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Man City in narrow FA escape, Arsenal crash out

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Manchester City received a huge FA Cup scare from fourth-tier Cheltenham before a late blitz gave them a 3-1 win on Saturday after Southampton dumped holders Arsenal out of the competition.

Six-time winners City were minutes away from exiting at the fourth-round stage before goals from Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres broke the hearts of the brave League Two side.

City boss Pep Guardiola made 10 changes for the trip to the southwest of England but his side was still packed with internationals.

The home team — 72 places below City in the football pyramid — produced a stirring defensive display but also sporadically threatened at the other end of the pitch.

Jesus hit the post shortly after the restart as City upped the tempo following a goalless first half but it was the home team who broke the deadlock.

The visitors failed to deal with the outstanding Ben Tozer’s long throw and Alfie May fired in from close range just before the hour mark.

Guardiola threw on Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo in a desperate bid to find a way back into the game and was rewarded in the 81st minute when Foden volleyed in Cancelo’s cross.

Three minutes later Jesus made amends for his earlier miss and Torres made it 3-1 with the final kick of the game, turning in Gundogan’s low cross.

“We came here with humility and had the quality to make the difference,” said Guardiola.

“They used their quality in the box, they are taller and better than us there and we showed clips on how to solve it. It is difficult to control that.”

The Catalan had warm words for Foden, who is the club’s top-scorer in all competitions this season.

“Phil Foden is in a great moment and with great confidence,” he added. “He is clinical in front of goal.”

Cheltenham boss Michael Duff said he was “super proud” of his players, bemoaning the fact the match had to be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a shame because (with fans) the place would’ve been bouncing,” he said. “Would that have seen us through in the last 10 minutes? I’m not so sure — but the key is to enjoy it.”

Earlier, Arsenal, who have won the competition a record 14 times, went down 1-0 at Southampton courtesy of a Gabriel own goal.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta made seven changes from his team’s 3-0 league win against Newcastle on Monday, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and midfielder Emile Smith Rowe both absent.

Southampton, FA Cup winners in 1976, earned a well-deserved lead in the 24th minute when Kyle Walker-Peters’ ball across the six-yard area was inadvertently turned in by Gabriel.

The visitors went close to an equaliser through Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot but were forced to leave empty-handed.

“We had a dream to do it again like last year (win the FA Cup) and the dream today is over,” said Arteta.

“I am as well disappointed with the way we conceded the goal in an area where we know we shouldn’t be doing that. At the same time I cannot fault the effort of the players.”

West Ham, who will face either Manchester or Liverpool in the next round, crushed third-tier Doncaster 4-0 despite multiple changes from manager David Moyes while fellow Premier League sides Brighton and Sheffield United also progressed.

Pablo Fornals gave impressive West Ham an early lead at home to Doncaster as they dominated the League One side from the kick-off.

Andriy Yarmolenko doubled the lead before a second-half own goal from Andy Butler and a late strike from debutant Oladapo Afolayan.

Goals from Yves Bissouma and Steven Alzate were enough to seal a 2-1 win for Brighton against League One Blackpool.

Chris Basham and Billy Sharp scored for Premier League strugglers Sheffield United against League One opponents Plymouth.

Elsewhere, Swansea thumped fellow Championship side Nottingham Forest 5-1, while Bristol City beat Millwall 3-0. Barnsley beat Championship leaders Norwich 1-0.

On Sunday, Premier League leaders Manchester United face Liverpool in the tie of the round, while Chelsea host Luton.

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Ronaldo denies Saudi Arabia transfer deal, rejects new offer from Australia

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has denied reports linking him with a potential move to Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Nassr on a lucrative offer worth £173million-a-year.

The Portuguese star, who came off the bench in Portugal’s 6-1 thumping of Switzerland, said after the match that the report is untrue.

Ronaldo is a free agent after reaching a mutual agreement with Manchester United to terminate his contract following his explosive interview with journalist, Piers Morgan.

This has intensified interest from clubs with reports rife in the media recently of a deal reached with Al-Nassr that would see the 37-year-old forward ply his trade in the Middle East.

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“No, that is not true – not true,” Ronaldo said.

The five-time Ballon d’Or has also rejected a move to join a club in Australia (A-League).

A-League chief Danny Townsend disclosed the plans to lure Ronaldo to Australia shortly after the 37-year-old’s Manchester United exit but has now confirmed that the Portugal captain has knocked back their offer.

“We had interesting discussions, and there was genuine interest, but it’s clear he has other priorities at this stage,” Townsend told the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Ramos bags hat-trick as Portugal reach W’Cup quarter-finals

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Goncalo Ramos justified the shock decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring a hat-trick on his full debut as Portugal demolished Switzerland 6-1 on Tuesday to power into the World Cup quarter-finals.

The 21-year-old Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958.

Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target for a rampant Portugal, who booked a showdown with Morocco on Saturday for a place in the last four in Qatar.

Ronaldo, 37 and now without a club after his departure from Manchester United, has hogged the headlines during the tournament while looking a shadow of his former self.

The only man to score at five World Cups, Ronaldo was left out by coach Fernando Santos against the Swiss following his angry response to being substituted in the last group game.

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It was a bold call to omit a player with a record 118 international goals in favour of giving a full debut to Ramos, the Benfica striker who had played just 33 minutes across three previous appearances.

But it took just 17 minutes for Ramos to reward Santos’ faith, and to achieve something Ronaldo has never done — score in a World Cup knockout game.

Joao Felix clipped delicately into the feet of Ramos, who quickly swivelled past Fabian Schaer and rifled into the roof of the net past a stunned Yann Sommer.

Otavio, who returned to the Portugal midfield after injury in their opening match, shot straight at Sommer before Ramos did likewise moments later.

Xherdan Shaqiri drew a fingertip stop from Diogo Costa with a dipping free-kick from distance, but Portugal soon had their second.

Bruno Fernandes whipped in a corner and the 39-year-old Pepe towered above the Swiss defence to powerfully head home.

Diogo Dalot hacked Remo Freuler’s header off the line after Diogo Costa failed to properly deal with a cross, but the Swiss simply had no answers against an irresistible Portugal.

Ramos turned in his second from close range six minutes into the second half from Dalot’s cross down the right.

He then turned provider by playing in Guerreiro to lash in another just four minutes later as the Swiss defence was ruthlessly ripped apart.

It was also Ramos who inadvertently glanced a corner towards Manuel Akanji at the far post as the Manchester City centre-back pulled one back for Switzerland.

Ramos completed his treble after more outstanding work from Felix, nonchalantly dinking over Sommer with one of his final touches before making way for Ronaldo.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s introduction elicited the biggest roar of the night. Ronaldo did have the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for a clear offside.

Leao capped off a sensational Portugal performance with a terrific curling strike in stoppage time.

AFP

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Spain’s World Cup exit to Morocco ‘cruel’ – Busquets

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Sergio Busquets said Spain’s 3-0 defeat on penalties by Morocco was a “cruel” way to decide the World Cup last-16 clash on Tuesday after the teams drew 0-0.

The midfielder’s spot-kick was saved by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou as the 2010 World Cup winners failed to score any of their penalties.

“It was a pity. It was decided on penalties in the most cruel way,” said Busquets.

“It was tough, very hard for us. We tried to wear them down, give them the run-around, find spaces. We lacked that little luck for the final ball.”

pain were also knocked out of Euro 2020 on penalties in the semi-finals by Italy.

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Busquets, 34, would not be immediately drawn on whether he would continue playing international football.

“Now the most important thing is the national team and not me,” said the Barcelona player.

“It’s a tough night and we have to pick ourselves up and use this as experience for our game. There are some very young players who this will help a lot.”

Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon was the hero in Euro 2020 against Switzerland in a quarter-final shoot-out but on this occasion he could only stop one of Morocco’s efforts.

“I think in the 120 minutes of the game, we were superior to our opponents, but what I say counts for little now if we can’t find the net,” added Simon, who saved Badr Benoun’s penalty.

“In the shoot-out they were superior and that is what took them to the quarter-finals.

“We are seeing that there are surprises throughout the World Cup. We were not capable of overcoming them and we did not expect to be eliminated against Morocco, but it’s the reality and now we have to go home.”

AFP

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