“First time ever, history for our country,” says Solomon Islands captain …..It is the number one time, for the newly established Solomon Islands Rugby Football League (SIRFL) to play in an international sanctioned match.“We (SIRFL) started a competition in 2013 and it’s only the beginning, one of the boxes has been ticked,” SIRFL chairman Beaver Biti told Loop PNG after their final match. He added that, the experience will have a “big impact on the development of the code back home.” The Solomon Islanders did not win any match in the nines competition but did showed some flare with their hard hit ups, tackles and speed as many of them were rugby union converts.“It’s an experience for us…and happy to compete with big guys (PNG, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga),” said Robert Dofe, SIRFL Pacific Games team manager.It is not the final and last time, as “our wantoks” across the Solomon Sea aim to bounce back from their humiliating defeats and gain some respect in their next international match.“Will come back again, we will win a match next time,” says Dofe.The national sport for Solomon Island is soccer.
Gray, 25, had been charged by the Football Association for bringing the game into disrepute over homophobic posts he made on Twitter in 2012.He apologised and asked “for forgiveness” for the posts, saying he was now a “different person”.Both the club and the player have accepted the ban.Gray’s ban starts with Monday’s Premier League game against Watford at Turf Moor and he will miss further fixtures against Arsenal, Everton and Southampton.He has also been fined £25,000.”We believe this charge, regarding historical social media posts, should now also serve as a warning to all professional footballers, and participants in the wider sporting field,” Burnley said in a statement.The tweets, which also contained offensive terms, were posted when Gray was playing for non-league Hinckley United.They came to light on 20 August, the day he scored his first top-flight goal as he helped Burnley to a 2-0 win over Liverpool at Turf Moor.
The final goal at the 118-year stadium came from Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney but Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane had already scored to ensure it was a joyful send-off by the hosts.After a season at Wembley, the north London club is due back at White Hart Lane for the start of the 2018-19 season.For United, the loss left Jose Mourinho’s side relying on winning the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League.Liverpool kept their top-four destiny in their own hands as Philippe Coutinho’s double earned them a 4-nil win over West Ham United that moved them back above Manchester City into third place.Arsenal’s late surge had put Juergen Klopp’s side under immense pressure but they responded in style and will definitely finish in the top-four if they beat relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield on the final day of the season.Anything other than a victory at West Ham’s London Stadium would have left Liverpool relying on other results.Liverpool have 73 points with one match remaining, one ahead of Manchester City and four more than Arsenal who both have two games left to play.
Gareth Southgate’s side had squeezed past Tunisia in their opening Group G game thanks to a stoppage-time winner from their skipper, but there was no late drama in a one-sided clash in Nizhny Novgorod.Kane and John Stones both scored twice in the first half, the former converting a pair of penalties as England netted five before the break against their beleaguered opponents.However, Jesse Lingard registered the pick of England’s first-half strikes, bending a shot home with his right foot after being teed up by Raheem Sterling, who – despite media conjecture in the week – kept his place in the starting XI.Kane enjoyed a slice of good fortune to secure his treble, inadvertently deflecting Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s drive beyond goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, for his fifth of the tournament, moving him clear of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku in the battle for the Golden Boot.Substitute Felipe Baloy created history with Panama’s first goal in the finals, though England’s emphatic win sees them join Belgium – who they face in Kaliningrad on Thursday – in qualifying from the group.5 – Harry Kane is the current leading scorer at the 2018 World Cup with five goals, scoring with all five of his shots on target in the tournament. Midas. #ENGPAN #ENG#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/xcOEEoWOE0— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 24, 2018Panama actually enjoyed the first good chance – Anibal Godoy slicing a clear sight of goal wide with his left foot – before they left a canal-sized gap for an unmarked Stones to thump home a header from Kieran Trippier’s corner.The early goal opened the floodgates. Kane emphatically converted a penalty to make it 2-0 following a foul on Lingard, who was next to find the net with a sublime curling finish with his right foot from the edge of the area.A clever set-piece move set up Stones for the next, the centre-back on hand to nod home the rebound after goalkeeper Penedo had impressively kept out Sterling’s close-range header.Kane completed the first-half carnage with a mirror image of his earlier penalty, hammering the ball into Penedo’s top right corner after referee Ghead Grisha had spotted a foul on the forward by Fidel Escobar, albeit he was not the only offender as Panama felt holding was their only hope of stemming the English tide.5 – This is only the fifth time in World Cup history that a team has scored 5+ goals in the first half of a match, with Germany vs Brazil in the 2014 semi-final the most recent occasion. Rout. #ENGPAN #ENG #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/dM69aHGaqh— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 24, 2018The Tottenham striker became just the third Englishman to score a treble at the World Cup finals in the 62nd minute, his final touch on Loftus-Cheek’s attempt seeing him join a select club that also includes Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker.Having enjoyed watching his team-mates run up the score, Jordan Pickford made a brave block on Murillo. Yet the Everton goalkeeper was unable to stop veteran Baloy’s first-time attempt from Ricardo Avila’s free-kick, sparking huge celebrations on the field, in the dugout and also in the stands. Panama rightly enjoyed their consolation goal, but Kane and England will hog the headlines after a resounding result that will further raise hopes back home of a repeat of their 1966 triumph. Photo MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images. Caption: Harry Kane England vs Panama
Marcos Baghdatis has been beaten in the second round of the Australian Open, the Cypriot star going out to Russian 30th seed Andrey Rublev 4-6 7-6 4-6 2-6 in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Bayern Munich will face Real Madrid and Liverpool will take on AS Roma in the semi-finals of the Champions League following the draw at UEFA’s headquarters on Friday.The first legs will be on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 April, with the returns on May 1 and 2. The detailed schedule will be released later on Friday.German champions Bayern and holders Real have met 24 times in Europe’s premier competition and have eleven wins each from those encounters.The pair clashed at the semi-finals stage in 2014 when the Spanish club won 5-0 on aggregate. They also met last season in the last eight when Real triumphed 6-3 on aggregate.Liverpool will have happy memories of their meeting with Roma in the 1984 European Cup final which was played in the Italian capital with the English side winning on penalties.The game will see Liverpool’s top scorer this season, Mohamed Salah, face his former club.
Handed a lifeline by Liverpool’s failure to beat Leicester on Wednesday, Manchester City begin a crucial week in the Premier League title race when they host Arsenal at the Etihad on Sunday.City’s shock 2-1 defeat at struggling Newcastle on Tuesday offered Liverpool the chance to open up a seven-point lead but Jurgen Klopp’s side could only manage a point with a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester.That leaves the Merseysiders five points clear but that advantage would be cut to just two points before they play West Ham on Monday, provided City can take care of business against Unai Emery’s Gunners.That is the first of three key matches in seven days for the defending champions who travel to Everton on Wednesday for a re-arranged fixture and then host Chelsea on Sunday.“The next week or so will be tough with Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea. I know the challenge is big. If we want to go up as a club we have to accept that challenge,” said manager Pep Guardiola.While Liverpool have the upper hand in the race, 14 games remain and as the midweek round of fixtures showed, the unpredictability of the league means there could be many twists and turns to come.“We are in January and we are behind the leaders but there are a lot of titles and points to play for. We have many games left – we are not in April or May and a lot can happen. We need to be there in every game and not give up,” said Guardiola.West Ham, who Liverpool face at the London Stadium on Monday, are in a poor run of form after losing 3-0 to Wolves on Tuesday following their FA Cup exit to third-tier (League One) AFC Wimbledon.Liverpool laboured at times against Leicester with their high-speed attack unable to get into top gear but skipper Jordan Henderson, who filled in at right-back, knows there is no time to dwell on that result.“We know we can play much better and we need to improve in the next game,” he said.“We need to bounce back quickly. We’ve got another few days to recover and then prepare for the West Ham game so we need to be ready because it’s another tough game in the Premier League.”It is an intense stage of the campaign for both the frontrunners who are back in European action next month with round-of-16 matches in the Champions League adding to their workload.Tottenham are only two points behind City and will still believe they can yet pull off a surprise with a late season tilt towards the title.Spurs could move ahead of City into second, for 24 hours at least, if they can beat Newcastle at home in Saturday’s early kick-off.Chelsea meanwhile will be desperate to atone for their 4-0 thrashing at Bournemouth on Wednesday when they host bottom club Huddersfield on Saturday.It is no less tight at the bottom where 16th place Southampton visit Burnley, a place below them on Saturday.Crystal Palace, who are level on points with both those teams, host next to bottom Fulham, whose fight against the drop has been given a boost by Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Brighton.
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri is yet to decide whether Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in goal in Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Tottenham after his refusal to be substituted in Sunday’s League Cup final.Kepa refused to be go off against Manchester City and was on Monday fined one week’s wages for the incident which angered Sarri.“I have to decide, maybe yes, maybe not,” said Sarri, when asked if Kepa would feature.“It will be a decision for the group. For all the players.”The Chelsea hierarchy took the decision to fine Kepa, Sarri revealed.The 60-year-old added: “I spoke with the goalkeeper, with Kepa, of course. Then we spoke altogether, because he said sorry to the technical staff, but it was not enough.“Then he said sorry to his team-mates, to the club. I think he made a big mistake, but we need to be taller. We don’t want to kill him. So there is a position from the club.”Sarri initially interrupted questions on Kepa, insisting not everyone was interested, saying: “Everybody? No. In my family, no.”Sarri does not believe the incident undermined his authority.He added: “No, because after yesterday for me the situation is finished. He is a young player, he made a mistake, but stop.“I am sure he understood he made a really big mistake. For me it’s finished.”Sarri believes the performance at Wembley showed he has his players’ backing, with the incident after the game strengthening his resolve.The Italian added: “Did you see the match on Sunday? So you have the answer.“After the game is the same. I think better.”Asked if he felt the support of the players was now greater, Sarri said: “Yes.”Sarri had taken the decision to replace Kepa due to fitness concerns, coupled with Willy Caballero’s history with Manchester City. The former City player saved three penalties in their 2016 League Cup shootout win over Liverpool.The Blues boss’ position remains precarious ahead of the first Premier League game since the 6-0 loss at Manchester City on February 10.Sarri added: “I am not under pressure. For me the pressure is a normal pressure.”Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino meanwhile says will accept the English Football Association’s improper conduct charge for confronting the referee after Saturday’s shock 2-1 Premier League defeat by Burnley, the Argentine said on Tuesday.The loss dealt a blow to third-placed Tottenham’s title hopes and Pochettino appeared to vent his frustration at referee Mike Dean in a furious exchange, but the 46-year-old apologised to the official ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Chelsea.“I will accept that charge. Watching my behaviour afterwards on video, I need to accept the charge from the FA,” Pochettino told a news conference.“I need to apologise to Mike Dean, I can’t behave that way. It’s not the way to behave and I’m going to accept the charge.“My behaviour was public and now I want to apologise in a public way. I need to apologise to him and all the officials.”Pochettino, who faces the prospect of a fine or a touchline ban, would not reveal what Dean said to him which appeared to provoke the reaction.“All that happened on the pitch stays on there. I think that is the most important, we need to accept that we are with our emotion,” Pochettino added.“It’s not important, I don’t take it personally. When your heart rate is so high you need to be careful how you take words. All that happened on the pitch, I’ll never translate off it.”Midfielders Dele Alli (hamstring) and Eric Dier (tonsillitis) will miss the match at Stamford Bridge.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not hark back to the 1999 Champions League final in his team-talks when Manchester United attempt to overturn their deficit in Barcelona on Tuesday.The Nou Camp holds a special place in the hearts of United supporters as well as Solskjaer, whose last-gasp strike at the ground helped United to their second European Cup and an unforgettable treble haul.What happened nearly 20 years ago is almost certain to be a point of reference ahead of the return leg of United’s quarter-final against the Spanish champions.But Red Devils manager Solskjaer feels there are few parallels to draw from and will instead use the current crop’s wins at Juventus and Paris St Germain this season in an effort to motivate his side, who lost 1-0 at Old Trafford last Wednesday.Asked whether he will speak to his players about 1999, the Norwegian said: “No I won’t because it was against Bayern Munich, it was a final, it was different.“We will use the PSG (match), we will use Juventus away, we have beaten some good teams away from home this year, and played against some great players.“We had (Barcelona) flustered at times here as well. Yes, they controlled the game towards the end, they had the possession but they never really bothered us in our own half.”United trailed by two goals at the halfway stage against PSG but rallied at the Parc des Princes to book their spot in the last eight and a showdown against Barca.And Solskjaer is confident that, with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba at his disposal, there is enough quality within United’s ranks to spring another surprise.He added: “You look at the quality of those players and that gives us a threat, we carry a goal threat.“But of course what we did against PSG as a team must give everyone a huge confidence boost because that experience was probably the best they have had for many years, those players.“They are probably dreaming about another one of them again at the Nou Camp.”
Nike’s long-time chief executive officer, Mark Parker, will step down next year and be replaced by board member and former eBay CEO John Donahoe, who will be tasked with strengthening the sportswear maker’s online strategy.Donahoe, who has been on Nike’s board since 2014, will join the sneaker maker from cloud computing firm ServiceNow, where he was CEO for more than four years. Prior to that, he led online retailer eBay for the seven years through 2015.Nike’s Parker had said last year he would remain CEO and chairman of the sports giant beyond 2020, with his remarks coming in the midst of a series of executive departures and probes on workplace complaints.The move comes days after the world’s biggest footwear maker shut down its Nike Oregon Project training group, following the recent four-year ban of the center’s founder and coach Alberto Salazar by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).Nike did not give any reason for Parker’s exit from the top job. In an interview to CNBC, Parker said the change was unrelated to the Oregon Project or any other issues.Parker joined Nike as one of its first footwear designers in 1979, and held several roles during his tenure at the company before taking charge as its top boss in 2006.Credited with creating the popular Nike Air sneakers as well as other pioneering products, Parker, in the past few years, oversaw Nike’s shift to selling directly to customers online and its success in international markets, particularly China.He will become Nike’s executive chairman and continue to lead the board after Donahoe takes over as CEO.“We like that Donahoe comes from technology and that he comes from the digital space and we like that he is a strategist and a leader … things that have made Nike positive have been because of those sort of strengths,” Jane Hali & Associates analyst Jessica Ramirez said.Nike’s digital revenue surged 35% in the last fiscal year, with the company expecting online sales to account for about a third of its business by 2023.Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough said Donahoe’s e-commerce experience could help with Nike’s online push, while Parker could focus more on product development, one of his key strengths.HITS AND MISSESDuring Parker’s tenure, Nike’s stock surged more than nine-fold..Over the past year, however, Parker faced a number of speedbumps as he chased his target of $50 billion in annual sales. He apologised to staff last year after a series of workplace complaints at the company.Nike also came under fire for featuring an ad with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who sparked a national controversy by kneeling during the US national anthem.“Nike has had their fair share of scandals and issues … and they didn’t really go out and look externally. It definitely seems like it could be part of the Oregon scandal,” Yarbrough said, referring to Parker’s departure.Separately, ServiceNow said it appointed Bill McDermott as its CEO. McDermott helmed software maker SAP from 2014 until recently.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said that his side’s number one priority in the crucial Champions League clash with Valencia was to avoid defeat.Valencia, Chelsea and leaders Ajax Amsterdam are all locked on seven points after four games in Group H, and the match at Mestalla looks critical to both sides’ chances of progressing to the last 16.Valencia pulled off a surprise 1-0 win when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge in September, but Chelsea have been on an outstanding run since, winning nine games out of 13 in all competitions.“It’s a ‘must not lose’ game because of the position we’re in,” Lampard told a news conference.“We lost ground in the first game against Valencia. We’ve made up a lot of that ground but I always felt it would be a tight group. We don’t want to lose the game.“It doesn’t mean we’re out if we lose but it puts us in a very difficult position.”Lampard added that his side were unfortunate to lose against Valencia at Stamford Bridge but he expected another difficult game against the Spaniards, who have had a stop-start campaign and are 10th in La Liga.“I felt we were the better team but we conceded a goal. My major feeling after the first game was the lesson will always be, whether you’re 18 or 32 in the Champions League, if you sleep for one moment you can lose a game,” he said.“We’ll need to take every bit of concentration, every bit of focus into this game because the rules always remain the same.“Particularly when you travel in the Champions League and particularly when you come to a stadium like this.”Valencia are under greater pressure to win the game than Chelsea, who face group minnows Lille at home in their final game next month while the Spaniards have to travel to Ajax, last season’s semi-finalists.Coach Albert Celades, however, dismissed suggestions this was a do-or-die game for his side, who have not reached the knockout stages of Europe’s top competition since the 2012/13 season.“It’s a great opportunity for us to try and reach the next round. But even if we don’t win we’ll still have a good chance,” he said.“But we will go out to win the game first of all and then see what happens next.”