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Croatia edge Russia to reach World Cup finals

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Croatia secured their place at the 2022 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Russia on Sunday, a late own goal from Fedor Kudryashov swinging the game in their favour after a hard-fought battle in boggy conditions in Split.

Finalists at the last World Cup in 2018, Croatia looked bound for the play-offs for much of Sunday’s game, as they toiled on a waterlogged pitch against a resolute Russian defence.

But Kudryashov’s error saw them snatch top spot from the visitors eight minutes from time and secure their passage to next year’s tournament in Qatar.

“It was a difficult match from the beginning because of the rain. We never gave up, we were patient and I think we won deservedly. We are the best team in this group,” Croatia captain Luka Modric was quoted as saying by the Uefa website.

An early header from Andrej Kramaric set the tone for a first half in which Croatia had the lion’s share of possession and piled on the pressure in search of an opener.

Marcelo Brozovic also shaved the bar with a long-range effort, before both he and Josip Juranovic forced saves from Russian keeper Matvey Safonov.

Safonov beat away another Kramaric header with a reflex save just after the break, before denying substitute Bruno Petkovic on the hour mark.

The conditions made it harder and harder for Croatia as the second half progressed, with the pitch becoming ever more boggy under the heavy rain.

Read Also: WCQ: Late goals for Montenegro put Dutch celebrations on hold

The chances had all but dried up when Borna Sosa sent a hopeful ball into the box on 82 minutes.

Though under no pressure, Kudryashov struggled to control the ball as it skidded on the wet ground, and watched helplessly on as it bounced off his knee and inside ....

While Croatia qualify automatically as Group H winners, Russia can still make it through via the play-offs.

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Chelsea striker Kerr bowls over pitch invader

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Chelsea striker Sam Kerr was cautioned after doling out some rough justice to a pitch invader during a Women’s Champions League match against Juventus in southwest London on Wednesday evening.

The Australian was described by her coach Emma Hayes as the best striker in the world after helping Chelsea seal a domestic treble with two goals in the FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday.

Kerr showed skills more in keeping with the Australian Rules code she played as a child when she barged into the fan who had run onto the Kingsmeadow pitch late in Wednesday’s game, leaving him in a heap on the ground.

Read Also: UCL: Okafor strike sees Salzburg to historic win over Sevilla

The yellow card contributed to a frustrating night for Kerr and Chelsea as Juventus held on for a 0-0 draw, leaving the English champions needing a draw from a trip to Wolfsburg next week to be certain of progressing to the quarterfinals.

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UCL: Okafor strike sees Salzburg to historic win over Sevilla

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Noah Okafor scored the only goal as RB Salzburg claimed a 1-0 victory over 10-man Sevilla at the Red Bull Arena on Wednesday to progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history.

Salzburg finished as runners-up in Group G with 10 points from their six matches, one behind pool winners Lille. Sevilla ended in third place and will play in the Europa League playoff round.

The first half had little goal-mouth action but the game burst into life after the break as Salzburg were helped by a second yellow card for Sevilla’s key midfielder Joan Jordan on 65 minutes.

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The match was played behind closed doors without fans due to heightened COVID-19 restrictions in Austria, so the hosts were unable to celebrate their achievement with their supporters.

For two sides with reputations as attacking teams, it took 35 minutes of cagey football for the first shot on target as Ivan Rakitic warmed the palms of Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn.

It was the only occasion where either keeper was worked in the first half, though Sevilla defender Jules Kounde headed wide from a corner with the best chance of the opening period.

Sevilla should have been ahead minutes after the break when Munir El Haddadi had a free header six yards from goal but saw his effort come back of the crossbar.

It was a big chance the visitors would rue missing as Salzburg went up the other end and scored with an excellent team goal.

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Read Also: UCL:  Atalanta-Villarreal tie postponed due to snow

They finally managed to string passes together and Karim Adeyemi was worked into space on the left. His low cross into the box was turned in by Swiss forward Okafor.

Sevilla’s night got worse on 65 minutes when Jordan received a deserved second booking for pulling back the pacey Adeyemi and they were left to find two goals with 10 men.

Salzburg were able to comfortably hold out to the end, with Rakitic’s first half shot the only one Sevilla, who are second in Spain’s LaLiga, could muster on target.

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Clinical Lille beat Wolfsburg to reach UCL last 16 and top Group G

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Lille reached the knockout stage of the Champions League for the second time when they claimed an emphatic 3-1 win at Wolfsburg and top spot in Group G on Wednesday.

The French champions needed a draw to advance but they played with ambition to end up with 11 points from six games, one ahead of RB Salzburg with goals by Burak Yilmaz, Jonathan David and Angel Gomes.

Wolfsburg, who scored a consolation goal through Renato Steffen, finished bottom of the group on five points and are eliminated from all European competitions.

The German side barely threatened while Lille, who have had a see-saw Ligue 1 season, made the most of their chances in front of barely 6 000 fans.

Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side had picked up only two points in their first three group games but they found their groove in a perfect return phase that put them on the brink of qualification ahead of kickoff.

They duly delivered to join fellow Ligue 1 club Paris St Germain into the last 16, which they had not reached since the 2006-07 season, when they were knocked out by Manchester United.

They went ahead in the 11th minute when Yilmaz netted with a left-footed effort after being set up by Nanitamo Ikone at the end of a quick counter-attack.

Wolfsburg stepped up a gear after the break but it was Lille who found the back of the net again in the 72nd minute after a quick combination between Gomes and David had put the hosts’ defence off balance.

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Read Also: UCL:  Atalanta-Villarreal tie postponed due to snow

Canada striker David is the first Lille player to score in three consecutive Champions League matches.

Five minutes later, Gomes, who had come on as a 68th-minute substitute, wrapped it up with a right-footed shot courtesy of Ikone’s second assist of the night.

Steffen pulled one back with a nice 20-metre strike one minute from time but it was too little, too late for Wolfsburg.

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