Official: Martin Jol sacked at Fulham, Rene Meulensteen to take over (video)

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With Fulham lagging in 18th place in the Premier League table and on five straight defeats, Shahid Khan had to make a change.

Khan and the Fulham front office have officially parted ways with manager Martin Jol, and the newly-hired coach Rene Meulensteen will take over first-team duties for now.

“Our poor form and results this season are undeniable, and Fulham supporters deserve better,” said Khan in an official club statement. “With more than half the season still ahead, an immediate change was necessary.”

Jol, initially supported well by Fulham fans, slowly lost the backing of the supporters at Craven Cottage with the results disappearing.  The club finished last year very poorly, staving off relegation in the final two weeks.

The bad form continued this season, and after a slow summer transfer window, the shouts for Jol’s head grew louder.  The 3-0 loss to West Ham this weekend was the final straw.

“It was a privilege to manage Fulham, one of the great clubs in the Premier League or anywhere in the world,” Jol said in the club statement.  “I am disappointed in this season but know there are better days ahead for Fulham and its supporters.  I will always treasure my experience here and want to thank Mr. Khan and everyone at Fulham for the opportunity.”

The two teams below Fulham in the table had already made managerial changes this season, and now all three relegation-zone clubs have made the switch.

There is no doubt a major turning point in Jol’s tenure as manager came last summer when Tottenham snatched Craven Cottage favorites Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele.  Jol publicly rued their departure on more than one occasion, noting the exodus turned Fulham into more of a patchwork than he would have liked.

Interestingly enough, the club statement made no mention of whether Meulensteen’s appointment is temporary or permanent.  One would assume he will take over on an interm basis while the club searches for a permanent solution, but no mention of such a search was made in the initial club statement.

All it said was, “Shahid Khan, Chairman of Fulham Football Club, this afternoon announced that Rene Meulensteen will run First Team duties, effective immediately, taking over for Martin Jol.”

Khan then said, “Rene Meulensteen was brought to Fulham to assist Martin and today was offered the challenge and opportunity to step in for Martin. I thank Rene for accepting and now we move forward.  I have great confidence in Rene and high expectations for our squad to respond.”

Here is the interview new manager Rene Meulensteen did with Sky Sports:

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga