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How Poland secured World Cup playoff place

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Poland secured a World Cup playoff spot with one game to spare after Paulo Sousa’s side beat Andorra 4-1 in Group I, thanks to a brace from striker Robert Lewandowski.

Andorra’s Ricard Fernandez received a red card only 20 seconds into the game for elbowing Kamil Glik, leaving the underdogs down to 10 men as Poland took control of the game.

Poland’s main man Lewandowski opened the scoring in the fifth minute from a Kamil Jozwiak pass, six minutes before the Derby County winger made it 2-0 after receiving a cross from Przemyslaw Frankowski.

Andorra managed to pull one back in the 45th minute when a Marc Vales free kick from the sideline beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. It was Andorra’s eighth goal in Group I, their best return in any major tournament qualifying campaign.

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Poland’s Arkadiusz Milik made it 3-1 just before halftime, in his first international match since March, while Lewandowski completed the rout in the second half with his eighth strike of the campaign, heading the ball in from a Piotr Zielinski cross.

Poland have 20 points from nine games, three points behind leaders England and five points ahead of Albania with one game remaining.

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Djokovic ‘probably won’t’ play Australian Open, says player’s father

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Novak Djokovic is currently playing for Serbia at the Davis Cup Finals in Innsbruck

Novak Djokovic “probably won’t” play the Australian Open in January over mandatory Covid vaccination rules, the world number one’s father said on Sunday, likening the restrictions to “blackmail”.

The 34-year-old Djokovic, who would be bidding for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, has refused to say whether or not he has been vaccinated against coronavirus.

But Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley has said that all players must be inoculated to take part.

“Of course he would want to go with all his heart,” Djokovic’s father Srdjan told Serbian channel Prda TV.

“Because he is a sportsman and there are a lot of our people, the (Serbian) diaspora, there who would be delighted to see Novak.

“But I really don’t know if that will happen. Probably not under these conditions, with this blackmail and when it’s done that way.”

Srdjan Djokovic also defended his son’s “exclusive and personal right” to be vaccinated or not, and claimed that even he did not know if Novak had received the jab.

Tiley last week revealed that Djokovic “has said that he views this as a private matter for himself”.

Read Also: Russians knock holders Spain out of Davis Cup

“We would love to see Novak here. He knows that he’ll have to be vaccinated to play here,” he added.

Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, is level on 20 Grand Slam singles triumphs with old rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

He contracted Covid-19 during the ill-fated Adria Tour event he organised in the Balkans in June 2020, but said he did not suffer from any symptoms.

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EPL: Conte reacts to postponement and backs Spurs to ‘exploit’ situation

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Tottenham manager Antonio Conte said the decision to postpone Sunday’s Premier League game against Burnley was a “big disappointment”, but hopes his side can exploit the situation by using extra time on the training pitch.

Spurs’ clash at Turf Moor on Sunday was postponed 45 minutes before kick-off after heavy snow overnight and throughout Sunday in Lancashire.

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Despite the best efforts of Burnley’s ground staff to clear the pitch, the unrelenting snow continued to blanket the playing surface and the decision to call off the game was made after an inspection led by referee Peter Bankes and in conjunction with respective managers Conte and Sean Dyche.

“A big disappointment because we were ready to play and we prepared for the game, and all the travel,” Conte said afterwards.

“But at same time I think the Premier League made the right decision to save the situation for the players and the fans. For everybody. It’s disappointing but the decision was right.

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Read Also: Leicester City fire four goals past Watford in EPL clash

“Ten minutes before the snow is worse than it was before and in this condition, it’s not football. I want to play football, I want to play. In this type of situation it’s impossible. There’s serious risk of injury and this is not good.

“For sure, we have to exploit the situation, to have a training session tomorrow to prepare for two important games against Brentford and Norwich. We’ll have more time to prepare and need to exploit in the right way.”

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Portuguese league discuss ‘disgrace’ after team starts with nine men

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An injury to goalkeeper Joao Monteiro who was playing outfield for Belenenses forced the game with Benfica to be stopped after the home team was left with just six men

Portuguese league officials met on Sunday to discuss the farcical game between Belenenses and Benfica, which had to be called off in the second half after Belenenses started with only nine players, including two goalkeepers, due to an outbreak of Covid-19.

Belenenses played one of their goalkeepers, Joao Monteiro, as an outfield player and had no substitutes at the Estadio Nacional where Benfica strolled into a 7-0 lead before half-time on Saturday.

The Primeira Liga game was called off by referee Manuel Mota three minutes into the second half, after Belenenses were reduced to six players. They had emerged after half-time with only seven players before Monteiro went down injured.

According to reports in Portugal, Primeira Liga officials met on Sunday morning to discuss the controversial fixture and whether any disciplinary action sohuld be taken against Belenenses.

The Portuguese health ministry also issued a statement on Sunday, saying “it does not comment on the holding of games, whether in football or any other sport”.

Belenenses president Rui Pedro Soares said on Saturday the game was a “disgrace” and criticised the league for effectively forcing the club to play, under threat of being deducted points.

“What happened today was a great shame, there is nothing to justify what happened,” he said. “Never in my life have I witnessed such dignified behaviour as from those nine players.”

After informing the league “that we didn’t wish to play the match, we were told we had eight players able to play” and “not turning up could be considered an unjustified absence”, said the Belenenses president.

Benfica president Rui Costa described it as a “black page for Portuguese football” but insisted “Benfica simply complied with the regulations” and were “not responsible” for the match being played.

Reports in Portugal claimed Belenenses were without 14 players due to Covid, as well as three members of staff.

Belenenses coach Filipe Candido had indicated on Saturday that he would have to promote some under-23 players due to injuries and suspensions.

Supporters in the stadium chanted: “The league is a disgrace.”

Read Also: Serie A: Napoli mark Maradona anniversary with dazzling win

The decision to go ahead with the fixture also drew criticism from players, with the Belenenses team posting a joint message on Twitter that read: “Football only has colour if it has competition. Football only has colour if it has sporting truth. Football only has colour when it is an example of public health. Today, football has lost its colour.”

Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva wrote: “What is this? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the game hasn’t been postponed?”

Belenenses sat 16th in the Primeira Liga at the start of the game while Benfica were third.

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