Solskjaer, Rashford praise Man United, say they deserved to win

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Manchester United put in one of their best performances of the season so far as they became the first team to not lose to Liverpool in the Premier League.

But they weren’t happy with a 1-1 draw against their bitter rivals.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who surprised many with his tactical switch to reenergize his young, injury-hit side, told the BBC that he was delighted with his players and they deserved to win.

“I wouldn’t say frustration because then you look more to the execution of the plan and the efforts of the players. Today is disappointment on the players’ behalf. They were excellent,” Solskjaer said. “You can see the fitness, we’re getting fitter and fitter. The players are disappointed in the dressing room which is a good sign. They’re not excited at a point against Liverpool. It should have been three.”

Marcus Rashford, United’s goalscorer, echoed Solskjaer’s sentiments.

Liverpool had won 17 Premier League games on the trot heading into this game, and all eight this season prior to their trip to Old Trafford. But Rashford wasn’t happy and believes United can play a lot better than they did on Sunday.

“We deserved the three points. I don’t think they were good enough to get a draw out of the game or a win but this is football. It was a big opportunity missed and we just fell short. Hopefully in midweek we can get a win and it will start a run for us,” Rashford told Sky Sports. “There have been other games where we have been very unlucky. It was fine margins. We can play a lot better, especially in attack. There is still a lot of work to do but I think we should win this game today.”

One of the main storylines was around Rashford’s opener and if it should have been ruled out after VAR checked a potential foul on Liverpool’s Divock Origi in the build-up. Solskjaer told Sky Sports it was not a “clear” foul and that it is a “man’s game” and he saw no issue with the goal being awarded.

Solskjaer’s switch to a 3-5-2 (or 5-3-2, whatever you want to call it) worked well and bamboozled Klopp and Liverpool, as they totally nullified Liverpool’s attacking threat from out wide until the 85th minute when Adam Lallana popped up with the equalizer.

Asked by BBC Sport if they will play the same system again, Solskjaer channeled his inner Sir Alex Ferguson and kept his cards close to his chest.

“We can do again. it was a little bit of who’s fit and who’s in form,” Solskjaer said. “Axel [Tuanzebe] was supposed to start but he was injured in the warm-up. [Marcos] Rojo played well. We don’t really have midfielders fit. We might play it again, we might not.”

Solskjaer went on to praise United’s players and lauded their “aggression, attitude and desire” as they pinned Liverpool back.

United face Norwich, Bournemouth, Brighton, Sheffield United and Aston Villa in their next five Premier League games. If they can secure four wins from that lot, they will be back on track and Solskjaer’s plan for the future is clear for all to see.

He wants his team to attack on the counter, be direct and press high. United did that against Liverpool but ran out of steam. There’s no shame in that and they deserved their point, and came so close to getting all three.

VIDEO: Dutch 2nd-division game stopped for racist abuse; player later scores goal

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A Dutch second-division game between Den Bosch and Excelsior was temporarily stopped on Sunday due to suspected racist chanting and Nazi salutes performed by some of Den Bosch’s fans.

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The game was halted by referee Laurens Gerrets in the 30 minute. Dutch winger Ahmad Mendes Moreira, who plays for Excelsior, was the player targeted by the racist chanting. He was at that time seen gesturing toward the crowd, indicating to Gerrets and teammates that he was hearing racist abuse from the stands.

In a mixed zone for media availability after the game, Den Bosch manager Erik van der Ven is reported to have called Mendes Moreira a “pathetic little man” for pointing out the racist abuse to Gerrets. Den Bosch released a statement claiming that no racist abuse occurred, that the fans were instead making “crow sounds” and treating Mendes Moreira to a “crow concert,” which they claim is part of customary treatment of opposing players.

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Mendes Moreira appeared emotional after scoring a goal to put Excelsior 2-1 ahead fewer than 15 minutes after the game was restarted.

Defending champs Portugal qualify for EURO 2020

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Defending European champions Portugal booked their place at the 2020 European Championship with a 2-0 victory away to Luxembourg on Sunday, the final day of qualification.

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Portugal (17 points) finishes second in Group B behind Ukraine (20), three points ahead of third-place Serbia which will now go the qualification playoffs route in March.

Bruno Fernandes scored Sunday’s winner in the 39th minute, followed by a late insurance goal from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 86th.

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As things stand, Portugal, who won the European title in 2016 and followed it up with the inaugural UEFA Nations League crown earlier this year, will be placed into Pot 3, alongside Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Austria and Sweden. Ukraine, meanwhile, is assured of being seeded in Pot 1.

Southgate: Gomez to ‘clear his head’ following injury, Sterling incident

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Gareth Southgate believes Joe Gomez has a chance to “clear his head” in the wake of this week’s incident with England teammate Raheem Sterling, thanks to the minor knee which forced Gomez out of the England team for Sunday’s game against Kosovo.

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Gomez suffered the injury in a clash of knees during Friday’s training session, but Southgate stated emphatically that Gomez is “absolutely fine” after undergoing a scan “and I think he’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

As Southgate sees, the injury could be something of a blessing in disguise for Gomez, who earlier this week was involved in a brief physical confrontation with Sterling, to “clear his head” before beginning his regular work week back at Liverpool. Southgate believes that both players have received closure over the incident and can now move forward without issue.

“I think now is a good moment for him just to go home for a couple of days, clear his head.”

“I think the fact that Raheem put out the tweet was real closure on that whole incident. We get Raheem back on the pitch tomorrow. We won the match on Thursday and we can now just look forwards.

“You couldn’t make it up, really, if you tried, but he’s absolutely fine. He took a clash of knees yesterday. We scanned it just to be certain and I think he’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

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England secured qualification to this summer’s European Championship with a 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro, a game for which Sterling was dropped. Even before Gomez’s injury forced him out of the team, Sterling was set to return to the England team for Sunday’s qualifying finale.

Players in Spanish women’s league go on strike

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MADRID (AP) Spanish women’s league players have gone on strike this weekend demanding better wages and worker protections. Both of Saturday’s games and the six games scheduled for Sunday were postponed due to the players’ refusal to play.

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Players had announced the strike last month after failing to reach a deal with clubs over wages and working hours. More than 90 percent of the 200 players who voted favored the strike, the first in women’s soccer in Spain.

The players’ and clubs’ associations in Spain have been mired in negotiations over a first collective agreement for more than a year.

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Among other issues is the protection of benefits for players in the event of pregnancy.

Spain has 16 first-division women’s clubs, but only a few are fully professional.

The clubs claim they can’t afford the changes currently proposed by the players.