Tag Archives: UCL

COVID-19: UEFA postpone Europa and UCL finals.


UEFA has announced its decision to postpone both the men and women’s Champions League finals, as well as the Europa League showpiece, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in football being halted around the world, with nations entering lockdown states.


Major leagues are still plotting their return dates, though it remains to be seen how long the crisis will last. UEFA has now officially confirmed May’s finals will take place at later dates.

The governing body revealed in a statement on their website: “UEFA has formally taken the decision to postpone the club finals originally scheduled for May 2020.

“No decision has yet been made on rearranged dates. The working group, established last week as a result of the conference call among the stakeholders of European football, which was chaired by UEFA President, Aleksander Čeferin, will analyse the options available.

“The group has already begun its examination of the calendar. Announcements will be made in due course.”


While Atalanta, RB Leipzig, Paris Saint-Germain and Athletico Madrid all progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals as their games were played before football entered its hiatus, the winners of the ties between Manchester City and Real Madrid, Juventus and Lyon, Barcelona and Napoli, and Bayern Munich and Chelsea are still to be determined.

The first legs of the Women’s Champions League were due to be played this week, with Lyon among the favourites to win the competition.

The round of 16 in the Europa League is also yet to be concluded, with teams like Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen in strong positions, though the first legs between Inter and Getafe, and Sevilla and Roma were not played.


Premier League games could be played behind closed doors to ensure the season can end, while the Spanish Football Federation and La Liga both confirmed on Monday that all football in the country will be postponed indefinitely until it is safe to return.

An IOC member has also revealed tha the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be postponed due to the pandemic.


#NobleSport

2-0: Juventus trashed B. Dortmund to reach Quater-finals.


Paris St Germain outclassed Borussia Dortmund in an empty stadium due to coronavirus fears on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

Neymar and Juan Bernat were both on the scoresheet before halftime to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit and send the French champions into the last eight for the first time since 2016 as Dortmund finished with 10 men after Emre Can was sent off in the dying minutes.


PSG made it past the last 16 after painful exits at the same stage in the last two years. They let slip a 4-0 advantage in a 6-5 aggregate defeat by Barcelona in 2017 and lost to Manchester United on away goals after beating the English side 2-0 at Old Trafford 12 months ago.

Over 3,000 ultra fans gathered near the Parc des Princes before kickoff after being granted authorisation by the police – demonstrations being considered an exemption to the ban of gatherings of more than 1,000 as French authorities try to contain the coronavirus, which has infected 2,281 people and killed 48.


#NobleSport

2-3: Liverpool suffered in UCL clash against Atletico Madrid.


Liverpool’s hold on the Champions League dreams was shattered by Atletico Madrid after a dramatic last-16 second leg went into extra time – and a finely balanced game turned on a catastrophic blunder by goalkeeper Adrian.

Jurgen Klopp’s side – seeking to win the trophy for a seventh time – thought they had overturned Atletico’s 1-0 advantage from the first leg when Roberto Firmino’s first goal at Anfield this season at the start of the added 30 minutes gave them the lead in the tie.


Georginio Wijnaldum’s first-half header was full reward for Liverpool laying siege to the Atletico goal for much of the first 90 minutes.

Llorente netted a goal for the visitors, he struck again with another composed finish in the 105th minute and with the spirit draining out of Liverpool and their supporters, former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata ended the night with a nice goal.


#NobleSport

Gabriel Jesus tells Real Madrid ‘Story’ After UCL 1st Leg Defeat


Gabriel Jesus is ready to play anywhere to help Manchester City win trophies after his role in the Champions League victory over Real Madrid.

The Brazil striker started as a left winger in the 2-1 win at the Santiago Bernebeu as Pep Guardiola made a surprise team selection in the first leg.

Jesus scored the equaliser but also worked hard to double-up as support for Benjamin Mendy at left-back and the 22-year-old was delighted with how the tactics worked out.


Don’t Miss:

1-2: Guardiola elate as City smash Madrid in their first leg


“I enjoy the work,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I have to run back to help my team-mates, I am young, I have the power and energy to do it.

“I enjoy the position a lot because I can go back and help the full-backs. I am very comfortable there but we have a lot of quality players.


“We are very proud of the performance but we know they have a lot of quality, a lot of amazing players. They are a big club and now there will be another game, the second leg.”

“The challenge is coming and it’s the biggest of the season. We know Real can go to the Etihad and beat us,” he said.

“Sunday is important. It’s been a big week because we played Leicester away, a team with a lot of quality, and went seven points in front of them.

“So we’ve had two very good games – and now it’s a final. It’s important to win the first title of the season.”


#NobleSport

City pleaded over 2 year ban


Manchester City has filed an appeal against their two-year European ban before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, CAS.
The Premier League club have vowed to fight the sanction imposed by UEFA on February 14 for breaching financial fair play regulations.

Although CAS did not indicate a time-frame for the appeal process, it is expected to take several months.


In a statement, CAS said: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport has registered an appeal filed by Manchester City football club against the Union of European Football Associations .”

Man City faces losing hundreds of millions of pounds in prize money, TV revenue, gate receipts and sponsorship income should their appeal against the ban fail.

Last week City Football Group CEO Ferran Soriano said the club hoped to have their appeal heard by CAS before the start of next season’s Champions League.

He said UEFA’s charges against the club of overstating their sponsorship revenue between 2012 and 2016 and failing to cooperate with an investigation were “simply not true.”


#NobleSport

1-2: Guardiola elate as City smash Madrid in their first leg


Pep Guardiola says Manchester City are “not used to doing these things” after his side won at Real Madrid for the first time to take control of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Isco had put Real ahead but a Gabriel Jesus strike and a Kevin de Bruyne penalty secured a 2-1 first-leg win.


It is the first time City have won at a major European team in the knockout stage of the competition.

“To win at the Bernabeu is a great satisfaction for us,” Guardiola said.


“It is amazing to be able to win here for us because we are not used to doing these things.

“We hope it will help us in the future to believe in ourselves and to be able to go to any stadium and play the way we did against Real.”


Analysis: How Pep’s perfect plan earned landmark win in Madrid

Manchester City’s only previous away wins in the Champions League knockout stages were against Dynamo Kiev, Basel and Schalke


Guardiola’s side are hoping to win the Champions League for the first time, having progressed as far as the semi-finals only once before.

Real Madrid are the most successful side in the competition’s history – winning it 13 times – and Guardiola accepts that the tie is far from over.


“It’s just the first part, it’s not three points,” said the manager, whose side will host Real for the second leg on 17 March.

“If one team can overcome this situation, for experience, for everything, it is this club, but of course it is a good result.


“I am so proud of course but it is just the first step, we have another game, it is not over.”

The only negative for Manchester City on Wednesday was the loss of Aymeric Laporte to injury.


The defender was playing in only his fourth match since recovering from a serious knee problem but limped off midway through the first half.

“He’s had four or five months out and it’s a problem when you come back,” Guardiola said.

“He came back in this demanding game and we wanted him to be fit to the end.

“With John [Stones], Nico [Otamendi], Eric [Garcia], Fernandinho, we can get through.”


#Newsworthy…

Manchester City doesn’t deserve ban – Pep Guardiola


Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has claimed he has seen proof why they should not be banned from European competitions.

City have been handed a two-year suspension, after UEFA found the Premier League champions guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.


The Etihad club have already moved to appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Speaking at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, ahead of their Champions League last-16 first leg against Real Madrid, Guardiola said: “We were under suspicion for a long time, we have the right to appeal and I trust the people in my club.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

“They explain the reasons, they showed me the arguments and the proofs. We are optimistic that finally if we deserve to be in the Champions League we can do it next season, if finally, it doesn’t happen we have to accept and move forward.

“My trust is with the club. I know them. We are going to see what happens with CAS.”


#NobleSport

Messi won’t achieve champions league honour at Barcelona despite deserving it


It must be difficult being as gifted as Lionel Messi.

Like the smartest kid in the class, the Argentine star gazes around him during lessons, perplexed at the stupidity and deficiencies of his fellow classmates.

Not so long ago, Messi was part of the advanced and gifted programme, surrounded by like-minded football genii who could finish each other’s sentences and crosses. But the rest of that group has graduated into retirement, and the 32-year-old has been left behind to play with mere mortals.


And as Barcelona’s magician gawped at every overhit cross and misplaced pass from his inferior teammates, that recurring nightmare hit him once more – he’s never going to lift the Champions League again.

But how on earth have the powers at Barcelona allowed such a decline to occur during the peak years of one of football’s greatest ever players.


Messi burst onto the scene in 2004, surrounded by true legends of the game. Andres Iniesta. Xavi. Ronaldinho. Samuel Eto’o. Deco. The list of attacking superstars is endless. A year later, Barcelona won the Champions League.

It was the first Champions League success for their wonderkid – and the first of many, one may have expected. Indeed, Messi has lifted the big European trophy a further three times, writing his name into the tournament’s history forever.


But the overriding emotion towards the competition remains disappointment.

Since their 2015 victory over Juventus, Barça’s Champions League journeys have taken the shape of one mishap after another. A surprise quarter-final defeat to La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid in 2016 was followed by a first-leg hammering at the hands of Juventus at the same stage in 2017.


Those disappointments pale in comparison to their failings over the next two years, however. An implausible implosion in Rome meant that La Blaugrana threw away a three-goal advantage from the first leg, and they suffered the exact same fate against Liverpool a year later in the semi-finals.

Four years of underachievement have finally simmered to boiling point.


Gone are the days of linking up with Dani Alves on the right-hand side, or playing defence-splitting one-twos with Iniesta. Messi must settle for the likes of the technically-flawed Nelson Semedo, or the loose cannon that is Arturo Vidal in midfield.

The decline in the squad’s cohesion and talent is staggering.


Barcelona were up against a stubborn and well-organised Napoli side on Tuesday evening, and the Italians’ game plan was clear from the off: frustrate, and counter. I Partenopei have improved of late, but still languish in sixth place in the Serie A table, and are a far cry from the team which wowed us all under Maurizio Sarri a couple of years ago.

And yet, they were made to look like masters in the art of defence against La Blaugrana, who simply couldn’t find the spark to get their game into gear. Barça’s game plan consisted of pushing the ball from the defence, to the midfield, back to the defence, back to the midfield, switch from side to side, and then clip the ball aimlessly over the top for a goal kick. And repeat.

Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
A tough watch. And it highlights the lack of identity at the club since the days of tiki taka under Pep Guardiola, and the destructive trident of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. The easy-on-the-eye passing has remained, but an inability to open teams up with a change of pace and a lack of an incisive through ball now plagues their style.

But no Catalonian supporter would have been more exasperated than their number ten, who dropped deeper and deeper to try and inspire some resemblance of an attacking intent amongst his colleagues.


Messi drove at the Napoli defence, twisting and turning in the tightest of spaces – in ways that only he could – trying desperately to work a shooting opportunity for himself or his teammates. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

The lack of successful linkup play between the forward and his fellow Barça stars speaks to the painful normality of the players that surround the talisman.

It’s no secret that the Argentinian international has shouldered the responsibility of carrying this Barcelona side for some years, but Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Napoli made it apparent just how hopeless this team is without him.

Despite dominating possession, Barça rarely threatened the Italian’s goal, and Jose Callejon had arguably the best chance of the match for the hosts, following Antoine Griezmann’s equaliser.


The truth is, although the Spanish champions laboured to a draw in the first leg, they will probably overcome the stubborn Italians at Camp Nou and progress to the quarter-finals. But the ugly truth is, they won’t get much further.

And the biggest truth of them all is, Barcelona won’t win the Champions League this season.


Nor next season. And probably not the season after that.

You could make an argument for four or five different teams lifting the European trophy this year. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Liverpool and Juventus are all at a level to win the Champions League, and each club will be confident in their own abilities.

For Barcelona, their selling point is simply ‘we have Messi.’ While that USP does stand for more than most, it’s not enough to win the biggest competition in club football. Not anymore. The 32-year-old is as good as he has ever been – if not better – but football has moved on. And left Barcelona behind.

The Catalan giants have simply failed to replace their departed stars of the past with adequate reinforcements, and the huge sums of money spent on the likes of Ousmane Dembélé and Philippe Coutinho have proved to be poor choices.

The lack of creativity in midfield and alongside Messi in attack is alarming, and the mental fragility of the players cripples them on the biggest stage, time and time again. The appointment of a new manager is no longer an efficient process; it’s a long, drawn-out soap opera of leaked stories and rejections.

Ousmane Dembele,Philippe Coutinho
And the necessity – and then decision – to sign Martin Braithwaite after the winter window had closed is just about the icing on the cake.


The whole club reeks of neglect and a shirking of responsibility. A huge rebuild and squad overhaul is needed, and it wont happen in Messi’s lifetime.

Messi now finds himself at a crossroads. Despite the circus that follows the superstar regarding his future at Barcelona, and the clause which allows him to leave the club at the end of any given season, it is evident that the forward would rather see out his final playing years in Catalonia.

But another failure in Europe would once again raise doubts in the superstar’s mind over the possible success behind this patchwork squad, that has been shoddily stacked around him.

With tensions high between players and the Barça hierarchy, and the likelihood of Champions League glory slipping away, Messi must decide what he values more: his Barcelona legacy or his trophy cabinet.


#NobleSport

Griezmann save Barcelona with 1-1 draw against Napoli in first leg


Antoine Griezmann rescued a 1-1 draw for Barcelona at Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Frenchman Griezmann struck just before the hour mark for Barca in Naples after Dries Mertens had put the hosts ahead in the 30th minute with his 121st Napoli goal, equalling the club all-time top scorer Marek Hamsik.


Barcelona ended the game with 10 men after Arturo Vidal was sent off with two minutes to go after picking up two yellow cards, following an angry clash with Napoli defender Mario Rui.

Lionel Messi failed to score on his first appearance at the Stadio San Paolo where Napoli legend Diego Maradona reigned supreme three decades ago.


The 32-year-old Messi scored four goals at the weekend in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Eibar that put the Spaniards back the top of La Liga, but could not add to his 114 Champions League goals.

The clash was the first between the two teams and also a Champions League debut for Barcelona coach Quique Setien and Napoli’s Gennaro Gattuso, who both took over after the group stage.


Messi fired over on nine minutes after combining well with Frenkie de Jong but Gattuso’s side piled the pressure on the Catalans.

Their pressing paid off on the half-hour mark, with Piotr Zielinski breaking free down the right before finding Mertens, who curled a magnificent finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.


He equalled Hamsik’s record and is now six goals clear of Maradona, but was forced off in the second half after a Sergio Busquets tackle for which the Spaniard will be suspended for the second leg.

Barcelona did not waste much time in getting on level terms, as Messi and Busquets combined to send Semedo into the box in the 57th minute.


The Portuguese full-back crossed low for Griezmann to power home right-footed.

Ter Stegen denied Lorenzo Insigne with Jose Callejon also missing a chance for a second, as did Messi with eight minutes to go.

Vidal was sent off after a sliding tackle on Rui before appearing to headbutt the Napoli defender.

The Chilean will also miss the return leg at the Camp Nou on March 18.


#NobleSport

Summer Move: Who Is Barcelona Contemplating On Buying?


Barcelona could be thinking about poaching a Manchester City player if the UEFA sanction is maintained. In dire need of an energy boost to the squad, Barcelona will be making a bid for Bernardo Silva.


If Manchester City do not manage to get their Champions League ban overruled, there could very well be a battle for City’s best and brightest players.

According to a report in the newspaper ‘Express’, Barcelona are already studying the options available in Manchester City, focusing on the Portuguese Bernardo Silva.


It is clear that Manchester City do not want to sell one of their best players, but the sanction of two years without playing in the Champions League could be too heavy for the team.

The mentioned source indicated that Barcelona has a great interest in the Portuguese player, having begun talks over the probabilities of bringing the City player.

The first response is expected to be negative, but Barcelona are prepared for long and arduous negotiations. Meanwhile, Bernardo Silva remains focused on Manchester City for which he has scored seven goals and given eight assists so far this year.

“I learned a lot from all the coaches I had, but Pep is special and different in the way he approaches the game and also in the way he looks at training and the little details. For me it’s a pleasure to learn from him every day,” said Bernardo Silva a few days ago at Eleven Sports.


#NobleSport

Messi speaks on 2009-18 rivalry with Ronaldo (see..)


Lionel Messi has admitted that his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo in Spain was special and it will remain forever.

Messi and Ronaldo played for Barcelona and Real Madrid, where they rivaled each other for the La Liga and Champions League titles from 2009-2018 as well as the Ballon D’Or, before the Portuguese footballer moved to Juventus.

Speaking about their rivalry, Messi said: “It was a special duel and it will remain forever because it lasted many years and it is not easy to maintain certain levels for a long time.


“Plus the teams we played in were also very demanding, both Real Madrid and Barcelona were the two best teams in the world.”

The Argentinian also scored 472 times in all competitions for Barcelona between 2009 and 2018, while the Portuguese star registered 450 goals for Madrid.


Messi added: “Competing on an equal footing for so many years, I think it will remain forever.

“The sporting duel between us was very nice on a personal level and I think people had fun too, whether it was from Madrid or from Barca, or even only football fans in general.”

RONALDO VS MESSI RIVALRY (2009-2018)

Goals:

Messi: 472; Ronaldo: 450

Assists:

Messi: 122; Ronaldo: 95

La Liga Trophies:

Messi: 7; Ronaldo: 2

Champions League Trophies:

Messi: 2; Ronaldo: 4

Ballon D’Or:

Messi: 6: Ronaldo: 5


#NobleSport

3-3: PSG suffered shocking draw against Monaco


Paris Saint Germain’s defensive shortcomings were exposed as Monaco snapped the champions’ Ligue 1 winning streak in a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.

Neymar opened the scoring for the leaders, but Monaco, who were playing their first Ligue 1 game under new coach Robert Moreno, hit back with goals from Gelson Martins and Wissam Ben Yedder.

PSG levelled with an own goal from Fode Ballo-Toure and Neymar netted his second to put them ahead, before substitute Islam Slimani grabbed a point for the visitors.


The result left PSG on 46 points from 19 games, five ahead of second-placed Olympique de Marseille, who have played a game more.

Monaco are eighth on 29 points having also played 19 games.


PSG, who had won their six previous league games, and Monaco will play again at the Louis II stadium on Wednesday.

Nantes climbed up to fourth on 32 points thanks to a 2-0 win at St Etienne.


Thomas Tuchel’s PSG side relied on Neymar’s sterling display but Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria had a night to forget as did the hosts’ defence.

Neymar fired home from close range after being set up by Marco Verratti’s through-ball in the third minute to get the hosts off to a perfect start.


The Brazilian has now scored in his last seven games for PSG.

Monaco, however, reacted swiftly.


Cesc Fabregas flicked the ball into the path of Ben Yedder, who was brought down by Keylor Navas, only for Martins to collect the loose ball and score into an empty net after seven minutes.

Monaco took the lead in the 12th when the league’s top scorer Ben Yedder beat Navas with a low angled shot from just inside the box at the end of a swift team move for his 14th goal of the campaign.


It was the first time since 2012 that PSG had conceded two goals in the opening 15 minutes in Ligue 1.

They levelled 12 minutes later, however, as Ballo-Toure deflected Neymar’s attempt into his own goal.


Neymar was at it again four minutes before the break when he sent Benjamin Lecomte the wrong way to convert a penalty after Kylian Mbappe had been tripped by Martins.

PSG took fewer risks after the break but Slimani beat Navas from close range in the 70th minute after Marquinhos deflected Martins’ attempt into his path.


The goal was initially ruled out for offside by referee Antony Gautier, but was awarded after a VAR review.

“We had a lot of chances, we tried everything,” said Neymar.

“It was a good test and we could have won it.”

Elsewhere, Lille coach Christophe Galtier was fuming at his team after they lost 1-0 at Dijon and were left in fifth place on 31 points.

“We’re talking about collective goals but some players seem to have individual goals. They’ll sit on the bench, period. They’ll look at their own navel on the bench or in the stands,” he told a news conference.


#Newsworthy…

Messi reveals his most iconic records

…reveals his awards and records

If there’s one man who knows a little something about breaking records, it’s Lionel Messi. The Argentine has shattered records with terrifying ease, but he believes that his status as La Liga’s all-time top scorer trumps them all.

Back on 22 November, 2014, Messi netted his 251st, 252nd and 253rd league goals in a 5-1 win over Sevilla which saw him bypass Telmo Zarra’s 251 goals – a record which had stood untouched for 55 years before Messi showed up.

Five years later and Messi currently sits on 432 goals from just 465 games. However, when he first entered the league, he endured a run of just two strikes in 18 matches, which seems almost impossible for someone like the Messi we know these days.

Speaking to mark the 90th anniversary of La Liga, Messi admitted that it was tough for him to start with, but advice from a teammate helped him pull through.

“The first few years, it was difficult for me to score goals; either I was missing or I didn’t have any luck,” he confessed. “I remember [Samuel] Eto’o told me: the day you start scoring goals it’s going to be… because you have a lot of chances and you don’t finish them. Then one day it clicked, they went in.

”Every time I go out on the pitch, I think less about the goal and more about the game.

“To be the top goalscorer in this league with what the Spanish league means is special. To be honest I think that this is one of the best records I have.”

Of those 432 goals, so many of them have come free kicks. The Barcelona man is one of the biggest threats around from set pieces and has netted more in the last five seasons on his own than many of Europe’s biggest sides.

“Recently I have been looking into it and especially in free kicks to see if they move before, if they make a small movement, if not, how they react, how they place the wall,” he revealed.

“It’s true that I am now studying this a bit more. But everything is work and training, I have been getting better with training.”

video

#NobleSport

Manchester City Dance Majestically To UCL Last 16.

…serve Dinamo Zagreb right

A hat trick by Gabriel Jesus has powered Manchester City into the last sixteen of the UEFA Champions League.

Man City came from behind to win 4-1, shattering Dinamo Zagreb’s Champions League ambition.

A win for Dinamo would have given the Croatian side a place in the knockout stages for the first time in their history.

#NobleSport

Group C – After screwing Shakhtar Donetsk, Atalanta reach last 16.

Atalanta reached the Champions League last 16 in their first season in the tournament on Wednesday after a 3-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in Group C.

The Italians, who were without a point until their fourth game in the campaign, joined Manchester City in the knock-out stages as Dinamo Zagreb failed to beat the English champions in Croatia, losing 4-1.

Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic and Robin Gosens scored in the second half for the side who finished third in Serie A last season to reach the top tier of European football for the first time.

The defending Ukrainian league and cup champions, who play their home matches in the city of Kharkiv due to the ongoing conflict in the east of the country, will play in the last 32 of the Europa League after the defeat.

Shakhtar coach Luis Castro kept faith with the side which beat Olimpik Donetsk on Friday, starting goal-scoring defenders Ismaily and Mykola Matviyenko.

Atalanta’s Gian Pero Gasperini made three changes to the starting lineup from the weekend’s victory over Verona including bringing in Gosens for the injured Josip Ilicic.

The visitors, who drew with City in November to avoid defeat for the first time in the European campaign, started the more positive.

Attacking midfielders Pasalic and Alejandro Gomez both failed to open the scoring despite superb chances in the first quarter of an hour.

Castagne broke the deadlock for the travelling side on 67 minutes despite VAR checking if captain Gomez was offside.

Midfielder Castagne slotted home from Gomez’s cross after tidy build-up play on the edge of the Shakhtar box.

The home side’s hopes of reaching the knockouts were dealt a blow after a bizarre refereeing decision.

Thorsten Schiffner sent defender Dodo off on 77 for striking an opponent but the right-back seemed to make minimal contact with Remo Freuler.

Gasperini’s men clinched their place in the club’s history books with nine minutes to play as Pasalic beat Andriy Pyatov with the slightest of touches from a Ruslan Malinovskyi free-kick hit from near the corner flag.

Gosens added the third in the fourth minute of injury time after a Taras Stepanenko defensive howler in his own penalty area.

#NobleSport

2-1: Frank Lampard Push Chelsea To Qualify For The UCL Last 16 After Knocking Lille.

…Tammy Abraham and Azpilicueta Shines

Chelsea booked their place in the last 16 of the Champions League as first-half goals from Tammy Abraham and Cesar Azpilicueta sealed a 2-1 win over a much-changed Lille at Stamford Bridge.

Victory for Valencia over Ajax in the other game in Group H means Frank Lampard’s men go through behind the Spaniards with last season’s semi-finalists relegated to the Europa League.

Chelsea knew victory would take them into the knockout stages no matter what the outcome was in Amsterdam and did their job early on against a Lille side with just one point to show for their return to the Champions League for the first time in seven years.

Simple finishes from Abraham and Azpilicueta were just reward for a dominant first-half display, but Chelsea were forced to hold on in the final stages after Loic Remy halved Lille’s deficit against his old club 12 minutes from time.

The visitors were already sure to finish bottom of the group and coach Christophe Galtier showed his priority is trying to secure a return to the Champions League next season by finishing in the top three of Ligue 1 as he made seven changes to the side that beat Brest on Friday.

Chelsea had won just one of their previous five games after a great start to life under Lampard and the Blues boss responded by adding a little more experience to what has been a very young side so far this season.

Antonio Rudiger returned from injury to make just his second start of the campaign at centre-back, while Jorginho was restored in midfield to the side that lost 3-1 to Everton on Saturday.

Up front, Abraham was again flanked by Christian Pulisic and Willian, and all three combined to open the scoring on 19 minutes.

Pulisic unselfishly played in Willian on the right instead of opting to go for goal himself and the Brazilian’s driven cross was tapped in by Abraham for his 13th goal of the season.

Lille have been the whipping boys in a three-way shootout for two places in the last 16 and showed why 10 minutes before half-time when Azpilicueta was left completely unmarked to head home Emerson’s corner from close range.

Mike Maignan in the Lille goal kept his side in the game with a fine double save from Pulisic and Willian at the start of the second half.

However, Chelsea took their foot off the gas as Lampard replaced Pulisic and Abraham ahead of a busy festive period in the Premier League.

And the hosts had to suffer a nervy final dozen minutes when Remy fired in off the underside of the bar.

Remy was a peripheral figure during three seasons at Chelsea between 2014 and 2017, but nearly came back to haunt his old employers only to fire weakly into the arms of Kepa Arrizabalaga in stoppage time.

Instead, Chelsea saw the game out to mark another impressive milestone in Lampard’s first season in charge.

#NobleSport

In – Liverpool passed Salzburg with 2 hits, qualifies for the UCL last 16.

…salah guilty of missing goal chances

Liverpool struck twice in two minutes through Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah to avoid an embarrassing early Champions League exit by winning 2-0 in Salzburg on Tuesday.

The European champions needed to avoid defeat against the Austrian champions to book their place in the last 16 and victory ensured they did so as winners of Group E ahead of Napoli.

Salah had been guilty of missing a host of big chances as Liverpool walked a tightrope for nearly an hour, but made amends with a sumptuous finish from a narrow angle after Keita’s header had settled the holders’ nerves.

Salzburg had scored 87 goals in 24 previous games this season, including three when Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller between the two back in October.

But Norwegian wonder kid Erling Braut Haaland was thwarted as the Reds recorded their first clean sheet in the Champions League this season.

READ ALSO: France Extend Deschamps’ Contract Until 2022

Liverpool needed goalkeeper Alisson Becker to be at his best early on as the Brazilian blocked from Takumi Minamino and Haaland.

However, the better chances were coming for the Premier League leaders at the other end.

Salah dragged his first big chance wide on his favoured left foot at the end of a brilliant Liverpool break from one end of the field to the other.

Keita had been rewarded for his goalscoring return to the team in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Bournemouth and seemed keen to make a mark against his former side.

But the Guinea midfielder failed to beat Cican Stankovic when played in by Salah’s slick reverse pass in first half stoppage time.

Salah was the culprit of more missed opportunities at the start of the second half when he fired over from Sadio Mane’s brilliant through ball and seconds later he was denied by Stankovic as he tried to round the goalkeeper.

Liverpool’s profligacy could have been punished when Haaland had his big chance to live up to the hype linking him with a host of Europe’s top clubs, but the 19-year-old hit the side-netting with just Alisson to beat.

Seconds later the visitors finally made the breakthrough when the two ex-Salzburg men in Mane and Keita combined.

Stankovic rashly rushed off his line as Mane sped onto Andy Robertson’s pass and his dinked cross was headed into an unguarded net by Keita.

A minute later, any hope left for Salzburg to spring an upset evaporated when Salah implausibly scored from the most difficult chance he had all evening.

The Egyptian seemed to have been forced too far wide on his right foot as Stankovic raced from his goal once again, but Salah somehow bent the ball with unerring accuracy into the far corner.

In each of the last two seasons Liverpool have also needed to get points in their final group game before going onto reach the final and no one will want to face Klopp’s men again come the knockout stages.

A first Premier League title in 30 years may be the priority on Merseyside with an eight-point lead over Leicester at the top of the table.

#NobleSport

4-0: Napoli pushed Napoli to the knockout stages in UCL.

…as Genk suffers great defeat

Arkadiusz Milik fired Napoli into the knockout stages of the Champions League on Tuesday with a first half hat-trick that helped see off Genk 4-0.

Pole Milik opened the scoring in the third minute and struck twice more before the break to end a nine-match winless run and ensure passage from Group E in second place, a point behind Liverpool.

Dries Mertens scored the other goal from the penalty spot with 15 minutes remaining.

#Newsworthy…

Full lists of Euro 2020 Tables. (Group A – F).

Reigning European champions Portugal will come up against World Cup winners France and Germany in the standout group at Euro 2020 following Saturday’s draw for the tournament in Bucharest.

Neither France nor Portugal were in Pot One for the 24-team competition being held in 12 cities across Europe, making them the teams to avoid for the top seeds.

The section, Group F, will be completed by one of the winners of the play-offs to be played next March.

See the draw for the group stage of the Euro 2020 finals, to be played from June 12-July 12, made in Bucharest on Saturday:

Group A

Turkey

Italy

Wales

Switzerland

Group B

Denmark

Finland

Belgium

Russia

Group C

Netherlands

Ukraine

Austria

Winner of play-off Path D or Romania should they qualify (home games in Bucharest)

Group D

England

Croatia

Winner of play-off Path C

Czech Republic

Group E

Spain

Sweden

Poland

Winner of play-off Path B

Group F

Winner of play-off Path A or Path D (if Romania win Path A)

Portugal

France

Germany

Note: Remaining four teams to qualify through UEFA Nations League play-offs in March

#Newsworthy…

French fan wave flags to cheer as UEFA set to sell 1 Million tickets for Euro 2020.

One million tickets for Euro 2020 will go on sale to supporters in December, UEFA confirmed on Saturday ahead of the draw for the tournament in Bucharest.

While the format of the tournament, with 12 cities across the continent hosting matches, has come in for criticism, UEFA reported “very strong demand” for tickets when they first went on sale in June and July this year.

A total of 19.3 million requests were made for the 1.5 million tickets on sale during that period, out of a total of three million.

The latest wave of tickets will go on sale to supporters of the 20 teams who have already qualified from Wednesday, December 4 at 1300 GMT up until December 18 for a competition that will begin in Rome on June 12 and conclude with the final in London on July 12.

In between, matches will be played from Bilbao and Dublin to Saint Petersburg and to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

“We said that this Euro will have a different flavour, a European flavour, and we want to take this festival all over Europe,” UEFA’s deputy general secretary, Giorgio Marchetti, said at a press conference.

“That is why we are not afraid and the big success of ticket sales earlier this year demonstrates that people have a real appetite and real desire for this tournament.”

The cheapest tickets will cost 30 euros ($33) for games in Baku, Bucharest and Budapest, and 50 euros elsewhere.

Meanwhile, UEFA expressed hope that the tournament will not be marred by incidents of racism such as those during England’s win in Bulgaria in qualifying in October.

“In our experience, the Euro has been always a very festive event, at least within the stadiums, so we are confident this atmosphere will take priority over stupid and sometimes criminal things which from time to time happen in football,” said Marchetti.

If needed, UEFA will stick to their so-called three-step procedure to help officials deal with racist incidents in stadiums.

The procedure first involves announcements being made within stadiums asking supporters to stop any racist behaviour. If that fails, referees can suspend games and take players off the pitch, before abandoning matches as a last resort.

#Newsworthy…