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FIFA is set to implement rules in which clubs will be limited to signing and sending six players on loan internationally from 2024 so that more focus can be given to developing talent, world football’s’s governing body said on Thursday.

The objective of the regulations, delayed by two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is to “develop young players, promote competitive balance and prevent hoarding”, FIFA said in a statement.

Clubs will be limited to eight international loan signings in and eight loaned out from next season, with the number dropping to seven the following year and then remaining at six from 2024-25 onwards.

However, homegrown players and those under the age of 21 will remain exempt from the rules, subject to approval at the FIFA Council’s next meeting.

The plans also include the introduction of a minimum duration of a loan deal, which would be between two transfer windows, while the maximum duration will be one year.

There will also be a limit of three players being loaned out per season between the same two clubs, while “sub-loaning” to a third club will be prohibited.

The regulations do not cover domestic loans but FIFA said national associations will have three years to bring their own rules in line with those at international level.

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Ralf Rangnick says he makes decisions "in the best interest of the team" after Cristiano Ronaldo reacted negatively to being substituted at Brentford

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick slammed his side’s shoddy first-half performance after a flattering 3-1 victory away to Brentford in the Premier League on Wednesday.

The German also had to deal with a Cristiano Ronaldo tantrum after substituting the Portuguese forward in the second half.

Lacklustre United were outplayed by Brentford in the first half and were indebted to keeper David De Gea but goals by Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford capped a much-improved second-half display.

It was a vital win for United and keeps them in the thick of the battle for a top-four finish, but Rangnick was not impressed by what he saw in the opening 45 minutes.

“You have to be honest, without David and his brilliant saves it would have been difficult,” Rangnick told reporters.

“We were sloppy in our passing, not strong enough in the tackles, losing the 50-50 challenges and didn’t win a single second ball. When we did counter-attack we were too nervous.

“Brentford were aggressive and brave and they were all the aspects we spoke about at halftime.”

Whatever Rangnick said at halftime it clearly worked as United were a different proposition after the break — even if the scoreline was scarcely credible.

Yet the win that lifted United to within two points of fourth-placed West Ham United with a game in hand, was overshadowed by Ronaldo’s reaction to being hauled off and replaced with defender Harry Maguire when the score was 2-0.

Ronaldo, who missed the last two games because of a niggling injury, took an age to walk off the pitch, scowling at United’s coaching staff and throwing his jacket down in anger, before continuing his debate from his seat.

“His reaction was ‘why me?’… I said to him I have to take a decision in the interests of the club because we had a situation at Villa where we were 2-0 up and drew 2-2 and I was angry at myself for not switching to a back five.

“I decided to switch to a back five with Harry Maguire. He was not happy, he is a goalscorer and wanted to stay on and score a goal himself. But it was important to be compact.

“I said to him I understand, but maybe in a couple of years when you are a head coach you will take the same decision.

“I didn’t expect him to hug me… but I have no issue with him whatsoever.”

His opposite number Thomas Frank was understandably frustrated at the outcome, saying his team had “destroyed” Manchester United in the first half.

Rangnick had some sympathy, praising Brentford’s display and saying his players should learn from them.

“I want us to play like Brentford in the second half, I have great respect for what they have done here,” he said.

“You wouldn’t see that in Germany where a team not in the top five or eight would play that kind of football. We have to develop in that direction and if we do we can play the whole game like that, not just 45 minutes.”

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The 19-year-old British sensation was hampered by a blistered racket hand from early in the first set

US Open champion Emma Raducanu was bundled out of the Australian Open in the second round as she was beaten 6-4 4-6 6-3 by Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic on Thursday.

The 19-year-old British sensation was hampered by a blistered racket hand from early in the first set of a tense contest on Margaret Court Arena but showed great fighting spirit to stay in contention.

With her usually powerful forehand reduced to a slice, Raducanu let slip a 3-0 lead to lose the first set.

But she played on her 98th-ranked opponent’s nerves to break at 4-4 in the second and take the match into a decider.

Kovinic showed great composure to forge ahead in the deciding set, resist a Raducanu fightback, and then move 5-3 ahead as the British youngster finally looked a little weary.

A stunning backhand winner sealed victory for the 27-year-old Kovinic as she moved into the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
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Tottenham were losing after 94 minutes, 52 seconds - the latest time a team has been behind before winning a Premier League match

Steven Bergwijn scored twice in stoppage time as Tottenham Hotspur pulled off a remarkable 3-2 victory at Leicester City in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Zambian Patson Daka put Leicester ahead, against the run of play, in the 24th minute with a sliding left-footed finish at the back post after Sergio Reguilon had failed to clear.

The visitors got their eventual reward when they drew level in the 38th minute with a clinical finish from Harry Kane, who beat the offside trap, skipped inside Caglar Soyuncu and drilled a low shot in off the far post.

It was a tighter affair after the break but Leicester got in front in the 76th minute when substitute Harvey Barnes found James Maddison whose low shot struck the outstretched leg of Japhet Tanganga and flew in via the post.

That looked to be enough until substitute Bergwijn levelled in stoppage time and then astonishingly grabbed the winner after being sent through by an excellent Kane pass.

Man United ride luck to seal important win at Brentford

Manchester United rode their luck before burying luckless Brentford with a second-half goal blitz to claim a 3-1 away victory on Wednesday and boost their challenge for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

A United win did not look likely as Brentford dominated the first half but the visitors were clinical after the break with goals by Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford securing a flattering victory.

Brentford should have been comfortably ahead by halftime but spurned numerous chances with Mathias Jensen twice denied by the outstretched leg of United keeper David De Gea

They were made to pay for their profligacy when Elanga nodded United in front in the 55th minute.

Greenwood tapped in from a counter-attack seven minutes later and substitute Rashford rifled in his side’s third in the 77th minute to leave Brentford stunned.

Ivan Toney pulled a goal back from close range with five minutes remaining but it was scant consolation for the hosts who slumped to a third successive defeat.

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to United’s starting line-up after recovering from injury but was subdued and reacted angrily after being substituted in the second half.

United remained in seventh spot but moved level on 35 points with sixth-placed Arsenal and are only two behind West Ham United who occupy fourth.

Brentford are 14th, 10 points above the bottom three.

REUTERS
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Former Brazil striker Robinho

Italy’s Supreme Court confirmed the conviction of former AC Milan and Brazil striker Robinho to nine years in prison for his involvement in a gang rape of an Albanian woman in 2013, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

The ruling cannot be challenged and is definitive.

In 2017 a Milan court found Robinho and five other Brazilians guilty of assaulting the woman after plying her with alcohol in a discotheque. The conviction was confirmed by an appeals court in 2020.

Robinho, whose full name is Robson de Souza, lives in Brazil. His Italian lawyer Franco Moretti confirmed Wednesday’s verdict, telling Reuters it was “deeply unfair”.

Robinho, 37, played for top European clubs Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan, and signed a contract in 2020 to return to his very first club in Brazil, Santos.

However, the deal almost immediately fell apart after sponsors reportedly threatened to cut ties with the club for signing a player convicted of rape.

Italy could launch extradition proceedings now that Robinho has received a definitive verdict. However, Brazil has a long-standing tradition of not extraditing its own citizens.
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Recruitment has been a consistent issue during Farhad Moshiri’s near-six-year ownership, with more than half-a-billion pounds spent

Former Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall has likened the club’s transfer business to buying Fiat Pandas instead of Rolls-Royces.

Recruitment has been a consistent issue during Farhad Moshiri’s near-six-year ownership, with more than half-a-billion pounds spent to leave the club arguably in a worse position than when he took over.

Everton have experimented with two directors of football in Steve Walsh and Marcel Brands and both are considered to have failed, while they are looking for their seventh permanent manager under Moshiri after Rafael Benitez was sacked on Sunday.

And club great Southall has attacked the policy which he believes has primarily brought in sub-standard players.

“If I had the money, I’d rather buy a Rolls-Royce than a Fiat Panda but we’re buying Fiat Pandas,” he told the Liverpool Echo.

“That’s no disrespect to them because the lads who are coming in are trying but at the end of the day you’ve got to buy quality.

“We need to make sure we don’t get people sneaking through the door that can’t run, can’t jump or if it’s a windy day you can’t play him because he falls over.

“I think Marcel Brands was horrendous. I honestly believe he did a disservice to Everton, I don’t think he was any good. Some of the players that he brought in, if you slammed a door they fell over, they were that weak.”

Southall believes the club is coasting towards the opening of their new Bramley-Moore Dock stadium in 2024.

“Do we just want to make do and mend until we go to the new ground or actually move there with a chance of winning things?” he added.

“The owner has got to value the club at more than that. They’ve got to value Everton as much as the fans…their ambition doesn’t seem to be matched by anyone else at the club.

“The benchmark has to be when recruiting ‘Is this player going to win us the league?’. If it’s ‘no’ then don’t sign him. You can’t go short-term any more. What’s the point in signing some nugget who is not going to win you the league?”

The transfer window may still be open but due to the upheaval behind the scenes the club does not currently have a manager, director of football, head of recruitment or a chief of scouting – all dispensed with in the last six weeks.

Assistant manager Duncan Ferguson, part of the coaching staff since 2014, is the only senior member of staff to survive the cull which saw Benitez’s four-man backroom team dismissed on Monday and has been placed in caretaker charge.

The club are in the process of finalising a shortlist for the job on a permanent basis with Belgium coach and former Toffees boss Roberto Martinez, Derby’s ex-Everton striker Wayne Rooney, former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and the Portuguese coach Vitor Pereira, who was previously in contention before the club appointed Benitez’s predecessor Carlo Ancelotti, among the contenders.

Press Association
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Nigeria are the only side to have won their three opening group games at the Africa Cup of Nations

Nigeria beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in Garoua to become the only side at the Africa Cup of Nations to win all three group games.

After making eight changes to the side that beat Sudan to seal their last-16 place, Nigeria took time to warm up.

Umar Sadiq opened the scoring shortly after the break following a cross from striker partner Kelechi Iheanacho.

Captain William Troost-Ekong sealed the win after tapping into an empty net after fine work by Moses Simon.
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A fan in Juventus' empty stand

The Italian government has approved a new sports protocol outlining clearer guidelines on when a match should be postponed for COVID-19 related reasons.

Sport, health and government bodies have agreed that fixtures must be fulfilled unless 35% or more of the players in a squad have tested positive to the virus.

Positive-testing players must self-isolate, while their close contacts do not have to but, must be continually tested for five days, wear an FFP2 mask off the pitch and record a negative test result four hours before a match.

Italy has struggled with soaring COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, reaching a high of more than 228,000 daily cases on Jan. 18.

Stadium capacities were reduced to a maximum 5,000 for the final two rounds of Serie A fixtures in January, in a bid to stop the spread.

The hope is that new measures around postponements should stop further fixture confusion after a chaotic start to the year.

Four games in Serie A were farcically abandoned on Jan. 7 when only one team showed up for each of them, due to conflicting instructions from sport and health authorities.

The league body stuck to the original protocol by refusing to postpone games where teams had at least 13 players, including a goalkeeper, available.

But four teams – Bologna, Torino, Salernitana and Udinese – were forbidden from travelling by their local health authorities (ASL) due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

That meant their respective opponents Inter Milan, Atalanta, Venezia and Fiorentina turned up at the stadium, named a team and waited until half time for the match to be officially abandoned.

With Serie A and the ASLs finally on the same page, the hope is that the situation is not repeated.

REUTERS
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Rafa Nadal continued his quest for a 21st Grand Slam title with a 6-2 6-3 6-4 victory over German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann REUTERS/Loren Elliott

1740 BERRETTINI SEES OFF KOZLOV

Seventh seed Matteo Berrettini overcame a minor hiccup in the second set to move into the third round with a 6-1 4-6 6-4 6-1 win over American Stefan Kozlov.

1644 DOMINANT NADAL BREEZES PAST HANFMANN

Rafa Nadal continued his quest for a 21st Grand Slam title with a 6-2 6-3 6-4 victory over German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, finishing with a blistering forehand. Up next for the sixth seed is Karen Khachanov or Benjamin Bonzi.

1540 SVITOLINA PLEASED TO HAVE MONFILS BY HER SIDE

Elina Svitolina, who married fellow professional Gael Monfils last year, said she was lucky to have found a partner who understands the demands of elite-level tennis.

“It’s important to have someone who understands what I’m going through … This sometimes can get complicated. The mental part is very important,” Svitolina said.

“For me to have Gael next to me at the same big events, it’s lucky in our situation that we’re both at the top of our sport so we’re travelling pretty much the same tournaments.”

1445 KEYS MOVES INTO THIRD ROUND

Former U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys staved off a late comeback attempt by Jaqueline Cristian to beat the Romanian 6-2 7-5. The Adelaide champion has won now seven straight matches and meets Alison Van Uytvanck or Wang Qiang next.

1402 BADOSA DELIGHTED WITH CENTRE COURT SPOTLIGHT

Eighth seed Paula Badosa said playing on Rod Laver Arena following a breakthrough 2021 in which she tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Australian Open felt special.

“I’m really proud of myself… one year ago I was locked in a room,” Badosa said after beating Martina Trevisan. “Being here and playing centre court, because of me, not because I’m playing a seeded player, because now I’m the seeded player, I’m happy.”

1337 BARTY TOO GOOD FOR BRONZETTI

Top seed Ash Barty used her powerful forehand and delicate slices to devastating effect in a 6-1 6-1 win over Grand Slam debutant Lucia Bronzetti in 52 minutes.

Earlier, 15th seed Elina Svitolina advanced when Harmony Tan retired from their match with a knee issue and left the court in a wheelchair. Tan was down 6-3 5-7 5-1 when she got injured.

Camila Giorgi reached the third round at Melbourne for the fourth time with a 6-2 7-6(2) win over Tereza Martincova.

1230 AZARENKA, BADOSA THROUGH TO THIRD ROUND

Twice former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and Spanish eighth seed Paula Badosa were the first players into the third round at Melbourne Park.

Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 champion, sealed a 6-1 6-2 victory over Swiss Jil Teichmann with a backhand winner, while Badosa firmed as a dark horse for the title with an equally dominant 6-0 6-3 win over Martina Trevisan on Rod Laver Arena.

1125 PLAY UNDERWAY ON DAY THREE

Play at Melbourne Park got underway on all courts as scheduled on day three of the year’s first Grand Slam.

A warm day is expected for the second round matches with the temperature already at 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit) with a high of 28 forecast.

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Man City’s 12th consecutive league win took them 11 points clear at the top of the table

Despite further disruption with postponed fixtures, the Premier League once again delivered a weekend of excitement and intrigue.

With stories at the top and bottom of the table, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key talking points from the latest round of fixtures.

De Bruyne strikes as City do the dozen

Chelsea’s trip to Manchester City saw the sides who entered the weekend first and second in the table meet at the Etihad Stadium.

Kevin De Bruyne’s second-half effort was enough to seal a 1-0 victory, City’s 12th consecutive league win, which ultimately takes them 11 points clear at the summit.

Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Brentford took them into second place with a game in hand over Pep Guardiola’s men but it would take something miraculous to prevent City retaining their title.

Sticky end for Rafa and Toffees

Rafael Benitez was sacked on Sunday evening as his short tenure as Everton boss ended with a ninth defeat in their last 12 league outings.

The final straw came after a 2-1 loss at Norwich, who had gone into the game on a six-game losing streak where they had failed to score.

Now though, Dean Smith’s side are just a point away from clawing their way out of the relegation zone with Everton in search of fifth permanent manager in three and a half years.

Gerrard has his Phil

Having lost 1-0 at Old Trafford in the FA Cup third round five days earlier, Aston Villa came from two down to draw with Manchester United at Villa Park on Saturday evening.

With Bruno Fernandes scoring twice following Villa errors, United looked on course to close in on the top four as interim manager Ralf Rangnick was once again without Cristiano Ronaldo.

The hosts, however, would rally as Steven Gerrard shuffled his pack, introducing former Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho, who marked his debut with a sliding equaliser after the impressive Jacob Ramsey had pulled one back.

Harrison hits Hammers with hat-trick

With Arsenal’s appeal for their north London derby clash at Tottenham to be postponed proving successful, West Ham had the chance to open up a gap over their capital rivals.

Leeds were the visitors to the London Stadium and Marcelo Bielsa’s men would run out winners in a five-goal thriller as Jack Harrison scored the first hat-trick of his professional career.

The visitors themselves were down to the bare bones but survived two equalisers to claim back to back league wins for the first time this season and ease their relegation concerns.

Hornets hit back against Newcastle

Newcastle remain inside the relegation zone as Eddie Howe once again saw his side surrender the lead as Watford left St James’ with a 1-1 draw.

The Magpies, who handed a debut to striker Chris Wood, had led through Allan Saint-Maximin but have now lost 21 points from winning positions this season after Joao Pedro levelled with just two minutes remaining.

Now only Burnley sit below Newcastle in the table and the Clarets have three games in hand over Newcastle, who have plenty to do to survive this season.

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Former England international Steven Caulker is representing his grandfather's country, Sierra leone, in the Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Cameroon.

Sierra Leone is back in the competition after an absence that lasted for 26 years.

The team aims to go beyond the group stages.

Defender Steven Caulker embraced the opportunity to participate.

"Sierra Leone kindly offered me the opportunity to come and play in this tournament I represent Sierra Leone, where my granddad was from. I never gave up when times are difficult, and I believe Sierra Leone is very much the same. So I think it's a good fit and so far, so good. I love being here, love being a part of it" said the defender.

In his professional career in England, Steven Caulker played for teams like Tottenham, QPR and Cardiff. As an international Caulker also played for a number of Turkish teams including Fenerbahce.

He would like to see more recognition for AFCON but, in his view, racism remains a challenge.

"What it is is a form of racism, the way I look is that clubs want their best players available all the time. If you look at the heroes in the World Cup, generally speaking, they're outside of club competition so the club seems to be a little bit more relaxed about it when we've AFCON because it's in January and it's a busy time in Europe, I feel clubs obviously want to keep holding of their players. But I would certainly say there has been a bit of disrespect shown", claims Caulker.

Outside football, the international player is also involved in a number of charity projects including building schools in Sierra Leone. For the defender, the most important thing is to leave a legacy and inspire future generations.

"For me,it's the most important part for me what legacy can I leave, building schools in Sierra Leone, helping charity projects around the world. For me is actually one of the most selfish things I can do because I feel great when doing it. It's great to see the reaction of the children when I'm presenting them with football. It's what makes me happy and I hope to continue to build many more in the future".

Steven Caulker is currently on loan to Turkish side Gaziantep.
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The atmosphere in Sierra Leone on Sunday was such a lively one, everyone was excited and jubilating after the 2-2 draw against the Elephants of the Ivory Coast.

Thousands of Sierra Leoneans flocked the streets of Freetown on Sunday evening to celebrate this rare occasion.

Sierra Leone scored a dramatic injury-time equaliser to grab a 2-2 draw against Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations in Douala.

The Elephants had been coasting but an astonishing mistake from Badra Sangare allowed Alhadji Kamara to tap in.

Keeper Sangare fumbled a back-header and could only watch helplessly as Kamara secured a second successive draw for the Leone Stars in Group E.

It means they have every hope of going through to the last 16.

Sierra Leone have two points from two games, while the Ivorians top the group with four points to their name.

However, the Elephants still have work to do when they face defending champions Algeria on Thursday (16:00 GMT).

Both sides played their part in an enthralling match, which saw Ivory Coast miss an early penalty but then lead twice before Sierra Leone hit back in dramatic fashion.
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(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 14, 2017 Gabon's forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reacts during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group A football match between Gabo - Copyright © GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina were on Monday sent back to their clubs after being diagnosed with heart lesions at the African Cup of Nations.

It is expected that Aubameyang, a striker for Arsenal in the Premier League, and Lemina, a midfielder with French club Nice, will undergo more thorough medical tests at their clubs, the Gabon Football Federation said.

The federation had on Friday announced that the cardiac lesions were found on the players in checks by Confederation of African Football medical officials checking on their condition after contracting the coronavirus.

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Algeria's forward Riyad Mahrez reacts after Algeria missed a free kick during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Algeria and Equatorial Guinea - Copyright © CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP

Reigning champions Algeria are in danger of an early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations after a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of outsiders Equatorial Guinea in Douala on Sunday.

Esteban Obiang's 70th-minute goal gave Equatorial Guinea the victory and brought Algeria's 35-game unbeaten record crashing to an end.

"It ends (Algeria's unbeaten run). What do you want, we are in a tough position. We are in a difficult situation, a big difficult situation that we have not experienced for a long time. I'll tell you that we are in a tough period, a really tough one," said Djamel Belmadi, Algeria head coach.

Alhaji Kamara bundled the ball into the net following an astonishing goalkeeping blunder in injury time to give Sierra Leone a shock 2-2 draw with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations in Douala on Sunday.

The Ivory Coast coach was left astonished after the incident but also expressed satisfaction and hopeful in the forthcoming game to further strengthen their qualification to the next stage.

"Most important is to see our people smile, to see what it means for people back home. In the last two games, we managed to bring a lot of smiles. So we got one more big, big game, in the group. And hopefully, we can get three points and qualify," said Steven Caulker, Sierra Leone center-back.

Ivory Coast now tops Group E with 4 points. Equatorial Guinea are second with 3 points, Sierra Leone are third with two points and Algeria is last on the table with a point.

Ivory Coast will meet Algeria in their last Group E match on Thursday, while Algeria will play Equatorial Guinea on the same day. A win for any team guarantees their qualification.

The Gambia also drew Mali 1-1 in Group F matches on Sunday to move both teams closer to the elimination stage.

Tunisia also recorded their first win on Sunday after beating Mauritania 4-0.

Mali and The Gambia top the group with four points each, Tunisia three points and Mauritania have no point.

The Gambia will face Tunisia while Mali will play Mauritania on Thursday

AFP
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Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa to play in the Australian Open, in Melbourne, Australia, January 16, 2022. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic flew out of Australia on Sunday after a court upheld the government’s decision to cancel his visa, capping days of drama over the country’s COVID-19 entry rules and his unvaccinated status.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge Federal Court bench dealt a final blow to Djokovic’s hopes of chasing a record 21st Grand Slam win at the Australian Open that starts on Monday.

The Serbian player went to the airport in Melbourne just hours later. Federal agents escorted him and his team from the business lounge to the gate, where he boarded an Emirates flight bound for Dubai. The flight took off shortly before 11 p.m. (1200 GMT).

In a rollercoaster ride, the world’s top men’s player was first detained by immigration authorities on Jan. 6, ordered released by a court on Jan. 10 and then detained on Saturday again pending Sunday’s court hearing.

Djokovic said after the ruling he was extremely disappointed as it meant he could not take part in the tournament.

“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” he said in a statement, and wished the tournament well.

Djokovic, 34, had appealed against Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s use of discretionary powers to cancel his visa. The minister had said Djokovic could be a threat to public order because his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment amidst Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Chief Justice James Allsop said the court ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of the minister’s decision in the context of the three grounds of appeal Djokovic’s legal team lodged.

“It is no part of the function of the court to decide upon the merits or wisdom of the decision,” Allsop said, adding that the three judges were unanimous in their ruling. Full reasoning behind the ruling would be released in coming days, he said.

It was not immediately clear when Djokovic would leave the country.

‘KEEP BORDERS STRONG’

The player’s visa saga has dominated headlines around the world and fuelled a debate over the rights of people who opt to remain unvaccinated as governments take measures to protect their people from the two-year coronavirus pandemic.

The controversy became a political touchstone for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he prepares for an election due by May. His government has faced criticism for its handling of Djokovic’s visa application.

Morrison welcomed the court’s ruling, saying the decision will help “keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe.”

“It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer,” he said in a statement.

Djokovic had been granted a visa to enter Australia, with a COVID-19 infection on Dec. 16 providing the basis for a medical exemption from Australia’s requirements that all visitors be vaccinated. The exemption was organised through Tennis Australia.

That exemption prompted widespread anger in Australia, which has undergone some the world’s toughest COVID-19 lockdowns and where more than 90% of adults are vaccinated. The government said recent infection alone did not meet its standards for an exemption.

WEEPING FANS

But the player also had some support, especially in his native Serbia and from Serbians living in Australia.

Serbian prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Sunday, “I think that the court decision is scandalous, I am disappointed, I think it demonstrated how the rule of law is functioning or better to say not functioning in some other countries.”

In Melbourne, around 70 Djokovic fans, including young children, sang folk songs and chanted in the Federal Court plaza while they waited for the court’s ruling.

They gathered around a loudspeaker to hear the judge reading out the decision, but it took several minutes after the court adjourned before they worked out that Djokovic had lost. Two women were weeping, while others started up chants for a short while before the crowd dispersed.

“What they did today is everything except justice,” said Natasha Marjnovic, 44, a Djokovic supporter who was wiping away tears. “They killed a beautiful sportsman and his career and for all of us who love tennis.”

In Serbia, people have vented their anger at the treatment of their sporting hero. President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday criticised Australia’s government for what he called the “harassing and bullying (of) … the best tennis player ever.”

Vucic said on Sunday he had spoken to the player after the court decision. “I told him we cannot wait to see him,” he told reporters. “I told him he is always welcome in Serbia.”

The men’s tennis governing body ATP said “today’s decision to uphold Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events”.

It added in a statement that decisions of legal authorities regarding public health must be respected.

Tennis Australia said it respected the decision.

On the tennis circuit, fellow players had become impatient for the media circus around Djokovic to end as it had become an unwelcome distraction, casting uncertainty over the draw for the tournament.

But several voiced sympathy for Djokovic following his legal defeat.

“There was a political agenda at play here with the elections coming up which couldn’t be more obvious,” Vasek Pospisil, a Canadian tennis player, said on Twitter.

“This is not his fault.”

REUTERS
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The Reds cruised past Brentford at Anfield

Liverpool climbed to second in the Premier League after goals from Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino earned them a 3-0 win over Brentford at Anfield on Sunday.

The win moved Juergen Klopp’s side above Chelsea in the table and 11 points behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand. City beat Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday.

The win ends a three-match winless patch in the league for Liverpool which has seen them fall off the pace in the title race.

Liverpool were without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane who are playing at the African Cup of Nations and their lack of potency in attack was evident as they struggled to open up a determined Brentford defence.

The home side finally broke through a minute before the interval when a corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold bounced to the back post and was nodded home by Fabinho.

The London side continued to prove resilient opponents after the break although Diogo Jota struck the post in the 62nd minute after Alexander-Arnold had burst into the box and Brentford keeper Alvaro Fernandez did well to keep out another effort from the Portuguese forward.

But Brentford stayed in the contest until the 69th minute when Oxlade-Chamberlain stooped at the back post to head in a wonderful cross from left back Andy Robertson.

Substitute Minamino wrapped up the win, tapping home after Brentford’s attempt to play out from the back was intercepted by Roberto Firmino who set up the Japanese forward for a simple finish.

There was nearly a dream league debut for 17-year-old substitute Kaide Gordon, who was put through on goal but was denied by another good save from Fernandez.

“We needed these three points and a good performance so it was nice to do it in front of our fans. It will be good to grow our confidence,” said Fabinho.

“The team played really well with the ball. The front three played really well. We created a lot of opportunities to score. It is a chance for everybody to show their quality and step up. We did that today,” he added.

Promoted Brentford are in 14th place on 23 points.

Harrison hat-trick inspires Leeds to win at West Ham

West Ham United squandered a chance to cement fourth spot in the Premier League as they lost 3-2 at home to Leeds United on Sunday with Jack Harrison scoring a hat-trick for the visitors.

After three successive wins West Ham had the chance to open up a five-point gap between themselves and fifth-placed Arsenal whose game at Tottenham Hotspur was postponed.

But Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, missing seven players through injury or suspension, had other ideas.

Harrison opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a pinpoint finish but Jarrod Bowen equalised with a header in the 34th minute — his fourth goal in his last three games.

Harrison touched in from close range three minutes later to give Leeds the halftime lead.

When Pablo Fornals levelled again with a precise finish seven minutes after the break it seemed West Ham would go and win but Leeds responded in magnificent fashion.

Harrison’s deft finish after dazzling play by Raphinha restored their lead and Raphinha rattled the woodwork with a superb free kick before Leeds had an effort by Mateusz Klich ruled out for a harsh offside.

The win lifted Leeds to 15th, nine points above the relegation zone.

West Ham remained fourth with 37 points but the three sides below them — Arsenal (35), Tottenham (33) and Manchester United (32) all have at least two games in hand.

“We have got this far and doing really well. We are still in the top four at the minute,” West Ham’s Declan Rice said. “This was a big chance to close the gap on Chelsea in second, but that is football. It is about how you bounce back.”

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Appointed six months ago, the former Liverpool manager was a controversial choice for Everton supporters

Everton sacked manager Rafa Benitez on Sunday following a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City which left the Merseyside club six points above the Premier League relegation zone in 15th place.

Appointed six months ago, the former Liverpool manager was a controversial choice for Everton supporters and after a promising start to the season his side slid down the table.

“Benitez, who joined Everton in June 2021, has left the Club with immediate effect,” Everton said in a statement. “An update on a permanent replacement will be made in due course.”

The pressure began to mount on Benitez after a 4-1 humbling by his former club at the start of December as Everton suffered their heaviest home Merseyside derby league defeat in 39 years.

Everton’s Director of football Marcel Brands left his role after being confronted by supporters as he left the director’s box following that loss and there have been reports of conflicts elsewhere in the club.

Everton have won just once in the Premier League since September and travelling supporters at Carrow Road turned their anger on the Spaniard and the club’s board at the end of their defeat by Norwich.

Former Real Madrid and Valencia boss Benitez is the latest manager to have failed to live up to expectations at Goodison Park and they are now looking for their seventh head coach in six years.

Since current Belgium manager Roberto Martinez left the club in 2016, Everton have turned to Dutchman Ronald Koeman, Englishman Sam Allardyce, Portugal’s Marco Silva and Italian Carlo Ancelotti before Benitez’s brief reign.

Under British-Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri’s ownership, Everton have invested heavily in players for all those managers but results have remained disappointing.

The club, who are building a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, have not finished in the top six since 2014.

The 61-year-old Benitez, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, returned to the Premier League after a spell in China followed his time at Newcastle United.

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Norwich got a crucial win against Everton

Norwich City threw themselves a lifeline in their battle against relegation but sucked Everton into the mire thanks to a 2-1 victory in the Premier League on Saturday.

An own goal by Michael Keane and Adam Idah’s close-range finish in the space of two minutes in the first half broke Norwich’s long goal famine to put them in control.

Everton fans vented their fury at manager Rafa Benitez but were given something to cheer when Richarlison halved the deficit on the hour mark to set up a tense finale.

Norwich had to endure seven minutes of stoppage time as Everton desperately searched for an equaliser but Dean Smith’s struggling side held on for their third league win of the season to move off the foot of the table.

Norwich moved to 18th with 13 points from 21 games, above Newcastle United (12 from 20) and Burnley who sink to the bottom with 11 points albeit having played only 17 matches.

Late Pedro strike gives Watford 1-1 draw with Newcastle

A late goal by Joao Pedro gave Watford a 1-1 draw away to Newcastle United in their Premier League clash at St James’ Park on Saturday, ensuring that the hosts remain in the relegation zone.

Allan Saint-Maximin put the home side in front four minutes after the break with a brilliant solo effort, snapping up the ball from an error by Jeremy Ngakia and cutting inside before rifling home at the near post.

Watford turned up the pressure after the goal and Joshua King and Moussa Sissoko both missed excellent chances before Joao Pedro popped up to head home brilliantly in the 88th minute and snatch a share of the spoils.

It marked the 10th time Newcastle had been pegged back having taken the lead in the Premier League this season. That poor run of form leaves them in 19th place on 12 points, two behind the Hornets, who are in 17th spot.

Wolves’ Traore wraps up 3-1 home win over Southampton

Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Adama Traore scored his first Premier League goal this season to round off a 3-1 home win over Southampton on Saturday.

Mexico international Raul Jimenez scored the opener with a coolly taken spot kick in the 37th minute, sending goalkeeper Fraser Forster the wrong way after Wolves were awarded a penalty for a foul on Rayan Ait-Nouri by Jan Bednarek.

The hosts doubled their lead in the 59th when captain Conor Coady scored his first league goal at Molineux, nodding home a rebound after Max Kilman’s header bounced off the post.

Southampton pulled one back in the 84th minute when James Ward-Prowse fired the ball into the top corner with a sensational free-kick.

But Traore wrapped up the match for Wolves in the 91st, beating his marker for pace before placing a fine finish across the keeper as his eighth-placed side moved to 31 points.

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Arsenal said they "reluctantly" requested a postponement because of injuries, positive Covid-19 cases and players away with their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations

Arsenal’s request to have Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham postponed has been granted.

The Gunners, who played out a goalless draw with Liverpool on Thursday, made an application to the Premier League on Friday due to a host of players being unavailable.

A mixture of coronavirus, injuries, suspension and players being away at the African Cup of Nations led to Arsenal “reluctantly” taking the step to ask for a postponement.

“Following a request from Arsenal FC, the Premier League Board met today and regrettably agreed to postpone the club’s away fixture against Tottenham Hotspur, due to be played at 4:30pm on Sunday 16 January,” a statement read.

“With Arsenal having fewer than the required number of players available for the match (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper), the board accepted the club’s application.

“The decision is a result of a combination of Covid-19, existing and recent injuries and players on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. All clubs are able to apply for a postponement if Covid-19 infections are a factor in their request.”

An Arsenal statement added: “We are disappointed to announce that Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur has been postponed.

“We know how much this match means to our fans around the world, but the Premier League has made the decision to postpone the match, due to many players across our squad currently being unavailable as a result of Covid-19, existing and recent injuries, in addition to players away with their countries at AFCON.”

Martin Odegaard was absent for the Gunners’ Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Liverpool due to Covid-19 while Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu were missing due to injuries.

Granit Xhaka received a red card during the 0-0 draw, ruling him out of Sunday’s match, and Cedric Soares suffered an injury with Arsenal already without Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to their international commitments.

Mikel Arteta said on Friday that Arsenal’s “intention is always to play” but Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun have left on loan this month to join Roma and Middlesbrough respectively while the club’s Under-23s were able to play out a 1-1 draw with West Ham in Premier League 2 on the same day.

Saturday’s scheduled top-flight match between Burnley and Leicester had already been postponed on Friday due to the Clarets being unable to raise a team.

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Man City have completed the double over the London side in the Premier League this season

Manchester City took a major step towards retaining their Premier League title with a 1-0 win over second-placed Chelsea on Saturday, opening up a 13-point lead at the top of the table for Pep Guardiola’s side.

Kevin De Bruyne’s 70th-minute strike means that City have 56 points from 22 matches with Chelsea on 43 points. Third-placed Liverpool, who have two games in hand, including Sunday’s match at home to Brentford, are on 42 points.

It was a fine solo goal from De Bruyne which settled the outcome, the Belgian riding a challenge from N’golo Kante before beating Kepa Arrizabalaga with a curling shot into the far corner.

Chelsea’s best effort had come early in the second half when Mateo Kovacic fed Romelu Lukaku, but City keeper Ederson got out quick to make a fine save.

Phil Foden could have added a second for City six minutes from the end, but his shot from a promising position was high and wide.

Chelsea beat City in last season’s Champions League final, but City have completed the double over the London side in the Premier League this season, having won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September.