Middlesbrough Shock Chelsea In League Cup Semi-Finals

MIDDLESBROUGH: Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino blamed his attacking line-up for a 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough in the League Cup semi-final first leg at the Riverside.

Hayden Hackney scored the only goal of the game in the 38th minute to overcome a line of Chelsea stars who once again failed to produce a convincing performance away from home.

Chelsea have lost five of their last six away games and 21st time overall away from Stamford Bridge since the start of last season – the most for any Premier League side.

The Blues need to recover in a return action at home on January 23 to ease the pressure on Pochettino in his first season with Chelsea.

“If we evaluate the overall performance, we were the better team, had more goal chances but weren’t sharp enough and failed to take advantage of them. It happens often this season,” said Pochettino.

Boro manager Michael Carrick lost his leading scorer Emmanuel Latte Lath just three minutes into the game.

Carrick also had to take Alex Bangura off early in the first half, but that didn’t stop the second division club from taking the lead ahead of the second leg.

“It’s very special. I know it’s two rounds and the challenge isn’t over, but with what we’ve had to go through, injuries to players, to beat a team of Chelsea’s quality is unbelievable,” said Carrick, the former Manchester United midfielder.

Middlesbrough have never conceded against Chelsea in 17 years. In the previous nine games between them, Chelsea won all of them by an aggregate score of 21-0.

Another semi-final action features a clash between Liverpool and Fulham.

Ten Hag Not Disturbed By Ratcliffe

LONDON: Less than a week after British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe became a minority shareholder in Manchester United, manager Erik ten Hag is focused on the next game against Nottingham Forest and is undaunted by the latest developments.

The Dutchman has yet to speak to anyone from Ratcliffe’s INEOS group as he is busy over the Christmas period, which saw United beat Aston Villa 3-2 on Tuesday and then face Forest at home early tomorrow morning.

“I am looking forward to it. They want to work with me, I want to work with them, we will discuss, meet,” Ten Hag told reporters referring to the INEOS group which will take over the day-to-day affairs of the club’s football operations.

“I’m focused on the match so far, so I said no (discussion). At this point I don’t want any distractions. In the next few days, next weeks, there will be time for us, then we can negotiate.

“I think it’s a good thing, it’s very positive. We’re really looking forward to working together. INEOS wants to work with me in this structure and I want to work with them.”

The manager is also waiting for players to return from injury but not for the visit to Forest.

“It’s the same squad as against Villa,” Ten Hag told reporters.

“In mid-January we expect a lot of injured players back. Mason (Mount), Casemiro, (Lisandro) Martinez, (Tyrell) Malacia, so we also expect Harry Maguire, of course.”

At mid-season, United were seventh in the league, 11 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Despite their injury problems, United came from 2-0 down to beat Villa, something Ten Hag was very pleased about.

United face Forest, fresh from a 3-1 win over Newcastle United at home on Tuesday, in the second game under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo.

Klopp Is Proud That Liverpool Beat Fulham 4-3

LIVERPOOL, England: Liverpool scored two late goals within a minute including Trent Alexander-Arnold’s winning goal in the 88th minute before overcoming Fulham 4-3 in the English Premier League action late last night.

Wataru Endo struck in the 87th minute, while Alexis Mac Allister’s opener and an own goal by Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno following a stunning Alexander-Arnold free-kick lifted Juergen Klopp’s men to second in the table with 31 points.

“Honestly it’s mental strength,” Alexander-Arnold told Sky Sports.

“A very up and down game. Leading twice, then clearly behind with about five minutes to go, got the equalizer and then the winner.

“It was an incredible match, full of emotions. Just so happy to get the win and manage to deal with the challenge of the opponent.”

Liverpool are two points behind leaders Arsenal, while Manchester City, who drew 3-3 with Tottenham Hotspur, are third on 30 points. Fulham is in 14th place.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game with so many exciting goals,” Klopp told Sky Sports.

“We scored amazing goals today, but we conceded three times and we have to say that too. We did very well in this game, but it’s 2-2 and deservedly so at the break.”

Fulham looked capable of ending Liverpool’s unbeaten record at Anfield in the league since October 2022 before Mohamed Salah fed Endo who shot hard from distance.

After rushing back into the middle, Alexander-Arnold met Kostas Tsimikas’ header to fire home the winner from the corner of the penalty area.

“I already guessed it, watching the ball come towards the edge of the goal,” said Alexander-Arnold. “I thought I was just trying to get the shot right but obviously it hit the net. You can see how much this goal meant.”

Harry Wilson, Kenny Tete and Bobby De Cordova-Reid scored for Fulham who came back two goals down.

Man United, Nice Compete For European Slots

MANCHESTER: Manchester United risk dropping out of Europe next season after Jim Ratcliffe, who also owns Nice, took over the Old Trafford club.

Ratcliffe and his company, Ineos, already own Nice and will complete the purchase of 25 percent of United’s shares in the next few days.

Ahead of next season’s Champions League, France’s top flight is given three automatic slots and one play-off while the English Premier League gets five automatic slots.

Under European Football Union (UEFA) multiple ownership rules, the only way for Nice and United to compete on the European stage next season is for one club to automatically qualify for the Champions League and the other for the European Conference League.

Nice are now just one point behind Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain, while United are sixth in the Premier League.

If both clubs qualify for the European Champions League, the higher-placed team will play and the other will be banned from the tournament.

If Nice and United finish in the same position, England’s ranking on the European stage allows Erik ten Hag’s squad to qualify for the European Champions League compared to the French club.

In another situation, if Nice are fourth in Ligue 1 and lose the play-off, while United remain sixth in the English league or win the FA Cup, the Red Devils will still be banned from the Europa League.

United can only aspire to European competition by qualifying for the Conference League through seventh place in the league or winning the League Cup.

The UEFA rules also have an impact on Manchester City and Spanish club Girona, which is owned by City Football Group.

Girona made a surprise in La Liga this season when they topped the ladder ahead of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Salah Extended His Scoring Record At Anfield

LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah extended his scoring record at Anfield by scoring two goals in a 3-0 win over Brentford.

The Egyptian has scored 12 goals this season, nine of them at Anfield, as Liverpool continue their perfect record at home.

Nine of Salah’s goals came from Darwin Nunez and the Uruguayan helped break the deadlock in the 39th minute after his goal was disallowed. Twice Nunez scored but had it disallowed for offside.

Salah is the first player to score in Liverpool’s first six league games on home soil.

Salah then headed in Kostas Tsimikas’ cross for his 12th goal of the season.

Diogo Jota scored Liverpool’s third goal with 16 minutes remaining for his side’s ninth win and 27th goal in nine games at Anfield this season.

Liverpool will face City in their next game after a two-week international break.

Spurs At The Top Of English Premier League

LONDON: Tottenham surged to the top of the English Premier League after Son Heung-min and James Maddison secured a 2-0 win over Fulham.

Ange Postecoglou’s side extended their unbeaten run to nine league games thanks to Heung-min’s opener and Maddison’s first goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium since his move from Leicester.

Tottenham bypassed Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool to go top with a two-point advantage over their nearest rivals.

Fulham are the only team to beat Tottenham this season, knocking them out of the League Cup on penalties in August.

They bounced back from that defeat with three league wins in a row to become one of the main contenders for the league title this season.

“They are quality players. Both are leaders at this club. They work hard for the team and credit to them,” Postecoglu said of Heung-min and Maddison’s performances.

Tottenham’s brilliant start under Postecoglou reignited the club’s dream of winning the league for the first time since Bill Nicholson’s side’s double in 1961.

Tottenham have not won any trophies since 2008 and the presence of the Australian manager has had an immediate impact.

Postecoglou now holds the record as a new manager for the most points in his first nine Premier League games, at 23 points, surpassing the previous record held by Mike Walker and Guus Hiddink.

Wales Revived Their Chances For Euro 2024

CARDIFF, Wales: Wales revived their chances of qualifying for the Euro 2024 finals as Harry Wilson’s brace helped them to a 2-1 win over Croatia in Cardiff early this morning.

Rob Page’s men snatched second place from the World Cup semi-finalists in Group D with Croatia now at risk of missing out on a major tournament for the first time since the 2010 World Cup.

Page’s position as coach is in doubt after Wales’ poor start to the qualifying campaign.

Defeats 4-2 at home to Armenia and 2-0 at the hands of group leaders Turkiye in June looked almost certain to end their dreams of qualifying for a third straight European Championship.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Page said in response to his critics.

“I’m sick and tired of having to answer questions about my future. Let’s talk about the players and their performances in the middle of the pitch.

“I became more emotional because I’m very proud of them and they deserve every credit. We can’t wait for the next game.”

Turkiye’s 4-0 win over Latvia ensured their progress leaving Wales and Croatia to grab second place and automatic qualification to Germany next year.

The two sides are tied on 10 points, but Wales enjoy the head-to-head advantage after a 1-1 draw in Split earlier.

However, Croatia clearly face an easy game next month when they travel to Latvia and await the visit of Armenia to Zagreb.

Wales also visit Armenia before playing Turkiye at home for their final two games.

Son Helps Tottenham Beat Arsenal

LONDON: Tottenham came back twice from behind to tie Arsenal 2-2 thanks to two goals from Son Heung-min in a fierce and thrilling Premier League match earlier.

Ange Postecoglou’s side fell behind to Cristian Romero’s own goal in the 26th minute before South Korean striker Son converted James Maddison’s cross in the 42nd minute to equalize at the Emirates Stadium.

Bukayo Saka then put the Gunners in front with a penalty kick in the 54th minute, but Son once again came to the visitors’ rescue with an equalizer a minute later allowing both teams to maintain their unbeaten records.

Tottenham are now fourth on 14 points, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, after a tough clash that proved Postecoglou has revived a club that has struggled since arriving from Celtic.

Although Tottenham have now only won one of their last 31 league games against Arsenal and have remained without a win against their neighbors since 2010, there were many elements to admire in the performance of Postecoglou’s team in that match.

Champions League: Manchester Utd vs Bayern Munich

MUNICH: Harry Kane converted a penalty as Bayern Munich caused more problems for Manchester United with a 4-3 win in the Champions League group stage earlier this morning.

United traveled to Germany on the back of a poor performance as well as problems off the pitch and received no mercy from Bayern who have now won all 20 of their opening matches in the Champions League.

It was the fourth defeat in six games for Erik ten Hag’s side in all competitions this season as they failed to recover from a humiliating 3-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton at home in the Premier League last weekend.

Bayern took control when visiting goalkeeper Andre Onana failed to properly save Leroy Sane’s weak shot in the 28th minute before Serge Gnabry added the second goal.

Rasmus Hojlund pulled one back before Kane scored a penalty early in the second half.

Casemiro’s goal gave United some hope of a comeback but Bayern substitute Mathys Tel grabbed the hosts’ fourth after injury time.

Casemiro then headed home a goal for United in the final attack of the match.

“We lost our focus a little bit for the last five minutes,” Kane, who has now scored five goals in five games for Bayern since arriving from Tottenham, told TNT Sports .

“We were lucky to maintain that position. It’s often great to score goals. There’s still room to improve.”

Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel, who watched the match from the stands after receiving a red card in the match last season, said his team “deserved to win.”

“What’s important are three points.”

Six-time European champions Bayern jumped to top of Group A after their previous match saw Galatasaray draw 2-2 with FC Copenhagen in Istanbul.

United visit Burnley this weekend with their second Champions League game at home against Galatasaray next month.

The Red Devils have now conceded three or more goals in three consecutive matches for the first time since 1978.

“If you score three goals at Bayern, you should get at least one point,” said United manager Ten Hag.

“We are in a period where things are not in our favor – but we have to improve our fate.”

Germany Wants Klopp To Replace Flick

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp is now on Germany’s radar ahead of Euro 2024 after they sacked Hansi Flick as manager last Sunday.

However, the Liverpool manager remains committed to his club and will see out his contract at Anfield before considering taking over his home country’s national team.

Germany were beaten 4-1 by Japan, led by Liverpool midfielder Wataru Endo in a friendly last Saturday, and former Bayern Munich manager Flick was sacked immediately.

Klopp’s name began to be mentioned as a replacement, apart from former Bayern managers, Julian Nagelsmann and Oliver Glasner, who joined Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg. Rudi Voller now acts as interim manager for Germany.

Although Klopp has not ruled out the possibility of taking up the job in the future, he is expected to remain with Liverpool until his contract expires in three years.

Reports in Germany say the country’s governing body will try to land Klopp at the end of the season, but Nagelsmann, who still has a contract with Bayern, is seen as the top choice.

“The position as commander of the national team is a great honor. The big problem that is hindering me is my loyalty.

“It’s an interesting job, but I’m not sure whether I’ll do anything else as good as leaving Liverpool,” said Klopp.

Former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus said: “When it comes to suitable candidates, there is only one individual that everyone wants – Jurgen Klopp. He is very successful, has a great personality and is liked by fans and the media.”

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