UEFA Europa League

FIFA, UEFA suspend Russian clubs, national teams from all competitions

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FIFA and UEFA have decided to suspend all Russian clubs and national teams from competition until further notice following Russian’s invasion of Ukraine.

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin announced the measures Monday as fighting continues in Ukraine.

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The UEFA Champions League Final had already been moved from St. Petersburg to Paris, and Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich has temporarily handed control of the club over to its foundation and has reportedly been asked to play a role in the peacemaking process.

This likely spells the end of Spartak Moscow’s Europa League campaign, Russia’s World Cup qualifying playoff semi-final versus Poland in March, and Russia’s participation in the Women’s European Championships this summer.

From FIFA.com:

Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.

USMNT star Giovanni Reyna ready to play against legend he was named after

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USMNT star Giovanni Reyna has returned to full fitness and is ready to play for Borussia Dortmund against Glasgow Rangers, as he will face the man he was named after: Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

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Reyna, 19, has missed most of this season through injury and was ill at the weekend so missed Dortmund’s win against Union Berlin.

But Borussia Dortmund boss Marco Rose revealed Reyna is back for the UEFA Europa League knockout round first leg clash at the Westfalenstadion against Rangers, and was asked about the teenage star facing the team coached by Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the man he is named after.

His answer was awesome.

Gio’s ready to reunite

“Well that’s nice. That’s really cool that things like that happen in football,” Rose said. “If he plays, he wants to show to his godfather or name giver what he’s learned over the years. I think Van Bronckhorst already knew him when Gio still s*** in his pants! I know they are definitely glad to meet privately every now and again. But now the focus is on being successful. But of course this is a nice story.”

Keep keeping it real, Marco.

Glasgow Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst was also asked about meeting Reyna, and recalled fond memories of spending time with the Reyna family as he became very close friends with USMNT legend Claudio during their time playing at Rangers together.

“I played with his father Claudio and I am good friends with the whole family actually for many years,” Gio van Bronckhorst said. “Gio I know from the day he was born so I have a special relationship with him as a friend but also as a player. He came to Holland to train with our youth academy at Feyenoord so he was in our house and we were trying to help him to be the player that he is now.

“We have always kept in contact and seen each other at least once a year. It is a special bond I have with the Reyna family and it will be special for both of us to play against each other. Hopefully it is a good game. The competitors that we are, we both want to win. It will be a very special moment.”

If Giovanni Reyna scores, we expect him to run up to GVB with a message on his shirt that reads ‘Thanks for the name!’

But more than likely we will see a warm embrace as a totally unique and heartwarming story plays out.

VIDEO: Patson Daka scores four as Leicester beats Spartak in thriller

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Patson Daka, have yourself a day!

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The Leicester City striker scored four times as the Foxes fought back from 2-0 down to secure a crucial 4-3 Europa League win at Spartak Moscow.

Daka only netted his first Leicester goal in their 4-2 win against Manchester United at the weekend but the Zambian forward was sharp throughout this clash in snowy Moscow.

Following his summer transfer from RB Salzburg, Patson Daka has shown he can step in for Jamie Vardy whenever the Foxes need him to.

Leicester started well but were hit twice by Spartak sucker-punches in the first half as Aleksandr Sobolev and Jordan Larsson finished to put the hosts 2-0 up.

However, Daka then pulled one back before half time and struck twice early in the second half to seal an incredible nine-minute hat trick.

Check this out.

He added a fourth for good measure with 12 minutes to go.

Even though Spartak made it 4-3 with a few minutes left through Sobolev, his second of the game, the Foxes held on for a thrilling 4-3 win.

Some of the defensive issues Leicester have had this season will irritate Brendan Rodgers, but with Daka, Kelechi Iheanacho and James Maddison causing so many problems in attack, the Foxes created chances galore.

And they were able to keep Jamie Vardy, Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman on the bench and rotate their attacking options too.

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After picking up just one point from their first two Europa League group stage games this season, this win sets things up nicely for a push to reach the knockout rounds.

Leicester host Spartak in their next Europa League clash, then host Legia Warsaw before heading to Napoli for their final group game.

The Foxes are building some momentum in the Europa League.

VIDEO: Declan Rice scores stunning solo goal

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Declan Rice is getting better and better, and the West Ham United star scored an incredible solo goal in the Europa League group stage.

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Rice, 22, was playing in his first-ever European game at club level and put the Hammers 2-0 up away at Dinamo Zagreb with a thing of a beauty.

Not known for his goalscoring prowess, this was something truly special from Declan Rice.

In West Ham’s first-ever Europa League group stage game, their captain for the game delivered for the east London side.

What happened?

The England midfielder won the ball back inside his own half and surged down the left flank.

There were no other options around him, so the defensive midfielder decided he would go it alone. And go it alone he did.

Declan Rice kept going, and going, and going, and going, and he then had the composure to finish low and true to double West Ham’s advantage.

He doesn’t score many, but this was a truly special goal on a very special night for West Ham.

Check out the sensational solo effort in the video below, as Rice continues to go from strength-to-strength and is now adding an extra attacking dimension to his superb defensive prowess.


Declan Rice scores superb goal for West Ham at Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League

Solskjaer defends Man United, eager for huge week

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended a dour display from Manchester United as they drew 0-0 at rivals Leeds.

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That result leaves them 10 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with five games to go, as Solskjaer all-but conceded the title after a tough week off the pitch for United.

With the collapse of the European Super League, which they were a key part of, plus executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward announcing he will step down and fans protesting outside Old Trafford, United’s players hardly got going at Leeds.

Speaking to our partners at Sky Sports after the game, Solskjaer cut his players some slack for a turgid display, as he said before the game he guaranteed it would not be 0-0 at Leeds. Oops.

“There’s no guarantees in football that’s for sure. I thought we played well, dominated the second half, just didn’t have the ball to fall correctly for us in the moments we had,” Solskjaer said.

“When two teams meet you create problems, you solve problems, they give you things to think about and we made them adjust to us. We put a really big shift in. I have seen Leeds run over teams in the second half and it was the opposite.

“You don’t lose momentum, we are disappointed not to win but the boys have a lot of respect for Leeds. This is not going to be something we look back on as derailing our season.”

United captain Harry Maguire echoed Solskjaer’s views and said they are ready for a huge week in the Europa League and then Liverpool next weekend.

“It was tight. We had control of the game without punishing them. We knew how they would play, our attacking players love a one v one but today it wasn’t to be,” Maguire said. “We kept them to a minimum, we were solid. We just couldn’t find that edge.

“The intensity was there, both teams were trying to play the right way. Bruno Fernandes had the best chance of the game and on another day he puts it in the back of the net and we take the points. It’s a big week for us.”

Europa League the focus for Manchester United

United gave it a go late in the game but it was pretty half-hearted, and we know why. Their mind is now on the Europa League as they host Roma in the semifinal first leg on Thursday.

They are the favorites to win the competition but crashed out at this stage of the Europa League last season, and anything other than Europa League success this season will be deemed as a failure.

Solskjaer told BBC Sports that ‘little margins are the deciding factor’ and United need to make sure they swing in their favor against Roma and then against either Arsenal or Villarreal in the final, if they get there.

“We have to win every single game to put pressure on City. This is two points dropped that makes them very safe. But we push on. We have two semis coming up and Liverpool in the middle. It was a difficult week last week but it is the business end of the season. You work so that every game matters,” Solskjaer added.

United have all but secured a top four spot and they were never going to catch City to win the title, but especially not now.

All of their focus now turns to the Europa League. It has to and they have to win it in order to deem this campaign a success. The pressure is on Solskjaer.