Minnows Gibraltar officially join UEFA… but why are Spain mad?

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For anyone who’s never been to Gibraltar, and that’s most people by the way, it is a small island (rock) hanging off Spain’s south coast that has been controlled by British rule since 1713.

Gibraltar’s population is just under 30,000 at the last time of counting.

But the tiny nation is causing quite a fuss on the world soccer scene, as UEFA today confirmed Gibraltar would become it’s 54th member.

Everyone seems pretty happy that their 16 year wait to be accepted into UEFA has arrived.

Well, not everyone.

The World and European Champions are cheesed off. They’re not impressed. Not one iota.

So why should the Spanish nation worry about a small island off their coast being able to qualify for European Championships and World Cups?

It’s not a question of soccer.

Let’s put it frankly, even though this is a landmark day for the Gibraltar Football Association, it will be a very long time before they can even dream of competing on the biggest stage of world soccer. But who knows.

Regardless, Spain aren’t annoyed at their admittance into UEFA because of Gibraltar’s players and their soccer ability. Because that would just be ludicrous.

This particular British Overseas Territory is under intense political pressure, as Spain continues to claim sovereignty over the territory despite it being ruled by Britain since 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht.

In the past Spain have threatened to boycott both club and international competitions if Gibraltar were admitted into UEFA.

So now where do they stand? They are still opposed to Gibraltar joining UEFA, but now this has happened, what can they do? Not much. In the past only England, Wales and Scotland had supported Gibraltar’s hopes of becoming a full member of UEFA. But today’s vote in London received overwhelming support.

Michel Platini confirmed earlier this morning that Spain and Gibraltar will be kept apart in Euro 2016 qualifying, as they didn’t want to further heighten the tension. “Gibraltar will not play qualifying matches with Spain – we also have this situation with Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Platini said.

While recently the New York Times spoke with Gibraltar’s head coach Allen Bula, who was bullish about Spain’s stance towards Gibraltar.

Over there [pointing to the border between Gibraltar and Spain about a third of a mile away] we have the world and European champions. I would play them any day, any time, anywhere, anyhow. The Spanish have stopped us from joining UEFA for political reasons and haven’t let us progress. We have proved Spain wrong.

But with Spanish historians stating that “The Battle of Gibraltar” shouldn’t be forgotten and citing younger Spanish citizens are know realizing Gibraltar as a “foreign nation on home soil,” rumblings of discontent will continue.

However, on the soccer field, Gibraltar are making a name for themselves. They defeated the Faroe Islands 3-0 and San Marino 7-5 in recent exhibition games, to show they are at least equal to, if not better than, other UEFA minnows.

We haven’t heard the last of this. But at long last, Gibraltar has a national team.

There will be a huge party on that famous rock in the Mediterranean tonight.

Bilbao’s Williams: ‘I suffered racist insults’ at Espanyol

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams says that he was a victim of racial abuse from fans while playing at Espanyol in a Spanish league game on Saturday.

Williams said after the 1-1 draw that “I suffered racist insults, something that no one wants to hear and has no place here.”

Williams, who is black, played 82 minutes of the match before being substituted.

“People should come to enjoy themselves, to help their team. This is a sport about friendship,” Williams said.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FA Cup: Chelsea survive trip to Hull, advance to 5th round (video)

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With their 2-1 victory away to EFL Championship side Hull City, Chelsea joined Leicester City, Sheffield United and Norwich City as Premier League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

[ FA CUP ROUNDUP: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance ]

Frank Lampard‘s side got off to a flying start courtesy of Michy Batshuayi‘s deflected finish in the 6th minute, and the Blues were well on their way to a first half of total dominance.

Hull looked more prepared for a fight after halftime, but it mattered very little after Fikayo Tomori was gifted a free header two yards off the goal line. Ross Barkley‘s free kick was well placed at the back post and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Hull pulled the game back to 2-1 in the 78th minute, and they were more than a little fortunate in how they managed to do so. Kamil Grosicki smacked a free kick with plenty of power and got the deflection of all deflections to wrong-foot Willy Caballero and find the back of the net.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

FA Cup roundup: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round (early) action…

[ MORE: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

West Ham were the lone Premier League side to be knocked out by a lower-division side on Saturday, as David Moyes‘ side failed to find the back of the net and were beaten 1-0 by EFL Championship leaders West Brom.

Conor Townsend scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and though the Hammers controlled possession the rest of the way, they created very little in terms of scoring chances and finished the game with just three shots on target. West Brom finished the game with 10 men, but West Ham could do nothing with their 18-minute advantage following Semi Ajayi‘s second yellow card in the 72nd minute.

Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

Sheffield United’s dream season continued with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Championship side Millwall. Both goals came inside the final half-hour, but the Blades were unquestionably the better side even before breaking the deadlock.

That came in the 62nd minute, when Muhamed Besic placed a stunning curler inside the far post for 1-0. Not long before full-time, in the 84th, Oliver Norwood drove his effort hard and low and into the corner to make it 2-0.

Burnley 1-2 Norwich City

Norwich and Burnley were largely inseparable for the majority of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor, save for a four-minute period early in the second half in which Norwich scored twice and booked their place in the fifth round.

Grant Hanley made it 1-0 in the 53rd and Josip Drmic added to the advantage in the 57th minute. Erik Pieters pulled Burnley back to within a goal in the 73rd, but that’s as close as the Clarets would get.

FA Cup fourth-round scoreboard

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur — FULL RECAP
Newcastle United 0-0 Oxford United
Portsmouth 4-2 Barnsley
Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

RB Leipzig beaten, Bundesliga title race thrown wide open

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BERLIN (AP) Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig 2-0 to throw the title race wide open on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure scored a brilliant goal just after the break and Filip Kostic sealed the win in injury time to deal Leipzig its first defeat since a 2-1 loss at home to Freiburg in October.

Borussia Monchengladbach cut the gap at the top to two points with a 3-1 win at home over Mainz, thanks largely to goals in each half from French striker Alassane Plea.

Bayern Munich has the chance to cut the gap to one point with a win at home over Schalke in the late game.

[ FA CUP: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

Borussia Dortmund is just four points off the top after its 5-1 win over Cologne on Friday.

Also Saturday, Union Berlin defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home, Hertha Berlin came from behind to win 2-1 at Wolfsburg, and Paderborn moved off the bottom with a 2-0 win at Freiburg.