@Eden_RichardsThe Men’s Elite Eight has been blown wide open with three teams sitting equal at the top of the competition standings after two days of competition at the National Touch League in Coffs Harbour. The Queensland Cowboys remain top of the standings on for and against, but the Queensland Titans and the New South Wales Mets are breathing down their necks after going unbeaten on day two. Many thought the Cowboys might go through the tournament unbeaten in their quest to win back-to-back titles, but they suffered a shock defeat early on day two. In the process the Titans reminded everyone that they are the real deal, pulling off a one-touchdown win against the competition favourites in the entertaining Round 4 clash. That 9-8 win has helped the Titans finish the day in 2nd position, just above the New South Wales Mets.These two sides will play each other early on day three, with the winner likely to secure a top-two finish and bragging rights heading into the finals series. The loser will put themselves at risk of missing the finals, with the 4th-placed New South Wales Mavericks and the 5th-placed New South Wales Scorpions both believing they are worthy of a finals appearance. The Mavericks and the Scorpions both sit on 10 competition points but they had mixed days in the Coffs Harbour heat. It was a day of positives for the Mavericks, with the team securing an important win late in the day against the Queensland Broncos, with that win sky-rocketing them into the top four. On the other hand, the Scorpions will be kicking themselves after failing to secure a win on day two. All their hard work on day has now come undone and they can forget about a top-two finish. The Scorpions day two was much like that of the teams below them, with the 6th-placed Broncos and the 7th-placed Alliance both having shockers. In a day of huge importance, the Broncos and the Alliance could only achieve a draw and a loss in their Round 4 and 5 matches. It leaves both sides six points out of the top four and each will need a miracle if they are to make the finals.But things could be worse and this is proven by the struggling New South Wales Rebels. The Rebels are having no luck in this year’s competition, remaining winless at the bottom of the table after five matches. On a more personal note, Cowboy Shaun Francis leads the tournament in touchdowns scored, tallying up 12 to his name. He will look to add to this number tomorrow when the Cowboys kick off the day against the Mavericks at 10:40AM. Related LinksElite 8 Men Day 2
About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Man Utd defender Marcos Rojo: I do have white line feverby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveManchester United defender Marcos Rojo says he enjoys the physical style of the Premier League.Rojo has become popular among supports for his robust style of defending.He told manutd.com: “That’s the way I play my football. That is me on the field. If you see me off the field, I’m the most laid back guy – laughing, joking all day and having fun but, as soon as I cross that white line and go on to the field, I don’t know what happens! “I’m a different person. Something happens inside me and I change. If the ball is there to be won, I go for it and give it everything I’ve got. Individual battles, individual duels, I am always up for them.”
Ashley Young admits Manchester United have endured “a tough week”, but has called on those around him to “play for the badge” as a new era is opened at Cardiff.The Red Devils will take to the field in South Wales with a new manager at the helm, with Jose Mourinho having been relieved of his duties.Inconsistent displays from an underperforming squad spelled the end for the Portuguese, with a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool proving to be the final straw. 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? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been drafted in as Mourinho’s successor and is being backed to bring a feel-good factor back to Old Trafford.Young concedes there have not been too many smiles on United faces of late, but told the club’s official website: “It’s been a tough week.“But we’ve got to move on now, move forward and concentrate on this game. We need to get ourselves back to winning ways.“You go out there as a player and you want to win, play for the badge, play for this fantastic club, the best club in the world and for us now it’s about looking ahead and looking at the next couple of games we’ve got coming up.“It’s a busy Christmas period and we want to get points on the board and start getting ourselves back up the table.”The Red Devils are looking for returning hero Solskjaer to make an immediate impact, with the presence of a 1999 Treble winner helping to raise spirits around the club.“I’m sure Ole is excited to be back, Mike Phelan as well,” added Young. “For Ole to walk back in here must feel unbelievable. The fans love him, he loves the club and it can only be a good thing for us.“With me being one of the older heads, I [previously] worked under Mike and it’s nice to see him back on the training pitch again.”Young has also hailed the impact of the backroom team at United, with Michael Carrick, Kieran McKenna and goalkeeping coach Emilio Alvarez all having important roles to play in the present and future.“Carras, Kieran and Emilio have been fantastic,” he said. “The training sessions they’ve put on have been fantastic, top notch.“I can definitely see Carras being a manager one day and Kieran has been brilliant stepping up to the first team [from the Under-18s]. He’s taken to it like a duck to water and Emilio is a fantastic goalkeeping coach. It’s nice for them to be here and work under Mick and Ole as well.“The main thing for us has been not to be caught up in everything and instead just concentrate on our work on the pitch and get ourselves fully prepared for this weekend’s game. That’s all you can do as players; be prepared and be ready for the game that we’ve got coming up.” Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Jamie Vardy scored on his 250th Leicester City appearance as the Foxes ended an 18-year wait for a Premier League win at Chelsea in a 1-0 triumph.The former England striker had been starved of service until clinically finishing a brilliant Leicester counter early in the second half, which ultimately proved enough to clinch a first win at Stamford Bridge since 2000.It was a hugely frustrating afternoon for Maurizio Sarri’s side, who controlled large periods of the game and saw Eden Hazard – one shy of 100 competitive goals for the Blues – hit the crossbar in the first half as well as Marcos Alonso strike the post in the 91st minute when clean through. 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? Chelsea, who lost a league match at home for the first time under Sarri, consequently head into Christmas 11 points behind leaders Liverpool, while rumours that Leicester were planning on sacking Claude Puel may subside after this much-needed win.The Blues’ play was sharp if lacking in incisiveness early doors, although David Luiz was desperately close to meeting Pedro’s flick on from a Willian corner.1-0 to #[email protected] @vardy7 #CheLei pic.twitter.com/mzxhsZi4Ij— Leicester City (@LCFC) December 22, 2018Leicester had an almighty let-off when Hazard pounced on Harry Maguire’s poor control and rifled an effort against the crossbar.Neither team had a shot on target until the 41st minute with Kepa Arrizabalaga’s strong hand keeping out Wilfred Ndidi’s stinging 30-yard drive.Willian tamely struck at Kasper Schmeichel after a fine team move, while Jorginho’s well-hit half-volley forced the Leicester keeper into action again as Chelsea finished the half strong.The Blues were caught cold six minutes after the break, though. Leicester launched a counter-attack that led to James Maddison slipping in Vardy to emphatically fire past Kepa when one-on-one.Schmeichel was sharp to keep out Hazard’s left-foot effort from a tight angle, and at the other end Kepa’s spill from Marc Albrighton’s cross needed swift action from Cesar Azpilicueta to deny Vardy.Leicester’s goal lived a charmed life in the closing stages with Antonio Rudiger heading wide from point-blank range and Alonso fluffing his lines by striking the left post when one-on-one.What does it mean? Relief for Puel, but Blues’ title hopes stungPuel has faced rumours this week that squad disharmony and a return of one league win in six could lead to his sacking, but a big triumph here is a much-needed early Christmas present. There will be little festive cheer for the hosts, though, who are 11 points off the top and stewing over a first home defeat since April.Christmas party time for VardyLeicester fans love to affectionately sing ‘Jamie Vardy’s having a party’ and he had cause for celebration with a typically clinical counter-attacking goal. The Foxes had done little to provide chances for Vardy until his goal, but when it came he did not disappoint. Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell also impressed for the away side.Kante paying a high priceThere is arguably no better defensive midfielder on the planet than N’Golo Kante. But Sarri’s insistence on playing the France international in an advanced position to slot Jorginho deeper in his midfield is not bringing the best out of the former Leicester star. On a few occasions, Kante found himself high up the pitch but lacking the attacking quality to break the Foxes’ rear-guard.Key Opta Facts- Chelsea have failed to find the back of the net in two of their last four home Premier League games, as many as in their previous 21.- Jamie Vardy has scored 13 goals in his last 15 Premier League appearances. – Leicester midfielder James Maddison has created 41 goal-scoring chances in the Premier League this season, more than any other English player. What’s next?The festive season kicks into gear with Chelsea making the hop across London aiming to bounce back at Watford on Boxing Day, while the Foxes will look for another unlikely win at home to Manchester City. read more
Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo as Ernesto Valverde’s side restored their three-point lead at the summit of LaLiga.With Atletico Madrid having won earlier in the day to move level at the top, Barca reasserted their authority as first-half goals from Ousmane Dembele and Messi paved the way for a routine victory at Camp Nou.Messi was again at the heart of the hosts’ best play, his shot being parried to the feet of the grateful Dembele to apply the finish inside the opening 10 minutes. 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? The Argentina star got in on the act himself in the final minute of the first half as Barca all but sealed the points before the interval.Barca quickly seized the initiative as Dembele pounced to nutmeg Ruben Blanco after the goalkeeper had kept out Messi’s low drive. The visitors narrowly escaped further punishment when Blanco rushed out to thwart Dembele, with Jordi Alba turning the loose ball towards goal where Nestor Araujo was on hand to intervene. Marc-Andre ter Stegen was finally called into action in the 24th minute and the Barca keeper proved equal to Maxi Gomez’s effort. Messi doubled Barca’s lead late in the half, calmly finishing from the edge of the box after Alba’s searching pass had left Celta exposed. Telepathy The Messi-Alba Connection!#BarçaCelta pic.twitter.com/uKYPPnN2WE— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) December 22, 2018Luis Suarez proved uncharacteristically wasteful when presented with a glorious chance to put the game to bed just past the hour mark, the forward shooting wide of the target with only Blanco to beat.Blanco had stay sharp to deny Messi a second in a brief goalmouth scramble while Celta, despite enjoying more of the ball, continued to struggle in the final third.Brais Mendez’s effort had Ter Stegen diving low to his left, but that save was as comfortable as Barca’s whole evening had been. What does it mean? Barca go clear againBarca did not seem to take too kindly to having company at the top of the table after being joined there by Atletico, but this win restored their cushion and provided a fitting end to the year. Celta, meanwhile, remain mid-table.Magnificent Messi does it againHaving played a significant role in the opener, Messi got himself on the scoresheet before the break in a display that highlighted just what a threat he is, cementing his spot at the top of the LaLiga scoring charts.Suarez outshoneSuarez was as industrious as he always is, but while Dembele and Messi both found the back of the net, the Uruguay international’s finishing was wayward, failing to find the target with two attempts at goal. Key Opta Facts:- Messi has reached 15+ goals in LaLiga for each of the last 11 seasons.- Barcelona have scored 102 league goals in 2018, more than any other team in the top five European leagues.- Messi has scored 47 goals in 49 games in 2018 in all competitions, more than any other player from those five divisions.- Barcelona have kept four consecutive clean sheets in LaLiga for the first time since January.- Valverde has not lost any of his 16 games as a head coach against Celta in LaLiga (W11 D5).What’s next?The two sides can enjoy a festive break now and will return to action in January, with Barca heading to Getafe in their first game of 2019, while Celta host Athletic Bilbao. 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.
Wayne Rooney believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man to heal the player unrest that contributed to Jose Mourinho’s dismissal from Manchester United.Appearing on television ahead of the club’s Premier League clash against Cardiff City, Rooney said recent conversations with former team-mates confirmed the atmosphere “wasn’t great” at Old Trafford.Mourinho was dismissed after a 3-1 loss to Liverpool in which star midfielder Paul Pogba, with whom the Portuguese reportedly had several run-ins, was an unused substitute. 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? United installed Solskjaer as boss on an interim basis and Rooney, who left for Everton in 2017, welcomed the move as essential to lifting morale.”Of course I stay in touch with a lot of people at the club. I speak to them quite a lot and certainly this week,” the ex-Red Devils skipper told BT Sport.”To be a successful football club you need everything to be right. You need the staff at the training ground to be right, the groundsman, whoever it is, they need to feel happy, and that rubs off.”I think that relationship between some of the players and some of the staff obviously wasn’t great.”But bringing Ole and Mike Phelan in, that has already changed. They’re smiling, they’re happy and that rubs off on the players.”I think it’s a good move for the club. It gives them a bit more time to get the right manager in place in the summer.”Rooney – United’s all-time record goal-scorer – left the club in 2017 after 13 years at Old Trafford, during which time he won five Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League.The former Everton striker, who also became England’s top scorer in 2016, left United to returned to Goodison Park where he began his career, spending a season under Toffees bosses Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce before moving to DC United in MLS last summer.He scored eight goals in 39 appearances for United under Mourinho, but played an increasingly diminished role during the Portuguese’s first season at the club, and left in search of more playing time after opportunities became scarcer.
Santiago Solari shared the credit for Real Madrid’s record-breaking Club World Cup triumph with former head coach Zinedine Zidane.Solari, the replacement for Zidane’s short-lived successor Julen Lopetegui, led Madrid to their first title under his stewardship with a 4-1 win over Al Ain in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.Victory means Madrid have won the tournament three years in a row and their fourth triumph in the competition moves them clear of rivals Barcelona as the Club World Cup’s most successful team. 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? Solari, though, was quick to pile praise on Zidane, who surprisingly stood down in the wake of winning Madrid’s third consecutive Champions League crown at the end of the 2017-18 season.”We are happy, these players deserve it, they have come here after a lot of work and a lot of wins,” Solari told TVE.”We put a finishing touch to that third consecutive Champions League, it is a feat of the club, this group and other coaches.”We are also here thanks to Zidane. It will be difficult to match in the future.”Listen to what goalscorer @lukamodric10 said after helping us become WORLD CHAMPIONS! #RMCWC pic.twitter.com/oO6FTjYLCI— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) December 22, 2018Marcos Llorente was among Madrid’s goalscorers in the final, the 23-year-old midfielder scoring his first goal as a professional with a half-volley from the edge of the penalty area.Llorente was overlooked throughout Zidane’s reign but has grown into a key role since Solari took charge, following Lopetegui’s sacking after just four months in charge.”They are all Madrid players and they all work to be able to do what they do in the field,” Solari said. “Marcos has always worked a lot, and he deserves the credit.”A first trophy for Santiago Solari as @realmadriden manager #ClubWC pic.twitter.com/cogKjGUgyy— #ClubWC (@FIFAcom) December 22, 2018Solari’s opposite number Zoran Mamic felt a gruelling Club World Cup campaign caught up with his tired Al Ain side in the final.”The first thing is to congratulate Real Madrid because they deservedly won it, with good football,” he said.”We have not been able to compete, it’s the fourth game in days and that has weighed on us. We had a great tournament, nobody thought we were going to get here.”We had opportunities in the first half, but we missed them and at this level we pay when Real Madrid are in front.”We would have liked to have more days of rest, but everything is set up and we cannot say anything, I sincerely believe that we have done a good job.”
Manchester United star Paul Pogba has referenced the social media post sent in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s sacking to tease an announcement on Sunday.Pogba came in for criticism on Tuesday when a photo tagged “caption this” was posted to his social media channels in the immediate aftermath of the Red Devils confirming Mourinho had left the club, although it was later claimed that the submissions were scheduled by his sponsors adidas.Confirmed by contact within @adidassoccer : ” #Pogba ‘s social media posts were a scheduled event, part of a marketing campaign. Immediately taken down once it became apparent that it could be misconstrued as disrespectful to Manchester United and José Mourinho”— Chris Williams (@Chris78Williams) December 18, 2018 The France midfielder – who starred in United’s 5-1 win over Cardiff City on Saturday – reportedly had a difficult relationship with his former boss, and was publicly criticised by Mourinho on several occasions. 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? The 25-year-old’s Instagram and Twitter accounts were active again on Sunday, posting a caricatured picture of himself winking with the tag: “Now caption this. Big announcement later today.”In his Instagram stories, a countdown appears to suggest that the big reveal will happen around 6pm UK time (1pm ET).Regardless, the post will likely spark comments from the Frenchman’s detractors, with Gary Neville having already called out Pogba for his original post on the day of Mourinho’s sacking, the ex-Man Utd man tweeting ‘You do one as well’, suggesting the former full-back wants the midfielder out of the club.Within the Old Trafford camp, the mood has improved significantly with the appoint of new interim boss and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pogba himself having been recalled to the starting XI in the 5-1 smashing of Cardiff.Manchester United’s chances of winning the Premier League title this year remain slim, however, with the English giants now 19 points off leaders Liverpool.Still, silverware remains up for grabs as United have FA Cup and Champions League clashes to prepare for, though the latter fixture against the Neymar-led French champions could prove a bridge too far for the recovering Red Devils. Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham need to be focused despite rumours linking the Argentine to Manchester United.The Spurs boss has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford next season after Jose Mourinho was sacked by United on Tuesday, and is yet to rule himself out of the job.Tottenham’s press officer angrily interjected during his news conference on Thursday to stop further questions about the rumours, but reporters again probed Pochettino after his side’s thrilling win over Everton on Sunday. 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? “A lot [of] rumours happen. I don’t want this guy to get upset again [pointing to Spurs press officer]. We need to be focused. We will do our best to try to be successful,” Pochettino said.The speculation is sure to continue until the end of the campaign as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has only been appointed on an interim basis until then, meaning United are yet to appoint a permanent successor to Mourinho. Zinedine Zidane, who is out of work after leaving Real Madrid at the end of last season, has also been linked with the job, while rumours have emerged that Real could look to hijack United’s bid for Pochettino and take him to the Santiago Bernabeu.Many onlookers have pointed to Pochettino’s past at Southampton, where he refused to be drawn on speculation that he would leave for a bigger club, only to move to White Hart Lane in 2014.A move to either the Liga giants or the Red Devils would surely be hard for Pochettino to turn down, but Spurs fans will be hopeful he sticks to his word and steers them to a fourth successive top-four finish.His side certainly showed encouraging signs in their first outing since the aggressive rumours emerged, claiming a 6-2 victory at Goodison Park thanks to goals from Son Heung-min, Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.Spurs face Bournemouth and Wolves at home next on Boxing Day and Saturday respectively before travelling to Cardiff City to round off a busy festive period.