Ayew's deflected strike won it.

Everton missed a host of chances, the best of which Seamus Coleman put over from six yards with the final kick.

This was the Welsh side's first league win over Everton but, more importantly, it is the first time they have managed successive victories in the Premier League this season, adding to Monday's 1-0 home success over Watford.

They are up to 15th in the table and now have a cushion between themselves and Newcastle in 18th and a momentum that eludes their relegation rivals.

It is another disappointing result for the Toffees, who twice threw away a lead to draw at Chelsea last weekend and have now won just three of their past 14 matches at Goodison Park and one win in 10 league matches overall.

They are 12th in the table having gone into the campaign hoping to improve on last season's 11th-placed finish.

Guidolin makes instant impact

Guidolin, 61, has spent the majority of his 30-year managerial career in Italy, most recently with Udinese, who he motivated to gain results seemingly beyond their means.

If he is to perform a similar task at Swansea, who had won just once in 11 Premier League away games prior to Sunday, he has begun in the right fashion.

Last weekend, Guidolin watched from the stands as the Swans ground out a narrow win over Watford - but they were more forceful from the start at Everton, working hard to win the ball high up the pitch and moving it effectively when they did.

In the opening 15 minutes they had over 60% of possession and took their first-half chances when they came, scoring from both of their shots on target.

Both goals came with a helping hand from home defender John Stones. His under-hit back-pass allowed Ayew to nip in and draw a foul from Tim Howard for the penalty, then his sliding attempt to block the Ghana forward's shot took it past the keeper for the second.

Swansea rode their luck on occasion as Everton went in search of an equaliser after the break, but they showed discipline and determination that will stand them in good stead for a relegation battle.

Everton their own worst enemy

Everton were on the wrong end of a couple of referee decisions on Sunday - a handball by Ashley Williams to set up the move from which Ayew scored Swansea's second and a dismissed claim for a penalty when Neil Taylor blocked Coleman's cross with his arm.

They were also unlucky to suffer two injuries in the first half, which deprived them of Kevin Mirallas and Muhamed Besic, who had hit the post with the first shot of the game.

Ultimately, though, the home side have only themselves to blame for their failure to gain at least a point from the game.

Stones' error and misfortune helped the Swans score their goals, while the Toffees' own wastefulness prevented them adding to their leveller, which found the far corner of the net off Cork after Barry had flicked on a Deulofeu corner.

Spanish winger Deulofeu delivered several crosses from the right that his team-mates were unable to convert, Romelu Lukaku twice headed over and Coleman dragged a shot wide before somehow side-footing over from just a few yards out in the final minute of added time.

Andre Ayew played a key role in the goals that won this game for Swansea - showing awareness to win the penalty before scoring the second himself. He has now scored in four of the Swans' six wins this season

Manager reaction

Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "We were very slow in our performance - pedestrian - but two aspects affected our momentum which was the two injuries.

"The first half and second half performance were very contrasting.

"We created enough chances to win the game. The fearful aspect of our performance was a real shame."

Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin: "Six points in two matches is very important for us because the table was not good.

"Now it is not very good. I hope to have the possibility to go up in the table.

"In this moment I am very happy. This is the first match in Premier League for me. I dreamed of working in Premier League but I didn't dream of winning the first match.

"I must understand what happens in this day because I am surprised. It is new for me."

The stats you need to know

  • Swansea won their first ever league match against Everton, at the 22nd attempt (D8 L13).
  • Goodison Park has now seen 46 Premier League goals this season, more than any other ground.
  • Tim Howard has given away the most penalties in the Premier League since August 2013 (5, level with Jose Fonte).
  • The Swans picked up their first away win in six Premier League games (D1 L4).
  • Francesco Guidolin emulated Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk by winning his first Premier League game in charge of the Swans.
  • Four of Gylfi Sigurdsson's five Premier League goals this season have come from a set-piece situation (3 penalties, 1 direct free-kick).

What next?

Everton have a cup double next. They are in Capital Cup action, taking a 2-1 lead to Manchester City for the second leg of the semi-final on Wednesday before then going to Carlisle in the fourth round of the FA Cup next Sunday.

Swansea travel to West Brom - who are now just three points above them - for another big Premier League fixture on Tuesday, 2 February.

Source: bbc.com

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24/Jan/2016

Costa goal sinks 10-man Arsenal

Diego Costa's first-half strike earned Chelsea victory and a league double over title-chasers Arsenal who had Per Mertesacker sent off in the first half.

Arsenal were reduced to 10 men in the 18th minute when the German brought down Costa, who was through on goal.

Five minutes later the Spain striker put the Blues ahead when he tucked home Branislav Ivanovic's low cross.

Costa also forced a good save from Petr Cech, and Ivanovic's header was cleared off the line by Nacho Monreal.

The home's side's best chance fell to Mathieu Flamini who fired over from close range when he attempted to convert Aaron Ramsey's through-ball with a kung-fu kick.

Victory sees the Blues move up to 28 points and 13th position - their highest placing since 26 October. Defeat for the Gunners leaves them in third, three points behind Leicester who have 47 points.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

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24/Jan/2016

Vardy strikes as Leicester back on top of table

Leicester moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League with an impressive victory over Stoke.

Jamie Vardy struck straight at Jack Butland early on before Leicester's Danny Drinkwater lashed in from the edge of the area close to half time.

Vardy rounded Butland and slotted into an open net as Leonardo Ulloa added a third from close range late on.

Stoke struggled throughout - their best chance falling to Joselu, whose header was pushed away by Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester leaders but now comes the hard part

Leicester had won just one of their last five league games going into this fixture and there were question marks about whether they could stay in the hunt for the Premier League title.

But they answered the critics with a thumping win over Stoke - full of energy and industry, and have now conceded just one goal in their last five games.

The Foxes are patrolled at the back by a strong centre-back pairing of Wes Morgan, who made seven clearances, and partner Robert Huth. In front of them, N'Golo Kante's vigour epitomised the team's performance.

Drinkwater's effort was their first from outside the box this season, while Vardy netted his first goal in six league games, before Ulloa struck after sublime skills from Riyad Mahrez.

Leicester's record of one defeat in their last 16 league games will be firmly put to the test in their next three matches against Liverpool, title rivals Arsenal and Manchester City - games which will define whether they are title pretenders.

One eye on the cup?

Stoke's problems lie in front of goal, having not scored in nine of their 23 league games this season. Striker Bojan was kept on the bench, perhaps with their League Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday in mind.

They managed just two shots on target against the Foxes, with neither effort testing goalkeeper Schmeichel, who had an easy afternoon.

Playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri was kept quiet and things were made worse when skipper Ryan Shawcross hobbled off with an injury in the first half.

Without their leader at the back, Stoke's hopes of finishing in a European spot were dented as they drop to ninth in the table.

What they said:

Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri: "Nobody can believe it. Our fans are dreaming and I want them to continue to dream. I don't know if we are a contender at this moment. February is a big month and after that month I can say something more realistic."

Stoke boss Mark Hughes: "We played poorly today. We didn't get our game going at any point. At no point did we look like we were going to come back after conceding. We disappointed ourselves today and our supporters."

What next?

Stoke face Liverpool at Anfield in the League Cup semi-final on Tuesday 26 January, looking to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit, while Leicester host the same opposition in the Premier League on Tuesday 2 February.

The stats you need to know

  • Jamie Vardy ended his personal goal drought of 10 hours and 17 minutes without a goal in the Premier League
  • All four of Danny Drinkwater's league assists this season have been for Vardy
  • Leicester City have won nine and lost just one of their last 14 Premier League home matches
  • Stoke have conceded two or more goals in four of their last five away games in the Premier League

Source: bbc.com

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23/Jan/2016

Aguero double rescues Man City Point

Manchester City lost ground on Premier League leaders Leicester City as Sergio Aguero scored twice to rescue a draw at West Ham.

Enner Valencia struck from inside the area after 53 seconds for the Hammers but Aguero equalised with a penalty after he had been fouled.

The hosts retook the lead when Valencia capitalised on hesitant defending by Nicolas Otamendi to stab in.

However, Aguero struck from 10 yards late on to earn his side a point.

The result means Manchester City are second, three points behind Leicester, while West Ham are sixth.

Read about how the game unfolded

Reaction to all of Saturday's Premier League action

A good point, but City's away form a worry

Of the sides in the top three, Manchester City boast the worst away record.

They have won just four games on the road all season, while their last five away trips have seen them pick up just six points from a possible 18, a far from ideal record for a side challenging for the title.

Against West Ham, it was their inability to complete the basics of defending that was of particular concern.

They switched off in the first minute to allow West Ham to score, but their defending for the hosts' second was particularly poor.

Michail Antonio's quick throw initially caught out Otamendi, but he still had the time to be able to clear before Valencia nipped in to poke home.

Luckily for City they had Aguero to rescue them, but with away trips to struggling Sunderland and Newcastle coming up, Pellegrini's side can ill afford such lapses in those games.

Hammers to challenge for Europe?

After a strong start to last season West Ham dropped away at the turn of the year, winning just three more Premier League games.

The Hammers were similarly impressive in the first half of the current campaign but, crucially, they look capable of continuing that through the second half of the season this time.

They had won three of their four games in 2016 prior to the visit of Manchester City, and boast an impressive record against top seven sides, having lost just twice to the sides around them.

In Dimitri Payet they have one of the most exciting player in the Premier League and he tormented City throughout, with only a world-class save from Hart denying him a goal.

With West Ham six points behind fourth-place Tottenham, a top-four finish might be a tough ask, but their recent form suggests they will be prompting a few nervous glances over the shoulders of their rivals.

Toure struggles to make an impression

After a strong start to last season West Ham dropped away at the turn of the year, winning just three more Premier League games.

The Hammers were similarly impressive in the first half of the current campaign but, crucially, they look capable of continuing that through the second half of the season this time.

They had won three of their four games in 2016 prior to the visit of Manchester City, and boast an impressive record against top seven sides, having lost just twice to the sides around them.

In Dimitri Payet they have one of the most exciting player in the Premier League and he tormented City throughout, with only a world-class save from Hart denying him a goal.

With West Ham six points behind fourth-place Tottenham, a top-four finish might be a tough ask, but their recent form suggests they will be prompting a few nervous glances over the shoulders of their rivals.

Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure made 36 passes in the opposition half - only David Silva made more - but his accuracy was just 69.4%

There has been plenty of uncertainty about Yaya Toure's future in the newspapers this week, but City boss Manuel Pellegrini has urged the midfield to concentrate on helping his side challenge for the title.

Pellegrini clearly felt Toure is fully focused on the task at hand as he recalled him for the trip to West Ham, but was sluggish at the start.

He was left woefully wanting when Cheikhou Kouyate ghosted past inside a minute to set up Valencia for the opener.

In the end, Toure had more touches of the ball than any other City player, but struggled to make a telling impression in the opposition half, with only defenders Fernando and Otamendi having a worst passing accuracy than the midfielder.

What they said

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic: "It was a great game of football. I'm so proud of our team and Man City. There was everything in it. Four goals, chances, yellow cards and a penalty.

"We were a little bit disappointed, but I said to the players they shouldn't be. But if you are disappointed after playing Man City then that's good.

"We defended well and created many chances."

Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "It [a draw] was not what we wanted before the game. If you analyse the whole game we had two or three clear chances. It was a difficult game - I was not happy the way we conceded the second goal.

"It was a close game for both teams and a good game for both sets of fans. It was end to end because both teams play in an attacking way.

"Sergio Aguero played very well and scored. I think he is 100% again."

The stats you need to know

  • Valencia's opening goal was the second quickest goal (53 seconds) in the Premier League this season - Matt Ritchie's goal for Bournemouth against Spurs was timed at 49 seconds.
  • Sergio Aguero has been involved in eight goals (six goals, two assists) in his eight league appearances against West Ham.
  • All of Man City's four penalties in the Premier League this season have been taken by different players (Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony, Aleksandar Kolarov and Aguero).
  • The Hammers have scored three goals via thrown-ins in the Premier League this season - Arsenal are the only other team to score via this method (1).
  • Aguero's scored his 89th and 90th goals in his 136th Premier League appearance - the same number it took Ruud van Nistelrooy to hit the 90-goal milestone. Only Alan Shearer (90 in 113 games) has done it quicker.

What next?

West Ham are in FA Cup fourth-round action at Liverpool on 30 January while Manchester City's next game is at Sunderland in the Premier League on 2 February.

Source: bbc.com

 

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23/Jan/2016

Man U Booed off as Saints win at Old Trafford.

Substitute Charlie Austin scored seven minutes into his Southampton debut as a lacklustre Manchester United were booed off at Old Trafford.

Austin rose to head home a free-kick in the 87th minute to win an otherwise dour game of few chances.

Southampton have now won at United in the league for the last two seasons.

United and their manager Louis van Gaal were jeered by home fans at full-time after producing just one shot on target in 90 minutes.

They have won just one of their past five home games - and have failed to score in three of those.

United's first-half record in front of goal is even worse. They have now gone eight hours and 26 minutes without scoring in the first 45 minutes of games at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal's side are now five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who won 3-1 at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Southampton are now just four points and three league places behind United, having won their past three matches. The win also ends a four-match losing streak away from St Mary's for Ronald Koeman's team.

Manchester United half-time scores for last 11 games

Austin's dream debut

Southampton paid QPR just £4m to sign Austin on 16 January - a figure more representative of the length of time left on his contract with the Championship club than his ability.

In the 2014-15 season, the striker scored 18 Premier League goals, then added 10 in 16 Championship matches prior to his move back to the top flight.

And it took him just seven minutes to pick up where he left off as he found space in the box to meet fellow substitute James Ward-Prowse's free-kick and bury a header past David de Gea.

Prior to that, the Saints were comfortable, working hard to disrupt United's rhythm, managing possession well and looking to hit on the break.

They produced the best of what were few chances in the game, but Sadio Mane fluffed a shot from the edge of the box and Shane Long and Victor Wanyama headed wide from successive corners.

United came into the game off the back of two encouraging performances - an improved attacking display at Newcastle and a confidence-boosting win at Liverpool.

But they were unable to build on those, producing a tame 90 minutes strewn with errors and completely lacking in speed of thought or movement.

It made Southampton's containment job an easy one and left them vulnerable to the kind of late sting they had inflicted at Anfield last Sunday.

Van Gaal and his team were booed off at the end of a first half in which Saints keeper Fraser Forster was only tested once - from an optimistic 40-yard shot from Daley Blind - and Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard all shot woefully wide.

The jeers and abuse were far more ferocious at the end of a second half that United began more encouragingly following the introduction of Juan Mata, but quickly faded after Southampton had seen off their initial charge.

Is this the end?

The defeat is sure to intensify the pressure on Van Gaal.

The 64-year-old had suggested last week's win at Liverpool could be "fantastic starting point" for his side in 2016, but he has now led United to their lowest ever Premier League points tally (37) after 23 games.

After the match, the Dutchman admitted that the home supporters were right to boo, adding: "In better or worse we have to stick together.

"You have to meet expectation and expectations are very high, that gives a lot of pressure for the players.

"We are working very hard but we have a lot of injuries. That you cannot change."

The stats you need to know...

  • Southampton have won back-to-back away games at Old Trafford against Man United for the first time since 1969.
  • Charlie Austin has scored four times in his last five league games. It was his first Premier League goal since the final day of last season, meaning he's scored in back-to-back Premier League games.
  • Old Trafford has seen just three first half goals scored in 11 Premier League games this season; fewer than any other stadium. Only one of those has been scored by a United player (Memphis v Sunderland).
  • United have managed just one shot on target in their last two home league games to Southampton.

What they said...

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: "I had a feeling they could score only from a set-play. Our defence in set-plays was weaker because I changed Fellaini and had to change Darmian. Every change was a weakness in defence.

"I wanted to win this game and that's why I changed Cameron Borthwick-Jackson for Adnan Januzaj. That is a risk you take, it was a poor game and we didn't create so much and neither did our opponent."

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman: "We played very good. Our organisation was good, we were very compact, we had good pressing.

"We stayed in the game, controlled the game and you saw more nerves in the Man Utd team and finally we score from a corner kick.

"We showed spirit today, it was an amazing result for the second time here."

What next?

Manchester United are away at Championship side Derby in the fourth round of the FA Cup next Friday evening. Southampton's next match is in the league - a tough trip to Arsenal on Tuesday, 2 February.

Source: bbc.com

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23/Jan/2016

Javier Mascherano: Barcelona player in court to avoid prison term

Barcelona and Argentina defender Javier Mascherano has appeared in court aiming to avoid going to prison over a 1.5m euros (£1.1m) tax fraud.

Mascherano, 31, previously admitted two counts of fraud after failing to declare earnings in 2011 and 2012.

A judge will now rule if Mascherano can pay an increased fine to avoid jail, according to reports in Spain. 

He is alleged to have attempted to conceal earnings from his image rights by using companies he owns abroad.

A court filing released last year confirmed the player had repaid 1.75m euros - the full amount plus interest.

Following the latest hearing at a court in Catalonia, the former Liverpool and West Ham player tweeted a statement, saying:  "I'm a sporting professional, I don't have a great understanding of taxes and law.

"To deal with what are for me technical and complicated matters, I have to rely on other people.

"Throughout all my career I have been an honest person, responsible and respectful of my team-mates and the clubs that I have played for and the countries I have lived in. "

Source: bbc.com

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21/Jan/2016

Arsenal top of the Premier League after a goalless draw at Stoke.

Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League thanks to a point from a goalless draw at Stoke.

Arsene Wenger's side missed the creativity of Mesut Ozil, who was injured, but had chances to win the game only to be denied by Jack Butland.

The England goalkeeper tipped over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's long-range strike, before denying Olivier Giroud's header.

Stoke finished strongly as Jon Walters had a late header cleared off the line by Aaron Ramsey.

The draw means Arsenal move ahead of Leicester on goal difference. Stoke remain seventh.

Relive all the action from the Britannia Stadium

No Ozil, no party

Arsenal have started 2016 well poised to challenge for a first league title in 12 years, and key to their impressive form this season has been Ozil.

The German tops the Premier League assist chart with 16, so his absence on Sunday because of a foot injury was undoubtedly a big blow for the Gunners.

It did, however, provided Oxlade-Chamberlain with the chance to step up.

He certainly looked like he had a point to prove, forcing Butland into a fine one-handed save with a curling strike midway through the first half.

However, he was also guilty of losing possession at times and became increasingly anonymous as the game wore on.

If he is to prove himself an able deputy for Ozil, he will need to a show a lot more than he did on Sunday.

Must do better?

Arsenal may never get as good a chance to win the league as they will this season, with the challenge from their traditional title rivals faltering.

Arsene Wenger's side had lost just once in the eight games prior to the trip to Stoke, but Gunners fans might have been forgiven for feeling a little uneasy about their recent away form - they have now picked up just six points from a possible 18.

Arsenal were looking for their first win at the Britannia Stadium since 2010, so a victory at Stoke - especially without their talisman Ozil - would certainly have underlined their credentials as genuine title contenders.

In the opening stages of the game, however, they were second best, struggling to match Stoke's neat passing.

They improved as the game wore on, but not by much. Giroud's header - well saved by Butland - was their only effort on target in the second half.

Butland brilliant again

Stoke's attacking talent has, quite rightly, been getting plenty of praise this season but Butland has been just as impressive in the Potters' goal.

His total of 81 is more saves than any other goalkeeper has made in the Premier League this season and he was key to Stoke's frustrating of Arsenal.

His saves from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud kept his side in the game, allowing them to press in the closing stages as the visitors retreated, opting to protect the point.

As a consequence, Stoke could have snatched all three points just before full-time, but Walters' header from a corner was kept out by Ramsey, before Petr Cech blocked Joselu's follow-up.

What they said

Stoke boss Mark Hughes: "It was a game between evenly matched sides. Both teams approached the game in the right manner and created chances. All-in-all we're pleased. It shows our progress. Teams have found it difficult to get points here.

"We are showing everyone we have belief in our ability. There was a period where Arsenal had some play around the box without creating too much. It was a similar story at the other end.

"It was a competitive game. At times, there were good opportunities to put the ball in the box and so the only criticism I would have is that we were reluctant to do that."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "Maybe we had a better opportunities to score, they played very well, very physical and were very direct, which is an unusual style for them.

"We needed to be strong physically and had a great spirit, we fought very hard but couldn't take our chances. It is a hard fought 0-0. We have done better than years before at this ground and showed we can fight even when we miss certain players.

"It shows the spirit in the team, the desire and togetherness. We were less creative but on the physical front we did well."

The stats you need to know

  • Mark Hughes is unbeaten on home soil as an opposition coach against Arsene Wenger in his past eight Premier League matches (W5 D3), spread across five clubs.
  • Stoke City have lost just one of their eight Premier League games at the Britannia Stadium against Arsenal (W4 D3 L1).
  • It's the first time since November 2012 versus Aston Villa that Arsenal have drawn 0-0 away from home in the Premier League.
  • The Gunners have won just one of their past six Premier League away games (D3 L2).

What next?

Stoke travel to high-flying Leicester on Saturday. Arsenal host Chelsea the following day.

Source: bbc.com

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17/Jan/2016

Rooney earns win for Man United at Liverpool

Wayne Rooney's late strike settled a scrappy encounter to give Manchester United and manager Louis van Gaal a vital victory at Liverpool.

In a game that was a pale shadow of previous meetings between these two Premier League superpowers, Liverpool had the better chances and United keeper David de Gea kept his side in it with fine saves from Adam Lallana and Emre Can.

Jurgen Klopp's side wasted other opportunities and paid the price 12 minutes from time when Rooney fired United's first shot on target high past Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet after Marouane Fellaini's header came back off the bar.

Van Gaal's position had been under scrutiny after only two wins in United's previous 11 games - but victory at Anfield is the perfect tonic and his team are now in fifth, just two points off the Champions League places.

Relive all the action from Anfield

Phil McNulty answers your Premier League questions on the Match of the Day Facebook page 

Rooney still vital for United

Rooney's status as United and England's main man is often questioned - but once again he proved he remains, along with the outstanding De Gea, one of Van Gaal's most crucial players.

The 30-year-old lifelong Evertonian relishes winning at Anfield, and his delight was plain to see after he hammered home his first goal here since January 2005.

It was further proof he is undergoing a rejuvenation after criticism earlier this season, scoring twice in the 3-3 draw at Newcastle United and the winning goals in the FA Cup third-round victory against Sheffield United and the league match with Swansea City.

The question may be asked again soon - but there is still no evidence to suggest the Red Devils are a better side without Rooney than with him.

Klopp's task made clear

Liverpool have shown signs of promise in two big games at Anfield this week - but only earned a point against Arsenal with an injury-time equaliser and were beaten here.

Klopp is still trying to impose his "gegenpressing" style on Liverpool and it has worked better away - in impressive wins at Chelsea, Manchester City, Southampton and Stoke City - than it has at Anfield.

Liverpool were arguably the better team here but once again demonstrated a vulnerability to crosses and ran out of steam badly towards the end. The philosophy will not bear fruit until his defenders can clear a cross.

The struggles Klopp faces are summed up by the fact that, for the second game running, he was reduced to throwing defender Steven Caulker, a loan signing from QPR, on as a late substitute in attack.

The German has much work to do.

The friendly 'derby'?

Tongue in cheek, perhaps - but this was a far cry from the thunderous collisions between Liverpool and Manchester United when Scousers such as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher faced local products Gary and Phil Neville, as well as Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.

Anfield, not helped by the lack of quality on offer, was subdued and the aggression that used to be this fixture's hallmark flared only briefly in a couple of early skirmishes involving Liverpool's Lucas and United midfielder Fellaini.

This was every inch a game between sides sitting sixth and ninth in the Premier League before kick-off.

It may have even come as a disappointment to Klopp after the build-up and the history. He called these games "the salt in the soup" - this one needed an awful lot of seasoning.

United's Jesse Lingard, born in Warrington, was as close to local as it got in the starting line-ups - and perhaps that explains the lack of fire and brimstone that used to be a starting point in these confrontations.

What the managers said

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "I didn't see too many chances for Manchester United and we didn't take ours. Of course it is frustrating. We lost a game that we should not have lost.

"The goal was to defend and we didn't do it. That is our responsibility. We have to defend set pieces better.

"We did really well creating the chances, but there were a lot of situations where we could have created more chances and didn't. There were a lot of positive things but we lost in a derby against Manchester United."

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: "We know Wayne Rooney has played for Everton and now plays for United so he wants to score against Liverpool, it means a lot for him.

"We have made a good start in 2016, to beat Liverpool for the second time in a row is it marvellous, it gives a big boost for the players and the fans so I hope it shall continue with winning.

"That is why we are here, to win our games and at end of the season to be in the first three positions of the league."

Stats of the day

  • Rooney (176) has overtaken Arsenal's Thierry Henry (175) as the scorer of the most goals for a single club in Premier League history.
  • Rooney has scored in four successive games for United for the first time since March 2012.
  • Liverpool have conceded more goals from corners than any other team in the Premier League this season (7).
  • United have scored with all four of their shots on target against Liverpool this season in the Premier League.
  • Liverpool's failure to find the net ended an eight-game Premier League run of scoring at Anfield. It is the first time under Klopp they have not scored at home.
  • Van Gaal has won all four Premier League games against Liverpool.

What's next?

Liverpool are hoping to avoid another home defeat - and an embarrassing FA Cup exit - when they host Exeter in a third-round replay on Wednesday.

United are safely into the fourth round already, meaning they are not back in action until Saturday. Van Gaal's side welcome 10th-placed Southampton to Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Source: bbc.com

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17/Jan/2016

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's late winner puts PSG 23 points clear at the top of Ligue 1

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a late winner as Paris St-Germain moved 23 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with a 1-0 victory at Toulouse.

The Swede headed his 24th goal of the season after David Luiz flicked on a corner 17 minutes from time.

PSG maintained their bid to become the first team to complete an entire French top-flight season unbeaten.

Monaco can go second and trim the champions' lead to 21 points with victory at Lorient on Sunday.

Laurent Blanc's side were made to work hard for a ninth consecutive victory.

But once Ibrahimovic had broken the deadlock, they could have gone on to win by a bigger margin as Toulouse left gaps at the back in search of an equaliser.

The sides meet again in Paris on Tuesday in the French Cup.

PSG have lost just once in 31 competitive games this season, a 1-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the Champions League in November.

Toulouse remain in the bottom three after a six-game unbeaten run came to an end.

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Roberto Martinez: Everton boss feels 'pure anger' at Terry goal

Everton boss Roberto Martinez said he was feeling "pure anger" after his side was denied victory by a controversial 98th-minute Chelsea equaliser.

John Terry was a yard offside when he salvaged a point for Chelsea in a pulsating 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Martinez, whose side were leading 2-0 and 3-2, said the officials had made two "major errors" as Terry's goal came after the allocated seven minutes of added time.

"It's heartbreaking," he added.

"Seven minutes of injury time, the last action happens in 97 minutes 51 seconds and John Terry is two yards offside.

"Maybe refs need a bit of help. But to have a player two yards off in the box is unacceptable.

"There is no explanation. It's a big, big error. It's not good enough."

Everton took the lead when Terry put through his own net before Kevin Mirallas sent the visitors 2-0 up.

Diego Costa reduced the margin and Cesc Fabregas's deflected shot made it 2-2.

The Toffees thought they had won it through substitute Ramiro Funes Mori in the 90th minute only for Terry to back-heel in from close range.

Everton are without a win in their past four Premier League games and have one win in nine.

Chelsea's interim manager Guus Hiddink suggested he might have spoken to the referee, Mike Jones, and told him to play additional stoppage time after Everton went 3-2 up.

"There was seven minutes extra time. I said to the fourth referee, 'OK they are celebrating at least one minute in the corner'."

Hiddink also admitted Terry's last-gasp equaliser was offside.

"[Martinez] is quite right, he was offside.

"Sometimes it's in our favour, I've seen it. Oscar touched the ball and John was offside but he made a beautiful goal."

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Leicester City top of the Premier League after a 1-1 draw away to Aston Villa

Leicester City returned to the top of the Premier League after a 1-1 draw away to struggling Aston Villa.

Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring for City, reacting quickest to poke home after keeper Mark Bunn had athletically clawed out Jamie Vardy's lob.

Riyad Mahrez missed a chance to double the lead from the spot after a controversially-awarded penalty.

But Villa striker Rudy Gestede levelled after his second-half shot deflected past keeper Kasper Schmeichel.

In an eventful game for the Villa keeper, Bunn was booked early on for upending Vardy, who was through, but his touch had taken him away from goal.

Just before the half-hour mark, Bunn backpedalled to claw out Vardy's delicate chip, but Okazaki was the first to the rebound. It initially appeared that Bunn may have kept the second shot out, but goalline technology quickly ruled that the ball was over the line.

Leicester were presented with a chance to go 2-0 up in the first half when the assistant referee flagged for handball after Mahrez's shot hit the hand of the diving Aly Cissokho. Villa protested that the defender was simply protecting his face, and felt that justice was done when Mahrez's weak penalty was saved by Bunn.

The home side had their own strong claim for a penalty in the second half when Leicester defender Robert Huth wrapped his arm around Libor Kozak's head to get to a cross first, but the referee turned down the appeal.

Villa fought their way back into the game, and were eventually rewarded for their chances when Gestede did well to hold off the challenge of Huth. His shot took a big deflection off Wes Morgan as it went past Schmeichel.

Jamie Vardy had a chance to win it for Leicester in stoppage time, but he fired over from an angle.

Source: bbc.com

 

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16/Jan/2016

Inter Milan missed a chance to return to the top of Serie A

Inter Milan missed a chance to return to the top of Serie A after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Atalanta.

Roberto Mancini's side had to come from behind after Jeison Murillo's 17th-minute own goal.

They were level before half-time thanks to the game's second own goal from Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi.

Neither side could force a winner as Inter climbed to second, a point behind Napoli, who can increase their advantage against Sassuolo later today.

Inter fell behind when Murillo turned a Boukary Drame cross past Samir Handanovic.

But they equalised eight minutes later when Toloi sliced Mauro Icardi's drilled cross into his own net from six yards.

Handanovic produced a series of second-half saves to keep Atalanta at bay.

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Bournemouth beat relegation rivals Norwich City

Bournemouth easily overcame relegation rivals Norwich City to move five points clear of the bottom three.

The Cherries led when Dan Gosling headed in Marc Pugh's cross.

Bournemouth wanted a penalty when Russell Martin held back Charlie Daniels in the area, and Norwich keeper Declan Rudd was fortunate not to be sent off for fouling Benik Afobe.

But Vadis Odjidja brought down Pugh to allow Daniels to score from the spot before Benik Afobe rounded off the win.

It ended a four-game winless run in the Premier League for Eddie Howe's men, who climb above their opponents into 15th.

Relive Bournemouth's win over Norwich

Read all of Saturday's Premier League reaction

And it could have been more for the Cherries

It was Norwich who came into the game in better form, having won three of their past five matches in the league, but this was a worrying performance against a side who came up with them from the Championship last season.

And the scoreline could have been even more emphatically in the home team's favour had referee Robert Madley decided to award a penalty for Martin's attempt to hold on to Daniels in the area, or opted to show Rudd a red card when the keeper clipped Afobe on his way through to goal.

It turned out the Cherries did not need the assistance of the official.

The tireless Pugh had already provided a superb cross for Gosling to nod in at the back post.

And in the second half Daniels, who was tremendous throughout, added an assist to his converted penalty by skipping past two Norwich players and sliding in a cross that allowed Afobe to poke in his first goal since joining from Wolves in a £10m move.

Afobe a clever purchase?

Norwich were reportedly among the clubs interested in signing Afobe in this transfer window, and they saw first hand at Dean Court that the 22-year-old has the strength, pace and finishing prowess to make an impact in the top flight.

The former Arsenal forward, who had scored nine Championship goals already this season, regularly held off Norwich's centre-half pairing of Sebastien Bassong and Ryan Bennett, laying off the ball to bring team-mates into the game.

He outpaced the Canaries back four on his way to being clattered by Rudd in the first half, before picking the perfect place in the six-yard box to collect his first Premier League goal in the second.

Bournemouth did not even need to use their returning striker Lewis Grabban, a £7m signing from the Canaries this week, as the striker was said to be ill and watched the game from the stands.

Where do Norwich go from here?

There were few positives for Norwich to take away from the south coast, as they dwell on back-to-back defeats in the league that leave them four points above the bottom three.

Their only chance of note was an opening for Dieumerci Mbokani, whose attempted lob drifted 10 yards wide of goal.

Alex Neil's side defended horribly at times, with full-backs Martin and Robbie Brady too often beaten by Bournemouth's widemen.

And the hosts could have added to their tally if Rudd, who was fortunate to still be on the pitch, had not pulled off sharp saves in the second half from Pugh's mazy dribble and shot as well as Steve Cook's header.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Southampton ease past West Brom.

Southampton followed up their midweek victory over Watford with a convincing home win against West Brom.

James Ward-Prowse scored a brilliant 25-yard curled free-kick and a penalty for his first goals of the season as Saints cruised into a half-time lead.

West Brom boss Tony Pulis made two attacking changes at the break but the home side remained in charge.

Serbian forward Dusan Tadic sealed the three points from a tight angle after a clever pass from Matt Targett.

Ronald Koeman's Southampton move up to 10th in the Premier League table, while the Baggies stay 13th.

Re-live Southampton v West Brom

Reaction to all of Saturday's games

Southampton make it look easy

Shane Long and Sadio Mane sparkled up front for Southampton, Tadic made a brilliant contribution with his goal, while last season's top scorer Graziano Pelle was on the bench.

Before you even get to midfielder Ward-Prowse's two goals, the signing of Charlie Austin from QPR certainly leaves the Saints with plenty of scoring options.

Austin was watching on from the stands, and will have been delighted with what he saw from his new team-mates, who played with real fluency and verve going forward.

The only minor concern for Austin could be over how regularly he will fit into a team that appears to have rediscovered the qualities that drove them into a seventh-place finish last season.

The other side of West Brom

The Baggies' showing at St Mary's was a world away from the dogged away performance that earned a 2-2 draw against Chelsea on Wednesday.

There was little of the determined harrying that unsettled the home side at Stamford Bridge, with Southampton at times afforded far too much time on the ball.

The highlight of the away side's opening 45 minutes was a back-heeled clearance off the goalline by James McClean to block Targett's low shot - denying the 20-year-old a deserved goal for his excellent overall performance.

In West Brom's defence there was an improvement after Pulis' attack-minded substitutions at the break, but Southampton were intelligent in the way they protected the lead, and ruthless in the way they extended it.

The stats you need to know

  • West Brom didn't manage a single shot on target for the third time this Premier League season - more than any other side
  • James Ward-Prowse was the first Southampton player to score a Premier League goal from a direct free-kick since Rickie Lambert in February 2014
  • Ward-Prowse scored more goals in this match than he had in his previous 92 Premier League appearances for Southampton
  • Dusan Tadic now has more goals this season than he managed in 2014-15, with four goals

What next?

West Brom play away at Bristol City in an FA Cup third-round replay on Tuesday before hosting Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday. Southampton's next match is at Manchester United in the league, also on Saturday.

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Newcastle move out of the relegation zone

Jonjo Shelvey made an impressive debut for Newcastle as he helped his side move out of the relegation zone with a win over West Ham.

Shelvey had a hand in both goals as Ayoze Perez curled in a low shot before Georginio Wijnaldum side-footed in from six yards to make it 2-0.

A stray backpass by Chancel Mbemba let Nikica Jelavic score for the Hammers.

Newcastle squandered a number of chances but held on for a first win in six league games.

Magpies striker Aleksandar Mitrovic produced a hard-working performance but was denied by Hammers keeper Adrian three times.

Missed opportunities almost cost the home side, but keeper Rob Elliot kept out a 90th-minute Cheikhou Kouyate header with his knee.

Relive all the action from St James' Park here.

Follow reaction to Saturday's games here.

How good was Shelvey?

Very good. The 23-year-old midfielder, signed for £12m from Swansea, showed the kind of passing, creativity and energy which helped him break into the England squad earlier this season.

With just six minutes on the clock, Shelvey found Wijnaldum, who laid the ball off for Perez to open the scoring.

The new signing then helped set up his side's second with a raking 60-yard ball to Daryl Janmaat, who crossed for Wijnaldum to score his ninth Magpies goal of the season.

Victory moved Newcastle out of the relegation zone at the expense of Swansea, where Shelvey said he had been "hung out to dry".

"I've enjoyed every minute I've been up here," said Shelvey. "It's nice to get out there and show what I am about.

"It's not about me. It is about the team. We are out of the relegation zone and it's onwards and upwards from here.

"I'm very shocked this team is in and around the relegation places. Normally it is hard coming into a new team and slotting straight in, but credit to the players and staff here."

McClaren finally beats Bilic

Steve McClaren was cruelly dubbed the 'wally with the brolly' when his England side were beaten by a Croatia team managed by Slaven Bilic in 2007.

That defeat ended England's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008, and McClaren duly lost his job.

Bilic also came out on top when the Hammers won the reverse fixture earlier this season, but McClaren deservedly emerged victorious this time.

The visitors were overwhelmed in the first half and, despite improving after the break, would have been beaten more convincingly had it not been for Adrian.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Tottenham maintains their challenge for a top-four finish

Christian Eriksen scored twice as Tottenham maintained their challenge for a top-four finish and deepened Sunderland's relegation worries.

Patrick van Aanholt gave the Black Cats the lead against the run of play but Eriksen levelled as Lee Cattermole failed to clear on the goalline.

Mousa Dembele fired Spurs ahead before Eriksen's 25-yard shot deflected in off Sunderland debutant Jan Kirchhoff.

Harry Kane then converted a penalty after Kirchhoff fouled Danny Rose.

Tottenham remain in fourth, while Sunderland drop a position to 19th following Newcastle's win over West Ham.

Relive Tottenham's win over Sunderland

Follow live coverage of Saturday's football

Spurs again come on strong in second half

Although routine in the end, it was an important victory for Tottenham having lost two of their previous three home league games to fall away slightly from the leading trio of Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester City.

Mauricio Pochettino's side are now unbeaten in their past 12 league games against Sunderland, although in 11 of them they have been level at half-time.

It was difficult to fathom how that was the case on Saturday as they totally dominated the opening 45 minutes, enjoying 70% possession and 15 shots to the visitors' three.

Dutch left-back Van Aanholt, who netted against Swansea on Wednesday, beat Hugo Lloris at his near post from Adam Johnson's pass to give Sunderland an underserved lead.

Spurs were level within 91 seconds as Lee Cattermole could only deflect Eriksen's shot into the roof of the net on the goalline after Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford - making his Premier League debut - saved from Kane.

Dembele's low left-foot shot gave Spurs a 2-1 lead and they noticeably relaxed from that point, stretching away thanks to Eriksen's second and Kane's 12th league goal of the season.

Kirchhoff caught out

Despite being on the back foot throughout, Sunderland had looked relatively secure for almost an hour and occasionally threatened on the break.

Buoyed by successive league wins over Aston Villa and Swansea, they largely restricted Spurs to shots from outside the box in the first half.

Their failure to protect their lead until half-time proved costly, although former Spurs striker Jermain Defoe - who had scored five in his previous two games - had a chance to restore it early in the second half.

He and Adam Johnson raced clear of the home defence but the counter-attack lost momentum and the 33-year-old fired into the side-netting.

Debutant centre-half Kirchhoff, signed from Bayern Munich, had only made one appearance this season prior to joining Sunderland this month.

He struggled after coming on in the 58th minute, with the foul on Rose for the penalty demonstrating how much he was off the pace.

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce said of Kirchhoff: "It's a bit risky signing players from abroad in January but we have to take that risk. Hopefully he learns from today."

'Outstanding' Pickford makes fine Premier League debut

Sunderland keeper Pickford spent the first half of the season on loan at Championship club Preston and Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce said it would have been wrong not to recall him as he "made such an outstanding impact".

Allardyce hopes he can follow England Under-21 international predecessors Joe Hart and Jack Butland in graduating to the full national team and, despite conceding four goals, he made an impressive league debut, replacing Vito Mannone.

The 21-year-old, who has been on loan at six different clubs over the past four years, made superb saves at full stretch in the first half to deny Kane and Eriksen.

Pickford made further stops from Kane and Rose in the second period and was not at fault for any of the goals.

Manager reaction

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino told BBC Sport: "It was a good response to the Leicester defeat. I'm very pleased. We need to be patient.

"We had a lot of shots on target - their goalkeeper was fantastic. I feel very pleased in the last few games. The belief is fantastic. We have a very good, strong squad - today was a good example."

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce told BBC Sport: "Our players put themselves in one fantastic position and then in the space of a minute conceded. It's one of the reasons we ended up losing.

"If we came in at half-time 1-0 up we could have built on that. It was a really sloppy thing to do. We ran out of legs in the end. In the last quarter, physically we were tiring.

"I changed the shape but that didn't work. The scoreline, 4-1, looks more comfortable than it was."

On Jordan Pickford: "Playing a keeper at a young age is not an easy decision to make. But I thought he handled it well. He might not play too many more games this season because Vito Mannone has done a fantastic job. The rest of the team up to 65 minutes were doing the job right but in the last 20 they failed miserably."

The stats you need to know

Christian Eriksen has now scored in all four of his Premier League appearances against Sunderland (five goals).

Harry Kane has now scored 11 goals in his past 13 Premier League appearances.

Each of Sunderland's three goalkeepers (Costel Pantilimon, Mannone and Pickford) have conceded four goals in their first Premier League appearance of 2015-16.

What's next?

Tottenham travel to Leicester for an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday (19:45 GMT), which is live on BBC One, before a league trip to Crystal Palace next Saturday (15:00 GMT). Sunderland host fellow strugglers Bournemouth on the same day (15:00 GMT).

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Manchester City moved top of the Premier League

Manchester City moved top of the Premier League by thrashing a lacklustre Crystal Palace side.

After a slow start from the hosts, midfielder Fabian Delph gave them the lead with a long-range drive that squirmed under Wayne Hennessey.

Striker Sergio Aguero doubled the advantage with an effort that deflected in off the head of Scott Dann.

Aguero finished off a sublime team move and David Silva added a fourth, with Palace winless in five league games.

The Eagles could have gone ahead in the first couple of minutes but defender Damien Delaney headed straight at Joe Hart when free inside the area.

Yohan Cabaye went close late on with an effort that flew narrowly wide, but Palace have now failed to score in their past five league games.

Clinical City signal intent

Manuel Pellegrini's side failed to score against Everton in their last league game, and there were concerns over the form of Aguero going into the game.

But the Argentine - who had scored just once in his past five league games - showed his class at a snowy Etihad Stadium, scoring twice and setting up the impressive Silva for another, as the hosts found the net with all four shots on target.

City's third was particularly special, as four players with a value of £141m combined to score - Aguero starting and finishing a move that also involved Silva, Yaya Toure and Kevin de Bruyne.

The Blues have not been beaten in the league since their 2-1 defeat at Arsenal before Christmas and, with Aguero and Silva hitting their stride after injury, are finding form at just the right time.

Eagles falling rapidly

As recently as 19 December - when Palace beat Stoke - there was talk of Alan Pardew's side challenging for a place in Europe, perhaps even in the Champions League.

Then, they had the same number of points as fourth-placed Tottenham, but an alarming slump has seem them drop to eighth in the table.

This was another game in which they failed to score or take a point. Having made a mistake in their defeat by bottom side Aston Villa in midweek, goalkeeper Hennessey was again at fault for City's opener.

Manager Alan Pardew was unhappy with the Welshman's performance - but he has problems at both ends of the field.

Pardew has admitted he needs to bring in a striker in the transfer window, and neither the hard-working Connor Wickham nor the ineffectual Marouane Chamakh forced Hart into a save.

Palace's best chance came in the second minute. Had skipper Delaney scored with his header, it could have been a different story, but their wait for a goal and a point continues.

What they said

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "Was it comfortable? No, because you never know in this game. The first half, the two goals gave us more space as they've had to go for the draw. That allowed us to use that space and score two more."

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew on the performance of goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey: "Wayne is going to have to show me this week in training. A mistake at Villa, he needed to respond today and made another mistake.

"The ball is in his court to keep out the other two goalkeepers but I need to see it in training. I need to see a reaction from him."

What next?

Manchester City travel to West Ham next Saturday (17:30 GMT), while Crystal Palace host fellow Londoners Tottenham (15:00 GMT) on the same day.

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Chelsea rescue late point against Everton

John Terry scored a controversial 98th minute equaliser to earn Chelsea a point in a thriller against Everton.

The Toffees took the lead when Terry put through his own net and Ross Barkley hit a post for Everton before Kevin Mirallas put the visitors 2-0 up.

Diego Costa reduced the margin and Cesc Fabregas's deflected shot made it 2-2.

Ramiro Funes Mori restored Everton's lead in the 90th minute only for Terry to back-heel in from close range - although he was a yard offside.

Relive the drama from Stamford Bridge

Everton undone by defensive failings

Everton's players were angry Terry's goal was allowed to stand, but in a pulsating game the visitors only had themselves to blame for allowing a 2-0 lead to slip.

They appeared to be coasting to a first win in four league outings when Mirallas doubled the lead with a crisp shot after Leighton Baines' cross.

Baines had also been instrumental in the first goal, Terry getting his feet into an awful tangle while attempting to clear his cross.

Costa comfortably rounded Howard to make it 2-1 after Phil Jagielka failed to deal with a long ball forward by Cesc Fabregas, who made it 2-2 with a deflected shot which deceived Howard.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

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16/Jan/2016

Leicester City: Club speak to FC Copenhagen about Daniel Amartey

Leicester City are in talks with FC Copenhagen over the signing of Ghana international Daniel Amartey.

The Danish club has confirmed that the 21-year-old, capable of playing in defence and midfield, could move to the Premier League side in January.

It has been reported by BBC Radio Leicester that he could join for a fee of up to £6m.

Amartey, who has won six caps for Ghana, has previously played for Swedish side Djurgarden.

Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri had previously said that he did not plan to make any more signings in January, following the capture of winger Demarai Gray from Birmingham City.

Leicester are second in the Premier League, level on points with leaders Arsenal, with 17 games remaining.

Source: bbc.com

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15/Jan/2016

Emmanuel Adebayor a target for Crystal Palace - Pardew

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew has confirmed he is interested in signing former Tottenham forward Emmanuel Adebayor.

The 31-year-old is a free agent since leaving White Hart Lane in September.

Palace are the lowest scorers in the top half of the Premier League with 22 goals and Pardew is looking for attacking reinforcements.

"We've had discussions about him and he is in that kind of nine or 10 strikers that possibly we could get," he said.

"It's a tough call for anyone who takes Adebayor - how much game time has he had? That is a question mark."

Pardew made a failed attempt to sign the Togo international in 2006 when he was in charge at West Ham.

Adebayor instead joined Arsenal from French league club Monaco. He went on to play for Manchester City and a loan spell at Real Madrid before joining Spurs in 2012.

Questions have been raised about Adebayor's attitude and commitment, but Pardew added: "Whenever he has played against me he has been totally committed and he's a dangerous world player.

"I have had difficult players before, none more difficult than [Hatem] Ben Arfa [at Newcastle]. If I can deal with him, I can deal with Adebayor for sure.

"You have only got to look at his clubs and of course, for whatever reason there has been a fall-out at Spurs, but he remains a player that can have a great impact. He's one of those players that would improve us."

Will Adebayor be a good signing for Palace?

On BBC Radio 5 live's weekend preview show, the guests discussed whether Palace should sign the striker. The Daily Telegraph's Jason Burt revealed the club would need to negotiate with Spurs, who still pay him £100,000 a week.

Former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson said: "He's a really good player. He'd put bums on seats. I think Alan Pardew is very capable of managing high-maintenance players. If he does decide to go for it, it won't be on a whim."

Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam added: "He'll take the load off Connor Wickham. I think he'd be a good signing."

For all the latest transfers check out our transfer deals page and for all the manager ins and outs, see the our list of current bosses.

Source: bbc.com

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15/Jan/2016

Man Utd boss Louis van Gaal 'cannot imagine' 26-year title wait

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal "cannot imagine" it will take the club 26 years to become champions again.

United went that long before winning the league under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1993, a barren run Liverpool will equal if they fail to finish top this season.

"I cannot imagine that shall happen," said Van Gaal. "We are in transition but we have the infrastructure and are going the right way."

Liverpool and United meet in the Premier League at Anfield on Sunday.

Van Gaal has won all three competitive meetings with Liverpool, including a victory at Anfield last season, since becoming United manager in 2014.

But a run of one win in eight Premier League games sees United in sixth spot, three places and three points above Sunday's hosts. If they fail to win at Anfield it will be United's worst run since 1989-90.

"You could still say we have underperformed because Manchester United has to be in the first three in the Premier League," said Van Gaal. "The same thing counts for Liverpool."

The Dutchman also said he was backing captain Wayne Rooney to improve an indifferent record at Liverpool.

Having scored only once in 10 weeks from 17 October, Rooney has netted four goals in his past three games, including two in the 3-3 drawat Newcastle on 12 January.

But not since March 2012 has he scored in four consecutive club games and the 30-year-old does has generally struggled at Anfield, managing one goal in his 10 visits.

"Wayne has to break that record," said Van Gaal. "Then I am very pleased.

"When he scores, it makes it easy for me. I have put all my money on Wayne."

Source: bbc.com

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15/Jan/2016

Chelsea and West Brom charged by FA for players' conduct

Chelsea and West Brom have been charged by the Football Association because of the conduct of their players in a 2-2 draw on Wednesday.

The charge relates to the reaction of players when Baggies midfielder Claudio Yacob escaped a second yellow card for a foul on Diego Costa.

The clubs were deemed to have failed "to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion".

They have until 18:00 GMT on 20 January to respond.

Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink believed Yacob should have been dismissed and spoke with fourth official Jon Moss during the game.

"I told him: 'This is one of the worst referees of the Premier League I have experienced,"' said Hiddink, speaking on Friday before Saturday's match against Everton.

"He said to me 'you haven't seen me yet', which was a beautiful remark I think."

Source: bbc.com

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15/Jan/2016

Troubled ex-NFL star Lawrence Phillips dies in prison

An former US professional football player whose career was cut short by disciplinary problems has been found dead inside his California prison cell.

Officials believe Lawrence Phillips, 40, killed himself early on Wednesday.

In the 1990s, he was a star player at the University of Nebraska, making him a sought-after rookie in the NFL.

Phillips played for the St Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers until 1999, but he was plagued by trouble on and off the field.

After his NFL career, Phillips continued to have problems with the law.

Eventually, he was sent to prison after being convicted of assault for driving his car into a group of teenagers. In another case, he was convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend.

Accused of murder

Phillips - who was serving a term of more than 30 years - had been placed in a cell alone after he was accused of killing his former cellmate.

On Tuesday, a judge found that there was enough evidence to try Phillips in the death of Damion Soward, 37.

It is unclear how he took his own life.

"He was an intelligent person and had some good qualities," Tom Osborne, Phillip's coach at Nebraska, told the Associated Press news agency.

"Yet he had some anger issues and couldn't overcome the demons in his life.''

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

Defoe hat-trick sinks Swansea at the Liberty Stadium as Ayew scores

Jermain Defoe struck a hat-trick as Sunderland dragged 10-man Swansea closer to the bottom three in a game packed with refereeing controversy.

Defoe pounced on Lukasz Fabianski's mistake to score, but Swansea equalised with Gylfi Sigurdsson's penalty.

Kyle Naughton was controversially sent off for a foul on Yann M'Vila but Andre Ayew put the Swans ahead by half-time.

Patrick van Aanholt's deflected shot levelled and Defoe struck twice to secure a second successive league win.

Relive Sunderland's victory at the Liberty Stadium.

Sunderland have now leapfrogged arch rivals Newcastle into 18th in the Premier League table, just one point and one place below Swansea.

Despite Defoe's heroics, it was referee Graham Scott who found himself as the centre of attention, with doubts hanging over three of the six goals as well as the seemingly harsh dismissal of Naughton.

Fury in the stands and on the touchline

oining the select group of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp and David Moyes, Sunderland's Sam Allardyce became only the fifth manager to reach 450 Premier League games.

The former Bolton and Newcastle boss did not have to wait long to celebrate the landmark, as Defoe put Sunderland ahead after just three minutes.

Fabianski inexplicably hit his goal-kick straight to Adam Johnson and was then only able to parry Fabio Borini's shot, allowing Defoe to tap in from what appeared to be an offside position.

Allardyce's elation soon turned to anger, however, as Swansea equalised in similarly dubious fashion.

Referee Scott awarded the hosts a penalty for what seemed like a Wes Brown trip on Ayew, but replays appeared to show the Ghanaian forward had fallen over his own feet.

Sigurdsson confidently converted the spot-kick, much to Allardyce's visible fury on the touchline.

Scott on the spot

If Defoe's opener and Sigurdsson's equaliser were debatable, Naughton's dismissal was a controversial flashpoint which prompted a vitriolic backlash from the home crowd.

The Swansea right-back won the ball from M'Vila but, having done so with studs showing, Scott showed him a red card.

Swansea interim manager Alan Curtis - who waited to confront the official at the interval - claimed Scott got "all the major incidents wrong", adding Naughton "clearly won the ball".

Despite the setback, his side initially responded well to their numerical disadvantage as Ayew latched on to Fabianski's clearance and scored with a powerful drive.

The Swans were not ahead for long though, as four minutes after the restart Van Aanholt's 20-yard shot deflected off Federico Fernandez and flew into the top corner.

Swansea's slide continues

While Allardyce was presiding over his Premier League milestone, this was Curtis' first since being named Swansea's manager for the rest of the season.

Curtis' side defended raggedly throughout and there was a certain inevitability - and, once more, controversy - to Sunderland's third goal.

Defoe was offside as he collected Johnson's through ball but linesman Mark Perry did not raise his flag and the Sunderland striker finished calmly.

The England international striker was then perfectly placed to slide in from Van Aanholt's excellent cross to put the game beyond doubt with his fifth goal in two games.

Swansea, who are 17th in the Premier League table, remain just one point above Sunderland and Newcastle immediately below them.

What did the managers say?

Swansea manager Alan Curtis: "The first goal and third are clearly offside decisions. You can recover but when you play with 10 men for an hour, that's the one that killed us more than anything."

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce: "We manipulated or played with the situation as it panned out. That's all we can do. We have taken the opportunity rightly or wrongly to win the game. For us it's an unbelievable win. Today it's an enormous, enormous, enormous three points to give us encouragement and hope going forward."

The stats you need to know

  • This is just the second time in 16 league meetings that Sunderland have beaten Swansea. The Black Cats last won in the Welsh city in 1963.
  • Jermain Defoe has scored in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since February 2015, when he also scored against Swansea.
  • Defoe scored his fourth Premier League hat-trick, only 11 players have more.
  • Sunderland have scored seven goals in their last two Premier League games, more than their previous eight matches combined (6).

Up next?

Sunderland will look to make it three Premier League wins from three when they travel to Tottenham on Saturday at lunchtime, while Swansea host Watford at the Liberty Stadium on Monday night.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

Man City draw with Everton at Etihad

Manchester City missed the chance to make up ground in the Premier League title race as they were held to a goalless draw by a stubborn Everton.

Manuel Pellegrini's side dominated the second half but were repeatedly denied by away keeper Tim Howard.

It was a supreme defensive display from the Toffees, who had been the better attacking side in the first half.

They also rode their luck, as City were denied a late penalty for a foul on Raheem Sterling by John Stones.

For Everton, it is a point won - and a confidence-boosting one, following a run of seven games in which they have won just once.

But it is two key points dropped for City and they remain three points behind joint league leaders Arsenal, held 3-3 by Liverpool, and Leicester, 1-0 winners at Tottenham.

Look back at all the action from the Etihad

Listen: Is Pellegrini 'too nice' to win the title this season?

Football Daily podcast - Does anyone want to win the league?

City miss out

Sergio Aguero

The game began in a half-full Etihad Stadium as traffic problems prevented many fans arriving by kick-off.

However, you would forgive many of the City supporters who did eventually make it to the ground for wishing they had not. Before the break, the home side looked sluggish and were outworked by a dynamic away side.

They did produce a couple of chances - the best of them a Yaya Toure header from eight yards that was palmed away by Howard - but could easily have trailed.

They improved in the second half as Sergio Aguero became more involved, but still struggled to break their opponents down, even after the introduction of David Silva with 15 minutes to go.

The game would end in desperate, vain calls for a penalty for Stones' admittedly risky sliding challenge on Sterling.

Pellegrini fumes at penalty decision

City boss Manuel Pellegrini was adamant that Stones' challenge should have been penalised and his side awarded a "clear penalty".

"Everyone in the stadium could see it was a penalty - it was so near to the referee and so clear," said the Chilean. "Both Raheem's legs were taken by Stones but if he doesn't whistle we can't say anything."

Unsurprisingly, Everton boss Roberto Martinez had an opposing view of the incident and praised the "maturity" of referee Roger East.

"We have been on the back end of receiving a penalty, in the last seconds against Stoke," said the Spaniard.

"Stones goes to slide to block the ball, Sterling does not play the ball and waited. In my eyes it is an area that is not certain if it's a penalty or not.

"I believe the referees should control their emotions and the referee did exactly that. It is impossible to be 100% certain and I am pleased he did this and showed his maturity."

Everton edge part two

his game was the second part of a fixture trilogy between these sides in January, falling between the two legs of a Capital One Cup semi-final.

A week ago, Romelu Lukaku's winner gave Everton a 2-1 victory at Goodison Park, and they impressed again in a performance that showcased both sides of their game.

In the first half, the Toffees were patient and precise when they had the ball and hard-working when they did not. But for some wayward shooting, they would have led at the break.

Gerard Deulofeu and Lukaku were both denied with shots from an angle in the box, while the latter set up Leon Osman for the best chance - a volley from 15 yards that flew just past Joe Hart's far post.

After the break, Roberto Martinez's side were firmly on the back foot and spent long spells without the ball but demonstrated discipline and commitment to limit City to only a few goalscoring chances.

The stats you need to know

  • Everton have lost just one of their 10 Premier League away games this season (W3 D6)
  • This was only Everton's second Premier League clean sheet in their past eight games
  • Man City had 22 shots but only five of them were on target
  • Everton had two shots on target, the second of them coming in the 18th minute
  • Sergio Aguero has scored in just four of his 14 Premier League appearances this season and just once in his past five PL games
  • Joe Hart made his 250th Premier League appearance for Man City in this game

What next?

Manchester City are at home again on Saturday, with Crystal Palace the visitors.

Everton face another tough away trip on the same day, as they travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

WBA frustrate Chelsea

James McClean's late equaliser earned West Brom a share of the points as they refused to accept defeat at Chelsea.

The Blues went ahead when Cesar Azpilicueta turned in fellow full-back Branislav Ivanovic's low cross.

Craig Gardner's skimming shot levelled, but it seemed Chelsea had done enough when Gareth McAuley prodded Willian's cross into his own net.

But when the home defence failed to clear McClean made them pay with a pinpoint shot into the bottom corner.

The Republic of Ireland international's leveller was the final twist in an often ill-tempered game with Chelsea striker Diego Costa at the centre of several flashpoints, including a confrontation with several West Brom players after the final whistle.

Relive the action from Stamford Bridge

Normal service resumes for Costa

After only four goals in his first 21 games of the season, Costa has come to life in the wake of Jose Mourinho's departure as manager - doubling that tally in his past four appearances.

But, even at his best, the Spain international bristles with aggression as well as attacking threat.

From gliding past Jonny Evans and rifling over the top in the first minute, he was never far from incident - exchanging words and clashing shoulders with Jonas Olsson and Claudio Yacob and picking up a booking himself for a crude challenge on Craig Gardner.

He forced Boaz Myhill into a sprawling save with his side 2-1 up deep into the second half, but he could not deliver a third goal that would have killed off the contest and wrapped up the points.

Chelsea's creaking spine

Chelsea's title win last season - in which they were out-scored by second-placed Manchester City - was based on a steely defence.

But that, along with many other aspects of their play, has deteriorated sharply this term.

Despite the imposing pairing of John Terry and Kurt Zouma at centre-half, supported by 6ft 6in goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the hosts never looked comfortable when the ball was played into their box from out wide.

After allowing Craig Dawson and McClean to win headers in dangerous positions earlier in the match, their lack of conviction was punished as McClean threaded an 86th-minute shot into the bottom corner after a bout of penalty-area pinball.

That goal - combined with Pedro's cheap concession of possession and Zouma's failure to close down Gardner for West Brom's first - will give Blues interim boss Guus Hiddink plenty to muse on as he tries to shore up his rearguard and Chelsea's position in the table.

Thibaut Courtois

Chelsea faced 23 crosses into their box during the match

Baggies pull away from the basement

After their Boxing Day defeat by Swansea, West Brom were just three points from the relegation places, but home wins against Stoke and Newcastle followed by this point at Stamford Bridge have improved that cushion to more comfortable nine.

Tony Pulis' tactics - his side have played the highest proportion of long passes in the top-flight this season - have been criticised,  but his record of never having been relegated as a manager looks unlikely to be spoiled by this typically well-drilled and solid Baggies side.

Salomon Rondon, well supported by McClean, was a willing runner in attack and the proceeds from the potential sale of the unsettled Saido Berahino might yet fund an evolution in the Baggies' style.

Managers' reaction

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink: "West Brom always bounce back, there is great character. It was an intense game.

"Diego Costa controls himself, he is very dangerous. The player is concentrated on his job and doing very well.

"Tony Pulis made a wise decision when he took over the role of the referee and took off Claudio Yacob. The referee forgot to do it."

West Brom manager Tony Pulis: "We are pleased. It was a tough game, you have to ride your luck and work hard and we did that.

"We were disappointed with one or two of our players because they got wound up and kept the crowd going. You have to be sensible and you have to play with your head.

"There is a couple of weeks to go. Saido Berahino's situation is up in the air. The chairman is running the club diligently, the finances are up to him."

The stats you need to know

  • Chelsea still haven't won back-to-back league games this season, last doing so in May 2015.
  • The Blues have conceded two or more goals in 12 fixtures this season, twice as many as in the whole of last season.
  • West Brom avoided defeat at Stamford Bridge for only the second time in the Premier League. They have drawn twice and lost eight times at Chelsea.
  • The Blues scored with their only shot on target in the first half and had just two in the whole game.

What's next?

Chelsea have a couple of testing Premier League encounters up next, taking on Everton at home on Saturday before travelling to leaders Arsenal on Sunday, 24 January. West Brom play Southampton away in the league on Saturday, before an FA Cup third-round replay at Bristol City on Tuesday.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

Leicester beat Premier League top-four rivals Tottenham to go joint top

Robert Huth scored a late winner as Leicester beat Premier League top-four rivals Tottenham.

The Foxes, who are now level on points with leaders Arsenal, looked like they were heading for a fourth league game without a goal until unmarked Huth headed home Christian Fuchs' corner.

Harry Kane had Spurs' best chance when his effort was touched on to the bar by keeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Foxes striker Jamie Vardy returned from groin surgery but had a quiet game.

It was the second of three meetings between the clubs in 10 days, following Sunday's 2-2 FA Cup draw - with their replay to be shown on BBC One, next Wednesday.

Foxes breathe new life into challenge

There had been fears Leicester's slide was beginning after three games without scoring - and they looked like making that four in a row before Huth's late goal.

But this win - which takes them seven points above fourth-placed Spurs and eight clear of West Ham in fifth - will give them real hope of finishing in the Champions League places, if not higher.

They were characteristically short of possession with only 39% - their average of 40.62% is the third lowest in the league - but they have shown they are far from a two-man team with Riyad Mahrez and Vardy, their two stars of the campaign, subdued throughout.

Do Spurs need a new striker?

Maybe, but it was wasteful finishing rather than the lack of a second striker that cost Spurs against the Foxes.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino has continually insisted it is not urgent they sign a new striker to partner Kane, who is their top scorer with 11 league goals.

The England international was their sole striker against Leicester but Spurs' formation meant Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli got forward to support him regularly.

Those four had a combined 18 shots, although Kane's effort which Schmeichel touched on to the bar was one of only five shots on target the team managed.

Boof'

Former England captain Alan Shearer on Match of the Day: "It's a remarkable story for Leicester. Only Manchester City have scored more goals than them.

"It was a good old-fashioned proper plant your feet, arch your back and get your neck muscles going header from Huth. Look at the power. Boof."

Ex-Germany midfielder Dietmar Hamann: "It's a blip for Spurs. They're still in a good position and favourites to reach the Champions League. The worry is the lack of form from Christian Eriksen, who hasn't scored in the league since October. They are over-reliant on Harry Kane. If he gets injured they'll be in trouble."

'So much work to do'

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri told BBC Match of the Day: "We wanted to win but we knew it was a difficult match. Tottenham started very well and put us under pressure but we didn't lose our confidence or shape and it was difficult for them.

"In the second half it was an open match. We both had chances and we scored the goal. Unfortunately it's January, not May. There's so much work to do. We have to remain calm and believe in what we're doing."

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino: "I'm disappointed. We created the better chances. You need to score. We need to keep calm and try to improve.

"All the stats are positive for us. It's difficult to explain - we deserved more and to win the game. In football you can get punished for one little mistake. We are going to try to analyse the game. We were unlucky tonight."

The stats you need to know

  • Leicester have now secured more points this season (43) than they did in the whole of the 2014-15 Premier League campaign (41)
  • Robert Huth's goal ended Leicester's run of 374 minutes without a goal in the Premier League
  • The Foxes earned their first league win at White Hart Lane since October 1999
  • Spurs have won just one of their past four Premier League home games (D1 L2)
  • Claudio Ranieri has never lost a Premier League match as a manager against Tottenham (W7 D3)
  • Since breaking the Premier League record for goals in consecutive games, Jamie Vardy has scored just one goal from six shots on target in seven games

Next up for both sides

Both sides will be confident of wins on Saturday in the Premier League. Leicester visit bottom side Aston Villa, while Tottenham host third-from-bottom Sunderland.

The Foxes and Spurs then meet again next Wednesday in their televised FA Cup third-round replay.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

Arsenal pay the price for frailty inj their game against Liverpool

Arsenal had their advantage at the top of the Premier League cut after Joe Allen's late equaliser gave Liverpool a deserved point in an Anfield thriller.

Olivier Giroud's second-half strike - his second of the night and 18th of the season - looked to have put the Gunners on course for a crucial victory, but substitute Allen rewarded the hosts for a display bursting with energy and spirit with a low 90th-minute finish.

Roberto Firmino twice gave Liverpool the lead in a breathless first half, the second a spectacular 20-yard drive, but Arsenal took advantage of poor defending from Jurgen Klopp's side to level through Aaron Ramsey and Giroud.

Giroud also missed an open goal in the first half, while Firmino glanced a shot off the bar in a wide open game.

With 10 minutes remaining, Arsenal's lead at the top of the table was four points. Yet Robert Huth's late winner for Leicester City at Tottenham and Allen's late strike left Arsenal only ahead of the Foxes on goal difference.

Relive the drama from Anfield

Joe Allen celebrates scoring for Liverpool against Arsenal

Joe Allen's goal was his first in the Premier League since April 2015

Arsenal pay the price for frailty

The visitors looked to have finally established supremacy in this topsy-turvy encounter when Giroud turned to put them ahead 10 minutes after the break - but then failed to press home the advantage and paid a heavy price.

And it will be a matter of concern to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger that on nights like this at places like Anfield, they did not show the necessary ruthlessness to close out a game that was within their grasp.

The Reds deserve great credit for the way they responded to the disappointment of going behind after leading twice - but Arsenal showed no assurance or authority when the pressure mounted in the closing stages and there was an inevitability about Allen's equaliser.

Arsenal, when they should have been pressuring a desperately poor and under-strength Liverpool defence, instead allowed themselves to be pushed back. This was two points lost and Klopp will be the much happier manager.

Two sides to Olivier Giroud

For such a regular goalscorer, Giroud remains a maligned figure by some Arsenal fans who regard him as just short of the highest class - and yet his strike rate speaks eloquently on his behalf.

He showed a poacher's instinct to touch home his first from Ramsey's corner then showed good awareness and movement to turn Kolo Toure and score his second.

And yet those who remain unconvinced by Giroud will point to his astonishing first-half miss when he somehow failed to convert Hector Bellerin's pass from a matter of inches in front of the Kop.

Here, though, he demonstrated again that he will get goals and that is the best answer he can give to those who still doubt the France striker's pedigree.

Mignolet on borrowed time

Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet is poised to sign a new five-year contract at Anfield and has won the consistent backing of manager Klopp despite his fragile form.

And yet he was once again a very obvious weakness behind a Liverpool defence that was an accident waiting to happen for large portions of this enthralling game.

The 27-year-old Belgian was beaten too easily inside his near post when Ramsey equalised Firmino's opener, then was hopelessly stranded as Giroud's faint touch allowed a corner to sneak in. It was desperately poor keeping.

For all Klopp's public assurances - he would not do otherwise - he must surely be concerned at Mignolet's obvious frailty, alongside the glaring inadequacy of his deputy Adam Bogdan, as proved by his errors at Watford and Exeter City.

Liverpool have recalled 22-year-old Welsh keeper Danny Ward from a successful loan spell at Aberdeen so he is now in the mix - but Klopp has to consider a more reliable, experienced long-term solution after Mignolet's latest blunders.

What the managers said

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: "We started so good and played good football. It showed all of us how good we could be.

"Then we concede a goal from a set play and we have to work at it. Organisation is one thing and sometimes we have a little problem with concentration.

"We gave them two easy goals after we had to work really hard for our goals. We had many moments which I am happy with."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "I'm very disappointed but, overall, I cannot fault the effort and commitment of the team.

"We had a difficult start. At 3-2, we should have made it 4-2 and didn't make the right decision in the final third.

"Liverpool fought until the last second."

The stats you need to know

  • Olivier Giroud has scored in four times in his past four Premier League games against Liverpool
  • The Frenchman has scored 11 goals in his past 11 appearances away from home in all competitions
  • Roberto Firmino ended a seven Premier League game run without a goal, last scoring v Man City in November
  • Two of Joe Allen's past three Premier League goals have come in 3-3 draws, also v Palace in May 2014
  • Aaron Ramsey has been involved in five goals in the past four Premier League games versus Liverpool (two goals, three assists)
  • This was the first Premier League fixture at Anfield to see both sides score twice in the first 25 minutes
  • The last 10 Premier League meetings between these clubs at Anfield have seen 41 goals scored
  • James Milner made his 300th Premier League start in this fixture. He provided his first Premier League assist v Arsenal in his 23rd game against them.

What next?

Liverpool don't have long to recover before they entertain fierce rivals Manchester United on Sunday (14:05 GMT). Arsenal's next game is a trip to Stoke, where they have failed to win on their past five Premier League visits, on Sunday (16:15 GMT).

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

Fifa sacks secretary general Jerome Valcke

World football's governing body Fifa has dismissed secretary general Jerome Valcke.

The Frenchman, 55, was provisionally suspended from football for his alleged involvement in a scheme to profit from the sale of World Cup tickets.

He was released from his duties on 17 September after being accused of a series of Fifa ethics code breaches.

Appointed in 2007, the former right-hand man of Fifa president Sepp Blatter has denied any wrongdoing.

"The duties of the secretary general will continue to be assumed by the acting secretary general, Dr Markus Kattner," read a Fifa statement.

Fifa's ethics committee said on 7 January that it had decided to open "formal adjudicatory proceedings" against Valcke after studying a report submitted by its investigatory chamber.

Valcke has also been accused of being party  to a potential £6.8m ($10m) bribe paid to Jack Warner, the former head of the North and Central America football governing body Concacaf, in return for his vote and backing to South Africa's successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

Fifa's ethics committee has already recommended that Valcke should be banned from all footballing activities for nine years.

Blatter and vice-president Michel Platini were both suspended for eight years in December following a Fifa ethics investigation.

Valcke has now been sacked twice by Fifa.

He joined the organisation in 2003 as director of marketing and TV, but was dismissed in 2006 over a scandal involving its long-time sponsorship partner Mastercard.

He was found to have negotiated with Mastercard's rival Visa in violation of the former company's right of first negotiation, which cost Fifa $90m (£61.3m) in a settlement.

Analysis

BBC Radio 5 live sports correspondent Richard Conway:

Sources close to the world governing body have told the BBC that a culmination of factors made his departure "inevitable".

Abuse of expenses and misuse of Fifa's hired private jet are believed to be just two of the reasons behind his sacking Valcke.

However, it is believed other significant factors were taken into account.

For example, Valcke's role in an alleged £6.8m ($10m) bribe - made by South Africa to Jack Warner - has also come under scrutiny, although the Frenchman has denied any wrongdoing.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

West Ham win at Bournemouth to move fifth

Dimitri Payet inspired a West Ham comeback to secure victory over Bournemouth which moves them to fifth in the Premier League.

Harry Arter had given the hosts the lead with a 25-yard strike.

But West Ham were much improved after the break thanks to the inventive Payet who deservedly scored a wonderful free-kick into the top left corner.

Payet then fed Enner Valencia for a tap-in before the winger produced a stunning free-kick late on.

With Manchester United drawing 3-3 at Newcastle, the victory for Slaven Bilic's men - which seemed unlikely at the break - moves the Londoners to within a point of Tottenham in fourth.

The win, West Ham's first away from home in six games, also equals a club record eight-match unbeaten run in the Premier League.

Payet shines for gutsy Hammers

Bournemouth deserved their lead at the break, but West Ham immediately played with more intensity in the second half and, such is their character, have now secured eight points in the league this season from losing positions, a haul only Leicester, with 10 points, can better.

The Hammers have had to cope with injures to key players in recent months - Andy Carroll being the latest injury worry after lasting just 12 minutes of this match - but Payet's recovery from an ankle problem is a much welcome boost for the Londoners.

Making his first Premier League start since 7 November, the Frenchman orchestrated West Ham's comeback. His free-kick was sublime, while it was his skill inside the box which created the second goal.

"It's scary how good he is. He's a top player. He's a player who makes all the others better," said manager Slaven Bilic after the match. "It's all about the team, but he's the player who is the most decisive for us."

Missed chances from record signing

Bournemouth's club-record signing Benik Afobe started for the Cherries following the striker's £9m move from Championship side Wolves.

Boss Eddie Howe had warned before the match not to expect too much from the new signing, to allow him to adjust to the pace of the Premier League.

But the former Arsenal striker should have done better with the chances created for him in the first half. With the hosts in command, the 22-year-old - who scored 23 goals in 48 games for Wolves - failed to hit the target with a header from six yards out and then messed up another scoring opportunity, hesitating to allow Adrian to gather on the floor after being put through by a wonderful Junior Stanislas pass.

Howe reflected on the positives, saying: "The pleasing thing was that he was at the end of those chances and we know with his quality he'll put them away."

Scoring has been a problem for the Cherries, which is why they have spent about £16m on strikers in the past week, with Lewis Grabban re-signing for about £7m on Monday. Howe also said further additions will be made to the squad this month.

And although Afobe should have been more clinical, Arter's strike did at least ensure Howe's side scored for the first time in four league matches.

The stats you need to know

  • Harry Arter scored his first-ever Premier League goal in his 11th appearance in the top-flight.
  • A league-high 26% of the Cherries' Premier League goals have come from outside the box (6 of 23).
  • Eddie Howe's side scored for the first time in their last four top-flight games, thus ending their longest PL drought of the campaign (3 games).
  • Dimitri Payet has scored or assisted more goals for West Ham this season (all competitions) than any other player (six goals, five assists).
  • Bournemouth have thrown away a joint-league-high 12 points from leading positions this season in the Premier League (along with Newcastle United).
  • What next?

    West Ham face relegation-threatened Newcastle at St James' Park on 16 January, while Bournemouth - just three points from relegation - face fellow strugglers Norwich at home (16 January) and Sunderland (23 January) in successive league matches.

Source: bbc.com

 

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12/Jan/2016

Aston Villa secured their second win this season

Bottom club Aston Villa secured their first win under Remi Garde after an awful mistake by Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

Hennessey allowed Joleon Lescott's header from a corner to squirm from his grasp and trickle over the line.

Palace almost took the lead when Wilfried Zaha hit a post after just 42 seconds at Villa Park.

In a much improved Villa display, returning striker Libor Kozak forced a fine save when the game was goalless.

Bold Garde rewarded for team selection

Garde deserves credit for his side's first win since the opening day of the season after making sweeping changes to the team defeated at Sunderland last time out in the Premier League.

Keeper Brad Guzan and defender Micah Richards were among those left on the bench, with striker Kozak starting for the first time in the league since Boxing Day 2013.

Palace started brightly, Zaha hitting the base of the post in the opening minute after Jason Puncheon's threaded pass before Bakary Sako fired over from 25 yards and Damien Delaney got between two defenders before shooting just wide.

Villa settled with Kozak impressing in attack and forcing a fine save from Hennessey before the Wales international failed to hold Lescott's tame header, the ball dropping between his feet and rolling over the line.

Can Villa stay up?

This was a long overdue committed performance, one which Villa fans have been crying out for.

But despite a highly encouraging result, Villa remain in deep trouble at the bottom of the table, eight points from safety with 17 games remaining.

Yet Garde's new-look team showed more heart and energy in these 90 minutes than they had displayed in the previous 19 games since the opening day win at Bournemouth.

A huge turnaround in fortune is needed to get out of the mess they are in but this was a move in the right direction, a far cry from the lacklustre performance in the FA Cup third round draw at League Two Wycombe which angered their fans so much. 

Palace's season at a crossroads

What has happened to Palace?

Away wins at Chelsea and Liverpool seem a long time ago and Alan Pardew's side are now without a win in four league games.

Victory at Villa Park would have put them level on points with sixth-placed Manchester United but talk of Palace gate-crashing Europe next season is premature after a lacklustre display.

There are some big tests around the corner for Pardew's men and they will certainly have to perform much better than they did against Villa.

What the manager said

Aston Villa manager Remi Garde: "We won only 1-0 but we created many good opportunities.

"We earned our luck by being very aggressive on the ball. We didn't sit back after we scored, we tried to score a second. We had a very good attitude."

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew: "A lot of things went wrong.

"We lacked energy, we lacked quality, one of our poorest displays of the season. Villa really deserved their victory - they worked so, so hard.

The stats you need to know

  • Aston Villa recorded their first Premier League win in 20 attempts, having lost 14 of the previous 19.
  • The past eight league meetings between Villa and Crystal Palace have produced just 11 goals.
  • Palace have failed to score in four successive top-flight matches for the first time since February 1998.
  • This was Villa's first home Premier League win over Palace since March 1998.
  • Palace have kept just two clean sheets in their last 16 Premier League away matches.
  • Villa have only scored a first-half goal in two of their last 16 Premier League games and in none of their past six.

What's next?

Despite victory, it does not get any easier for Aston Villa with second-placed Leicester City visiting Villa Park on Saturday (17:30 GMT). On the same day, Palace are at third-placed Manchester City (15:00 GMT).

Source: bbc.com

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12/Jan/2016

Newcastle strike late in thriller

Paul Dummett's late strike rescued a point for Newcastle as Manchester United missed the chance to go level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham.

It was a remarkable end to a game that had seen the away side lead twice.

Wayne Rooney's penalty and Jesse Lingard's finish put them 2-0 up before Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic's penalty levelled the scores.

Rooney's second looked to have won it for Louis van Gaal's side but Dummett salvaged the draw in the last minute.

The point earned is not enough to lift Newcastle out of the bottom three - they remain a point and place behind 17th-placed Swansea - but it represents another notable improvement following three successive 1-0 league defeats.

For Louis van Gaal's side, it will represent two points lost and a step backwards after back-to-back Premier League and FA Cup victories had offered improvement on a winless December.

Let us entertain you

Wayne Rooney

Following criticism of Manchester United's attacking prowess, in a season that had seen them score just 24 goals in 20 league games prior to Tuesday, Van Gaal himself admitted on Monday that he has been "very bored" at times watching his side.

He can have no such complaints after this hugely entertaining, see-saw game, which produced some of their best attacking play of the season.

Rooney was magnificent.

The England striker gave them the lead from the spot after Mike Dean's controversial call to award a penalty against Chancel Mbemba after his arm blocked Marouane Fellaini's back-post header from a corner.

But it was his role in setting up Lingard for the second - holding the ball up before rolling a perfectly timed pass into the winger's path for a low, angled finish - and his superbly struck 20-yard second, after Memphis Depay's shot had deflected to him, that really showcased the 30-year-old's talent, the latter of which drew a rare smile from his manager.

However, United's attacking display was let down by key misses from Lingard, who blazed over from inside the box at 2-1, and Fellaini, who headed straight at Rob Elliott from point-blank range when his side led 3-2.

Ultimately, though, Van Gaal will be left bemoaning an area in which his side have largely excelled this season, as a series of defensive lapses cost them victory.

Resilient Newcastle show improvement

Newcastle have been one of the early movers in this transfer window, signing midfielders Henri Saivet and Jonjo Shelvey, both of whom greeted the crowd before kick-off.

But on the evidence of this display, at least, the current squad is not lacking in fight.

At 2-0 down they refused to crumble, hitting back soon after Lingard's goal as Wijnaldum - who had earlier seen a 12-yard shot saved by David de Gea - made no mistake from a similar range after latching on to Mitrovic's downward header.

The supplier turned scorer after the break to make it 2-2, dusting himself off after being grappled to the ground by Chris Smalling in the box to roll in his fourth goal of the season from the penalty spot.

Even when they fell behind again with 11 minutes to go, Newcastle dug deep and were rewarded when the away side failed to properly clear a ball into the box and Dummett's fierce strike from the edge of the box found the net via Smalling's chest.

Analysis - former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer

"What a fantastic match. Credit to both sets of players and managers as they both wanted to win and gambled to win. I think a draw was a fair result.

"How on earth can you work football out?

"Newcastle got some confidence and they shoved themselves 10 yards up the pitch, particularly in the first half. They got the goal just before half-time and I'm sure Steve McClaren told them to do the same as they had in the last 10 minutes of the first half.

"It was a great atmosphere in the stadium and I just wanted more.

"The one concern is that we have seen Newcastle performances like this against Tottenham and Liverpool but what they have to do now is go into games against lesser teams and produce that kind of performance."

What they said...

Newcastle United boss Steve McClaren:"The crowd responded magnificently and we wanted to show everyone what we are about.

"People said that United were boring and that we lack character - but we kept fighting until the end and we have got a goal that feels like a winner.

"People thought it would be a 0-0 and it was a classic at 3-3. It must have been a great game for the neutral - it was a heart attack for the coaches."

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal:"Of course it feels like a defeat.

"We have given it away - I have told that to my players. When the referee gives a penalty for nothing - it is a duel I think and you cannot decide who is worse - but we gave it away.

"We could have scored six goals easily here and we did not. If we had, it would have been three successive wins at the start of the year going into Liverpool."

The stats you need to know

  • Rooney has also assisted eight Premier League goals against Newcastle, his most against a single opponent
  • Rooney's penalty goal was his 19th in the Premier League for Man United, putting him ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy (18)
  • This is only the second time this season that Manchester United have scored twice in the first half of a Premier League game (also two v Everton in October)
  • Newcastle recovered from a two-goal deficit to avoid defeat for the first time in a Premier League game since September 2014 against Hull (a 2-2 draw)
  • The Magpies scored more than twice in a Premier League game this season for only the second time (also 6-2 against Norwich)

What next?

Newcastle are at home again on Saturday, with West Ham the visitors to St James' Park.

Manchester United travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Sunday in a 14:05 GMT kick-off.

Source: bbc.com

 

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12/Jan/2016

Pistorius seeks to appeal against murder conviction

The South African athlete Oscar Pistorius is to seek an appeal against his conviction for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp in February 2013 after firing four times through a locked toilet door.

A manslaughter verdict was overturned last month and a murder verdict introduced in its place.

The athlete's defence has lodged papers at the Constitutional Court, urging a review of his murder conviction.

He is currently under house arrest after spending one year of his original five-year sentence in jail.

South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in December that the lower court had not applied correctly the rule of dolus eventualis - whether Pistorius knew that a death would be a likely result of his actions.

The making and unmaking of Oscar Pistorius

Last month, Justice Eric Leach said that having armed himself with a high-calibre weapon, Pistorius must have foreseen that whoever was behind the door might die, especially given his firearms training.

Pistorius has always maintained he believed he was shooting at an intruder.

His lawyers say the appeals court made fundamental errors, claiming in appeal papers that the court "acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it rejected the factual finding of the Trial Court and replaced it with a contrary factual finding of its own".

Pistorius's lawyer, Andrew Fawcett, says the appeal is now in the hands of the director of public prosecutions, who must decide whether there are grounds for appeal. If so, the case will go before the Constitutional Court.

The South African made history by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics, in London in 2012. He competed in the 400m, wearing carbon-fibre blades to run against able-bodied athletes.

Source: bbc.com

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11/Jan/2016

Louis van Gaal: Some Man Utd games have bored me

Louis van Gaal admits he has been "very bored or angry" during some Manchester United games this season.

The Old Trafford boss said he had "enjoyed" some matches during a campaign defined by the Dutchman's possession-based tactics.

United are out of the Champions League and fifth in the Premier League.

Home supporters booed Van Gaal's team off at half-time in Saturday's FA Cup tie against Sheffield United, with thousands leaving early.

Asked why many fans had gone before Wayne Rooney's 93rd-minute penalty secured a 1-0 third-round win, Van Gaal replied: "'They are not thinking that we would score, I think, and maybe also because of the traffic."

Van Gaal suggested United fans should be "happy" with their team's current form, despite the home side not managing a shot on target until the 69th minute against their League One opponents.

Van Gaal refused to react to former United midfielder Paul Scholes, who said both the players and manager looked "bored" and there was "no spirit".

But the 64-year-old later admitted: "There are matches that I have enjoyed. And there are also matches where I'm very bored or angry because we are not disorganising our opponent's defence, but that is football."

United travel to the Championship's second-placed side Derby County in the fifth round.

'I don't believe in yelling from the sidelines'

Scholes is one of several ex-United players to be very critical of United's style of play.

"There's nobody having a go at each other, there's no smiling, there's no entertainment," the 11-time Premier League winner said. "I think even Van Gaal on the bench looks bored, but he'll come out and say he's happy."

Van Gaal said he never discusses such comments with assistant manager Ryan Giggs - an ex team-mate of Scholes - and defended his absence form the touchline during matches.

"I'm not Sir Alex, as you know," said Van Gaal. "Everybody is different and I don't believe in yelling from the sidelines. I believe in communication during the week, during the preparation and I believe in my players who have to perform.

"A lot of managers are [yelling from the sidelines] but I doubt if they have real influence."

Source: bbc.com

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11/Jan/2016

Messi wins fifth Ballon d'Or award

Lionel Messi wins Ballon d'Or over Cristiano Ronaldo & Neymar

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or award for the world's best player for the fifth time.

The 28-year-old Argentine had 41.33% of the vote, with Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo (27.76%) second and Barca's Neymar (7.86%) third.

Either Messi or Ronaldo, who became a three-time winner last year, have won the past eight awards.

United States midfielder Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final, won the women's award.

England coach Mark Sampson was beaten to the women's football coach of the year award by USA boss Jill Ellis.

Messi's 2015 in numbers

  • 61 games, 52 goals and 26 assists.
  • A goal every 101 minutes and an assist every 202 minutes.
  • Best minutes-per-goal rate - 80 - of anyone scoring a minimum of 10 goals across Europe's top five leagues during 2015.
  • Directly involved in 49 goals in La Liga - 34 scored and 15 assists - which was the joint-most with Ronaldo in 2015 across the top five European leagues.
  • Scored in all six club tournaments in 2015, as Barcelona won five of them.

Lionel Messi extended his record haul of world player of the year awards with his fifth after winning the treble - La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League - with Barcelona in 2014-15.

Portugal captain Ronaldo, 30, scored 57 goals in as many games in 2015 - including a record 16 in the Champions League - but that was not enough to win him Ballon d'Or number four.

Barcelona striker Neymar, 23, was the first Brazilian to finish in the top three since Kaka won the 2007 award. He scored 45 goals in 62 games and is joint top scorer in this season's La Liga with 15, level with team-mate Luis Suarez.

"It's a very special moment for me to be back here on this stage, winning again another Ballon d'Or after seeing Cristiano win it," Messi said.

"It's incredible that it's my fifth. Much more than anything I would have dreamed of as a kid."

Women's world player of the year

Carli Lloyd

USA's World Cup-winning midfielder Carli Lloyd, 33, won the women's world player of the year award after scoring a hat-trick in the final against Japan, including a sensational strike from the halfway line. She earned the Golden Ball for best player in the tournament.

Former Germany striker Celia Sasic finished second despite retiring halfway through 2015 at the age of 27. In the first half of the year she was top scorer in the World Cup with six goals and won the Champions League with Frankfurt.

Japan midfielder Aya Miyama, 30, captained her country to the World Cup final, where they lost to the USA. She was third.

None of the shortlisted trio had won the award before.

Lloyd said: "It has been a dream ever since I started with the national team. Keep your dreams and just go after them."

Fifa/Fifpro World XI

Real Madrid had as many players as Barcelona, four, in the world team of the year despite not winning a trophy.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was German champions Bayern Munich's only representative. The Premier League was the only of Europe's top five leagues to not have anyone in the team.

Fifa/Fifpro World XI

World coach of the year - men's football

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique won the world coach of the year award after leading his side to five of the six trophies on offer in 2015, including the Champions League, La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

He beat Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola, who was second, and Chile's Copa America-winning coach Jorge Sampaoli to the award.

World coach of the year - women's football

United States coach Jill Ellis was named women's football world coach of the year after leading her country to World Cup glory in the summer.

England coach Mark Sampson finished third with 10.68% of the vote after their third-place finish in Canada. Second was Japan coach Norio Sasaki, whose side beat England in the semi-finals, but lost to USA in the final.

"It is a true honour," said Ellis. "To Fifa, to our own federation, thank you for your belief, your vision and your investment in women's football."

Puskas award - goal of the year

Atletico Goianiense's Wendell Lira won the goal of the year award for a spectacular overhead kick in Brazil's Goiano state league game against Goianesia.

Messi's run from halfway and finish in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao was second, with Roma full-back Alessandro Florenzi's 55-yard goal against Barca third.

Fair play award

Former Leeds and South Africa captain Lucas Radebe announced the winner of this year's fair play award - all football clubs and organisations supporting refugees.

There was no shortlist for this award.

How does voting work?

Journalists, national team coaches and captains vote for their top three in all categories, apart from the Puskas and fair play ones.

They select their first, second and third choice for each award, with five, three and one points given to each place respectively.

The winner is the person with the most points. In the event of a tie, it goes to the player or coach with the most first places.

The Puskas award, for the "most beautiful goal" of 2015, is voted for by users of the Fifa and France Football websites.

Source: bbc.com

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11/Jan/2016

Ghana's Otto Addo takes up coaching role in Denmark

Former Ghana international Otto Addo has been appointed assistant coach of Danish Superliga club FC Nordsjælland.

The 40-year-old has previously worked as a scout for the Black Stars as well as an assistant at German side Hamburger.

"We have been looking for an addition to the team and with Otto on board we have a coach who understands the European and African mentality," Head of Football Carsten Jensen told the club website.  

Addo played for Ghana between 1999 and 2006, when he featured at that year's World Cup in Germany.

One of a small but increasing number of Africans working as a coach in European football, he has welcomed his appointment.

"I'm really thrilled for this new opportunity and I'm looking forward to meeting the other coaches and players," Addo told the club website.

"I'm really excited with the big Danish talent here that can be supplemented by players from Right to Dream, this will give us an unique chance of developing people to the highest level."

Right to Dream is a football academy that started in Ghana and which now has bases in seven different African countries.

A former Bundesliga player with Hannover and Borussia Dortmund among others, Nordsjælland are hoping that Addo can pass on his experience to the club's next generation.

Addo won the German league with Dortmund in 2002, the same year that the team were beaten by Dutch side Feyenoord in the Uefa Cup final, with Addo a second-half substitute.

"Otto brings valuable experience with the German-mentality with more than 300 games in the Bundesliga and playing in the World Cup," added Jensen.

"This mentality should help all our players to understand what it takes to play at the top level."

The Danish Superliga is currently on a winter break but resumes in late February.

Nordsjælland, whose sole title came in 2012, currently sit eighth in the 12-team league.

Source: bbc.com

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11/Jan/2016

Minnesota Vikings beaten by Seattle Seahawks in -21C

Fans, players and officials braved one of the coldest NFL games in history as Minnesota Vikings lost to Seattle Seahawks in an NFC Wild Card game.

Sunday's temperatures were -21C (-31C wind chill) at kick-off, making it the joint third coldest game in history.

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a last-gasp field goal as the Seahawks won 10-9 to set up a play-off game with the Carolina Panthers.

Free hand warmers and coffee were handed out to fans before the game.

Walsh said he "didn't do my job".

He added: "It's my fault. I don't care if you give me a watermelon, I should be able to put that through."

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer agreed: "It's a chip shot, he's gotta make it."

In Sunday's other game, Green Bay came from 11-0 down to beat Washington 35-18 and will play Arizona Cardinals.

Kansas City and Pittsburgh both won on Saturday.

Who plays who now?

Saturday, 16 January:

AFC: Kansas City at New England

NFC: Green Bay at Arizona

Sunday, 17 January:

AFC: Pittsburgh at Denver

NFC: Seattle at Carolina

How cold was it?

The coldest NFL game in terms of air temperature was 1967's 'Ice Bowl' between Green Bay and Dallas, which at kick off was -25C (-44C wind chill).

Supporters were encouraged to bring blankets and "styrofoam, cardboard or newspapers to place under their feet" to prevent prolonged contact with the concrete floor in the stands.

The Vikings said it was the coldest game in their history, beating the previous record from 3 December 1972, when the air temperature was -18C and the wind chill was -28C.

The Vikings are currently playing at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the University of Minnesota's football team, while a new stadium on the site of the Metrodome, their home from 1982 to 2013, is under construction.

NFL UK

A security guard keeps warm

A security guard keeps warm

Source: bbc.com

 

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11/Jan/2016

FA Cup holders Arsenal beat Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.

FA Cup holders Arsenal came from behind to record a comfortable third-round win against Premier League strugglers Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.

The visitors took a surprise lead when Jeremain Lens struck inside the box.

Arsenal equalised through Joel Campbell's half-volley, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the woodwork.

Substitute Aaron Ramsey tapped in late on to put Arsenal ahead before Olivier Giroud's close-range finish wrapped up a 13th consecutive win in the FA Cup.

Reaction to Saturday's FA Cup third-round games

Wenger has his eye on the prize

Arsenal, who beat Aston Villa 4-0 in last season's final, have won the FA Cup 12 times - more than any other side.

Six of those have come under Arsene Wenger, who will become the competition's most successful manager with one more victory.

Arsenal may be top of the Premier League, but Wenger underlined his intention to take the FA Cup seriously by naming a strong side, with first-team regulars Petr Cech, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud and Theo Walcott all included.

It was a decision that paid off. After Sunderland's unexpected opener, Walcott provided the assist for Arsenal's equaliser and Hector Bellerin played a key role in their next two goals as the hosts' experienced men carried them forward while the visitors' mix of fringe and youth players wilted.

A defeat, but some positives for Sunderland

Sunderland's priority is clear - Premier League survival - and that was reflected in Sam Allardyce's team selection, with the Black Cats showing seven changes.

After five successive defeats, Sunderland secured a morale-boosting 3-1 win against Aston Villa last time out.

They looked to have continued their momentum when they stunned Arsenal to take the lead, Lens taking advantage of some uncharacteristic hesitancy in the Gunners' defence to score.

That was only Lens' third goal in 17 appearances for Sunderland, but his overall play will have been encouraging for Black Cats fans as his pace and physical presence caused the hosts a number of problems.

He possesses the ability to be an important player for Sunderland in their battle against relegation. The question is, can he perform like he did against Arsenal on a consistent basis?

What they said

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: "It was a test for us to come from behind. There was a great mental response and there is a special solidarity in the team.

"You always worry because, no matter how long you are in this job, you never know what is next. The experience we had up front today helped. I am very happy overall."

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce: "In the end they had better finishers than we had today. We were fine for 70 minutes and I am just a little sad at the goals we allowed Arsenal to score. We made it easy for them in the end.

"We move on. The squad has shown they can play at this level. Lens is strong on the ball as well as talented. Hopefully we can push on and see a bit more from him."

The stats you need to know

  • Arsenal have not lost an FA Cup tie in 13 games since Blackburn beat them 1-0 in February 2013 at the Emirates in the fifth round.
  • No manager has won the FA Cup more times than Arsene Wenger (six). His first game in the competition was against Sunderland in the third round in 1997.
  • Arsenal have not been defeated in the third round since losing a replay to Sheffield United 1-0 at Bramall Lane in January 1996 (W18 D5).

What next?

Arsenal travel to Liverpool in the Premier League on Wednesday, while Sunderland are at Swansea on the same day.

The FA Cup fourth-round draw takes place on Monday and is live on The One Show on BBC One from 19:00 GMT.

Source: bbc.com

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09/Jan/2016

Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal to win Qatar Open title

World number one Novak Djokovic claimed his first title of the year with an impressive 6-1 6-2 win over Rafael Nadal in the Qatar Open.

The Serb continued his recent dominance of the 14-time Grand Slam winner with a ninth victory in 10 meetings - the last five in straight sets.

The 28-year-old broke twice in both sets as Nadal, 29, had no answer to the pace and power of his groundstrokes.

Djokovic is preparing to defend his Australian Open title from 18 January.

Djokovic - a class apart

This was Djokovic's most convincing victory against Nadal in their 47 meetings, a head-to-head he leads for the first time.

Nadal made just 13 unforced errors but was bullied off the court by an inspired opponent who gave him perhaps the most uncomfortable 73 minutes he has faced on court.

Djokovic, who has reached the final of every event he has entered since losing to Ivo Karlovic in the quarter-finals of last year's Qatar Open, lost just nine points on his own serve.

Nadal, meanwhile, won only 48% of points on his own first serve and made nine winning returns compared to 30 from Djokovic.

'Perfect tennis'

Djokovic, for whom this was a first Qatar Open title, said: "I played very much perfect tennis.

"From the beginning, I hit every shot the way I imagined I would hit it. Those two sets give me a great feeling.

"It gives me a lot of confidence and satisfaction, particularly against Rafa."

Source: bbc.com

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09/Jan/2016

Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona Win

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona secured a comfortable victory over Granada to return to the top of La Liga.

The Argentine scored twice in the first 15 minutes and added another after the break to take his season's tally to 18, as Barca made it 20 games unbeaten.

Messi put Barcelona in command with composed close-range finishes to Luis Suarez-inspired moves.

He followed up to add a 58th-minute third, before Neymar lobbed the fourth.

Victory increased Barcelona's advantage over Real Madrid to five points - the side from the Spanish capital host Deportivo La Coruna in Zinedine Zidane's first game in charge later on Saturday.

Barca's hold on top spot could be short-lived as they will surrender their position if Atletico win at Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Messi broke the deadlock in the eighth minute against a side who were beaten 6-0 at the Nou Camp last season.

A clever dummy from Suarez allowed league debutant Arda Turan to thread a fine ball to the Argentine to slot home.

The second came six minutes later, as Neymar eased through before passing to Suarez, who knocked the ball down for Messi to finish.

Granada came into the contest more in the second half, with striker Isaac Success posing a threat, and David Lomban hooking a chance over the bar.

Normal service was soon resumed however, as Messi claimed his third - and 11th goal in eight La Liga appearances against Granada - following up after a dummy by Turan let in Neymar to shoot against the frame of the goal.

Neymar capped another impressive individual display by adding a fourth goal with seven minutes left thanks to a precise lob after good work by Messi and Suarez.

Source: bbc.com

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09/Jan/2016

Bale scored a hat-trick as Real Win

Gareth Bale scored a hat-trick as Zinedine Zidane began his reign as Real Madrid boss with a comprehensive win over Deportivo La Coruna.

Karim Benzema claimed his 100th league goal for the club with an early opener in the first game since the departure of previous manager Rafa Benitez.

Bale headed the second and found the bottom corner after the break before sealing his treble with another header.

Benzema hit a fifth to leave Real two points behind league leaders Barcelona.

Zidane's side could have enjoyed a bigger winning margin, with Cristiano Ronaldo heading against the post in the first half.

Barca's comfortable 4-0 victory over Granada put added pressure on Real at the outset, and they could have been behind before Benzema opened the scoring.

Deportivo had lost just once in nine league games and started confidently, carving the Real defence wide open to create a chance for Lucas Perez, but his shot was blocked by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Real made the most of their escape, and were two goals up inside the first quarter of the contest.

Zinedine Zidane

From Toni Kroos' 15th minute corner, Benzema flicked home a Sergio Ramos shot, despite Deportivo's justifiable claims that Bale was offside and interfering with play.

Bale doubled the advantage in the 23rd minute, heading home an inviting Dani Carvajal cross.

It was almost three before the interval as Ronaldo headed a Bale cross against a post at the culmination of another flowing team move.

Ronaldo turned provider after the break to find Bale, who coolly picked his spot from the edge of the area.

A richly deserved hat-trick arrived in the 64th minute thanks to another imperious leap to head home from close range.

It was Bale's last significant contribution before he was substituted to a standing ovation from the 70,000 crowd in the Santiago Bernabeu, while Ronaldo twice went close to making it five late on.

Benzema did just that in stoppage time, following up to find the net off the underside of the bar after Ronaldo had again been denied.

Source: bbc.com

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09/Jan/2016

United edged League One Sheffield United to reach the FA Cup fourth round through a late penalty

Wayne Rooney scored a last-minute penalty as a poor Manchester United edged League One Sheffield United to reach the FA Cup fourth round.

The hosts, 47 places above their opponents in the football pyramid, had only two shots on target throughout.

Substitute Memphis Depay curled just wide in the second half, but it looked like the visitors would earn a replay.

However, after Memphis was fouled inside the area, Rooney stepped up to score and send the hosts through.

Read about how the game unfolded

Reaction to Saturday's FA Cup third-round games

Van Gaal's 'Mark Robins moment'?

Just two weeks ago Louis van Gaal's future as Manchester United manager appeared to be in huge doubt.

The Red Devils had failed to win in seven games but, after surviving a 2-0 defeat at Stoke on Boxing Day, Van Gaal has overseen an improvement in both results and, in patches, performances.

After a combined 31 shots on goal in their last two games against Chelsea and Swansea, Manchester United seemed a livelier prospect, despite their plentiful possession still having no end product.

And, at Old Trafford on Saturday, Memphis fizzed an effort just wide in the second half, only for the home fans to burst into ironic cheers, rather than roar encouragement.

A drab draw against a League One side would likely have seen Van Gaal come under criticism once again, but Rooney's strike could give him some breathing space.

Back in 1990, Mark Robins scored a goal in the FA Cup for Manchester United that is said to have saved Sir Alex Ferguson from the sack.

Van Gaal may have just had his 'Robins moment'.

'I'd get rid of Van Gaal'

Sheffield United looked to have secured a lucrative replay at Bramall Lane but, as the game entered the 90th minute, Memphis broke into the area and fell as he was challenged by midfielder Dean Hammond.

His acrobatic reaction suggested the hosts may have got lucky when referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot, but replays showed there was limited contact.

"I thought it was a penalty but it was an absolute shocking performance from Manchester United," BBC Radio 5 live pundit Robbie Savage said.

"For me, Van Gaal, I'd get rid of him."

Blades caution proves costly

Two years ago Sheffield United reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and had forged a reputation as seasoned giant killers.

In recent years, they have beaten Aston Villa, West Ham and Southampton in cup competitions and, given the sense of unrest at Old Trafford, they will have fancied their chances of claiming a higher division scalp.

They had the game's first shot on target, which came in the 67th minute after Chris Basham fired straight at David De Gea, but retreated into their own half as they looked to keep Manchester United out and take the tie back to South Yorkshire.

That perhaps proved their undoing as the hosts pressed in the closing stages, leading to the moment when Memphis was brought down inside the box.

A little more conviction, and the result could have been different

'Man Utd players looked bored'

"There just seems to be an acceptance of bad performances," former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes told BT Sport.

"Every time you come to Old Trafford you see negative football."

Read more from Scholes

What they said

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: "You have to see also how the opponent is playing. Everybody shall give applause to Sheffield United. They were very organised but it is much more difficult to attack than to defend.

"Again a clean sheet is also the benefit of our organisation. I'm very disappointed that we are not creating too many chances, that we have to improve."

Sheffield United boss Nigel Adkins on BT Sport: "The players have worked extremely hard against superior opposition.

"The grit, desire and character gave the supporters something to cheer about. The supporters have got right behind the players and there is a togetherness at the football club."

The stats you need to know

  • Wayne Rooney has scored nine goals in his last 10 FA Cup games for Manchester United.
  • Manchester United have lost once in 37 FA Cup ties against lower-ranked sides - v Leeds United in 2010.
  • Manchester United have progressed from 29 of their last 31 third round ties in the FA Cup.

What next?

Manchester United travel to Newcastle in the Premier League on Tuesday, while Sheffield United are back in League One action as they face 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan.

The draw for the FA Cup fourth round takes place on Monday and is live on The One Show on BBC One from 19:00 GMT.

Source: bbc

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09/Jan/2016

Oscar and Diego Costa: Guus Hiddink describes Chelsea bust-up

The training ground incident between Oscar and Diego Costa was described as "two wolves bumping chests" by Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink.

The pair faced up to each other after a challenge from midfielder Oscar into the back of striker Costa on Thursday.

"Oscar apologised in front of the group and they all started laughing, jokes were made," said Hiddink.

The Premier League champions face League One side Scunthorpe in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Oscar tweet snip

Oscar laughed off the incident on Twitter

Chelsea have struggled in the league this season, lying in 14th place, and sacked manager Jose Mourinho last month after he won the title for the club in the previous season.

The Telegraph reported  the two players had to be separated following an "outrageous" challenge from Brazilian Oscar at Chelsea's Cobham training ground.

But Hiddink - who won the FA Cup in his previous spell in charge of the Blues in 2009 - played down the incident.

"It's a pity that our photographer had a day off or he could have shot beautiful pictures from the two", he said.

"They were jesting a bit after a charge from behind from the smaller of the two, Oscar. Costa took a charge from behind and it was overdone, especially when you know Oscar is not the biggest tackler of the team.

"They stumbled over the ground, stood up, as a normal reaction, they jested a bit, but we came in between them to say that there was no need to hit each other.

"Those things happen when you're close on the edge. Oscar apologised for over-reacting, then they looked at each other and started laughing. It was a normal battle."

Source: bbc.com

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08/Jan/2016

Again? Luis Suarez banned for two games

Luis Suarez has been banned for two matches for his part in a scuffle between Barcelona and Espanyol players after their Spanish Cup tie.

The Uruguayan striker, 28, is alleged to have threatened opposition players in the tunnel following Wednesday's game, which Barcelona won 4-1.

The ban applies to Copa del Rey matches only, including the return leg of the last-16 fixture on Wednesday.

Barcelona, who are second in La Liga, are appealing the decision.

"Barcelona is expected to argue that the player, as he later stated, did not use the allegedly offensive words that were attributed to him in the referee's official notes following the match," the club said in a statement. 

During an ill-tempered contest at Nou Camp, the visitors had Hernan Perez and Pape Diop sent off, with the latter dismissed for an abusive comment aimed at former Liverpool striker Suarez.

According to referee Juan Martinez Munuera's report, quoted by Catalan newspaper Sport,  Suarez waited in the tunnel and shouted: "I'm waiting for you, come here! You're a waste of space."

The two city rivals were involved in another tense derby, in which Barcelona star Neymar was the alleged target of racist chanting during a 0-0 draw at Espanyol's stadium, on 2 January.

Source: bbc.com

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08/Jan/2016

Louis van Gaal unfazed by Pep Guardiola's plans

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal says he is unfazed by Pep Guardiola's desire to manage in the Premier League.

Bayern Munich coach Guardiola, 44, has announced he will leave the German club in May after three seasons.

The former Barcelona boss has been linked with both Manchester clubs as well as Chelsea and Arsenal.

"He has that ambition and he wants to sniff the culture of England and the Premier League. It is very good he wants to do that," said Van Gaal.

"I'm at the end of my career so for me it's not so interesting.

"For me, it's interesting how I take care of Manchester United in my contract."

Van Gaal, 64, is contracted at Old Trafford until the end of next season but his position has come under scrutiny after an eight-game winless run in the Premier League that ended with last weekend's 2-1 victory over Swansea.

Why is Guardiola in demand?

  • Barcelona's most successful manager with 14 trophies in four years, including three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues.
  • Took a year's break before joining Bayern in 2013, following the club's Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble under Jupp Heynckes.
  • Won the league twice in his two full seasons with Bayern, who are eight points clear in his third campaign. He is yet to win the Champions League with the German club and has been knocked out at the semi-final stage twice.
  • They face Italian giants Juventus in the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition in February and Guardiola said: "Winning the Champions League would make my time here complete."

Source: bbc.com

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08/Jan/2016

Yaya Toure angered by African player of the year award snub

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has reacted angrily after failing to win the Confederation of African Football's player of the year award.

Toure captained Ivory Coast to 2015 Africa Cup of Nations victory but came second to Gabon and Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

"I think that's what makes the shame of Africa," he told Radio France International. 

"To behave in this way is indecent! But what can we do?"

'Yaya will look after himself'

Toure had won the CAF award for the previous four years and was recently crowned BBC African footballer of the year for 2015.

Aubameyang, 26, became the first player from Gabon to win the award.

He has scored 18 goals in 17 Bundesliga games this season and a total of 68 goals in 119 games since joining the German club from French side St Etienne in 2013.

However, Gabon were eliminated at the group stage of last year's Africa Cup of Nations.

"We Africans, we do not show that Africa is important to us," added 32-year-old Toure.

"We give more priority to what's going on elsewhere than in our own continent. This is what is appalling.

"I give an example: it's Lionel Messi who wins all the trophies but it's Ronaldo who is Ballon d'Or. What would you say? It would be unfair."

"Yaya will look after himself, and let Africa look after itself. Like I'm often told, you shouldn't worry too much about Africa, because Africa will be the first to let you down."

Source: bbc.com

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08/Jan/2016

Caf Player of the Year is Aubameyang

Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has narrowly beaten Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure to the Confederation of African Football's player of the year award.

The Borussia Dortmund striker earned 143 points, with Manchester City midfielder Toure finishing runner-up with 136 points.

Ghana and Swansea midfielder Andre Ayew came in third with 112 points.

Herve Renard, who managed Ivory Coast to their Africa Cup of Nations victory, won the coach of the year award.

The Frenchman, who led Zambia to victory in the tournament in 2012, is the first person to coach two different countries to the title.

More to follow.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Jan/2016

Qatar Open: Rafael Nadal beats Andrey Kuznetsov to reach semis

World number five Rafael Nadal beat Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3 5-7 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the Qatar Open.

Nadal was made to work for his victory by the world number 79, but prevailed in just over two hours.

He will next face Ukraine's Illya Marchenko, who upset Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 7-6 (3).

Britain's Kyle Edmund plays Czech world number six Tomas Berdych later on Thursday.

Edmund could face Serb Novak Djokovic in the last four, after the world number one beat Argentina's Leonardo Mayer 6-3 7-5.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Jan/2016

Michel Platini will not stand in Fifa presidential election

Suspended Uefa president Michel Platini says he will not stand in the Fifa presidential election next month.

Platini, along with Fifa president Sepp Blatter, has been banned from football-related activities for eight years by world football's governing body.

Both men were found guilty of breaches surrounding a £1.3m ($2m) "disloyal payment" made to Platini in 2011.

They are appealing against their bans, but Platini says the timing of the 26 February election means he cannot run.

"I'm withdrawing from the race for the Fifa presidency," the 60-year-old Frenchman told the Associated Press.

"The timing is not good for me. I don't have the means to fight on equal terms with the other candidates.

"I have not been given the chance to play the game. Bye bye Fifa, bye bye Fifa presidency."

'Injustice is revolting me'

Platini, president of European football's governing body since 2007, had submitted his candidacy for the Fifa presidential election but could not stand while suspended.

He and Blatter, 79, plan to take their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"I've spent more time in hearing rooms than on football pitches speaking about 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or football news," added Platini.

"I'm taking this philosophically. Let's wait and see what happens. But injustice is revolting me and I'm trying to fight it."

Platini and Blatter claimed the payment was honouring an agreement made in 1998 for work carried out between 1998 and 2002, when Platini worked as a technical adviser for Blatter.

Fifa's ethics committee said there was "not sufficient evidence" to establish the payment was a bribe, but both men demonstrated an "abusive execution" of their positions.

"I can't have any regret in that story because things fell upon my head while I haven't done anything wrong," added Platini.

"I'm struggling to understand what happened, unless there was a will somewhere to prevent me from bidding."

'Maybe I'll come back in 20 years'

The English Football Association had previously backed Platini for the Fifa presidency, but suspended its support in October pending the outcome of the ethics inquiry.

FA chairman Greg Dyke said recently the organisation had yet to decide who to now support.

"I had 150 associations thinking that I'm the right person to solve Fifa problems," said Platini.

"It won't happen. But there is no age limitation, so maybe I'll come back in 20 years. Who knows?"

Who will be the next Fifa boss?

There are five candidates to succeed Blatter, who has been Fifa president since 1998:

  • Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa - 50, Bahrain, president of Asian Football Confederation;
  • Tokyo Sexwale - 62, South Africa, politician, businessman and former political prisoner;
  • Prince Ali bin al-Hussein - 40, Jordan, a former Fifa vice-president and 2015 Fifa presidential candidate;
  • Gianni Infantino - 45, Switzerland, Uefa general secretary and a member of Fifa's reform committee;
  • Jerome Champagne - 57, France, a former Fifa assistant general secretary and former French diplomat.

Voting will take place by secret ballot, with all Fifa's 209 member states having a vote each.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Jan/2016

Everton on top in semi-final tie as they beat Man City 2-1

Everton hold the advantage in the Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City after Romelu Lukaku's 19th goal of the season gave them victory at Goodison Park.

City looked to have secured a draw with 14 minutes left, when Jesus Navas finished a sweeping counter-attack following brilliant work by Sergio Aguero.

That equaliser cancelled out Ramiro Funes Mori's opener for Everton on the stroke of half-time.

Argentine Funes Mori pounced after Willy Caballero saved Ross Barkley's shot - although City were nursing an understandable sense of injustice with Lukaku standing in an offside position in front of the keeper.

Everton refused to be sunk by Navas's sucker punch and responded within two minutes, Lukaku heading in his 12th goal in 12 games from Gareth Barry's perfect cross.

Ramiro Funes Mori

Man City's rough luck?

Everton had efforts from John Stones and Lukaku rightly ruled out for offside - and it looked like a case of third time lucky for Martinez's team when Funes Mori struck just before half-time.

Caballero did well to block Barkley's shot, even though the giant figure of Lukaku was clearly standing offside, and appeared to be in the City keeper's line of vision.

Lukaku did not touch the ball, and did not appear to make a movement towards it, so the debate centred on whether he was interfering with an opponent by obstructing Caballero's view.

Referee Robert Madley waved away City's protests and Everton grasped at their good fortune - but the visitors had every right to feel they were hard done by.

That was not the only frustration for City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who felt his side had a strong penalty appeal rejected when Navas went down under a Kevin Mirallas challenge.

"Everton's first goal was absolutely offside and it was a clear penalty when Jesus Navas was fouled," Pellegrini said. "I didn't speak to the referee after the game - they were both clear.

"To lose 2-1 is a bad result but it just means we have to win 1-0 at home. I still think we are able to play in the Capital One Cup final."

Law 11: The offside rule

Under the old rule, a player was allowed to stand in an offside position as long as they were deemed to be not actively interfering with play.

But under this season's changes, a player will now be ruled offside if they clearly make an attempt to play the ball, or if the offside player makes an action which impacts his opponent's ability to play the ball.

Gareth Barry's masterclass

When the 34-year-old former England midfielder struggled last season, many thought this model professional's distinguished career at the top was coming to a close.

Barry has demonstrated that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated by having an outstanding campaign this term - and all that experience was on show here.

He was the perfect partner for the abrasive, energetic Mo Besic, the rough diamond whose early tackling and positive approach kept Everton going through a slow start and roused a subdued Goodison Park.

Barry, in turn, showed all his class as he strode through midfield making crucial interceptions, breaking up play and barely wasting a pass.

Barkley had a frustrating evening further forward but once again he never stopped driving at City's defence and epitomised Everton's approach after the early exchanges, even though he promised more than he delivered, with several strikes either wide of the target or saved by Caballero.

Toure's disappearing act

While Barry and Besic ran the show around him, City midfielder Yaya Toure looked every day of his 32 years and more besides.

A lumbering figure, he had no impact on the game and his contribution was summed up when an attempted forward run in the first half was halted by the pace and power of Besic, who caught the giant Ivorian to tackle and rob him, leaving him stranded on the ground.

Even as City chased their way back into the game in the second half, Toure was nowhere to be seen. Normally such an influence, he was little more than a passenger.

Toure is still capable of moments of brilliance, as he showed when scoring in Saturday's win at Watford - but are the years finally catching up with the man who has been City's talisman so often?

The stats you need to know

  • Lukaku has netted four goals in five League Cup appearances this season.
  • Navas scored his first goal for City since September 2014 (v Sheffield Wednesday) - a wait of 66 games in all competitions for the club.
  • This is the first time Pellegrini has lost to Everton as Manchester City boss (W4 D1).
  • Roberto Martinez won just his second game against Manchester City as a manager, the other being the 2013 FA Cup final (W2 D2 L11).

What next?

Both teams are in FA Cup action this weekend, with Everton hosting Dagenham and Redbridge, and Manchester City travelling to Norwich. City and Everton meet again in the Premier League at Etihad Stadium next Wednesday.

Source: bbc.com

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06/Jan/2016

2015 NFL playoffs: Strengths and weaknesses of each NFC team

The 2015 NFL playoffs are upon us. Beginning this weekend, the top teams in the NFC and AFC will fight for the right to meet in Super Bowl 50. Before the action kicks off with Wild Card Weekend, I thought I'd examine the strengths and weaknesses of all 12 playoff teams, in an effort to paint a more complete picture of the combatants about to square off for football's ultimate prize. Below, you'll find the strengths and weaknesses of each team in the NFC field, listed according to playoff seeding.

Check back Wednesday for the strengths and weaknesses of each team in the AFC field.

 

1) Carolina Panthers

Next matchup: vs. Redskins/Packers/Seahawks, Sunday, Jan. 17, 1:05 p.m. ET, FOX

Biggest strengths: The Panthers' defensive front seven (defensive line and linebackers) are arguably the best unit in the NFL. Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly command the headlines with their spectacular play and sideline-to-sideline dominance, but Carolina's defensive line also routinely owns the line of scrimmage behind Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. The Panthers rank fourth in run defense (allowing 88.4 rushing yards per game) and sixth in sacks (44). Given the importance of creating chaos at the point of attack, the Panthers' defense is capable of sparking a deep postseason run.

Biggest weaknesses: Despite Cam Newton's MVP-caliber campaign, the Panthers' passing game remains the biggest weakness on a squad that finished the regular season with a 15-1 record and led the NFL in scoring (31.2 points per game). The team lacks a true WR1; opponents will make a concerted effort to neutralize tight end Greg Olsen (the only player who cracked 1,000 receiving yards this season) with brackets and double coverage down the field. Although Ted Ginn Jr., Devin Funchess and Corey Brown have produced a handful of splash plays throughout the season, the jury is still out as to whether they can produce in a pressurized environment with a potential title on the line.

 

2) Arizona Cardinals

Next matchup: vs. Vikings/Redskins/Packers, Saturday, Jan. 16, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

Biggest strengths: The Cardinals' high-powered offense is problematic for opponents due to their talent and depth on the perimeter. The WR corps, in particular, is full of versatile athletes capable of working between the hashes on a variety of intermediate routes (Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd) or stretching the field on an assortment of vertical routes (John Brown and J.J. Nelson). With quarterback Carson Palmer thriving as a pinpoint passer in Bruce Arians' scheme, the Cardinals' "bombs away" attack has all of the necessary components to attack defenses at every level.

Biggest weaknesses: The Cardinals' offensive line woes haven't prevented Arians' troops from lighting up scoreboards around the NFL, but the unit remains a huge question mark heading into the playoffs. Despite surrendering just 27 sacks during the regular season, the Cardinals' front line has been pummeled by ultra-athletic pass rushers off the edges. Thus, Arians could be forced to abandon his vertical passing game when facing a defense with multiple disruptors at the point of attack.

 

3) Minnesota Vikings

Next matchup: vs. Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, NBC

Biggest strengths: At a time when most offenses are building around their quarterbacks and dynamic passing games, the Vikings have the luxury of utilizing an old-school approach headed by workhorse runner Adrian Peterson. The three-time rushing leader remains the most dominant playmaker at the position at age 30, exhibiting a hard-hitting running style that makes him nearly impossible to contain with an eight- or nine-man front. Given the Vikings' sterling record when Peterson notches 20-plus carries (8-1) or surpasses the 100-yard mark (7-0), Peterson is the key to the team's playoff hopes.

Biggest weaknesses: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the X-factor for the Vikings heading into the tournament. The second-year pro has been an efficient game manager for the team, but he needs to become more of a playmaker for the Vikings to advance. Bridgewater needs to push the ball down the field effectively to prevent opponents from condensing the field with loaded boxes and tight coverage. If Bridgewater is unable to find a way to utilize Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs as vertical threats, the Vikings' playoff journey could be short.

 

4) Washington Redskins

Next matchup: vs. Green Bay Packers, Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX

Biggest strengths: It is no coincidence quarterback Kirk Cousins has played well since DeSean Jackson returned to the lineup after a first half interrupted by a hamstring injury. The spectacular playmaker is the most explosive big-play receiver in the NFL, and his presence gives the Redskins one of the most dynamic WR corps in the game. With Jackson joining tight end Jordan Reed and receivers Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon on the perimeter, Cousins has a plethora of options to target to exploit the most vulnerable defender in the back end. This is a huge advantage for a team that's beginning to steamroll opponents with an electric "dink-and-dunk" passing game.

Biggest weaknesses: The Redskins' opportunistic defense has keyed their surprising playoff run by getting timely stops in key moments, but opposing coaches will attack the front line to see how well it holds up against a punishing ground attack. The Redskins surrender 4.8 rush yards per attempt, tied for 30th in the NFL, which is significant in a conference defined by physicality and toughness. Given the number of top rushing offenses (Carolina, Seattle, Minnesota and Arizona) in the NFC bracket, the Redskins' front seven will need to show opponents they can stop the run to move on in the tournament.

 

5) Green Bay Packers

Next matchup: at Washington Redskins, Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX

Biggest strengths: Despite his subpar performance for most of the regular season, Aaron Rodgers remains the driving force of the Packers' playoff future. The former MVP is not only capable of getting red hot from the pocket, but he is a magical playmaker capable of helping Green Bay score points in bunches. If he can achieve synergy with an underperforming receiver corps that desperately misses Jordy Nelson, Rodgers could spark a playoff run on the heels of a pass-first offense that's a threat to find the end zone from anywhere on the field.

Biggest weaknesses: The Packers' injury-riddled offensive line has struggled against premier pass rushers. The unit surrendered 51 sacks during the regular season (fifth-most in the NFL), and the lack of solid pass protection has disrupted Rodgers' timing and rhythm from the pocket. Most importantly, the leaky pocket has forced Rodgers to quickly abandon his reads and grounded the potent aerial attack. If the Packers are unable to fix their offensive line heading into the playoffs, Green Bay could be one and done.

 

6) Seattle Seahawks

Next matchup: at Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, NBC

Biggest strengths: For all of the questions regarding the Seahawks' defense in the middle of the season, the unit remains the stingiest in the NFL. The Seahawks not only have the top scoring defense (17.3 points allowed per game), but they have the top run defense (81.5 rushing yards allowed per game) and the second-ranked pass defense (210.2 passing yards allowed per game). While the numbers certainly jump off the stat sheet, it has been the complementary play of the front seven and secondary that makes the Seahawks' defense a destructive force heading into the playoffs. From Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin wreaking havoc off the edges to Bobby Wagner pummeling opponents venturing over the middle to the "Legion of Boom" suffocating pass catchers down the field, the Seahawks trot out a dynamic defense that ranks as the best in the NFL.

Biggest weaknesses: Offensive line coach Tom Cable has worked miracles reshaping the Seahawks' line on the fly, but the unit remains a weakness on a team loaded with all-stars. The front line has struggled creating a consistent push on the ground, and its inconsistent pass protection has forced quarterback Russell Wilson to run around like a madman on the perimeter. Although the unit has shown significant improvement down the stretch, the Seahawks will have to work around the front line's flaws to make a sustained run in the postseason.

Source: nfl.com

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06/Jan/2016

Lord Coe to double IAAF anti-doping budget to help rebuild trust

IAAF president Lord Coe will double the world governing body's anti-doping budget as part of his plan to rebuild trust in athletics.

Since Coe was elected, Russia have been barred from world athletics for alleged involvement in widespread doping.

Coe's predecessor Lamine Diack is the subject of a police investigation, while IAAF official Nick Davies has stepped aside over a separate matter.

Coe said: "Be under no illusion about how seriously I take these issues."

The 59-year-old Briton, a former Olympic 1500m champion, was elected president of the IAAF in August.

He said: "I am president of an international federation which is under serious investigations and I represent a sport under intense scrutiny."

As well as taking the IAAF's anti-doping budget to £5.45m, Coe wants to appoint a new chief executive by the middle of 2016, establish a separate integrity unit for athletics before this summer's Olympics, and double the international testing pool of athletes to 1,000.

The integrity unit, one of Coe's election manifesto promises, will review issues such as doping, corruption, betting and age manipulation.

"My vision is to have a sport that attracts more young people," said Coe.

"The average age of those watching track and field is 55. This is not sustainable."

He said the key was to create "a sport that people trust once more".

Coe added: "Athletics must be a sport that athletes, fans, sponsors, media and parents alike know is safe to compete in on a level playing field and one in which clean effort is rewarded and celebrated."

Diack is being investigated over allegations he took payments for deferring sanctions against Russian drugs cheats.

Davies, the IAAF's deputy general secretary, stepped aside while the organisation's ethics board looks into a plan to delay naming Russian drug cheats before the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. He denies any wrongdoing.

Source: bbc.com

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05/Jan/2016

Liverpool earn slender cup lead

Liverpool hold a precious advantage going into the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg after Jordon Ibe's goal gave them victory at Stoke City.

Jurgen Klopp's side take the lead to Anfield for the return on 26 January despite losing influential midfield man Philippe Coutinho and defender Dejan Lovren to hamstring injuries before half-time.

Ibe, on for Coutinho, struck at the far post in the 37th minute after clever build-up work by Adam Lallana and Joe Allen.

Stoke failed to reproduce the form that has brought them home wins against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in recent times and, when they did force an opening, Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet saved well from Glen Johnson and Joselu.

Substitute Jon Walters wasted their best chance deep into stoppage time and Liverpool are now favourites to meet either Everton or Manchester City at Wembley.

Relive Liverpool's win

Liverpool's split personality

Liverpool league cup wins

Klopp left the media to guess at the "three words" he delivered to his players after a dismal performance in defeat at West Ham United on Saturday.

He had no need to rein in his message here as Liverpool bristled with an intensity from the first whistle that shocked Stoke City in such a manner they struggled to recover any rhythm or composure.

It was another example of the two-faced nature of Liverpool's performances under Klopp since he arrived to succeed the sacked Brendan Rodgers in early October.

This display, full of steely resolve and the incessant pressing Klopp demands, was more akin to the outstanding away victories at Chelsea (3-1), Manchester City (4-1) and the 6-1 win at Southampton in the quarter-final.

And yet Klopp has still had to suffer the frustration of Liverpool barely turning up in losses at Newcastle United, Watford and West Ham.

This was more like the model of what he will expect on a consistent basis when he has really settled into his work at Liverpool - and it has given him a big opportunity of marking his first season with a Wembley appearance.

Stoke City fluff their lines

This was a huge night at the Britannia Stadium as Stoke's players attempt to write their names alongside those who famously won the League Cup for the Potters against Chelsea at Wembley in 1972.

And anticipation had been elevated by the impressive form shown by Mark Hughes' side, a potent blend of silk and steel that arguably had them as favourites before the game.

It was to be a disappointing 90 minutes for the hosts as Liverpool appeared to stun them from kick-off by pressurising them into mistakes, and they simply never recovered enough to build up a head of steam.

Mignolet made a couple of important stops and Stoke felt they had penalty claims when Alberto Moreno tangled with Glenn Whelan, but Liverpool closed down their big players such as Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic to deserve their victory.

No-one should dismiss Stoke's chances as they have shown so much quality already this season - but they have left themselves a huge task in the return.

Klopp's injury curse

After young Belgian striker Divock Origi went lame in the Boxing Day victory against Leicester City at Anfield, Klopp pointed out in colourful terms that "hamstring" was his least favourite word of 2015.

It is not shaping up any better in 2016 as Coutinho and Lovren both limped off clutching their hamstrings before half-time - adding to Liverpool's already lengthy injury list. They may be joined by Kolo Toure, who ended the game clutching the back of his right leg.

Klopp's "gegenpressing" style, intense and physical as opponents are put under pressure, is demanding and requires high levels of fitness - and maybe it is taking some getting used to for his new charges.

And there is no doubt Liverpool are also suffering a run of bad luck that is filling up the treatment room at their Melwood training headquarters.

Martin Skrtel, as well as Origi, is nursing a hamstring problem while James Milner has only just returned from a similar injury.

Joe Gomez and Danny Ings suffered long-term knee ligament problems before Klopp's arrival while Jordan Henderson's heel problem is a recurrence of a problem he had earlier in the season.

Jordan Rossiter was sidelined by a hamstring problem after initially suffering the injury with England's youngsters while Daniel Sturridge's many problems have already occupied much of Klopp's early time at Anfield.

The German is waiting for the day when he will have all his Liverpool players fit - but that day looks as far away as ever.

What they said

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes said: "People might want to criticise what we did in the first half but sometimes you have to credit the opposition.

"They restricted what we wanted to do in terms of getting people around the ball and restricting space and they did that to good effect and we had to improve in the second half.

"The key from our point of view is that we didn't concede again and the danger was that if we over committed and conceded another one that would have been a huge task to go to Anfield and claw it back."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told BBC Radio 5 live: "The only thing we can criticise is our finishing again. We had a good structure, played football good, everything was good but we don't make enough goals.

"The biggest problem for us is we have two and maybe three injured players again."

Stats you need to know

  • Stoke have progressed from both of their semi-finals in the League Cup
  • All three of Jordon Ibe's goals this season have arrived in cup competitions
  • Stoke have played Liverpool six times in the League Cup, drawing one and losing five

What next

Liverpool travel to League Two Exeter City in the FA Cup on Friday night, before Arsenal and then Manchester United visit Anfield in the Premier League. Stoke travel to League One Doncaster in the FA Cup on Saturday, before entertaining Norwich and Arsenal in the league.

Source: bbc.com

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05/Jan/2016

"we'll shoot ourselves if England exit early"

Greg Dyke says England have 'got to get out' of Euro 2016 group

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke says "we'll all shoot ourselves" if England fail to progress from their group at Euro 2016.

Roy Hodgson's side have been drawn alongside Wales, Russia and Slovakia for the tournament in France, which starts on 10 June.

"We've got to get out of that group," said Dyke. "If we don't, that really is bad news for English football."

Dyke added he believes England can win the World Cup again "one day soon".

The 68-year-old was speaking at the start of a year of events to mark the 50th anniversary of England's 1966 World Cup success.

And he said the "building blocks are in place" to emulate that achievement.

"We owe it to a generation of teenage dreamers to show we can do it again," he added.

"The FA is the richest FA in the world, the most income. The FA has to take some of the blame.

"We should have won a tournament in the last 50 years. We haven't. But we will win in the next 50 years, hopefully long before."

England are ninth in the Fifa world rankings and have not gone past the quarter-finals of a World Cup since 1990.

They went out of the 2014 World Cup without a win, but Dyke stood by Hodgson.

England won all 10 of their Euro 2016 qualifiers and progress from the group in France "should not be the definition of success", added Dyke.

Greg Dyke says England have 'got to get out' of Euro 2016 group

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke says "we'll all shoot ourselves" if England fail to progress from their group at Euro 2016.

Roy Hodgson's side have been drawn alongside Wales, Russia and Slovakia for the tournament in France, which starts on 10 June.

"We've got to get out of that group," said Dyke. "If we don't, that really is bad news for English football."

Dyke added he believes England can win the World Cup again "one day soon".

The 68-year-old was speaking at the start of a year of events to mark the 50th anniversary of England's 1966 World Cup success.

And he said the "building blocks are in place" to emulate that achievement.

"We owe it to a generation of teenage dreamers to show we can do it again," he added.

"The FA is the richest FA in the world, the most income. The FA has to take some of the blame.

"We should have won a tournament in the last 50 years. We haven't. But we will win in the next 50 years, hopefully long before."

England are ninth in the Fifa world rankings and have not gone past the quarter-finals of a World Cup since 1990.

They went out of the 2014 World Cup without a win, but Dyke stood by Hodgson.

England won all 10 of their Euro 2016 qualifiers and progress from the group in France "should not be the definition of success", added Dyke

Greg Dyke and Roy Hodgson

He was joined at Tuesday's launch by 1966 World Cup winners Sir Geoff Hurst, Gordon Banks, Martin Peters and George Cohen.

Dyke said: "It is important to remember and pay tribute to each and every player in the final and also in the squad.

"We hope the celebrations cement the '66 winners their place in history and hope a new generation will hear their story and be inspired by it."

What next for Dyke?

Dyke said a decision on whether to extend his three-year contract - which expires in the summer - will be made in the coming days.

One of the aims of his tenure has been to increase the number of English players in the Premier League, with the objective of seeing England win the World Cup in 2022.

He added: "It is ridiculous. The figures in terms of the numbers of kids who don't make it out of academies, who just disappear, is quite frightening.

"It's not that they go and play in the lower league, they just don't play at all. And they're the cream of their generation."

Source: bbc.com

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05/Jan/2016

Neymar: Barcelona star says he did not hear alleged racist abuse

Barcelona forward Neymar said he was not aware of the racist chanting allegedly aimed at him during Saturday's derby at Espanyol.

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta told Spanish media  after the 0-0 draw that the 23-year-old Brazilian was subjected to abuse from a supporter.

Neymar is reported to have told TV station La Sexta:  "I did not hear anything.

"It is difficult for things to bother me, I just play football."

Espanyol president Joan Collet said: "I was there, just like 30,000 people and nothing happened.

"The whole thing blows up for one shout, but there was nothing generalised, it's a lie."

Source: bbc.com

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04/Jan/2016

Zinedine Zidane replaces Rafael Benitez as Real Madrid coach

Rafael Benitez has been sacked as manager of Real Madrid after just seven months in charge, with club legend Zinedine Zidane replacing him.

Spaniard Benitez, 55, was relieved of his duties following a meeting of the club's board on Monday.

Real B team coach Zidane, 43, has been promoted to first-team boss.

The Frenchman, a former Real player and World Cup winner, said: "I am going to put my heart and soul into this job so that everything works out well."

Benitez's final game was Sunday's 2-2 draw with Valencia, which left them third in La Liga, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

Zidane is the 11th coach to be appointed in Florentino Perez's 12 years as club president across two spells. The length of his contract has not been made public.

His first match in charge will be Saturday's home La Liga game against Deportivo la Coruna.

Benitez's Real Madrid record

Season Managed Won Drew Lost Win %

 2015-16

   25

  17

  5

  3

  68

Why sack Benitez?

Perez is yet to explain why the board of directors took the "difficult" decision to dismiss Benitez, who once coached the club's youth teams.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, he said: "Let me make clear that this is a great professional and a great person.

"I want to acknowledge the dedication of Benitez during his time as coach of Real Madrid."

Benitez lost only three of his 25 games in charge of Los Blancos and also took them into the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare.

An 8-0 home win over Malmo and a 10-2 victory against nine-man Rayo Vallecano - the first time Real had reached double figures since 1960 - were amongst his most notable successes, but it would seem a combination of factors both on and off the pitch led to his downfall.

One was the 4-0 home defeat by Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the season in November. His defensive tactics were also criticised,  while there were reports of a rift with star forward Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez

Benitez managed Real Madrid's second team for two years from 1993

The right replacement?

For a man with no experience of managing at the top level, Zidane's appointment could be considered a risk - but he has long been seen as a future Real boss.

Zidane has been coach of the club's B team - who are second in the Spanish third tier - since 2014. Prior to that he was an integral member of the backroom staff under then Real boss Carlo Ancelotti, who led the team to 'La Decima' - the club's 10th European Cup.

During his playing career, the Frenchman was one of Real's key 'Galacticos' - a label given to the expensive players signed by Perez during his first spell as president in the early to mid-2000s.

In 2001, Real paid Juventus a then world record fee of £45.8m for the midfielder, who had already won the World Cup and European Championship.

At the Bernabeu, he played alongside players such as Luis Figo, Raul and Ronaldo, and also featured in the same midfield as England captain David Beckham.

In the five years before his retirement, he helped Real win the league in 2003 and was named Fifa world player of the year for a third time.

But perhaps his defining moment came during the 2002 Champions League final, when he scored a stunning volley against Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park.

Source: bbc.com

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04/Jan/2016

Ivory Coast footballer, Steve Gohouri, dies at the age of 34

Former Wigan Athletic defender Steve Gohouri has died at the age of 34.

Gohouri made 42 appearances for Wigan between 2010 and 2012 and also won 12 caps for Ivory Coast.

On 12 December, Gohouri was reported missing after attending the Christmas party of his German club TSV Steinbach. He was meant to visit his family in Paris but never arrived.

German police confirmed his body had been found in the River Rhine in the western city of Krefeld.

In a statement they also said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Gohouri's death.

Wigan Athletic tweeted: "We are saddened to hear reports of our former defender Steve Gohouri passing away. Our thoughts are with his family."

Gohouri moved from Ivory Coast to France as a five-year-old, where he was raised in the suburbs of Paris.

He began his football career in France but played for clubs in Israel, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Greece and Germany.

He signed for then Premier League Wigan from Bundesliga stalwarts Borussia Monchengladbach in January 2010.

Source: bbc.com

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04/Jan/2016

Chelsea earn first win under Guus Hiddink's second spell

Chelsea secured their first victory in Guus Hiddink's second spell as boss to move six points clear of relegation with a deserved win at Crystal Palace.

Oscar put the Blues ahead against the run of play, tapping home after being put through by Diego Costa.

Once they scored Chelsea dominated, deservedly doubling their advantage with a spectacular Willian strike.

Costa sealed the win with a tap-in for a goal his performance deserved after Palace failed to clear Willian's shot.

Interim boss Hiddink, who guided Chelsea to third in the Premier League, a Champions League semi-final and the FA Cup in his first spell at the club, remains unbeaten since taking over from Jose Mourinho last month.

The Blues' four-match run without defeat is their longest this season and moves last year's champions to 14th in the league, still 12 points adrift of a Champions League spot.

Costa leads by example

John Mikel Obi heatmap

John Mikel Obi was superb for Chelsea and this heatmap shows the midfielder dominated the area in front of his own defence

Chelsea's away form in the first half of the season has been dire, with just six points collected on their travels. Only bottom two clubs Aston Villa and Sunderland have fared worse.

In beating seventh-placed Palace for their first away win since August, the Blues made a convincing case that the second half of the season might be more fruitful.

Hiddink said he needed leaders to pull the club out of relegation trouble and in Costa the Dutchman had a player in that mould, driving his team forward at Selhurst Park and playing a part in all three goals.

Like the rest of the Blues squad during this season's dreadful title defence, the Spaniard - who had missed the goalless draw at Manchester United because of suspension - has been below par, but he gave one of his best displays of the campaign.

John Mikel Obi also shone, providing much-needed ballast to the Chelsea midfield.

Injury worry for Blues

The one disappointment for Hiddink was the injury to Eden Hazard, which ended the Belgian's match after just 15 minutes.

Before the match Hiddink had said last year's player of the season was "back in shape" after suffering a hip injury against Leicester and sustaining a knock in Monday's draw at Manchester United.

Ultimately, Chelsea did not need Hazard against Palace with the impressive forward trio of Costa, Willian and Oscar creating plenty in his absence.

Palace struggling in front of goal

It was Palace's first defeat in seven matches and they clearly missed key players, although Eagles boss Alan Pardew admitted that even with the likes of suspended Yohan Cabaye in the team his men would have struggled against Chelsea in such form.

The hosts, though, are a far less formidable side without the creativity of top scorer Cabaye in midfield, the pace of Yannick Bolasie on the flanks and Connor Wickham up front.

Palace are now without a win or a goal in their past three games, with Bolasie and Wickham not having played since the goalless Boxing Day draw against Bournemouth.

However, Pardew's side had their chances with Wilfried Zaha - making his 200th appearance for the club - shooting wide with the score goalless and scuffing another opportunity just before Willian scored.

What the managers said

Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink: "Do not go over the top, it is the first win after a worrying period with two draws so the team desperately needed the win and it was convincing.

"Everyone knows we have a lot of quality in our team, but sometimes champions have a tendency to be complacent and it can be difficult to get back and then wonder why we were champions.

"There is a long way to go, mathematically the possibility of Champions League is still there. The league is so strong but as long as we play like we did today I will be happy."

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew: "We were not at our strongest, we were missing key players and could not play our natural game.

"We will be looking at the market in case something comes through. It is important we kick into gear in the second half of the season. Things did not go our way and we have to respond and I have every confidence in this group that we will be in and around the top 10."

The stats you need to know

  • This is Chelsea's first away victory in their last eight Premier League away matches (losing four and drawing three) and the first since August when they beat West Brom 3-2 at the Hawthorns.
  • Crystal Palace have enjoyed just two wins in their last seven home league games (drawing two and losing three).
  • Oscar has netted two in his last four in all competitions for Chelsea after scoring just one in the 14 before that.
  • Diego Costa's assist was his first in his last 20 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea.
  • Seven of Willian's eight goals for Chelsea this season in all competitions have come from outside the box.
  • Costa has had a hand in four goals in his last two league games (three goals, one assist), the same total he managed in his previous 14 league appearances this season.
  • Chelsea registered their biggest league win in almost a year, since beating Swansea 5-0 on January 17th 2015.

Source: bbc.com

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03/Jan/2016

Christian Benteke scored the only goal as Liverpool ended 2015 with a victory.

Christian Benteke scored the only goal as Liverpool ended 2015 with a victory, leaving Sunderland in deep trouble.

Benteke netted early in the second half, running on to Adam Lallana's pass to neatly net from inside the area.

Vito Mannone made a stunning save to tip Liverpool midfielder Roberto Firmino's shot on to a post before pushing away the Brazilian's header.

Jermain Defoe forced Simon Mignolet into an excellent save, but Sunderland have now lost their past five games.

Fabio Borini also went close against his former side, shooting straight at Mignolet and striking an effort narrowly wide.

Back-to-back Benteke winners lift Liverpool

This was the Reds' second successive 1-0 win, having beaten Leicester by the same scoreline on Boxing Day, with Belgium striker Benteke the match-winner both times.

Since signing for £32m in the summer, the former Aston Villa man has not been a regular starter, but has now scored six times in seven games against Sunderland, more than against any other side.

But, having missed from close range against Leicester, he once again spurned a straightforward chance, running through on goal before striking at Mannone.

Liverpool were not at their best, but their control and another clean sheet will please boss Jurgen Klopp. His side moved up to seventh - level on points with Manchester United.

Sunderland have mountain to climb

The home side were much improved from their 4-1 defeat by Manchester City and looked confident in the opening 45 minutes, but once again their defensive frailties came to the fore.

They switched off straight after the interval, giving the ball away on the edge of the centre circle for Liverpool to break quickly and score just 22 seconds into the second half.

It means the Black Cats have conceded 38 goals in their 19 Premier League games this season - more than any other team - and are now seven points from safety.

Having had a bid accepted for Lorient centre-back Lamine Kone, manager Sam Allardyce will hope the Ivorian can help plug a leaky defence and raise the confidence of his lowly team.

Should Lens have been sent off?

With five minutes left, Sunderland midfielder Jeremain Lens left Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho writhing in agony with a late tackle.

The visiting side's staff became involved in heated exchanges with their Black Cats counterparts, and Lens was booked. Sakho stayed on and finished the match.

Klopp said: "I don't want to say now, 'Come on, give him a red card'. I have no problem with this player, but if you go like that, everything can happen. That's not allowed. For me, that's a red card, finish, that's it."