FA Cup: Willian scores Chelsea opener against Hull in the FA Cup fifth round

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 16, 2018 with No Comments
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Fit For Sport February Half Term Activity Camp

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43093060

New Scotland boss McLeish hopes to get fans onside

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 16, 2018 with No Comments
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Alex McLeish has taken on the Scotland job for a second time

Alex McLeish insists he is the “right man” for the Scotland head coach job and hopes he can bring dissenting fans round to that view.

McLeish, who has a contract until 2020, replaces Gordon Strachan 11 years after leaving the job for Birmingham City.

The 59-year-old will lead the Scots into their Uefa Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifying campaigns.

“I can understand that opinion can be divided but it’s up to me to try and get those guys onside,” he said.

  • Live updates – McLeish appointed Scotland boss
  • McLeish has ‘right credentials’ – Smith

“I hope that the Tartan Army can come to, I wouldn’t say forgive me, but I hope they can come round and say, ‘McLeish is right, he is the man for the job’.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Scotland have pace and energy – McLeish

“A lot of people would say, ‘he left us so he’s persona non grata’ but I’m here and I’m here to do the business.

“I had pretty good success [in England] in a real whirlwind of four or five years or so with promotion, a Carling Cup, ninth position Premier League and it was all really fighting fire as well with no budgets or anything.

“That’s why I feel that my experience has been greatly enhanced and that I can help the Scottish nation to get to the Euros.”

‘It’s meant to be’

The Scottish FA were unsuccessful in their attempt to recruit Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill prior to appointing McLeish.

“My name has always been in there,” former Rangers, Genk and Zamalek boss McLeish told BBC Scotland. “I was waiting on a call.

“I actually thought Michael might turn it down and I would get the job and I believe I’m the right man for this job.

“He was the first choice, I accept that. I see it as a bit of fate and it’s meant to be. I’ve got to make the most of that and I believe that I can do.

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O’Neill turned down Scotland and extended his contract with Northern Ireland

“Even when I went to Belgium and Egypt for a couple of years, I worked with teams with half a chance. That was why I went and I had pretty good success rates with them – 50-odd% rate in Belgium and 60-odd in Egypt.

“I really enjoyed the stints there and I said when I came back that that’s the kind of challenge I want domestically and when nothing of that ilk came in England and then all of a sudden Gordon left the Scotland job, I thought, ‘that’s a challenge that I would absolutely love’.”

McLeish’s first games in charge will be against Costa Rica and Hungary next month, followed by further friendly matches in Peru in May and Mexico in June.

His debut competitive games will be the Uefa Nations League encounters against Albania at home on 10 September, then in Israel on 11 October.

McLeish’s former Aberdeen and Scotland team-mate Strachan was unable to end Scotland’s long wait to get back to a major tournament, which now stretches back almost 20 years.

However, the Scots have not lost a competitive match since November 2016 and have won four of their past eight games.

“I think we missed [World Cup qualification] by a whisker there and Gordon Strachan had a great 2017,” McLeish explained.

“There are a lot of exciting youngsters coming through with pace and energy. I’m not saying they’ll be going straight into the team but it gives me a lot of hope.

“He was very close to it. If I can carry that momentum on, then I’ve got these guys a year older and getting more experience and they’re surely going to be at a better level and that’s why I feel it gives us a better chance, mixed of course with the experienced guys and the tactical nous that these guys have.”

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‘Not a resuscitation job’ – analysis

Former Scotland manager Craig Brown on BBC Radio Scotland

It’s an excellent choice. This is a maintenance job because the team has actually been playing quite well in the last year or so and the results have been favourable. So, it’s not a resuscitation job to take over the Scottish team at the moment.

We have got to get the national team of Scotland to qualify and therefore we’ve got to get a top manager, the best we can and I do think, under the circumstances, we have the best we can – an experienced guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, he knows the game inside out, he’s been at international level 77 times [as a player] with Scotland, he’s managed the team successfully.

I do think now we’ve got a man who can take Scotland to the next major tournament coming up and that will develop the game massively. t’s the the national team which is the important factor in terms of development of the game and interest in the game.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43087185

West Brom quartet apologise after Barcelona fast-food restaurant taxi theft

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Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore, Boaz Myhill and Gareth Barry have 1,236 Premier League appearances between them

West Brom players Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill have apologised after a taxi was stolen from outside a fast-food restaurant in Barcelona on Thursday.

The quartet were interviewed but not arrested by police after the incident, which happened in the early hours of the morning and is being investigated by the Premier League club.

“We felt it important we identify ourselves out of respect for team-mates who otherwise could be implicated by association,” they said in a statement.

West Brom and Northern Ireland defender Evans 30, former England midfielder Barry 36, England international Livermore, 28, and reserve goalkeeper Myhill, 35, said they wanted to apologise for “the events which have been the subject of widespread and negative publicity”.

Mossos d’Esquadra – the Catalan regional police force – had told BBC Sport the four players involved wanted to go out in Barcelona, but found everything closed so took a taxi to a fast-food restaurant.

When they left, at approximately 05:30, it is alleged they took the taxi and drove back to their hotel – without the driver.

Police were alerted by the hotel and taxi driver, who was reunited with his vehicle at about 08:00.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Pardew ‘let down’ by West Brom players’ ‘unacceptable’ conduct

Baggies boss Alan Pardew said the players involved had broken a midnight curfew, adding it was “unacceptable” and he “felt a bit let down”.

“It wasn’t what we wanted,” he said. “We’ve gone there to try to get ourselves ready and up for the run-in and this is obviously not ideal.”

West Brom, who are bottom of the Premier League, have won just one of their past 25 league matches.

They host Southampton in the FA Cup at 15:00 GMT on Saturday.

The players added: “We would like to assure our supporters that this incident does not reflect the determination and resolve we possess to do all we can to recover a difficult season.”

The club said it had “instigated its own investigation into the incident” and said the players “will be subject to the full rigours of our internal disciplinary procedures”.

It said it would not comment any further on the incident until the investigation is over.

Analysis

BBC Sport’s Simon Stone

These truly are troubling times at West Brom. Bottom of the Premier League and seven points from safety, owner Guochuan Lai took the decision on Tuesday to sack his chairman and chief executive.

The men responsible for the football side were untouched by Lai’s actions.

Yet within hours, four senior players – in West Brom’s own words – were completely disregarding a curfew imposed by their manager.

If the key “football man” cannot control his most experienced players’ behaviour in this situation, it is difficult to envisage any outcome to this season other than West Brom being relegated.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43092534

Ronaldo leads Real Madrid to late victory against PSG

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 15, 2018 with No Comments
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Cristiano Ronaldo levels from the penalty spot at the Bernabeu

A Cristiano Ronaldo double helped Real Madrid come from behind to boost their hopes of a third straight Champions League crown during a pulsating last-16 encounter with Paris St-Germain.

The Portuguese forward scored a late close-range strike after his penalty had cancelled out Adrien Rabiot’s opener at the end of a thrilling first half.

Brazilian left-back Marcelo wrapped up the victory minutes after Ronaldo’s tap-in with a goal created by Marco Asensio.

The emphatic spot-kick meant Ronaldo became the first player in Champions League history to score 100 goals for the same club

  • 101 and counting – Ronaldo’s remarkable record

Last season, Zinedine Zidane’s Real became the first team to retain the Champions League and won La Liga for the first time since 2012.

This term they are already out of the Copa del Rey and fourth in La Liga, 17 points behind leaders Barcelona as pressure on their French manager has mounted.

PSG played their part in an end-to-end contest, with Neymar’s delicate assist for Rabiot a highlight and Kylian Mbappe forcing a strong save from Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

But the result puts Real in control heading into the second leg at Parc des Princes on 6 March.

However, Zidane’s side also survived a second-half penalty claim with the scores level when Rabiot’s shot hit Sergio Ramos high on the arm.

Ronaldo not fading yet

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Cristiano Ronaldo has 101 Champions League goals for Real Madrid

There will, inevitably, come a point when Ronaldo genuinely becomes a “fading star”.

But once again tonight he proved that suggestions he is past his best are premature.

The 33-year-old may be losing the searing pace that has been one of his many attributes, but once again he showed he still rises to the big occasion like few others.

He has now scored 10-plus goals in seven consecutive Champions League campaigns, while no other player has done so in more than two. His last 12 appearances in the competition have seen him score 20 goals.

  • 101 and counting – Ronaldo’s remarkable Champions League record

This contest was billed in some quarters as being all about five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo versus Neymar, the prodigiously gifted young contender.

But as a disgruntled Neymar headed straight down the tunnel at full-time, Ronaldo lingered to bask in the adulation of the Madridista faithful, from whom he had asked for “unconditional support” after striker Karim Benzema was booed during their 5-2 home win over Real Sociedad on Saturday.

If Ronaldo’s penalty was dispatched with trademark power and precision, he got lucky with his second after the impressive Asensio’s cross appeared to ricochet in off his knee.

But once again he was in the right place at the right time and with his talisman still firing, Zidane will remain hopeful of ending a disappointing season with glory in May.

Defensive change hurts PSG

PSG’s squad is the second most expensive in world football according to the CIES Football Observatory (behind Manchester City) and includes the world’s most expensive player, £200m forward Neymar.

But they are more than a lavishly assembled curiosity, and this display proved partly why they have been tipped by many to reach May’s final in Kiev.

They kept their nerve in the face of Real’s high-tempo pressing at the start designed to intimidate a young French side, and then took a deserved lead.

Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola did not produce a performance that deserved to concede three goals, making strong saves from Toni Kroos and Benzema, and largely impressing.

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While PSG boss Emery (left) initially went for caution with his changes, Zinedine Zidane gambled and it paid off

And Yuri Berchiche’s left-footed shot across the face of goal, as Neymar quickly started to find space, took the sting out of Real’s start.

But PSG boss Unai Emery, who has never gone further than the round of 16 in his five previous times managing in the Champions League, took off top scorer Edinson Cavani with almost half an hour remaining.

Cavani had played a part in creating Rabiot’s goal and the decision to replace him with Belgian defender Thomas Meunier seemed to dent his side’s attacking threat.

The experienced Uruguay striker may have had a quiet game until then, aside from his run to create space for Rabiot, but he has 27 goals and five assists for the Parisians this season and can always cause problems for defenders.

While Zidane went on the attack, replacing Isco with Marco Asensio – who created two goals – on 77 minutes, Emery left it too late to bring on Germany winger Julian Draxler seven minutes later.

Two minutes after that substitution, Marcelo struck and Emery may have been re-assessing his changes.

Man of the match – Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

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Influential Germany international Toni Kroos made the most key passes, most accurate passes into the PSG half and had more touches than any Real team-mate

Bernabeu a fortress for Real – the stats

  • Real Madrid have won each of their seven Champions League knock-out games at the Bernabeu under Zinedine Zidane.
  • Paris St-Germain have lost consecutive games in the Champions League for the first time since April 2015 (under Laurent Blanc).
  • Ronaldo’s last 12 appearances in the Champions League have seen him score 21 goals, while the only game in which he failed to score in this run was against Atletico Madrid in May 2017.
  • Paris St-Germain have scored 127 goals in 39 games in all competitions this season – the most of any team in the top five European leagues.
  • Adrien Rabiot scored his first Champions League goal since April 2016 (v Manchester City), while each of his five goals in all competitions for PSG this season have come in different competitions.
  • Gareth Bale made his 50th Champions League appearance in this game, becoming only the second Welshman to do so (after Ryan Giggs, who made 141 appearances).

‘You can never presume Real are dead’ – what they said

Real captain Sergio Ramos told reporters: “This is a very important victory, these Champions League games are nights you always want to remember and we showed exactly how you need to play.

“We showed lots of personality and proved that despite all the speculation about us, you can never presume Madrid are dead.”

Paris St-Germain goalscorer Adrien Rabiot: “We always say the same things and we always get caught out in the same way.

“The problem is it’s easy to score eight against Dijon, or four goals in league games. It is in these matches that you need to be decisive.”

What’s next?

Real Madrid travel to Real Betis in La Liga on Sunday, 18 February (19:45 GMT), while Paris St-Germain host Strasbourg in Ligue 1 on Saturday (16:00).

Live Text

Match ends, Real Madrid 3, Paris Saint Germain 1.

Second Half ends, Real Madrid 3, Paris Saint Germain 1.

Attempt missed. Neymar (Paris Saint Germain) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

Foul by Lucas Vázquez (Real Madrid).

Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint Germain) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Offside, Real Madrid. Luka Modric tries a through ball, but Gareth Bale is caught offside.

Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint Germain) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Marco Asensio (Real Madrid) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint Germain).

Attempt saved. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Marco Asensio.

Corner, Paris Saint Germain. Conceded by Keylor Navas.

Attempt saved. Kylian Mbappé (Paris Saint Germain) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Attempt missed. Julian Draxler (Paris Saint Germain) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Neymar.

Goal! Real Madrid 3, Paris Saint Germain 1. Marcelo (Real Madrid) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Marco Asensio with a cross.

Offside, Real Madrid. Luka Modric tries a through ball, but Gareth Bale is caught offside.

Lucas Vázquez (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Yuri (Paris Saint Germain).

Substitution, Paris Saint Germain. Julian Draxler replaces Giovani Lo Celso.

Goal! Real Madrid 2, Paris Saint Germain 1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) left footed shot from very close range to the high centre of the goal.

Marcelo (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Kylian Mbappé (Paris Saint Germain).

Offside, Real Madrid. Marcelo tries a through ball, but Marco Asensio is caught offside.

Offside, Paris Saint Germain. Dani Alves tries a through ball, but Kylian Mbappé is caught offside.

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Presnel Kimpembe.

Substitution, Real Madrid. Marco Asensio replaces Isco.

Substitution, Real Madrid. Lucas Vázquez replaces Casemiro.

Nacho (Real Madrid) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Nacho (Real Madrid).

Neymar (Paris Saint Germain) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Marquinhos.

Attempt blocked. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Toni Kroos with a cross.

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Marquinhos.

Attempt blocked. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Gareth Bale with a headed pass.

Foul by Gareth Bale (Real Madrid).

Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Hand ball by Marcelo (Real Madrid).

Attempt missed. Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint Germain) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right following a corner.

Attempt blocked. Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint Germain) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Corner, Paris Saint Germain. Conceded by Raphael Varane.

Attempt blocked. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Luka Modric.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43049307

Liverpool thrash Porto to close in on quarters

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 15, 2018 with No Comments
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Sadio Mane has scored six goals in the Champions League this season

Sadio Mane scored a hat-trick as Liverpool marked their first Champions League knockout game for nine years with an emphatic victory at Porto in their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie.

Mane opened the scoring when home goalkeeper Jose Sa failed to hold his placed strike.

Mohamed Salah then showed wonderful composure to steer the ball home for Liverpool’s second and his 30th of an incredible debut season at the club.

With two away goals scored, the visitors could have been forgiven for taking a more conservative approach but instead they went for more.

A swift Liverpool counter-attack ended with Sa spilling Roberto Firmino’s shot into Mane’s path and the striker made no mistake, before Firmino scored his 21st of the season, sweeping home James Milner’s cross.

Mane got his third with a driven strike late on to become the first Liverpool player to score a hat-trick away from home in Europe since Michael Owen in 2002, and the second ever.

Porto had lost only two matches in all competitions this season prior to Wednesday’s game but simply could not cope with Liverpool’s unstoppable forward line.

Otavio had the Portuguese side’s best chance towards the end of the first half, placing his shot just wide of the far post after he was put through on goal.

Liverpool will expect to complete the job when they host Porto in the return leg at Anfield on Tuesday, 6 March.

Like they were never away

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Liverpool are in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in seven years – that season they were beaten by Chelsea in the quarter-finals

Liverpool boast a proud record in continental football having won the European Cup or Champions League five times – more than any other English side.

But this was their first involvement in the knockout stages of the competition since 2009, when they lost 7-5 on aggregate to Chelsea in the quarter-finals.

And it was like they had never been away as they made light work of a side that reached this stage of the competition last season and were quarter-finalists just three years ago.

Only PSG (25) scored more goals than Liverpool (23) in the Champions League group stages and the Reds picked up where they had left off in December as their front three proved too much for a nervous Porto defence.

The hosts ultimately became the latest side unable to cope with Liverpool’s pace on the counter-attack. This was the 17th time Liverpool had scored three goals or more in a game this season and the 10th time they have done it away from home.

They have also now scored more Champions League goals this season (28) than any other club and, on this evidence, are going to take some stopping in the competition.

Superb Salah on course for 40 in a season?

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Salah has scored 30 goals in 37 appearances for Liverpool this season

Games without Salah on the scoresheet this season have been rare. Indeed, the former Chelsea forward’s longest ‘drought’ was a run of three without scoring towards the end of last year.

The forward is on a quite incredible run of goalscoring form that shows no sign of slowing down. His goal against Porto was his sixth in five games and took his total for the campaign in all competitions to 30 – only 12 players have managed that in Liverpool’s history.

Salah has produced some quite sensational strikes this season and while his goal against Porto was, in the end, a tap-in, such a description hardly does justice to the amazing coolness he showed in the build-up to the finish.

After Milner’s shot from distance bounced back off the post, Salah took one touch to lift the rebound beyond the reach of the goalkeeper, cushioned the ball on to his left foot with a calm header and slotted the ball home between a defender and the keeper.

It was more stunning artistry from the Egypt international and, given that it is only mid-February, it is not unreasonable to expect that he could surpass the 40-goal mark by the end of the season.

Man of the match – Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

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Sadio Mane is only the fourth Liverpool player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League, after Michael Owen, Yossi Benayoun and Philippe Coutinho

Manager reaction – ‘exactly as good as necessary’

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “It was a very good performance. Exactly as good as necessary.

“I think everyone saw in the game all the moments when we were not as compact as we wanted to be and Porto were immediately strong. They had their moments and we scored fantastic goals in the right moment.”

Does he think the tie is over? “No, of course not, why should I? We came here to create the basis for the second leg at Anfield – and that’s what we did, not more, not less. I am too long in the business to think anything is sorted before the final whistle.

“We owe our supporters at Anfield a 100% performance and that’s what we want to deliver. That’s all.”

Porto manager Sergio Conceicao: “We started the game on an even keel. We even had a great chance through Otavio in the first 20 minutes. After that, on one occasion we sought to break out quickly from the back in a move that started with our goalkeeper. We lost possession and conceded the first.

“We made a few more mistakes [in that move] which cost us dearly, especially against a team with that kind of firepower. We reacted well to going behind, but then went two down because we were too passive. From there, it becomes even more difficult.”

Up there with the best – the stats

  • Liverpool registered the joint-biggest away Champions League knockout win, equalling Bayern Munich’s 5-0 win at Sporting Lisbon in February 2009 and Real Madrid’s at Schalke in February 2014.
  • This is Porto’s heaviest home European defeat and the first time they have conceded more than three goals in a home European match.
  • Liverpool are the first English side to score five goals in an away Champions League knockout match.
  • Mohamed Salah became the first Liverpool player to score 30 goals in all competitions in a single season since Luis Suarez (31) in 2013-14.
  • Salah has now scored in five consecutive matches in all competitions, the first Reds player to achieve that feat since Divock Origi in December 2016.
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold became the youngest Liverpool player to feature in a Champions League knockout match, aged 19 years and 130 days.
  • Alexander-Arnold is the fifth youngest Englishman to feature in a Champions League knockout game, behind only Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Wayne Rooney.
  • Liverpool have won four matches by five or more goals in all competitions this season, the first time they have achieved that since the 1985-86 season (five victories by that margin).

What next?

With no game this weekend following their FA Cup exit, Liverpool are heading to Marbella for a four-day training camp. They return to action in the Premier League when they host West Ham on 24 February (15:00 GMT).

Live Text

Match ends, FC Porto 0, Liverpool 5.

Second Half ends, FC Porto 0, Liverpool 5.

James Milner (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Gonçalo Paciência (FC Porto).

Offside, FC Porto. Majeed Waris tries a through ball, but Gonçalo Paciência is caught offside.

Foul by Andrew Robertson (Liverpool).

Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Sérgio Oliveira (FC Porto) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Héctor Herrera.

Goal! FC Porto 0, Liverpool 5. Sadio Mané (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Danny Ings.

Foul by Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool).

Héctor Herrera (FC Porto) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Sadio Mané (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Andrew Robertson with a cross.

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Gonçalo Paciência (FC Porto).

Substitution, Liverpool. Danny Ings replaces Roberto Firmino.

Substitution, Liverpool. Joseph Gomez replaces Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Foul by James Milner (Liverpool).

Majeed Waris (FC Porto) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) header from the left side of the six yard box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Andrew Robertson with a headed pass.

Substitution, Liverpool. Joel Matip replaces Jordan Henderson.

Substitution, FC Porto. Gonçalo Paciência replaces Tiquinho Soares.

Foul by Roberto Firmino (Liverpool).

Majeed Waris (FC Porto) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Offside, FC Porto. Jesús Manuel Corona tries a through ball, but Alex Telles is caught offside.

Corner, FC Porto. Conceded by Virgil van Dijk.

Attempt blocked. Tiquinho Soares (FC Porto) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Héctor Herrera with a through ball.

Goal! FC Porto 0, Liverpool 4. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by James Milner.

Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Majeed Waris (FC Porto).

Attempt saved. Majeed Waris (FC Porto) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Héctor Herrera.

Corner, FC Porto. Conceded by Dejan Lovren.

Attempt missed. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold with a cross.

Substitution, FC Porto. Majeed Waris replaces Yacine Brahimi.

Attempt missed. Sérgio Oliveira (FC Porto) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

Attempt saved. Moussa Marega (FC Porto) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Tiquinho Soares.

Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Sérgio Oliveira (FC Porto).

Goal! FC Porto 0, Liverpool 3. Sadio Mané (Liverpool) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box to the bottom right corner following a fast break.

Attempt saved. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Mohamed Salah with a through ball.

Foul by James Milner (Liverpool).

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43049300

Ex-football coach Barry Bennell guilty of sex abuse

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 13, 2018 with No Comments
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Ex-football coach Barry Bennell has been found guilty of multiple sex offences against boys in the 1980s.

Liverpool Crown Court heard Bennell had a “power hold” over aspiring players aged between eight and 15 and abused them on an “industrial scale”.

The 64-year-old was convicted of 36 charges against 10 boys, including indecent and serious sexual assaults.

The jury is still considering verdicts on seven counts and will continue their deliberations on Wednesday.

Prosecutors had described Bennell as a “predatory and determined paedophile”.

They compared him to the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, while his victims described his home as a “paradise” for young boys, where they would play games and be given takeaway food.

Boys were abused at his home – where he had arcade games and exotic pets including a puma and a monkey – on trips away, and in his car on the way to and from training.

The youth scout and junior football coach was associated with a number of clubs including Crewe Alexandra, and Manchester City – where he was said to have been treated like “God”.

In his evidence to the court, one victim, Chris Unsworth, said Bennell had raped him “about half a dozen times”.

Image copyright
PA

Image caption

Chris Unsworth told the court he had been abused by Barry Bennell as a child

He was a junior footballer playing for his local club and Bennell at the time worked as a scout for Manchester City.

Bennell was convicted of all five charges against Mr Unsworth, when he was aged between eight and 14.

Three jail terms

Bennell, who is now known as Richard Jones, appeared in court via videolink due to illness.

Image copyright
Julia Quenzler

Image caption

The jury deliberated for four days before returning their verdicts

The jury was told Bennell had previously received three jail sentences in the UK and in the US after being convicted of abusing boys.

He chose not to offer any evidence or witnesses in his defence and had told police he was suffering from cancer, which in turn had caused memory problems.

His barrister accused the complainants of inventing stories about him and “jumping on the bandwagon”.

Media captionThe BBC’s Danny Savage reports on the verdicts

The jury of five men and six women had spent four days deliberating after the five-week trial.

They were considering a total of 48 charges against 11 complainants which Bennell had denied at the start of the proceedings.

He was convicted of 36 charges relating to 10 complainants.

During the trial, the judge had directed them to find him not guilty on three of the charges. Two counts he was found guilty of carried alternative charges – which the jury will no longer be dealing with.

The judge has told the jury he will accept a majority verdict on the seven charges on which they have not yet reached verdicts. Four of these charges relate to an 11th complainant.

Image copyright
Guardian News and Media

Image caption

Bennell worked as a scout at Manchester City. He is pictured above in 1983

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43050466

Man City close in on quarter-finals by putting four past Basel

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 13, 2018 with No Comments
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Ilkay Gundogan has now scored nine goals for Manchester City since joining in June 2016

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola praised “extraordinary” Ilkay Gundogan as his side took a giant step towards the Champions League quarter-finals with a comfortable win at Basel.

City took command of the last-16 first-leg tie within half an hour in Switzerland as Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero all scored within a nine-minute period.

German Gundogan, who returned from a nine-month injury lay-off in September, added his side’s fourth – and his second – 10 minutes after the break.

“Ilkay Gundogan is an extraordinary player. Last season we missed him a lot with injury for six months and that’s why we are so satisfied, not just the quality but personality to play,” Guardiola told BT Sport.

Gundogan put City in front on 14 minutes, heading in Kevin de Bruyne’s corner at the near post.

Four minutes later Silva doubled the lead, cushioning Raheem Sterling’s cross on his chest before firing a volley at Basel keeper Tomas Vaclik, who could only tip the ball into his own net.

Aguero then scored his 29th of the season and his 198th for City in the 23rd minute, whipping a right-footed shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards with Vaclik rooted to the spot.

Gundogan curled City’s fourth into the top corner 10 minutes after the break and was denied a hat-trick by Vaclik, who saved the German’s shot from close range.

The return leg at the Etihad on 7 March should be routine for City, who lead the Premier League by 16 points and face Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final.

Basel waste chances

City enjoyed 74% possession against the reigning Swiss Super League champions and they made a mammoth 868 passes in the game, compared to Basel’s 294.

The visitors were relentless in attack and the scoreline reflected an imperious performance by Guardiola’s side.

But Basel were able to get at the heart of the City defence on a number of occasions.

It was the home side who threatened first with striker Dimitri Oberlin squandering an excellent chance on a counter-attack with only the onrushing keeper Ederson to beat.

Valentin Stocker saw his shot blocked when also through against Ederson, while the Brazilian keeper had to make a finger-tip stop to deny Mohamed Elyounoussi from long range.

The chances kept coming for Oberlin in the second half as he missed a close-range header and saw a free-kick saved by Ederson.

City show strength in depth

At the beginning of February, Guardiola was lamenting City’s injury list and he only named six substitutes for the 1-1 draw at Burnley.

But his bench in Basel showed that the injury crisis is nearing an end as both Leroy Sane and David Silva were named as substitutes.

With the game won, Guardiola was able to give valuable game time to that pair and rest his other stars.

Sane, who had initially been ruled out for six weeks with an ankle injury sustained in City’s FA Cup win over Cardiff on 28 January, came on for Sterling, while Silva made his return from a hip injury as a 62nd-minute replacement for De Bruyne.

In defence, Fabian Delph returned to left-back after missing the last six games with a knee injury, while captain Vincent Kompany played his first Champions League game since May 2016.

This strength in depth will be crucial as the Premier League leaders continue to chase a historic quadruple.

Man of the match – Ilkay Gundogan

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Faced tough competition from the excellent Bernardo Silva, but a two-goal haul on top of an all-round display by the German, who is enjoying a prolonged run in the team for the first time in his City career after overcoming serious knee and back injuries

‘We are almost in the quarter-finals’

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola on BT Sport: “An excellent result. We are almost in the quarter-finals. Champions League is always 180 minutes and we will take the game seriously but it’s an excellent result.

“We are still in February and in the Premier League we are in an amazing position and we are almost in the quarter-finals, we are in one final (Carabao Cup) and on Monday we have the opportunity to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.”

Unbeatable Silva City better last season’s tally – the stats

  • David Silva’s substitute appearance means he has now played more games in all competitions this season than any other player across the top five European Leagues without suffering a single defeat (28 games and no defeats).
  • Since the turn of the year Aguero has scored 14 goals in 11 matches – no player has netted as many across the top five European Leagues in 2018.
  • City have now won 16 of their 21 away matches in all competitions this season, a joint-high across the top five European Leagues matched only by Paris St-Germain.
  • City have won 34 of their 41 matches in all competitions in this campaign, more than in the entirety of last season (won 33 of their 56 games in all competitions during 2016-17).
  • The 4-0 victory over Basel is the biggest away win by an English side in the knockout stage of the Champions League

What’s next?

City travel to League One side Wigan in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday (19:55 GMT), before a trip to Wembley on 25 February to play Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final as Guardiola looks to pick up his first trophy at the club.

Live Text

Match ends, Basel 0, Manchester City 4.

Second Half ends, Basel 0, Manchester City 4.

Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Albian Ajeti (Basel).

Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) is shown the yellow card.

Geoffroy Serey Dié (Basel) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Geoffroy Serey Dié (Basel).

Attempt blocked. Danilo (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Leroy Sané.

Substitution, Manchester City. Danilo replaces Sergio Agüero.

Substitution, Basel. Kevin Bua replaces Mohamed Elyounoussi.

Foul by Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

Dimitri Oberlin (Basel) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt blocked. Leroy Sané (Manchester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Fernandinho.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Fabian Frei.

Offside, Manchester City. David Silva tries a through ball, but Leroy Sané is caught offside.

Attempt missed. Blás Riveros (Basel) left footed shot from long range on the left is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Mohamed Elyounoussi.

Attempt saved. Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Sergio Agüero.

Substitution, Basel. Albian Ajeti replaces Valentin Stocker.

Attempt saved. Dimitri Oberlin (Basel) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

Foul by Bernardo Silva (Manchester City).

Geoffroy Serey Dié (Basel) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt saved. Mohamed Elyounoussi (Basel) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Valentin Stocker.

Attempt missed. Dimitri Oberlin (Basel) header from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Valentin Stocker with a cross.

Attempt missed. David Silva (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Sergio Agüero.

Foul by Leroy Sané (Manchester City).

Geoffroy Serey Dié (Basel) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Manchester City. David Silva replaces Kevin De Bruyne.

Attempt missed. Fernandinho (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Kyle Walker.

Fernandinho (Manchester City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Fernandinho (Manchester City).

Taulant Xhaka (Basel) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Basel. Conceded by Nicolás Otamendi.

Substitution, Manchester City. Leroy Sané replaces Raheem Sterling.

Attempt missed. Dimitri Oberlin (Basel) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Valentin Stocker.

Goal! Basel 0, Manchester City 4. Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Sergio Agüero.

Offside, Manchester City. Bernardo Silva tries a through ball, but Kyle Walker is caught offside.

Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Taulant Xhaka (Basel).

Attempt missed. Valentin Stocker (Basel) header from the right side of the six yard box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Taulant Xhaka with a cross following a corner.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43038304

Spurs fight back for spirited draw at Juventus

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 13, 2018 with No Comments
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Harry Kane has scored seven of Tottenham’s 16 Champions League goals this season

Tottenham produced a brilliant comeback to draw at Juventus after a disastrous start to their Champions League last-16 first leg in Turin.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were 2-0 down inside 10 minutes after Gonzalo Higuain followed up a sumptuous volley with a penalty, awarded for Ben Davies’ foul on Federico Bernardeschi.

Harry Kane started the fightback after rounding Gianluigi Buffon following Deli Alli’s threaded pass and Higuain then missed a penalty for the hosts with the last kick of the first half, following Serge Aurier’s poor challenge on Douglas Costa.

Spurs dominated possession against the Italian champions and got their reward when Christian Eriksen’s low free-kick evaded Buffon to give Spurs the edge going into the second leg at Wembley on 7 March.

Spurs remain unbeaten since 16 December, and Pochettino said: “We are more mature. The team is growing and have stepped up in this aspect. I think the team was amazing in the way they reacted.”

  • Reaction from the Allianz Stadium

Spirited Spurs show European mettle

Pochettino’s side still have work to do to overcome Juve in three weeks’ time.

Yet this performance, on top of wins over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the group stage, provided further evidence that Spurs are continuing to grow in this competition with each game.

Juve had not conceded a goal in 2018 before this match yet Pochettino will be wary his players cannot afford to start the second leg like they did in Italy.

In a pulsating game, Tottenham were a goal behind inside two minutes after Miralem Pjanic’s chipped free-kick caught out the visitors’ defence and Higuain beat Hugo Lloris with a quality finish.

Spurs looked anxious and their evening went from bad to worse when Higuain doubled the lead from the spot after Davies brought down Bernardeschi.

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Gonzalo Higuain scored the fastest brace by a Juventus player in Champions League history

But the Premier League side then produced a comeback that will live long in the memory of their travelling supporters.

First Kane had a header saved from inside the six-yard box by Buffon, but the England striker was not to be denied for long, beating the veteran with a composed finish after Alli’s pass.

Alli headed over when he should have scored before Eriksen was denied by Buffon as Spurs peppered the Juve goal.

The turning point arrived on the stroke of half-time when Higuain hit the bar from the penalty spot.

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Tottenham are the first team to concede two first-half penalties in the Champions League knockout stages since AC Milan in April 2012 against Barcelona.

Lloris produced a fine save from Bernardeschi after the interval but Tottenham got the reward their hard-work deserved when Eriksen scored from a set-piece.

In the end, Spurs had 12 shots – half of them on target – and 67% of possession, while half of Juve’s four shots in the opening 45 minutes were from the penalty spot.

Will Spurs end the season with a trophy?

Tottenham are now unbeaten in 13 league and cup games, as the business end of the season looms. As well as the Champions League, they are still in the FA Cup and are chasing a top-four finish in the Premier League.

This gritty display against the two-time champions of Europe will certainly give Spurs momentum going into a crucial spell of games.

“You need some luck always in football,” added Pochettino. “I think in the second half we played much better.

“We deserved the victory more than the draw. It’s so important to recognise and congratulate the players.

“The tie is open. Yes, we have the dream and hope that we can beat them at Wembley.”

Man of the match – Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)

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There were dominant displays from a number of Tottenham players. Mousa Dembele was excellent but Christian Eriksen also caught the eye. He caused the Juve defence all sorts of problems and got his reward with a fine goal

Spurs make history at the Allianz Stadium – the stats

  • Tottenham are the first team to overturn a two-goal deficit at the Allianz Stadium since Juventus moved there in 2011.
  • Juve are unbeaten in their past six Champions League home games against English sides.
  • The Italian club failed to win a Champions League home game after being two or more goals ahead for the only the second time.
  • Before Harry Kane’s goal, Gianluigi Buffon had not conceded a goal for 694 consecutive minutes for Juventus and Italy (last conceding against Sweden in November).
  • Kane has equalled the record for the most goals scored by an English player in a single Champions League season (seven), level with Steven Gerrard in 2008-09.
  • The England international has scored nine goals in nine Champions League appearances – the most of any player after nine games.
  • Dele Alli has provided 19 assists for Kane for club and country.
  • Gonzalo Higuain has scored four goals in his past four Champions League knockout stage games – double the amount in his previous 24 knockout matches.

What’s next?

Tottenham have three games before they host Juventus in the second leg at Wembley. They are at League One Rochdale in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday (16:00 GMT) before their next Premier League game at Crystal Palace on 26 February and a home match with Huddersfield on 3 March.

Live Text

Match ends, Juventus 2, Tottenham Hotspur 2.

Second Half ends, Juventus 2, Tottenham Hotspur 2.

Substitution, Juventus. Kwadwo Asamoah replaces Douglas Costa.

Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Victor Wanyama replaces Christian Eriksen.

Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Lucas Moura replaces Erik Lamela.

Corner, Juventus. Conceded by Jan Vertonghen.

Attempt missed. Medhi Benatia (Juventus) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Miralem Pjanic with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Juventus. Conceded by Jan Vertonghen.

Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Son Heung-Min replaces Dele Alli.

Corner, Juventus. Conceded by Serge Aurier.

Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus).

Foul by Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur).

Stefano Sturaro (Juventus) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt saved. Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Gonzalo Higuaín.

Substitution, Juventus. Stefano Sturaro replaces Mario Mandzukic.

Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Gonzalo Higuaín (Juventus).

Offside, Juventus. Giorgio Chiellini tries a through ball, but Gonzalo Higuaín is caught offside.

Foul by Serge Aurier (Tottenham Hotspur).

Alex Sandro (Juventus) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Goal! Juventus 2, Tottenham Hotspur 2. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur) from a free kick with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.

Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus).

Attempt saved. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Dele Alli.

Corner, Tottenham Hotspur. Conceded by Giorgio Chiellini.

Foul by Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham Hotspur).

Miralem Pjanic (Juventus) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Hand ball by Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur).

Substitution, Juventus. Rodrigo Bentancur replaces Sami Khedira.

Foul by Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham Hotspur).

Gonzalo Higuaín (Juventus) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Alex Sandro (Juventus).

Foul by Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur).

Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Serge Aurier (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Alex Sandro (Juventus).

Corner, Juventus. Conceded by Davinson Sánchez.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43038311

Who is in the same class as Keegan, Dalglish & Barnes? He’s in Garth’s team of the week

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 12, 2018 with No Comments
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Sergio Aguero scored four goals as Premier League leaders Manchester City beat Leicester, while Newcastle surprised Manchester United to move out of the bottom three.

But who shone enough to make my team of the week? Read the thinking behind my team below and have a go at picking your own.

Choose your XI from the shortlist selected by BBC Sport journalists, and share it with your friends.

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.

Goalkeeper – Mat Ryan (Brighton)

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Ryan made one save in Brighton’s 1-1 draw with Stoke, stopping Charlie Adam’s penalty

What a penalty save by Mat Ryan. Charlie Adam struck it well, but a strong hand from the Brighton keeper delivered the Seagulls a valuable point against a Stoke side in greater need.

Why Jese felt compelled to behave like a spoilt child when denied the chance to take the penalty only served to expose his selfishness. In my view he was lucky to be awarded the spot-kick in the first instance. If Adam is the official penalty-taker then, unless he thinks otherwise, he takes the penalty. Brighton seem devoid of such petulance, but not the kind of heroism portrayed by Ryan.

Defender – Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham)

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Zabaleta had the best passing accuracy of any West Ham player in their 2-0 win over Watford (76%)

Zabaleta’s days at Manchester City are gone, but this seasoned professional still has a lot left in the tank.

Against the much younger Richarlison, Zabaleta had this young pup in his pocket for much of the game. The Argentine was rock solid against a player who has proved to be very dangerous on occasions this season.

Defender – Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

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Van Dijk made the most clearances of any Liverpool player against Southampton (seven)

It has not been an easy baptism for Virgil van Dijk, but he is going to be a big hit at Liverpool, I have no doubt.

To go back to your old club and provide such an assured performance as he did against Southampton speaks volumes about the mental capacity of this accomplished defender.

Defender – Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)

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Vertonghen made nine clearances against Arsenal, four more than any other player

He hasn’t played with his chief accomplice – Toby Alderweireld – for a while, however Jan Vertonghen coped admirably without him against Arsenal.

Of all Spurs’ defenders, and especially in the absence of Alderweireld, Vertonghen has been the most consistent this season.

Nevertheless, Arsenal still had chances to come away from this north London derby with a point and, to be perfectly honest with you, the Gunners blew it.

Midfielder – Jose Izquierdo (Brighton)

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Izquierdo has been directly involved in four of Brighton’s past seven Premier League goals (two goals, two assists)

He’s only gone and done it again. Admittedly his goal against Stoke wasn’t quite as fantastic as his finish against West Ham, but it still left Jack Butland clutching at fresh air.

I had real reservations about the wisdom in Brighton purchasing Izquierdo but he looks like he’s starting to acclimatise to life in the Premier League and he certainly has the talent.

Brighton now look odds-on to stay up. However, I hope they don’t just become perennial survivors. It’s a great place to go and watch a football match. On the odd occasion I do go, I notice their fans are capable of creating a great atmosphere. What I don’t understand is why they don’t chant Chris Hughton’s name during their games more. I really don’t get it. If fans don’t chant the manager’s name every now and then, how do you think he feels?

Midfielder – Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton)

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Sigurdsson has been involved in seven goals in his past six Premier League starts against Crystal Palace – he has scored three and assisted four goals

Everton boss Sam Allardyce made his feelings known about his side’s performance against Arsenal last week. They were in a very different mood against Crystal Palace. Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t play against the Gunners but the Iceland international pulled Palace apart with the support of Wayne Rooney.

Allardyce appreciates Goodison Park is a fortress for the team, and just as well because Everton’s away form this season has been abysmal.

However, what Allardyce has done is get Sigurdsson playing again. With a little bit of luck, the Everton boss might make a captain out of him. If Allardyce can accomplish that, Everton will have produced something quite special in Sigurdsson, and I dare say their away form might improve as well.

Midfielder – Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)

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De Bruyne became just the third City player to assist three goals in a single Premier League game (after Stephen Ireland and Samir Nasri)

Three assists simply don’t tell the whole story of Kevin de Bruyne’s contribution for Manchester City against Leicester.

Every generation is blessed with one midfield genius, and De Bruyne is one of the main reasons City already have one hand on the Premier League title.

The quality of his passes into the penalty area for Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero were quite frightening. Well, Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel found all of them terrifying.

Midfielder – Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)

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Arnautovic has had a hand in 10 goals in his past nine Premier League games for West Ham (seven goals three assists)

All players want to be liked, and Marko Arnautovic is no different.

Fans tend not to like Arnautovic because he has the ability to embarrass the opposition. Arnautovic is moody, unpredictable, passionate and exciting all at the same time. Some of that we witnessed against Watford, and to top it all he can, on any given day, cause the opposition great embarrassment. Ask former Stoke boss Mark Hughes.

Forward – Harry Kane (Tottenham)

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Kane became just the second player to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances against Arsenal, after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

There can be no doubt about the quality of Harry Kane’s headed finish for Tottenham’s winning goal against Arsenal.

Kane’s ability to retain possession in tight situations and bring his team-mates into the picture was also quite outstanding. Add in his overall work-rate for the team and his goals-per-game ratio and you are left asking yourself: can Spurs really expect to keep this player without winning a trophy in return?

It is therefore incumbent on chairman Daniel Levy to bring in the players who don’t merely flirt with the Premier League title but can actually win it.

Spurs have clearly demonstrated in the past two weeks against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal that they can compete with the best. They now have to start winning trophies. The FA Cup would be a good start but to keep the teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and – dare I say it – Manchester United at bay, particularly in light of a rapidly fading Romelu Lukaku, Spurs must start winning the titles and preferably next season.

Kane deserves nothing less.

Forward – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

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Aguero scored in seven consecutive matches at Etihad Stadium for the first time in his career

If this man does not win Footballer of the Year then there is something very wrong with the way we reward our best players.

Granted we have De Bruyne to consider, and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, and of course Kane will feature in the final line-up. But none of the aforementioned have been as consistent over the past five years as Sergio Aguero.

To think the Argentine’s exploits in the Premier League have never been officially recognised either by his fellow players or the football writers. Whenever there are debates about genuine world-class strikers in the Premier League, the one name that is undisputed is Aguero. And it’s about time the game acknowledged it.

Forward – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

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Salah has been involved in 29 Premier League goals this season (22 goals, seven assists), three more than any other player

There is just no stopping Mo Salah at the moment. He made Liverpool’s first goal against Southampton and scored the second, and that was before half-time. He looks imperious in that Liverpool strip.

I’ve seen Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and John Barnes generate extraordinary hysteria at Anfield and it looks like Salah is in that class. I’m not sure who is enjoying his performances more, the player or the Liverpool fans.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43027007

I struggle to get Chelsea signings, says Conte

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Antonio Conte’s deal at Chelsea is due to run until the summer of 2019

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte admits that he is “a bit of a disaster” when it comes to convincing the club’s board to sign new players.

The Premier League champions failed to make any big signings in the January transfer window.

And the 48-year-old Italian says he needs to be more persuasive.

“I have to speak more with the managers who are very, very good at persuading their clubs to spend money to buy top players,” he said.

“I think I’m a bit of a disaster to convince the club to buy players. I think in this aspect I can improve a lot.

“I have to learn a lot from the other coaches, the other managers, in that aspect.”

Conte said in January that he was “happy” at Chelsea, playing down reports that his relationship with owner Roman Abramovich had become strained.

Abramovich was reportedly angry that the Italian had said he did not choose the club’s signings this season.

Chelsea are facing a fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League after winning one of their past five Premier League matches.

They go into Monday’s game against West Brom in fifth place, two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and 22 adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Striker Alexis Sanchez and defender Virgin van Dijk were both linked with the club recently before going to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.

But Conte said he can still get the best out of his squad.

“My task is to try and improve every single player, in every aspect – in terms of their mentality also. For this, I’m very good,” he said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43029762