Dortmund Propel Themselves Back Into Bundesliga Title Race With 3-1 Win Over Leipzig

Borussia Dortmund reignited their fading title hopes with a statement victory over fellow challengers RB Leipzig on Saturday which moved them within five points of leaders Bayern Munich.

Jadon Sancho opened the scoring before a double from Erling Haaland sealed the win, with Alexander Sorloth netting a late consolation for the hosts as they suffered only their second league defeat of the season.

Both sides went into the game in good form, with Leipzig unbeaten since the end of October. Die Roten Bull knew a win at the Red Bull Arena would see them leapfrog leaders Bayern Munich at the summit, after the Bavarian giants let a two goal lead slip against Borussia Monchengladbach to suffer a 3-2 defeat.

It would be a stern test against a much improved Dortmund however, with Die Borrussen having won two of their three Bundesliga games under interim manager Edin Terzic since he took over in December.

Julian Nagelsmann made one change to the team which defeated Stuttgart 1-0 last Saturday, with Yussuf Poulsen coming in for Kevin Kampl. Opposition boss Terzic opted to name the same starting eleven who helped Dortmund to overcome Wolfsburg 2-0 last weekend.

Dortmund were dealt an early blow in the game as Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel was forced to limp off and be replaced by Emre Can. The club later confirmed that Witsel had suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon and is set to be ruled out of action for a number of months.

In a first half where chances were at a premium, Leipzig’s Dani Olmo came closest to opening the scoring. He capitalised on a poor clearance from Dortmund left back Guerriero, taking the ball down well on his chest on the edge of the area, before volleying a shot which dipped just over the top of the crossbar.

After a toothless first period, where Dortmund failed to register a single shot on target in a half for the first time in nearly 14 months, they came out for the second half with a renewed vigour and were nearly rewarded with an early breakthrough.

Just three minutes after the restart, Jadon Sancho slipped Marcos Reus in on the left hand side of the penalty area, but the Dortmund captain was denied by Gulasci at his near post. From the resulting corner, Emre Can rose highest to meet Sancho’s inviting delivery, but the German midfielder’s thumping header skimmed the crossbar.

They took a deserved lead on fifty five minutes after a lightening quick move. Haaland burst down the right and squared to Reus, who cleverly flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Sancho and the winger did the rest, coolly slotting past Gulasci at his near post to put Dortmund ahead.

It was the Englishman’s second goal in as many games, after previously going seventeen games without one. Dortmund continued to find their strive and almost had a second when Sancho fed Haaland who had made a darting run into the penalty area, but the Norwegian striker’s thunderous effort cannoned off the crossbar after a touch from Gulasci.

At the other end Leipzig came closest to equalising when Dani Olmo’s low drive rattled the far post. The Spaniard received the ball on the half turn and wriggled away from Guerriero before shooting, with his angled drive bouncing off the upright and away from goal.

Dortmund got the all important second goal with just twenty minutes of the contest remain after some lovely build up play, which was started and finished by Haaland. He danced past a number of players before feeding Sancho on the left. He then neatly exchanged passes with Guerriero before putting in an enticing delivery which Haaland duly met, towering above Halstenberg to give Dortmund a deserved two goal cushion.

Haaland wrapped up the win in the 83rd minute when he latched onto Reus’ perfectly weighted through ball before rounding Gulasci and tapping into an empty net for his 12th Bundesliga goal of the season.

Leipzig found time to pull one back when substitute Alexander Sorloth reacted quickest to fire home at the second attempt after Burki had parried his initial header back into the striker’s path. It proved to be too little too late however, as Dortmund held on for a crucial win which moves them to within three points of the home side.

Speaking to ESPN after the game, Dortmund midfielder Emre Can said:

“Everyone knows that today this was an extremely important game for us. It was a game that would tell us which way our season will be going. It was decisive to win it. The last few weeks have not been easy. Now we want to launch our attack.”

Meanwhile Leipzig boss Nagelsmann told the media:

“We’ve lost after nine unbeaten. It’s frustrating because it was against a direct rival. However looking at their chances, it was a deserved victory for Dortmund.

“It was an interesting game, with both teams very good tactically. We controlled the first half and Dortmund the second.
In the second half, we lost our structure and BVB took advantage when we lost possession.”

Both teams are back in Bundesliga action next weekend as Dortmund host Mainz in their next fixture on Saturday afternoon whilst Leipzig are away to Wolfsburg at the same time.

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Who is Alfie Devine? Spurs’ Youngest Ever Player and Goalscorer Profiled

Debuts don’t come much better than Alfie Devine’s for Tottenham in their 5-0 thumping of non-league Marine in the FA Cup on Sunday.

The Warrington born midfielder, who is the son of former St Helen’s rugby player Sean Devine, wasn’t even born when Jose Moutinho was revealed as Chelsea boss in the summer of 2004.

At just 16 years and 163 days Devine broke his first record of the day when he was introduced by Mourinho at half time. His first appearance for the club, with Tottenham already 4-0 up and cruising, made him Spurs’ youngest ever player, overtaking his Under-18 teammate Dane Scarlett, who had held the record since his debut in November.

The second record he broke was the icing on the cake. After receiving a pass from Lucas Moura, the young midfielder cut inside and drilled a low effort inside the near post. His name was again written into the history books, this time as the club’s youngest ever goalscorer.

His huge grin after scoring shows just how much it meant to him, and he more than held his own in his cameo appearance, looking comfortable on the ball and strong in the tackle, attributes familiar to anyone who had watched Devine previously at youth level. The game marked the latest milestone in the creative midfielder’s rapid ascent since joining Tottenham in the summer.

Devine started out in Liverpool’s academy, but was released aged 11 and moved on to Wigan, where he really began to make a name for himself. Given his immense talent, which has been evident from a very young age, Devine’s development at Wigan was fast tracked, so much so that he made his debut for the Latics’ Under-23 side aged only 15.

He really caught the eye last year, as did many of his teammates involved in Wigan’s magnificent FA Youth Cup run which was halted by Manchester United at the quarter final stage. Devine started that game at Old Trafford, having appeared as a late sub in Wigan’s fourth round victory over Tottenham.

He signed a new deal with the club in June of last year, but was sold just a month later as a result of the club going into administration and needing to raise funds. The Athletic reported that Spurs had to tussle with the likes of, “Celtic, Rangers, Leeds, Brighton, West Ham and Chelsea” to secure Devine’s signature, evidently displaying that the midfielder was a wanted man.

They also revealed that whilst it was the club’s head scout who pursued the player, the move was, “rubber stamped by Jose Mourinho, who even went to Devine’s medical in the summer to meet him,” conveying just how highly the Portuguese boss rates the midfielder.

Spurs got their man last July, in a transfer which cost them around £300,000. Despite his young age, the club were keen to fast track at every opportunity, and he trained with the first team during pre season before appearing in friendlies against Ipswich and Reading.

He started with the Under-18s this season, scoring twice and assisting another in seven games before quickly moving up to the Under-23s, scoring on his debut against Derby County. He hit the headlines last month after a nasty challenge on Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwater in an Under-23 game, which led to a mass brawl before both he and Drinkwater received their marching orders. He has played four games in total so far for the Under-23s.

That incident with Drinkwater hasn’t deterred Jose Mourinho however, as Devine has been a regular fixture in first team training alongside fellow youngsters Dane Scarlett and Harvey White. Coaches are said to be impressed with both his ability and attitude.

Devine has also caught the eye on the international stage, having represented England regularly at Under-16 level. He played in the Sportchain AGS Cup in December 2019, picking up the player of the tournament.

His former Wigan coach lavished praised on him last year stating:

“Alfie is one of the best players I have worked with; he has a mature head on young shoulders.”

Many Tottenham fans are already drawing comparisons between Devine and the likes of Oliver Skipp, who is currently on loan at Championship side Norwich, and Harry Winks, given his capability of playing as a deep lying playmaker.

His task now will be to establish himself at Under-23 level, and to continue to train well with the first team when presented with the opportunity. Given the condensed nature of this season, he could make his Premier League bow before the season is out and will definitely be in contention for the next FA Cup game depending on the quality of Spurs’ opposition.

The Guardian included Devine in their list of the best 20 talents at Premier League clubs, and on the evidence of his showing in Crosby, it seems justified as there is plenty more to come from the young midfielder.

FA WSL Round UP: covid tears apart Fixture List

In what must be the strangest weekend in WSL history only one fixture was played over the weekend. Five of the six scheduled games were postponed as a result of positive Covid-19 tests and injuries. A rise in positive cases and required self-isolation sparking the debate as to whether football should continue during the pandemic.

The one fixture that did go ahead saw Chelsea move into second place after thumping Reading five goals to nil. Fran Kirby hit four goals in a dominating win for The Blues.

Manchester City were due to host West Ham on Saturday 9th, but after positive tests at the club and other mitigating circumstances they were unable to field the required 14 players.

Aston Villa who were hosting Arsenal also saw there game postponed as Arsenal were also unable to field a side after a number of their players were self isolating. Three Arsenal players one of which being Katie McCabe made trips to Dubai over the winter break and have faced criticism for making the trip. Arsenal have investigated the matter and believe the travel was in line with Government restrictions.

Birmingham City’s trip to Tottenham was called off due to injuries within the City squad. As it was not related to Covid the game will not be rescheduled. The league made the following statement:

Birmingham contacted the FA to notify the association they would not be able to fulfil the fixture away at Tottenham due to not having enough players fit and available to play, as a result of a number of injuries.

“A request for postponement was made by the club under the competition’s epidemic rule, but was not able to be granted as this is an injury-related issue.

“The outcome of the fixture will be determined by an independent tribunal.

“The FA will provide an update on that decision in due course, and wishes the players concerned a full and speedy recovery.”

After the decision Birmingham released the following:

As a professional football club we have a duty of care to our players. Their welfare is at the centre of this decision and it is a conclusion we never wanted to reach.

“However, it has been well documented that Carla Ward’s side has been the victim of an unfortunate and extraordinary run of injuries and despite our best efforts to field a team this weekend, it would be irresponsible to do so.

“The club maintain the position that we would be putting our players at risk of further injury and jeopardise their wellbeing in pursuit of fixture fulfilment. This is not a concession we are willing to make.

“An application for a postponement was submitted to the FA but this request was denied.

“We are aware of the ramifications of this decision but contest that we are also bound by an obligation to preserve our players health and safety, above all else.”

Brighton, who were due to travel to play Bristol City, had a second positive case in Friday’s round of testing meaning they had seven players isolating:

“We thank both The FA and Bristol City for their assistance and understanding in dealing with this matter” said a statement from Brighton.

Manchester United manager Casey Stoney has apologised for allowing members of her squad to go Dubai despite their being no outbreak within the United squad. Their match at Everton was called off due to Covid concerns within the Everton camp. Five Everton players contracted coronavirus over the Christmas break.

“I said before Christmas that I will always take my players’ well-being into consideration and I granted [them] permission to go home and see their families to have a break,”

Stoney said:

“Everything we allowed them to do was within government guidelines, but I have to be honest and on reflection it was a poor error in judgment from me. I am sincerely sorry for that. I’m human and I make mistakes, I take responsibility for it.”

Reading v Chelsea

There was one game that went ahead as Chelsea blow Reading away at the Majewski Stadium. Fran Kirby hit a first half hat trick and got a fourth in the second half before sub Ji So-Yun made it five.

The win moves Chelsea into second just three points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand and a superior goal difference. Chelsea have put the pressure on United as the sides are due to met in the next round of games.

Chelsea took the lead after 16 minutes, a hopeful ball up the middle was flicked on by Sam Kerr. Kirby got behind the Reading defenders and rounded keeper Grace Moloney to slot home. Chelsea almost doubled the lead as Kirby found a pocket of space just outside the box, curling in a right football shot she struck the post.

It was 2-0 after 23 minutes as Reading defender Emma Mitchell gifted Kirby the ball half way into the Reading half. The invitation to charge at goal was all Kirby needed as she put the ball past the advancing keeper’s right, with her left foot. Mitchell attempted to get back in front of Kirby but the Chelsea player was not to be denied.

Kirby competed the perfect hat trick in first half injury time. From a free kick sent out to the by-line, Sam Kerr turned it back towards the area where it was met be the head of Fran Kirby who guided the ball into the top corner.

Half time: Reading 0 v 3 Chelsea

Eight minutes into the second half and Kirby had her and Chelsea’s fourth. From a corner floated towards the near post, Kirby outjumped Angharad James to loop the ball into the far corner.

Ji So-Yun rounded off a superb Chelsea performance with a fifth goal. Hannah Blundell’s cross found Ji in the box, taking the ball down on her right foot and calmly waiting for the ball to bounce and sit up for a volley into the far corner on her left foot.

Chelsea in fine form as they head into the next round and a top of the table clash with Manchester United. This was the Fran Kirby show as the England forward helped herself to four goals.

Full Time; Reading 0 v 5 Chelsea

The WSL is back on January 17th, with the top two meeting as Manchester United travel to Chelsea. Manchester City will host Aston Villa, Everton will play bottom side Bristol City. Reading will host Arsenal, Birmingham City face Brighton and there’s a London Derby as Tottenham travel to West Ham.

Phil Neville leaves Lionesses to join Inter Miami

England Women’s head coach Phil Neville has left to succeed Diego Alonso at MLS club Inter Miami.

The former Everton and England defender is set to leave his post as Lionesses’ head coach, (which he has held since 2018), with immediate effect.

At 43, Neville already had a vast amount of coaching experience under his belt, working with the England’s U21 side, taking a coaching role at Manchester United and the assistant manager position at Valencia, before landing the England Women’s job.

During his time in charge, he led the Lionesses to glory in the SheBelieves Cup for the first time in 2019 as well as a fourth place finish at the World Cup in the same year, where they were narrowly eliminated by eventual winners USA in the semi final.

Despite a promising first eighteen months at the helm, the team’s form tailed off after that impressive tournament. They failed to retain their SheBelieves Cup crown last year and have lost seven of their eleven games since, their worst run since 2003 which placed mounting pressure on Neville to resign.

In April of last year Neville announced he planned to leave his position as manager when his contract expires in July 2021 after the 2021 Euro tournament was postponed to 2022 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Neville agreed to step down from England duties almost nine months ago now, but was still in line to oversee Team GB at this year’s rescheduled summer Olympics in Tokyo before allowing Holland head coach Sarina Wiegman to take over the England role permanently in September.

Taking the Inter Miami job would obviously rule him out of contention for leading Team GB at the Olympics, with the FA already looking to appointing a caretaker manager to do so.

Inter Miami, who are part owned by Neville’s former teammate David Beckham, finished 10th in the Eastern Conference in their inaugural season, winning seven, drawing three and losing thirteen of their games.

They earned a spot in the MLS playoffs, becoming only the seventh franchise to do so in their first season, but were defeated 3-0 by Nashville, in what proved to be Alonso’s last game in charge.

Neville will be tasked of getting the best out of Miami’s marquee signings, mainly World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi, Argentine Gonzalo Higuaín, who registered just one goal last season and former Celtic player Lewis Morgan who was a huge success story last campaign.

FA WSL Returns To Action

The WSL returns this weekend after a break over Christmas. Bottom side Bristol City, who are still looking for their first win of the campaign, host Brighton in a 2pm kick-off. While the other two matches that are also due to take place see third-place Chelsea travel to face Reading and Tottenham play Birmingham City.

Arsenal would have had the chance to close the gap on United but their game against Aston Villa has been postponed. Three Arsenal players made a trip to Dubai over Christmas and one player has tested positive for COVID 19. The positive test has lead to other players having to isolate and the club requested a postponement, BBC Sport has reported.

Manchester City’s game against West Ham scheduled for Saturday has also been postponed due to positive tests at Manchester City. Sky Sports reports that as well as the test results another player is self-isolating, while Rose Levelle and Sam Mewis are away on international duty.

While Everton’s match with leaders Manchester United has also had to be called off.

Everton v Manchester United – Match Postponed

United’s last game was a 6-1 win over Bristol City. Tobin Heath and Leah Galton both getting two goals, with Millie Turner and Jess Sigsworth also on the score sheet. Everton suffered a 4-0 loss at Arsenal in their last match.

The two side met in December in the Continental League Cup with Everton picking up a 1-0 win. Lucy Graham netting the only goal of the game. United have won the previous four WSL matches.

Unfortunately, however, Everton have since announced that they had to call off this match because of recent COVID-19 infections and injuries. A new date for the game is yet to be confirmed.

Prediction; Everton 1v 3 Manchester United

Bristol City v Brighton & Hove Albion 10/1/20 14:00

Having suffered a heavy loss to United in their last outing Bristol City still sit bottom of the table without a win. It could be a chance for a first win as Brighton are on a run of four straight defeats.

The side faced each other in the Continental League cup which Bristol won 2-1. History is with City as out of the last four meetings they have won two and drawn two.

Brighton are on a poor run having lost to Reading (twice), Chelsea and Tottenham. This match will be shown live via FA Player.

Prediction; Bristol City 1 v 0 Brighton

Tottenham Hotspur v Birmingham City 10/1/20 14:00

Spurs have back to back 3-1 wins in their last two WSL matches. A win over Brighton was followed by a win against Aston Villa. A third home game in a row for Tottenham who are in superb home form. Just one defeat in nine home matches, who will be looking to gain ground on side above them.

It won’t be easy for Tottenham as The Blues have been on a fantastic away run. Aside from their recent defeat at Arsenal they have won 4 games in a row on the road.

Both sides sit on 9 points and a win for either side could help them make the top half of the WSL table. This match will also be shown on FA Player.

Prediction; Tottenham 2 v 1 Birmingham City

Reading v Chelsea 10/1/20 14:00

Chelsea have the chance to go second this weekend with Arsenal not playing. Chelsea have two games in hand over Arsenal but a win here would put them above The Gunners and have an extra game.

Reading have just one defeat in five matches and recently picked up a 3-1 away win at Brighton. Jess Fishlock put in an excellent performance in the win and will need to be at her best again as Reading face Chelsea.

Chelsea have won nine out of their last ten games with one draw. This run includes beating Benfica in the Champions League and beating Manchester City 3-1. This match will be on FA Player.

Prediction; Reading 0 v 3 Chelsea

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