Everton's young Gerard Deulofeu was fantastic against Stoke on Saturday

Everton 4-0 Stoke City: Gerard Deulofeu impressed in his first league start (video)

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While it came as little surprise that Everton could easily beat Stoke, the player who made the greatest impression did raise eyebrows. No, it wasn’t Romelu Lukaku, but rather Gerard Deulofeu, getting his first league start with the Toffees, that created the biggest splash against Stoke. The victory temporarily lifts Everton into fourth, although both Manchesters and Chelsea still are set to play.

In a surprising opener, Gerard Deulofeu, who looked so unimpressive against Crystal Palace a few weeks back, took a crack at imitating Leighton Baines with a lovely free kick. The almost-always perfect Asmir Begović had no issues saving, however. In the 15th, Deulofeu tested Begović once more, but it would take more than some fancy footwork to defeat the Bosnian keeper.

Ultimately, the Spaniard found that special something. After playing a bit of one-two with Steven Pienaar as the two made their way up the pitch, Deulofeu got the ball back from Gareth Barry and, despite the many Stoke shirts littering the box, slid his shot in at the near post.

After the restart, Everton wasted little time in doubling their lead. This time Deulofeu did the heavy lifting, sending a cross into the area, and Barry once again got a touch. Seamus Coleman got the finish, though, leaving Begović with no chance as he directed his shot into the top corner.

Less than ten minutes later, the hosts had their third goal. This one came courtesy of the man stepping in for Baines, Bryan Oviedo. A corner kick played in found the Costa Rican at the edge of the area, and Oviedo put his shot off the post and past Begović. The man with the assist? Well, Deulofeu, of course.

But of course, the match couldn’t be finished without a goal from Romelu Lukaku. Oviedo, refusing to be content with just a simple goal, made his way up the left before slotting over to Lukaku. Sitting just a few yards in front of goal, what else could the Belgian do but put in Everton’s fourth?

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Oviedo, Distin, Jagielka, Deulofeu, Pienaar (Mirallas 83), Barry, McCarthy, Osman, Lukaku (Jelavic 80)

Subs not used: Joel, Hibbert, Heitinga, Barkley, Stones

Goals: Deulofeu 45′, Coleman 49′, Oviedo 58′, Lukaku 79′

Stoke City: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; Walters (Shea 59), Whelan, Nzonzi, Adam (Jones 59), Assaidi; Crouch

Subs not used: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Wilson, Ireland, Palacios

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia