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Football Briefs: French clubs face disciplinary action over Europa League violence

Last updated on: March 19, 2018 22:56 IST

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Marseille's Adil Rami and players clash after their match

IMAGE: Marseille's Adil Rami and players clash after the match. Photograph: Philippe Laurenson/Reuters

French clubs Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais are facing disciplinary proceedings following crowd trouble at their Europa Leagues games last week, UEFA said on Monday.

Lyon supporters clashed with police outside their stadium - the venue for this year's Europa League final -- following the home match against CSKA Moscow on Thursday and several officers were injured.


The club said in a statement that the incidents involved "a group of individuals wearing hoodies who are not part of the club's official supporters' groups".

UEFA said Lyon had been charged with crowd disturbances, the throwing and setting off of fireworks and blocked stairways. It has also charged the club with "racist behaviour" on the basis of a report by the anti-racism group FARE.

Marseille face sanctions after trouble at their game at Athletic Bilbao the same evening and they have been charged with crowd disturbances and the setting off of fireworks.

Spanish media reported that two Bilbao security guards were injured.

Chiellini out of Italy friendlies with thigh injury

Defender Giorgio Chiellini has withdrawn from Italy's training sessions ahead of this month's international friendlies because of a thigh strain, his club Juventus said on Monday.

The Azzurri play Argentina in Manchester on March 23 and England at Wembley four days later under the leadership of interim coach Luigi Di Biagio, who replaced Gian Piero Ventura in November after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

The 33-year-old Chiellini, capped 96 times by Italy, picked up the injury in Juve's 0-0 draw at Spal on Saturday. The Turin club said the injury would be evaluated over the next two days.

Juve's next match is against AC Milan on March 31, followed by the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid on April 3.

Brazil to use Tottenham's facilities ahead of World Cup

Brazil have signed an agreement with Tottenham Hotspur to use the London Premier League club’s facilities ahead of this year's World Cup in Russia, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said on Monday.

The five-time World Cup winners will train in London for friendlies against Croatia on June 3, at an English venue yet to be decided, and Austria on June 10 in Vienna.

"In addition to the friendlies, a partnership has been made official with Tottenham FC, who will make their facilities available for training as from May 28," the CBF said in a statement.

"The selecao will have a gym, swimming pool and two official-size football pitches available to them as well as a recently built hotel inside the training centre."

Brazil kick off their World Cup campaign against Switzerland on June 17 before facing Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E.

They play friendlies against World Cup hosts Russia in Moscow on Friday and reigning champions Germany in Berlin four days later.

Sampdoria coach says it is time to stop selling best players

Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo, exasperated at seeing his team concede nine goals on their way to losing their last two games, says they will continue to hover around the middle of the Serie A table if they continue selling their top players.

Giampaolo's comments are likely to resonate with supporters of many middle-sized clubs around Europe where a good performance once season simply means a rebuilding job the next as their key performers are snapped up by top clubs.

Giampaolo led the Genoa-based team to 10th place in Serie A last season, his first in charge, and they began the present campaign brightly, especially at home where they won their first six league games.

They held sixth place for more than 20 rounds of matches and looked capable of challenging for a place in the Champions League but have now dropped to eighth after losing 4-1 at lowly Crotone and then 5-0 at home to Inter Milan on Sunday.

"There comes a time when you have to take a leap in quality," Giampaolo told reporters.

"You need to go from being adolescent to being a man, otherwise you are stuck in limbo."

"As far as I'm concerned, there is no equation by which you can sell players and improve your position in the table, it doesn't exist."

"A team that gets 40 points and sells its best players, the next year it gets 48 points and sells its best players... how many points does in need to get after that? Seventy?"

The players who departed at the end of last season included central defender Milan Skriniar, sold to Inter Milan, and forwards Luis Muriel, sold to Sevilla, and Patrick Schick, loaned to AS Roma.

Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi, who scored four goals on Sunday, is also among other players who have been allowed to leave Sampdoria in the last few years.

Sampdoria enjoyed a golden period around the end of the 1980s and early 1990s where a team which included players such as Toninho Cerezo, Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli won their only Serie A title as well as the old European Cup Winners' Cup.

They also reached the final of the European Cup in 1992.

Decline set in and the team spent four seasons in Serie B before winning promotion back to the top flight in 2003, but there has never been a return to the halcyon days.

Giampaolo is unlikely to have taken much comfort from the words of his president Massimo Ferrero before Sunday's game when he talked openly of the transfer possibilities in the current team.

"Do I regret selling Skriniar for the market price? I'm not a man of regrets," said Ferrero.

Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira, signed in 2016, is top of the selling list.

"He's an extraordinary player and lots of teams want him, not just Inter Milan and Napoli but other clubs, from abroad," said Ferrero. "Where will he go? Wherever he wants.

"We signed him when nobody knew him. In life and in football, you need courage," he added.

Ferrero was also asked if there had been in interest in midfielders Dennis Praet and Karol Linetty. "Everyone has been asking about them," he replied.

Not the words Giampaolo would have wanted to hear.

Barca race towards title; Ronaldo scores four 

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates with Ousmane Dembele after scoring their second goal against Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Sunday

IMAGE: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates with Ousmane Dembele after scoring their second goal against Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Sunday. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Barcelona took a giant step towards winning the La Liga title after they beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 on Sunday and nearest challengers Atletico Madrid lost 2-1 at Villarreal, giving the Catalans an 11-point lead at the top of the standings.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored four times as champions Real Madrid thrashed Girona 6-3 in a hugely entertaining game and moved to within four points of unseating Atletico in second place.

Paco Alcacer took the place of suspended striker Luis Suarez in the starting line-up and scored a first goal in three months to put Barca ahead in the eighth minute at the Nou Camp, side-footing home a pass from Jordi Alba.

Lionel Messi scored for the sixth game in a row in all competitions and for the 25th time in this league campaign when he doubled Barca's lead in the 30th minute with a deadly strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann won and converted a penalty to put his side ahead at Villarreal in the 20th minute.

However, Turkey striker Enes Unal headed in a deserved equaliser in the 82nd and then struck the winner from close range in stoppage time. The visitors had forward Vitolo sent off moments later for pushing Villarreal forward Nicola Sansone.

Barca lead the standings on 75 points with nine games remaining. Atletico are second with 64, while Real are third on 60. Valencia are fourth while Villarreal climbed above Sevilla into fifth after Vincenzo Montella's side were beaten 2-1 at Leganes.

The Catalans were rampant in the first half and could have taken a heavier lead into the break as Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho hit the woodwork twice and his compatriot Paulinho struck a post.

Cristiano Ronaldo

IMAGE: Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the second goal for Real Madrid. Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

The unbeaten league leaders slowed down in the second half and Athletic came into the game for the first time but they rarely came close to troubling goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

"We scored twice in the first half and could have really finished them off, then in the second half we took our foot off the pedal without realising," Barca coach Ernesto Valverde told a news conference.

"The two halves were very different, perhaps conditioned by the first. There weren't many chances in the second half, for us or them."

Atletico have not managed to beat Villarreal at home or away since April 2015 and were fortunate to take the lead from the spot after Griezmann appeared to go down easily following a challenge from Jaume Costa.

The home side pushed for an equaliser in the second half and Atletico coach Diego Simeone sacrificed Griezmann for captain Gabi with 10 minutes remaining to try and protect the lead but his side ended up losing the game due to slack defending.

"There's no explanation for what happened, we didn't defend well from the two set pieces and next time we need to be more focused," said Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez.

Ronaldo struck four goals in a game for the first time this season in Real's thrilling win over Girona.

The Portuguese striker has now netted 22 times in the league this season, trailing Messi by just three goals. Ronaldo leapfrogged Luis Suarez into second place on the Liga's top scorer's list.

"Cristiano is very important to us, he transmits an incredible amount of energy for the team," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.

"Cristiano's ambition is tremendous. But I also want to highlight the work of his team mates, who help him a lot. We scored some spectacular goals today which was down to the whole team."

Alves sends PSG 17 points clear

Paris Saint-Germain’s Dani Alves celebrates scoring their second goal against OGC Nice during their Ligue 1 match at Allianz Riviera, in Nice on Sunday

IMAGE: Paris Saint-Germain’s Dani Alves celebrates scoring their second goal against OGC Nice during their Ligue 1 match at Allianz Riviera, in Nice on Sunday. Photograph: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters

Dani Alves struck late to give Paris St Germain a 2-1 victory at Nice on Sunday as they extended their Ligue 1 lead to a massive 17 points.

The kickoff was brought forward to 1200GMT to ensure maximum exposure in China and Asia and PSG, who now have 83 points from 31 games, were keen to impress.

They failed to do so in a lacklustre performance but Alves's 82nd-minute header was enough for them to edge closer to a seventh French title.

Nice, who hit the woodwork through Mario Balotelli in the second half, opened the scoring through Allan Saint-Maximin, whose early goal was quickly cancelled out by Angel Di Maria.

Saint-Maximin beat PSG keeper Alphonse Areola from close range after being perfectly set up by Alassane Plea on 17 minutes.

That spurred PSG into action and the visitors equalised just four minutes later thanks to Di Maria, who found the back of the net with a left-footed effort.

Balotelli went close to putting Nice ahead again eight minutes before the break, but his curled effort shaved the far post.

PSG had a chance on the hour, but Nice keeper Walter Benitez pulled off a superb save to tip Alves's bicycle kick over the bar.

Balotelli forced Areola into another brilliant save two minutes later as Nice piled on the pressure.

The Italian hit the woodwork 15 minutes from fulltime with a header while the visitors had another chance four minutes later when Kylian Mbappe's header went just over.

Eight minutes from fulltime, however, Alves met Adrien Rabiot's cross to send his header past Benitez.

Icardi ends goal drought for Inter

Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi ended his two-month goal drought in style by scoring four times to help them wallop Sampdoria 5-0 away in Serie A on Sunday.

AC Milan came from behind to beat Chievo 3-2 in a San Siro thriller and the video replay system (VAR) was involved in three key penalty decisions as Fiorentina won 2-1 at Torino with a last-minute penalty.

Icardi, left out of Argentina's squad for this month's friendlies, took his tally for the season to 22 and gave Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli a timely reminder of his scoring prowess.

Ivan Perisic opened the scoring with a looping header in the 26th minute before Icardi, playing against his former club, grabbed a 14-minute hat-trick, the first from a penalty, and added a fourth early in the second half with a mis-hit volley.

Milan took an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu but were stunned when Mariusz Stepinksi and Roberto Inglese scored twice in two minutes to put the Flying Donkeys 2-1 up at halftime.

Patrick Cutrone turned in from a rebound to level for Milan, the referee initially disallowing the goal for offside before consulting VAR and changing his mind.

Portugal forward Andre Silva snatched the winner from close range with eight minutes left and there was still time for Franck Kessie to miss a last-minute Milan penalty, awarded for handball with the help of VAR.

The video system was even more in evidence at Torino where Fiorentina had an early penalty revoked after a VAR consultation and then a second penalty awarded for handball -- only for Jordan Veretout's weak effort to be saved by Salvatore Sirigu.

Veretout made amends by giving Fiorentina the lead with a solo goal in the 59th minute before Andrea Belotti volleyed Torino level with four minutes left.

It did not end there as Fiorentina were awarded a third penalty for handball, again with the help of VAR, which Cyril Thereau converted.

Third-placed AS Roma enjoyed a straightforward 2-0 win at lowly Crotone after Stephan El Shaarawy volleyed in Aleksandar Kolarov's cross and Radja Nainggolan scored with a low shot from the edge of the area.

Cagliari scored twice in stoppage time, through Leonardo Pavoletti and a Nicolo Barella penalty, to win 2-1 at bottom club Benevento, who had gone in front at the start of the second half with a goal by Enrico Brignola.

Josip Ilicic scored a hat-trick in Atalanta's 5-0 win at lowly Verona in the other game.

Chennaiyin coach Gregory takes exception to Gurpreet comments

A war of words has broken out after an entertaining Indian Super League final in Bengaluru with Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory taking exception to Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu's "we won league stage and so we are champions" quip, saying his team has won the crown fair and square.

Chennaiyin defeated Bengaluru 3-2 in the summit clash to clinch the title of the fourth edition of ISL at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Friday.  Just after the match ended, Bengaluru and India number one goalkeeper Gurpreet said "we are the champions because we won the league stage."

"I was honestly disappointed to hear these words. We won the Cup is what I know," Chennaiyin head coach Gregory said.

"A large number of countries use this format. Play-offs were introduced in the UK about 20 years ago. You could finish sixth in your division and still win promotion to the Premiership. You could finish 20 points behind the champion. In my years, we did it, we finished sixth well behind Portsmouth and then won promotion," said the former Aston Villa boss.

Bengaluru had finished at the top in the league stage, eight points ahead of second-placed Chennaiyin and then stormed into the final after clinching a two-leg semi-final play-offs against FC Pune City.

"Everybody knows we finished first, eight points above Chennaiyin. We are human beings, the players did an incredible job. I am sad for them and the fans. But that's football," Bengaluru FC head coach Albert Roca said.

He said it's left for others to judge whether the structure of the tournament was fair or needs to be changed to reward the teams which finish top of the league stage.

"It is too easy for him to say yes. I think even some of their (Chennaiyin) players came to us and said we should not have been in this situation. The tournament is like it is and we cannot change that. It is not for me to say that is fair or not. It is for you to say," he added.

Bengaluru and India captain Sunil Chhetri expressed disappointment.

"The fact is that we had 40 points and won the league stage. Sadly, we could not win the final."

Gregory praised Mailson Alves for his two crucial strikes which saw Chennaiyin win their second ISL title.

"Big man (Mailson) had scored twice all season, but has had lot of opportunities. Today he couldn't have connected any better for both goals, which were almost identical."

He said he was delighted to hear the final whistle after a long season, especially after Bengaluru had reduced the margin by one goal in the dying minutes of the final match.

"We showed a lot of gumption. We did not let anything bother us. This was a big obstacle, playing against the home team in a final. They are just an incredible group of players."

Meanwhile, Gregory's contract as coach of triumphant Indian Super League (ISL) team Chennaiyin FC has been extended by a year, the team's co-owner Vita Dani said today.

"John's contract has been extended by a season... that's how he prefers it. John has played a very important role, especially when we had to bounce back from last season. It is under his leadership that the team has performed so well," she said at a press meet a day after Chennaiyin FC won their second ISL trophy, beating Bengaluru in the final last night.

A happy Gregory described the journey as an incredible one, having taken over from the legendary Italian Marco Materazzi as the head coach last year.

"All I can say is it has been an amazing experience, an incredible journey. A fantastic opportunity to coach and manage Chennaiyin FC. It culminated in an amazing victory last night," he said.

Bengaluru FC owner to lodge complaint with AIFF over referring

Bengaluru FC owner Parth Jindal on Sunday said he will write to the All India Football Federation for using Video Assistant Referees (VAR) in the next Indian Super League season to cut out "erroneous" calls by referees.

"Just saw the highlights -- @UdantaK goal was not offside at all -- @nishukumar22 should have had a penalty -- really tough to take this loss -- will officially write to AIFF to use VAR next season in the @IndSuperLeague," Jindal said in a tweet.

Jindal was referring to Udanta's goal which was disallowed by the referee, who had red-flagged him for an offside.

He was also referring to Nishu Kumar, who could have had a penalty after he was brought down by Inigo Calderon inside the box. Replays suggested that the decision could have gone the other way.

The remark comes in the wake of Chennaiyin FC handing out a 2-3 defeat to Bengaluru in Satuday’s ISL final.

I have an offer from Chinese club, increase my salary: Miku tells BFC

Bengaluru FC forward Miku has said he has an offer from a Chinese club and urged the ISL team to increase his salary if they want to keep him.

"I have an offer from a China club," Miku told a sports channel after Bengaluru were beaten by Chennaiyin FC in the final of the Indian Super League on Saturday.

"If they (BFC) need to keep me, they need to do something to increase my budget," he went on to say.

However, the thought is not playing on his mind for now as he is focused on finishing the season.

"The clubs in China pay six or seven times more than in India," he added.

Miku has been the most treasured member of Bengaluru this year and was the leading goal scorer in the ISL, striking 15 times, which helped his side storm into the final.

He had expressed disappointment after Bengaluru lost to Chennaiyin in an enthralling final.

Bengaluru had become the first Indian football club to earn a transfer fee from a foreign club after a Chinese Super League team, Zhejiang Lucheng, had signed Spanish midfielder Edu Garcia for an undisclosed fee.

Bengaluru are not willing to sell him, but he needs to think of his family and future, Miku said.

"The club (BFC) don't want to sell me. Two times, two different clubs from China (have approached me). I understand they want me here but I need to think of my family, of my future," he said.

Miku said the worst thing for him while staying in India is loneliness.

"I am still young. I have come to this league to enjoy this country, but in the end I am here alone. My family is in Spain. For me, that's the worst thing here because I'm alone. I don't want to be alone more so we need to change a lot of things to continue here," he said.