Biggest party in Leicester’s history gets fairytale ending

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LEICESTER — From the moment the sun came up until the moment it went down, May 7, 2016 will live in the memory of Leicester City fans forever.

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Scratch that. It’s a day citizens of Leicester will never forget.

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From flares being let off in the street in the morning, to dance parties and spraying champagne outside the King Power Stadium before the game, the entire Midlands city of just over 300,000 people came to a standstill to salute their champions.

On Saturday Leicester City’s captain Wes Morgan lifted the Premier League trophy into the air to mark the Foxes’ first top-flight title win in their 132-year history. They were supposed to get relegated this season but shocked everyone to win it all. This felt like a scene from a movie.

It felt like Leicester was at the center of the universe. It probably was. It was the greatest day in their history.

With the sun beating down on Leicester, the party was in full swing from way before midday. Banners of every player and the manager adorned lamp posts along the main city streets and messages from national bookmakers Ladbrokes proudly stated “Congratulations, Leicester City! We’ve paid out £3 million” in their shop window near Leicester market.

Of course, I’m sure you don’t need reminding, but Leicester were 5000-1 to win the PL title before this season began. They’ve lost just three games out of 37 so far this season and have become the first new champion of England since Nottingham Forest in 1978. They’ve come from nowhere to inspire the world that true underdog stories can still happen as they’ve defied the powerful and wealthy elite of the Premier League.

I spoke to one Leicester fan who was choking up as he sipped on a beer and took in the sights around him. He was in his 60s and even though he’d had five days for it to sink in, he couldn’t believe it.

A group of lads I sat with in a pub in the center of town just sat there with massive grins on their faces.

Every direction you looked in you saw signs marking Leicester’s title win, in shop windows, hanging from churches, at the train station, car windows had flags hanging out of them. Since they won the title on Monday night courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur drawing at Chelsea, the last five days has been one huge party.

Leicester fans told me that they took it easier after Tuesday and were saving themselves for Saturday. It certainly looked like that.

As I walked through the streets, Leicester City’s flag was flying on the famous cathedral, fans were hanging out in pubs and a mob of Italian supporters who had flown over from Italy to salute Ranieri were rampaging around town.

Speaking to some of Ranieri’s Italian fans, they told me they flew in this morning from all over Italy to witness this moment. They wanted to salute what their countryman had achieved.

Walking the streets from the central area just over a mile to the King Power Stadium, cars along the way honked their horns and families walked to the stadium together with huge smiles on their faces. The local pubs were packed to the rafters with Kasabian, the city’s favorite rock band, blaring out of the speakers. Everyone said similar things: “I can’t believe this is happening!” and “Is this real?”

Leicester must have been the happiest city on the planet on Saturday. I’m sure of it.

Outside the stadium the local Sikh community were handing out free food and providing entertainment, a gospel choir was in full flow and thousands of fans who couldn’t get tickets to the game — some tickets were being sold for around $10,000 each by scalpers — partied in the streets. Free pizza, beer and crisps (potato chips) were given out to home fans and even though the heavens opened and a huge rain storm rolled in an hour before kick off, the party went on. Nothing could dampen the spirits of the people of Leicester.

Leicester is a hugely multicultural city and people of different faith and race spoke to me about how this day, this team, this title had brought all of the people of the city together.

32,140 fans packed into the stadium and were given a real treat from start to finish.

Andrea Bocelli brought the house down with his pregame performance on the pitch as the legendary Italian tenor stood side-by-side with Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri who had arranged the impromptu gig. It was spine-tingling.

Cries of “Champions of England, we know what we are!” and “Stand up for the Champions!” began early and Leicester’s fans went through the full repertoire of songs, lauding Ranieri for taking their team to the UEFA Champions League and soon they were singing the famous “Jamie Vardy‘s having a party!” song.

Vardy — as he likes to do — started the party early with a neat finish from Andy King‘s pinpoint cross and then King himself, the man who’s been with Leicester since their days in the third-tier, got in on the act as he added a second.

The Mexican wave then came out as the party atmosphere was cranked up a few notches despite the pouring rain and thunder and lightning overhead.

Leicester were rampant, going close through Riyad Mahrez, Wes Morgan and Vardy again, with the Foxes marking their special day with a special performance against a subpar Everton.

At half time Leicester lad Mark Selby, who won the Snooker World Championship on the same night Leicester won the PL, was paraded around the pitch along with former legends such as Gordon Banks.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Leicester City supporters enjoy the atmosphere prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

In the second half Vardy added another from the penalty spot and then Everton’s woeful defense gave away another penalty which Vardy this time ballooned over as he missed the chance to grab a hat trick. That would have been too perfect, wouldn’t it? Late on Kevin Mirallas pulled one back as the game ended 3-1. In truth, nobody cared about the action on the pitch.

One more rendition of “Championes, championes, ole, ole, ole!” was belted out in stoppage time as the final whistle saw incredible celebrations in the stands and on the pitch.

When the game was over the moment everybody had really turned up for arrived.

At 7:40 pm local time, Morgan stood tall and proud as he clutched the PL trophy and thrust it into the air with Ranieri and his teammates by his side.

The fans went wild. The world watched on. Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions on a day the Midlands city will never, ever forget.

It was a perfect day to cap a fairytale season and as fans streamed out of the King Power the party was set to continue long into the night. It probably won’t stop for weeks, if not months. The magnitude of what this city in Leicestershire has witnessed over the past nine months is indescribable. We may never see a more unpredictable title win in Premier League history. This may well be the best moment in PL history.

And Leicester will likely never, ever see another party like this.

Inter-Ludogorets to be played in empty stadium due to coronavirus

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan announced on Monday that its Europa League match against Ludogorets will be played behind closed doors as authorities try to contain a spreading virus that has made northern Italy the focal point of the outbreak in Europe.

The Italian government is moving toward having other soccer matches played without fans in attendance in affected areas but Thursday’s match was the first to be confirmed as going ahead in an empty stadium.

“Inter announces that, in accordance with the requirements of the health authorities in the Region of Lombardy and the Municipality of Milan and with the agreement of UEFA, the second-leg clash between Inter and Ludogorets at the round of 32 stage of the Europa League will take place at 21:00 CET on Thursday 27 February behind closed doors at San Siro,” Inter said in a statement on Monday evening.

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The decision was widely expected and Ludogorets had announced shortly before that Inter had sent it a letter stating that the city’s health authorities have allowed the match to go ahead behind closed doors.

Ludogorets added that UEFA has said it is monitoring the situation and will react immediately if anything changes.

Inter leads 2-0 from the first leg of the round of 32 clash.

Civil protection officials said at least 229 people have tested positive for the virus in Italy. State television on Monday night reported the seventh death of an infected person – that of a 62-year-old man who already had serious health problems. The other six victims, also with pre-existing medical conditions, were elderly.

The majority of those known to be infected with COVID-19 hail from two main clusters – some 10 towns in Lombardy and another area in the neighboring region of Veneto. Italy has the highest number of cases outside Asia.

Four Serie A match scheduled for last Sunday were postponed, including Inter’s home match against Sampdoria.

Inter’s key match at Juventus next Sunday will likely also be played behind closed doors, as well as several other matches in northern Italy.

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

Man United release latest financial results

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Man United have released their latest financial results and revenue has fallen by 20 percent year-on-year, while net debt has also risen.

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What is clear from the results is that not being in the UEFA Champions League has hit United hard but they continue to make money with commercial revenue on the up seven percent.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward revealed the latest results as Man United’s financial might is clear for all to see even.

“We have continued to make progress on our squad rebuild … the foundation for delivering the long-term success that we are all working towards is in place as we implement our plan and our footballing vision with Ole,” Woodward told investors. “We are pushing for a strong finish in the Premier League, the Europa League and the FA Cup as we enter the final third of the season.”

Man United are currently in fifth place in the Premier League table ahead of a pivotal run of games which will decide if they will once again dine at Europe’s top table under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. On the pitch they’ve beaten Chelsea and Watford in the last week without conceding and things are coming together nicely with new signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes making a big difference. 

Man United face Everton, Man City, Tottenham and Sheffield United in their next four PL games and that will be crucial in deciding if they’re going to reach the Champions League next season. Given Man City’s European ban and the potential for a UCL spot to move down to fifth-place, Man United are exactly where Solskjaer hoped they would be right now.

Below we have a look at the main takeaways form the financial results, which are always a huge talking point among United fans all over the world.

Main talking points from Man United’s Q2 results:

  • Revenues of $218.3 million, down 20 percent year-on-year
  • Operating profit of $47.3 million
  • Commercial revenue up 7 percent
  • Broadcast revenue down 37 percent due to no UEFA Champions League qualification
  • Matchday revenue down 15 percent due to fewer home games
  • Player wages down 9 percent
  • Net debt is $506.9 million, up $94.6 million, 23 percent

USMNT’s Arriola likely will miss MLS season, six World Cup qualifiers

Paul Arriola
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WASHINGTON (AP) D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola had major knee surgery Monday and likely will miss the entire Major League Soccer season and the United States’ first six qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup

The operation was to reconstruct his right anterior cruciate ligament. The team said there was no additional cartilage damage.

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The 25-year-old midfielder injured his knee Feb. 15 during D.C. United’s preseason match against Orlando in Tampa, Florida.

Arriola has been a regular starter for the U.S. national team under coach Gregg Berhalter. Arriola has five goals in 33 international appearances.

After failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. starts qualifying for the 2022 tournament this year. The Americans have two matches each in September, October and November, then complete qualifying with two games apiece in March and September 2021.

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

State of play in CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League
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Four of five Major League Soccer clubs alive in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 are in fine shape to reach the quarterfinals after one leg.

The fifth has a tall hill to climb.

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LAFC trails Club Leon by two and did not collect an away goal in Mexico during first leg play last week.

“It’s 2-0, but we’re going to work hard,” said LAFC attacker Latif Blessing. “We’re going to prepare ourselves to win the next game. … We did good, but we want to win. It couldn’t happen that way but we’re going to prepare next game to win this game. We need to win.”

The second leg in L.A. is one of the last two matches of the round, kicking off at 10 p.m. ET Thursday just as Seattle Sounders square off with Olimpia.

The Honduran side managed a controversial comeback in the 2-2 draw with Jordan Morris-fueled Seattle last week, but the Sounders will be happy to have those two away goals and home field.

Montreal Impact has the same situation for Deportivo Saprissa’s visit at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Atlanta United scored an away goal in a draw with Motagua and hosts the visitors from Honduras’ capital at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.

That leaves us with NYCFC, who got a Heber hat trick amongst five away goals at Costa Rican side San Carlos in a 5-3 win. The second leg begins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday at Red Bull Arena (yes, you read that correctly).

Elsewhere, Liga MX sides don’t have it much better. Cruz Azul leads Portmore 2-1 heading back to Mexico, while Club America scored an away goal in a draw with Comunicaciones.

Finally, Tigres UANL trails 2-1 after one leg with Alianza in El Salvador.

CCL second leg schedule
all times ET

Atlanta United v. Motagua (1-1) — 8 p.m. Tuesday
Cruz Azul v. Portmore United (2-1) — 10 p.m. Tuesday
NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday