Author: James Clancy

Gareth Bale will *not* be allowed play golf during UEFA Euro 2020

 Bale angered Real Madrid fans with his 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order' flag

– By James Clancy

Ryan Giggs will stop Gareth Bale from playing golf during Euro 2020.

Wales’ talisman is a keen golfer but will be told the focus next summer is solely on Group A rivals Italy, Switzerland and Turkey.

Welsh FA chief executive Jonathan Ford said: “Ryan is clear to make sure that while in camp our focus should just be on the football.

“You can’t be in a situation where you have players risking their health and  fitness by playing golf. I appreciate some players look at it differently.

“You can’t train all day so there has to be some entertainment for the guys. But you have to be careful.”

Bale celebrated qualifying for Euro 2020 last month by posing and laughing in front of the controversial banner ‘WALES. GOLF. MADRID. IN THAT ORDER.’ — which sparked fury among Real fans and the Spanish media.

Dragons boss Giggs banned Bale and Co from playing golf at the China Cup in March 2018 — and is set to do likewise next summer.

Wales are assessing where to be based after Saturday’s Euro draw placed them in Baku for their opening two games and then Rome for the clash on June 21.

Ford added: “Italy and Azerbaijan will be warm so it’d be remiss not to base ourselves somewhere to acclimatise.

“You have to be in the host country the day before the game. You don’t have to be based in the host country.

“We will give the team everything they need to give them the best chance of success.”

Should Wales win the group they will play at Wembley in the second round against the runner-up from Group C, which includes Ukraine, Netherlands, Austria and a country via the play-offs.

If they finish second, they face the Group B runner-up — Belgium, Russia, Denmark or Finland — in Amsterdam.

 

 

 

Liverpool extend lead at top of the Premier League after tough encounter against Brighton

– By James Clancy

Liverpool 2 Brighton 1

Liverpool hung on after having goalkeeper Alisson Becker sent off to beat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 and extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to 11 points thanks to two first-half headers from defender Virgil van Dijk.

Liverpool, who also equaled their unbeaten top flight run of 31 games set between May 1987 and March 1988, have 40 points from 14 games, with second-placed champions Manchester City on 29 after they were held to a 2-2 draw at Newcastle United. It was a nervy record-extending 14th successive Premier League win at home for Liverpool, who missed a string of chances either side of Van Dijk’s double before they were forced to defend desperately in the closing stages.

The towering Dutch defender acknowledged Alisson’s sending off was a blow ahead of Liverpool’s Merseyside derby at home to Everton on Wednesday and also praised Brighton.

“We should have done better,” Van Dijk said afterwards. “We put him in that situation but it is what it is. We have to deal with it. It is a disappointment but we go again.

“They (Brighton) are a good side. They play football and take risks. It’s not easy. We should have gone better than we did in the second half but you have to give them credit as well.”

Van Dijk opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a looping header after Trent Alexander-Arnold floated in a free kick from the right and the two combined again for the second goal six minutes later. Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan denied Sadio Mané with a fine reflex save but was powerless when Van Dijk made his run to meet Alexander-Arnold’s corner at the near post.

Centre back Lewis Dunk missed two chances to pull one back for Brighton, sending a shot wide from close range shortly before halftime and then glancing a header inches wide of the far post in the 54th minute. Then came a frantic climax as Alisson was sent off in the 77th minute for handling the ball outside the penalty area.

While stand-in keeper Adrian was still yelling out instructions to the wall at the far post, Dunk took advantage and stroked a quick low free kick into the opposite corner. Brighton pressed for an equaliser and Adrian parried an Aaron Mooy piledriver in the 85th minute as the home side held on, much to the delight of the packed crowd at Anfield.

Republic of Ireland to play Sweden, Poland and Spain at UEFA Euro 2020 if qualification is secured in March

– By James Clancy

Ireland will face Spain, Poland and Sweden if they qualify for Euro 2020.

The Boys in Green must first negotiate a playoff after failing to qualify automatically with a semi final away to Slovakia next month.

If they win that Ireland will play either Bosnia and Herzegovina or Northern Ireland away from home for a place at next summer’s tournament.

But should they reach the tournament the Boys in Green will have a favourable group after avoiding the likes of Portugal and France in today’s draw.

Mick McCarthy’s side would open the competition with a clash against Poland in Dublin on June 15th.

And Sweden would be the next side to visit Dublin for the second group game on June 19th.

HOME COMFORTS

Ireland would then finish up the group with a trip to face Spain in Bilbao for the final fixture.

Elsewhere in the tournament reigning European champions Portugal, World Cup winners France and Germany have all been drawn together in the group of death.

England will take on Croatia and the Czech Republic as well as the team that comes through Path C, which contains Scotland.

The winner of England’s group will face the runner up of the Portugal, France and Germany group in the Round of 16 match that Dublin is hosting.

The opening game of the tournament will see Turkey take on Italy in Rome, in a group that also contains Wales and Switzerland.

Here’s the full Euro 2020 draw:

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, Path D winner (Georgia/Belarus/Kosovo/North Macedonia)

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, Path C winner (Scotland, Serbia, Norway, Israel)

Group E: Spain, Poland, Sweden, Path B winner (Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Group F: Germany, Portugal, France, Path A winner (Iceland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary)

 

 

Munster miss late chance but happy to come away with a draw over the 80 minutes against Racing

– By James Clancy

Munster 21-21 Racing

A late Andrew Conway try and touchline JJ Hanrahan conversion saved a draw for Munster against a quality Racing 92 outfit in the Champions Cup at a sold-out Thomond Park on Saturday evening.

Munster’s late comeback very nearly earned the victory but Hanrahan, moments after a stunning leveller, was unable to land the drop-goal.

The two points keep Munster and Racing tied at the top of Pool four on seven apiece with Saracens second on five points.

Hanrahan’s first penalty from long-range after eight minutes got Munster off the mark but Racing showed their intent with the first try ten minutes later.

An uncharacteristic Munster error in the lineout gave the visitors the perfect platform and Finn Russell dinked through the defence to score. Teddy Iribaren, a late inclusion in place of Maxime Machenaud, converted to make it 7-3.

A scrum penalty for Munster after 26 minutes gave Hanrahan his second three-pointer but Racing again responded with a try.

This time it was Teddy Thomas as good hands released the winger down the right flank and he chipped over the last man and ran in under the posts. Iribaren made it 14-6 with half an hour played.

Munster came roaring back and opted to go for the corner after a promising attack was stopped by Racing taking a man off the ball.

After a strong maul, Munster went wide with Chris Farrell making good yards before Tadhg Beirne was held up. We had been playing advantage with Munster opting for a quick tap and Hanrahan was just stopped from touching down with the ball going forward.

The province weren’t to be denied and Keith Earls scored his 56th try for the province in the final play of the half. The hosts shifted the ball left through slick hands and Earls finished brilliantly.

Hanrahan levelled matters six minutes into the second half with his third penalty after Racing were pinged for not rolling away after a slick backline move.

Juan Imhoff was in for Racing’s third try on 48 minutes after another Russell break. The out-half spotted Jeremy Loughman limping and targeted the prop to make a break and then popped for Imhoff to score. Iribaren converted and Racing led 21-14.

It looked as if the game was drifting away from Munster as Racing held the hosts at arm’s length but the province’s never-say-die attitude was to the fore in the final 10 minutes.

After piling huge pressure on the Racing line, Munster needed a moment of magic and Hanrahan produced with a perfectly floated pass to Conway for the winger to score his sixth try in six games.

Munster needed the touchline conversion to draw level and Hanrahan produced the perfect kick to level it up.

Johann van Graan’s side still had time to win it and were camped deep in Racing territory late on but Hanrahan’s drop-goal went left and wide.

Munster continued an unbeaten home record that stretches back to December 2017.

Jeremy Loughman (ankle) limped off in the second half and will be assessed by the medical team.

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray (Alby Mathewson, 62) ; Jeremy Loughman (James Cronin, 50), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne, 65), John Ryan (Stephen Archer, 54); Jean Kleyn (Fineen Wycherley, 54), Tadhg Beirne (Billy Holland, 62); Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue (Arno Botha, 54), CJ Stander.

Man of the Match: Mike Haley.