Man City and second-tier Coventry reach FA Cup semis, Tottenham beaten heavily in EPL

Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva celebrates with teammates after scoring his team second goal during their English FA Cup Quarter Final match against Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on Mar. 16, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 16 March 2024
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Man City and second-tier Coventry reach FA Cup semis, Tottenham beaten heavily in EPL

  • The day’s drama came a few hours earlier at Molineux as Coventry scored two goals deep into stoppage time to beat Wolverhampton 3-2
  • Sitting in eighth place in the Championship, Coventry were the lowest-ranked team to get to the quarterfinals

MANCHESTER: Manchester City are banking on Wembley Stadium being a key staging post in their pursuit of a second straight treble of major trophies.
One of a possible three late-season trips to English soccer’s national stadium was booked when City reached the semifinals of the FA Cup on Saturday.
If that came as no real surprise, second-tier Coventry’s progress to the last four certainly did.
Man City ousted Newcastle from the competition with a 2-0 victory secured by two deflected shots by Bernardo Silva in the first half.
The day’s drama came a few hours earlier at Molineux as Coventry scored two goals deep into stoppage time to beat Wolverhampton 3-2 and reach the semifinals for the first time since 1987 — the year the team won the FA Cup.
United States striker Hajji Wright completed the remarkable comeback in the 10th minute of added-on time, three minutes after Ellis Simms — with his second goal of the game — equalized for Coventry.
Sitting in eighth place in the Championship, Coventry were the lowest-ranked team to get to the quarterfinals. The club from central England have endured a turbulent and financially rocky past couple of decades since relegation from the Premier League in 2001 but can look forward to another trip to Wembley, where they lost the Championship playoff final to Luton at the end of last season.
It also gives Mark Robins, Coventry’s manager, another magical FA Cup moment. Robins likely saved Alex Ferguson from getting fired three years into his storied tenure as Manchester United manager by scoring the winner in an FA Cup third-round match against Nottingham Forest midway through the 1989-90 season, when Ferguson was under severe pressure.
That is widely heralded as a turning point in Ferguson’s trophy-laden tenure that lasted nearly 27 years.
For many, Man City manager Pep Guardiola ranks just as high as Ferguson and back-to-back Premier League-Champions League-FA Cup trebles would surely put him in a class of his own.
To do that, City would have to return to Wembley two more times this season — for the FA Cup final on May 25 and the title match in the Champions League, which is also being hosted by the famed London venue a week later.
The FA Cup quarterfinals will be completed Sunday when Manchester United host great rival Liverpool and Chelsea are at home to second-tier Leicester.
TOTTENHAM BEATEN
Tottenham’s bid for Champions League qualification was hurt by a 3-0 loss at Fulham in one of three Premier League games played Saturday.
Rodrigo Muniz scored either side of a goal by Saša Lukić as fifth-place Tottenham missed the chance to climb above Aston Villa into fourth for one night at least. Villa visit West Ham on Sunday.
Tottenham stayed six points ahead of sixth-place Manchester United and both have 10 matches remaining.
The Premier League looks increasingly likely to have five berths in next season’s expanded Champions League because of the strong showing of English teams in European competition this campaign.
RELEGATION FIGHT
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Burnley boosted their unlikely hopes of staying up with a first win in 2024 while relegation candidates Luton and Nottingham Forest drew 1-1.
Next-to-last Burnley beat 10-man Brentford 2-1 to end an 11-game winless run in all competitions and move eight points adrift of safety in their bid to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
Jacob Bruun Larsen converted a 10th-minute penalty awarded after a push by Brentford left back Sergio Reguilon, who was sent off for the offense because he was the last man. David Datro Fofana added a second before Kristoffer Ajer reduced the deficit in the 83rd to ensure a nervy finish at Turf Moor.
Forest stayed three points above Luton, which are third-to-last and occupying the final relegation spot, after seeing its 34th-minute volley opener by Chris Wood canceled out by substitute Luke Berry.
Forest will not be sitting too comfortably because they could be hit with a points deduction in the coming weeks for overspending.


CONMEBOL open probe into violent clashes at end of Copa semifinal

Updated 12 July 2024
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CONMEBOL open probe into violent clashes at end of Copa semifinal

MIAMI: Copa America organizers CONMEBOL have opened a disciplinary investigation into the “acts of violence” at the end of Wednesday’s semifinal between Uruguay and Colombia in Charlotte.

Uruguay’s Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez was among the players who waded into the stands at the Bank of America Stadium and exchanged punches with fans during what CONMEBOL called “unacceptable” scenes.

Uruguay central defender Jose Maria Gimenez said players had leapt into the melee out of concern for the safety of family members and loved ones watching the game in that section of the ground.

Uruguay are scheduled to face Canada, at the same stadium, in the third place game on Saturday and it remains to be seen if any of their players are suspended for that game.

“In light of the acts of violence that occurred at the end of the match between the national teams of Uruguay and Colombia, the Disciplinary Unit of CONMEBOL has decided to open an investigation to clarify the sequence of events and the responsibilities of those involved,” the South American confederation said.

CONMEBOL said they would not accept any repeat of the incidents, which saw fighting between the two sets of supporters, for Sunday’s final between Argentina and Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

“On the eve of our Copa America final, we want to reaffirm and warn that no action that tarnishes a global football celebration will be tolerated, involving both the protagonists and the fans present in the stadium for a final viewed by hundreds of millions of spectators worldwide.

“It is unacceptable that an incident like this turns passion into violence. Therefore, no behavior that violates the spirit of the sport and the world’s most beautiful spectacle, which belongs to the whole family, will be tolerated,” they added.

Gimenez said that the players had got involved to protect their family members and was critical of the local police in the venue.

“Our family was in danger. We had to go to the stands to take out our loved ones, with tiny newborn babies,” the Atletico Madrid player said.

“There was not a single police officer... I hope those who are organizing this are a little more careful with the families,” he said.

As well as the incidents in the stands, there were also clashes on the field at the final whistle involving players from both teams.


SPL outlines priorities for player acquisitions, club development before new season

Updated 11 July 2024
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SPL outlines priorities for player acquisitions, club development before new season

  • League remains committed to providing a supportive, centralized approach to transfers
  • Clubs continue to attract top-tier talents to their administrative ranks

RIYADH: The Saudi Pro League, in collaboration with all 18 clubs, announced on Thursday its comprehensive preparations and key priorities for the upcoming summer transfer window and the 2024-25 season.
As part of the Player Acquisition Center of Excellence program, which was launched in 2023, the SPL held meetings with all top-flight clubs in the final months of last season to understand more fully their targets and requirements. The program was launched as one of seven in the SPL’s transformation strategy.
The SPL remains committed to providing a supportive and centralized approach to transfers. This includes assisting clubs with squad mapping and player care by offering expertise, governance, and sustainability measures.
The SPL’s priorities for the season and transfer window include supporting existing contracts by prioritizing current deals to ensure the success of players by providing the necessary resources.
Other aims include strategic acquisitions to address clubs’ technical gaps and secure top talent.
Another priority is its sustainability policy, which is to ensure players are signed for technical needs, supported for success, and fairly valued.
Off the pitch, the SPL clubs continue to attract top-tier talents to their administrative ranks.
Al-Shabab recently appointed Domenico Teti as sporting director, while Al-Nassr appointed Fernando Hierro. Both sporting directors join Esteve Calzada, Al-Hilal’s CEO; Ron Gourlay, Al-Ahli’s CEO; Lee Congerton, Al-Ahli’s sporting director; Ramon Planes, Al-Ittihad’s sporting director; and James Bisgrove, Al-Qadsiah’s CEO, as new appointments ahead of the new season.
In addition, the SPL has conducted a series of workshops with partner leagues in Europe and Asia to further develop areas of cooperation and mutual benefit. Discussions have covered topics such as mutual promotion, broadcast development, and alignment on transfer window dates.
The Player Acquisition Center of Excellence program, according to the SPL, serves as a collaborative tool with clubs to enhance their acquisition capabilities.
The program has so far recruited 97 players and reviewed over 200 contracts, significantly reducing contract termination costs and lowering the average age of signed players from 29 to 27.5 years. The ultimate aim is to focus on signing players under the age of 21.


One year after failed bid, Bayern Munich finally sign Portugal midfielder Palhinha

Updated 11 July 2024
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One year after failed bid, Bayern Munich finally sign Portugal midfielder Palhinha

  • Palhinha joins Bayern from English Premier League club Fulham for a reported fee of nearly $54.2 million
  • Bayern board sporting director Max Eberl said: "João really wanted to come to Bayern, and we need players like that"

MUNICH: A year after a high-profile failure to sign Portugal midfielder João Palhinha, Bayern Munich finally made the deal happen on Thursday.
Palhinha joins Bayern from English Premier League club Fulham for a reported fee of nearly 50 million euros ($54.2 million) on a contract through June 2028, the Bavarian club announced.
Palhinha, who helped Portugal to the quarterfinals at the European Championship, is the latest signing in a Bayern rebuild after the club's first season without a trophy since 2012.
“Palhinha was highly sought after by FC Bayern even last summer, and rightly so. It was important that we never lost touch,” Bayern board sporting director Max Eberl said." João really wanted to come to Bayern, and we need players like that. He’s an important building block for our future."
Bayern seemed sure to sign the player last year and the midfielder even traveled to Munich for a medical but the deal — reportedly worth 65 million euros ($70 million) at the time — collapsed just before the end of the transfer window.
Thomas Tuchel, Bayern coach at the time, was keen to sign a more defensive-minded midfielder like Palhinha in a squad packed with midfielders like Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka who liked to make attacking runs into the opponent's box.
Two weeks after that, Palhinha signed a new contract at Fulham through the 2027-28 season.
Palhinha is the third new signing to be confirmed at Bayern since Vincent Kompany was hired as coach in May, after Stuttgart defender Hiroki Ito and Crystal Palace forward Michael Olise. Bayern have yet to sell any of their current first-team players in this transfer window.


French referee François Letexier picked to handle Spain-England final of Euro 2024

Updated 11 July 2024
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French referee François Letexier picked to handle Spain-England final of Euro 2024

  • Letexier has refereed three games at Euro 2024 including Spain’s 4-1 win over Georgia in the round of 16
  • There was no video review controversy in any of Letexier’s games, including the 2-2 draw between Albania and Croatia

BERLIN: French referee François Letexier was picked by UEFA to handle the European Championship final between Spain and England.
At 35, he’s one of the youngest referees to take charge of a major final. The game is on Sunday at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
The referees for the past three men’s Euros finals were 48, 41 and 41 at the time.
Letexier has refereed three games at Euro 2024 including Spain’s 4-1 win over Georgia in the round of 16.
In those games, he did not award a penalty kick and did not send off any player. He showed just 10 yellow cards, including one for Serbia forward Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was judged to have dived in the penalty area in a 0-0 draw against Denmark.
There was no video review controversy in any of Letexier’s games, including the 2-2 draw between Albania and Croatia.
The VAR specialist for the final is also French, Jérôme Brisard.
Letexier rarely shows red cards, with just one in the nine games he handled in the Champions League or Europa League last season from the group stage onward. That was to Bayern Munich’s French defender Dayot Upamecano.
His previous highest profile games for UEFA this season include Real Madrid and Manchester City drawing 3-3 in the Champions League quarterfinals, Bayer Leverkusen winning at Roma 2-0 in the Europa League semifinals, and the season-opening Super Cup last August between Man City and Sevilla.
Letexier joined the FIFA list of referees for international games seven years ago.
The fourth official for the final will be Szymon Marciniak of Poland, the referee at the 2022 World Cup final and 2023 Champions League final who had a controversial season.
Marciniak and his match officials team made consequential stoppage-time decisions in Champions League games between Bayern and Real Madrid in the semifinals and Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle in the group stage.


Nunez, Uruguay players brawl in stands with fans after Copa loss

Updated 11 July 2024
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Nunez, Uruguay players brawl in stands with fans after Copa loss

CHARLOTTE: Liverpool star Darwin Nunez was involved in violent brawling in the stands after Uruguay’s 1-0 Copa America semifinal defeat to Colombia on Wednesday.

After Colombia won 1-0 in front of over 70,000 fans at the Bank of America Stadium, scuffles brokes out in the stands between fans of the rival teams.

The overwhelming majority of the spectators in the crowd were supporting Colombia but there was no segregation between them and their Uruguayan counterparts and the violence erupted at the final whistle.

While punches were thrown several Uruguay players climbed into the crowd, seemingly to protect them, with Nunez prominent among them.

The fighting continued for several minutes until police finally intervened.

A group of around 80-100 Uruguayan fans remained in the stadium, on the field, long after the rest of the fans had left.

Ugly scenes also broke out on the field after the final whistle, with players and staff from both teams involved in a mass melee in the center-circle following Colombia’s victory.