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Asian Cup: Jordan stuns defending champ Australia

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AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) If Australia is going to retain the Asian Cup, the champions will have to do it the hard way.

In the first big shock of the 2019 tournament, Jordan — the world’s 109th-ranked team — pulled off one of the biggest wins in its history by beating Australia 1-0 on Sunday.

Anas Bani Yaseen was the match-winner, finding space following a short-corner routine by Jordan to guide in a near-post header in the 26th minute.

Jordan had just 24 percent possession in the match and rode its luck under severe pressure in the second half, with Awer Mabil hitting the post for Australia and Jamie Maclaren having a goal disallowed for a narrow offside.

After Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafi produced a double save in the last attack of the match, the referee blew the final whistle and Jordan’s players sank to their knees and clutched their heads.

While the Jordanians are already close to a third quarterfinal appearance in the Asian Cup, Australia likely cannot afford another setback against Syria or Palestine in its other Group B matches in the United Arab Emirates.

“This will hurt everyone, I know that,” Australia captain Mark Milligan said. “It’s hurting me at the minute.”

In the second game on Sunday, Sunil Chhetri overtook Lionel Messi to become the second highest-scoring active international player by netting two goals for India in its 4-1 win over Thailand.

Chhetri moved onto 66 goals, one more than Messi. Only Cristiano Ronaldo (85) is ahead of him.

Anirudh Thapa and Jeje Lalpekhlua also scored for India, which climbed atop Group A above host nation United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who drew 1-1 on Saturday.

Australia, the second-best team in the Asian conference behind Iran, has been in a similar position before at the Asian Cup – in 2007, the Socceroos drew their opener to Oman and then lost 3-1 to Iraq, only to qualify for the knockout stage by thrashing Thailand 4-0 in their last group game.

Twelve years on, they appear to be missing influential midfielder Aaron Mooy, who plays in the English Premier League with Huddersfield and is out of the Asian Cup because of injury. They also lack a cutting edge, with veteran striker Tim Cahill now retired and Mathew Leckie not currently available after a hamstring injury.

The Australians couldn’t break down a packed Jordan defensive line, resorting in the end to long balls into the penalty area.

“I just think we were a little lethargic in our ball movement,” Milligan said.

“We know we have to be better if we want to progress and succeed in this tournament.”

In Sunday’s late game, Palestine played Syria to a 0-0 draw and earned its first-ever Asian Cup point.

The 2019 edition of the Asian Cup is the biggest ever, with 24 teams involved — mirroring the expansion made by the European Championship for its most recent tournament in 2016. It is taking place against the backdrop of a diplomatic crisis in the gulf region.

FOLLOW LIVE: Southampton v. Derby County

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Southampton and Derby County chase the final spot in the fourth round proper of the 2018-19 FA Cup with a replay at St. Mary’s on Wednesday.

[ FOLLOW: FA Cup scoreboard ]

The clubs drew 2-2 at Pride Park on Jan. 5, with a Nathan Redmond 2-0 lead going to waste for the Premier League visitors.

The victor gets a trip to the Crown Ground to face League One’s Accrington Stanley on Jan. 26.

Full fourth round fixture list

Jan. 25
Arsenal v. Manchester United

Jan. 26
Accrington Stanley v. Derby County or Southampton
Brighton and Hove Albion v. West Bromwich Albion
Bristol City v. Bolton
Doncaster Rovers v. Oldham Athletic
Man City v. Burnley
Middlesbrough v. Newport County
Newcastle United v. Watford
Portsmouth v. Queens Park Rangers
Swansea City v. Gillingham
Shrewsbury Town v. Wolves
Millwall v. Everton
AFC Wimbledon v. West Ham United

Jan. 27
Crystal Palace v. Spurs
Chelsea v. Sheffield Wednesday

Jan. 28
Barnet v. Brentford

Leeds’ Bielsa admits he spied “all the rivals”; How widespread is spying?

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Managerial darling Marcelo Bielsa spoke out Wednesday as fallout continues from a Leeds United scout caught spying on Derby County last week.

Bielsa says he’s spied on every team the club has played in the Championship this season.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

How rare is this? And how big of a role has it played in Leeds’ 4-point lead in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League? From the BBC:

“I observed all the rivals we played against and watched the training sessions of all opponents,” he said. “All the information I need to clarify, I gather it without watching the training session of the opponent, so why did I send someone to watch them? Just because I thought I wasn’t violating the norm. I gathered information that I can obtain in another way.

“We feel guilty if we don’t work enough, it [watching the opponents train] allows us to have less anxiety and in my case I am stupid enough to allow this kind of behavior.”

The 63-year-old Argentine has spent time at Lille, Lazio, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, and Espanyol in addition to running the national teams of Argentina and Chile.

It does raise the question of how much spying is done in soccer. We know that the NFL’s New England Patriots cheated during a game against the New York Jets and that MLB teams try to steal signals, but sneaking around a training session… is that okay? Should it be?

55-goal Martinez re-ups with Atlanta through 2023

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Josef Martinez has signed a new deal with Atlanta United, with a contract tying him to the club through the 2023 Major League Soccer season.

Martinez, 25, has 55 goals in 61 games for the Five Stripes since arriving from Torino in 2017, a strike rate unlike anything the Venezuelan had been able to do in his career with the Serie A club, Young Boys, or Caracas.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

That development has him happy to lock down a new Designated Player deal in Georgia, one that certainly would raise his transfer value. From AtlUtd.com:

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

With neither Newcastle nor Real Betis ready to meet Atlanta’s transfer fee for Miguel Almiron, the Five Stripes are in a bit of a bind with a reported deal for expected DP Pity Martinez despite having the league maximum three DPs in Martinez, Almiron, and Ezequiel Barco. Perhaps the European clubs are trying to force Atlanta’s hand.

Men In Blazers Podcast: De Gea heroics; Liverpool, Man City wins

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Rog and Davo applaud David De Gea‘s goalkeeping heroics in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham. Plus, wins for Liverpool and City in the title race.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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