Sheffield Shock Manchester United

Rock-bottom Sheffield United put a huge dent in Manchester United’s Premier League title hopes on Wednesday, beating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s off-key side 2-1 at Old Trafford. United knew they had to respond after Manchester City leapfrogged them at the summit with a 5-0 hammering of West Brom on Tuesday but they were well short of their best on a frustrating night. Kean Bryan gave the visitors a shock first-half lead that former Blades defender Harry Maguire cancelled out, only for Oliver Burke’s heavily deflected strike to seal a first away win against Manchester United since 1973. The result leaves United on 40 points — one behind City — but Pep Guardiola’s side now have a game in hand and are looking increasingly likely to win a third title in four seasons. Solskjaer told BT Sport the “magic was missing” from his side, who slipped to their first league defeat since November 1, and said the referee had made two mistakes. “They defended well, fair play to them but we didn’t have the right ideas or solutions,” said the Norwegian. “The first goal is a foul, Billy Sharp runs into David de Gea. At the other end, no foul for the disallowed goal for us but it’s that kind of season. Two mistakes by the referee.” Even in such an unpredictable season, this result stood out as one of the biggest shocks of the campaign. Before the match Sheffield United had just five points to show from 19 games — the worst haul in Premier League history — and had not beaten the Red Devils since 1993. Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford flashed an early shot narrowly wide but they were short of ideas against the battling away team. The Blades broke the deadlock midway through the first half when Bryan rose to glance home John Fleck’s corner after De Gea failed to punch clear. Billy Sharp appeared to nudge the Spanish goalkeeper from behind but the goal was allowed to stand. Manchester United[…]

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BREAKING: Chelsea Fire Coach Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard has been sacked by Chelsea football club. The announcement was made by the football club on its Twitter page. It reads: “Chelsea Football Club has today parted company with Head Coach Frank Lampard.” The ex-Chelsea player joined the English Premier League club coach in 2019, after the sack of Maurizio Sarri. Lampard 41, signed a three-year deal in July 2019. Reports at the time suggested the deal was worth £5.5m a year. The English club owner, Roman Abramovich, said the decision was tough, but insisted it was the best for the struggling club. He said, “We are grateful to Frank for what he has achieved in his time as Head Coach of the Club. However, recent results and performances have not met the Club’s expectations, leaving the Club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement. “There can never be a good time to part ways with a club legend such as Frank, but after lengthy deliberation and consideration it was decided a change is needed now to give the Club time to improve performances and results this season.” “This was a very difficult decision for the Club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him’. Ibramovich said the sacked coach was of high integrity and has the highest of work ethics, but under current circumstances the club needed to change managers. He said, “On behalf of everyone at the Club, the Board and personally, I would like to thank Frank for his work as Head Coach and wish him every success in the future. He is an important icon of this great club and his status here remains undiminished. He will always be warmly welcomed back at Stamford Bridge.”

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Liverpool’s Home Unbeaten Run Ended

Liverpool’s run of 68 Premier League games without defeat at Anfield came to an end following a shock 1-0 defeat to Burnley. Burnley become the first team to beat Liverpool in the Premier League at Anfield since Crystal Palace in April 2017 as a result. The reigning champions, so successful in recent years with their attacking prowess, have now gone four Premier League games in a row without scoring. They are now six points behind leaders Manchester United at the half-way stage and may even have to start looking over their shoulders in the race for the top four. Jurgen Klopp shuffled his options around, dropping Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino to the bench while Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri started alongside Sadio Mane in attack instead. Liverpool had a couple of chances via corners early on, but almost had a nervous moment when Alisson was caught off his line but he managed to save Ashley Barnes’ instinctive effort. There was a golden opportunity for Liverpool to end their long wait for a goal when Origi got in behind and ran through one-on-one with Pope. However, in a moment that summed up Liverpool’s plight at the moment, he struck the ball with too much power and it hit the bar. Klopp sent Firmino and Salah on in the 57th minute with Origi and Oxlade-Chamberlain going off as they looked to break the deadlock. The change almost had an immediate effect. Barely two minutes later, but Pope produced a strong hand to deny Salah from close range. With seven minute remaining in the game Burnley eventually broke the deadlock thanks to Barnes who converted from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Alisson in the box.  

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Ex-Green Eagles’ Goalkeeper, Dead

Joe Erico, former goalkeeper and assistant coach of the Super Eagles, is dead. The outspoken tactician died at age 72 after a brief illness, surrounded by his family. “He passed on this (Thursday) morning after a brief illness. He was sick for about three days. He went to the hospital and returned home yesterday feeling okay, but sadly didn’t wake up this morning,” a source close to the deceased told newsmen. Erico alongside late coach Shuaibu Amodu and late Stephen Keshi qualified the Super Eagles for the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup, but were dismissed before the tournament. Popularly known as Jogo Bonito Exponent, Erico stood between the sticks for Electricity Connectors of Nigeria (ECN) and for Green Eagles of Nigeria in his playing days. Erico was a proponent of Jogo Bonito – an aesthetic football philosophy that is based on the tip-tap playing pattern similar to that of Brazilian Samba. He introduced the style of play in Nigeria in the 90s’ while still the coach of Julius Berger FC aka Adewale Bridge boys.

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Arsenal says goodbye to defender Sokratis

Arsenal announced on Wednesday they had reached an agreement with defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos to cancel the final six months of his contract at the Emirates. Sokratis, 32, last played for the Gunners in March and had not been included in Mikel Arteta’s Premier League squad this season. “Working closely with Sokratis and his team, we have decided to cancel his contract by mutual consent,” Arsenal said in a statement. “This gives Papa the freedom to negotiate a contract with a new club and return to action as soon as possible.” Sokratis joined from Borussia Dortmund in July 2018 as one of former Arsenal boss Unai Emery’s first signings. He made 69 appearances for the club and was part of August’s FA Cup-winning side. His departure is the latest move from Arteta and technical director Edu to streamline a bloated squad during the January transfer window. “On behalf of Mikel, our coaches, players and everyone at the club, I would like to thank Papa for his contribution to the club,” said Edu. “He has been an important part of our group and has been a model professional throughout. The negotiations to end his contract have been collaborative and we wish Papa and his family well for the future.” William Saliba and Sead Kolasinac have been moved out on loan deals to Nice and Schalke respectively. Mesut Ozil’s seven-and-a-half year stay is also set to come to an end as the German international has arrived in Turkey to complete a move to Fenerbahce.  

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Ndidi shines as Leicester beats Chelsea

Wilfred Ndidi grabbed a sixth-minute opener as Leicester moved top of the Premier League by inflicting another damaging 2-0 defeat on Chelsea on Tuesday, to leave manager Frank Lampard fighting to remain in charge at Stamford Bridge. A well-worked corner caught Chelsea napping and even after Harvey Barnes failed to connect with Marc Albrighton’s cross, Ndidi smashed in off the inside of the post from just outside the box. The Blues have now won just two of their last eight league games to fall to eighth, nine points behind the leaders. Chelsea were expected to challenge for the title after a £220 million ($298 million) spending spree in the transfer market. Despite the financial gulf between the Foxes and the traditional top six in the English top-flight, as they have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with since Brendan Rodgers took charge nearly two years ago. Lampard left two of his expensive summer arrivals in Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech on the bench, but club-record signing Kai Havertz did return with former Leicester midfielder N’Golo Kante ruled out by injury. Kante was one of the stars of Leicester’s title triumph, but Wilfried Ndidi has proved a worthy successor as a midfield enforcer and got the hosts off to a flying start with a rare goal. James Maddison then fired off the bar and Edouard Mendy tipped another long-range effort from Marc Albrighton over the bar as Leicester dominated the opening half hour. Chelsea showed signs of life when Callum Hudson-Odoi fired into the side-netting and the visitors thought they had won a penalty when Christian Pulisic was upended by Jonny Evans. A VAR review, though, judged the foul had taken place outside the box and within two minutes it was 2-0 thanks to more dire Chelsea defending. Albrighton’s simple long ball forward found Maddison completely unmarked inside the area and the in-form England midfielder slotted home his eighth goal of the season. The margin of defeat could have[…]

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Messi powerless as Juventus breeze past Barcelona

Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice from the penalty spot to win his battle with rival Lionel Messi and guide Juventus to a 3-0 win over Barcelona on Tuesday, earning the Italians top spot in Champions League Group G. The former Real Madrid striker and his Argentina counterpart traded Ballon d’Or wins for a decade between 2008-2017 and were figureheads for the duelling Spanish giants, but there was only one winner at the Camp Nou as they met for the first time since Ronaldo’s departure for Juve in 2018. Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus lost 2-0 at home against Barcelona in October without Ronaldo, sidelined with Covid-19, but were greatly improved and earned the first Champions League away win against Barcelona since Bayern Munich triumphed in 2013. Both sides, tied on 15 points, were assured of qualification before kick-off, but Juve’s three-goal victory handed them a superior head-to-head record. Ronald Koeman, reeling from Barcelona’s 2-1 defeat by promoted minors Cadiz on Saturday in La Liga, reacted by making four changes but the hosts started badly. It only took 13 minutes for Ronaldo to break the deadlock, slotting home from the penalty spot after the referee deemed Ronald Araujo’s challenge on him a foul. Juventus did not relent and their pressure led to a second goal, US midfielder Weston Mckenzie volleying home Juan Cuadrado’s sweetly clipped cross in the 20th minute. The Catalans and their captain Messi finally woke from their slumber, as the attacker had one effort blocked by Matthijs de Ligt and another saved by veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, while Pjanic lashed over the bar. Ronaldo notched his second from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute after Clement Lenglet handled clumsily in the area, as the hosts imploded. Antoine Griezmann, who was invisible in the first half, grazed the crossbar with a looping header from a Messi free kick, and Buffon beat out another effort, with De Ligt’s pressure enough to stop Martin Braithwaite converting the rebound. Leonardo Bonucci had a fourth[…]

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Nine teams reach last 16,

Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland, Juventus’ Álvaro Morata, and Marcus Rashford of Manchester United are 2020/21 UEFA Champions League joint top scorers with six goals apiece. Haaland had been out in front with six goals from four games, but did not feature in Dortmund’s 1-1 draw with Lazio on Matchday 5. Morata and Rashford, meanwhile, added a goal each to their tallies to join the young Norwegian at the top of the pile. Olivier Giroud is in a chasing pack of two players who are one adrift after scoring all the goals in Chelsea’s 4-0 win at Sevilla. UEFA Champions League leading scorers after Wednesday’s matches: 6 goals: Morata (Juventus), Haaland (Dortmund), Rashford (Manchester United) 5 goals: Berisha (Salzburg), Giroud (Chelsea), Plea (Borussia Moenchengladbach) 4 goals: Immobile (Lazio), Jota (Liverpool), Lukaku (Inter Milan) 3 goals: Braithwaite (Barcelona), Coman (Bayern Munich), Dembele (Barcelona), Felix (Atletico Madrid), Fernandes (Manchester United), Kahveci (Istanbul Basaksehir), Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Messi (Barcelona), An. Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Neymar (Paris SG), Oliveira (Porto), Torres (Manchester City), Werner (Chelsea), Zapata (Atalanta) UEFA Champions League last-16 qualifiers Nine teams have qualified for the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League last 16 after Wednesday’s matches: Barcelona Bayern Munich Borussia Dortmund Chelsea Juventus Liverpool Manchester City Porto Sevilla  

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Lukaku shoots Inter to victory

Inter Milan Striker Romelu Lukaku kept Inter’s Champions League hopes alive on Tuesday, scoring two second-half goals to seal a dramatic 3-2 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach in their  group game. Lukaku’s double gave Inter their first victory in the Champions League this season in a rollercoaster game, blowing Group B wide open ahead of the final round of group matches next week. Gladbach still sit on top of the group after Shakhtar Donetsk beat Real Madrid 2-0 earlier on Tuesday, but they are now just three points ahead of bottom side Inter. With just a single point separating the top three sides, all four teams still have a chance to qualify next week. In need of a win at all costs, Inter set up to hit Gladbach on the break, with Matteo Darmian causing early trouble for the German defence on the right wing It was Darmian who gave Inter the lead on 17 minutes, nutmegging goalkeeper Yann Sommer from a sharp angle after a neat passing move between Lukaku and Roberto Gagliardini. Alassane Plea equalised for Gladbach on the stroke of half-time, heading in a pinpoint cross from Inter loanee Valentino Lazaro. With Inter unsettled by the equaliser, Marcus Thuram almost headed the hosts in front shortly after the break. Yet the Italians hit back, with Lautaro Martinez hitting the post before Lukaku restored the lead. Having been stifled by the Gladbach defence for much of the game Lukaku finally found space to shoot on 65 minutes, and sent a low strike whistling past Sommer. The Belgian doubled the lead seven minutes later, slotting home Achraf Hakimi’s cross at the end of a clinically executed counter-attack. Gladbach hit back equally clinically, Plea squeezing the ball past Samir Handanovic on the break just two minutes after the restart. The Frenchman found the net again seven minutes from time, but the goal was disallowed for offside after Breel Ebomlo was ruled to have blocked the goalkeeper’s view. With the group now poised[…]

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