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» What 'determined' Ousmane Dembele is doing to ensure he's fit to face Man Utd
The Barcelona star is one of a handful of players not on international duty this week
» Man Utd transfer news: Samuel Umtiti sends clear message amid Old Trafford links
The French defender was speaking on international duty ahead of the World champions facing Iceland on Monday
» Arsenal transfer news: Gunners 'move for Newcastle man' with family club link
With Petr Cech retiring in the summer, Arsenal are likely to be on the lookout for a new goalkeeper
» Arsenal transfer news: Gunners 'make serious approach' for exciting Ligue 1 star
Arsenal are reportedly going head-to-head with Borussia Dortmund for the son of a World Cup winner
» Rio Ferdinand tells Gareth Southgate to add Arsenal starlet to England squad
The former Manchester United defender also says that Manchester City's Phil Foden should get the call from the Three Lions boss
» Romelu Lukaku reveals who is the fastest player in Man Utd squad
The Belgian forward is one of many quick players on the books at Old Trafford, but who would win in a race?
» Sadio Mane transfer talk makes front page news in Spain to worry Liverpool fans
The Senegalese attacker is on a remarkable run of form, scoring 11 goals in his last 11 games
» Jamie Carragher reveals what he hopes will happen to Man City in title race
The former Liverpool defender was speaking after playing in the club's Legends game against AC Milan
» Virgil van Dijk cites "difficulties" in Netherlands' qualifier defeat to Germany
The Liverpool defender lamented his side's first half display in Amsterdam
» Jose Mourinho reveals honest thoughts on Zinedine Zidane's return to Real Madrid
The Portuguese had also been linked with a return to club he managed between 2010 and 2013
» Gary McAllister 'hospitalised after unprovoked street attack in Leeds'
The former Liverpool midfielder was reportedly set upon by a yob after going for dinner with his wife
» Kick It Out facing survival fight as Premier League prepare own group
EXCLUSIVE: The Premier League are setting up No Room For Racism - their own anti-discrimination group
» Tottenham ready to reignite interest for Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish
The Villa star almost joined Spurs for £25million last summer and will rejoin the battle with West Ham and Bournemouth
» Tottenham and England star Dele Alli reveals biggest target for rest of season
The Spurs midfielder is fit again and ready to fight for Euro 2020 qualification, Nations League finals and Champions League for club and country
» Jordan Henderson sets himself personal target for 50th England appearance
The Liverpool skipper is set to bring up his half century for the Three Lions during Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro
» Gareth Southgate provides Jadon Sancho fitness update ahead of Montenegro clash
The Borussia Dortmund wonder kid complained of muscle tightness after an impressive performance against Czech Republic
» Gareth Southgate makes massive claim about Raheem Sterling's England future
The Man City winger has been promoted to the Three Lions' "leadership group" for the Euro 2020 qualifiers
» Gareth Southgate fires warning to England stars ahead of Montenegro qualifier
The Three Lions take on Balkan nation on Monday night having started their Euro 2020 campaign with victory over Czech Republic
» Football needs Kick It Out's independence and fire to hold authorities to account
The Premier League are setting up their own 'No Room For Racism' to start likely demise of anti-discrimination group Kick It Out
» Callum Hudson-Odoi insists he isn't "impatient” despite stalling Chelsea contract
The Chelsea ace made his England debut against Czech Republic on Friday but is yet to make his full Premier League bow
» Jose Mourinho reveals the "unbuyable" star who is world's most valuable player
Kylian Mbappe was the world's most expensive teenager when he signed for PSG - and his stock has risen further
» James Milner reveals how he has spent the international break
The Liverpool midfielder has had time off to prepare for the Reds next match with Tottenham on March 31
» Dejan Lovren hands Liverpool huge boost in Premier League title race
The Croatian defender has been out of action since January with a hamstring injury
» Arsenal fans slam Arsene Wenger as Serge Gnabry scores stunner for Germany
The Bayern Munich winger left the Gunners for just £5million in 2016 - and fans have not forgiven Wenger
From

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Other sport news:

» England ready to deal with fiery atmosphere in Montenegro

• Gareth Southgate asks for player discipline under pressure
• ‘It will be intense and passionate; this is part of their education’

Gareth Southgate has warned his England players of the hostile environment awaiting them in Montenegro as they seek to extend a pristine start to their Euro 2020 qualification campaign.

England’s two previous visits to the 15,000 capacity Podgorica City Stadium have been marked by ugly incidents on and off the pitch. Wayne Rooney was sent off for retaliation against Miodrag Dzudovic in 2011 and Southgate was present six years ago when the goalkeeper Joe Hart was pelted with cigarette lighters, pens and bottles. Ashley Cole was spat at while taking a throw-in during that 1-1 draw, smoke bombs and flares were set off in the stands and home fans fought among themselves.

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» Intimacy, awe and a salute to Gazza: Spurs throw open doors to new home

Mauricio Pochettino gazed on as the first event at his club’s new stadium revealed a sporting arena to take the breath away

One word: Wow. Tottenham fans have had to wait for the delivery of their new stadium – goodness knows, they have had to wait. The delays have scarred the season, creating an unsettling limbo and driving Mauricio Pochettino to distraction. But on a sunny spring afternoon, when the club’s under-18s took on their Southampton counterparts to become the first players to grace the turf, the frustration seemed to melt away. Suddenly it all felt worth it.

Wow. Every supporter in attendance seemed to be wearing the same childlike expression – eyes widening in amazement, lost in wonder – when they entered the bowl. The hum of appreciation provided the soundtrack to what was the first of two test events the club must stage in order to be granted their safety certificate.

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» Germany come through against Netherlands with late Nico Schulz goal

Nico Schulz scored a late winner as a new-look Germany side snatched a 3-2 win away to the Netherlands in their opening Euro 2020 Group C qualifier on Sunday.

Germany seemed well set for victory after a superb first half produced goals for Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry to give Joachim Löw an unexpected fillip as he seeks to restore the flagging fortunes of the 2014 world champions.

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» Josh Magennis strikes late for Northern Ireland to beat Belarus

The best moments in football are so blissfully straightforward as to appear in slow motion. Windsor Park roared in a style now customary under Michael O’Neill with a late winner which owed everything to simplicity. Stuart Dallas found Paddy McNair on the right and the subsequent cross was tapped home from all of four yards by Josh Magennis, who had also started the incisive move.

Make that six points out of six for O’Neill from their first two qualifiers. They deserved this success, with the score a misrepresentation of a game Northern Ireland dominated.

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» Croatia beaten by Hungary, Hazard on target as Belgium win in Cyprus

The World Cup finalists Croatia continued their shaky start to qualifying with a 2-1 defeat by Hungary. They had taken an early lead in Budapest through Ante Rebic after 13 minutes but lacked defensive organisation and allowed Adam Szalai to draw Hungary level 20 minutes later, before Mate Patkai scored the winner for Hungary from a corner in the 76th minute. The result means Croatia are fourth on goal difference in Group E, which includes Wales, after their 2-1 home win over Azerbaijan on Saturday.

Related: Josh Magennis strikes late for Northern Ireland to beat Belarus

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» Alex McLeish admits Scotland must ‘kick on’ after nervy win over San Marino

Alex McLeish admits Scotland have to improve and overcome the negativity surrounding their Euro 2020 campaign after a nervy win over San Marino.

Scotland got off to the start they craved after a shock opening defeat in Kazakhstan when Kenny McLean scored inside four minutes but the tempo tailed off and slackness grew. Some of the almost 3,000 away supporters subsequently chanted against the Scottish Football Association.

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» Beth Mead at the double as Arsenal thrash Liverpool in WSL

Two goals from Beth Mead helped take Arsenal to the top of the Women’s Super League table, where they now lead Manchester City by a point with a game in hand.

City have only three games left to play so, if Arsenal can take maximum points from their next three games – against Birmingham, Everton and Brighton – they could already have ended their seven-year wait for a title by the time their Manchester rivals turn up for a supposed showdown on the last day of the season.

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» Wales up and running after Daniel James’ early strike sinks Slovakia

It was anything but convincing and there were plenty of anxious moments for Wales to endure on an afternoon when Slovakia will wonder how they failed to score but all that matters for Ryan Giggs and his players right now is that their qualification campaign is up and running with a victory. Daniel James provided the game’s defining moment when he enhanced his burgeoning reputation by marking his first competitive start for Wales with an early goal.

The 21-year-old was the outstanding player on the pitch and it was a wonderful piece of opportunism that led to that crucial breakthrough as James picked the pocket of Peter Pekarik, the Slovakia right-back, who must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when Giggs withdrew the Swansea City winger with a little under 20 minutes remaining.

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» Goals and good feeling: inside Tottenham's new stadium

The club’s long-awaited 62,000-seater home finally opened with a game between Spurs’s Under-18s and their Southampton counterparts

Goodbye White Hart Lane

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» Callum Hudson-Odoi unfazed at making big step up for England
The winger already feels at home in a squad where talented young players are turning convention on its head

Steven Gerrard tells a story in his first autobiography, published in 2006, that illustrates just what an overwhelming experience it can be for a young player to join up with his country for the first time.

Gerrard was 19 when Kevin Keegan selected him to train with England for the friendly against Argentina in February 2000. By then the midfielder was an established member of Liverpool’s team but he still felt incredibly anxious about properly meeting the likes of Alan Shearer, Tony Adams and David Beckham, so much so that having pulled up at Burnham Beeches, England’s training base, Gerrard immediately went up to his hotel room and refused to come down. “I phoned Jamie Redknapp, who was with the squad,” the now 38-year-old wrote in his book. “‘Jamie,’ I pleaded, ‘I’m upstairs shitting myself. Come and get me, please’.”

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» England must contend with harsh memories when facing Montenegro
Gareth Southgate’s team should be ready for hostility in their European Championship Qualifying match at Gradski Stadion where Wayne Rooney was sent off in 2011

Gradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.

The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.

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» Jadon Sancho toasts Raheem Sterling’s example to England youngsters
• ‘I’m just happy to share a pitch with Raheem,’ says Sancho
• Gareth Southgate praises Borussia Dortmund teenager

Amid the smiles that followed England’s beautiful dissection of the Czech Republic on Friday night, few were bigger than Jadon Sancho’s when asked whether Raheem Sterling was now one of the daddies of the team. “Yeah,” the 18-year-old replied, his face lighting up as he began his eulogy. “His numbers are crazy this year, and he’s showing all the youngsters what it’s about. I’m just happy that I’m sharing a pitch with him.”

Not so long ago it would have been unusual for a 24-year-old such as Sterling to be regarded as an elder statesman. Then again, in Gareth Southgate’s new England all sorts of staid conventions are being joyously ripped up. The Manchester City forward has the second-highest number of caps in the squad with 48 – just one behind Jordan Henderson – and nine players have fewer than 10 appearances. Increasingly, the emphasis is on youthful dash and dare.

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» Euro 2020 qualifying roundup: Spain, Italy and Swiss start with wins
• Sergio Ramos scores Panenka in Spain’s 2-1 win over Norway
• Italy beat Finland 2-0; Sweden defeat Romania 2-1

The Spain captain Sergio Ramos scored another Panenka penalty to give his side a 2-1 home win over Norway in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier but it was a far from convincing display from Luis Enrique’s side. Spain made a slick start and took the lead at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium when Rodrigo Moreno volleyed in Jordi Alba’s cross from close range in the 16th minute and continued to dominate proceedings without carving out many clear chances.

Norway, who had done little in attack, levelled in the 65th minute with a perfectly taken penalty from striker Josh King after Iñigo Martínez had hauled Bjørn Johnsen to the floor. Spain earned a spot-kick of their own six minutes later when Álvaro Morata was tripped by Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein. Ramos took it and chipped the ball down the middle to score his fifth Panenka of the season and the eighth of his career.

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» Football League: Luton extend unbeaten run as Portsmouth go third

• Marcus Rashford watches pal Williams at Shrewsbury
• Lincoln stretch out lead at top of League Two

Table-topping Luton Town took another step towards the Championship after breezing past Doncaster to preserve the longest unbeaten league run in England’s top four tiers. The substitute Luke Berry capped a 4-0 win at Kenilworth Road.

Mick Harford’s side, who have not tasted defeat for 26 matches, since slipping up at second-placed Barnsley in October, remain five points clear at the summit.

Portsmouth jumped into third above Sunderland – who return to action in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley next Sunday – after Brett Pitman sealed victory for Kenny Jackett’s side at Shrewsbury. Among the crowd at New Meadow was Marcus Rashford, with the Manchester United and England striker lending his support to the defender Ro-Shaun Williams, who is on loan from Old Trafford.

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» Jeff Hendrick gives Republic of Ireland narrow win over stubborn Gibraltar
• Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland (Hendrick 49)
• McCarthy off to winning start despite tricky conditions

Jeff Hendrick handed Mick McCarthy a winning start to his second spell in charge as the Republic of Ireland launched their Euro 2020 campaign with a narrow victory in Gibraltar. Hendrick’s first international goal since September 2016 ultimately settled a tight encounter fought out on a plastic pitch in swirling winds at the Victoria Stadium in front of the man who famously took the nation to the 2002 World Cup finals.

However, there was an ill wind blowing in from Dublin as the controversial FAI chief executive, John Delaney, stepped aside from his role, 10 days before he was due to appear before an parliamentary committee over a €100,000 loan provided to the governing body. Delaney will remain in the association he has led since 2005 in a new role of executive vice-president. Rea Walshe, who was promoted to the role of chief operation officer a month ago, was named interim chief executive.

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» England 5-0 Czech Republic ratings: Who caught the eye at Wembley

Raheem Sterling stole the show but Harry Kane and Ben Chilwell also impressed in England’s first qualifier for Euro 2020

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» Euro 2020 qualifiers: France turn on the style but Portugal held to draw

• Pogba and Griezmann show class in 4-1 defeat of Moldova
• Ronaldo unable to inspire Portugal to win against Ukraine

France turned on the style in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier, winning 4-1 in Moldova. Goals from Antoine Griezmann, Raphaël Varane, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappé made it a comfortable victory for the world champions, with Vladimir Ambros scoring for the home side.

Paul Pogba’s exquisite ball over the top was volleyed home from close range by Griezmann, who turned provider three minutes later as his corner was headed home at the near post by Varane.

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» Premier League fans assess the run-in. Part 1: Arsenal to Huddersfield

Fans rate the season so far, and predict what lies ahead
Part 2: Leicester to Wolves

Considering we were 10 points behind Spurs a couple of weeks back, with many starting to question Emery’s ability, a combination of faltering competition and an upturn in form has suddenly made for a surprisingly positive mood. Now there’s a chance to not just achieve a top-four finish, but also to restore the natural order in north London.

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» Premier League fans assess the run-in. Part 2: Leicester to Wolves

Fans rate the season so far, and predict what lies ahead
• Part 1: Arsenal to Huddersfield

The mood has really lifted around here in the few weeks since Brendan Rodgers arrived. After months of grim, sluggish football, the Foxes are starting to rediscover their swagger again. It might all be too little too late for this season but the longer-term future is looking bright again.

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» Mauricio Pochettino finds cooked-up pressures a little hot to handle | Andrew Anthony
The Tottenham manager is not the first to mishandle rumours of departure but the Argentinian has made a series of missteps since being linked with Manchester United

There is a species of well-known quotes that fulfils such a useful function that it’s convenient to overlook whether or not they were actually said. Although there is no official record of it, Harold Macmillan is often cited as saying: “Events, dear boy, events,” apparently in response to a question about what blows governments off course.

Well, obviously it’s events – nonevents are unlikely to do it. But the meaning taken from the quote is unpredictable events or those one can do nothing to prevent. They are the kind that really knock you sideways.

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» Catch them while you can: Messi and Ronaldo will not be around for ever

Seeing a great player in person has an elemental magic – make it a must to see these two in their prime

To a 70s kid the sense of awe even to meet anyone who had seen Pelé or Eusébio or Johan Cruyff play was overwhelming. Just imagine that … watching such players in the flesh … in front of their own eyes. Some people of my parents’ generation had attended the 1966 World Cup in England, so every now and again a football conversation would turn in the direction of the greats and these lucky souls would not be able to contain their welling satisfaction as they piped up: “I saw Pelé play.”

It was jaw-dropping stuff. For us kids Pelé’s legend mainly existed in books and magazines, short clips on a football programme every now and again, or a montage every four years when it was World Cup time. The mystique about his genius shimmered in a particular way because so much was left to our imagination. Names like Garrincha, Puskas, Di Stéfano somehow felt more fantastical than real.

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» Harry Maguire votes for Raheem Sterling and bright future for England

Leicester defender says Sterling has been the best player in the Premier League and is excited for the Nations League finals

Harry Maguire has seen enough, both in training and on the pitch. It is the time of year when footballers choose their player of the season and the Leicester and England defender’s vote has already been cast. “I went for Raheem Sterling,” Maguire says in a break between England training sessions.

“He’s been the best player in the Premier League. He’s scoring goals, creating goals and believe me he’s a nightmare to play against. I think the poll should take place later, at this stage you don’t know who is going to win the title, but I don’t think I would be changing my mind.

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» Striker storms off pitch in protest at racial abuse in Bolivia – video

Brazilian striker Serginho walked off the pitch after being subjected to monkey chants during a Bolivian Primera División match between Jorge Wilstermann and Blooming. “We all endure certain things, but I reached my limit,” he said of the protest. “God created just one race: the human race”

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» 'Devastating' Sterling has become England leader, says Southgate – video

Gareth Southgate heaped praise on Raheem Sterling after the forward's hat-trick helped England to a 5-0 demolition of Czech Republic in their first Euro 2020 qualifying match. Sterling has come 'full circle' since his early struggles as an England player,  becoming a role-model for younger members in the squad, Southgate added

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» Time-lapse footage reveals completion of Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium – video

The three-year construction of Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium is revealed in a time-lapse video released by the club. The £1bn stadium will be officially unveiled on Sunday, before Spurs play their first match at their new home on 3 April against Crystal Palace.

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» Gareth Southgate defends Declan Rice over apparent pro-IRA posts – video

England manager Gareth Southgate has defended Declan Rice over social media posts from 2015 which showed apparent support for the IRA. Southgate pointed out that Rice had been 15 or 16 at the time and that most people have 'discussed things, said things, written things that might not look in the way we would want them several years later'.

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» Violence and teargas forces Panathinaikos v Olympiakos derby to be abandoned – video

Panathinaikos' match at home to Olympiakos was abandoned on Sunday after fans were seen attacking players on the visiting team's bench and clashing with police outside their Olympic Stadium.

The violence began four minutes after the Athens derby kicked off and the match was stopped for about eight minutes. The unrest erupted again after Olympiakos scored the only goal of the match in the 53rd minute.

Teargas was seen wafting onto the pitch - affecting players and fans. 

The referee abandoned the match in the 70th minute and Olympiakos were awarded the victory. Panathinaikos face a possible points deduction and a fine.

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» 'Nothing is decided': Jürgen Klopp praises Liverpool's nervy win at Fulham – video

Jûrgen Klopp has said Liverpool’s 2-1 victory at Fulham was ‘an average game, sensational result.’ The Reds needed a James Milner penalty to beat the London club, who remain in 19th place in the table.

Klopp’s side lead the Premier League table heading into the international break after moving two points clear of Manchester City, who have a game in hand.

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» Mary Fowler returns to Matildas squad for pre-World Cup test in US
  • 16-year-old gets chance to impress Ante Milicic
  • Uncapped Teagan Micah and Elizabeth Ralston included

Teenage talent Mary Fowler has been convinced to give the Matildas another shot, with the 16-year-old a headline inclusion by Ante Milicic in his 23-woman squad to take on world champions USA.

Fowler – who walked away from national team duty under previous coach Alen Stajcic – will next month travel to Colorado along with two uncapped players, as Milicic mulls his World Cup squad.

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» Adelaide United midfielder Ken Ilsø banned after positive cocaine test
  • Danish player awaits results of B test
  • Club treating matter with the ‘utmost seriousness’

Adelaide United midfielder Ken Ilsø has been provisionally suspended by Football Federation under its anti-doping policy.

FFA confirmed the player returned a positive A-sample for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, in January this year and is now under investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

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» Adrien Rabiot: the golden boy who became PSG’s French football outcast | Ed Aarons
Midfielder should be a force at his club but a contract stand-off and off-pitch behaviour have led to him being frozen out

“It’s not that I’m hiding away,” insisted Adrien Rabiot on French television last week. “I am available to the club. If I could play, I would. I’ve always been a club man …”

Some in the French capital may beg to differ. Last week, three months after his most recent appearance for Paris Saint-Germain, the elegant midfielder with the trademark frizzy hair was handed a two-week suspension for what PSG described as “major faults” in his conduct – namely being pictured at a nightclub hours after the defeat by Manchester United and ‘liking’ a tweet from Patrice Evra which celebrated the club’s surprise exit. In this era of social media obsession, what greater crime could there be?

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» Brent Sancho: ‘I told Peter Crouch, in Trinidad they absolutely hate you’
Before Trinidad and Tobago face Wales their former defender recalls a ‘bodily assault’ by Crouch at the 2006 World Cup

A globetrotting playing career took Brent Sancho from Portland to Priestfield, Ross County to Rochester Rhinos but, speaking to the former Trinidad and Tobago defender, there really is only one place to start: that unforgettable night in Nuremberg at the 2006 World Cup.

For 82 minutes Sancho and Dennis Lawrence, now the manager of the Caribbean nation, had held firm against Sven-Göran Eriksson’s England, until Peter Crouch pulled on Sancho’s dreadlocks for leverage and headed beyond Shaka Hislop. Steven Gerrard sealed victory in stoppage time, by which point Crouch had established himself as public enemy No 1.

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» Oh. My. God. Messi, a hat-trick and a stadium left in suspended animation

The Barça forward was applauded by both sets of fans at Betis – not for scoring three times, but because of how he scored

“Truth is, I don’t remember anything like this,” Lionel Messi said but nor do they and their reaction said more than words, long abandoned as inadequate. There were five minutes left of a perfect performance when he took the shot that transfixed them and then turned them. Not so much hit first time as coaxed, the ball rose softly and curved gently, granting them time to take it in, inviting them to halt everything and watch it orbiting alone, so they did. Only Betis goalkeeper Pau López moved, seeing it float by, just there but just out of reach, everything unfolding like a slow-motion replay from an arty TV director. Only this was live. The ball caressed the bar, landed in the net, and there was a collective intake of breath. And then, instead of a roar, an “oh”.

Oh. My. God.

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» Chattanooga FC: the US club with 2,000 owners around the world

The Tennessee club sold more than $500,000 in shares in a month. They believe they have tapped into a market for fans who want a stake in their team

Stefan Szymanski is a professor of sport management at the University of Michigan, the author of the much-lauded Soccernomics, and a supporter of Detroit City FC of the semi-pro National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). So why has Szymanski, who moved to the United States from Britain eight years ago, invested in an NPSL rival, Chattanooga FC?

The answer lies in shares. Szymanski bought two in the club, at $125 each, so he will be far from a majority owner; in fact, he already has has more than 2,000 partners from 44 US states and 10 countries around the world. Chattanooga FC said they sold more than $500,000 in shares in a month, after they became the first American sports team to sell limited public stock since securities reform laws were passed in 2016.

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» Inter take the Milan derby spoils and leap over rivals in Serie A standings | Paolo Bandini

Defeat was hardly catastrophic for Milan, but they have failed to beat Inter now in any of their last six Serie A meetings

The choreography produced by Milan’s Ultras for Sunday’s derby had been months in the making. As kick-off approached, a colossal depiction of Hellboy was unveiled: stretching from the top of the second tier in San Siro’s Curva Sud all the way down to ground level. The demon crashed his fist on to a pile of skulls, interwoven with an Inter scarf. “Send them to Hell,” read the accompanying slogan.

The banner left on display in the same section at full-time cannot have taken quite so long to prepare: a single word spelled out in letters as tall as your average fan. All it said was: “Shits.”

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» Daring to try – and daring to fail – gives Werder Bremen cause for optimism | Andy Brassell

A stylish victory over Bayer Leverkusen has confirmed that Florian Kohfeldt has given Werder’s fans reason to dream

It was the sort of result that, when it happened, appeared to be a curio but as time has gone past, it looks more and more like a season turning point. When Bayer Leverkusen visited Werder Bremen in late October they were on little more than a hiding-to-nothing. Mired in lower-mid-table and led by an unpopular coach, they were facing a side on the crest of a wave – and one who could, with a victory, have finished the weekend in second place in the Bundesliga.

It didn’t turn out like that. In a rarity amid an uninspired first half of the season under Heiko Herrlich, Leverkusen fired and then some. The 6-2 victory didn’t turn out to be the launchpad for Herrlich to draw the best from his talented team on a regular basis, as a quick glance at Peter Bosz on the Leverkusen bench now will tell you. It was the moment, however, where the air was let out of Werder’s tyres. They won just one more game – against then-struggling Fortuna Düsseldorf – before mid-January.

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» Ligue 1 blows chance to rid itself of 'farmers league' jibe

For the first time since 2011, not a single French club will appear in either the Europa League or Champions League last eight

By Adam White and Eric Devin for Get French Football News

It was not supposed to happen like this for Ligue 1, not with the way things looked a fortnight ago. PSG’s Champions League exit was perhaps down more to controversial circumstances and individual errors than the eliminations of Lyon and Rennes. However, despite the latter two sides having been given little chance in their ties against Barcelona and Arsenal, both entered the return legs in enviable positions, especially given the gulf in resources and reputation between them and their opponents. What followed for the two sides, however, was a pair of abject displays that will do little to dispel the “farmers’ league” trope that has been a millstone around the neck of Ligue 1 in the recent past.

Lyon, after all, had been arguably the surprise package of the Champions League group stage, being one of only two sides to finish unbeaten, and recording two near-unbelievable results against Manchester City. In the first leg, they had ridden their luck (and a poor outing from Luis Suárez) but had their chances in a goalless draw, not only keeping themselves in the tie but also denying the La Liga leaders an away goal.

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» Sponsors queue up behind fans in huge week for women’s football | Eni Aluko
Hot on the heels of more than 60,000 attending a game in Spain, Barclays announced its £10m sponsorship of WSL

With record attendances, multimillion-pound sponsorship deals and global brand announcements, this has been a monumental week for women’s football and I’m excited to be involved in the next historic moment when Juventus face Fiorentina in the first Women’s Serie A match to be held at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

Related: Wanda Metropolitano’s record crowd shows English football the way | Suzanne Wrack

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» Does Scottish football really want to tackle wayward fans? | Ewan Murray

With an upsurge in fan misbehaviour, those in power should tackle this disease rather than concentrate on self-preservation

It was hardly a leap of faith to have envisioned sighs of relief in Scottish football’s high offices this month as chaos reigned at – somewhat poetically – St Andrew’s. Suddenly the patron saint of fan disorder was not a Scottish resident.

Until this season – aside from the odd exception – the biggest embarrassment attached to supporter behaviour in Scotland related to sectarian chanting. Although not exclusive to them, this is the recurring domain of the Old Firm; anti-catholic verse and pro-IRA singing form a depressing backdrop when Rangers and Celtic play away fixtures at Kilmarnock or Hamilton, let alone against each other. That so many of those belting out antiquated anthems could not make a distinction between Derry’s Walls and Niagara Falls adds to the lunacy. They point fingers at each other as the problem persists; clubs themselves are woefully quiet on the matter.

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» Why societal change makes mockery of England’s dual nationality debate | Barney Ronay
Increasing numbers of England players are dual-qualified, requiring a nuanced approach to identity, history and family

What have Declan Rice, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Dele Alli, James Tarkowski and Trent Alexander-Arnold got in common? Aside from carrying the flame of undying hope (until they lose) for Gareth’s brave lions, the answer is that every one of them could have been playing for someone else this weekend.

Related: Trent Alexander-Arnold out of England Euro 2020 qualifiers with injury

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» The Fiver | Humiliation calculated as Kazakhstan = 1978 x (Costa Rica + Uruguay)²

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Shortbread McFiver woke up at 2.59pm on Thursday afternoon. “Oof och ooyah ma heed!” the Fiver’s increasingly unacceptable stereotypical cousin from north of Brexitland yelped. Po’ Shortbread was recovering from an evening during which he’d sunk seven bottles of Fistfight, the 87.32%ABV whisky-flavoured turps beverage, one bottle of turps (87.33%ABV) found at the back of Granny Fiver’s sideboard, and, to keep it all down, 18 piping-hot bowls of Cullen Skink. “Ah well, at least this is the worst I’ll feel all day,” chuckled Shortbread, making the best of a bad lot. Oh Shortbread!

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» Messi, Matty Taylor, Lewis Hamilton and commentators gone wild | Classic YouTube

This week’s roundup also features a wild miss in Germany, scary racing from Southwell and Rustu Recber

1) Why settle for just 50 hat-tricks, when you can score a 51st of this quality? Lionel Messi’s treble last Sunday against Real Betis was concluded by using his left foot as a pitching wedge. Mention must also be made of Luis Suárez’s assists for the second and the goal he scored. But could Messi’s left peg ever match the majesty of Matt Taylor, the former Luton Town, Portsmouth, Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United, Burnley, Northampton Town and latterly Swindon player, who announced his impending retirement last week, and scored some fantastic goals in his time, including this one? OK, but still.

2) Eintracht Braunschweig beat SV Meppen in the Bundesliga 3 last weekend, but only after this spectacular contrivance of misses. That surely makes them a contender for a future edition of Nick Murray Wills’s excellent series of animated Bundesliga commentaries. You’ll find loads more on his YouTube page.

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» David Squires on … the 50th anniversary of Swindon's greatest moment in sport

Our cartoonist on Swindon’s League Cup final win over Arsenal. Yes, more Wiltshire-centric media bias

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» The Dozen: the weekend’s best Premier League and FA Cup photos

Your weekend roundup of the best photography from the FA Cup and Premier League

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» Six Nations deciders, the Rocket's 1,000 centuries and penalty woe | Classic YouTube

This week’s roundup also includes a cheeky Carlisle goal, horses racing all over the place and some heavily accented lip-reading

1) Will Warren Gatland end his Six Nations sojourn with Wales as he began it, with a grand slam? Ireland stand in their way on Saturday, as they did when they visited Cardiff in 2005, when Wales memorably clinched a first title for 12 years. The whole game is here, if you’ve got the time. Wales beat Ireland at the 2011 World Cup too, but Ireland came out on top in 2018, en route to their own slam – and what a classic it was. Should Ireland prevail again this year it would pave the way for England to take the title by beating Scotland, something they achieved when they won the concluding matches in 1980 and at Twickenham in 1995.

2) Best you go your way and I’ll go mine: racing goes seriously freeform with horses peeling off in all directions at this race in France.

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» Football League: Blackpool fans return to celebrate dramatic equaliser
  • Sheffield United keep pace as West Brom, Middlesbrough falter
  • Sunderland snatch late leveller during chaos at Wycombe

The race for automatic promotion thinned out after both Middlesbrough and West Brom dropped points on the top three.

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» Sports quiz of the week: laughter, LeBron, L'Equipe and F1 fastest laps

Who ‘felt flat’ after a big win? Who prepared in style? Who had a dig at Watford?

'I looked over at him a few times and that made me laugh a little' – who said this during the week, and who were they talking about?

Mike Phelan about Neymar

Hatem Ben Arfa about Unai Emery

Kepa Arrizabalaga about Maurizio Sarri

Daniele de Rossi about Eusebio di Francesco

Nick Kyrgios won his first ATP Tour trophy for over a year in Acapulco on Sunday, but how did he prepare for the final?

Getting advice from his friend Andy Murray over the phone

Sitting in a sauna to prepare for extreme heat on court

Spending the afternoon on a jetski

Watching opponent Alexander Zverev's train from under a sombrero

Who was accused of exaggerating the toughness of his upbringing this week?

Anthony Joshua

Ronnie O'Sullivan

Owen Farrell

Dan Evans

Swiss cyclist Nicole Hanselmann built up a big lead in a race on Sunday, but finished 74th. What went wrong?

She suffered multiple punctures and had to jog the last half-mile

She caught up the men's race ahead of her and was held up by officials

She had been going the wrong way and had to turn around

She had to stop for an extended comfort break

LeBron James overtook his idol, Michael Jordan, to become the NBA's fourth-highest points scorer of all time. Who is top of the list?

Kobe Bryant

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Shaquille O'Neal

Karl Malone

Who joined an exclusive club by earning 10/10 from L'Equipe in midweek?

Romelu Lukaku

Hakim Ziyech

Dusan Tadic

Iker Casillas

France head to Dublin in the Six Nations on Sunday, and have a poor recent away record in the competition. Where did they last win a game in Britain or Ireland?

Murrayfield

Croke Park

Etihad Stadium

Stadium:mk

'I feel a bit flat to be honest with you' – who said this after a landmark win this week?

Harry Kane

Virat Kohli

Phil Neville

Nick Kyrgios

Harry Kane will face Southampton on Saturday having scored seven goals in eight Premier League games against them. Who was Kane playing for when he first faced the Saints?

Norwich

Spurs

Millwall

Leyton Orient

Formula One returns next weekend, with the organisers set to introduce what prize for the fastest lap in each race?

A two-place boost up the grid in the next race

A gold helmet to wear in the next race

A bonus point that counts towards the overall standings

£250,000 in cash

8 and above.

Outstanding. Enjoy the rest of your weekend

0 and above.

Unlucky. Enjoy the rest of your weekend

3 and above.

A fair effort. Enjoy the rest of your weekend

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» Golden Goal: Steve McManaman for Liverpool v Celtic (1997)

The midfielder was the Merseyside club’s most consistent attacking threat for a decade and dazzled in Glasgow

If there is a phrase that sums up Steve McManaman’s time at Real Madrid, a four-year spell in which the Spanish club won La Liga and the Champions League twice apiece, it was perhaps the one delivered by an unlikely source. “El socio del todos” – “a partner to everyone on the pitch”– is how Johan Cruyff described the Merseyside-born Madridista, and he meant it neither sarcastically nor begrudgingly.

Cruyff’s assessment was instead genuine and warm-hearted, underlining the understated yet important role the midfielder played in Madrid’s success at the start of the millennium, linking defence to Galácticos attack. This was the era of Raúl, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and the original Ronaldo, and McManaman’s role was to give them the ball as often as possible.

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» Juan Fernando Quintero: a reminder of the glory days of football's No10

The Colombian tore his ACL last weekend. He brings back memories of a time when the game cared less about fitting players into boxes

In recent years, football has attempted to eliminate subjectivity. The rise of VAR is the most obvious example, but we also see players’ movements tracked by GPS and statistics such as expected goals abound. The pure No10 – a player trusted to organize chaos and produce results from the unknown – is a casualty of our era.

Until Sunday, Juan Fernando Quintero was one of the few remaining creators still allowed to work at his own pace. He was at the top of his form last year, lifting River Plate to their fourth Copa Libertadores title. But just before halftime in a 3-0 win over Independiente last weekend, he tore his ACL as he tried to beat the opposing fullback. His career is by no means over but the 26-year-old will likely miss the rest of the season and this summer’s Copa America.

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» The forgotten story of … the striker saved by football in Saddam’s Iraq

Sahib Abbas was locked up, tortured and forced to cope with the state-organised murder of his brother and four friends but thrived in remarkable circumstances

Just as he had done after every game, Sahib Abbas took the journey back to Karbala by bus. This time, however, there was no sign of his brother Fadhil. An amputee who had lost part of a leg during the Gulf War, his hobbling brother liked to quiz Sahib about the result as they made the 200-yard walk home, rejoicing with him when they won and commiserating when they lost. But, four matches into Sahib’s fledgling career with the top-division side Salahaddin, Fadhil was nowhere to be seen.

“They came and took him a week ago,” explained Sahib’s mother when he arrived home. “They” being the security officers. It had been only few months since Saddam Hussein ordered his army to invade neighbouring Kuwait before withdrawing under the pressure of the US-led coalition. President George Bush called on the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam to step down. Along with his two brothers and a group of friends, the teenage Sahib would go out in his father’s Toyota Land Cruiser and attack checkpoints held by the army. But then the government declared a complete victory and Sahib was forced to flee for his life.

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» Champions League quarter-finals: tie-by-tie analysis and verdict
We run the rule over the matches, including Manchester United’s duel with Barcelona, and predict who will triumph

A great opportunity for Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo to take a step closer to the only title that really matters to the club now that they have won seven straight scudetti and are on their way to an eighth.

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» Netherlands v Germany, Northern Ireland Belarus and more Euro 2020 clockwatch - live!

In Amsterdam, a late winner gave Germany a win over Netherlands in a brilliant game, while in Belfast, another late winner edged Northern Ireland past Belarus

There were plenty of matches around tonight - here’s out roundup:

Related: Croatia beaten by Hungary, Hazard on target as Belgium win in Cyprus

It was an exciting night in Amsterdam:

Related: Germany come through against Netherlands with late Nico Schulz goal

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» San Marino 0-2 Scotland: Euro 2020 qualifier – as it happened

Kenny McLean and Johnny Russell scored Scotland’s goals in a wholly unconvincing win over the team ranked lowest in the Fifa rankings

  • Match report: McLean and Russell kickstart campaign

Here’s the report from San Marino:

Related: Johnny Russell adds gloss to Scotland’s uninspiring defeat of San Marino

More McLeish:

It was surprising to see passes going astray. Maybe the result of Kazakstan affected a few people. Getting the second was important.. They thought they were in the game. That put the frighteners on the fans.. they were looking for five or six and we accept that. It’s very important that we won the game, but in the end we should have had four or five. We got a whirlwind start against us. It really set us back and left a few of us shellshocked. We dealt with the second game, if not fantastically, it was professional enough.

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» Wales 1-0 Slovakia: Euro 2020 qualifier – as it happened

Daniel James scored an early winner for a youthful Wales side, who needed Wayne Hennessey to pull off a couple of super second-half stops

Right, that’s all from me. Here’s Stuart James’s report from the Cardiff City Stadium, Bye!

It was anything but convincing and there were plenty of anxious moments for Wales to endure on an afternoon when Slovakia will wonder how on earth they failed to score, but all that matters for Ryan Giggs and his players right now is that their qualification campaign is up and running with a victory. Daniel James, the Swansea City winger, provided the game’s defining moment when he marked his first competitive start for Wales with an early goal.

Ultimately, though, Wales were hugely indebted to Wayne Hennessey for making several excellent second-half saves, with the pick of them being the reflex stop that kept out a header from Michal Duris, the Slovakia substitute. When David Hancko missed his kick from six yards out seconds later it rather summed up Slovakia’s day.

Related: Wales up and running after Daniel James’ early strike sinks Slovakia

Ryan Giggs is happy:

I am proud. It’s not easy. I tried to play it down beforehand, when the other teams played first and got points on the bard, but you do feel the pressure. I am proud. So many outstanding performances and at the end just digging in and getting that clean sheet.

First half we showed real good composure. Second half we rode our luck a little bit, dug in, but first half we could have scored a couple more goals with better decision-making in the final third. I wanted clean sheets and that’s what I got. With the talent we’ve got in the squad, we’re always going to create chances.

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