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Tottenham and Liverpool survive FA Cup scares

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Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks left scored the equaliser against Morecambe in the FA Cup

Tottenham scored a flurry of late goals as they avoided an embarrassing FA Cup exit at the hands of third-tier Morecambe on Sunday while Liverpool came from behind to beat lowly Shrewsbury 4-1.

West Ham beat Leeds 2-0 in the day’s only third-round match featuring two Premier League teams and Wolves saw off Championship side Sheffield United 3-0.

A much-changed Spurs were trailing at half-time against their League One opponents but Harry Winks levelled and substitutes Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored late on to seal a 3-1 win.

Morecambe boss Stephen Robinson was absent for the game against the club at which he began his playing career after testing positive for coronavirus.

Spurs – 59 places higher than their opponents in the English league system – dominated the opening half an hour but the visitors went ahead in the 33rd minute when captain Anthony O’Connor converted from close range following a corner.

The home were level in the 74th minute but they needed a fluke – midfielder Winks overhit a free-kick from the left-hand side but it caught goalkeeper Trevor Carson out and sailed into the far corner.

Moura put Spurs ahead in the 85th minute after rounding the goalkeeper and Kane made sure Spurs would progress.

“Our target was to go to the next round and we won the game,” said Conte, who made eight changes from the side that lost to Chelsea in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final in midweek.

“For sure we struggled a lot in the first part of the game and conceded a goal from the set piece,” he told the BBC.

“We deserve to win because in these type of games you have to show your strength. They defended with 11 players and that’s normal in these games but it is important to find the right solution.”

– Klopp returns –

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, back in the dugout at Anfield after completing his isolation period following a positive test for Covid-19, watched as his side went behind before recovering strongly.

Liverpool named five youth team players in their team to face League One side Shrewsbury after a Covid-affected build-up to the match, with more academy players on the bench.

The Merseyside club have also had to deal with injuries and are without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita, all of whom are at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Shrewsbury struck with their first real attack of any threat, when Daniel Udoh fired home from close range following a Nathanael Ogbeta cross.

But the home side were level just seven minutes later when Kaide Gordon, aged 17 years and 96 days, became the second-youngest goalscorer in the club’s history.

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Liverpool’s Kaide Gordon celebrates after scoring in the FA Cup third-round match against Shrewsbury

Read Also:EPL: Rashford plays down talk of rift in dressing room

Liverpool were ahead just before half-time when Ethan Ebanks-Landell handled in an aerial challenge with Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho converted the penalty.

Substitute Roberto Firmino increased Liverpool’s lead 12 minutes from time with a close-range backheel and Fabinho scored his second with the last kick of the game.

“We’ve trained since Friday pretty much and that is what we decided with this line-up,” said Klopp. “The boys really fought hard.

“When you get the first goal against you so many things can happen but I liked the way we responded.”

West Ham took the lead at the London Stadium in the 34th minute when Manuel Lanzini lashed home and Jarrod Bowen doubled the home side’s lead deep into stoppage time.

Wolves beat Sheffield United courtesy of two goals from Daniel Podence and one from Nelson Semedo while Premier League strugglers Norwich saw off third-tier Charlton 1-0.

There were also wins for Cardiff, Luton and Stoke.

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Nadal beats Berrettini to reach Australian Open final

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Rafael Nadal marched into the final of the Australian Open to be just one match away from becoming the all-time men’s Grand Slam leader after overcoming Matteo Berrettini in their semi-final on Friday.

The 35-year-old Spanish great, seeded sixth, was too solid for the Italian seventh seed, winning 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in 2hr 55min, and will face either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final.

Nadal is level on 20 majors with his golden era rivals Novak Djokovic, who was deported on the eve of the tournament, and Roger Federer, who is absent with injury.

It gives the Spaniard an opportunity to go clear at the top and add to his lone 2009 Melbourne Park crown in his sixth Australian Open final.

“For me it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else, it’s an amazing event,” Nadal said.

“I have been a little unlucky during my career with some injuries and I played in some amazing finals here with some good chances against Novak in 2012 and Roger 2017, I was close a couple of times.

“I feel very lucky that I won once in my career in 2009, but I never thought about another chance in 2022.

“So I’ll just try to enjoy today’s victory and try my best in the final.”

It has been an extraordinary effort from Nadal at the year’s opening major, having to modify his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that ended his 2021 season last August.

IT MEANS A LOT

He then caught Covid in December which, he said, made him “very sick”.

Yet Nadal brushed aside Berrettini’s challenge with precision shot-making, while last year’s Wimbledon finalist could not overcome his sluggish start.

The stark statistic confronting Berrettini was that Nadal had never lost in his 20 Grand Slam semi-finals after leading by two sets.

“I started the match playing great, the first two sets were one my best for a long time and I knew Matteo was a very solid player, very dangerous and I knew at some point in the third set he was going to go for his shots,” Nadal said.

“It means a lot to me to be in the final again here,” added Nadal who is now unbeaten in 10 matches to start the 2022 season after winning a warm-up event in Melbourne.

Nadal made the better start, breaking tentative Berrettini’s opening service game when the Italian’s backhand went wide.

Nadal solidly rolled through his service holds to claim the opening set on his fourth set point in 43 minutes.

Nadal was honing in on Berrettini’s backhand and got his reward with a double break to take a stranglehold on the second set.

Read Also: Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

He finished off a 10-stroke rally with a delicate slice that again exposed Berrettini’s backhand to consolidate the double break.

Berrettini, the first Italian man to play in the Australian Open semi-finals, raised his level in the third set.

He brought up his first break points in six sets in his two encounters with Nadal and broke with a forehand winner to 5-3 and served out to reduce the deficit to one set.

But the key break came in the eighth game of the fourth set, Nadal bringing up two separate break points and getting the crucial break when Berrettini netted a forehand before serving out for the match.

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Versatile Dane Wass joins Atletico from Valencia

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WASS

Denmark’s Daniel Wass has signed for Atletico Madrid from LaLiga rivals Valencia, the capital city side announced on Thursday.

The 32-year-old utility player, who can play in midfield or defence, “signs for the remainder of the campaign and another season,” Atletico said without giving details on the transfer.

“He is a very versatile player who can play in several areas of the field,” the club continued.

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Read Also: Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

“In his early days, he started playing as a full-back and a defender, but then moved to midfield, where he played both in the centre and on the sides”, before returning “to the back to play as a right-back again,” said Atletico.

During his three and a half seasons at Valencia, Wass scored 15 goals and provided 20 assists.

Capped 41 times for Denmark, Wass’s career has included stints with Danish club Brondby, French side Evian, Benfica in Portugal and Spanish outfit Celta Vigo.

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Bundesliga: Ambitious underdogs Freiburg eye UCL debut

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SC Freiburg are punching above their weight in the Bundesliga this season, with Christian Streich’s ambitious underdogs from the heart of the picturesque Black Forest eyeing a first appearance in the Champions League.

Freiburg have been perennial mid-table finishers in recent Bundesliga seasons, aside from their relegation in 2014-15 before coming straight back up.

Streich is the Bundesliga’s longest-serving current coach after more than a decade in the job.

Under his stewardship, Freiburg’s performances have fuelled dreams of a top-four finish and qualification for the Champions League for the first time.

“If that should happen, I think the party would really kick off in the city,” club captain Christian Guenter told AFP.

“It’s never happened before in the club’s history, but there is still a really long way to go.”

It’s 08:45am local time on a bleak morning, yet Guenter, 28, is fresh-faced and ready for training, clearly enjoying his football.

His performances at left-back earned him a Germany recall last November, seven years after his international debut.

RETAINING TALENT

Freiburg usually struggle to keep their best players, most recently when Germany defender Robin Koch left in 2020 to join Leeds United.

“Almost 10 years ago, we qualified for the Europa League and five important players left that summer,” sporting director Klemens Hartenbach told AFP.

“It’s always a bit related to sporting success — the exodus after the good work.”

However, Freiburg managed to keep their squad intact going into this season and have racked up league points.

“We simply know that we have great potential in the team,” added Guenter.

“There is always a lot of energy in training, everyone is very ambitious and wants to win.

“That’s what really distinguishes us this season: we never give up, no matter what the score is.”

Freiburg have no big-name stars, yet shocked Borussia Dortmund in their first home match on the way to remaining unbeaten in their opening 10 league games to set a club record.

Freiburg became the last Bundesliga side to lose their unbeaten status only after a narrow defeat at mighty Bayern Munich in November.

A win over Bayer Leverkusen before Christmas meant Freiburg finished the first half of the season third in the table — another club best.

Despite a 5-1 thumping a fortnight ago at Dortmund, when Erling Haaland ran riot, Freiburg bounced back with a win over Stuttgart to currently sit fifth, just a point outside the Champions League places.

Striker Nils Petersen, who spent two seasons at Bayern until 2013, loves the atmosphere in the Freiburg dressing room.

EVERY WIN IS SPECIAL

“Every win is something special for us, where as at Bayern you are expected to win,” Petersen told AFP.

“We’re enjoying it right now, we like to ride the wave of success, but the fear is always that it can go in the other direction again.”

At 33, Petersen is in the twilight of his career and out of contract in June, but hopes to be offered an extension.

“The club has already said they can imagine extending with me,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to watch the team be successful next season at home on the television.”

He has strengthened his case by proving his value as a substitute.

He holds the record for the most Bundesliga goals as a sub and his late winner at Hertha Berlin last October was his 30th after coming off the bench.

Read Also: Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

“If it gets you in the history books at some point, I’m not going to say no and I quite enjoy making an impact,” he added.

The club is also branching out off the pitch, moving from their iconic Schwarzwald Stadion to the state-of-the-art Europa Park Stadium, which holds around 35 000 people.

February’s fixtures against Cologne, Mainz, Augsburg and Hertha Berlin offer chances to again climb the table and boost their Champions League ambitions.

“Maybe we are a very small dot on Europe’s football map now,” added Hartenbach. “And that could lead to us maybe becoming something bigger.”

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