Barcelona lose at home to Real Betis

Barcelona lost a home league match for the first time in two years as the Spanish champions were beaten by Real Betis's expert display at the Nou Camp.

Junior Firpo gave Betis a deserved lead after 20 minutes, before veteran Joaquin made it two before the break.

Lionel Messi scored a penalty in reply but a Marc-Andre ter Stegen error saw Giovani lo Celso add a third for Betis.

Arturo Vidal's tap-in gave Barca hope, but Sergio Canales got the away side's fourth, before a Messi consolation.

Ernesto Valverde's side remain at the top of La Liga, one point ahead of Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Alaves.

The hosts had Ivan Rakitic sent off for a second yellow card with eight minutes left when trailing 3-2 and were powerless to match a determined and clinical Betis side, despite Messi's two goals on his return from a fractured arm suffered three weeks ago.

Barca's previous home league defeat came on 10 September 2016, when they lost 2-1 to Alaves.

Betis had lost on their past eight visits to the Nou Camp and had not won there for more than 20 years.

But they came away with three points that lifts them up to 12th in the table courtesy of an impressive display built on adventurous counter-attacking and smart play in possession.

Quique Setien's side went into this game having scored only eight goals in 11 matches, the lowest return in La Liga.

Here they mustered eight shots on goal to Barca's five and scored from half of those.

Ter Stegen did let a Lo Celso strike slip through his gloves immediately after Messi had scored Barca's first from the penalty spot, which slowed the home side's momentum.

But nothing should be taken away from Betis, who more than deserved this victory which keeps Barca's rivals for the title within touching distance.

Source: bbc.com

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Super Cup: Atletico beat Read Madrid

Real Madrid began life without Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane with defeat in the first ever Uefa Super Cup derby as Atletico Madrid scored twice in extra time.

Two excellent late goals from Koke and Saul sealed victory for Atletico after the game ended 2-2 in normal time.

It was Real's first match since Ronaldo signed for Juventus for £99m in the summer and Zidane was replaced as manager by former Spain coach Julen Lopetegui.

Koke's smart finish and Saul's sensational 16-yard volley in extra time helped Europa League holders Atletico win their third Super Cup in as many appearances.

Diego Costa also scored twice in normal time, thumping in the opener after 49 seconds and tapping in another after the interval.

Gareth Bale had set up Karim Benzema with a header at the back post for Real's first and captain Sergio Ramos slotted home a penalty for a 2-1 lead after Juanfran was penalised for handball.

Full-back Marcelo squandered an excellent chance to score the winner for Real with an overhead kick in the final seconds of normal time as back-to-back Champions League winners Real were looking to become the first side to win three Super Cups in successive seasons.

It was the fourth time in the past five years that the Super Cup was contested by two Spanish sides - but the first with both teams from the same city.

Gareth BaleGareth BaleGareth BaleGareth Bale

While Real Madrid are adjusting to life without Ronaldo, it was Atletico who provided the late heroics familiarly associated with their recently departed striker.

The club's failure to sign a direct replacement as of yet will remain a concern for fans following this defeat but there was still plenty of encouragement in Real's remaining attacking options.

Marco Asensio and Bale are two players who will hope to benefit from Ronaldo's exit and both started on opposite flanks, often switching and cutting inside to link-up with Benzema.

Bale's pace and pinpoint cross from the right teed up Benzema's equalising goal and the Welshman's fizzing strike had Jan Oblak scrambling in the first half.

Asensio came close to scoring too when his audacious flick was superbly parried by the Slovenian keeper before a bending effort bounced wide of the right post.

And Benzema seemed to embrace taking a lead role in the centre of attack - his goal capping off a strong performance.

Leaky at the back - the best of the stats

  • Atletico Madrid are the first Europa League winners to go on to win the Uefa Super Cup since they did so against Chelsea in 2012.
  • Real Madrid conceded four or more goals in a game for the first time since November 2015 against Barcelona in La Liga under Rafael Benitez - never doing so under Zidane.
  • Lopetegui is the first Real Madrid manager to concede four or more goals in his first competitive game in charge since Michael Keeping against Celta Vigo in February 1948.
  • Costa's opening goal for Atletico Madrid in the first minute of play is the fastest goal ever to be scored in the UEFA Super Cup (0:49).
  • He scored his first brace in club competition since returning to Atletico Madrid, last doing so for Chelsea against Southampton in the Premier League in April 2017.
  • Real Madrid's Benzema scored against Atletico Madrid for the first time since October 2015 in a La Liga match - he had gone eight games without finding the net against them.
  • Ramos has now scored five goals against Atletico Madrid - only against Sevilla (six) has he scored more for Real Madrid. All five goals were scored in cup competitions.

Source: bbc.com

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The Rockets Couldn’t Stop the Inevitable

Houston pushed Golden State to the brink in Game 7. But in the end, the Warriors are moving on to the NBA Finals yet again.

“We’re right there,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told his team during a timeout taken three and a half minutes into the fourth quarter of a Western Conference finals Game 7 that hit nearly every single beat we’ve come to expect from Golden State and Houston. He shrugged his shoulders; his team had just missed its 25th consecutive 3-point attempt, a new ignominious NBA playoff record. “We’re right there. Right?

In D’Antoni’s West Virginian drawl, that last word was stretched and pulled in strange directions, sounding like an affirmative as much as a question. Televised huddles are an exercise in intentional banality, but it was a revealing portrait of D’Antoni in the latest ever-the-bridesmaid moment of his career, a 101-92 loss that eliminated him one series shy of the Finals for the third time since 2005. That right? might’ve been the closest we’ll get to seeing D’Antoni express a crisis of faith. In that moment, he became a statistic; the Warriors inevitably draw out that sense of doubt in every series they play.

The improbability of the Warriors’ endeavors in the first two seasons of their dynasty has been eroded by time. The narrative foundation of Golden State games has shifted from an anticipation of the journey to the unbending reality of the Warriors’ ultimate destination. That’s a stark change in how we process the rhythm of their games. Watching the Warriors is almost like watching basketball via one of Sam Hinkie’s strange ruminations: Why do we watch basketball games front to back? Why not watch games back to front, or out of order? Until it ends with a win, Warriors games are out of order.

The narrative beats that the Warriors instill over the course of 48 minutes can be both overbearing and oddly comforting, like a drawn-out will-they-won’t-they arc in a sitcom (yes, of course they will). Golden State puts the league in a constant state of déjà vu: A Rockets 15-point first-half lead in Game 7 only serves as fodder for the unyielding torrent to come in the third quarter, because that’s exactly what happened in Game 6. After Monday’s series clincher, Golden State over the course of the postseason has outscored opponents by a rate of 33.1 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter. Maybe it’s because those 15 minutes of halftime allow Draymond Green a chance to catch his breath and process all of the in-game adjustments that need to be made; maybe Steve Kerr puts on his own halftime show of motivational clipboard-chopping; maybe it’s just the masochism that develops with those in a position of power. Or maybe it’s as obvious as the Warriors make the sport: “Our talent took over,” Kerr said after the game. “I mean, it’s as simple as that.”

Steph Curry acknowledged a calmness in the locker room during halftime, despite the pressures of being down double-digits in an away game that could very well decide the future champion of the league and the moves made thereafter. His third-quarter eruption came and went like clockwork: Curry had 14 points in the frame, which included a two-minute stretch in which he scored 11 consecutive points for the team. It’s become something of a Curry signature: an offensive kick-start that restores order and reestablishes the values that the Warriors have built their team around for the past half-decade, notably the notion that Steph can turn himself into magma at a moment’s notice.

“We weren’t too worried, believe it or not,” Klay Thompson said after the game. Why would they be? More than any other team in the league (and possibly trailing only one player in the league), the Warriors control the narrative that surrounds both them and the teams they face. Which is why the most interesting and overwrought story of the Warriors’ season thus far is what, exactly, Kevin Durant means to this team, just as the early monotony of the 2000s Lakers dynasty was girded by the alpha tensions between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. It’s the only narrative in the Warriors universe that seems to have real-time stakes: Durant’s first half was the type of uninspired effort that keeps Warriors fans at an arm’s length in their support for him, although, just like the team as a whole, his performance evened itself out by the end. The 30-footer he drilled in James Harden’s face early in the fourth quarter to stunt a Rockets run was a soul-reaving gut punch, and exactly the kind of shot one might point to as an example of the Warriors’ tedious dominion:

We may be headed to a fourth consecutive Finals matchup between Golden State and Cleveland, but there has been a sense of optimism among the most prominent challengers to the throne. “I think we’re very close, obviously,” D’Antoni said after the game. “You know, some things we’ll tweak and we’ll get back on the horse and we’ll get these guys here pretty soon.” This wasn’t a sprint to the Finals the way last year was; both the Warriors and Cavs had grueling conference finals, and they’ll show each other their battle scars soon enough. Time isn’t done wearing away at what, from the surface, looks to be an infinite loop. There are costs to long-term greatness; how each side’s fatigue manifests is the most interesting subplot of the rivalry since the 2016 playoffs.

“Sometimes after you’ve reached a championship or two, the players who were key players might want something different—something more,” Cheryl Reeve, head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, winners of four WNBA championships since 2011, told The New York Times. “So how does that change the balance that made you so good in the first place? That’s why it’s so hard to repeat, because of change. Life happens to people.”

Massive changes are afoot as soon as the NBA Finals are over. So much of what we know about the league could be altered irrevocably. Cavs-Warriors IV could serve as a capstone to one of the most important sagas in this boom era of NBA history. For now, I’m willing to wade in the familiarity one more time. Golden State feels just as inevitable as it ever has during this dizzying four-year run, which is exactly why it could all change sooner than we think. Nothing gold can stay. Not even these Warriors. Right?

Source: www.theringer.com

 

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Victory Through Versatility: LeBron Can Reach the Finals With Any Supporting Cast

Another Game 7, another virtuoso performance from LeBron James. With an eighth straight trip to the Finals secured, it’s clear: His adaptability is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

LeBron James found a way on Sunday, just like he always does. By leading Cleveland to an 87-79 win over Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron punched his ticket to his eighth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. No player since Bill Russell with the 1960s Celtics had been to four or more Finals in a row. LeBron has now done that for two separate franchises, with vastly different supporting casts. He’s the most versatile player in basketball history, adapting his game to maximize his teammates, regardless of who they are or what they can do. That ability has been on full display throughout this year’s playoffs, as an undermanned Cavaliers team has shapeshifted around LeBron in each series to advance.

Cleveland leaned on its defense to get past the Celtics. Kevin Love, the Cavs’ only reliable source of offense other than LeBron, went down in the opening minutes of Game 6 and didn’t play in Game 7 while in concussion protocol. There was no way for this team to beat Boston in a shootout without Love, so it didn’t try. Head coach Tyronn Lue stressed defense with every rotation decision. He started a lineup that had played only 24 minutes in the series prior to Game 7, surrounding LeBron with four veterans (J.R. Smith, Jeff Green, Tristan Thompson, and George Hill) who could switch screens, defend multiple positions, and hold up in single coverage without help.

Boston had no answer for that lineup, which registered a net rating of plus-23.3 over 53 minutes in the conference finals. Without the injured Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics have relied on a democratic offense that ruthlessly attacked the weakest link on the opposing defense. Their problem in Game 7 was there simply weren’t many weak links to attack. Lue cut his rotation to eight, with his worst defenders (Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson) coming in off the bench. Boston immediately went at them when they were on the court, so Lue played them only a combined 35 minutes. He played his starters for 205 of a possible 240 minutes, and he never took LeBron out of the game.

Boston couldn’t create any offensive momentum. Al Horford and Jayson Tatum had moments of brilliance attacking switches, but neither could sustain them for long enough to force the Cavs to send help and get their teammates open shots. The Celtics shot only 7-for-39 (17.9 percent) from 3. No one in their supporting cast was able to create offense, as Jaylen Brown (5-for-18), Terry Rozier (2-for-14), Marcus Smart (1-for-10), and Marcus Morris (5-for-14) spent the game bricking shots off the dribble.

The downside for Cleveland in starting all of its best defenders came on the other end of the floor. The Cavs didn’t have much 3-point shooting with Love in street clothes and Korver getting spot minutes, allowing Boston to pack the paint and send multiple defenders at LeBron. The Cavaliers shot 9-for-35 (25.7 percent) from beyond the arc, and LeBron had three of their makes. He didn’t have much space to operate, which makes his statistical brilliance (35 points on 12-for-24 shooting, 15 rebounds, and nine assists) all the more staggering. Give LeBron an inch and he’ll take a mile, lowering his shoulder and powering his way to the rim.

The only other Cavalier to get much going offensively Sunday was Green, who had 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting to go with eight rebounds. He has long been a punching bag around the NBA for his inconsistency, but came up big in the biggest game of his life, running into easy baskets, confidently attacking closeouts, and finishing over smaller defenders. Green did just enough to get LeBron some rest while he stayed on the court. Cleveland had only two other players (Smith and Thompson) in double figures, and almost all of their production came from LeBron spoon-feeding them open looks.

This probably isn’t a formula that can work over the long haul. Even LeBron can’t play this much over the course of an entire series. He tried to play all 48 minutes in Game 7 of Cleveland’s first-round matchup against Indiana, and his body couldn’t handle it. His defense on Sunday was hit-or-miss, as he lost Brown several times and couldn’t get as much lift in his legs as he needed, most notably when Tatum dunked on him on a drive in the fourth quarter. The good news for the Cavs is they have other formulas to which they can turn. That gets back to the shapeshifting: The way Cleveland beat the Celtics was very different than the way it beat the Raptors and Pacers.

The Cavs overwhelmed Toronto in the second round with their offense. Cleveland recorded a 121.5 offensive rating and 110.1 defensive rating in that series, as opposed to a 102.7 offensive rating and 102.1 defensive rating against Boston. Lue went with more offensive-minded players en route to a four-game sweep in Round 2, flanking LeBron with four 3-point shooters and blowing the Raptors off the floor. Toronto never found an answer for the two-man game between Love and Korver, and didn’t have enough offensive firepower to punish those two on defense.

Against Indiana, Lue found the middle ground in emphasizing offense and defense. It took him several games to figure out which of his newly acquired players could be trusted in a playoff environment, and he tinkered with his starting lineup several times against the Pacers before opting to go with the veterans LeBron trusted (Thompson, Love, Korver, and Hill) in Game 7. Cleveland has now employed a different starting lineup in each of its three closeout games in these playoffs. Lue catches a lot of flak for his simplistic offense and tendency to overthink rotation decisions, but he’s also flexible and unafraid to experiment, valuable traits for a coach whose star player is as uncommonly versatile as LeBron.

Lue and LeBron are constantly probing the Cavs’ opponents over the course of a postseason series, looking for weak spots to attack while shoring up weak spots of their own. The playoffs are all about matchups, and Cleveland is uniquely positioned to create and exploit mismatches because it can restructure its identity around LeBron. He is a basketball genius who can figure out exactly what his team needs in a given series, and then adjust his game to provide it. That’s one reason he has been so remarkable in closeout games in his career. Play a team enough in a short amount of time and he’ll figure out a way to defeat it.

Versatility is LeBron’s defining trait, especially in comparison to his fellow all-time greats. He’s not as explosive a scorer as Michael Jordan, and he’s not as good a passer as Magic Johnson. He isn’t as dominant defensively as Bill Russell, and he’s not as unguardable in the post as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. What’s so incredible about LeBron is that he’s almost as good as all of those players in each of their strongest categories. None of the others could have succeeded on as many different types of teams as LeBron. James doesn’t have a position: He can play all five at a high level on both sides of the ball. Almost any combination of players can work around him. The past eight years are proof of that.

While LeBron’s 3-5 record in the Finals is often held up as a knock against him, his carrying those teams to the Finals represents a more impressive accomplishment. Cleveland will be a massive underdog against either Golden State or Houston in this year’s Finals, but that doesn’t make his work dragging the Cavs through the first three rounds of the playoffs any less impressive. What LeBron has done in 2018 goes right up there with what he did in 2007, when he led a team whose second-best player was Larry Hughes to the Finals. The same line of thinking applies to 2015, when he brought a team that started Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov to Game 6 of the Finals.

LeBron may not end up reaching Jordan’s mark of six NBA titles, but his eight consecutive Finals appearances will be just as difficult a mark for any future player to match. The sheer willpower and endurance necessary to make that happen in the modern NBA is mind-boggling. Only four teams have made four straight Finals in the past 50 years: the Showtime Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, LeBron’s Heat, and LeBron’s Cavaliers. (The Warriors will join that group if they beat the Rockets on Monday.) LeBron has played in 164 playoff games over the past eight seasons, the equivalent of two entire regular seasons (with two extra games thrown in for good measure). Most players would break down physically under that strain. LeBron has never suffered a serious injury.

LeBron shouldn’t be this good after 15 seasons in the league. He’s already played more career minutes than Jordan, even counting MJ’s two seasons with the Wizards. LeBron has dedicated his life to basketball, and he’s helped it reach new heights of global popularity. He’s not just the face of a franchise. He’s the face of an entire sport. That goes hand in hand his being in the Finals every year, no matter who he’s playing with.

LeBron can’t always win in the Finals once he gets there, but he doesn’t leave any points (or rebounds, or assists …) on the board. He uses his versatility to get the most out of his supporting cast, and Lue will shuffle pieces around him until something clicks. A team with LeBron James always has a chance.

Source: www.theringer.com

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"We're here to win" - Morocco 2026 World Cup bid CEO

The chief executive of Morocco's 2026 World Cup bid, Hicham El Amrani, says his country is not bidding "for a communications stunt", but for victory.

On Friday, Morocco must hand a bid book to Fifa outlining their plans for the tournament - as must the rival joint bid from Canada/Mexico/United States.

"We are not here for a communications stunt - we are here to win," El Amrani told BBC Sport.

Morocco are making their fifth bid to host the tournament.

They have previously campaigned for the right to organise the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions.

Earlier this month, Morocco outlined the compact nature of its bid, in contrast to its rival's plans to span an entire continent.

The bidders have until 1600 GMT on Friday to hand over their bid books, which will detail their plans to host the tournament - ranging from stadiums, training venues, hotels, transport to the environmental impact.

Following the delivery of the bid books, a Task Force representing football's governing body will decide whether the bids are up to standard.

Should any bid fail on a certain aspect, the bid can be eliminated.

"We need to convince not only the congress, (but also) the technical team of Fifa," El Amrani said.

If both bids succeed in impressing the Task Force, the remaining 207 member associations of Fifa will cast their vote for who will host the 2026 finals in Russia on 13 June.

The 2026 World Cup will be the first to feature 48 teams after Fifa chose to expand the tournament last year.

"You cannot bid for such a tournament, especially one that's been increased to 48 teams, without careful consideration - it is not a light decision," El Amrani, the former secretary-general of African football's ruling body Caf, added.

"As you can imagine, in our kingdom, that's a decision supported by His Majesty the King so it makes sense to us to go for this World Cup."

"I don't think we need to highlight the passion that we have for the game so for us, (bidding) combines all the important factors and provides joy and pride to our country."

The sole previous occasion that Africa hosted the World Cup was when the tournament was staged in South Africa in 2010.

El Amrani believes both his country and continent are ready to host football's flagship event once again.

"We want to celebrate the world and receive people in our country, showcase the beauty of our country, its diversity and also boost the social, economic and human development of our country and the continent."

On Thursday the rival bid, from USA, Canada and Mexico, revealed that there are 23 potential host cities within their bid, including NewYork/New Jersey, Los Angeles, Toronto and Mexico City.

Seventeen of the cities are in the United States and three each are in Canada and Mexico.

Source: bbc.com

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Manchester United: Jose Mourinho says £300m spend not enough

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho said the £300m he has spent on his squad so far is "not enough", after their 2-2 draw with Burnley on Tuesday.

Jesse Lingard scored a late equaliser but United are 12 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.

"We are in the second year of trying to rebuild a football team that you know is not one of the best teams in the world," said Mourinho.

He added: "Manchester City buy full-backs for the price of strikers."

Mourinho was appointed United boss in May 2016 and broke the world record that summer to sign £89m midfielder Paul Pogba. He also recruited £30m defender Eric Bailly, and midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan for £26.3m.

This year, United spent £75m on striker Romelu Lukaku, as well as £31m on defender Victor Lindelof and £40m for midfielder Nemanja Matic.

Title rivals City, meanwhile, bought three defenders - Kyle Walker from Tottenham for an initial £45m, Benjamin Mendy from Monaco for £52m and Danilo from Real Madrid for £26.5m - as part of a summer outlay that topped £200m.

"[Spending £300m] is not enough," said Mourinho. "The price for the big clubs is different than for the other clubs. The big historical clubs are normally punished in the market because of that history.

"The boys are doing what they can and they are doing fine."

Mourinho was asked if eight points from the past five games was good enough for a club like United.

In his response he cited Italian giants AC Milan, who sit 11th in Serie A, and European champions Real Madrid, fourth in La Liga and 14 points behind leaders Barcelona.

"When you tell a club like Man Utd, do you think Milan is not as big as us? You think Real Madrid are not as big as we are?" said Mourinho.

"I know what a big club is. One thing is a big club and another thing is a big football team. They are two different things.

"When you speak about responsibilities to win the Premier League, Tottenham doesn't have that responsibility because they are not a club with the same history as us.

"Arsenal don't have the responsibility to win it. Chelsea don't have the responsibility to win it. When you speak about big football clubs, you are speaking about the history of the club."

Source: bbc.com

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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

http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/onesport/cps/624/cpsprodpb/1548/production/_89884450_getimage-4.png

"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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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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