Author Topic: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...  (Read 964 times)

Offline whitejc

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Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« on: March 31, 2021, 12:25:46 AM »
Aston Villa ace gears up for Fulham clash with winning goal

The 25-year-old forward scored the only goal of the game as Burkina Faso beat South Sudan in their final Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Monday

Bertrand Traore geared up for Aston Villa's return to Premier League action with a goal on the international stage.

Traore scored the winner for Burkina Faso as they rounded off their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with a 1-0 victory over South Sudan.

The Villa forward struck early in the second half of Monday's Group B encounter in Ouagadougou and it proved decisive in the end.

It was the 25-year-old's 12th international goal for the Stallions.

Burkina Faso had already qualified for the finals and have finished top of their group.

Meanwhile, Toure's Villa team-mate Trezeguet started for Egypt as they beat Comoros 4-0 in Cairo.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scored twice, with Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny and Mohamed Sherif also on target.

Both teams had already qualified for the 2022 tournament in Cameroon, with Egypt ensuring they topped their group.

Villa will be hoping to have Trezeguet and Traore back unscathed - along with their other international players - ahead of Sunday's showdown with Fulham at Villa Park (4.30pm kick-off).

Dean Smith's side are 10th in the table with 10 games of the campaign remaining.

Fulham are in the relegation zone - third from bottom and two points behind fellow strugglers Newcastle United.

Elsewhere, Villa trio Louie Barry, Aaron Ramsey and Carney Chukwuemeka were in action for England Under-18s as they beat their Wales counterparts 2-0 in a friendly on Monday.

Ramsey captained the side and started along with Barry before both were substituted at half-time.

Chukwuemeka came off the bench, replacing Ramsey, and scored England's second goal 12 minutes from time.



https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/traore-trezeguet-aston-villa-internationals-20283076

Offline whitejc

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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2021, 12:27:29 AM »
‘Bureaucratic difficulties’ ruined Fulham signing – Leeds and West Ham in picture for €10-15m deal

Fulham are not the only Premier League side interested in Sampdoria star Omar Colley, with Newcastle United, Leeds United and West Ham all keen too.

That’s according to ClubDoria46, who cover the claims from England that Fulham are eyeing a move for the Gambia centre back this summer.

Colley has been a key player for Sampdoria this season, with Claudio Ranieri having put him in the first team from the middle of December and stuck with him ever since.

Of the 19 Serie A games since then, Colley has played 17, missing one game due to an injury and another because of a ban.

Colley has impressed in that period, which has seen his value continue to rise, with the Italian side now looking for between €10m-15m.

Indeed, the Serie A side can ‘hope for an offer’ in the summer in which they would ‘make a rich capital gain’, and Fulham may reignite their interest in the summer after a move was ruined due to ‘bureaucratic difficulties’.

However, he ‘could really leave’ this time around, with a new contract signed in January, not a ‘guarantee of permanence’.

Fulham aren’t the only side interested in England, with Newcastle, Leeds and West Ham all continuing to ‘keep an eye on him’ as well.

Newcastle have been linked with Colley before, with them thought to be competing with Fulham in the summer and January.

The same can be said of West Ham, who were linked last year but may have changed their plans after impressing defensively under David Moyes this season.

Leeds interest is newer but not surprising given Marcelo Bielsa’s side have struggled in that regard this season, although performances between now and the end of the season and the return of Diego Llorente could make a move unlikely.



http://sportwitness.co.uk/bureaucratic-difficulties-ruined-fulham-signing-leeds-west-ham-picture-e10-15m-deal/

Offline whitejc

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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2021, 12:28:28 AM »
Magpie Hopes Brighton Defeat Will Prove To Be A Turning Point

Newcastle start training again today in preparation for our next match against Tottenham on Sunday. It’s another critical match as a loss could see us drop into the bottom three depending on how Fulham fare at Villa Park.

The lads supposedly have had the last few days off while Steve Bruce was said to be involved in some frantic meetings yesterday. However, he’ll remain Newcastle’s head coach despite the dreadful run of results that have Newcastle perched just above the relegation places.

There was news yesterday that Newcastle held an inquest of sorts at the training ground. The club’s hierarchy is still backing Bruce with the squad said to be upbeat and determined to turn things around.

One reason for optimism is the pending return of both Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin. They both could return for Sunday’s match at St. James’ Park with Wilson possibly in line to start.

So Ashley could be pinning his hopes on Wilson, Saint-Maximin, and Miguel Almiron keeping Newcastle just ahead of Fulham down the stretch. It’s a risky proposition as 2 wins in the last 20 will attest.

Ashley has already let a prime opportunity pass to replace Bruce with the international break now in its final days. That’s the decision he’s made and there’s very little anyone can do about it.

The hope is this squad shows enough fight and quality in the final 9 matches to keep the Cottagers at bay. There’s a tough run of games coming up where wins will be hard to come by without a significant uptick in form.

As it stands our final two games against Sheffield United and at Fulham to close the season are shaping up to be ultra-critical. That doesn’t bode well after the no-show performance at Brighton before the break.

Hopefully, the squad has learned from the Brighton match and can move forward. While generally, you don’t want to dwell on such a dismal defeat for two weeks, maybe the players can use this break to their advantage and regroup.

Javier Manquillo recently spoke to NUFC TV about doing just that. The right-back returned to the starting lineup at Brighton but like, Miguel Almiron, was not at his best.

However, he says the squad can’t dwell on that performance but need to use it as motivation over the last nine games. Here is some of what Javier said as published in The Chronicle:

    “I think that this break came at the right time for us because after such a tough defeat we needed to draw a line under it and have a turning point.

    “We now need to put it out of our minds and focus on those next nine games ahead and doing as well as we can because we are convinced results will come if we perform well.

    “It was a painful defeat so after the game was doom and gloom.

Now we all have to be more united and together to get us out of this situation however we can.

“If we don’t stick together we can’t achieve anything and I believe everyone in the squad realizes that.

“We have to forget about what happened at Brighton because it was a bitter blow, we have to pull together more than ever because if we are on form and playing well we can turn this situation around.”



https://www.nufcblog.com/2021/03/30/377695/


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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2021, 12:29:53 AM »
The Way To Win

Slavisa Jokanovic
Fulham, 2015-2018

“I want to be competitive and I want to win all the points. In which way is less important.”

Speaking exclusively to The Coaches’ Voice, Slavisa Jokanovic, who impressively led Watford and Fulham to promotion to the Premier League, discusses his difficult first six months at Craven Cottage, and how he tried to implement a style of football that would work best for the players at his disposal. He also explains why, despite being recognised as a manager whose teams play an entertaining brand of football, he considers style secondary to results.





https://www.coachesvoice.com/the-way-to-win/

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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2021, 12:32:02 AM »
I Think He’ll Want This – Lyon Sporting Director On Fulham Loan Star

Lyon sporting director Juninho has claimed that Fulham loan star Joachim Anderson could choose to continue in the Premier League next season.

The 24-year-old centre-back joined Fulham on loan from Lyon last summer and has been one of the most important players in Scott Parker’s squad.

He has even been given the captain’s armband in certain games and is likely to play a major role if Fulham are to avoid being relegated back to the Championship in the final nine league games of the season.

Andersen is unlikely to want to play for Fulham if they are relegated and is scheduled to return to Lyon at the end of his loan stint this summer.

Juninho stressed that the club are prepared to welcome him back if he wants to return to Lyon, but claimed that the defender is likely to want to continue in the Premier League next season.

“I think he will want to extend his adventure in the Premier League”, the Lyon deal-maker was quoted as saying by French outlet Foot Mercato.

“He has played well at Fulham, and if he wants to come back, we will welcome him with open arms.”

Fulham are expected to want to keep Andersen if they survive but if they are relegated, it remains to be seen whether Premier League sides show interest in the Dane in the next transfer window.



https://insidefutbol.com/2021/03/30/i-think-hell-want-this-lyon-sporting-director-on-fulham-loan-star/500828/

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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2021, 12:33:14 AM »
Burnley, Newcastle United, Fulham and the week that will define Premier League relegation battle

Sean Dyche's side face a crucial seven days in their battle to beat the drop

Burnley face a key seven days in their battle to ensure another season of top-flight football as the Premier League returns this weekend.

The Clarets visit Southampton on Easter Sunday before welcoming Newcastle United to Turf Moor a week later knowing that two wins will all guarantee survival.

Sean Dyche's side are seven points clear of the bottom three and back to back matches against two other sides in the bottom seven provide a chance to make a statement.

Six points would move Burnley on to 39 for the season and the brink of safety.

But with Southampton, Brighton, Newcastle and Fulham all fighting to avoid finishing third bottom, with West Brom and Sheffield United looking almost certain to play Championship football next season, it will be a key period at the bottom of the table.

The Clarets and Saints are the first of those sides to play this weekend when they face off at St Mary's before Newcastle host Spurs, Fulham visit Aston Villa and Brighton travel to Manchester United in a day where plenty could change at the bottom.

The Cottagers, who have played a game more than their relegation rivals, then entertain Wolves on Friday, April 9 before the Clarets and the Magpies do battle on Sunday lunchtime.

Southampton travel to West Brom on Monday April 12, while Brighton entertain Everton on the same night.

By the time the final whistle blows on the south coast in just under two weeks time the relegation narrative will be clear at the bottom of the table, and Burnley will hope they aren't involved in it.



https://www.lancs.live/sport/football/football-news/burnley-newcastle-united-relegation-fulham-20284041


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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2021, 12:34:19 AM »
Report: Leeds, West Ham, Fulham and Newcastle want £13m-rated Omar Colley

Italian outlet ClubDoria46 state that Leeds United are one of four Premier League clubs interested in signing Sampdoria defender Omar Colley this summer – but the Whites face competition from West Ham United, Fulham and Newcastle United.

Colley, 28, has impressed for Sampdoria in Serie A over the last three years – after joining the club from Genk in 2018. He has clocked up 76 appearances in all competitions for the top-tier Italian side, but a move to England is now in the offing.

The Gambia international is, according to the report, expected to leave Sampdoria this summer. Four Premier League clubs are interested, and a fee of £13million is said to be enough. Fulham, West Ham, Leeds and Newcastle are all interested.

TBR’s view – Which club suits Colley best?

Leeds have benefited of late from the return from injury of Diego Llorente and Robin Koch and the breakthrough talent of Pascal Struijk. Liam Cooper remains an option, while Charlie Cresswell and Olly Casey have starred for Leeds’ Under-23 side of late.

So, a move to Yorkshire is hardly his best option. Newcastle have numerous centre-backs, but are in danger of going down – as are Fulham – and depending on which team survives, could see Colley move. West Ham need cover, but he would be first choice.

Whoever stays up between Fulham and Newcastle are likely to win the race for Colley.



https://tbrfootball.com/report-leeds-west-ham-fulham-and-newcastle-want-13m-rated-omar-colley/

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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2021, 12:35:39 AM »
U18s defeated by league leaders Fulham

Fulham U18s 4-0 West Ham United U18s
U18 Premier League South, London School of Economics, Tuesday 30 March 2021

West Ham United U18s were beaten 4-0 by U18 Premier League South leaders Fulham on Tuesday afternoon.

Kevin Keen’s youth team were four games unbeaten in all competitions going into the tie, but could not respond to goals from Jay Stansfield, Kieron Bowie (two) and Mika Biereth either side of half-time.

Coming off back-to-back wins in the FA Youth Cup and league last week, the Hammers made a bright start in the opening minutes at the London School of Economics Sports Ground.

Kai Corbett’s high pressing saw him rob Fulham goalkeeper Alex Berto of the ball – but the custodian responded to the Hammer’s shot with a good low save.

Corbett then came close to picking out Kamarai Swyer with a low ball in, but it was Fulham who took the lead with a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock when Jay Stansfield fired in from close range after being picked out by Bowie.

Junior Robinson was the next Hammer to be denied by the legs of Berto, having shot low from the corner of the box, before West Ham goalkeeper Krisztian Hegyi produced a good save of his own to deny Luke Harris’ long-range volley.

Despite being on an even keel, when the next goal arrived, it went to Fulham, Bowie slotting home a loose ball following a scramble at a corner kick.

While West Ham attempted to mount a fightback after the break, the next goal went to the team in white on the hour mark; Biereth ran in behind, controlled a long ball and fired in an effort via the inside of the post.

Fulham’s fourth arrived three minutes from time when Bowie struck a left-footed drive into the bottom corner.

The defeat sees the Irons remain in tenth place in U18 Premier League South.

“It was a tough game,” Keen told whufc.com. “Fulham were better than us and deserved to win today.

“They were more clinical than us. We had a couple of fantastic chances in the first half which we didn’t convert when the score was 0-0 or 0-1, and against a mature, league-leading team, you’re always going to pay for that, and we did.

“They’ve got some very useful players, especially in the attacking areas, but today we didn’t quite handle them as well as we should have done.

“The challenge was to go to the league leaders and give them a game, but unfortunately we weren’t up to it today.”

West Ham’s U18s have a busy month ahead of them in April, with four league games – plus an FA Youth Cup fifth-round tie at home to Arsenal – all to be played.

Their next league game is away at Crystal Palace on Wednesday 7 April, with the players’ next challenge being to recapture the qualities that have defined recent performances.

Keen added: “We have got a busy schedule. In the last three or four games, there have been so many positives.

“It’s a matter of the boys rebounding back to that and making sure that, in the next couple of league games against Crystal Palace and Reading, we get back on track, ready for Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup.”

West Ham United: Hegyi, Robinson, Baptiste, Laing (Earthy 79), Forbes, Clayton (Diallo 45), Woods (Mubama 60), Potts, Swyer (c), Perkins, Corbett
Subs: Terry, Evans

Booked: Laing, Corbett



https://www.whufc.com/news/articles/2021/march/30-march/u18s-defeated-league-leaders-fulham

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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2021, 12:36:28 AM »
Marcus Bettinelli could sign for Middlesbrough on a permanent deal
Marcus Bettinelli's loan spell at Middlesbrough is coming to an end in the summer, with just eight matches to go.

Boro signed Marcus Bettinelli on loan from Fulham last September and he has played in all 38 Championship matches for Boro.

He has conceded 39 goals during those matches, keeping 13 clean sheets.

Bettinelli's contract with Fulham will end this summer, and according to reports could stand a chance to sign permanently for Middlesbrough in the summer transfer window. It seems like this would be a deal that Neil Warnock would like to see happen, considering he was instrumental in bringing him to the club on loan.

Though he has had his shaky moments Bettinelli has improved tremendously in recent matches. He will most likely sign on a permanent deal if he can continue his recent form.



https://www.oneboro.co.uk/boro-news/marcus-bettinelli-could-sign-for-middlesbrough-on-a-permanent-deal-30321


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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2021, 12:38:01 AM »
World Cup qualifying goals glut in Europe


Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates the first of his two goals that beat Azerbaijan in Baku. Credit: REUTERS

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored his first goal of Portugal's World Cup qualifying campaign as the European champions fought back from a goal down to avoid embarrassment with a 3-1 defeat of Luxembourg.

In other action, Belgium and the Netherlands racked up 15 unanswered goals between them to crush Belarus and Gibraltar respectively while Croatia, Serbia, Wales and minnows Cyprus were among the other winners.

Luxembourg, who opened their qualifying campaign for Qatar 2022 with a surprise win over Ireland, looked on their way to another shock result when Gerson Rodrigues put the hosts ahead in the 30th minute.

However, Diogo Jota equalised on the stroke of halftime before Ronaldo and Joao Palhinha added second-half goals to secure the three points.

Ronaldo's 103rd international goal moved him within six of Ali Daei's all-time record for Iran and helped Portugal to three crucial points after they - Ronaldo in particular - had been enraged at having a late winner at Serbia not awarded given on Saturday.

Portugal and Serbia, who defeated Azerbaijan 2-1 courtesy of a double from their record goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, top qualifying Group A on seven points from three games.

Belgium took control of Group E after their 8-0 thrashing of Belarus, despite using mainly a second-string line-up.

Leandro Trossard and Hans Vanaken scored twice apiece for the Belgians while there were also goals for Michy Batshuayi, Jeremy Doku, Dennis Praet and Christian Benteke.

Belgium are three points ahead of the Czech Republic after the latter lost 1-0 to Wales.

Both sides were down to 10 men, with Patrik Schick sent off for the Czechs and Connor Roberts for Wales, when Daniel James headed in Gareth Bale's cross in the 81st minute.

Gibraltar were hit for seven by the Netherlands in Group G.

It was only 1-0 at halftime, Steven Berghuis netting in the 41st minute, but the goals flew in after the break, including three in four minutes.

Memphis Depay scored twice while Luuk de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum, Donyell Malen and Donny van de Beek were also on the scoresheet.

The Dutch are one point behind Turkey, who were held to a 3-3 draw by Latvia despite leading twice by two goals.

Norway sit level on points with the Dutch after Alexander Sorloth scored the only goal of their 1-0 victory over Montenegro.

Things are tight at the top of Group H after victories for Slovakia and Croatia.

Slovakia were 2-1 winners over Russia.

Milan Skriniar put the hosts ahead but Mario Fernandes looked like he might have claimed a point for Russia when he equalised in the 71st minute, only for Robert Mak to grab the winner.

Croatia were 3-0 winners over Malta with second-half substitutes Ivan Perisic, Luka Modric and Josip Brekalo on target to force the rugged visitors into submission.

Ioannis Pittas scored the only goal as Cyprus claimed a shock 1-0 victory over Slovenia.



https://thewest.com.au/sport/soccer/another-mitrovic-double-earns-serbia-win-c-2479238

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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2021, 12:39:18 AM »
Mitrovic shines again to edge Serbia past Azerbaijan

Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic completed a perfect week for the striker in World Cup qualifying with two more goals to help the Balkan nation to a 2-1 win at Azerbaijan and provisionally kept them top of Group A.

FULL MATCH DETAILS
The result left Serbia on seven points from three games, three ahead of Portugal who visit Luxembourg later on Tuesday. Third-placed Luxembourg have three points from one game, having won in Dublin on Saturday night, while the Republic of Ireland and Azerbaijan have none from two.

The brace took Mitrovic's tally to five goals in Serbia's opening three qualifiers for the 2022 tournament in Qatar and also extended his all-time leading scoring record for his country to 41 goals in 64 appearances.

Mitrovic, who has struggled at Premier League side Fulham in recent months, fired the Serbians ahead in the 16th minute with a scorching low shot from 15 metres after he took a fine pass by captain Dusan Tadic into his stride.

Serbia goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic denied the home side an equaliser when he thwarted Ali Ghorbani in the 30th minute after some sloppy defending by the visitors, who were punished on the hour as they conceded a clumsy penalty.

Filip Kostic clattered into Emin Makhmudov just inside the area and the Azeri midfielder sent Rajkovic the wrong way with a coolly taken spot-kick.

It looked like Serbia would not find a winner after home keeper Shakhruddin Magomedaliyev kept out a Mitrovic sitter in the 74th minute but the 26-year-old Serb had the last laugh with a goal of the highest quality.

Mitrovic let a through ball come onto his weaker left foot before he unleashed a rasping volley from 16 metres into the bottom left corner in the 81st minute, with Magomedaliyev clutching thin air.



https://www.rte.ie/sport/soccer/2021/0330/1207075-mitrovic-shines-again-to-edge-serbia-past-azerbaijan/

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Re: Wednesday Fulham Stuff - 31/03/21...
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2021, 12:40:01 AM »
FIFA WORLD CUP: Mitrovic double keeps Serbia in qualifying control

BAKU: Aleksandar Mitrovic struck his fourth and fifth goals in the space of six days, as Serbia strengthened their position at European Group A’s summit of the 2022 World Cup qualifying competition with a 2-1 win away to Aerbaijan.

All was running to plan for the unbeaten visitors in the first half, when Dusan Tadic and Mitrovic – the European qualifiers’ top scorer and assist-provider respectively – combined for the latter to cut inside and fire powerfully into the bottom-right corner.

Azerbaijan created plenty of chances themselves and were rewarded just before the hour when Emin Makhmudov sent Predrag Rajkovic the wrong way with the coolest of penalties. Mitrovic responded with his second superb goal of the evening – volleying home left-footed from 20 yards – to seal a hard-fought win.

Also in Group A Portugal came from behind to beat Luxembourg 3-1 away and make it seven points from a possible nine.

Gerson Rodrigues, who was immense from the outset, scored a magnificent diving header to stun a team 93 places above Luxembourg on the World Ranking. However, close-range goals from Diogo Jota and Cristiano Ronaldo either side of the break swung the game in Portugal’s favour, before substitute Joao Palhinha sealed victory.

Three first-time international scorers helped Belgium cruise past Belarus 8-0 to go top of Group E.

Jeremy Doku slid in Michy Batshuayi, who crashed in a shot at the near post for the opener. Hans Vanaken doubled the Red Devils’ lead moments later with his first international goal and then Leandro Trossard opened his account with the goal of the evening, a thunderbolt from 25 yards.

Doku got his name on the scoresheet before half-time when Dennis Praet found him with a perfectly-timed through ball and the 18-year-old did the rest, finishing like a seasoned veteran. Dennis Praet continued the theme less than five minutes into the second half by grabbing his first international goal, driving in a long-range strike.

Christian Benteke came off the bench to make it six, guiding in Toby Alderweireld’s early cross. Trossard and Vanaken both doubled their personal tallies on a night that Aleksandr Gutor will want to forget in a hurry.

Vital win for Wales

In Group E Daniel James headed home a late winner as Wales edged out Czech Republic in a tense match in which both sides were reduced to ten men.

Gareth Bale set up the all-important goal with a superb left-foot cross, atoning for having missed the best of precious few chances in Cardiff. Patrik Schick had earlier been shown a direct red card for lashing out at Connor Roberts, who himself was handed his marching orders soon after following a second cautionable offence. Wales are now unbeaten in their last 12 home matches.

In Group G a burst of four goals in the space of ten second-half minutes eased Netherlands to a comfortable 7-0 victory in Gibraltar and kept them within touching distance of leaders Turkey.

The Dutch toiled during a frustrating first half and were indebted to Steven Berghuis – a star in their win over Latvia – for belatedly settling nerves with another well-taken left-foot finish. Berghuis then turned provider to tee up Luuk de Jong to score in his third successive international game, and polish was added to the scoreline by a Memphis Depay double and close-range finishes from Georginio Wijnaldum, Donyell Malen and Donny van de Beek.

Blow for Turks

In Group G Latvia battled back snatch a 3-3 draw in Istanbul and end Turkey’s 100-per-cent record in Group G. Kenan Karaman and Hakan Calhanoglu had the hosts 2-0 ahead, but Roberts Savaļnieks pulled one back before half-time.

Burak Yilmaz’s penalty shortly after the restart restored Turkey’s two-goal lead, but goals from Roberts Uldriķis and Davis Ikaunieks secured Latvia’s first point of the campaign.

Norway bounced back from their bruising defeat to Turkey by grinding out a hard-fought 1-0 win in Montenegro.

Having won each of their last three matches, Montenegro were high on confidence and made life difficult for the visitors throughout. But the all-important goal arrived ten minutes from half-time when Mohamed Elyounoussi wove his way through the hosts’ defence and cut the ball back for Alexander Sorloth to sweep home from close range.

In Group H Slovakia finally set their campaign up and running with a 2-1 victory over 2018 hosts Russia in Trnava.

Milan Skriniar powered in a header from a corner kick minutes before half-time to put the home side in front. Mario Fernandes equalised for Stanislav Cherchesov’s charges, but Robert Mak produced a moment of individual brilliance and scored the winner to leave things wide open.

Substitutes made the difference for Croatia as Zlatko Dalic’s side hit their stride against Malta in Rijeka. Ivan Perisic came off the bench to help the 2018 World Cup finalists make the breakthrough, finishing fellow substitute Borna Barisic’s cross. Luka Modric doubled their lead from the penalty spot and Josip Brekalo added a third.

Cyprus made it four points from three games with a surprise 1-0 win over Slovenia in Nicosia. The visitors dominated the early stages but failed to make a breakthrough, for which they were punished just before the interval.

Some brilliant Fotis Papoulis footwork enabled him to find Ioannis Pittas, who beat Jan Oblak for his maiden international goal. Cyprus defended infallibly in the second half to clinch a memorable victory and leap above Slovenia, who remain on three points.

In Asia . . .

In the Asian qualifying section Japan stretched their lead at the top of Group F with a ruthless 14-0 demolition of Mongolia.

This meeting of the section’s top and bottom sides always looked likely to prove a mismatch, and the floodgates duly opened when Takumi Minamino fired the Samurai Blue into a 13th-minute lead.

The Mongolian goal was breached four more times in the first half alone, with Yuya Osako, Daichi Kamada and Hidemasa Morita on target before Kash-Erdene Tuya put through his own net. Japan proved even more relentless after the break, with double figures reached in style as Osako completed his hat-trick, Kyogo Furuhashi, Junya Ito and Sho Inagaki all scored two and Takuma Asano added further sheen to the scoreline.

Their final haul of 14 unanswered goals saw Japan match the biggest win recorded in the Qatar 2022 preliminaries: an identical 14-0 triumph for Iran over Cambodia in October 2019.

Saleh Alshehri dazzled as Saudi Arabia thrashed Palestine 5-0 to surge above Uzbekistan to the top of Group D. After Yasser Alshahrani’s header finally rewarded the hosts’ dominance in the 37th minute, Alshehri’s brilliant back-heel helped set up Fahad Almuwallad to double the lead.

The 27-year-old forward then scored twice after the interval, the second masterfully created by a delightful, nutmeg-decorated dribble by Sultan Al Ghanam. Salem Aldawsari completed the rout from the spot late on.



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