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Premier League Can’t Resume Yet, Says UK

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Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned on Friday that the Premier League does not yet have the “green light” to resume but restated the government’s hope that the season can be completed.

Premier League clubs are due to meet on Monday to discuss the latest plans for “Project Restart” – a day after an expected minor easing of coronavirus lockdown measures.

Clubs are understood to have been told that the use of a limited number of neutral venues is the only way to complete the campaign, to limit the strain on essential services and discourage gatherings of supporters near stadiums.

But those at risk of relegation argue that the integrity of the competition would be compromised by the neutral-venue plan.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber is opposed to the idea, with the Seagulls hovering two points above the drop zone. Brighton were scheduled to play five of their remaining nine games at home.

Despite extensive contingency planning, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, warned the Premier League was yet to get the go-ahead, with testing and player welfare major hurdles.

“They’ve not been given the green light,” Dowden told BBC Radio on Friday.

“If we can get a plan that works then I’d like us to be able to go ahead with it because I think it would be good for the nation, it would be good for football as a whole.

“I’m really hopeful we can get this up and running but public safety must come first so it’s only if we’re confident of that, we’ll be able to proceed.”

In Germany, the Bundesliga announced this week that it would resume matches on May 16, behind closed doors and subject to extensive coronavirus testing.

Dowden’s comments came as The Times newspaper reported that Football Association chiefs would block any attempt to declare the Premier League season null and void and abandon relegation.

– Relegation scrapped? –

At least one club reportedly wants relegation to be scrapped if neutral grounds are used.

But The Times said it was understood that the FA board supported the Premier League board’s position that the league table should be decided on sporting merit even if it were cut short.

Burnley captain Ben Mee, whose side are 10th in the table, said he believed footballers could “get over” playing at neutral venues if it meant the game could be re-started.

“It’s not ideal but these times, they call for different measures,” Mee told the BBC. “We can certainly get over that fact.”

And he said players would be prepared to spend time in quarantine if necessary.

“I think football is such an important part of our country, whether you like it or not, and people rely on it,” he said. “And if we can give that positive boost to the country, then that would be fantastic.”

Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand said there was no viable resolution that would satisfy all 20 clubs.

“People are going to feel at a disadvantage if certain decisions are made but I don’t think the Premier League can have a wholehearted 100 percent win on this no matter what decision they make, which is unfortunate,” he told the Press Association.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero and Brighton’s Glenn Murray have raised objections from a safety point of view but Ferdinand said they should put their faith in the authorities.

“The Premier League, the FA and the government, if all of those three bodies give it the green light then I’m sure the players’ protection, health and well-being will be at the top of their agenda to make sure they remain healthy and not at risk,” he said.

(AFP)

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Iheanacho Shines As Leicester Beats Spartak Moscow 4-3

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Patson Daka scored four goals as Leicester revived their Europa League campaign by fighting back from two goals down to beat Spartak Moscow 4-3 in the Russian capital on Wednesday.

Zambia striker Daka, a close-season signing from Salzburg, became only the fifth player to score four goals in a Europa League game since the competition was rebranded from the UEFA Cup, and the first since Willian Jose for Real Sociedad in 2017.

Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester moved up to second place in Group C behind leaders Legia Warsaw, a point above third-placed Spartak.

“It’s been an amazing few days for me and the team,” Daka told BT Sport. “It was a very good effort from the team. I’m just happy I was able to help the team.”

Goals from Aleksandr Sobolev and Jordan Larsson put Spartak in control, but Daka netted his first European goal for the visitors just before half-time.

Less than three minutes after the break, Kelechi Iheanacho claimed his second assist, crossing low for Daka to tap in from close range.

Leicester, and Daka, made it three goals in the space of nine minutes when the 23-year-old slid the ball under home goalkeeper Aleksandr Maksimenko.

He completed his four-goal haul with 12 minutes remaining by picking out the corner of the net after collecting James Maddison’s pass.

That goal made Daka, who also netted in Leicester’s 4-2 win over Manchester United on Saturday, the Foxes’ all-time joint-top scorer in Europe.

Sobolev gave Spartak hope in the 86th minute, but Leicester held on.

AFP

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Super Falcons Beat Ghana 2-0 In AFCON Qualifier

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The Super Falcons of Nigeria took a two-goal lead over Ghana’s Black Queens in their Women Africa Cup of Nations qualifying fixture, thanks to a brace by Sweden-based forward Uchenna Kanu at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena on Wednesday.

The visitors had come close in the 11th minute when Grace Animah saw her fierce shot inside the box blocked by Onome Ebi for a corner. But it was much against the run of play and nine minutes later, Nigeria made pressure count when Kanu rose to meet a perfectly-weighted pull-out by Francisca Ordega and nodded past impressive goalkeeper Dumehasi Fafali.

Both teams, knowing the loser on aggregate will be without any major qualifying contest or tournament for the next two-and-half years, threw everything into the clash played behind closed doors on Lagos Island, but it was Nigeria that made the breakthrough again in the 26th minute, when Kanu rose highest in the box to meet Toni Payne’s corner kick and nodded firmly past Fafali and a clutch of watching defenders.

Former junior international Kanu could have added an assist to her impressive tally for the day when she darted past two defenders and squared for Asisat Oshoala, but Fafali foiled any intentions of the Nigeria captain.

Three minutes before recess, Grace Asantewaa unleashed from just outside the box but her shot rose far above goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie’s post.

In the second half, the Black Queens did something in the mould of throwing the kitchen sink at the Super Falcons, harrying, pushing, kicking and running all over to try and reduce the tally and make the second leg in Accra something to look forward to. But veteran defender Onome Ebi, youngster Opeyemi Sunday, Glory Ogbonna and Osinachi Ohale thwarted their efforts.

Grace Asantewaa was again foiled in the 50th minute by Nnadozie, who tipped her rising shot over the sticks. Two minutes later, Oshoala darted past her marker and headed for glory, but was again stopped by Fafali.

Ghana’s captain Portia Boakye was the usual energetic warrior with an uncompromising stance and worked well with Gladys Amfobea, Janet Egyir, and Ellen Coleman to minimize the damage from the Super Falcons.

At the fore, Princella Adubea, Vivian Konadu and Nina Norshie sought vainly to unlock the Nigerian rear.

In the 82nd minute, Fafali was on hand to neutralize a plan cooked by substitute Vivian Ikechukwu, leaving the scoreline still at 2-0. And with a minute to the end, the tireless Princella Adubea waltzed her way into the Nigeria box and found herself face to face with Nnadozie, only to see her close-range bullet parried and then cleared out to safety by Ebi.

Both teams clash again on Sunday at the Accra Sports Stadium, as from 4pm Ghana time (5pm Nigeria time), with the winner on aggregate qualifying for the 12th Women Africa Cup of Nations holding in Morocco next year summer.

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Why I want To Fight Fury Before My Career Ends -Anthony Joshua

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Agency Report

British boxer Anthony Joshua celebrates after winning the heavyweight boxing match between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua for the IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO titles in Diriya, near the Saudi capital on December 7, 2019.

Anthony Joshua has said he needs a fight against Tyson Fury “on my record” before his career is finished because boxing as a whole required at least one bout between the two British heavyweights.

Between them, the two boxers currently hold all the major versions of the heavyweight world title.

Talks of a unification ‘superfight’, which went on for months, appeared to be on the brink of ending in an agreement earlier this year only for a United States arbitrator to rule Fury had to fight Deontay Wilder for a third time.

As a result Fury, having previously drawn with and then stopped Wilder, is set to make the maiden defence of his World Boxing Council (WBC) belt against the American in Las Vegas next month.

Before then, Joshua is set to face World Boxing Organization (WBO) mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk in London on September 25, with a crowd of some 60,000 expected at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the home of the Premier League club.

But Joshua, also the World Boxing Association (WBA) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion, knows that a fight against Fury is the contest boxing fans want to see and that a question mark will hang over his career if he does not face the ‘Gypsy King’.

“Do I need Tyson Fury on my record? I need it,” Joshua told the BBC 5 Live boxing podcast.

“We need it for boxing. It’s what we all need, I need it. Come on, let’s see how good I am.

“Fight good fighters and they bring out the best of you. Training camp is hard. To get better is very difficult in boxing. To fight Tyson Fury is a big challenge.”

Joshua added: “Let’s see how far I can take myself during this period. It’ll be a good challenge mentally. Not about him, but because I actually want to do well.

“When I wake up in the morning early and I’m tired, my body’s battered, I still go out and do what I do. It’s great rewards and only someone like Fury can give that to me.”

AFP

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