Day One at the 2004 Australia Cup was…very testing. An early start compounded by lightning, thunder, hail and driving rain and what I believe were gale-force winds was…interesting. While I normally enjoy a day of good solid winter weather with a bit of storm action, today was not really the ideal day for it. With the wind sending people running to stop team tents from blowing away and the photographer cringing when his camera crashed to the ground, the players took the fields for the first day of matches. A visit from ASDA (Australian Sports Drug Agency) to do some random testing, was a timely reminder for all players about the importance of returning the required ASDA forms and following the ASDA guidelines and requirements that apply to all players. While the weather cleared a little over lunchtime, the afternoon was twice as bad. Our afternoon stroll to the shops for some lunch turned more into a fight for survival against wind and rain threatening to send us flying across the fields and into the ocean. (okay, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but credit needs to be given to the players, coaches, selectors and referees braving the conditions.) Markers, jackets, tents, flags and hats were flying left, right and centre, but the competition went on (minus tournament director Jon Pratt who was last seen past the trees, down the creek, looking for those missing field markers.) Last year’s Men’s Champions, the ACT, fought out a tough 6-6 draw with Tasmania, signaling a tight tournament for the Men. They finished strongly with a 6-3 win over SA and an easy win over the Victorian 30’s. Tasmania also finished well after the first day, a 6-5 win The Victorian 23’s laid down the challenge to their Open Men before going down 6-3 in a good match. The SA Men started the tournament well with a 13-2 win over NSW Country and a 10-4 win over the Victorian 23’s. While the Senior teams will play all teams in the round matches, they will have their own finals series and it already looks as though it will be tightly fought between the Victoria, NSW Country and Elwood Park senior sides. In the Women’s division it was last year’s Champions, Victoria, who had a strong round one win, 10-0 over the Elwood Park Seniors (EPTA Seniors). They continued to establish themselves with another 9-2 win over the ACT. The NSW Women look like they will challenge the Victorian Women after a 7-4 win over SA. A bye on the first day meant not a lot was seen of the NSW Country Women. The NSW Country 23’s will no doubt be very tough to beat with their side including several past and present Australia representatives. They started the tournament with two easy wins 11-2 over Vic 23’s and 12-0 over the EPTA Seniors. Tomorrow certainly promises another day of great competition. The SportingPulse draw, results and statistics can be found using the following link: AUSTRALIA CUP DRAW AND RESULTS 2004 All Australia Cup stories can also be found on the ATA Australia Cup homepage. AUSTRALIA CUP HOMEPAGE 2004 By Rachel Moyle, firstname.lastname@example.org
Luka Modric’s wonderful goal helped seal Club World Cup history as Real Madrid beat Al Ain 4-1 to become the first team to win the tournament three years in a row.Santiago Solari’s first silverware since being appointed as Julen Lopetegui’s successor was set up by Modric’s first-half strike as Madrid comfortably triumphed in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, moving past rivals Barcelona with their fourth title in the competition.The Croatia midfielder, who added the Ballon d’Or crown to his World Cup Golden Ball this month, bent the opener into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards, with Marcos Llorente also drilling home from outside the box before a Sergio Ramos header extended Madrid’s lead. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Al Ain had a goal from Caio Fernandes ruled out for offside when they only trailed by one and Zoran Mamic’s side – who replied through an excellent Tsukasa Shiotani header – can be proud of their efforts on home soil as massive underdogs against the European champions, despite Madrid adding a late fourth through Yahia Nader’s own goal.The perfect way to cap off #TheBest year for @lukamodric10? He has @realmadriden in front in the #ClubWC final pic.twitter.com/VmlslWFoxG— #ClubWC (@FIFAcom) December 22, 2018Madrid hit the post in the third minute when Llorente got clear in the left channel, his cutback deflected on to the woodwork by fortunate defender Ismail Ahmed.Al Ain should have taken the lead when Marcelo’s mistake let in Hussein El Shahat but captain Ramos made a miraculous goal-line clearance to deny the winger, then Madrid nudged in front.Neat build-up play from Karim Benzema set up Modric and the Ballon d’Or winner curled home a beauty from 25 yards, Caio then seeing a rapid reply ruled out for offside.Benzema missed a brilliant chance to extend Madrid’s lead before goalkeeper Khalid Eisa made outstanding saves to deny both Gareth Bale and Modric before the break.Madrid effectively clinched the trophy in the 60th minute when a cleared corner fell kindly to Llorente, his thumping half-volley giving Eisa no chance and opening his professional account in some style.Ramos powered home a Modric corner to make certain of Madrid’s victory, celebrating the goal with unused substitute Isco, although Al Ain scored a deserved consolation through Shiotani with four minutes left.Madrid had the final say, though, as a cross from substitute Vinicius Jr was turned into his own goal by Nader in the first minute of stoppage time. WHAT A GOAL!!!@marcosllorente pic.twitter.com/wsel09O91H— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) December 22, 2018What does it mean? Solari up and runningThis was not always completely convincing from Madrid, but they did not need to get out of second gear. Solari’s side left too many gaps at the back and more clinical opponents may have punished them, but the coach will be relieved to collect the first trophy of his reign.Modric the man of the moment There were few arguments about Modric ending Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance of the Ballon d’Or and he ended 2018 on another high note. His opening goal was superbly struck and the midfielder also forced a scrambling save from Eisa with a stunning volley as well as crossing for Ramos’ goal.Madrid survive Benzema’s baffling missRonaldo’s sale to Juventus meant Benzema would have to hugely increase his meagre goalscoring returns from last season to address the deficit. But the former France striker has struggled to step up, with an atrocious miss from Lucas Vazquez’s cross particularly worrying. Benzema – who has six league goals this season – did set up Modric’s opener, yet he is ultimately in the Madrid team to score goals, not make them.Key Opta Facts- Madrid have won the Club World Cup four times (2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018), surpassing Barcelona (2009, 2011 and 2015) to become the competition’s most successful team.- Solari is the first Argentinian manager to win the Club World Cup. The previous five Argentinians to manage in a Club World Cup final lost the game, all in charge of teams from South America.- Madrid captain Ramos is the third player to score in different Club World Cup finals, after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.What’s next?Madrid can enjoy a brief break before returning to LaLiga action at Villarreal on January 3. read more
David Brooks scored both goals as Bournemouth ended a three-game losing run in all competitions with a 2-0 Premier League win over Brighton and Hove Albion.A fine finish in each half from the 21-year-old secured all three points for Eddie Howe’s side, who had lost back-to-back league matches before going down 1-0 to Chelsea in the EFL Cup this week.Brighton were unlucky to be behind after a good first-half showing, but they rarely looked likely to get back into the game once Lewis Dunk was sent off with 17 minutes of normal time remaining. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Chris Hughton’s side have now failed to beat Bournemouth since a 3-2 win in England’s third tier back in January 2008.Asmir Begovic made good saves to deny Yves Bissouma and Jurgen Locadia before Brooks broke the deadlock 21 minutes in, beating Leon Balogun before blasting home left-footed from the edge of the area.It was a goal that was at odds with Brighton’s control over much of the first half, and only another fine sprawling stop from Begovic prevented Dunk from heading in an equaliser before the interval.Bournemouth assumed control over proceedings after the break, though, and Brighton’s task appeared to be beyond them when Dunk was given a second booking for lunging to trip up Callum Wilson.Brooks made certain of the win four minutes later, racing to meet substitute Ryan Fraser’s cross and looping a header over Mat Ryan and into the right-hand corner of the net.What does it mean? Bournemouth in top eight for ChristmasA run of seven defeats in their last eight games, and no goals scored in their last three, had left Bournemouth feeling a little blue ahead of the Christmas period.However, this victory over their south-coast rivals means they will be in the top eight of the table come December 25, which fans would almost certainly have signed on for before the season started.Brighton have a nine-point cushion to the bottom three, but Hughton will be a little concerned by how little his side threatened in the second half after playing so well in the first.Brooks shows a clinical touchBrooks’ goals each showcased a very difficult skill that this impressive young winger managed to make look easy. He is fast becoming Bournemouth’s most important player.Dunk leaves Brighton in troubleDunk’s crude attempt to stop Wilson running away from him left the visitors with little chance of salvaging a result, and his imminent suspension comes at a time when Shane Duffy has been banned for the last three games. Not ideal for Hughton.Key Opta Facts- Bournemouth registered a clean sheet in the Premier League for the first time in eight games, since a 3-0 win against Fulham in October.- Hughton has never beaten Bournemouth in his managerial career, losing four and drawing once (all while in charge of Brighton). – Brooks has netted five goals in his last 11 league appearances, after managing just three in his previous 35.- Josh King has been directly involved in 44 Premier League goals for Bournemouth (35 goals, 9 assists), 10 more than any other player (Wilson on 34). What’s next?Bournemouth head to Wembley to take on Tottenham on Boxing Day, while Brighton host Arsenal read more
Barcelona will seek to tighten their grip on first place in the Primera Division on Saturday when they play host to Celta Vigo.The Catalans go into the fixture fresh from thumping away wins against Espanyol (4-0) and Levante (5-0) and having had the rare luxury of a full week to prepare for the fixture.Thereafter, they will have a couple of weeks off before meeting Getafe in La Liga, but in order to enjoy the festive period as fully as possible, they must overcome midtable Celta. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Game Barcelona vs Celta Date Saturday, December 22 Time 5:30pm GMT / 12:30pm ET Stream (US) fubo TV (7-day free trial) TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch In the United States (US), the game can be watched live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial) . New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser. US TV channel Online stream beIN Sports fubo TV (7-day free trial) In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will not be shown on television but can be streamed on Eleven Sports 2. UK TV channel Online stream N/A Eleven Sports 2 Squads & Team News Position Barcelona squad Goalkeepers Ter Stegen, Cillessen Defenders Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, Miranda Midfielders Rakitic, Busquets, Roberto, Vidal, Denis Suarez, Arthur, Alena Forwards Messi, Luis Suarez, Coutinho, Dembele, Munir Thomas Vermaelen suffered a fresh injury setback this week while Samuel Umtiti is still sidelined. On the plus side, Nelson Semedo is fit and gets a starting berth.Barcelona starting XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal; Messi, L. Suarez, Dembele.Subs: Cillessen, Alena, Brandariz, Coutinho, Miranda, Arthur, D. Suarez. Position Celta squad Goalkeepers Ruben Blanco, Alvarez Defenders Araujo, Costas, Roncaglia, Cabral, Alonso, Mazan, Mallo, Vazquez Midfielders Lobotka, Yokuslu, Radoja, Beltran, Jensen, Sanchez, Mendez, Boufal Forwards Sisto, Mor, Hjulsager, Gomez, Aspas, Eckert Celta have a full squad available for this encounter with the exception of the suspended left-back David Junca. Celta starting XI: Ruben Blanco; Mallo, Araujo, Costas, Mazan; Mendez, Yokuslu, Jozabed, Boufal; Aspas, Gomez.Subs: Alvarez, Beltran, Cabral, Hjulsager, Lobotka, Sisto, Kevin.Betting & Match Odds Barcelona have been made hot 1/8 favourites with bet365. A draw is priced at 8/1 while a Celta win is a long shot at 20/1.Click here to see more offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more .Match Preview They may have one last outing of 2018, but Barcelona’s thoughts are already drifting towards the future.On Thursday, it was confirmed that they will sign Jeison Murillo on loan from Valencia in the January transfer window to reinforce their defence, while the Camp Nou side have also been tipped to pounce for Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot.Barca have kept three successive cleansheets in the Primera Division, but the spine of their squad remains paper thin and needs reinforcing.At the other end of the pitch, though, Lionel Messi continues on his merry way, having shone once again last weekend in a 5-0 destruction of Levante. The Argentine’s hat-trick carried him over the 50-goal barrier for 2018 – a figure he has achieved in eight of the last nine years – and means he has won more top-flight matches than any other player in the club’s history.“I don’t know how to label him. I don’t know how to answer the most repeated question,” head coach Ernesto Valverde said, clearly having run out of superlatives for the South American, who finished only fifth in the recent the 2018 Ballon d’Or voting.“He’s the one who makes us play, who gives us amazing goals … we just have to enjoy him.”Indeed, so prolific has Messi been alongside strike partner Luis Suarez, the duo have accumulated more goals than both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid this season.Celta’s task is to somehow find a way of halting this juggernaut, but the Galicians are confident.“The game comes at a good time because we’re in the middle of a good run of results and play, despite the recent draw against Leganes,” midfielder Jozabed Sanchez said. “Additionally, in recent years we’ve been able to make things difficult for them.”Celta may be undefeated in their last three league matches, but the likes of Huesca, Villarreal and Leganes do not measure up to the size and quality of Barca. Indeed, the last time Celta faced one of the league’s big guns, they went down 4-2 to Real Madrid at home. Barcelona, therefore, remain hot favourites – particularly with Messi in such fantastic form.
Watford ended West Ham’s winning streak with a 2-0 victory at London Stadium which saw Javi Gracia’s side climb to sixth in the Premier League.The hosts went into Saturday’s contest on the back of four wins on the bounce, but saw their momentum halted by Troy Deeney’s emphatic first-half penalty and a late Gerard Deulofeu goal.Manuel Pellegrini’s men were left to rue a number of near-misses as their search for a goal proved fruitless, Michail Antonio coming closest as he twice hit the woodwork in the second half. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? It represents the Hammers’ first loss since a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City last month, leaving them 12th in the table.| The skipper opens the scoring #watfordfc #WHUWAT [0-1]Listen live ⤵️https://t.co/mxkU36Cmjo pic.twitter.com/O4xpJMiObF— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) December 22, 2018West Ham threatened first and Christian Kabasele made a vital sliding interception to prevent Antonio’s dangerous delivery from reaching Javier Hernandez, while Fabian Balbuena was pressed into defensive action at the other end to thwart Deulofeu.The Hornets wasted a glorious chance to break the deadlock in the 24th minute as Jose Holebas miscontrolled when he had the freedom of the penalty area after West Ham’s plan to play him offside backfired. It did not take long for the visitors to shrug off that disappointment, Balbuena’s clumsy challenge on Roberto Pereyra allowing Deeney to open the scoring with a powerful finish from the spot.West Ham twice came close to an equaliser either side of the break, Ben Foster making a smart stop to keep out Hernandez’s volley and then Antonio’s header hitting the post. Andy Carroll’s introduction in the place of Mark Noble underlined West Ham’s attacking intent and the hosts continued to press, Hernandez fluffing his lines to shoot tamely at Foster from just eight yards out. It took a fine save from Lukasz Fabianski to push Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stinging drive over the crossbar in the 71st minute as Watford sought to put the game to bed. Doucoure then made a timely intervention to deny the lively Hernandez just as the Mexican was lining up the target. There were chances for both sides late on with Deeney shooting straight at Fabianski and Foster saving from Antonio before watching his follow-up effort hit the bar, but Deulofeu had the final say with a cool finish to settle matters after being played in by Pereyra. What does it mean? Hornets flying highWith back-to-back wins under their belt, Watford now sit in the top six heading into a busy run of fixtures that will shape their season. West Ham arguably deserved at least a point and must quickly pick themselves up from a first defeat of the month.Fostering defensive confidenceIn a game of fine margins, the calm presence of Foster was key in Watford’s triumph, the Englishman making seven saves in a display that frustrated West Ham.Balbuena pays the penaltyIt was a day to forget for Balbuena, who went off after injuring himself in conceding the penalty that ultimately cost West Ham the game. His passing accuracy of 54.4 per cent spoke volumesKey Opta Facts- Watford have won five of their last eight Premier League games against West Ham (D1 L2), winning three away from home in this run (1-0 in February 2007, 4-2 in September 2016 and 2-0 in December 2018).- West Ham have failed to keep a clean sheet in 10 of their last 11 Premier League home games.- Deeney has scored in three of his last four league appearances against West Ham, with two of those goals coming at London Stadium.- Deulofeu scored in consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time in his career.- Watford ended a run of seven consecutive Premier League games in which they failed to keep a clean sheet. What’s next? Pellegrini takes his side to a resurgent Southampton on Thursday, while Watford host Chelsea on Boxing Day. read more
Manchester City’s commitment to pressing persuaded Andros Townsend to smash in his goal of the season contender.Crystal Palace claimed a shock 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium to land a telling blow against City’s Premier League title defence.Jeffrey Schlupp cancelled out Ilkay Gundogan’s opener and Luka Milivojevic’s penalty 10 minutes into the second half ultimately proved decisive after Kevin De Bruyne reduced the arrears late on. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? But it is Townsend’s sumptuous volley from 30 yards after City only partially cleared a set-piece that will live long in the memory.”It sat up for me. I knew if I took a touch, the way Man City press the ball they would have been all over me,” the Eagles forward told Sky Sports.”I knew I had to take it first time and as soon as it left my foot I knew it had a chance.”Townsend conceded Palace had to dig in for victory against Pep Guardiola’s side, making his goal all the sweeter.”Having watched it back I think it was the best goal of my career, given the circumstances and given the opposition – probably the best side I’ve ever played against in my career,” he added.”They’re incredible. We couldn’t get near them at times. To score against these away from home makes it the best.”Palace are now six points clear of the relegation zone and manager Roy Hodgson wants to ensure they make the most of an unexpected win when they host struggling Cardiff City on Boxing Day.”It’s a good day’s work and three fantastic points that we need to make certain we don’t throw away by not doing the job we need to do against Cardiff,” he told Sky Sports.”We need three points from that game as well and not waste these three ‘bonus’ points that a lot of people didn’t expect us to get today.” Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Welcome back Manchester United. Thanks Ole for the attacking football, we were all missing it. Let’s hope that it last. Exciting times ahead. #MUFC #1MUN— Man United Source (@1ManUnitedNews) December 22, 2018 If the Premier League had started on the day that Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over at Old Trafford, @ManUtd would be top. 🥴— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) December 22, 2018 First time Man Utd have scored 5 goals in one game, since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson! Brilliant from solskjaer! Man Utd sign him up on that long term contract right now!!!!👀— Jermaine Jenas (@jjenas8) December 22, 2018 Amazing turn around already for United, give Solskjær the permanent job imho.— Spurs Stat Man (@SpursStatMan) December 22, 2018 Five goals scored for the first time since under Sir Alex Ferguson in the Premier League. Forgot what that felt like. Here’s to more under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) December 22, 2018 You’re being naive if you don’t think José Mourinho’s Manchester United would have scored five against Cardiff. Okay, it might taken them six or seven matches to get there but still.— Jonny Sharples (@JonnyGabriel) December 22, 2018 Manchester United never scored more than four goals in a game during Jose Mourinho’s 144 matches in charge.They have done it in their first game after his sacking.— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) December 22, 2018 Manchester United 5… Fergie days back in one game!!! #MUFC— Kris Voakes (@krisvoakes) December 22, 2018 Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed a five-star debut as Manchester United manager.The former United striker oversaw a thumping 5-1 win over his former charges, Cardiff City.A Jesse Lingard double, as well as goals from Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial, gave Solskjaer the perfect start to his time in the dugout. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? And fans are already champing at the bit to see United back in action, while a number of cheeky Tottenham fans hope that Solskjaer’s form continues, so Mauricio Pochettino remains in north London.
Manchester United caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he warned his players that they “should never be outworked” before Saturday’s thrashing of Cardiff City.The Red Devils claimed a 5-1 win in south Wales courtesy of two goals from Jesse Lingard and one each from Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial.It was the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 that United had scored five in a Premier League match, and marked an ideal start to life for Solskjaer, who replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho on Wednesday. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? It was put to Solskjaer that this is the first league game in 2018-19 in which United had outrun their opponents – they covered 104 kilometres compared to Cardiff’s 99 – and the former Norway star stressed that such work rate is a minimum requirement.”One of the things I talked about is that a Manchester United team should never ever be outworked,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what team you play: you should run more than them and then your skills will give you a chance of winning again.”I said the same to these lads as I do back home in Molde: ‘Just work harder than them, enjoy yourselves, pass it forward, run forward, if you lose the ball I don’t mind as long as you work to win it back’, and they did.”When you’ve got players like this with quality, they’re always going to create chances.”There’s quite a few [positives]. The attitude and application of the boys when you go out there and see them, the attitude has been fantastic. The dressing room, the way they approached this game, because it’s been a difficult week for everyone and to get the focus and perform as well as they did impressed [me].”Now we can settle down and play, because that was key today. The first 15, 20 minutes, we know the energy of the crowd, we knew they were going to come long, first balls and second balls.”Cardiff boss Neil Warnock was left to rue what he described as Sunday-league defending as they suffered their heaviest defeat of the season since a 5-0 loss to Manchester City in September.”I thought we started the game quite well but to concede a goal like that was Sunday league, really,” he told BBC Sport .”It was very disappointing the way we conceded those goals. You can’t keep shooting yourselves in the foot like we did.”Having said that, if you told me at the start of the season that we wouldn’t be in the bottom three at Christmas, I’d have taken that.” Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Thomas Tuchel believes the first half of his debut season at Paris Saint-Germain has been “almost perfect” as they head into the mid-season break 13 points clear at the Ligue 1 summit.PSG defeated Nantes 1-0 at the Parc des Princes on Saturday to ensure they retained their unbeaten start to the league season, having dropped just four points in total.Not only are PSG 13 points ahead of Lille, they also have two games in hand on their closest rivals, in what has been an emphatic beginning for Tuchel in Ligue 1. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? But while PSG have been consistently impressive, Tuchel also feels their progress is noticeable.”When you look at the results, it’s almost perfect,” Tuchel told reporters after Saturday’s game. “I am very, very happy.”We can see the progress of the team, we can feel the energy of the team. Everyone was very open to new ideas. It was nice.”Saturday’s game was PSG’s first in Ligue 1 since December 5, as the champions have had two matches postponed due to the ‘gilet jaunes’ demonstrations.It had been suggested PSG looked tired and lacking in sharpness in what was a rather laboured victory over Nantes, though Tuchel is adamant the team were “amazing”.”No, I do not think so,” he said when asked if they were tired. “We had 70 per cent possession, we had 40 touches in the opposing area, we had 23 shots… It’s amazing.@TTuchelofficial ‘s end-of-the-year message for the fans Rate @PSG_English ‘s first half of the season in word? #ICICESTPARIS pic.twitter.com/o45ekBTZIB — Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) December 22, 2018 “We played with a lot of quality. We do a very aggressive counter-pressing, we just lacked precision in the final touch, in the last pass.”In my opinion, this is a match we could’ve won by four goals. We controlled the match. We deserved to win.”We are tired, but that’s normal. The team has been amazing. I compliment my players.”The club will return to action for a cup match on January 6 but do not have a league match scheduled until six days later against Amiens. But all eyes at PSG will be on Manchester United as the two have been drawn against each other the last 16 of the Champions League.
Speaking to Sky Sports recently Les Ferdinand spoke of promotion hopes back to the Premier League referring to it as a ‘golden ticket’.Queens Park Rangers are not far off the play-off places as they beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 at The City Ground to collect back to back wins. Centre-back Toni Leistner headed home the winning goal from a Luke Freeman cross. This was the first ever time QPR have won against Nottingham Forest at The City Ground with the club Tweeting: Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? 💪 BFG breaks the hoodoo!See @backpageimages from #QPR ‘s first-ever win at the City Ground.▶️ https://t.co/mIaF944Xx8 pic.twitter.com/QjHG7AxqND — QPR FC (@QPR) December 22, 2018 The Super Hoops have shown impressive form of late following their home win against Middlesbrough. They’ve had a bad start to the season but since have gone on to collect 34 points in the Championship. Their next game is a boxing day evening fixture against Ipswich Town.The west London side will look to continue their winning streak with Steve McClaren saying he is proud of his team’s spirit. 🗣 ‘It’s been a long time!’Steve McClaren shared his pride after #QPR ended their City Ground hoodoo.▶️ https://t.co/DJsAEPOc8p #FORQPR pic.twitter.com/M7NNmd0VbX — QPR FC (@QPR) December 22, 2018
Radja Nainggolan has been suspended by Inter for “disciplinary reasons”, the Serie A club announced on Sunday.The Belgian midfielder only joined Inter in June from Roma in a deal reported to be worth €38 million (£34m/$43) plus Nicolo Zaniolo, though he has failed to live up to expectations.Nainggolan has scored two goals in 11 Serie A outings, with Inter currently sitting third in the table. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? But he looks unlikely to feature in their next few games following Inter’s shock announcement that he will be barred from “football activity”.Inter’s statement read: “Inter can confirm that Radja Nainggolan has been temporarily suspended from football activity for disciplinary reasons.”FC Internazionale Milano statementhttps://t.co/DlYdH0cZg4 #FCIM — Inter (@Inter_en) December 23, 2018 The news comes at the end of a difficult week for the combative midfielder, as it was reported on Thursday that a gang had been falsifying his cheques and managed to rob him of approximately €150,000.According to reports, an investigation into the crime is then claimed to have found Nainggolan suffered significant losses at a casino.Inter have not stated the reasons for Nainggolan’s suspension, but he has long been seen as a contentious figure in Italian football.The extravagant character referred to himself as “normal” rather than a “bad boy” in an interview last month, though he has often attracted criticism for smoking, partying and drinking.He was left out of Belgium’s World Cup squad as he failed to convince Roberto Martinez he was worthy of a place, with the pair having had a rocky relationship during the Spaniard’s time in charge.Reports in the Italian media suggest Nainggolan’s punishment is for arriving late to training.
Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham have a role to play in this season’s title race after claiming a fourth Premier League win in a row.Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min both scored twice as Spurs ran out 6-2 winners against Everton at Goodison Park.The north Londoners came from behind to win for the 18th time in the top flight under Pochettino, and took their points tally after conceding the first goal to 70. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Victory takes Tottenham within two points of defending champions Manchester City and four behind leaders Liverpool.And despite the calibre of the opposition ahead of them in the table, Pochettino says his side remain in the title picture.“Football is about being consistent, if we are able to be consistent and play in the way we played tonight, yes, maybe we will arrive in April as a real contender,” he told the media.“I am proud of the way we played. “I am so pleased and very proud of the performance and energy we showed today. I am pleased about the result, but of course the performance comes first.“But there is still a long way to go. “We are involved in four competitions, today was a surprise to everyone, not only the quality, but not only the energy to play after a very tough game against Arsenal on Wednesday. “The energy was fantastic after that game.”A presentable run of games gives Tottenham a chance to cement their position in the title race, with AFC Bournemouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers travelling to Wembley before the end of 2018.They travel to strugglers Cardiff City on New Year’s Day before the FA Cup trip to Tranmere Rovers and Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Chelsea.
After a perfect weekend, Liverpool will be hoping to make it a perfect Christmas as they take on Newcastle United at Anfield on Boxing Day.The Reds, incredibly, have opened up a four-point gap at the top of the Premier League courtesy of their win at Wolves on Friday, and Manchester City’s shock defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Jurgen Klopp’s men will be looking to maintain, or even extend, that advantage on Wednesday.They welcome their former boss in Rafa Benitez, whose Newcastle side drew at home to Fulham on Saturday and sit 15th in the table. The Magpies have not won at Anfield since 1995, but Klopp will undoubtedly warn his players against complacency, with the stakes for every game as high as can be right now. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Here, Goal takes look at everything you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s game…Liverpool Injuries Liverpool are set to be handed a double boost with both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita passed fit for the game. Alexander-Arnold has missed the last two games with an ankle problem, while Keita suffered cuts to his foot and ribs against Wolves on Friday. Both will train as normal ahead of the game.Joe Gomez (fractured leg) and Joel Matip (broken collarbone) are still out.Rhian Brewster and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, meanwhile, are long-term absentees.Liverpool Suspensions Liverpool do not have any suspended players for this game.Liverpool Likely Line-UpKlopp’s ability to manage his resources has been a feature of Liverpool’s success so far this season, so we can expect a degree of rotation here.Nathaniel Clyne, one would suspect, will start at right-back while Alberto Moreno could be given a chance on the other flank as Liverpool seek to protect the brilliant Andy Robertson.In midfield Gini Wijnaldum could return to the starting XI, while Adam Lallana will be eager for a start after a promising cameo appearance at Wolves.Xherdan Shaqiri, an unused substitute at Molineux, may come into the forward line.Newcastle team news Benitez will make checks on the fitness of midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who has been struggling with a thigh injury. Defenders Ciaran Clark and Florian Lejuene are likely to miss out, while Ki-Sung Yeung is away on international duty with South Korea.Goalkeeper Karl Darlow is another doubt.TV Channel & Kick-Off Time The fixture will be not be broadcast live on the UK, as it is a 3pm kick off. Highlights can be found on Match of the Day, BBC One at 10.30pm.In the United States, the game can be watched live on television on NBC Sports, kick-off 10am ET. Best Opta Match Facts Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 22 home games against Newcastle in all competitions (W18 D4), with their last such defeat coming in November 1995 in the League Cup (0-1). Newcastle have won just two of their last 10 Premier League games against Liverpool (D4 L4), with both of those victories coming at St. James’ Park. Since losing their first ever Premier League home game against Newcastle (0-2 in April 1994), Liverpool are unbeaten in each of the 22 such meetings since (W18 D4). Liverpool haven’t lost a home league game on Boxing Day since 1986-87 (0-1 vs Manchester United), winning eight and drawing three since then. Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has been directly involved in eight goals in his last nine games against Newcastle in the Premier League (seven goals and one assist). Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez is winless in his three away games at Anfield against former club Liverpool (D2 L1), losing 0-2 in this fixture last season. Subscribe to Goal’s Liverpool Correspondent Neil Jones’ weekly email bringing you the best Liverpool FC writing from around the web
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is preparing for his first game back at Old Trafford as Manchester United manager having won his first game in charge of the club. On Saturday, United scored five goals in a Premier League game for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game in charge in 2013. Shorn of ex-manager Jose Mourinho, United were far too powerful for Cardiff City, who succumbed to goals from Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard.Huddersfield provide the second of four extremely winnable league games in a row for United. As well as Cardiff and the Terriers, United will play Bournemouth on December 30 and Newcastle on January 2. Solskjaer therefore has a strong chance of taking 12 points from 12 and re-aligning United’s season, which was becoming listless under the Special One.Man Utd Injuries United will be without their highest wage earner Alexis Sanchez, who former manager Mourinho ruled out until the new year with a hamstring problem. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Chris Smalling was a late withdrawal for the loss against Liverpool at Anfield and is not expected to return to the starting line-up.Fellow centre-back Marcos Rojo has only started one game all season and has been absent from the last two matches due to injury.Scott McTominay meanwhile has missed the last couple of games due to a knock.Romelu Lukaku has been absent due to a personal issue and is not expected to be back in time for the game against Huddersfield.Man Utd Suspensions Neither side is missing any player due to suspension. Midfielder Nemanja Matic is one caution away from a domestic ban having picked up four yellow cards to this point.Man Utd Starting Line-UpThe handbrake was off during the Cardiff game with United playing fluently and with pace.Against a relegation candidate at home, Solskjaer will be expected to take the game to the opposition and deliver better performances than Mourinho produced during the end of his reign.The temptation to persist with the same XI, fitness permitting, will be strong.Therefore he could well persist with the front three he picked in Cardiff, having seen all three score, and Paul Pogba will keep his place in the team with Mourinho now banished.Depending on fitness, United could opt to shuffle the pack at the back too.Huddersfield Team News Aaron Mooy heads Huddersfield’s list of injured players. He tore a knee ligament in early December against Arsenal and is at the centre of a club versus country row with Australia over his potential to play in January’s Asian Cup.Captain and midfield tempo-setter Jonathan Hogg missed the 3-1 home defeat to Southampton on Saturday with a knee injury of his own but manager David Wagner hopes to have him available at Old Trafford.Likewise Rajiv Van La Parra could come back into contention.Danny Williams, Abdelhamid Sabiri and Tommy Smith are all listed injured while Ramadan Sobhi also missed out against the Saints for a Huddersfield side now on track for relegation.TV Channel & Kick-off time The match at Old Trafford kicks off at 15:00pm GMT (09:00am ET) on Wednesday, December 26. No live coverage is available in the UK. In the US, the game will be shown on NBC Sports Gold.Best Opta Match facts Manchester United have lost just one of their previous 14 games against Huddersfield in all competitions (W10 D3), with that one defeat coming away from home (1-2 in October 2017). Huddersfield are looking for their first away win against Manchester United since September 1930, when they won 6-0 in a top-flight clash. They’ve failed to win any of their last 15 trips in all competitions since then (D5 L10). Huddersfield have failed to score in seven of their last 10 games against Manchester United in all competitions, netting just four goals in total in this period. Manchester United have never lost a Premier League game at Old Trafford against Yorkshire opposition (W26 D6). The last Yorkshire side to win away against Manchester United in the top-flight were Sheffield Wednesday in April 1986. Manchester United haven’t lost a home league game on Boxing Day since 1978-79 (0-3 versus Liverpool), winning 14 and drawing three since. Manchester United find themselves outside the top five positions of the Premier League on Christmas Day for the third time in six seasons since Alex Ferguson retired (also in 2013-14 and 2016-17). Under Ferguson, United were never outside the top five places on Xmas Day in any of the 21 Premier League seasons. Premier League games involving Manchester United have seen 64 goals this season; no club have witnessed more goals in their matches (scoring 34, conceding 30). Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to become just the fifth Manchester United manager to win both of his first two league matches in charge, after TJ Wallworth, Matt Busby, Dave Sexton and Jose Mourinho. After going 19 Premier League games without a goal, Jesse Lingard has scored four goals in his last four games for Manchester United, including a brace last time out against Cardiff City. Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has scored three goals in three appearances against Huddersfield Town in all competitions, with all three being scored last season. Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
The news cycle this week was dominated by Manchester United, who sacked manager Jose Mourinho, and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, who has seemingly been chosen by everyone as the best fit to replace the Portuguese manager. Those two clubs did little to shake the spotlight this weekend either as both dominated their opposition, scoring five or more goals.Four players, two from each of those clubs, were involved in at least three goals on the pitch, and each of them were able to secure a spot in our Goal Team of the Week. You can find out who, and the other best performers of the week below. GK: Ben Foster – Watford – 1 Game, 7 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 PointsDEF: Virgil Van Dijk – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Van Dijk’s ability in defence is well established but, all of a sudden, he’s becoming a threat in attack as well. Having never been involved in more than three goals in a Premier League season, the Dutchman has now been involved in three in just the last five matches (1g, 2a). Whether or not he will be able to keep up this rate of production remains to be seen but, considering the rate at which Liverpool are keeping clean sheets, Van Dijk is a must own regardless.DEF: Jose Holebas – Watford – 1 Game, 1 Clean Sheet = 7 PointsDEF: Nathan Ake – Bournemouth – 1 Game, 1 Clean Sheet = 7 PointsMID: Son Heung-Min – Tottenham – 1 Game, 2 Goals, 2 Assists = 20 PointsA massive two goal, two assist performance from Son not only ensured his side the win, but also was enough to see him crowned our Goal Fantasy Player of the Week. While it would be hard to expect anyone to regularly put up these kinds of numbers, the South Korean international has suddenly become a consistent and reliable Fantasy asset, having scored or assisted in every start since October.There is always a risk of rotation from Pochettino, but in our game you can wait until lineups are announced to set yours, making Son wholly viable going forward.MID: Jesse Lingard – Manchester United – 1 Game, 2 Goals, 1 Assist = 17 PointsMID: David Brooks – Bournemouth – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 PointsMID: Paul Pogba – Manchester United – 1 Game, 3 Assists = 11 Points Well, that’s certainly one way to impress your new manager. After months of disappointment and underperformance under Jose Mourinho, Pogba put on a creative masterclass this week, posting three assists in Manchester United’s 5-1 win against Cardiff. That is the most assists anyone has recorded in a single Premier League match thus far this season.Considering he also ranks top five in shots on target, Pogba could be about to bounce back in a big way both on the pitch and in Fantasy.MID: Nathan Redmond – Southampton – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 PointsFOR: Harry Kane – Tottenham – 1 Game, 2 Goals, 1 Assist = 15 PointsHarry Kane has absolutely tormented Everton over the past few years, having now scored a brace in his last four outings against the Toffees. The rest of the league hasn’t fared much better against the Englishman of late either, as he’s had six goals and four assists in the last 10 matches, re-establishing himself as an elite Fantasy forward. With four bottom 10 defences in his next five matches, Kane is a must own over the winter period.FOR: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Arsenal – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Benjamin Pavard has denied having an agreement in place which will see him link up with Bayern Munich in the summer of 2019.Ever since helping France to World Cup glory over the summer, the 22-year-old defender has seen his club future called into question.It has been suggested that Bayern are leading the chase for his signature, with it widely reported that a deal has already been done. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Pavard, who remains under contract at Stuttgart until 2021, insists that is not the case.He told Le Parisien: “I have not signed anything with Bayern. “The interest of such a club makes me happy, but today I am focused on Stuttgart. I do not think about next summer.”While reluctant to look to the future, Pavard is prepared to reflect on events of the past.He still feels that France’s efforts in Russia should have earned greater recognition, with the likes of Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann overlooked in the 2018 Ballon d’Or vote.Pavard said of an award which went to Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, who suffered World Cup final heartache with Croatia: “I would have liked to see a Frenchman win it, knowing that players such as Raphael Varane – who is the only one to have won the World Cup and the Champions League in the same year – and Antoine Griezmann had a great years. “They would have deserved it.”World Cup-winning exploits were not enough for that pair, but nobody can take France’s achievement away from them.Pavard played a leading role in their global triumph, with a spectacular strike during a 4-3 victory over Lionel Messi’s Argentina at the last-16 stage set to live long in the memory.Recalling that effort, the highly-rated full-back said: “That goal has changed my life. “Things have gone to another dimension. That goal went around the world. “Before, few people knew me, but since then, things have changed. I am recognised everywhere. I am asked about that goal almost every day.”While Pavard will forever have those happy memories, he is currently trying to avoid making some unhappy ones.Stuttgart have endured a difficult 2018-19 campaign to date and sit just outside the Bundesliga drop zone as a result.
SAN FRANCISCO – American aviation officials are investigating after an Air Canada flight from Montreal landed on a San Francisco runway after being told not to.Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor says Air Canada flight 781 was inbound to San Francisco International Airport on Sunday night and was initially cleared for landing.But Gregor says air traffic control later instructed the Air Canada crew to abort the landing because the controller wasn’t sure whether a previous flight would have completely cleared the runway before the Air Canada jet reached it.He says the Air Canada crew did not acknowledge any of the controller’s instructions over the radio, so a supervisor then used a red light gun to alert the crew not to land.But again, the crew didn’t respond, and Gregor says the flight landed immediately.After landing, the Air Canada crew told the control tower that they had a radio problem.Gregor says that a radar replay showed the previous arrival was clear of the runway when the Air Canada flight landed.Representatives from Air Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The existing Trans Mountain pipeline crosses a river in Chilliwack, B.C., near Cheam First Nation. (APTN file)The Canadian PressAn Indigenous group planning to bid for ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline is launching a “listening tour” of Indigenous communities in B.C. and Alberta.Project Reconciliation says the tour will begin in Kamloops in mid-August and will invite First Nations and Metis Nation people and communities along the pipeline route from Edmonton to the West Coast to share their thoughts about Indigenous ownership.Delbert Wapass, executive chair and founder of Project Reconciliation, says the tour will provide information on his group’s proposal but is also designed to gather feedback to be reflected in its final submission to the federal government.51 per cent Wapass, the former chief of Saskatchewan’s Thunderchild First Nation, is proposing ownership of at least 51 per cent of the federal government-owned pipeline be shared among all participating Indigenous communities in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.The group would put 80 per cent of the cash flow from the pipeline stake into a “sovereign wealth fund” to invest in environmentally friendly projects.Its bid is opposed by the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group which argues Trans Mountain should be owned by communities actually located on the route as they are most at risk from an oil spill.Ottawa has indicated support for the idea of selling the pipeline to Indigenous owners but says decisions won’t be made until the pipeline expansion project is “de-risked.”
At the NHL’s annual awards show tonight in Las Vegas, the shiniest piece of hardware that will be given out is the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player deemed to be the most valuable to his team by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. The shortlist of nominees includes Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby, Oilers’ phenom Connor McDavid, and Blue Jackets’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky — all of whom had terrific seasons. But no matter who wins, there’s an argument to be made that it will be the wrong choice. This is because the league’s most outstanding performance came from someone who wasn’t nominated.San Jose Sharks’ defenseman Brent Burns turned heads all season, and often for reasons other than his toothless smile, man bun and ZZ Top beard. His production was everything you could ask of someone on the blue line, notching 76 points, tied for the fourth-highest point total by a defenseman since the lockout of 2004-05. Of those 76 points, 29 were goals, which was 70 percent more than the second-best defenseman and the most by anyone at the position since 2008-09. Burns isn’t only a goal-producing machine—he also led the league in point shares, 1Point shares roughly translate to the amount of a team’s points one player is responsible for. A decent analog is Bill James’ win shares, a complicated formula popular among baseball statheads. accounting for more of his team’s success in the standings than any of the three (still very worthy) MVP candidates nominated above him. He’s also the only player in the NHL to finish in the top five in both offensive and defensive point shares. That’s pretty impressive stuff, but not impressive enough to be a finalist for the Hart, apparently.Despite Burns’s gaudy scoring numbers and clear impact on his team’s success, it shouldn’t come as a shock that the PHWA left Burns off its list: Defensemen, despite representing one third of the players on ice, have a long history of being overlooked. The last time a defenseman was nominated for the Hart trophy, we were all basking in relief that Y2K hadn’t destroyed civilization. Chris Pronger won the award after his brilliant 1999-00 season with the St. Louis Blues. In his MVP-winning campaign, Pronger notched 62 points and led the NHL with 14.2 point shares, both of which fall short of Burns’s numbers from 2016-17. On their own, Burns’s numbers are impressive. But when you compare them to those of his peers, they look downright heroic. Since the lockout — and excluding 2012-13, which was a half-season — the top-10 defensemen in the league each season2Ranked by points scored have scored an average of 58 points. This year, Burns scored 18 more points than that. The entire blue line corps of five teams failed to notch more goals than Burns, including the Washington Capitals, who had the best record in hockey. Other blue liners have been snubbed since Pronger’s Hart win. Most notably, Nicklas Lidstrom won seven Norris trophies as the league’s top defenseman, but he was never even named as a finalist for the Hart trophy.3Burns will likely win his first Norris tonight. It’s true that Lidstrom’s reign of dominance coincided with the rise of generational talents like Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, but it’s difficult to believe one of the five best defensemen to ever play hockey wasn’t good enough to at least be considered as one of the three best players in the NHL during that stretch.And if the dearth of defensemen nominated for the Hart since Pronger’s win in ‘99-00 looks suspicious, all you’ve got to do is look at the three decades preceding his win to understand it’s been something of an enduring trend: before Pronger, the last defenseman to win the Hart trophy was Bobby Orr in 1971-72.4Orr won the award three times consecutively between 1969-70 and 1971-72, scoring 376 points over that stretch. It’s the second-best three year span for a defenseman in NHL history. And before Orr? It was Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Babe Pratt, who won the Hart in 1943-44. Hockey writers—apparently—don’t have much love for defensemen.Although it ostensibly honors the best player on the ice, the Hart trophy is basically an award given to the top forward — and really just the top center 5Since Orr last won the Hart in 1971-72, 28 of the 45 winners have been center icemen. That Wayne Gretzky played in that span helped. — and every once in awhile the top goalie in the NHL. Until the Hart’s description reads, “Given to the league’s best centerman (and sometimes it’s best goalie, too),” it’s due time the PHWA begins taking the candidacy of the league’s top defensemen for the league’s top honors seriously.