Manchester City v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League

Joe Hart to keep his place for Manchester City against Liverpool

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After returning to Manchester City’s starting XI for the first time in eight Premier League games, Joe Hart will keep his spot for Thursday’s game against Liverpool, the England international having done enough on Saturday at Fulham to win over Manuel Pellegrini. Satisfied with his former No. 1’s performance in the Citizens’ 4-2 win at Craven Cottage, Pellegrini is ready to give Hart his first back-to-back starts since benching him after Oct. 27’s loss at Stamford Bridge.

“Joe did well and it was not easy,” Pellegrini said after Saturday’s . “The pitch was very quick and there was a lot of wind but he had a very good game.”

“He deserved to play and he also deserves to continue.”

[MORE: Fulham 2-4 Manchester City: Visitors proving they can win on the road (video)]

Back in October, the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea was decided when Hart’s late misread allowed Fernando Torres to win a ball at the edge of the penalty area. New the end of regulation time, the Spanish international was granted an empty net for the match-winner. Since Hart had only made three appearances before Saturday’s start: two games in Champions League, one in League Cup. Though Hart allowed five goals in that span, City went 3-0-0, a run that featured a win in Germany over Bayern Munich.

Hart conceded two more goals against Fulham, but one came off the foot of City defender Vincent Kompany, whose shanked clearance looped into the Citizens’ net in Saturday’s second half. When not being scored on by his teammates, Hart made three saves and only conceded when Kieran Richardson was given a sitter in the 50th minute. Had Pantilimon been in goal, Fulham would have still been left with two goals.

[MORE: Joe Hart back in goal for Manchester City … did he do enough against Fulham?]

In his nine matches, Pantilimon conceded nine times and kept four clean sheets, that Citizens going 7-1-1 in that time. The 26-year-old Romanian’s last appearance was Dec. 14 against Arsenal, a game Manchester City won, 6-3.

As for whether Pantilimon might be back in net after Thursday’s match, we can only assume Pellegrini sees the situation as evolving.

“In every match, we could play with 11 different starters, but at the moment Joe will continue to play.”

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