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WCQ: Dutch reach World Cup, Turkey, Ukraine into play-offs



Steven Bergwijn celebrates after scoring in the win over Norway

The Netherlands clinched the final automatic place in European qualifying for the 2022 World Cup as late goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay sealed a 2-0 win over Norway on Tuesday, with Turkey and Ukraine grabbing play-off spots.

The Dutch, with injured coach Louis van Gaal watching from the stands in Rotterdam, only needed a point to top Group G and came through a nervy encounter to finish two points clear of second-placed Turkey, who pipped Norway to a play-off spot.

Tottenham winger Bergwijn smashed Arnaut Danjuma’s cross into the top corner with six minutes left at De Kuip.

Barcelona’s Depay then made it two a minute into injury time as he slotted home Bergwijn’s pass to seal the Netherlands a return to the tournament after missing out on Russia in 2018.

The victory was played behind closed doors after a partial lockdown was re-introduced last week due to an increase in cases of Covid-19.

“Of course there are many things that could be improved, but the result was the most important. We are going to Qatar,” Oranje captain Virgil van Dijk told broadcasters NOS.

“I was very sorry that the national coach was there from a distance and the fans were not there at all. We’re going to celebrate well inside (the stadium). I can’t wait for the World Cup.”

In Podgorica, Montenegro forward Fatos Beqiraj opened the scoring after just four minutes to put Turkey in danger of missing out on a top-two finish.

The visitors responded on 22 minutes as Galatasary attacker Kerem Akturkoglu finished acrobatically at the back post before Feyenoord youngster Orkun Kokcu added a second to secure a 2-1 win.

“There are very tough opponents in the play-offs,” Turkey’s Abdulkadir Omur said after assisting Akturkoglu’s equaliser.

“We want to give the best fight there and go to the World Cup. I am very happy and proud in this shirt, I do everything I can.”

– ‘Nervy’ Wales –

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Kieffer Moore made his Wales debut in 2019

The Netherlands join Belgium, England, Germany, Denmark, France, Croatia, Switzerland, Spain and Serbia to have qualified directly from Europe.

In the play-offs, Turkey are alongside Euro 2020 winners Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Russia, Sweden, Poland, Wales, North Macedonia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Austria, with the draw on November 26 for the games in March.

Elsewhere, in Group E, Wales secured a home game in the play-offs after a 1-1 draw in Cardiff against Belgium without injured captain Gareth Bale.

“It’s so important to get a home draw – look at the teams that have come in second, the likes of Portugal and Italy – it’s been a bit nervy!” Wales goalscorer Kieffer Moore told Sky Sports.

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“But nights like this, I’d back us to take on anyone.”

In Group D, Finland missed out on the play-offs as Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe scored in World Cup holders France’s 2-0 win in Helsinki.

The pair became the first France players to score in four successive Les Bleus games since David Trezeguet in 2003.

Ukraine took the play-off spot after beating Bosnia and Herzegovina by the same scoreline thanks to Oleksandr Zinchenko and Artem Dovbyk’s second-half efforts in Zenica.



EPL: Aston Villa come back to beat Ndidi’s Leicester City



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Defender Ezri Konsa scored twice as Aston Villa came back from a goal down to beat Wilfred Ndidi’s Leicester City 2-1, rising above them to 10th spot in the Premier League table on goal difference on Sunday after a pulsating encounter.

Harvey Barnes squeezed the ball through Konsa’s legs to open the scoring in the 14th minute, but Konsa got the last touch on Emiliano Buendia’s goal-bound header to put his side level again three minutes later.

Villa had a goal ruled out just before the break, but Konsa gave them the lead nine minutes into the second half as he headed home John McGinn’s corner at the back post.

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Jamie Vardy came off the bench to give Leicester’s attack a shot in the arm but it was the home side who had the better of the chances, and only the goalkeeping of Kasper Schmeichel kept them from adding to their total as they held on to win 2-1.

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Chelsea Women clinch belated domestic treble with FA Cup win



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Sam Kerr notched a brace and Fran Kirby was also on target as dominant Chelsea eased to victory over London rivals Arsenal in the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

Sunday’s one-sided triumph in the 2020/21 showpiece delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic means Emma Hayes’ side complete a belated and historic domestic treble, having also won the Women’s Super League (WSL) title and League Cup last term.

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Chelsea made a dream start to the occasion as they looked to inflict revenge on Jonas Eidevall’s in-form WSL leaders, to whom they lost in the season opener back in September, going in front after only three minutes.

Arsenal repeatedly failed to clear their lines as dangerous duo Kerr and Kirby tried to combine, with the latter left clear to fire coolly beyond the helpless Manuela Zinsberger.

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Kerr was hurt during the build-up to that early goal, but she quickly returned and almost made it 2-0 just minutes later, only to be thwarted by Zinsberger.

Kerr was later denied what looked a clear penalty after being wiped out by Jennifer Beattie while providing a brilliant cut-back for strike partner Kirby.

Vivianne Miedema’s strike was deflected high and wide during a rare foray forward for below-par Arsenal, who were then indebted to Zinsberger again as she scrambled low to her left to tip wide a fine strike from the relentless Kirby, who reached a century of Chelsea goals in the recent 5-0 WSL rout of Birmingham.

Captain Magda Eriksson headed wide from the subsequent corner as the chances just kept on coming, with Guro Reiten just struggling to get a shot away before Kirby’s latest drive was deflected wide.

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Millie Bright volleyed well wide before Kerr curled an effort against the crossbar after brushing aside the challenge of Lotte Wubben-Moy.

Arsenal could realistically have been four or five-nil behind, but began to come into the game after swapping Beth Mead and Katie McCabe and playing Stephanie Catley in a more advanced role, while they had a seemingly cast-iron penalty shout of their own turned down when the otherwise hugely influential Erin Cuthbert handled on the floor.

However, they failed to muster a single shot on target and only a poor pass from Kirby to Kerr saw an incisive Chelsea counter-attack falter before the interval.

The Blues began the second half in confident fashion, though Kim Little began to link play nicely for Arsenal from her no10 role, with Mead showing great feet to turn Eriksson before being dispossessed by a well-timed sliding challenge in the box from Jess Carter.

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Catley produced a vital defensive header at the back post and Zinsberger had to be alert again to keep out Kerr’s header after good work from Cuthbert out wide.

However, the prolific Australian would not be denied much longer as she collected a long ball forward and pushed a shot through the legs of Wubben-Moy and in at the near post with Zinsberger unsighted.

Arsenal went for broke with several attacking changes, but it mattered little as Kerr added a delightful third with a sublime dinked finish after Kirby – who went off to a standing ovation with a knee issue – had thumped a strike off ....


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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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“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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