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WCQ: Ethiopia do Bafana a huge favour by holding Ghana

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Ethiopia have done South Africa a huge favour in Group G of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers after they held Ghana 1-1 at ‘home’ at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Thursday afternoon.

The result – which came about thanks to goals from Andre Ayew and Getaneh Kebede – means Bafana Bafana need only avoid defeat away to Ghana on Sunday evening to guarantee top spot in the group and advance into the final phase of qualification.The Black Stars will need to defeat South Africa in Cape Coast in their final match to have any chance of advancing into the playoffs – and even that may not be enough, depending on Bafana’s result against the Warriors later on Thursday and how a potential head-to-head tie-breaker plays out.

Ghana bossed the game from early on but had to wait until midway through the first half to make their dominance count, with Andre Ayew scoring a fine goal direct from a free kick – the attacker’s left-footed curler beat Ethiopia goalkeeper Teklemariam Shanko all ends up to make it 1-0 in the 22nd minute.

Four minutes later the Black Stars nearly doubled their advantage through Kamaldeen Sulemana – who shot over to end what would have been a brilliant solo effort – before Ethiopia began to find their feet in attack and twice warmed the palms of goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott before the half-hour mark.

The Walia Ibex spurned a fine chance to level the game on 37 minutes when left-back Ramadan Yesuf pulled a fine ball back from the by-line to find Shimelis Bekele, but the midfielder’s shot was well saved by Wollacott.

The last clear chance of the first half went the way of Ghana, with Shanko flapping at a cross from the left to give Richmond Boakye a glaring chance, but he shot over a virtually unguarded net from close range to leave the score still 1-0 at the break.

Ethiopia were inches away from an equaliser 13 minutes after the restart, with Bekele again finding himself in a good scoring position – this time his shot had the better of the goalkeeper, but rebounded off the angle of post and crossbar.

Read Also: WCQ: Victor Osimhen reacts to Odion Ighalo’s Eagles return

The Walia Ibex kept plugging away and were finally rewarded in the 72nd minute when Abubeker Nassir did great work to tee up Getaneh Kebede, who showed great composure to control and fire home a volley for 1-1.

Ghana threw the kitchen sink at the East Africans in the dying stages, but they were unable to create any clear chances with which to test Shanko. In fact, Ethiopia had the more threatening moments on the counter but did not capitalise on them.

The teams will wrap up their stage campaign on Sunday 14 November, with Ethiopia away to Zimbabwe in Harare and Ghana hosting South Africa in Cape Coast.

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Bundesliga: Marsch leaves role as Leipzig head coach

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RB Leipzig, last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, have mutually agreed to part company with head coach Jesse Marsch after a poor start to the season, the German club said on Sunday.

Leipzig suffered a 2-1 defeat at Union Berlin on Friday, a third consecutive league loss that left them 11th in the standings and piled pressure on American Marsch who was not at the game due to being in COVID-19 quarantine.

Marsch, who joined this season to replace Bayern Munich-bound Julian Nagelsmann, has led his team to only five wins in 14 league games.

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“RB Leipzig and head coach Jesse Marsch have mutually agreed to part ways. The decision is the result of an in-depth analysis and intensive discussions after the Bundesliga match against Union Berlin,” the club said in a statement.

Assistant coach Achim Beierlorzer will take charge for their home game against Manchester City in the Champions League, a competition in which they reached the semifinals in 2020 but have already been eliminated from this season.

“I keep only positive thoughts in my mind and wish for the club, the team, the staff and all the fans that RB Leipzig finds its way back to its old strengths very quickly,” Marsch said.

“Given the quality in the team and in the club, I am sure that the club will achieve its goals.”

Former US international Marsch, 48, made his name in Europe when he guided Leipzig’s sister club RB Salzburg to the Austrian league and Cup titles twice.

He became the first American to coach a team in Europe’s elite club competition.

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Read Also: Moura scores stunner as Tottenham sink Norwich in EPL clash

“It was not easy for us to part company … because I hold Jesse in high regard as a person and as a coach,” Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff said.

“Unfortunately, the development we were hoping for and the results needed to achieve our goals for the season have not been achieved.”

Leipzig said Marsch’s successor would be announced in the near future.

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Bundesliga: Dortmund defend Bellingham amid possible sanctions

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Borussia Dortmund said on Sunday they would stand by England midfielder Jude Bellingham, who faces potential sanctions and even legal consequences after he made explosive comments about the referee after his side’s 3-2 defeat to Bayern Munich on Saturday.

“The boy is 18 years old and was speaking after a heated and emotional game. We will stand by him,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc told AFP-subsidiary SID.

Bellingham risks being punished by the German Football Federation (DFB) after claiming costly decisions by referee Felix Zwayer were to be expected given he was implicated in the worst match-fixing scandal in German history.

The 18-year-old England international was furious that Zwayer had not awarded a penalty to his side in the second-half, before giving one to Bayern which allowed Robert Lewandowski to score the winner in the top of the table clash.

“You can look at a lot of the decisions in the game. If you give a referee who has match-fixed before the biggest game in Germany, what do you expect?” Bellingham told Norwegian channel Viaplay.

He was referring to Zwayer’s alleged role as a 23-year-old linesman in the scandal involving referee Robert Hoyzer.

The latter confessed to taking Croatian mafia money in return for affecting the outcome of German Cup and lower division matches including awarding penalties for fictitious offences.

Hoyzer was jailed and Zwayer suspended for six months for keeping silent though he knew what the referee was doing and for accepting 300 euros ($340).

No definitive link between the match-fixing and Zwayer has ever been established and he has always said he was innocent.

POSSIBLE SANCTIONS

The DFB told AFP-subsidiary SID they would be reviewing whether Bellingham’s comments were “relevant from a sport sanctions perspective”.

Bild tabloid also reported Sunday that one of the DFB’s official observers had pressed libel charges against Bellingham, but Dortmund insisted that they saw no reason to fear legal consequences.

“I don’t see anything problematic from a legal perspective,” Zorc told SID.

“What he said isn’t wrong, even if he didn’t have to say it. You have to put it down to the emotions of an 18-year-old. Jude didn’t insult anyone, he stated a fact. I can’t imagine there will be any penalties for that,” Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told Kicker magazine.

Bellingham could face a heavy punishment if the DFB do decide to impose sanctions, as the federation has previously taken a dim view of referees being subjected to what they see as defamatory statements or accusations they judge offensive.

The England midfielder also faced criticism for his comments, which Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn said were “a step too far”.

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Read Also: EPL: Fred gives Rangnick reign at Man Utd lift off

“I can’t ever remember a player making a comment of that kind before,” Kahn told Sky on Saturday.

Bellingham was not alone in questioning Zwayer’s decisions in a heated game on Saturday evening.

Dortmund coach Marco Rose was shown a red card after arguing with Zwayer over his awarding of the penalty 12 minutes from time.

“His performance wasn’t good enough for a game of this level, he was overwhelmed. It was a great game, which was decided by the referee,” Zorc told SID.

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Pep Guardiola calls on City to keep winning momentum going

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola described the run-up to Christmas as the toughest part of the season and called on his players to continue their winning momentum in what is shaping up to be a three-way title tussle.

Guardiola’s City claimed top spot in the league for the first time this season after a dominant 3-1 victory at Watford, with their fifth straight win lifting them to 35 points — one ahead of Liverpool and two in front of Chelsea, who lost 3-2 at West Ham United.

“Today one team dropped points, next week it can be us or Liverpool. Many things can happen,” Guardiola said.

“I’m more than pleased with what the guys have done in this tough period and now comes the toughest one for the amount of games, weather, injuries. We (will) keep going with this rhythm and try to play well.

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Read Also: Moura scores stunner as Tottenham sink Norwich in EPL clash

“The result can be random but consistency is the most important thing to help us be a stable team… There’s many games to come and it’s the toughest part of the season.”

City will take on RB Leipzig in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday, kicking off a run of seven games in all competitions culminating on New Year’s Day.

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