Man City appeal against European ban registered by Court of Arbitration for Sport

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Manchester City said they are “disappointed but not surprised” by the “prejudicial” decision

Manchester City's appeal against their two-year ban from European club competition has been registered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

The Premier League champions were also fined 30m euros (£25m) for “serious breaches” of Uefa's financial regulations.

City chief executive Ferran Soriano has said the breaches are “simply not true”.

Cas says “it is not possible” to say when the matter will be resolved.

Cas arbitration procedures involve an exchange of written submissions between the parties while a panel of arbitrators is convened to hear the appeal.

The independent adjudicatory chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) said it found City had broken the rules by “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016”, adding that the club “failed to cooperate in the investigation”.

At the time, City said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the “prejudicial” decision and would appeal.

Uefa launched an investigation after German newspaper Der Spiegel published leaked documents in November 2018 alleging City had inflated the value of a sponsorship deal, misleading European football's governing body.

Reports alleged City – who have always denied wrongdoing – deliberately misled Uefa so they could meet financial fair play rules requiring clubs to break even.

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Napoli 1-1 Barcelona: Antoine Griezmann gives Spanish side vital away goal

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Antoine Griezmann's goal was his 14th in all competitions for Barcelona since his £107m move from Atletico Madrid in July

Barcelona grabbed an away goal as they came from behind to draw against Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Italy.

Dries Mertens curled in from 18 yards in the first half to become Napoli's joint top scorer of all-time, level with Marek Hamsik on 121 goals.

But Barcelona equalised after 57 minutes when Antoine Griezmann scored from Nelson Semedo's low cross.

The visitors ended the game with 10 men as Arturo Vidal was sent off late on.

In the 89th minute, he fouled Fabian Ruiz, but then, after the Napoli man reacted, Vidal pushed his head into the midfielder's face and was shown two yellow cards in quick succession.

The return match takes place at the Nou Camp on Wednesday, 18 March, although the Spanish La Liga leaders will also be without suspended midfielder Sergio Busquets as he picked up his third booking of this season's tournament.

It came early in the second half when, with a foot raised, he caught Mertens, who limped off and had to be replaced shortly afterwards.

Barcelona had an injury worry of their own as centre-half Gerard Pique hobbled off in added time at the end of the match with an ankle injury.

Napoli had chances to go into the second leg in Spain with the lead but visiting goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made two fine saves, denying Lorenzo Insigne and then Jose Callejon.

Organised Napoli stifle Barcelona

Barcelona have been European champions five times in their history, but not since 2015 and last year they held a 3-0 lead against Liverpool in the semi-final, but then lost the second leg 4-0.

In an interview last week, Barca captain Lionel Messi dismissed his own team's chances of winning the tournament, saying: “The way we are at the moment, I don't think it's enough to win the Champions League.”

In the opening half in Naples, Barcelona looked well short of a side capable of becoming European champions as they failed to have a single shot on target, frustrated by a well-organised and disciplined Napoli side.

The Italians went ahead when Barca left-back Junior Firpo gifted the ball to Piotr Zielinski and his pass found Mertens, who curled his effort past Ter Stegen.

Kostas Manolas then had a chance to make it 2-0 but shot narrowly wide from Callejon's pass.

This was Napoli's first game in the Champions League since they beat Genk 4-0 to finish second in their group in December – and then sacked boss Carlo Ancelotti three hours later.

Ancelotti became Everton's boss later that month and his replacement, Gennaro Gattuso, lost four of his opening six games in charge, although their form had picked up and they had won their past three matches before this game.

Dries Mertens has scored 121 times in 308 games for Napoli, while it took Marek Hamsik 520 games to register the same number of goals

But Gattuso's side could not claim a fourth successive victory as they conceded in the 57th minute when Griezmann converted Barcelona's first shot on target.

However, the Italians, who now opted for a high-pressing game, came closest to winning the game, but both Insigne and Callejon were denied by excellent saves from Ter Stegen.

Despite having 67% of possession, Barcelona only managed two shots on target and both sides will be confident of advancing into the quarter-finals going into the second leg in three weeks' time.

Napoli's long wait for second knockout win – the stats

  • Barcelona have progressed from each of their last 19 knockout ties in the Champions League after avoiding defeat away from home in the first leg.
  • Since winning their first-ever game in the Champions League knockout stages (3-1 v Chelsea in 2011-12), Napoli have failed to win any of their last four games outside of the group stage (drawn one, lost three), with three of those coming against Spanish opponents.
  • Barcelona have only won one of their previous nine away games in the Champions League knockout stages (drawn three, lost five), with that lone victory coming against Manchester United in April 2019.
  • Gennaro Gattuso and Quique Setien took charge of their first Champions League games tonight – it is the first time in Champions League history that two managers are facing each other in the knockout stages in their first ever games in the competition.
  • Napoli striker Dries Mertens has netted six goals in the Champions League this season; the most by any player for the club in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign.
  • Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann scored his first away Champions League goal since February 2017 (for Atletico Madrid versus Bayer Leverkusen); each of his previous nine strikes in the competition had been scored in home games.
  • Arturo Vidal is the first Barcelona player to be sent off in the Champions League in the knockout stages since April 2011, when Pinto was dismissed against Real Madrid.
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Transfer rumours: Aubameyang, Werner, Sancho, Fuchs, Matic, Xhaka

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Arsenal could be forced to sell Gabon forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if they fail to agree to terms over a new contract, with the 30-year-old's present deal expiring in 2021. (Star)

Former Everton boss Sam Allardyce says he attempted to sign Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund before the striker joined the Gunners. (Talksport)

England winger Jadon Sancho, 19, could remain with Dortmund beyond this season despite being linked with a summer move to Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United. (Ruhr Nachrichten – in German)

RB Leipzig's Germany striker Timo Werner, 23, linked with Liverpool, has an exit clause of 30m euros (£25m) plus a guarantee of performance-related bonuses, rather than £50m as initially believed. (Sport1 – in German)

Leicester City are considering offering Christian Fuchs, 33, a new deal as the Austrian defender approaches the end of his contract. (Mail)

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, 31, is expected to leave when his contract ends this summer, with his agents already assessing options, but AC Milan are not interested due to the Serbian's wage demands. (Calciomercato)

Arsenal's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka, 27, says he feared he would never play for the club again after the rant at supporters that led to him losing the captaincy – and has reservations over whether he would take the job again. (Evening Standard)

Roma and Manchester United remain in talks about making 30-year-old English defender Chris Smalling's season-long loan move to the Italian capital a permanent one. (Star)

Smalling says he has “an interesting decision to make” – staying with Manchester United or moving to Roma permanently. (Sky Sports)

Manchester United are also interested in Juventus' 32-year-old defender Blaise Matuidi, with Arsenal joining the race for the Frenchman. (Calciomercato via Express)

Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is interested in Brazil's Willian, 31, after working with the Chelsea winger when he was manager at Stamford Bridge. (Star)

Everton are targeting Lille's Brazilian defender Gabriel, 22, as they make a centre-half their priority summer signing. (Mirror)

Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is yet to be totally convinced by Brazilian forward Philippe Coutinho. The German club has the option of making the 27-year-old's loan move from Barcelona a permanent transfer at the end of the season. (Bild, via Mail)

The father of Chelsea's Spanish left-back Marcos Alonso, 29, has hinted that his son will return to Italy, having played for Fiorentina before moving to Stamford Bridge. (Calciomercato – in Italian)

Morocco midfielder Hakim Ziyech, 26, says Chelsea manager Frank Lampard played a big role in his decision to move to the Blues from Ajax. (Mail)

Leeds are eyeing four summer deals which could amount to £45m in transfer fees should they gain promotion to the Premier League. (Express)

Arsenal's England Under-21 striker Eddie Nketiah, 20, believes it was his intensity in training that convinced Mikel Arteta to recall him from a loan spell at Leeds and into the first-team squad. (Football.London)

Nketiah has hailed the influence of Alexandre Lacazette and says there are no issues with the 28-year-old France forward, who has been left out of the Arsenal team in recent weeks. (Goal.com)

Manchester United will offer trials to two Polish 16-year-old defenders, Mateusz Lipp, who is a part of the Akademia ‘Ruch' Chorzow academy and has previously been on trial with Arsenal and Sampdoria – plus Radoslaw Sewerys, who plays in the Polish top flight for Korona Kielce. (Express)

Middlesbrough have upped the price for defender Dael Fry, 22, to £25m following interest from Burnley. (Sun via Teesside Gazette)

Paris St-Germain's out-of-favour Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani, 33, said January was a difficult month after being linked with Manchester United, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. (Football.London)

Hollywood actor George Clooney, 58, is in talks to buy Spanish second tier side Malaga FC. (AS)

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Man Utd fans complain of ‘deplorable treatment’ in Bruges

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Manchester United fans in Bruges prior to kick-off

A Manchester United fans group has written an open letter to the mayor of Bruges, complaining of what they call “deplorable treatment” during their trip to the city.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side drew 1-1 with Club Bruges last week in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

Supporters described the trip as “the worst experience of a European away game they'd had for many years”.

“Fans were in genuine fear for their safety,” the letter said.

“We returned home with an impression of Bruges that should shame all those responsible for our safety and security,” the Manchester United Supporters Trust continued.

“We have numerous reports that the police instructed taxi drivers to stay away from the ground and not to pick up Manchester United fans. It was a long walk in horrendous weather conditions from the town to the stadium.”

The letter to mayor Dirk De fauw also questioned the local police's use of water cannons and barbed wire barriers, as well as an apparent refusal to allow supporters to exit the stadium.

“We would be embarrassed if visitors to Manchester were treated as described above – are you not ashamed of the way visitors to your city were treated?” it read. “Poor treatment is one issue but the safety concerns go far beyond that and we will be sending a report to Uefa outlining the issues our supporters have sent to us.”

In the letter, MUST also alleged:

  • fans had been “deliberately sent in the wrong direction on long detours”
  • there was “almost universal hostility from police when they were approached for assistance/directions”
  • exit gates in the stadium were “locked leading to the build up of crowds and the risk of a crush developing”

Manchester United fans are being invited to submit personal accounts of their experiences through the Trust's website.

BBC Sport has contacted the mayor's office for comment.

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Premier League stats: Man City penalty woes & Aubameyang’s goal return

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Manchester City edged closer to equalling an unfortunate record from 12 yards as Kasper Schmeichel denied Sergio Aguero to claim family bragging rights.

Plus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang delivered his Sunday best, Dwight McNeil continues to show plenty of promise and why Diogo Jota puts the consistent in inconsistent.

BBC Sport takes a look at the weekend's key Premier League statistics.

Aubameyang's Sunday best

In a thrilling finale to the weekend's Premier League action, Arsenal ran out 3-2 winners against Everton in a match that could prove a significant result in the race for a European place.

Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was key for the Gunners, scoring twice to make it six goals in his last seven league games and take his Premier League tally to 49 goals in 74 appearances since joining from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

That gives him the joint-highest return during that period, along with Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, and an overall record of 60 goals in 95 Arsenal games.

The Gabon forward already has 17 league goals this season, just five fewer than the 22 which saw him share the golden boot with Salah and team-mate Sadio Mane last season.

Aubameyang continues to make a mockery of his expected goals (xG) total as highlighted above – scoring six more than his chances would suggest he should – and he will be hoping Arsenal's Europa League involvement means the Gunners to play their league games on Sundays.

Following his latest haul, Aubameyang has been directly involved in 38 goals in 38 English top-flight appearances on Sundays, scoring 32 times himself.

That's compared to 17 goals in 36 games that have fallen during the rest of the week.

The vast majority of his total Premier League goals have come from inside the box – with only four of his 49 being fired in from distance.

A clear warning for West Ham then, who must keep him at least 18 yards from goal at to boost their hopes of preventing Aubameyang bringing up his half-century next time out. At least the match is on a Saturday…

Mixed penalty fortunes

Kasper Schmeichel could not prevent Leicester City falling to defeat against their rivals for second place, Manchester City, on Saturday despite his very best efforts.

But, in denying Sergio Aguero from the penalty spot, he did earn family bragging rights by eclipsing his father Peter Schmeichel's tally for Premier League penalty saves.

Kasper's save from Aguero was his fourth in the English top-flight – one more than his dad made in his entire Premier League career.

That makes the Foxes keeper tied fourth for Premier League penalty saves since Leicester's promotion in 2014, with only Simon Mignolet (six), Lukasz Fabianski (six) and Adrian (five) making more in that time.

He remains some way behind the all-time leading number of penalty saves in the competition, which remains safe in the hands of former Manchester City and Portsmouth stopper David James, who made an impressive 13.

The 20 penalties that have evaded Schmeichel in that time mean his save percentage does lag behind others. A special mention for former Hull City goalkeeper Allan McGregor for his perfect record from two penalties faced, and Mignolet for saving almost half the 13 spot-kicks that came his way.

Meanwhile, reigning champions Manchester City are in the midst of a full-blown 12-yard (10.97 metre) crisis.

Pep Guardiola's side have failed to score their last four top-flight spot-kicks and are now closing in on Arsenal's record run of penalty misfortune.

The Gunners missed the first five penalties they ever took in the Premier League, leaving City desperately searching for a hero after Aguero joined Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling in contributing to City's profligacy.

It begs the question, when will goalkeeper Ederson get his shot? “Believe me, he's the best taker we have in penalties,” Guardiola said on Ederson's chances in January.

I think that's something we'd all like to see. Alternatively, Guardiola's side may want to start taking notes from Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes.

With a hop, skip and an ice-cool finish, January signing Fernandes made it 13 successful penalties in a row, extending a run that stretches back to his Udinese days in April 2016.

Fernandes left Sporting Lisbon with a perfect 12/12 record and, with his opener on Sunday, he became the first United player to open their Premier League account from the penalty spot.

McNeil's promise as Burnley chase Europe

There has been much to admire for several seasons about manager Sean Dyche's efforts with Burnley. Youngster Dwight McNeil is the latest of them.

The 20-year-old has been in fine form this campaign for a Clarets side that, with a thumping win over Bournemouth, has recorded the club's highest-ever points tally after 27 Premier League fixtures.

Burnley are now unbeaten in their last five games and sit just four points adrift of fifth place – which currently offers a Champions League spot following Manchester City's European ban.

And, among the Clarets' three-goal show on Saturday, McNeil managed to both score and assist in a Premier League game for the first time in his fledgling career.

But it is perhaps the latest assist that best highlights his ability – as well as future promise.

At 20 years and 92 days, McNeil became the youngest player to reach 10 Premier League assists since Manchester City's Raheem Sterling did so aged 19 years and 335 days for Liverpool in November 2014.

McNeil comes in as the 11th youngest player to achieve the feat, fewer than three months behind Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs (20 years and eight days), who holds the record for most Premier League assists – and slightly under two years older than record-holder Michael Owen.

Keen to catch up, at 18 years and 171 days, Arsenal's Bukayo Saka later became the youngest player to record consecutive Premier League assists since Everton's Francis Jeffers in April 1999.

A wonderful week for Jota

You know the saying about London buses?

Wolves forward Diogo Jota was so close to following his Europa league hat-trick against Espanyol on Thursday with another against Norwich.

He got a further two goals against the Canaries and was inches away from a third as his shot rebounded off the post to allow Raul Jimenez to seal the points for Wolves.

Linked with a £50m bid from Manchester United on Sunday, 23-year-old Jota has eight goals in his last seven home games in all competitions.

He has scored 10 goals in his last 12 appearances for Wolves – yet, while those figures reek of consistency, the opposite is more accurate.

Jota has actually scored in just four of those 12 games, bagging two doubles and two hat-tricks in a true all-or-nothing style.

Indeed, he had gone eight games without a goal prior to Thursday's treble – since scoring five times in two games against Brighton and Besiktas in December.

Sunday's double means he has scored in just three league games so far this season, with a total of five goals arriving in those matches.

Buses, meet Jota.

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Arsenal 3-2 Everton: Aubameyang nets twice as Arsenal beat Everton in thriller

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The most Premier League goals since Aubameyang's debut in the competition – Aubameyang (49), Mohamed Salah (49)

Mikel Arteta's encouraging rebuilding job at Arsenal continued with a thrilling victory over a stubborn Everton, which could have a big say in the race for European football next season.

The Spaniard had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang largely to thank for the result after the striker scored twice, including the winner – taking his personal goals tally to 19 for the season and an impressive 60 in 95 games for the Gunners.

The see-saw game could not have got off to a worse start for Arteta's side, though, as their shambolic defending allowed Dominic Calvert-Lewin to overhead kick Everton into the lead following a Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick after just 49 seconds.

But the Gunners slowly wrestled control of the game away from the visitors, with Eddie Nketiah side-footing a volley home to draw them level from early substitute Bukayo Saka's superb left-wing cross, before Aubameyang slotted them into the lead.

Their progress was again checked when Richarlison capitalised on yet more defensive frailty to poke Everton level just before half-time, but Aubameyang headed the home side back ahead 26 seconds after the break.

Everton had chances to get at least a point, but Calvert-Lewin saw a cross agonisingly elude his slide before firing straight at Leno from close range.

The win means Arsenal remain unbeaten in 2020 and gives them back-to-back league victories for the first time since the opening two matches of the campaign.

Should Manchester City's Champions League ban be upheld, eighth place in the Premier League could be enough to qualify for the Europa League, and the top five could be good enough for Europe's premier club competition. The Gunners are now just two points off Burnley in eighth and four points behind fifth-placed Manchester United.

Everton, who have European aspirations of their own following a run of five games unbeaten prior to this, are 11th but still in the mix, a point worse off than the Gunners.

More to follow.

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Euro 2021: England Women to open tournament at Old Trafford

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England open their European Championship campaign in 500 days

England Women will open the 2021 European Championship on home soil at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium on 7 July.

The announcement comes 500 days before the tournament next summer.

The 76,000-capacity stadium will be one of 10 venues used across the country, while Wembley will host the final.

“It will be amazing,” said England boss Phil Neville, who won six league titles, three FA Cups and a European Cup as a player for Manchester United.

Back-to-back Euro finals will be held at London's Wembley Stadium – the women's is taking place on 1 August 2021 after the final game of the men's Euro 2020 on 12 July.

The BBC has exclusive rights to the tournament and there will be extensive coverage of every game across television, radio and online.

The match at Old Trafford has the potential to break the 41,301 attendance record in the competition, which came in Germany's 1-0 victory over Norway in the 2013 final in Sweden.

“[The planning of the tournament] probably started five or six years ago and [what] we were looking at then was to get as many people as possible into smaller stadiums. Now we're thinking Old Trafford for the first game of the Euros,” said Neville.

“I think we should all be proud of the work that's being done. It is a brave and unbelievably correct decision by the FA to say ‘the game has gone so far so let's take it to a bigger place' and I think it will be one of those occasions you will remember for a long, long time in your career.”

Arsenal and England midfielder Jordan Nobbs added: “It's incredible. The whole tournament is exciting for us. Every time we play at a big stadium, or at Wembley, it's another amazing time for the women's game and for us as players to look forward to.”

Venues to be used for the Women's European Championships in 2021
Bramall Lane, Sheffield New York Stadium, Rotherham
Brentford Community Stadium, London Stadium MK, Milton Keynes
Brighton & Hove Community Stadium, Brighton St Mary's Stadium, Southampton
Leigh Sports Village, Leigh Wembley Stadium, London
Manchester City Academy Stadium, Manchester Old Trafford, Manchester

Neville said he told most of his players the news on Saturday night and hopes it will encourage them to do “12 or 14 reps in the gym instead of 10” because “they know there is a big carrot there”.

The England boss added that he never truly realised the effect Old Trafford had on people until he visited the ground as an opponent during his eight-year career at Everton.

“It was just home. You went there, played football, then came home. My first game with Everton… you're driving to the stadium and the coach is silent. You get there and all the players are looking up and you realise the effect Old Trafford has, the theatre and history of the club.

“We are going to have to handle that. If you want to play for England and be successful, these are the days and the types of occasions that you should be excited about, motivated for and dream about.”

Defender Abbie McManus is the only Manchester United player in the England squad and Neville thinks “it will be the best moment of her life”.

The Women's European Championship officially kicks off in 500 days' time

“What we have to do now is to expose our players to big occasions so when they come to Old Trafford it's just like another occasion – it's like going into your grandmother's front room, having a cup of tea. That's how it should be,” said Neville.

“When we announced we were going to Middlesbrough [for the 2-1 defeat to Brazil in October] I will never forget the North East girls in the squad saying ‘I have to go to that game, we have to stay in this hotel, there's a Pizza Hut over the road!'

“There is a genuine excitement for them to get to a venue and Old Trafford will be one of those that they will be thinking now will be special.”

England finished fourth at the World Cup in France last year and reached the semi-finals of the European Championship in the Netherlands in 2017.

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Frank Lampard: Giovani Lo Celso ‘leg breaker’ tackle on Cesar Azpilicueta a red card

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says Giovani Lo Celso's tackle was a ‘clear red card'

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said Tottenham's Giovani Lo Celso should have been awarded a red card by the video assistant referee for his “leg breaker” tackle on Cesar Azpilicueta and the decision leaves “another huge question mark over VAR”.

“I hate to call for red cards but that is a leg breaker of a tackle,” Lampard said after Chelsea's 2-1 win over Spurs.

“Referees have such a difficult job and VAR was brought in to help them, that is just so wrong today.”

The incident between Lo Celso and Azpilicueta happened after 52 minutes, with the Tottenham midfielder appearing to stand on the Chelsea full-back's shin.

After a long review, VAR decided the offence didn't warrant a sending off and Jose Mourinho's side remained at full strength.

Lampard added: “This one didn't need a monitor. It is a clear human decision – straight to Stockley Park, red card, game goes on but that one was wrong.”

Final Score's Garth Crooks and Leon Osman react to Giovani Lo Celso's controversial tackle

Azpilicueta shared his manager's surprise Lo Celso was not made to leave the field for the dangerous challenge.

“I'm not a player that likes to be on the floor because I'm tough,” said Azpilicueta. “But it was not my fault because it was a clear stamp on my shin, I felt it straight away.

“I was surprised it was not a red card, not even a yellow card. Obviously everybody makes mistakes but when you have a lot of replays it could be easier.”

Tottenham boss Mourinho, however, had little to say on the controversy. “I didn't watch it,” the Portuguese said. “I didn't watch on TV and in the game. I don't know.”

Chelsea were also left with a sense of injustice after their defeat by Manchester United on Monday, when VAR failed to issue a red card to United's Harry Maguire for kicking Michy Batshuayi.

During Saturday's game, BBC Radio 5 Live's Mark Chapman said on air: “I have a statement from PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Board] on why that wasn't a red card… give me strength… not a clear and obvious error because the VAR didn't feel there was anywhere else for Lo Celso to put his foot.”

Following the final whistle, the presenter confirmed in a tweet the station had spoken to Stockley Park again and on reflection “they did think the tackle was a red card”.

“They do want to reiterate it was a human being making a decision on a subjective event, but also said the challenge did ‘tick the boxes' of being a red card,” Chapman tweeted.

‘VAR is an absolute joke' – pundits and your reaction on #bbcfootball

Dion Dublin on BBC Radio 5 Live: “What are they seeing at Stockley Park that we're not? Lo Celso's nowhere near the ball, no intent to play the ball, and it's with anger.”

Andy Reid on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It's a definite sending off. It's not a great tackle and you can see why Cesar Azpilicueta was in so much pain.”

Mo: How is that not a Red… again VAR officials leave me speechless.

Theo Bowyer: Think that is the clearest red card you will see… VAR is an absolute joke. Scared to override the referee even when it's blatant.

Ruz: As a Spurs fan, I have to say Lo Celso should be sent off. That's a simply awful ‘challenge' and how VAR doesn't see that as serious foul play is beyond me.

Rob: Expecting the usual criticism of VAR over the red card… VAR did its job; it captured an incident you could easily miss in real time. The problem is incompetence; there is an official at the other end somehow deciding that it's not a red card. VAR or no VAR, the standard of refereeing is the problem.

Alex: I'm amazed Azpi isn't leaving on a stretcher. Not so amazed none of us can understand the VAR decision. It'd be funny if it wasn't so dangerous.

Greg: No way a red card. Lo Celso is putting his foot on the ground, as anyone would do. Chelsea player slides in, putting his leg where Lo Celso is expecting to meet turf. He had no other place to put his foot. #VAR got it right!



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Man Utd fan invited to Old Trafford after Klopp letter

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Daragh Curley and Jurgen KloppImage copyright
Getty Images/Gordon Curley

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Daragh Curley wrote the letter to Jurgen Klopp as part of a school project

A football-mad schoolboy will visit Old Trafford for the first time after “a novel attempt to derail Liverpool's Premier League campaign”.

Daragh Curley wrote to Jurgen Klopp, asking if it would be possible for the team to lose some games so they would not win the league.

The 10-year-old, from County Donegal, was shocked when he received a personal reply from the Liverpool boss.

Manchester United said the club was proud to have fans like Daragh.

“That's brilliant news. The atmosphere at Old Trafford will be great,” said Daragh shortly after hearing the news of his visit.

“My friends are going to be really jealous.”

In the letter, Daragh, who counts goalkeeper David de Gea and midfielder Bruno Fernandes as his favourite players, wrote: “Liverpool are winning too many games.

“If you win nine more games then you have the best unbeaten run in English football. Being a United fan that is very sad.

“So the next time Liverpool play, please make them lose.”

Image copyright
Gordon Curley

Image caption

Daragh received the letter earlier this week

Klopp replied, praising Daragh's passion, but explaining Liverpool could not drop points on his behalf.

Liverpool are on course to win the Premier League and have not lost a league fixture so far this season.

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Media caption10-year-old shocked at Liverpool manager's reply to a letter asking him to lose.

The letter “caught the eye” of bosses at Manchester United, who have invited Daragh and his family to Old Trafford.

“It was a novel attempt to derail Liverpool's Premier League campaign,” the spokesperson said.

“We are very proud that we have fans like Daragh supporting us.”

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Harry Gregg: Funeral of Man United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper taking place

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Harry Gregg funeral

The funeral of former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg has taken place in Coleraine.

Gregg, a hero of the 1958 Munich air disaster who made 25 appearances for Northern Ireland between 1954 and 1963, died on Sunday aged 87.

He bravely rescued team-mates and other passengers following the Munich plane crash in which 23 were killed, including eight United players.

His funeral service was held in St Patrick's Parish Church in Coleraine.

Image caption

Sir Alex Ferguson and Denis Law arriving at the funeral for Harry Gregg

Afterwards he was buried in Coleraine Cemetery.

Among the mourners were former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Charlton and former striker Denis Law.

Also attending were First Minister Arlene Foster; former Northern Ireland international and manager Sammy McIlroy; members of Coleraine FC, including manager Oran Kearney; and David Healy, Northern Ireland's record goalscorer and Linfield manager.

Image caption

Sir Bobby Charlton is also among the mourners

Welcoming mourners, Rev Ian Ballentine said the large crowds outside the church were a tribute to Harry Gregg, who he described as an “outstanding professional footballer and a man of exceptional courage”.

The congregation then sang Amazing Grace.

In a eulogy, BBC NI's Stephen Watson said Gregg was a “great stickler for timekeeping” so would have been thrilled that everyone had arrived at the church on time.

He said his idol as a child was Celtic goalkeeper Johnny Thompson.

He added that Gregg had deliberately flunked an exam so he did not have to go to a grammar school which played rugby, rather than football.

‘Heal his scars'

Recalling the Munich disaster, he said that Gregg was told by the captain of the plane to run away as it was about to explode, but he “went back into the carnage” to rescue several team-mates and a pregnant woman and her daughter.

Mr Watson said: “What happened at Munich was a mental torment for Harry – he had a constant battle against grief and guilt.

“But as he told me – it was getting back to football that saved his sanity. He used the game to heal his scars.”

Mr Watson said on the 50th anniversary of the Munich crash he met the young Yugoslavian woman he rescued from the plane, as well as the son she was pregnant with at the time.

However, he said Gregg's darkest hour was the death of his wife Mavis, the mother of his eldest two children, from breast cancer at the age of 26.

In 1965, he remarried to Carolyn and they had four children together.

He suffered another personal tragedy shortly before the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster when his daughter Karen died from breast cancer.


Hundreds brave elements for hero's farewell

by BBC News NI's Luke Sproule

It felt as if the whole of Coleraine had turned out as Harry Gregg made his final journey to St Patrick's Church.

Hundreds braved the wind and rain to pay their final respects to the hero of Munich.

Some of the biggest names in the history of football – Sir Alex Ferguson, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton – arrived to remember a man who left his mark both on and off the pitch.

Eulogies recalled Gregg's strong work ethic, passion for the game and wise words of advice.

They also paid tribute to the family man – a father of six, grandfather of 10 and great grandfather of five. And there was time for some memories of a man who didn't suffer fools and wasn't adverse to the use of some “industrial” language.

Sixty-two years to the day after his Manchester United team-mate Duncan Edwards died from the injuries he suffered in the Munich disaster, Harry Gregg was laid to rest.


Mr Watson said that Gregg's “notoriety because of the Munich air crash came at a price” and “cast a shadow over his life that he found difficult to dispel”.

“Harry's actions though on the runway that fateful day meant he transcended sporting greatness,” Mr Watson added.

“He was called the Hero of Munich, but he always wanted to be remembered simply as a footballer and a coach of some repute.”

Image caption

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster arrives at the church

Football pundit Liam Beckett paid a personal tribute to his friend.

“He was that figure that gave everyone from a working class walk of life hope. I could always look at him, he was the perfect role model,” he said.

“He never courted publicity, that's what I loved about him – all the adulation that people poured on his shoulders he took in his stride.

“When I saw him most at ease with himself was with the family. That was when he was most content.”

Image caption

People queued outside St Patrick's Church, where a number of seats were made open for the public

Mr Beckett also reflected on Gregg's legacy: “I was thinking of the legacy he has left, the Harry Gregg foundation, which is something I know he was so proud about – his pride and joy.

“It is about giving kids a structured platform, structured in such a way that kids could go out and enjoy it.”

The congregation also listened to a poem written by Gregg entitled Jumpers for Goalposts and another written by Pablo Doherty, the son of legendary Northern Ireland international Peter Doherty who signed Gregg for Doncaster Rovers at the age of 19 and managed the national side at the 1958 World Cup where Gregg was named best goalkeeper.

In a tribute, Gregg's son John said: “Dad as a father was really, really good. The thing with dad was everybody said about his bark, but at the back of that was a real softness you very rarely saw.

Image caption

Crowds line the streets of Coleraine as the cortege makes its way to the cemetery

“Dad knew we all loved him, ever single one of us, and towards the end I told him every single day. We all had one of the best dads. I am going to really miss him.”

He added that while heaven is supposed to be a quiet and peaceful place, that would change within 30 minutes of his father's arrival.

Gregg and his family moved to Coleraine after he was born in Tobermore, County Londonderry, and he excelled as a player for his home town club before moving to England.

When he joined United in December 1957 for £23,500, Gregg was the world's most expensive goalkeeper and was voted the best at the following year's World Cup.

The Irish FA opened a book of condolence in his memory at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.

A book of condolence was also opened in Coleraine Town Hall.

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Olympiakos 0-1 Arsenal: Alexandre Lacazette helped by team-mates’ support, says Mikel Arteta

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Alexandre Lacazette fired in his eighth goal of the season

Alexandre Lacazette needed his team-mates' support to bounce back from his goal drought, said Mikel Arteta as the striker grabbed the winner in Arsenal's Europa League win away to Olympiakos.

He went nine games without a goal before scoring against Newcastle on Sunday, and on Thursday gave Arsenal the upper hand in their last-32 tie.

“That confidence and support came from me and his team-mates,” said Arteta.

“The way they reacted when he scored, that was a lift.”

The Spanish manager added: “That's not just a coincidence. It's something that happens because the energy of the team is putting energy into him as well.”

Arteta was critical of his side's defensive display, stating that errors could have cost his side.

“We should have started better than we did in the first half,” he said.

“Defensively we made one or two mistakes positionally that could cost us in difficult situations, and then with the ball we gave a lot of simple balls away.”

The return leg is at Emirates Stadium on Thursday, 27 February.

Perseverance pays off for Lacazette

Alexandre Lacazette was Arsenal's record signing in 2017 when he joined from Lyon for £46.5m

Arsenal's best period of the match came after Lacazette's goal, with the previous 81 minutes largely forgettable.

It was a contest that meandered at times on a wet night in Athens. Both sides did enjoy bright spells, but they were brief and infrequent.

The Gunners – without Mesut Ozil, missing because of personal reasons – lacked someone to conduct the attack, which at times played like they were meeting each other for the first time.

Perhaps if Arteta slotted Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – the club's top scorer with 17 goals this season – into the middle of the attack instead of on the right it might have aided Arsenal's cause.

Instead Lacazette took up that role. The Frenchman had ended his lengthy goal drought against Newcastle last weekend – but that strike came late in stoppage time when the Magpies had given up the ghost shortly after the break.

Despite scoring the winner, the 28-year-old still lacks sharpness and should have scored in the first half when he hooked a shot wide from eight yards after a brilliant cut-back from Gabriel Martinelli.

And in the second half, the France striker went down too easily in the area under the challenge of Ousseynou Ba, when ‘peak Lacazette' would have taken the ball on and unleashed a shot.

But Arteta persevered with him and he persevered too. With nine minutes remaining Lacazette made it two goals in two games when he tapped in a carefully weighted ball from Bukayo Saka, who was one of the brighter sparks in the Arsenal attack.

Moments after the restart Lacazette, with his tail up, forced a good save from Jose Sa with a firm strike before Sokratis planted a powerful header against the bar.

If Olympiakos repeat their display at Emirates Stadium then this one-goal aggregate lead should be enough.

Martinelli experiences frustrating night

In a recent Twitter Q&A, Arsenal striking great Robin van Persie joined Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, Brazilian great Ronaldinho and those within the club among others in hailing the talent of Martinelli.

The Brazilian 18-year-old is fleet of foot and eager to get on the ball, but against Olympiakos he seemed a little lost. He only managed 12 touches in the first half – the fewest of his side – although one of those was that excellent pullback for Lacazette.

He was guilty of misplaced passes and seemed frustrated at times that his team-mates were not reading the game like he was. Arteta replaced him with Dani Ceballos in the 58th minute.

Man of the match – Bernd Leno (Arsenal)

The German made an excellent stop to keep out Youssef El-Arabi's strike, and made another great save to prevent Mathieu Valbuena's free-kick from creeping in.

Assist-king Saka – stats

  • Olympiakos have won just one of their past 12 knockout stage matches in major European competition (D4 L7).
  • Arsenal remain the only Premier League side yet to lose a game in all competitions in 2020 (P9 W5 D4).
  • Arsenal are unbeaten in six away European games in all competitions (including qualifiers) for the first time since a run of eight ending in September 2006.
  • Saka has registered five assists in the Europa League this season (excluding qualifiers), more than any other player.
  • Saka has nine assists to his name in all competitions, more than any other Arsenal player.



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Pep Guardiola: ‘Truth will prevail’ on Manchester City European ban

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I will be here, no matter what happens – Pep Guardiola

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says he will 100% stay at the club and believes the “truth will prevail”, after City's ban from European competition.

Premier League champions City have been given a two-year Champions League ban and fined 30m euros (£25m) by Uefa.

City say they will launch an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“We appeal. When someone believes they are right they have to fight,” Guardiola told Match of the Day.

“We are professionals on the pitch, what happens off it we cannot do much [about].”

Speaking to Match of the Day after Wednesday's 2-0 Premier League win over West Ham, he added: “We talked about what we have to do until the end of the season, especially for the people who love this club.

“We will play our game the best as possible. We have a lot of interesting things to play for.”

Asked if he will stay regardless of the outcome of the appeal against the European football ban, he said: “If they don't sack me I will be here. I love this club. I like to be here. This is my club and I will be here, no matter.

“The club has to fight and I trust the club 100%, what they have done and they have explained to me.

“This situation is not finished and we will wait but until the resolution is not done you have to play and play and that is what is going to happen.”

On Thursday, City centre-back Aymeric Laporte said players were not thinking about the ban.

“We are professionals, a big team with big personalities in the dressing room, and I think we just think about football, nothing else,” he said.

“We are professionals and have to do our job. That's all.”

Manchester City fans displayed anti-Uefa banners at the Etihad on Wednesday

The independent adjudicatory chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) said it found City had broken the rules by “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016”, adding that the club “failed to cooperate in the investigation”.

On Friday, City said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the “prejudicial” decision and would appeal, and on Wednesday City's chief executive Ferran Soriano insisted allegations against the club are “simply not true”.

In City's first game since receiving the ban, goals from Rodri and Kevin de Bruyne saw Guardiola's side return to winning ways after the winter break, while there was a defiant reaction from their fans inside the ground.

There were frequent anti-Uefa chants in the first half, and some supporters brought banners, including examples reading ‘Uefa cartel' and ‘Uefa mafia'. There were also plenty of songs in support of manager Pep Guardiola and the club's owner Sheikh Mansour.

‘Don't talk too loud, Barcelona'

When asked about Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu supporting Uefa over City's punishment, Guardiola said: “I don't know if they spy me but they know me, it is not necessary to spy me.

“If they are happy we are suspended, I say to the president of Barcelona, give us two appeals,” the 49-year-old added.

“I ask right now the people trust what they have done. Don't talk too loud Barcelona. That is my advice, because everybody is involved in situations.

“We are going to appeal and hopefully in the future we can play Champions League against Barcelona.”

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Transfer rumours: Rondon, Sancho, Messi, Jesus, Icardi, Giroud, Tah

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Venezuela's former Newcastle and West Brom striker Salomon Rondon, 30, believes Manchester United made a late bid to sign him from Chinese Super League side Dalian Professional on transfer deadline day. (AS, via Star)

Manchester United are confident of signing Borussia Dortmund and England forward Jadon Sancho, 19, in the summer, but they must qualify for the Champions League. (Sky Sports)

RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner, 23, said he was “proud” to be linked with Liverpool but feels he may not be ready to join what he considers to be “the best team in the world”. (Metro)

Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi, 32, was phoned by LA Galaxy to discuss a transfer to the MLS side. (Express)

Messi has admitted he feels “weird things” are happening at Barcelona amid reports the club hired a social media company to criticise their players. (Mundo Deportivo, via Mail)

Alternatively, Messi feels Barcelona is his “home” amid speculation he could leave the Nou Camp. (ESPN)

Juventus have identified Manchester City's 22-year-old Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus and Paris St-Germain's 27-year-old Argentina striker Mauro Icardi as summer transfer targets. (Tuttosport – in Italian)

Chelsea are keen on signing Birmingham City's 16-year-old English midfielder Jude Bellingham, however his £50m price tag could affect their ability to tie their 18-year-old English midfielder Faustino Anjorin down to a long-term contract. (Sun)

France striker Olivier Giroud, 33, insists he will give his all for Chelsea in the coming months despite missing out on a January move away from Stamford Bridge. (Mirror)

Arsenal are interested in Bayer Leverkusen's Germany defender Jonathan Tah, 24, who will be available for 40m euros (£33.4m) in the summer. (Bild – in German)

Leverkusen's 20-year-old Germany midfielder Kai Havertz, thought to be a target of Liverpool, could be available in the summer transfer window, according to the club's sporting director. (Goal)

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has admitted he dropped France midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, 20, for Arsenal's win over Newcastle because of poor behaviour in Dubai during the Premier League winter break. (Mirror)

Serie A side Inter Milan will target Napoli's Belgium forward Dries Mertens, 32, in the summer. (Calciomercato – in Italian)

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VAR: Arsene Wenger suggests offside rule could ‘change a little bit’

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Wenger left Arsenal in May 2018 after 22 years in charge

Fifa's chief of global football development Arsene Wenger says there might be room to the change the offside rule “a little bit” in response to video assistant referee controversy.

VAR has contentiously ruled out a number of goals for marginal offences.

“[I'm speaking about] the offside by a margin of a fraction of a centimetres,” said the former Arsenal manager.

“Maybe there is room to change the offside rule a little bit so we don't say a part of his nose was offside.”

Wenger's role at the world governing body includes sitting on the technical panel of the International Football Association Board (Ifab), which sets football's rule and will hold its annual general meeting in Belfast on 29 February.

At present, a player is offside if any part of their body with which they can score is ahead of the last defender.

Wenger also said there were “not enough VAR specialists and that will improve very quickly”.

He added “former referees have to be involved” and “experienced players” could also be used.

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