• Sport On track for Melbourne ne Ricciardo’s smile masks big ambitions as F1 returns 18.03.18 Page 19 Grand slammed Ireland give England no chance and win 24-15 to make history Pages 2-5 Record-breaking Jacob Stockdale leaves England defenders in his wake as he stretches to score at Twickenham COLM O’NEILL/BPI/ REX/SHUTTERSTOCK 14 seconds of pain Premier League drama No Kane, still able Leicester’s Silva eager to make up for lost time Salah hits four Eriksen takes Spurs into last while Palace snatch a lifeline four of the Cup Page 12 Pages 10-12 Page 8 • 2 The Observer 18.03.18 Rugby union NatWest Six Nations St Patrick’s Day brings a third grand slam ever for the visitors as Joe Schmidt’s men inflict a first home defeat on Eddie Jones No answer to the Irish 15 ENGLAND 24 IRELAND Paul Rees Twickenham Final standings Ireland (C) Wales Scotland France England Italy A year ago Ireland beat England in Dublin by drawing on emotion, but here they were ruthlessly efficient TOM JENKINS/OBSERVER Beware the slides of March. England’s descent continued with a third successive defeat in the sleet as Ireland, on St Patrick’s Day, achieved a third grand slam and their third title in five years. It was the home side’s first defeat here since the 2015 World Cup and their first in the Six Nations for six years. They were a distinct second in every aspect of the game. England started the year talking about supplanting New Zealand at the top of the world rankings, but they have been overtaken in second place by Ireland and suffered their first bottom-half finish in the Six Nations for 12 years. The slump of a side containing largely the same group of players that made an early exit from the 2015 World Cup suggests that Eddie Jones had a placebo effect as they won 24 out of 25 Tests before losing in Edinburgh last month, but they look to have stalled rather than crashed. A year ago, Ireland denied England the grand slam in Dublin, for the third time in the Six Nations, by drawing on emotion, but here they were clinical to the point of being detached, ruthlessly efficient as they all but secured victory in the first 40 minutes, leading 21-5 at half-time and on course to break their record victory here, by 13 points in 1964. The first couple of rucks set the tone: England had spent the week honing their breakdown technique after being heavily penalised in that area in Scotland and France. Defenders duly got over a tackled opponent and played the ball on their feet, but they were smashed out of the way by at least two opponents and Ireland were able, in the manner to Garry Ringrose reacts quickest to score Ireland’s first try at Twickenham P W D L F A B Pts 5 5 0 0 160 82 3 26 5 3 0 2 119 83 3 15 5 3 0 2 101 128 1 13 5 2 0 3 108 94 3 11 5 2 0 3 102 92 2 10 5 0 0 5 92 203 1 1 which they have become accustomed, to take play through multiple phases before striking. Jones had made 10 changes, three positional, from Paris the previous week, but there was no furious start from England. Four minutes had gone when Owen Farrell tackled Rob Kearney marginally late in Ireland’s 22, Ireland put the penalty into touch, won the lineout and rumbled their way forward before Johnny Sexton sent a garryowen towards England’s line. The kick was angled and it disoriented the full-back Anthony Watson who ended up trying to catch the ball facing the wrong way. Put off by Kearney, who appeared to glance the ball forward, Watson could only watch the ball roll over the line where Garry Ringrose reacted quickly to score. The try was reviewed but a system that worked in England’s favour against Australia and Wales earlier in the season this time went against them, as it was to at the end of the first period when the Ireland wing Jacob Stockdale scored his seventh try of the championship, a Six Nations record. England were at that stage trying to find their way back into the game after going 14 points behind when, from another lineout, Tadhg Furlong showed deft hands for a prop to free Bundee Aki. As the centre looked outside him, he turned to the inside for support in the form of the No 8, CJ Stander, who gave two defenders a ride to the line before touching the ball down on a post. Stockdale’s try came after a clever pass from Conor Murray who held the defence before surreptitiously slipping the ball to the wing. Entertainment is in the eye of the beholder, but in the fifth year of Joe Schmidt’s period as head coach Ireland have widened the point of Home run ends A disconsolate looking Dylan Hartley and Mako Vunipola watch on after England’s defeat to Ireland, their first home Six Nations loss in six years their attack which does not revolve around Sexton, important though he remains. They have become a side which minimises mistakes rather than risk, lavishly lubricated. England matched their opponents on tries, but their final two came after they went 24-5 down. At the point in the first half when the home side threatened, Elliot Daly scoring his first try after Farrell’s chip to the line with the outside of his right foot with the champions a man short after Peter O’Mahony was sent to the sinbin for collapsing a maul, Ireland stepped up. One of England’s staples over the years has been the driving maul and as they sent one rumbling towards Ireland’s line with Maro Itoje in possession, their interval deficit looked like being cut to two points. Itoje was the most talked-about player in last year’s championship, but the path to the top is not a straight line. The maul did not reach its destination as Iain Henderson wrapped his hands around the ball and Stander prevented Itoje from going to ground. Ireland were awarded a scrum and two minutes later Stockdale was making the game safe. Daly’s second try, after Murray’s penalty, and then May’s fourth try of the tournament in the final minute were reward for England’s persistence, but they had been outmanoeuvred by the better drilled side, one that knows its game off pat. England Ireland Tries Daly 2, May Tries Ringrose, Stander, Stockdale Pen Murray Cons Sexton 2, Carbery Referee Angus Gardner (Aus) Attendance 82,062 • The Observer 18.03.18 Green party starts How they rated Ireland’s players hold the Six Nations and triple crown trophies on a glorious St Patrick’s Day at Twickenham TOM JENKINS/OBSERVER Jacob Stockdale touches down for Ireland’s third try just inside the dead ball line at Twickenham, which had been extended marginally at England’s request Jones stays positive ‘We stuck at it but they were too good’ England slumped to their third successive defeat and their lowest position in the Six Nations for 12 years but Eddie Jones insists his side is moving forward. Jones (right) enjoyed 24 victories in his first 25 Tests after taking over, a run he puts down to implementing quick fixes. “We knew during that run that we were not good enough to reach where we wanted to get to,” he said. “A run like the one we are going through is instrumental to the development of a team. It was easy to improve England initially, fixing this and that, but internal mechanisms, such as developing leaders, are slow burners. “We are moving forward, even if results do not show that. A run like this tests your resolve, your purpose and your team. That is what we are going through at the moment. I thought our effort against Ireland was outstanding. The players stuck at it but the other team was too good.” It was Ireland’s third grand slam, after 1948 and 2009, and it was not in doubt from the sixth Ian Malin England Jacob’s killer blow minute when Garry Ringrose scored the first of their three tries. “It was a ferocious match and words cannot describe what it feels like to win,” said the Ireland captain, Rory Best. “The grand slam is the reward for the effort put in by everybody.” The Ireland head coach, Joe Schmidt, who has masterminded three Six Nations titles in five years, said the best was still to come from a side that has won their last 11 Tests. “We have a number of young players and they will only Paul Rees get better.” Ireland 5 Anthony Watson A miserable two weeks, that yellow card in Paris followed by an unlucky part in Ringrose’s try before he was carried off. 7 Rob Kearney The full-back was one of only two in this squad to have won a previous grand slam and played an important defensive part. 6 Jonny May Came more into the game after the break with some straight running and scored a well-taken late consolation try. 7 Keith Earls His tackle on Watson saved a try when Ireland were under the cosh and he repeated it on Daly before suffering a late injury. 5 Jonathan Joseph Lasted only 55 minutes and was restricted to half-breaks. A victim again of England’s inability to provide enough quick ball. 7 Garry Ringrose Made an outstanding comeback last weekend and his try gave Ireland the perfect start. The centre was always a threat. 4 Ben Te’o England’s midfield is just not working. Worked hard in defence but left it to the last move to have any impact in attack. 6 Bundee Aki Butchered the chance of a firsthalf try but made up for it with a key part in Ireland’s second. Nasty shoulder charge on Daly. 7 Elliot Daly He took both his tries well and was only denied a third by Keith Earls’s ankle tap. Easily England’s most dangerous attacker. 8 Jacob Stockdale Made Six Nations history with his seventh try. His opportunist score with the last move of the first half set up the victory. 5 Owen Farrell His switch to fly-half was a qualified success. Good tactical kicking and made Daly’s first try but off target with conversions. 7 Johnny Sexton Refused to exit as blood poured from a head wound. Ireland have not taken a backward step since his magical moment in Paris. 6 Richard Wigglesworth The veteran No 9 had a decent afternoon in what will almost certainly be his last England appearance. 7 Conor Murray Put his side beyond reach with a penalty on the hour and showed great composure and control behind a superior pack. 6 Mako Vunipola Carried the ball strongly and coped well with the threat of Furlong in the scrums. England’s best forward. 7 Cian Healy He has worked hard to win place back and followed an outstanding display against Scotland with another strong performance. 5 Dylan Hartley (capt) Recovered from his calf injury to regain the captaincy. Solid enough but now time for a change of hooker, and leader. 7 Rory Best (capt) Ireland’s captain kept his head in the maelstrom. He was accurate in the lineout and deserves his place in the history books. 6 Kyle Sinckler The Harlequin added some extra dynamism in the loose and carried well. He justified his selection ahead of Dan Cole. 7 Tadhg Furlong The prop was Ireland’s best forward and the other candidate for man-of-the-match. Carried and tackled tirelessly all afternoon. 6 Maro Itoje Commanding at the lineout and back to something like his best. Looked commanding as a ballcarrier in the latter stages. 6 James Ryan A key part of a monumental Irish defensive effort, particularly when they were reduced to 14 men in the first half. 6 George Kruis Picked ahead of Joe Launchbury for his lineout work. Played an important role in the set-piece and worked tirelessly. 6 Iain Henderson England’s nemesis last year justified his selection ahead of Devin Toner. The Ulsterman was strong in the set-piece and in attack. 6 Chris Robshaw Broke Neil Back’s record of 64 Tests on the flank but had little to celebrate. Lots of industry and more comfortable at No 6. 7 Peter O’Mahony The Lions captain was shown a yellow card for collapsing a maul but made up for it when he came back on, particularly in defence. 6 James Haskell Picked to help rescue England from more breakdown woe and added energy, but Sam Underhill must step up in South Africa. 7 Dan Leavy Yet to lose in any of his nine Tests and has filled a Sean O’Brien-shaped hole in the back row perfectly. 5 Sam Simmonds Those tries in Rome seem like an age ago. He has the pace but not the power to play No 8 against a side as physical as Ireland. 7 CJ Stander He took his try brilliantly and again was a difficult opponent in the breakdown. Consistent throughout the tournament. REPLACEMENTS Jamie George (for Hartley 57) 6; Joe Marler (for Vunipola 52) 6; Dan Cole (for Sinckler 52) 6; Joe Launchbury (for Kruis 70) 6; Don Armand (for Simmonds 66) 6; Danny Care (for Wigglesworth 60) 6; George Ford (for Joseph 55) 6; Mike Brown (for Watson 33) Impressive in attack and defence 7 3 Man of the match REPLACEMENTS Sean Cronin (for Best 64) 6; Jack McGrath (for Healy 50) 6; Andrew Porter (for Furlong 64) 6; Devin Toner (for Ryan 67) 6; Jordi Murphy (for O’Mahony 73) 6; Kieran Marmion (for Earls 73) 6; Joey Carbery (for Sexton 66) 7; Jordan Larmour (for Aki 53) 6 • 4 The Observer 18.03.18 Rugby union NatWest Six Nations An uncomfortable watch brings cold comfort for Jones Andy Bull Twickenham Coach praises only England’s spirit after sobering defeat against the Irish It was suffering weather. The kind of cold that makes you pull down your hat and stamp the ground, shuffle your feet and clench your teeth – fitting conditions, then, for an England team struggling through three defeats in a row. This latest, the first at home since Eddie Jones took over, stung like yesterday’s wind. It has been a long winter for England and there is not a hint of spring yet. There were certainly no green shoots to be seen at Twickenham, just green shirts – in front, on top, either side, and all around – Irishmen every last where you looked. The scoreline, 24-15, was ugly enough but it still flattered Jones’s side, who forced their way into the game only once it was all but over, their last try a late gloss on a game in which they had been entirely outplayed. “These things are sent to test you,” Jones said afterwards, “to test your resolve, to test your purpose, to test the character of your team.” He was talking about the defeat but he seemed about 80 minutes late. The real test of his team’s resolve, purpose and character started when the referee blew the first whistle, not the final one. And England failed it. Earlier in the week Jones spoke about how much he loved pressure. “It’s the best time in rugby, when you are under the pump and you have got to produce it.” He believes you should leave those little loose stones in your shoes. “Players like to get comfortable,” he said last year. “They like to have a nice house, drive a Range Rover, like to do the same thing every day in training. To get them to have the courage to try to be different is the biggest trick. Encouraging them to do that consistently, to be different, don’t be comfortable, be uncomfortable.” Jones has spent the past two years pushing this team to be uncomfortable. He thinks the 4x4 in the driveway is the modern sportsman’s pram in the hall. He flogs them physically England were blown away by a side that were sharper, stronger and smarter. They kept coming but, again, all that effort didn’t get them anywhere Twickenham shattered by Murray’s magnificence Gerard Meagher Twickenham With the clock turned red, even the heavens were smiling on Ireland, a flurry of snow serving as the ticker tape to their coronation. Victory was theirs, and fully warranted, after emphatic confirmation that it is Joe Schmidt’s side who are best equipped to challenge New Zealand at next year’s World Cup. For a while they were handing out whiskey to travellers at London’s Waterloo station, this was never an occasion for which Irish nerves needed settling. They came in their droves – the IRFU was officially given 5,000 tickets but that was tripled at least – and, while Twickenham was pockmarked green all over, the South stand in particular was rattled to the rafters by the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. England’s fortress was not so much ransacked as razed to the ground and it owed much to Conor Murray’s peerless authority. Murray has a habit of rising to occasions, and here he was magnificent. – and sometimes mentally, too – to prepare them for games such as this one, a real bed-of-nails Test match. England had everything to prove, everything to play for, back home after back-to-back defeats, in a grandslam match against an Irish side who have just overtaken them in the world rankings and one who robbed them, of course, of their own shot at the slam when they beat them in Dublin this time last year. On top of all this it was St Patrick’s day, too. It was a sobering one, as it turned out, for the English at least. They were blown away by an Irish side that were sharper, stronger and smarter. England kept coming, just as they did against France last week and Scotland before that, but again all that effort did not get them anywhere. Jones praised their spirit. But, to be honest, there was not a lot else he could pick out. The tone was set in the opening minutes, when Dylan Hartley and Kyle Sinckler both came at the Irish, charging hard heads down, and both were bounced back on their behinds. The Irish would not be bullied, did not bend or bow – and for most of the match England did not know where else to go. Ireland took control when Garry Ringrose pounced on a loose ball after Anthony Watson had fumbled a catch under a high kick from Johnny Sexton. Perhaps there was a hint of a knock-on from Rob Kearney, as he was challenging Watson for the ball, but not enough to sway the TMO. Seven points down, England decided to kick a penalty to the corner soon afterwards, squandering a Aaron Smith may be able to fire a quicker pass but there is no better all-round scrum-half in the world than Murray. Ben Youngs has been missed a great deal more than expected by England but Danny Care and Richard Wigglesworth are No9s of repute and neither could hold a candle to Ireland’s scrum-half. Throw in Johnny Sexton’s surgical precision, CJ Stander’s power and the hard-edged second-rows Iain Henderson and James Ryan, and it becomes clearer why this is the third Ireland team in history to clinch the grand slam. The last time they achieved it – in 2009 – Ryan was in the crowd, a 12-year-old supporter at the Millennium Stadium. Nine years on he is the embodiment of these bright young things at shot at goal that they really could not afford to spare. The next time they had to make a similar decision the deficit had been doubled. They were 14-0 down after their defence had been unstitched by CJ Stander after Sexton’s dummy wrap-around. England kicked four penalties to the corner, to try to push their way over. The last attempt was when Ireland were down to 14 men, after Peter O’Mahony had been sent to the sin-bin. But they still could not do it. They were as enthusiastic as they were ineffective. This was in sharp contrast with the rapier finishing of Jacob Stockdale, Conor Murray underlined his status as the world’s finest all-round No 9 Ireland’s disposal. He has played only one fewer game for Ireland than he has for Leinster and he is yet to experience defeat for either. Rory Best had spoken eloquently before the match, acknowledging the size of the occasion and urging his side to embrace it. He also told of the importance of quietening the crowd and after the first quarter, the sound of silence echoed round Twickenham. England were no better than they had been in Paris and their errors allowed Ireland to take command while Schmidt has this green machine particularly well oiled. This is a side extremely comfortable in its own skin. After one slightly fortuitous try – and another excellent one – the period that followed was • The Observer 18.03.18 Watson flies and falls A Six Nations won and lost in Paris Anthony Watson (left) fails to claim a high ball above Rob Kearney, leading to Ireland’s first try TOM JENKINS/THE OBSERVER Pivotal moments of championship came in the French capital, writes Paul Rees who settled the game when he chased down his own chip, grounding it just before he slid over the deadball line. Jones had only just had that line moved back, because his team wanted more space in which to play. “When you’re having a bad run,” he said, “everything goes wrong.” After the game Jones was booed by the Twickenham crowd during his post-match interview. “Our effort was outstanding. We played with character and we stuck at it,” Jones said, “and we just weren’t good enough.” The World Cup is 18 months away. His words were cold comfort on a chilling day. perhaps Ireland’s most impressive. Eventually England were on the board through Elliot Daly but with Peter O’Mahony in the sin-bin, and the visitors were unerring in their response. Sexton was off the field for a head injury assessment but Murray marshalled his forwards round the park superbly. Twice they went through endless phases – the kind of continuity England can at present only dream about. Indeed, Murray was purring and it was his sumptuous pass that allowed Jacob Stockdale to kick ahead and dive on the ball for his seventh try of the competition. It came laced with irony, too. The in-goal area had been extended, as well as the lines painted blue, in anticipation of the snow, at Jones’s request and Stockdale would have run out of room ordinarily. Jones spoke last week of how “the game does not love us at the moment” and this was precisely what he meant. With more than 20 minutes remaining, Jordan Larmour came on and while England salvaged a modest amount of pride late on, The Fields of Athenry was by that stage in full cry around the stadium, Ireland comfortably keeping their hosts at arm’s length. Before the game the New Zealand Herald had paid tribute to Schmidt’s influence in charge of Ireland, complete with a cartoon in which he was mocked up as a leprechaun. It can now be said without question that his Ireland side are contenders for next year’s pot of gold in Japan. The outcome of the 2018 Six Nations was settled in Paris. It was where Jonathan Sexton, on the opening weekend, delivered a precious away victory for Ireland four minutes after time was up with a 45-metre drop goal after his side had taken play through 41 phases, and it was where England surrendered their crown, fumbling at the breakdown in the last play of the game after France had wasted an opportunity to end the match. Ireland’s campaign was summed up in their final moments in Paris, just as England’s was. What marked the champions apart from the rest was their ability to retain possession, as they demonstrated again in securing the grand slam at Twickenham, while England struggled throughout at the breakdown, an area their opponents targeted after watching Samoa dominate that area at Twickenham last November. Possession was nine-tenths of the score. Last week was Eddie Jones’s most uncomfortable since taking over from Stuart Lancaster at the end of the World Cup. A second successive defeat was followed by the video release of a speech he gave last year during which he made, albeit lightheartedly, derogatory remarks about Ireland and Wales. An experienced, aware coach surprisingly allowed himself to be assailed by hubris after a remarkably successful start to his England career. His Ireland opposite number, Joe Schmidt, is unlikely to make the same mistake, and not just because he is less voluble. For the second year in a row, the grand slam was at stake when England met Ireland on the final Jonathan Sexton celebrates his third Six Nations Championship triumph after Ireland’s victory at Twickenham Ireland’s campaign was summed up in the closing seconds at the Stade de France – what set them apart was their ability to retain possession weekend. In 2017, it was Jones’s side that was looking to sweep all before them, again, and Schmidt’s men who knew that defeat could take them back to where they were when he took over in 2013: fifth in the table. Ireland went into last year’s game on the back of away defeats to Scotland and Wales and a laboured victory at home to France. The victory marked a turning point, the start of an 11-match winning run. Like England, they have been bedevilled by injuries with the No 13 jersey proving particularly unlucky, but such is the system they have established, based on the ball-retaining ability of Leinster and Munster, that players are seamlessly Paul Rees’s team of the tournament tournaament Healy Ireland Guirado France Gilchrist Scotland Shingler Wales Furlong Ireland AW Jones Wales Stander Ireland Camara France Murray Ireland Sexton Ireland Stockdale Ireland (pictured) Farrell England JJones ess e H Jones S tlan Scot land an n Scotland Earl arl rs rl Earls Irel rel re eellaand nd Ireland Minozzi Italy 5 replaced. Wales thought they had an opportunity when two of Ireland’s front five, both Lions, pulled out of the game in Dublin with hamstring injuries but they were barely missed as the home side established 141 rucks to their opponents’ 58. England, in contrast, have been unable to replace their No 8 Billy Vunipola, who has the power to make ground from a standing start, in kind. They did not manage to last year, but burgled victories at home to France and against Wales in Cardiff thanks to their bench, whose catalyst, Danny Care, was a starter this year before the final day after the knee injury sustained by Ben Youngs nine minutes into the opening game in Rome. Jones’s finishers have turned into nonstarters, managing only seven points combined in the final 30 minutes of the matches against Wales, Scotland and France. He speaks about how England’s superior financial and playing resources should give them an advantage over the rest, but injuries damage cohesion and they are better absorbed by the joined-up systems put in place by the Celts. It is less a case that England have regressed than that others have improved to the point where away victories, other than in Italy where Conor O’Shea’s exuberance remains undimmed by setbacks, have become scarce. Are England any worse this year than they were in 2016 when they won the grand slam in a tournament suffering badly from a post-World Cup hangover? Scotland are an immeasurably better side now at Murrayfield, where they are unbeaten in the last two championships, although their late victory in Rome highlighted a lurking vulnerability away. They ruffled Ireland but lacked composure at vital moments and despite having more of the play in the first-half against Wales in Cardiff, trailed 14-0 at the interval, collapsing after it. Ireland have become a compelling mix of experience and youth, a side in which no one, not even Jonathan Sexton or Conor Murray, is indispensable. Wales have rediscovered their joie de vivre, like Scotland paying for inaccuracy away from home; all three Celtic countries have developed strength in depth. Even France have joined in. Matches involving them may have produced the fewest tries for the second tournament running, but they have remembered where their pride was buried. It was resolution that kept them ahead of England in the final quarter, a period when their relative lack of fitness normally overtakes them. Ireland were up and in in Paris and London, the two away victories outside Rome this championship. France’s bonus point in Cardiff meant England slumped from first to fifth. A section of the crowd booed Eddie Jones as he was interviewed on the pitch at the end of the defeat to Ireland. It was one of his predecessors as Australia coach, Alan Jones, who reheated the quip about turning from a rooster to a feather duster. At least it provides the means for a spring clean. • 6 The Observer 18.03.18 Rugby union NatWest Six Nations Warren Gatland’s team clinch second place in championship after Trinh-Duc misses penalty kick to let Wales off the hook Williams try stifles France 14 WALES 13 FRANCE Michael Aylwin Principality Stadium Rarely have a side clinched second place in the Six Nations with less conviction. Wales were outplayed for vast tracts of this game, but are indebted to France for allowing them not only to stay in the game but to hold the lead for the vast majority of it. Wales could not score a single point in the second half, such was France’s stranglehold. But for the personal hell of François Trinh-Duc, who was all over the place for all but the two moments he sparked 10 of France’s points, Wales would surely have lost. If France can take any consolation from this it is that their losers’ bonus point condemns England to the ignominy of fifth place. They must know too, though, that it could so easily have been they who leaped above the mid-table to take second behind Ireland – whom, let it not be forgotten, they so nearly beat in round one. It has been a bittersweet championship for the French. Much improved though they are, they are still plagued by familiar failings, principally the ease with which they offer up points to the opposition. The first half was classic. Wales had to do precious little to acquire their 14 points. It was reminiscent of the game between the two in Paris last year, famous for the 20 minutes of overtime, but notable also for the string of nothing penalties France conceded in nothing parts of the field, which enabled Leigh Halfpenny’s boot to keep Wales in the match. It was a similar story in round one this year. How differently this championship might have panned out if the French had not gifted Johnny Sexton so many penalty shots in Paris. Penalties are one thing if they are forced by opposition excellence, but France yield too many for no real reason at all. This has not been a good championship for the ill-disciplined. And France’s 10 points of the first half were all earned through their own endeavours. Trinh-Duc’s soaring drop goal in only the fourth minute set the scoreboard in motion, but within seconds he had handed the advantage back to the hosts. Geoffrey Doumayrou let the restart bounce François Trinh-Duc, the France fly-half, made some atrocious errors Laidlaw holds his nerve to break Italian hearts 27 ITALY 29 SCOTLAND Lewis Stuart Stadio Olimpico Italy must be starting to wonder what they need to do to beat Scotland. They played most of the better rugby and were leading with less than two minutes to go but, just as they have done before against the Scots, surrendered a late kick. Greig Laidlaw’s penalty cost the Italians the game this time. Afterwards the Italy coach, Conor O’Shea, said it was a game there for the taking: “I am destroyed for the players and the supporters. We are coming. Boy we played some rugby out there against a team who have beaten Australia, beaten England. At short of the 10-metre line, and Alun Wyn Jones nicked in to claim the ball. Scott Williams’s chip through was wicked, but an international ought to have reacted better than Trinh-Duc did when it bounced up in his face. He missed it completely, and Liam Williams scored the try. A nothing penalty by each of France’s locks allowed Halfpenny to stretch Wales’s lead to 11-3, before France struck in the most elegant fashion. A smart inside ball by Gaël Fickou set Adrien Pélissié away, and after further deft support play TrinhDuc sent Fickou streaking through the bedraggled Welsh defence for a beauty of a try. It was rugby of a different class. If only they could force their opponents to peddle the same for their points. Alas, France offered up another penalty for Halfpenny on the half-hour for Wales’s four-point lead at the break. Perhaps infuriated with themselves, France came out for the second half with purpose. They claimed almost all the possession of the third quarter, midway through which they brought on Camille Chat and Rabah Slimani, the former offering real punch in the loose, the latter taking over at scrum time. Had Trinh-Duc not been suffering one of his days, as loose as he can be brilliant, they might have really made it tell. As it is, they closed the deficit to just the one point with a Maxime Machenaud penalty, having played the ball out of their own half and worked the phases. The penalty against Scott Williams was harsh, but France were properly back in the game now. Still they tried to give Wales every chance, one forward pass from TrinhDuc unforgivable, but such was France’s dominance at the scrum that a penalty was never far away. Marco Tauleigne broke clear through a thicket of Wales defenders to force Liam Williams into conceding a penalty. With Machenaud off, up stepped Trinh-Duc – and the subsequent miss summed up his day. That was the final straw – he was off. As the game built to its denouement, Wales finally managed to get their hands on the ball – even to keep it for more than a few phases. But France swarmed at the breakdown. Chat was over the ball to force one penalty in his own 22, and when times we made some great breaks and you would say that is great play. The only way for some young players to learn is by being out there. Time at the crease, you could say.” It was not a view seriously disputed by his opposite number, Gregor Townsend, though he could find positives in the way Scotland came back to win. “We were disappointed in parts, particularly the first half,” he said. “It was great to pick up an away win, though. “They controlled most of the possession, were very strong with the ball carries, narrowed up our defence. We didn’t have as much possession as we had against Ireland, sometimes down to our errors but also Italy playing well. The second half showed that we are capable of reaction; finding out what was working for us, which was the maul, and finishing those opportunities.” Scotland had gone behind early on to a penalty from man of the match Tommaso Allan. After which, in one of their rare solid spells of possession in the first half, Scotland briefly took the lead through hooker Fraser Brown. Then came two hammer blows, Allan and Matteo Minozzi both exploiting gaps in the Scotland defence to put the home side 12 points ahead. Scotland did collect their second try with the captain, John Barclay, touching down at the back of a maul, but when Allan collected his second score at the Greig Laidlaw kept his cool to seal Scotland’s victory with a late penalty • The Observer 18.03.18 Early try sets up win The Blindside Gareth Davies watches his Wales teammate Liam Williams dive over for the score that forced France on to the back foot Play of the day Karma of the day Rise of the day Jacob Stockdale’s ﬁrst-half added time try: an irresistible moment. His seven-try haul is a Six Nations record. Defeat to “the scummy Irish”means Eddie Jones has taken England to three defeats in a Six Nations campaign for the ﬁrst time since 2006. This time last year Italy’s star debutant Jake Polledri was juggling two jobs: playing for Gloucestershire’s third-tier Hartpury College while working at Subway making meatball marinaras. His advice to other Subway workers: “It’s character-building… Just be polite and smile, even if you hate it.” Regret of the day DAVID DAVIES/PA WIRE Stockdale touched down at the back of the goal area. England recently extended the areas at Twickenham by two metres. If they had left them alone, the ball would have been dead. George North broke into the same a little later it was Mathieu Bastareaud who was the immovable object to win the penalty. One more turnover penalty, won by Chat, as Wales tried to run the clock down, offered France one last chance, but Aaron Shingler rose to steal the lineout. With it, he claimed second place and the riches that go with it. Wales will be grateful. Wales end of a break from the debutant flanker, Jake Polledri, it all looked grim for the visitors. They had learned their lesson though. The maul was working so it was to become their weapon of choice. It did not earn any tries directly but did get them into attacking positions and suck in the defence for Sean Maitland to collect his third try of the tournament and Stuart Hogg his first. That might have settled things but Allan had other ideas with a late penalty putting Italy ahead in the dying minutes. That only left time for the final drama with Scotland again turning to the maul and finding their way deep into Italy territory where it was their turn to win a penalty. Laidlaw has been in this position so often before; there was never much doubt that he would land it and, to the relief of the Scotland fans and the player himself, he did. Another rescue act in another drama. France Fall; Fickou, Bastareaud (capt), Doumayrou, Grosso; Trinh-Duc (Beauxis 71), Machenaud (Couilloud 62); Poirot (Priso 60), Pélissié (Chat 51), Gomes Sa (Slimani 51), Gabrillagues (Le Roux 71), Vahaamahina, Lauret (Gabrillagues 77), Camara (Babillot 26), Tauleigne Try Fickou Con Machenaud Pen Machenaud Drop goal Trinh-Duc Referee Ben O’Keeffe (NZ) Attendance 74,169 Halfpenny; North, S Williams, Parkes, L Williams; Biggar, G Davies; R Evans (Smith 64), Owens (Dee 69), Francis (Lee 64), Hill (B Davies 69), AW Jones (capt), Tipuric (Shingler 56), Navidi, Faletau Try L Williams Pens Halfpenny3 Italy Scotland Minozzi; Benvenuti (Hayward 60), Bisegni, Castello (Canna 73), Bellini; Allan, Violi (Palazzani 66); Lovotti (Quaglio 58), Ghiraldini (Fabiani 76), Ferrari (Pasquali 60), Zanni (Steyn 52), Budd, Negri, Polledri (Licata 66), Parisse (capt) Tries Allan 2, Minozzi, Cons Allan 3 Pens Allan 2 Hogg; Seymour, Jones (Horne 52), Grigg, Maitland; Russell (Price 54), Laidlaw; Reid (Bhatti 41), Brown (McInally 41), Nel (Fagerson 41), Swinson (R Gray 52), J Gray, Barclay (capt), Watson, Wilson (Denton 66) Tries Brown, Barclay, Maitland, Hogg Cons Laidlaw 3 Pen Laidlaw Referee Pascal Gaüzère (Fr) Landmarks of the day Two big numbers for Sergio Parisse: a joint-record 65th appearance in the competiton and his 100th Test match defeat: the ﬁrst man to lose that many. 7 • 8 The Observer 18.03.18 Football FA Cup quarter-finals 11’ Swansea’s Kristoffer Nordfeldt is powerless to stop Christian Eriksen’s shot opening the scoring for Tottenham Eriksen launches Majestic midfielder picks off hosts with two long-range goals to steer commanding Spurs into the last four 0 3 SWANSEA TOTTENHAM Eriksen 11 62, Lamela 45 25% Possession 75% 2 Shots on Target 11 3 Total Attempts 25 Stuart James Liberty Stadium On days like this there is no need for Tottenham to worry about how they will cope without Harry Kane on the pitch. Christian Eriksen demonstrated why he is so much more than a member of the supporting cast as he scored another two splendid goals, taking his tally for the season to 11, to ease Spurs into the FA Cup semifinals at the expense of a Swansea City side that never turned up. It was that sort of afternoon for Spurs, who were as comfortable as it gets as they strolled into the last four of the FA Cup for the second year in succession. Eriksen accepted the freedom of the Liberty Stadium given to him by Swansea to score his seventh and eighth goals against the Welsh club in 10 matches – one would have thought they would have learned their lesson by now – and Érik Lamela effortlessly stroked home Tottenham’s second. In truth the margin of victory could easily have been wider, such was the chasm in quality. At times it was embarrassingly one-sided, with Swansea so passive and Spurs utterly dominant as they kept the ball for long periods and attacked with menace. Mauricio Pochettino’s side registered 24 attempts on goal compared with Swansea’s three, enjoyed 75% of possession and had the game wrapped up with the best part of half an hour remaining when Eriksen scored his second. The Dane was a joy to watch – he had another superb effort tipped on to the crossbar – and Swansea found themselves overwhelmed in midfield, unable to stem the tide of blue shirts that poured forward again and again. Lamela, playing behind Son Heungmin, also enjoyed himself as Spurs Manchester United v Brighton Full coverage and analysis of last night’s late kick-off at Old Trafford is online now at theguardian.com/football The draw for the semi-finals takes place today, after Leicester v Chelsea on BBC One (4.30pm KO) made the most of the space afforded to them by a severely depleted Swansea side. “I think we fully deserved the victory,” said Pochettino. “Christian and Lamela shined, of course. But I think the whole team was very good.” The only source of frustration for Pochettino was the use of VAR, which came into play when Son was flagged offside after scoring in the first half. Even after watching the incident again and again it was hard to call but the original decision was eventually allowed to stand. “It’s a nightmare,” Pochettino said. “I feel so sorry for the people trying to use that system. I think I prefer it when the ref and assistant make mistakes, rather than to wait three or four minutes for things.” While Spurs can now look forward to a semi-final at Wembley, their temporary home, next month, Swansea’s focus must return to the grind of the relegation battle and trying to preserve their Premier League status. This was only their third defeat in 17 games since Carlos Carvalhal was appointed manager but it was a chastening experience and with the exception of Alfie Mawson, who has just been called up to the England squad, it was hard to think of anyone who emerged with credit. Tammy Abraham, who started up front in place of the suspended Jordan Ayew, squandered a giltedged chance to pull a goal back within 60 seconds of the restart, when he headed straight at Michel Vorm from six yards out, and that moment felt symptomatic of his and Swansea’s afternoon. Spurs were already two goals to the good at that point, with Eriksen having opened the scoring in the 11th • The Observer 18.03.18 9 45’ JAVIER GARCIA/BPI/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK Erik Lamela curls home Tottenham’s second goal just before half-time after Swansea failed to close him down Antonio Conte believes his squad overachieved when winning last season’s title NICK POTTS/PA; ASHLEY CROWDEN/CAMERASPORT VIA GETTY IMAGES Spurs players congratulate Eriksen on his second goal, which put them 3-0 up. Four of his last six goals in all competitions have come from outside the area 62’ cruise ‘I am not disappointed. This has been a fantastic run for us and it has not created any harm. We lost to a quality team who played well’ ‘VAR is a nightmare. I prefer it when the ref and assistant make mistakes than to wait three or four minutes. It’s a massive problem’ Carlos Carvalhal Mauricio Pochettino minute. Swansea’s defending left much to be desired as they allowed Eriksen, after swapping passes with Lamela, to stride forward towards the edge of the penalty area without coming under any pressure. Yet there was still much to admire about the way the midfielder curled a lovely left-foot shot beyond Kristoffer Nordfeldt. Tottenham’s second goal was not dissimilar and this time it was Lamela who did the damage. Running on to a pass from Moussa Sissoko, the Argentinian skipped away from a half-hearted Tom Carroll challenge and, with Kyle Bartley backing off, coolly placed a low shot past the stranded Nordfeldt and into the bottom corner. Eric Dier’s long-range effort was expertly clawed behind by Nordfeldt after Abraham had missed that chance but the goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Eriksen from drilling home his second to turn Swansea’s first FA Cup quarterfinal since 1964 into a damp squib. “There came a storm today,” Carvalhal said. “But after a storm there will be good weather.” Swansea 5-4-1 Tottenham 4-2-3-1 Nordfeldt; Naughton (Narsingh ht), Van der Hoorn (Roberts 81), Bartley, Mawson, Olsson; Dyer (Routledge 86), Ki, Carroll, Clucas; Abraham Subs not used Mulder, Britton, Fernández, Byers Vorm; Trippier, Sánchez■, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Sissoko; Moura (Llorente 73), Lamela (Alli 81), Eriksen; Son Subs not used Lloris, Alderweireld, Dembélé, Foyth, Aurier Referee Kevin Friend Conte looks to FA Cup after European exit adds to rift with board Chelsea manager has indicated he will pick his strongest team for Leicester game Sachin Nakrani Antonio Conte has appeared to direct more thinly veiled criticism at Chelsea’s hierarchy when he claimed his team had found their level by being in a position where the FA Cup is the only trophy they can win this season. Chelsea take on Leicester in a quarter-final tie at the King Power Stadium this afternoon and Conte has indicated he will pick his strongest possible side as he looks for an immediate response to being eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona in midweek. The FA Cup has taken on particular importance for the Italian given his side also languish 25 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League and, with eight games remaining, stand no chance of retaining their status as champions. That is a deeply frustrating situation for Conte to find himself in, as he made clear when asked to assess the importance of winning the FA Cup. “A lot of times we compare good season, bad season, if you win something. You have to know which is our level now,” he said. “Last season we did a fantastic job. Also in this season we are doing a fantastic job. But you have to understand which is your position in this moment, which is your level.” Asked to explain what he meant by “our level”, Conte went on to claim that by winning the title last season, his players overachieved: “They performed 120%, maybe 130%.” This is not the first time he has done this during the current campaign and once again the inference was clear: the manager does not believe he has a squad capable of consistently winning major honours. Conte has made no secret of his displeasure with the club’s transfer dealings during the summer, leading to a severely strained relationship with Chelsea’s board and the widely held expectation that the 48-year-old will leave at the end of the season with 12 months of his £9m-ayear contract unfulfilled. Should that prove the case, Conte will no doubt want to sign off at Stamford Bridge with one more trophy to his name, although he was quick to insist winning the FA Cup would mean little to him on a personal level. “It’s not important if I add another trophy in my career. For me the most important thing is to work hard, to try to improve the club and the players,” he said. “I’m very satisfied for my job, for the work we’re doing. Me, the staff, my players. We’re doing a fantastic job, also in this season.” On a somewhat lighter note Conte was asked for his views on Lionel Messi having watched the player score twice against Chelsea at the Camp Nou on Wednesday and, in the immediate aftermath of the 3-0 defeat, describe him as a “super, super, super top player”. Did Conte feel there were any players in England who compared with the Argentinian? “Don’t joke,” he replied. “Not only in England but in history. Maybe only Maradona and Pelé [compare with Messi]. Players that can change the final result. “I marked Maradona when I played with Lecce. We lost 3-2 and I scored one goal. It was very difficult to mark him. When you played against these [type of] players, you had to mark man-to-man. “Before, football was totally different. Now you must be strong, fast, prepared physically. Talent is not enough to be a modern player. You can see when Messi goes for a tackle, he’s very strong. He’s not tall but he’s very strong. He’s fast.” • 10 The Observer 18.03.18 Football Premier League Defender James Tomkins (left) knocks home Crystal Palace’s opening goal against Huddersfield 0 HUDDERSFIELD 2 CRYSTAL PALACE Tomkins 23 Milivojevic 68pen 55% Possession 45% 2 Shots on Target 4 6 Total Attempts 16 Paul Doyle John Smith’s Stadium Snow swirled through the stadium but Crystal Palace departed with a warm glow. A first-half goal by James Tomkins followed by a second-half penalty by Luka Milivojevic lifted Roy Hodgson’s team out of the relegation zone and to within a point of Huddersfield, who had hoped to distance themselves from the squabbling near the bottom of the table but instead remain in the fray after an uncharacteristically tepid display. The only down side for Hodgson The bottom 10 Watford Brighton Newcastle Swansea Huddersfield Crystal Palace West Ham Southampton Stoke West Brom P W D L F A GD Pts 31 10 6 15 39 55 -16 36 30 8 10 12 28 40 -12 34 30 8 8 14 30 40 -10 32 30 8 7 15 25 42 -17 31 31 8 7 16 25 52 -27 31 31 7 9 15 30 48 -18 30 30 7 9 14 36 57 -21 30 30 5 13 12 29 44 -15 28 31 6 9 16 29 58 -29 27 31 3 11 17 24 49 -25 20 was that midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp was forced off with a twisted ankle in the 20th minute. Wilfried Zaha limped off one minute from time but the manager said that was because of “little knocks and a bit of fatigue” rather than anything more serious. That is a boon for Palace because Zaha performed with typical class on his first start after a five-week layoff. Palace travelled to west Yorkshire on the back of a seven-game winless streak but apparently full of confidence, the returns of Zaha and Mamadou Sakho, plus of substitutes Yohan Cabaye and Ruben LoftusCheek, giving them extra cause for optimism. Hodgson ordered his team to attack from the outset. Barely one minute had elapsed before a corner by Milivojevic provoked mayhem in the home box. Huddersfield scrambled it away but were less vigilant when Milivojevic delivered another in the 23rd minute. Steve Mounié’s attempt to clear at the near post amounted to nothing more than an embarrassing decoy that duped his own team-mates, allowing the ball to run through to Tomkins. Jonas Lössl made an instinctive close-range save from Tomkins’ first shot but was helpless to prevent the Palace defender from poking the rebound into the net. Palace had already threatened from open play, their fleet of tricky dribblers making constant mischief. Zaha, inevitably, was the peskiest. When he pounced on a loose ball in the 18th minute he slalomed between two opponents and dabbed a nice pass through to Christian Benteke, whose DAN WEIR/PPAUK/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK Milivojevic drags Huddersfield back into the dogfight Scrap for survival Palace started the season with what looked like a terminal seven-game losing run – and arrived at Huddersfield on a new run of seven games without a league win. But their vital victory means Roy Hodgson’s side have now won seven away league points in 2018 – one more than they managed in their previous 12 on the road last year. Palace’s form since their previous Premier League victory, two months ago: W 13 Jan Burnley L 20 Jan Arsenal D 30 Jan West Ham D 4 Feb Newcastle L 10 Feb Everton L 25 Feb Tottenham L 5 Mar Man United L 10 Mar Chelsea W 19 Mar Huddersfield 31 Mar Liverpool H A A H A H H A A H 1-0 1-4 1-1 1-1 1-3 0-1 2-3 1-2 2-0 12th 13th 13th 14th 15th 17th 18th 18th 16th shot brought a brilliant block from Christopher Schindler, who had earlier made a similar one to deflect a shot by Zaha over. David Wagner’s side began hunting an equaliser, but lacked precision. Palace’s centre-backs, Tomkins and Sakho, easily repelled a succession of hopeful crosses. Tom Ince made no progress against Palace’s impressive young rightback, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, before being replaced on the hour. By then Huddersfield still had not mustered a dangerous shot. They might have been two goals behind if Benteke had been awarded penalty after Mathias Jorgensen wrapped an arm around him in the box. Moments later Tomkins nearly scored again when another corner found its way to him via a weak header by Jorgensen. But this time Mounié rescued his team, booting his shot off the line. Mounié then came close to doubling the value of that block by scoring at the other end, but he flashed a snapshot just wide after a good cross by Florent Hadergjonaj. Palace secured the points in the 68th minute after Jorgensen sabotaged a counterattack by upending Andros Townsend. Miliovjevic sent Lössl the wrong way from the spot. “Credit to Palace, they deserved to win but we had a big part in that because we were below par,” admitted Wagner. “If you can put immediate pressure on them, then their speed is not a threat. But we did not do that.” Huddersfield 4-2-3-1 Crystal Palace x-x-x 4-1-4-1 Hennessey; WanLössl; Hadergjonaj, Bissaka■, Tomkins, Sakho, Jorgensen, Schindler■, Van Aanholt; Milivojevic; Malone (Löwe ht); Townsend, McArthur, Hogg■, Mooy■; Quaner, Schlupp (Cabaye■ 20), Pritchard (Kachunga 71), Zaha (Loftus-Cheek 88); Ince (van La Parra 60); Benteke Subs not used Mounié Cavalieri, Lee, FosuSubs not used Coleman, Mensah, Kelly, Riedewald Smith, Billing, Depoitre Referee Mike Dean Attendance 23,918 Stanislas stunner twists the knife on despairing Pardew 2 1 Ibe 77, Stanislas 89 Rodriguez 49 BOURNEMOUTH 60% WEST BROM Possession 40% 5 Shots on Target 5 17 Total Attempts 11 Ben Fisher Vitality Stadium Alan Pardew is doing his utmost to put on a brave face but the lastchance saloon he spoke of after this galling late defeat has already been and gone. West Brom have been resigned to it for a while but an eighth successive defeat was further shattering evidence that the club will be playing Championship football in August. After failing to see out what would have been a rare win, Pardew’s men are 10 points from safety with seven games remaining. A tendency for West Brom to undo their hard work has blighted them all season and did so again here as Ben Foster was caught cold by Jordon Ibe’s swerving effort on a biting afternoon on the south coast before Junior Stanislas’s postagestamp free-kick sealed victory two minutes from time. In reality squandering leads is only a small slice of a fairly miserable story. The manner of this defeat, after a spirited if unspectacular performance, left the Albion manager deflated. “I am under contract here for another three years and we have got to keep fighting,” said Pardew, who denied there is a release West Brom’s Kieran Gibbs reacts with dismay at the final whistle clause in his contract in the event of relegation. “I keep saying it to my players: we have got to keep showing pride in what you do, and I will keep doing that until such time I am told not to.” Pardew’s men have dropped 24 points from winning positions – more than any other team in the division – and sustained that miserable trend after Bournemouth rallied to ensure Jay Rodriguez’s opener, coming after smart work by Salomón Rondón, was worth nothing. Asked if his team have left themselves with too much to do, Pardew said: “If you look at our record since the start of the year, you would have to say yes but, of course, we have to keep battling on. It’s getting near last-chance saloon so we needed to get something today.” A comical first half punctuated by a couple of half-hearted penalty claims passed without any real incident but four minutes into the second half Rodriguez smashed home from close range. Bournemouth looked as though they were going to be punished for a lax display until they sprung into life when Ibe’s devious effort from distance eluded Foster down to his left. That goal set up a grandstand finale. When Craig Dawson felled Joshua King 25 yards from goal, Stanislas stepped up to sink Albion with a peach of a free-kick. An exasperated shake of the head by Pardew as Charlie Daniels hacked off the line from Matt Phillips with seconds left said it all. For Bournemouth, who now fly to Dubai for a training camp, this victory makes a fourth successive season in the top flight look ever more likely. “We had to dig very deep and it was the hardest way [to win] but I’ll take any way at this stage of the season,” said Eddie Howe. Bournemouth 4-2-3-1 Begovic; Francis (Daniels 17), S Cook, Aké, A Smith■ (Mousset 57); L Cook, Gosling; Stanislas, King, Ibe; Wilson (Defoe 73) Subs not used Boruc, Surman, Pugh, Fraser West Brom 5-3-2 Foster; Nyom, Dawson■, Evans (Phillips 77), Hegazi, Gibbs; Livermore■, Yacob, Brunt (Field 82); Rondón, Rodriguez (Robson-Kanu 86) Subs not used Myhill, McClean, Krychowiak, Burke Referee Graham Scott Attendance 23,918 • The Observer 18.03.18 Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson celebrate Liverpool’s second goal in their mauling of Watford 11 Ice-cool Egyptian continues his hot streak with a spectacular four-goal display that sends Klopp’s men steaming into third 5 0 LIVERPOOL WATFORD Salah 4 43 77 85, Firmino 49 58% Possession 42% 10 Shots on Target 1 13 Total Attempts 4 Chris Brereton Anfield This is getting ridiculous. Mohamed Salah scored four goals as Liverpool crushed Watford and the Egyptian must be the only person in the country who does not want this extended winter to ever end. The closer we get to the end of the season, the closer Salah gets to concluding a dreamlike campaign that is threatening to redefine what goalscoring means at Anfield. His four goals were all wonderful in their own way and Salah is simply unstoppable at the moment. In their bid to forget last weekend’s clumsy loss at Old Trafford, Liverpool could scarcely have asked for a more compliant opposition than Watford, a side that had lost seven of their past eight away fixtures in the Premier League. Javi Gracia has done a fine job since his appointment in January but Watford’s resurgence has been extremely home-centric, to say the least. Although the forthcoming Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City has eaten up a lot of attention at Anfield this Saturday Sundae Man of the day Roy Hodgson has led two late escapes in his career to date, at Fulham and West Brom. A third could be back on. Setback of the day Alan Pardew revealed on Friday how he had held “clear-the-air talks” with West Brom’s owners, “and I’m still here, in a job”. Time for more talks. past few days, Jürgen Klopp was insistent ahead of this contest that Watford were the priority and that the City game could take care of itself for the time being. They were wise, watchful words and his team, in particular Salah, certainly heeded them early on. This occasion was played in the sort of conditions that made a mockery of the calendar: a freezing occasion with a breeze that bit to the bone. Yet Liverpool’s fans did not have to wait long to warm up. There was barely three minutes on the clock when Salah’s 34th goal of the campaign cut Watford to shreds. Salah’s season mirabilis began with a goal against Watford on the opening day and it continued with stunning aplomb here as he latched on to a ball from Sadio Mané, bamboozled Miguel Britos, who eventually fell over, and calmly threaded past Orestis Karnezis. The goal meant Watford’s parsimonious gameplan lay in tatters. Yet they did then manage to keep Liverpool relatively quiet for most of the first half, although Roberto Firmino was denied one of the goals of the season when his 20-yard shot was superbly stopped by Karnezis. In the build-up Mané and Salah had combined beautifully to take Liverpool the length of the pitch before Salah’s cross found Firmino, who wrongfooted his marker with one touch but failed to beat the Watford keeper. It was, though, further evidence of Liverpool’s attacking joie de vivre, something demonstrated again by yet another Salah goal just before the interval. Again, Liverpool attacked from nowhere and in a heartbeat, and when the effervescent Andy LEE SMITH/REUTERS Sublime Salah Robertson delivered a pinpoint cross to Salah in the middle of the six-yard box, the Egyptian could not miss. The most frightening thing for opposition defences must be how easy Salah is making the game look at the moment. There’s not a hair out of place or a bead of perspiration to be seen – he is currently playing with the childlike ease of the truly talented. That continued after the restart as Liverpool’s attacking prowess moved from industrious Humour of the day Impact of the day Spurs fans, going with: “Spurs are on their way to Wembley” at Swansea. Everton’s January signing Cenk Tosun – becoming the ﬁrst Turkish player to score two in a Premier League game since Tuncay Sanli in 2008. @Turkish_ Futbol1: “Can he score on a cold, snowy day in Stoke? YES HE CAN!” Update of the day 14 Mar: Charlie Adam says the Stoke squad need to step up. “We have to take responsibility as a group of players.” 17 Mar: Adam weighs up the blizzard conditions, jumps in two-footed and sees red after 30 minutes. to inspirational, never more so than when Firmino wonderfully backheeled in a cross from close range to make it 3-0 straight after the break. And who provided the cross? It seems academic to even ask. Salah is the answer to virtually every question at the moment. Here his difficult afternoon in Manchester last weekend was almost entirely expunged from the memory. Watford, despite the three-goal deficit, did not give up and Roberto Pereyra curled a sent oﬀ: “It is beyond inadmissible. This club feels bruised and ashamed.” Expletives of the day Blackburn fans, going 530 miles for no reason. Their game at Gillingham was called oﬀ due to “health and safety”, which went down well on Twitter. Regret of the day Came in a statement from Auxerre, reacting to Friday night’s Bowyer/ Dyer tribute act by two of their players – Pierre-Yves Polomat and Michaël Barreto trading punches before being Final flourish of the day Was a 99th-minute penalty at Notts County. Mansﬁeld scored, making it 1-1. Town manager David Flitcroft: “We one million percent deserved it.” free-kick onto Liverpool’s crossbar after 52 minutes to suggest their spirit was undimmed. The horrendous conditions then played their part as the second half began to flatten out but even that will have pleased Klopp. There were few of the defensive wobbles here that have so often punctured his side’s self-belief and little complacency was to be found. It was, in essence, brutally professional Salah was still not finished. He added another 13 minutes from the end, somehow managing to score while falling over, and his fourth, thrashed into the roof of the net from 10 yards out at the Kop end, was just as strong a finish. He flashed a big grin as the acclaim rained down. It is a sound he is getting used to. Liverpool 4-3-3 Watford 4-5-1 Karius; Gomez■, Van Dijk, Karnezis; Femenía, Matip, Robertson; Mariappa, Prödl, Britos Henderson, Can (Milner (Janmaat 81); Holebas, 27), Wijnaldum (OxladePereyra, Doucouré, Chamberlain 71); Salah, Capoue, Richarlison Firmino (Ings 79), Mané (Hughes 65); Deeney (Okaka 70) Subs not used Mignolet, Subs not used Gomes, Klavan, Moreno, Alexander-Arnold Cathcart, Carrillo, Gray Referee Anthony Taylor Attendance 52,287 • Football ED SYKES /ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS 12 The Observer 18.03.18 Charlie Adam slides in on Wayne Rooney – a tackle that led to his dismissal Clinical Tosun warms up Everton as Lambert finds nothing but cold comfort 1 2 Choupo-Moting 77 Tosun 69, 84 STOKE 43% EVERTON Possession 57% 4 Shots on Target 8 9 Total Attempts 17 Paul MacInnes Bet365 Stadium To the list of times and weather conditions under which foreign pros should be tested at Stoke, add “Saturday afternoon” and “blizzard”. Everton’s Cenk Tosun met the challenge here, claiming a second-half brace to earn victory for the visitors in a tempest of snow. Stoke’s prospects of avoiding relegation worsened with the weather and they will feel aggrieved at this defeat. The Potters had Charlie Adam sent off in the first half during treacherous conditions. They also fought their way back into the match from one down, with Tosun’s opener itself prompting suspicions of offside. But a diving header from the Turkish international in the 84th minute proved the game’s decisive action. Adam was sent off for the fourth time in the Premier League after sliding in on Wayne Rooney on the half-hour. The contact was not great but the tackle, especially given the surface, looked reckless. Paul Lambert accepted the decision after the match but railed against the lack of an intervention in Everton’s opener. “I can understand why Martin Atkinson has given it‚” he said. “If you’re going in with studs in the modern game, you put yourself in a position. So I can understand that. But their first goal is offside. The linesman’s got to see that. How he’s missed that I don’t know.” For Sam Allardyce there was no doubt about the red card: “It looked dangerous‚” he said. But with Everton recording their first away victory in the league for three months, Allardyce was happy to concentrate on more positive aspects of the match, such as the performance of Tosun, his £27m January recruit from Beşiktaş. “It’s because of the quality of our frontman that we’ve won the game”, Allardyce said. “He’s adapting much quicker than lots of front men who come to the Premier League from abroad. He’s got the whole array of finishing in his locker; right foot, left foot, head. It also looks like he’s got the knack of being in the right place at the right time, which you can’t coach.” Stoke looked as if they had stabilised after losing Adam, and Everton as if the match was passing them by until Tosun scored his third goal in as many games in the 69th minute. He looked offside in the first movement on a Rooney set-piece, his header then turned away by Jack Butland. Dominic Calvert-Lewin drove the ball back in again, however, and when Butland parried once more, Tosun forced home the rebound. Lambert responded by going on the attack, bringing on Saido Berahino alongside Peter Crouch and replacing Ramadan Sobhi with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The changes paid off quickly as Stoke equalised from their own set piece, Joe Allen swinging the ball to the back post, where ChoupoMoting bundled home. Choupo-Moting was immediately forced off with a groin injury which he sustained as he scored, and five minutes later Everton won the match. Theo Walcott had time to shape a cross to the penalty spot and Tosun buried it with a diving header. Stoke face Arsenal and Tottenham next, with a gap of three points between themselves and safety. “The effort and commitment was spot on from the players‚” Lambert said. “But it was a game that we lost and they’re certainly down in the dressing room.” Stoke 4-2-3-1 Everton 4-3-3 Butland; Johnson, Pickford; Coleman, Shawcross, Zouma, Keane, Jagielka■, Baines; Staflydis; Adam■, N’Diaye Davies (Calvert-Lewin 53), (Berahino 76); Shaqiri, Gueye, Rooney Allen, Sobhi (Schneiderlin 87); Walcott, (Choupo-Moting 72; Bolasie (Holgate 90), Tosun Jesé 79); Crouch Subs not used Robles, Martina, Niasse, Klaassen Subs not used Haugaard, Bauer, Martins Indi, Fletcher Referee Martin Atkinson Attendance 30,022 ‘I will never understand Fifa – it was 14 seconds’ Adrien Silva has put a bleak chapter behind him and wants to topple the club that tried to lure him as a teenager, he tells Stuart James Leicester v Chelsea Today, 4.30pm, BBC1 A drien Silva is recalling when he was banned from playing after a Premier League club tried to sign him, only this episode has nothing to do with Leicester City and the deadline-day saga that ended with an international footballer running round a field to keep fit between talking to lawyers. Silva is rowing back to 2005 instead, when he was 15 and José Mourinho tried to talk him into joining Chelsea along with two other young Sporting Lisbon players. “It was a very strange moment and I was so young,” Silva says. “To have this club approach me, especially when Mourinho comes to talk to you … at this time, we didn’t know why he came. But when the club wants something, they do everything. He came to see me in Portugal and we went there, to Chelsea, to see the training ground. Then we came back and it was a big, big situation with Sporting.” Sporting were furious and, as well as making a complaint to Fifa about Chelsea, refused to allow Silva to train and play for them for two months. The other teenagers, Fábio Ferreira and Ricardo Fernandes, joined Chelsea and were both released four years later without playing a game. Silva, however, spoke to his parents and chose a different path, harbouring concerns that Chelsea “wanted to win now and not wait for young players”. That he went on to make 241 appearances for Sporting and become a Portugal international suggests he made the right call. “Thanks to God,” says Silva, smiling. It is a timely story on the eve of today’s FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea but all the more so in the context of what happened last year, when Silva faced another enforced absence, after Fifa rejected Leicester’s application to register the midfielder because his £22m move from Sporting had missed the transfer deadline by 14 seconds. Barred from playing until January and initially prevented from training with the Premier League club, Silva spent six weeks living with his agent at the Marriott hotel in Leicester, where they exhausted every avenue, including taking his case to the court of arbitration for sport, to try to overturn a ruling that left him angry and upset. “I had some injuries in my career but then you know why you don’t play and that’s part of football, so you can accept it,” Silva says. “But this situation wasn’t correct. It wasn’t correct because I was able to play physically and I didn’t do anything wrong to make this situation. I will never understand the decision of Fifa – even after Leicester had tried everything to change it. There is no protection for the players in this situation. The players are the most important, so why don’t [Fifa] think about that and make some exception? OK, if it is so many hours [after the deadline], but we’re talking about seconds here. So I think it was a very poor decision.” This is Silva’s first national newspaper interview since joining Leicester and one of the things that comes across during an enjoyable hour in his company is that he was just as confused as everyone else when the window closed. Told that the media did not know for a while whether he was a Leicester or a Sporting player, Silva shakes his head, grins and replies: “Me neither.” Adrien Silva was forced to train alone in a field while he appealed against Fifa’s decision to decline his registration following a deadline-day move to Leicester FABIO DE PAOLA/OBSERVER • The Observer 18.03.18 think about it, it was the worst moment for this to happen.” In the end Silva decided he needed to have a joke at his own expense, to keep his spirits up if nothing else. When Leicester asked what shirt number he wanted, it was the perfect opportunity. “I was talking with my agent, Pedro, who was here with me for a month and a half at the hotel, supporting me every day – my wife and children couldn’t come because I didn’t have a home – and I said: ‘We have to play with this situation. Why not No 14?’” The long-awaited debut, wearing that number, arrived on 1 January – Craig Shakespeare, the manager who signed him, had departed two months earlier – and Silva was given a rapturous reception as he came off the bench. “So many things were going through my mind,” he says. “But the main thought was: just play football. It’s my passion and it’s such a simple thing to do. But that day I felt like I wanted to eat the field!” Silva breaks into laughter after making that last remark and it feels good to see him in a much happier place. On the pitch, he admits, he is still striving to get to his best but life is coming together in other respects. Margarida, his wife, gave birth to a baby girl last Sunday and four days later Silva celebrated his 29th birthday with a recall to the Portugal squad. Margarida, Silva says, was a huge support to him throughout her pregnancy – he smiles as he checks that the word “hormonal” is correct in English – and he wants to express his gratitude to the rest of his family as well as a couple of players. “Matty James and Andy King – they helped me in every way. They kept pushing me when some days I was down. So they have been very good friends during those months.” Sporting thanked Silva for his services by inviting him back to the stadium in October for a special tribute to a player who joined them at the age of 12, when he moved 400km away from his family in a country where he was still learning the language after growing up in France. “All those years came into my mind so it was very emotional,” says Silva, who was in tears on the pitch. “Sporting made me into a player but they also made me into a man, and they will always have a special place in my heart.” It has obviously been a tough time for Silva and it is hardly surprising to hear him say that the deadlineday mix-up was the worst moment of his career. Yet he also sounds full of positivity as he looks to the future and pictures a perfect finale to the season. “I hope we can get past Chelsea and reach the FA Cup final,” Silva says, smiling. “And to go to the World Cup after, that would be the best way for it to end for me.” ‘Mourinho came to see me in Portugal and I went to see Chelsea’s training ground. It was a big, big situation’ Adrien Silva Sporting, however, appeared keen to provide some clarity. Within days Bruno de Carvalho, Sporting’s president, said: “The transfer of Adrien is already completed. Hopefully Leicester find a solution for him.” Those comments gave the impression that Sporting were washing their hands of any potential problems and, with that in mind, it is interesting to know whether Silva felt any frustration with how his former club acted. “Not with Sporting. With the president. And that’s different,” Silva says. “He tried, I think, to protect his club. But in football it’s more important when you represent a club to protect the human or the player.” For all his annoyance with Fifa Silva admits to fearing the worst as soon as the window closed. “But after Leicester and my lawyers told me that we could make an appeal, I got my hopes up and I tried to keep my head right,” he explains. “I trained alone at the gym and on a field to try to keep my physical condition because I wasn’t allowed to train with the team.” Establishing exactly why he found himself in this position is not easy, other than to say that negotiations were extremely complicated, with Silva making many concessions to Sporting in order to get the deal done. Leicester were committed to completing the transfer come what may and always maintained that the paperwork was uploaded on time, yet Fifa argued otherwise and refused to allow Silva to fast-track Silva’s limbo How Portugal midﬁelder’s move to England unfolded: 31 Aug 2017 On deadline day, Leicester open talks with Sporting Lisbon, and announce a deal in the early hours, “subject to clearance”. 5 Sep Fifa reveal City missed the deadline by 14 seconds. Sporting tell Fifa to “show some common sense”, and urge City to pay the money. 4 Oct Leicester’s appeal is rejected, leaving Silva in limbo. 1 Jan The move is ﬁnally sanctioned by Fifa – and Silva makes his full debut at Fleetwood in the FA Cup. his appeal through Cas. So who, ultimately, is responsible? “We still don’t know,” Silva replies. “For me, I think Fifa the most. But I’m not worried about it now.” There was one thought that troubled him more than any other as the fiasco rumbled on. Silva loves representing his country and was part of the Portugal team that defeated France to win Euro 2016. Suddenly he could see a World Cup on the horizon and his place in the squad in jeopardy. “Every day that was on my mind,” he says. “And that makes it worse. When I 13 • 14 The Observer 18.03.18 Football Southgate champions spirited Livermore Commitment shown by midfielder is what England will need in Russia, says manager Paul Wilson Paul Cook would trade promotion from League One for a place in the FA Cup final CRAIG GALLOWAY/PROSPORTS/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK Wigan running on Cook’s perks Manager says his love has helped forge the spirit that has driven their FA Cup run Paul Wilson Wigan are on an old-fashioned Cup run and Paul Cook will cheerfully admit to being an old-fashioned manager. He believes in the FA Cup for a start, as might be surmised from the fact his League One side will today be attempting to knock a fourth Premier League side out of the competition. Possibly distracted by the scale of their achievement against Manchester City in the last round, Wigan’s promotion push has suffered a wobble, though a first win in three games at Bradford in midweek calmed a few nerves. Cook, confronted before today’s game against Southampton with the old chestnut about whether he would choose promotion over a Wembley semi-final, unhesitatingly opted for promotion. Then he thought about it a little more. “I might not say that if you were talking about the FA Cup final. Offer me that choice and I don’t think I’d be able to turn it down.” Disarmingly frank, Cook is the first to admit Wigan were lucky to find themselves playing 10 men against City, just as they had been in the previous round when West Ham had a player sent off. Yet on both occasions Wigan’s remarkable team spirit was what ultimately saw them through. “If you ask me, team spirit is an undervalued commodity in football,” he says. “You want a group of lads who will go the extra yard for each other, and that’s what we have here.” That sounds straightforward enough, perhaps even a little glib, yet apart from the £1m Will Grigg the Wigan side who beat the richest club in the country were composed of mostly free transfers, a couple of loans and two players, Max Power and Gavin Massey, picked up when Tranmere and Leyton Orient slipped out of the league. Is some secret alchemy at work? How does Cook go about forging unbreakable spirit from such ostensibly unpromising raw material? “You need to build it up over time but it is essentially a two-way thing,” Wigan v Southampton Today, 1.30pm, BBC One Shock specialists Wigan have knocked out three Premier League sides so far. The last team from outside the top flight to eliminate four in a season were West Ham in 1979-80, with John Lyall’s men winning the Cup that year. Since their relegation in 2013 Wigan have won six FA Cup ties against Premier League clubs – double the total of any other non-Premier League club in that time. Those six eliminations make up 22% (six of 27) of the total shocks against top-flight clubs since 2013-14. Cook says. “Lads need to feel your love when they really need it, and now and again managers turn to players because they really need them.” Being old-fashioned, Cook finds himself at odds with the new impatience in football, not to mention the former players and pundits whose sneering comments put managers under more pressure. “Pundits find it so easy to lay into people who are doing their best,” he says. “I think it is the saddest thing in the game. Supporters should back their team but the modern-day culture is to boo your side off at half-time. Why? That’s when you need support the most. The last time I was in a crowd as a spectator I couldn’t believe the anger that was being expressed. There is so much negativity nowadays and I find that strange.” There is not much that has been negative about Wigan’s season, apart from the fact Blackburn and Shrewsbury are keeping up the promotion pressure. Southampton will turn up with a new manager in Mark Hughes but Wigan are the settled side and Grigg remains on fire. “Will’s an instinctive scorer, play him in any team that creates chances and he’ll put them away,” Cook says. “There was no food on the table for him against City, he was isolated as we were getting deeper and deeper but he got one chance and he did what the best strikers do.” Since that result Wigan have managed to lose their underdog tag, some even seem to believe they have a better than 50-50 chance against relegation-threatened Southampton, though Cook does not see it quite like that. “We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. We are a League One side playing Premier League opponents. I had a text from a mate who said he couldn’t make the game but he’d be there for the semi-final. I just looked at it. “Wembley is an unbelievable incentive, to take a League One side to the semi would really be something but come on. We are not there yet, not even favourites to get there.” When Gareth Southgate named his first England squad of this World Cup year for the forthcoming friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy there were a few surprise omissions – Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Danny Drinkwater among them – but the inclusion that stood out was that of Jake Livermore. The midfielder has not been enjoying the best of seasons at West Brom, where he has not always been a regular starter. Yet Southgate is the loyal type, perfectly willing to defend his decision in a way that reveals a lot about his thought processes for Russia this summer. “Jake has been having a tough time at his club but it is very straightforward for me,” the England manager said. “We’ve played Jake in several matches and he’s done a job for the team. In November we left him out and he was just about to board a plane for a holiday when we called him back at the last moment, because we had had a few withdrawals. He left his family at the airport, came to join us and did really well against Brazil and Germany. I think that has to carry some weight when you are building the spirit and culture around your team. “That doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to go to Russia in the summer, but I think it justifies him staying in our squad. We are looking to build a spirit, a togetherness, and I think that sort of example of sacrifice is important. I understand why there might be a bit of reaction to picking Jake but there is a specific reason why we have done it this time.” National team managers always have trouble with injuries and withdrawals, it goes with the territory, though Southgate believes the fringe players who are often the ones messed around need to show the England’s schedule Gareth Southgate’s side face four friendlies before they head to their World Cup base – the 107-room ForRestMix club in the village of Repino, 19 miles outside St Petersburg. Friendlies Friday 27 Mar 2 June 7 June Netherlands Italy Nigeria Costa Rica A 7.45pm H 8pm H 5.15pm H 8pm ITV ITV ITV ITV World Cup Group G 18 June Tunisia Volgograd 7pm BBC 24 June Panama Nizhny Novgorod 1pm BBC 28 June Belgium Kaliningrad 7pm ITV mental toughness to stay positive. “There is an important message to send to the group that if you are disappointed at being left out there might be an opportunity to come back in,” he explained. “If you respond in the right way, who knows what might happen? “When I went to the World Cup in 2002 Trevor Sinclair was a standby player. He wasn’t even first choice, he was the second standby. Danny Murphy was initially called in ahead of him but then Danny got injured. Trevor had returned to England but he flew back to Japan and he ended up playing in the match against Argentina. So it’s a message to everyone in the group as much as to Jake. Stay positive.” Southgate himself is trying to stay positive about a tournament currently in danger of being overshadowed by strained diplomatic relations, though he still intends to have his family come to visit when England are in Russia. “That is the plan at the moment, but we are like everyone else, we will have to see what the advice is and if things change,” he said. “Russia is culturally an incredible country to visit, so I would like them to have that experience, and to go to a World Cup as well.” Jake Livermore remains in the England squad despite his indifferent club form • Football Europe Emmanuel Adebayor has a dozen league goals this season for Basaksehir There was plenty to recognise when, on 2 August, Istanbul Basaksehir beat Club Brugge 2-0 to qualify for the Champions League play-off round. The first goal came when Emmanuel Adebayor, meeting a cross from his erstwhile Arsenal team-mate Gaël Clichy, powered in a header and there were other familiar faces on hand to celebrate. Emre Belozoglu, now 37, was patrolling the midfield that day; Gökhan Inler watched from the bench; and the home side’s former Premier League sextet was completed by Kerim Frei and Eljero Elia. Between them they could recount a passable history of the English top flight post-2005 but their present engagement involves shaping Turkey’s football future. Should Istanbul Basaksehir conclude a potentially decisive derby weekend by defeating Besiktas at home this afternoon, they will reinvigorate Bundesliga Frankfurt stay on track after Ginter denies Hoffenheim European tables and results their bid to win the title just four years after assuming their present identity. They are little-known outside Turkey and hardly popular within it but their aim is to become a global force and succeed where the country’s more established powers have largely failed. “It’s happened a bit more quickly than we expected,” the board member Mustafa Erogut tells the Observer. “But when we have this momentum, we just want to keep it up. If we had won the league last season it would have been very surprising. This year it would not be; expectations have changed and, from being underdogs, we’re now one of the four title favourites.” The other three are, of course, Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. Last season only the first of these could outdo Istanbul Basaksehir, who were runners-up after twice coming fourth. The figures are impressive, although the club has not quite arrived from thin air. Their previous incarnation was Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor, who were municipally owned and achieved moderate success after being formed in 1990. They had a tiny fanbase who, for some years, rattled around the 76,000 Ataturk Stadium; by 2014 they were viewed as a waste of taxpayers’ money and, after flirting with extinction, were re-formed in the modern suburb of Basaksehir. A new eight-strong board took control and looked to sidestep the issues experienced by their ABDULLAH COSKUN/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES Istanbul uprising Basaksehir have few fans and even less history but are muscling in on Turkey’s big three, writes Nick Ames The Observer 18.03.18 rivals. “The biggest difference is that we are a joint-stock company, an ownership model like that of Premier League clubs,” Erogut says. “Other big clubs here are foundation models, supporterowned. But our management makes it easier to take fast decisions and make long-term plans, because you don’t deal with elections. We are a new club; the others have 100 years of history, massive fanbases, big media power. It is good to be competing with them.” They trail second-placed Besiktas only on goal difference and, after Fenerbahce in fourth drew 0-0 yesterday at home to the leaders, Galatasaray, can cut the gap at the top to one point. Before a tail-off over the last month, they were leading. The battle for fans is less of a contest; numbers inside their Fatih Terim Stadium still average around 6,000. That is nothing compared to the backing their peers command but they are counting on a new generation to catch the bug. “It isn’t easy as they get their football heritage from their fathers, uncles and grandfathers,” Erogut says. “But we are investing in them. Hoffenheim’s European aspirations took a late hit after Borussia Mönchengladbach came from behind three times to earn a 3-3 draw with a stoppage-time goal from Matthias Ginter (left). The visitors looked set to take all the points and move into the top six after taking the lead three times through Benjamini Hubner, Andrej Kramaric and Florian Grillitsch – Josip Drmic and Lars Stindl replying for the hosts. But Ginter popped up at the far post to turn in Raffael’s cross and earn a point. Eintracht Frankfurt kept their Champions League hopes on track with a 3-0 win over Mainz. Kevin-Prince Boateng put the hosts ahead after six minutes before Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic wrapped up the points before half-time, to move Frankfurt up to fourth. Hamburg remain seven points adrift of safety after Hertha Berlin scored two second-half goals through Valentino Lazaro and Salomon Kalou, to win 2-1. Douglas Santos had given Hamburg the lead after 25 minutes. A brace from Ishak Belfodil helped Werder Bremen to a 3-1 victory at Augsburg to alleviate their relegation fears. PA Spain Zaza strikes to keep Valencia flying high La Liga Serie A Bundesliga Top eight Barcelona Atlético Madrid Valencia Real Madrid Sevilla Villarreal Girona Real Betis P 28 28 29 28 28 28 28 28 W 22 19 18 17 14 13 12 12 D L F A 6 0 72 13 7 2 48 12 5 6 57 31 6 5 67 30 3 11 36 42 5 10 38 32 7 9 40 36 4 12 46 53 GD +59 +36 +26 +37 -6 +6 +4 -7 Pts 72 64 59 57 45 44 43 40 Deportivo La Coruña 1 Las Palmas 1, Valencia 3 Alavés 1, Real Sociedad L Getafe L, Real Betis L Espanyol L Top nine Juventus Napoli Roma Lazio Internazionale Milan Sampdoria Atalanta Fiorentina P 28 28 28 28 27 27 27 27 27 W D 24 2 22 4 17 5 16 5 14 10 14 5 13 5 11 8 10 8 L 2 2 6 7 3 8 9 8 9 Udinese L Sassuolo L, Spal L Juventus L F 67 62 47 66 42 38 47 38 36 A 15 19 23 36 21 30 38 31 32 GD +52 +43 +24 +30 +21 +8 +9 +7 +4 Pts 74 70 56 53 52 47 44 41 38 Top seven Bayern Munich Schalke Borussia Dortmund Eintracht Frankfurt Bayer Leverkusen RB Leipzig Hoffenheim P 26 26 26 27 26 26 27 15 We go to high schools, invite them here for stadium tours, and we are in a good way. But we need to wait six or seven years for these young kids to be diehard supporters.” The idea is for players such as Adebayor, Clichy and the January loan signing Arda Turan to work alongside academy-raised products who will arise under the tuition of the long-serving manager Abdullah Avci. The club has no debts and stresses its financial model – bolstered by European appearances, which eventually brought Europa League group stage football this season – is sustainable. It is an attractive package, perhaps more so given the corruption scandals that have engulfed other clubs, but suspicion still prevails in some quarters. A common charge is that Istanbul Basaksehir are favoured by the government, a perception reinforced when Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current Turkish president and a former mayor of Istanbul, played in the first match at the Fatih Terim Stadium. “He’s only been to one of our games this season, in the Champions League qualifiers,” Erogut says. “He goes to other games as well – Fenerbahce games, Besiktas games. I know he likes us but he’s a Fenerbahce fan from childhood.” The club would rather help themselves and Erogut says that, to continue their rise, foreign investment will be necessary. “There is some interest from the far east but it’s not been completed yet,” he says. “But maybe we will be the first club in the country to have this kind of investment. It would be a good benchmark for Turkey. We started like a local team, then we became a nationally known team, now we’re becoming an international team and for the last level we need to become a global team.” In November, an Adebayor hat-trick helped Istanbul Basaksehir beat Galatasaray 5-1. Anything close to a repeat could edge their ambitions closer to reality. Valencia consolidated their topfour position in La Liga with a 3-1 victory over Alavés. Rodrigo and Simone Zaza (left) gave Marcelino García Toral’s side a 2-0 half-time lead, and though Rubén Sobrino pulled one back for Alavés early in the second half, a Victor Laguardia own goal made the points safe. At the foot of the table Deportivo La Coruña and Las Palmas did little to help their survival chances with a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Riazor. Alen Halilovic gave Las Palmas the lead in the third minute but Raúl Albentosa equalised midway through the first half. Ligue 1 W 21 13 12 13 12 11 10 D 3 7 9 6 8 7 9 L 2 6 5 8 6 8 8 F 65 40 53 38 47 38 46 A 18 30 33 30 33 34 41 GD +47 +10 +20 +8 +14 +4 +5 Pts 66 46 45 45 44 40 39 Augsburg 1 Werder Bremen 3, Borussia Mönchengladbach 3 Hoffenheim 3, Eintracht Frankfurt 3 Mainz 0, Hamburg 1 Hertha Berlin 2, Wolfsburg L Schalke L Top eight PSG Monaco Marseille Lyon Rennes Nantes Nice Montpellier P 30 30 29 29 30 29 29 29 W D L F A 26 2 2 93 20 20 6 4 74 32 17 8 4 59 34 15 9 5 59 34 13 6 11 39 36 12 7 10 29 29 12 6 11 39 41 9 14 6 26 23 GD +73 +42 +25 +25 +3 0 -2 +3 Pts 80 66 59 54 45 43 42 41 Bordeaux 0 Rennes 2, Amiens L Troyes L, Angers L Caen L, Montpellier L Dijon L, Toulouse L Strasbourg L • Football Sky Bet Championship RICHARD LEE/BPI/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK 16 The Observer 18.03.18 Sunderland fans make for the exits after their side concede the second goal to Preston, with half an hour still to play Coleman rues familiar failings as Preston push on 0 SUNDERLAND 2 PRESTON Maguire 50, Robinson 63 37% Possession 63% 4 Shots on Target 4 7 Total Attempts 12 Preston remain right in the thick of a battle for a play-off place in the Championship after recording a 2-0 win that has pushed Sunderland closer to the drop. Sean Maguire put Alex Neil’s team on track with his seventh goal in as many matches five minutes after the break. Then, after Sunderland defender Jake Clarke-Salter was sent off, Callum Robinson headed in Preston’s second in the 63rd minute. Sunderland, whose fans booed after witnessing another positive start come to nothing, could not find a way back and relegation to League One looks on the cards. Sunderland started brightly, with teenagers Joel Asoro and Josh Maja lively in attack. Ovie Ejaria, on loan from Liverpool, played a lovely ball in behind the defence and there was just enough weight on it for Asoro to control. His first touch took him away from goal but his shot was turned behind by Chris Maxwell. At the other end, Tom Barkhuizen, who caused problems down the right throughout, was played in by Robinson, only for goalkeeper Lee Camp to stop his effort. But Preston soon took control after the restart when Sunderland’s defensive weaknesses were exposed once again. After Lee Cattermole conceded a free-kick deep in his own half, Paul Gallagher delivered a cross for Maguire to head in at the back post. Things soon got even worse. Clarke-Salter, cautioned in the first half, was sent off for pulling back Alan Brown on the hour, just before Preston doubled their lead. Barkhuizen’s delivery to the back post was ideal for Robinson to head in. The Sunderland fans started to depart early, while those that stayed greeted the final whistle with boos. The Sunderland manager, Chris Coleman (below), said: “There’s nothing new I can tell you. Same mistakes, same theme. I keep saying the same things every week. First 45 minutes were OK but after that we give away a ridiculous goal, the kind of goal that we don’t get from opposition. We work on set plays but we don’t mark and you get punished. “We’re only one win away from changing it round but you’d write us off because we keep making mistakes and we’re not rising to the challenge. We change formation and personnel but we don’t seem to be hitting the mark.” “I’m very pleased, our main aim was to come and try to win the game,” said Neil, whose side are only two points outside the top six. “The only frustration is that it could and should have been a bigger winning margin. Both sets of players deserve credit because the conditions were so testing but we PA played very well.” Sunderland Preston Maxwell, Fisher, Camp, Matthews, Koné, Huntington, Davies, Earl■, O’Shea, Clarke-Salter■, Pearson, Gallagher Oviedo, Honeyman (Lua (Johnson 72), Barkhuizen Lua 69), Cattermole, Ejaria (Bodin 86), Browne, (McNair 76), Asoro, Maja Robinson (Harrop 86), (Fletcher 64) Maguire Subs not used Subs not used Clarke, McManaman, McGeady, Woods, Moult, Hudson Robson, Stryjek Referee Darren Bond Attendance 28,453 2 2 1 2 3 1 Jota 12 59, Adams 48 Cairney 32, Piazon 45 Luongo 45, Wszolek 81 Grot 86 Nuhiu 71 90 Costa 15, Afobe 41 56 Dyer 44 Birmingham ended their run of seven successive defeats with a 3-0 win over Hull to spark off their bid to avoid relegation. It was sweet revenge for the humiliating 6-1 defeat they suffered at the hands of Hull earlier this season and was their first win under Garry Monk. Birmingham were impressive winners as they chalked up their best victory of the season, Jota’s first two goals at St Andrew’s sandwiching a Che Adams cross which sailed straight in. Birmingham, who remain in the bottom three, could have recorded an even more clear-cut victory but for the brilliance of the goalkeeper, Allan McGregor, who produced a string of excellent saves. Slavisa Jokanovic admitted he drew little satisfaction from his Fulham side’s success in setting a new club record of 16 unbeaten league games after a 2-2 home draw with QPR. Jokanovic’s side allowed a twogoal lead to slip from their grasp, blowing the chance to make inroads on the top two. Tom Cairney gave Fulham the lead and Lucas Piazon made it two before QPR’s Massimo Luongo pulled one back in first-half added time. Fulham were then guilty of a succession of errors in the second half, with Pawel Wszolek equalising in the 81st minute. “We cannot be satisfied,” the Fulham manager said. “I am not here to fight for records. I am here to win the games.” BIRMINGHAM 0 HULL Withdrawals hit Giggs’s first squad Ryan Giggs has lost four players from his Wales squad for the China Cup, including the Chelsea teenager Ethan Ampadu. Neil Taylor, Tom Lawrence and Joe Ledley have also dropped out of the 26-man squad Giggs named, while the Sunderland defender Adam Matthews has been drafted in. No reasons were given for the withdrawal of the quartet but the 17-year-old midfielder Ampadu – who made his international debut against France in November – was forced off during the final minutes of Chelsea’s 4-2 Uefa Youth League win at Real Madrid last week. The bulk of the Wales squad is due to travel to China tonight, with the Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale among those leaving on Monday after playing this weekend. Wales will play the hosts China in the first game of the four-team tournament in Nanning on Thursday, then either the Czech Republic or Uruguay in a third-place game or PA final the following Monday. Fans call for price cap Liverpool supporters’ groups have urged club officials, and their Manchester City counterparts, to cap away ticket prices at £30 for next month’s Champions League quarter-final. Having faced inflated costs in their group game at Sevilla and the last-16 tie in Porto, the Spirit Of Shankly group and Spion Kop 1906 called on both clubs “to do the right thing … there is an opportunity here to send a statement on the value of supporters beyond money.” Liverpool host City in the first leg on 4 April, with the return fixture taking PA place the following Tuesday. Roundup At a glance 3 Football in brief FULHAM QPR LEEDS SHEFF WED Paul Heckingbottom could not hide his frustration after Leeds underlined their deficiencies in both boxes in a 2-1 home defeat by their Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday. His side appeared to be heading for at least a point after the substitute Jay-Roy Grot nodded in a late equaliser, only for Atdhe Nuhiu to score his second goal in stoppage time to give Wednesday their first win at Elland Road since 2007. Heckingbottom said: “They’re both goals we should stop. You’ve got to be clinical and take your chances at one end and be ruthless, tight and disciplined at the other.” Wednesday’s late victory moves them up to 17th in the table, eight points clear of the relegation zone. WOLVES BURTON Wolves’ manager, Nuno Espíríto Santo, praised the control shown by his table-topping side following their 3-1 Championship win against Burton at Molineux. Wolves took the lead through Helder Costa after 15 minutes and doubled their advantage when Benik Afobe struck in the 41st minute. Lloyd Dyer reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time before Afobe struck again in the 56th minute. Wolves are now six points clear of second-placed Cardiff and Nuno said: “It was a good performance that showed control and character. We know that playing well takes you to victory but the consistency from the team that we asked for was there. This is the most important part of it.” Aston Villa’s push for automatic promotion suﬀered a blow with a 1-0 loss at Bolton. Adam Le Fondre’s early goal condemned Villa to a second successive defeat. Middlesbrough cling on to sixth place after a 1-1 draw at 10-man Brentford. Adama Traoré opened the scoring before Lewis Macleod’s equaliser for Brentford, who had Romaine Sawyers sent oﬀ late on. Bristol City closed the gap on the top six with a 1-0 win over Ipswich. Milan Djuric scored the only goal of the game. Sheﬃeld United lost ground after a 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane. Millwall’s ﬁne run continued. Their 2-0 win over Barnsley at Oakwell was their sixth win in seven games. Reading’s assistant manager, Andries Ulderink, admitted his side are in a relegation battle after the 3-2 defeat at Norwich. • The Observer 18.03.18 Sport Racing Native puts Tizzard in the swing of things Chris Cook Henstridge A day after his gallant performance in winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Native River made what is likely to be his last public appearance for some time, mixing with an adoring south Somerset crowd in Henstridge, a village a few miles from his stable. Over 100 people showed up despite freezing temperatures and snow to cheer the chestnut as he was paraded, along with the trophy he won, outside the Virginia Ash pub where celebrations had continued into the small hours. Colin Tizzard, Native River’s trainer, was delighted by how well his horse had taken Friday’s race, just his second outing of this season. But Tizzard is not tempted to rush him back to the track for one of the end-of-term prizes at Aintree or Punchestown and will instead contemplate another light campaign aimed at next year’s Gold Cup. “Everything for the rest of his life is going to be geared around the Gold Cup, isn’t it?” the trainer said. “Not trying to win a King George or anything like that, I don’t think that’d suit him. Whether he has two runs, three runs, four runs next year, I don’t know. I’d have thought we could race him more. “Last year [when Native River was third] he didn’t come up the hill, because we’d raced him plenty. This year he had that energy left in him. That’s probably the most significant thing over the season, he hasn’t been raced that much. “Bringing the horse up here, he’s enjoying it as much as we are. I think Native River with his trainer Colin Tizzard (right) outside their local pub, the Virginia Ash, yesterday MARK KERTON/PA Chris Cook’s tips CARLISLE 2.05 Hardrock Davis 2.35 Bollin Ace 3.10 Point Of Principle 3.40 Firth Of The Clyde (nb) 4.15 The New Pharaoh (nap) 4.50 Cultram Abbey FFOS LAS 2.15 Jack Bear 2.45 Garran City 3.20 Alf ‘N’ Dor 3.50 Sergeant Brody 4.25 Steel Native 5.00 Ceann Sibheal 5.30 Al Dancer Winter Paralympics Rise into top 10 gives Whitley big ambition for Beijing James Whitley finished 10th in the slalom and his Great Britain team-mate Scott Meenagh came home 14th in the cross-country skiing on the eighth and penultimate day of the Winter Paralympics in South Korea. Whitley was 11th after his first run but the 20-year-old edged into the top 10 with his second, recording a combined time of 1min and 44.41sec. It was Whitley’s second Paralympics and, after competing in five events in Pyeongchang with two 10th-placed finishes, two 11th placings and one of 22nd, he will head to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games with optimism. He said: “I’m really pleased. I would have loved to have gone a bit deeper in the top 10 but overall I am really happy to come out and have finished all five races and had some good results in the process, so the hard work has paid off. I think these Games show where I can improve and what I need to do going forward in training looking ahead to Beijing 2022.” Meenagh signed off in South Korea with a 14th-placed finish in the 7.5km sitting cross-country – his sixth event in Pyeongchang. His time of 25min 17.5sec in the crosscountry was almost three minutes behind gold medal winner Sin Euihyun of South Korea, but former soldier Meenagh hopes to be able to close that gap in the coming years. James Whitley on the slalom course and fellow Briton Scott Meenagh (right) during the crosscountry skiing in Pyeongchang yesterday LINTAO/GETTY IMAGES; ADAM DAY/PA Medals table 1 United States 2 Neutral 3 Canada 4 Germany 5 Ukraine 6 Slovakia 7 France 8 Belarus 9 Japan 10 Netherlands 12 8 8 6 6 6 5 4 3 3 15 10 1 8 7 3 8 4 3 3 8 6 15 2 8 1 5 4 3 1 35 24 24 16 21 10 18 12 9 7 21 Great Britain 0 4 1 5 The 28-year-old said: “I’m going to endeavour over the next few years to make sure I am as close to the best guys as possible in every single race. I am seeing what it takes to be at the top of this sport and I am inspired for life now and not going anywhere until I have given an absolute account of myself and I am on that podium.” Great Britain head into the final day of competition having won five medals in Pyeongchang, with four PA silver and one bronze. he is anyway. It’s lovely so many people have turned up.” Tizzard recalled how downbeat he had felt on Gold Cup morning, at which point Irish raiders had dominated the Festival and his own runners had failed to figure. “It’s not easy. People were asking me what English racing can do to keep up. It’s swings and roundabouts, isn’t it? Yesterday it was mostly English winners.” 17 On that subject, there was a hurt response from the Irish Turf Club to the news on Friday that British racing officials want a measure of regulatory change in Ireland to ensure a level playing field between the two countries. “I’m very surprised,” said Denis Egan, the Turf Club chief executive, adding that no concerns had been raised with him while he was in Cheltenham last week. In particular, Egan gave short shrift to the suggestion there might be any deficiency in Ireland’s doping control programme. “Last year, we tested over 4,000 horses at the racecourse, in point-to-points and out of competition,” Egan said. He added that, in common with the British Horseracing Authority, it was his organisation’s intention to increase out-of-competition testing, which accounted for 10% of tests taken last year. Regal Flow was an emphatic winner of yesterday’s Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter. Bob Buckler’s horse was making an unusually quick return to the track, having also won at Taunton on Monday. • 18 The Observer 18.03.18 Cricket England hope demotion does not diminish Broad Vic Marks It was a decade ago in Wellington that Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad first appeared together in a Test match. After a surprising defeat at Hamilton in the opening Test on that 2008 tour the captain, Michael Vaughan, and coach, Peter Moores, decided to drop Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison. The next generation, personified by Anderson and Broad, was given its head and took its chance well enough. England won the next two Tests – though it was actually Ryan Sidebottom who took most of the wickets. In Auckland this week Anderson and Broad are still going while Sidebottom contemplates his new coaching position at Surrey. But are they still going strong? On the evidence of the Ashes series it is the younger man who may be creaking. Anderson was England’s best bowler against Australia; meanwhile Broad, four years the junior partner, strove hard and struggled, taking 11 wickets in the series at 47 apiece. The indications are that Joe Root is planning appropriately. Expect Broad to be denied the new ball for the first time in years in Auckland on Thursday when England play in the first floodlit Test match on New Zealand soil. This is not such a dramatic handing over of the baton as the dropping of Harmison and Hoggard 10 years ago but it is a reminder that a wonderful partnership is not going to last forever. Root’s plans make sense. He needs the next generation of bowlers to Rugby league Castleford and Gale gearing up for another Grand Final tilt Aaron Bower Luke Gale believes Castleford’s run of games that begins with today’s visit of Wigan will illustrate just how capable last season’s Grand Finalists are of emulating that achievement. Castleford welcome Wigan in one start but also at other times through the innings. So an unhelpful pattern emerged. For an hour England’s most experienced duo were in harness and they would, at least, impose pressure on the batsmen; in the second hour with the relative novices together that pressure would reduce significantly. It might be beneficial to mix the pairings – and the generations – up. Moreover Broad might well operate better as a mean first-change option. He will not feel so obliged to strain for pace, which seldom helps him, and he delights in proving people wrong. He says he is trying to rediscover his away-swinger, a good idea but a difficult one to fulfil. Recently against left-handers Broad has bowled mostly from around the wicket and has attempted to angle the ball towards the slip cordon; against right-handers with his action Root leads by example Results Rugby union NATWEST SIX NATIONS England 15 Ireland 24; Italy 27 Scotland 29; Wales 14 France 13. Table on page 2 GREENE KING IPA CHAMPIONSHIP Doncaster 12 Richmond 22; Hartpury RFC 20 Cornish Pirates 45; Rotherham Titans 3 Bristol 24. NATIONAL LEAGUE ONE Caldy 12 Coventry 55; Cambridge 15 Darlington Mowden Park 25; Plymouth Albion 17 Bishop’s Stortford 10. PRINCIPALITY WELSH PREMIERSHIP Bargoed P RGC 1404 P; Carmarthen Quins 10 Cardiff 34; Llandovery 17 Ebbw Vale 6; Merthyr 44 Llanelli 43. BT SCOTTISH PREMIERSHIP Glasgow Hawks 0 Boroughmuir 27; Hawick 38 Melrose 3; Marr 27 Stirling County 17. Today (3pm unless stated) ANGLO-WELSH CUP FINAL Bath v Exeter GREENE KING IPA CHAMPIONSHIP Nottingham v Bedford; Yorkshire Carnegie v Ealing Trailfinders. NATWEST WOMEN’S SIX NATIONS Italy Women v Scotland Women (2pm) BT SCOTTISH PREMIERSHIP Heriot’s Rugby Club v Currie; Watsonians v Ayr. Rugby league LADBROKES CHALLENGE CUP FOURTH ROUND Normanton Knights 8 Rochdale 20 BETFRED SUPER LEAGUE P W D L F A PD Pts St Helens 6 5 0 1 177 72 +105 10 Wigan 5 4 0 1 136 72 +64 8 Wakefield 5 4 0 1 98 66 +32 8 Leeds 5 4 0 1 90 82 +8 8 Castleford 4 3 0 1 69 84 -15 6 Widnes 6 2 0 4 117 109 +8 4 Hull K R 6 2 0 4 106 112 -6 4 Hull 6 2 0 4 111 120 -9 4 Warrington 6 2 0 4 76 107 -31 4 Salford 6 2 0 4 94 130 -36 4 Huddersfield 6 2 0 4 82 146 -64 4 Catalans Dragons 5 1 0 4 60 116 -56 2 Catalans Dragons L Warrington L; Wakefield L Widnes L. NATIONAL CONFERENCE PREMIER DIVISION Hunslet Club Parkside 14 Thatto Heath 10; Siddal 16 Rochdale Mayfield 14; Wath Brow Hornets 28 Rochdale Mayfield 14; Wigan St Patricks 16 Egremont Rangers 44. Today (3pm unless stated) LADBROKES CHALLENGE CUP FOURTH ROUND Barrow v Sheffield; Batley v Leigh; Coventry v Pilkington Recs; Halifax v Oldham; Hunslet v Bradford; North Wales Crusaders v Feathers (2.30pm); Whitehaven v Dewsbury; Workington v London Broncos; York v Swinton. BETFRED SUPER LEAGUE Castleford v Wigan (3.30pm) Cricket TOUR MATCH (second day of two) Hamilton New Zealand XI drew with England. New Zealand 287-13 (MJ Guptill 73) England 353-9 (JE Root 115) STU FORSTER/GETTY IMAGES End of new-ball partnership with Anderson could give more depth to Test attack start taking more responsibility. If Chris Woakes is fit in Auckland, he will probably share the new, pink ball with Anderson while Broad, his pride slightly dented, waits in the wings eager to be given an early bowl. This should work on several levels. Strategically England must plan ahead and they must abandon any lingering thoughts of a hierarchical approach to the possession of the new ball. This should rarely be a consideration in any team but it often is. Admittedly for West Indies it worked quite well in the 80s since Joel Garner felt obliged to bowl faster when he was given the new ball alongside Malcolm Marshall. Tactically it is also a good idea to have Broad at first change. In the Ashes Anderson and Broad shared the new ball, which meant they often bowled in tandem not only at the ever more open-chested the ball has tended to slant in all the time. England should be stronger than at Sydney in January when Woakes was injured and Ben Stokes unavailable. The presence of Stokes gives the batting much more depth, assuming that England play the extra batsman on the basis that runs are harder to come by in pink-ball Test matches. Some of the batsmen are battling to stay in the team. By his own admission Mark Stoneman has not done enough to nail down a place at the top of the order while James Vince cannot exasperate for much longer. Looking the best batsman in the side for half an hour may have helped him keep his place in Australia but now only runs count. If Stokes is unable to bowl much at all in Auckland it is possible Vince will have to give up his place to Craig Overton anyway. After almost five months on the road England face a tough task. The Kiwis will seize their chance if England’s multi-format players are too jaded or their Test specialists too rusty. Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Trent Boult are three obvious matchwinners but there are plenty of highly competitive cricketers alongside them. Winter Paralympics Joe Root showed his team-mates the way as England ﬁnished their warm-up for Thursday’s ﬁrst Test with some heartening runs. The captain dropped himself down to of the standout fixtures of the weekend. A trip to face the side who beat them in the Old Trafford showpiece, Leeds, follows next Friday, and another away game at in-form Wakefield will follow. The Castleford scrum-half says: “I’m excited to see where we are and Sunday will show us exactly where we’re at. We’re looking forward to it. These are the games you want to be playing in and you’ll get a better reflection of where Castleford are at when we get out of this run of games.” Daryl Powell’s side started the season with a 46-6 defeat at St Helens but have won their three games since. They are yet to replicate the scintillating style of play that won them so many admirers in 2017 but Gale says No 6 but made 115 out of 353 for nine on the ﬁnal day of the second tour match against a New Zealand XI at Seddon Park in Hamilton. Mark Stoneman made 48, Dawid Malan hit 45, and of the top-order batsmen only James Vince, with ﬁve, failed. Ben Stokes made 27 and was also able to bowl gently on the outﬁeld as PA he comes back from injury. that this is not a concern internally. “Everyone expects you to be the same team as last season but it just doesn’t work like that. We learned more in the Grand Final than we did in the previous 20 games last year. We’re happy to be building with three wins from our last three and, while we might not be all-singing and all-dancing yet, it’s a case of just knocking up wins at this time of the year.” Gale earned plaudits aplenty last year, being named the man of steel, and while he says handling the change in perception of Castleford as a club is a challenge, he is unmoved by any extra spotlight which may be on his own game. “What’s difficult is the belief now that everyone expects you to win by 60 points – if you win by 20, Castleford are assumed to have played poorly,” he says. “Nobody is ever completely happy; I guess that’s just sport. But we know these next few weeks we’ve a great opportunity to show what we’re about.” Luke Gale, last year’s man of steel, is excited ‘to see where Castleford are at’ SKIING Men: Slalom, Visually Impaired: 1 G Bertagnolli 1:36,12; 2 J Krako (Svk) 1:37.54; 3 V Redkozubov (NPA) 1:38.02. Slalom, Standing: 1 A Hall (NZ) 1:36.11; 2 A Bauchet (Fr) 1:36.50; 3 J Stanton (US) 1:37.37. Slalom, Sitting: 1 D Sokolovic (Cro) 1:39.82; 2 T Walker (US) 1:40.55; 3 F Francois (Fr) 1:42.03. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING Men: 10km Classic, Visually Impaired: 1 B McKeever (Can) 23.17.80; 2 J Adicoff (US) 24:31.30; 3 Y Holub (Blr) 24.37.10. 10km Classic, Standing: 1 Y Nitta (Jpn) 24:06.80; 2 G Vovchynskyi (Ukr) 24:15.50; 3 M Arendz (Can) 24:27.10. 7.5km, Sitting: 1 Sin Eu Hyun (Kor) 22:28.40; 2 D Cnossen (US) 22:33.70; 3 M Yarovyi (Ukr) 22:39.90. Women: 7.5km Classic, Visually Impaired: 1 S Sakhanenka (Blr) 22:19.30; 2 M Lysova (NPA) 22:55.60; 3 C Edlinger (Aut) 23:22.90. 7.5km Classic, Standing: 1 N Wilkie (Can) 22.12.20; 2 E Rumyantseva (NPA) 22:13.80; 3 E Young (Can) 22:13.80. 5km, Sitting: 1 O Masters (US) 16:42.00; 2 A Eskau (Ger) 16:53.50; 3 M Zainullina (NPA) 17:25.40. ICE HOCKEY Mixed Bronze Medal Game: South Korea 1 Italy 0. WHEELCHAIR CURLING Mixed Gold Medal Game: China 6 Norway 5 Mixed Bronze Medal Game: South Korea 3 Canada 5 Tennis ATP & WTA BNP PARIBAS OPEN (Indian Wells, USA) Women: Semi-finals: D Kasatkina (Rus) bt V Williams (US) 4-6 6-4 7-5; N Osaka (Jpn) bt S Halep (Rom) 6-3 6-0. Golf BANK OF HOPE FOUNDERS CUP (Phoenix, Arizona, USA) Second round (US unless stated, par 72): 135 C Clanton 68 67. 136 M Uribe (Col) 68 68; M Alex 70 66; A Jutanugarn (Tha) 68 68; K Icher (Fr) 67 69. 137 J Korda 69 68; M Martin 71 66. 138 M Wie 70 68; Kyung Kim (Kor) 70 68; B Lincicome 72 66; A Lewis 71 67; Hee Young Park (Kor) 68 70. 139 C Inglis 71 68; Chella Choi (Kor) 67 72; J Stoelting 70 69; Jin Young Ko (Kor) 70 69; Inbee Park (Kor) 68 71; Sung Hyun Park (Kor) 69 70. 140 M-A Leblanc (Fr) 69 71; Eun-Hee Ji (Kor) 71 69; Haeji Kang (Kor) 71 69; In Gee Chun (Kor) 71 69; Seon Woo Bae (Kor) 70 70; J Song 72 68; L Duncan 71 69; L Weaver (a) 72 68; D Holmqvist (Swe) 69 71; Bronte Law (Eng) 71 69. • Sport Formula One Daniel Ricciardo believes he can beat Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel ‘with the right material’ Ricciardo intent on title charge and nothing else will do, he tells Giles Richards Always suffused with conjecture and supposition, Formula One’s phoney war will end with the firing of engines in earnest at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday. Expectations are it will herald another battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Daniel Ricciardo, however, has other ideas – this is a fight the local boy desperately wants to join. The Australian has a point to prove and a combative hunger coupled with confidence he is reaching his peak. If Red Bull can give him the competitive car he desires, Ricciardo will be gunning for both world champions. Hamilton and Vettel are the headline acts after their close scrap last season and both look to be in shape to repeat the struggle. Mercedes are ominously strong and Ferrari have carried their well-balanced car into 2018. But Red Bull, out of contention last season, have taken a major step. Testing suggested they may even have the edge on the Scuderia and Ricciardo is looking to enter a title contest for the first time. Given the chance to do so, the decisive and sometimes breathtaking overtaker is unequivocal his approach on track will stand him in good stead. “In the end you have to just pull the trigger,” he says. “Trust the car, trust the brakes, just go. It is a calculated but fearless approach – I am going to try and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I will be happier if I Cricket Pietersen not shy but definitely retiring Kevin Pietersen has announced his retirement from cricket at the age of 37. A tweet he sent on Friday simply read: “Boots Up! Thank you” suggesting that his stint playing for the Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League would be his last in the game and he confirmed this yesterday. The former England batsman (below, after the 2005 Ashes win) helped the Gladiators qualify from the group stages in the United Arab Emirates but Pietersen has opted not to play in the final rounds in Pakistan, citing family reasons. In his reply to the reaction to 19 PABLO MORANO/QUALITY SPORT IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES ‘In a fight I have the tools to win’ crash by trying than not trying and running around behind the same guy for 70 laps.” It is an attitude Ricciardo has displayed before, proving he has no fear of Hamilton or Vettel. His attempted pass on the German at Mexico in 2016 was extraordinary and he was relentless in not giving up when the two fought at China last year. He was ruthless passing Hamilton at Hungary in 2014. Fernando Alonso fell to his decisive style in the same race. Last season at Baku, a gutsy and audacious late-braking manoeuvre on the Williams of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa and the Renault of Nico Hülkenberg saw him move up three places and was named overtake of the year. It was matched, however, by a similar lunge on the anchors from eight-tenths back at Monza to claim Kimi Räikkönen’s scalp at turn one. That he has the chops is not in doubt and he has consequently proved to be one of the most entertaining drivers. Yet Ricciardo has yet to enjoy a shot at the title. Now 28, he joined Red Bull in 2014, the start of the turbo-hybrid era and Mercedes dominance. With their Renault engine lacking the power of the Mercedes, Red Bull have been unable to put themselves in contention. It does not sit well with Ricciardo. The image may be that of the beaming Aussie but behind the grin there is steel, driven by ambition. “I still want to fight for that title,” he says. “Wanting it is one thing but just being in the fight is the minimum I would ask.” The team principal, Christian Horner, recognises that desire and that his driver is ready. “He is in that period of his career where he is in the purple sector,” Horner said. “Hopefully we can provide the car to realise his potential.” Now in his eighth season in F1, The Observer 18.03.18 New this season… Halo is here The Halo cockpit protection device has divided opinion but the safety beneﬁts have been made clear. There is no denying it does not improve the look of the cars but is less intrusive the better it is incorporated into the livery. By midseason it may well be an accepted addition to the F1 aesthetic. New rubber role Given the task of providing softer, more durable rubber to increase in-race strategy options and decrease one-stop races, Pirelli brings seven slick compounds to the grid in 2018. Ranging from the new superhard to the new hypersoft, they are a step softer than last year’s equivalents and look promising – the hypersoft estimated to be a full second a lap quicker than the ultrasoft. ‘In the end you have to just pull the trigger. Trust the car, trust the brakes, just go’ Ricciardo, too, believes his time has come. “I am in a window now where I still feel young enough to have the fearless approach, but old enough in terms of experience so that over a championship if I had the car, I could win when I could and take points when I could. In a fight I believe I have the tools to win. I believe I can get it done with the right material.” Should Red Bull deliver, he will also have to contend with the formidable talent of his team-mate Max Verstappen, who will offer as stern a challenge as Hamilton and Vettel. Horner says they have a genuine friendship but Ricciardo knows he can give no quarter to the young Friday’s message, Pietersen wrote on Instagram: “Someone just tweeted to tell me that I scored 30,000+ runs including 152 fifties and 68 hundreds in my pro career … Four Ashes wins. Home and away! T20 WC win. Beaten India in India. … Thank you for all the quite lovely msgs! I loved entertaining you all! Ciao, cricket! I love this game!” Pietersen had spent the last four years playing in Twenty20 competitions around the world, after his England career came to an end following the 5-0 defeat in the PA 2013-14 Ashes. Dutchman. After Verstappen put him out in Budapest last year he was furious. “I wanted to wait until Max came round so I could give him the bird,” he says. “I wanted to do more. I wanted to throw my helmet at him.” It is indicative of a side of Ricciardo overshadowed by the boyish enthusiasm on show when drinking champagne from his boot on the podium. But he believes there is no sense he can be a pushover and that his contemporaries recognise this. “The reality is it was always in me,” he says. “The intensity and the fight I have shown was always in me.” When the new season begins, nothing would be better than if Melbourne raises the curtain on a three-team title fight. Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen would revel in it and Ricciardo, who has been waiting some time for his chance to pull the trigger in that battle, has all three in his sights. “I know what I can do in the car,” he says, still beaming with optimism. “And even if there is a 10% possibility then I am going to do it.” Cycling Cavendish crashes in Milan-San Remo Mark Cavendish, who has had a run of bad crashes this season, suffered a spectacular one in the Milan-San Remo race, somersaulting and landing on his back after hitting a traffic divider. The Dimension Data rider saw the obstacle too late, when those ahead of him swerved round it, with about 10km of the one-day Engine pressure With 21 races, the need for reliability is greater than ever, doubly so given there are now only three engines to use, one fewer. Having a solid power unit is going to be crucial, as is the moment teams choose to replace one for development upgrades. Penalties will be a constant threat in balancing the ﬁne line between performance and longevity. Clear penalties Those penalties, previously requiring arcane calculations to discern how many grid places would be lost for replacing components, have been simpliﬁed. Any driver receiving a penalty of 15 places or more will start from the back. Should more than one driver do so they will be placed at the back in the order in which the penalties were incurred. Returning races The two additions to the calendar include a welcome return for the French GP, at Paul Ricard in June. France has not hosted a GP since 2008 at Magny-Cours and the country, with a rich racing heritage, is celebrating its return. Germany, too, is back, with Hockenheim the Giles Richards host in July. race to go. The incident follows crashes that forced him out of the Abu Dhabi Tour in February and Tirreno-Adriatico this month, when he suffered a broken rib. His team tweeted last night that they were assessing his injuries. Vincenzo Nibali timed his move to perfection to win the race. The 2014 Tour de France champion pulled away on the ascent of the Poggio, 7km from the finish. The Bahrain-Merida rider looked back only in the final few metres when a group of sprinters were closing in Reuters on the Italian. • 20 The Observer 18.03.18 Football Results Full Time Premier League 31 6 4 6 23 26 3 5 Watford Watfo 31 6 4 5 22 26 4 2 10 17 29 -16 36 LWWLLL Stanislass strikes late to pile le misery on Pardew, ew, while Hodgson n secures a lifeline for or Palace Brighton Bright 30 6 6 3 21 21 2 4 9 7 19 -12 34 WDWWLL Newcastle Newca 30 5 4 6 15 15 3 4 8 15 25 -10 32 DWDLWW Swansea Swans 30 6 2 7 15 19 2 5 8 10 23 -17 31 DWLWDD Huddersfield Hudde 31 5 5 6 15 22 3 2 10 10 30 -27 31 LWWLDD Crystal Palace Crysta 31 4 5 6 18 23 3 4 9 12 25 -18 30 DLLLLL West Ham H 30 5 4 5 16 20 2 5 9 20 37 -21 30 LWLLLL Southampton Southa 30 3 7 6 16 21 2 6 6 13 23 -15 28 WLDDLL Stoke 31 5 4 7 17 25 1 5 9 12 33 -29 27 DLDDDL West Brom B 31 2 7 6 16 24 1 4 11 P W HOME D L F Sky Bet Championship A W AWAY D L F A GD Pts Form Manchester City 30 14 1 0 51 10 12 2 1 34 10 +65 81 WDWWWW Manchester Utd 30 12 2 1 33 7 8 3 4 25 16 +35 65 WLWWWW Liverpool 31 10 6 0 38 10 8 3 4 35 24 +39 63 WWWLLW Tottenham 30 10 4 1 31 9 8 3 4 28 16 +34 61 DWWWWW Chelsea 30 10 2 3 26 11 7 3 5 26 16 +25 56 LWLLWW Arsenal 30 11 2 2 39 17 3 4 8 16 24 +14 48 WLLLWW Burnley Burnle 30 6 4 5 12 12 5 6 4 15 14 Leicester Leices 30 6 5 4 21 17 4 5 6 24 26 +2 40 DLDDWW Everton Everto 31 9 2 4 25 18 2 5 9 12 32 -13 40 LWLLWW Bournemouth Bourn 7 14 23 -12 36 WLDDLL 8 25 +1 43 DLDWWW -25 20 LLLLLL Bournemouth (0) 2 West Brom (0) 1 Ibe 77 Rodriguez 49 Stanislas 89 Att 10,242. Ref Graham Scott (Oxfordshire). The facts Premier League Bournemouth have now picked up a league-high 16 points from losing positions – exposing West Brom’s lack of staying power once again. The Baggies have lost a leaguehigh 24 points from leading positions – the most they have ever given away in a single Premier League campaign. Palace’s Luka Milivojevic has scored more penalties than any other Premier League player this season (6). Only Andrew Johnson, with 11, has scored more in a single Premier League season for the club. Opponents Huddersﬁeld, who The week ahead Gareth Bale will feature for Wales in the China Cup on Thursday Today Emirates FA Cup Quarter-finals Leicester City v Chelsea (4.30pm) BBC One; Wigan v Southampton (1.30pm) BBC One Sky Bet Championship Derby v Cardiff (noon) Sky Sports Football Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Motherwell v Celtic (2.15pm) Sky Sports Football Ladbrokes Scottish League One Raith v East Fife (4.10pm) BBC Alba FA Women’s Cup Quarter-finals Arsenal v Charlton (2pm); Durham v Everton (2pm); Liverpool v Chelsea (2pm); Sunderland v Man City (2pm) FA Women’s Super League Two Watford v Sheffield (3pm) didn’t record their ﬁrst shot of the game until the 63rd minute, have now failed to score in a league-high 17 diﬀerent league games this season. Since 2008-09, Stoke have had 14 red cards in Premier League home games – only Manchester City (15) have had more in that time. Charlie Adam became the ﬁrst player to be sent oﬀ for a foul on Wayne Rooney (pictured) in the league since Sam Sodje for Reading in December 2006. Everton’s win was just their second on the road in the league this season – ending a run of ﬁve straight defeats away from home. Sky Bet League Two Crewe v Forest Green; Morecambe v Colchester; Port Vale v Exeter Vanarama National League Solihull Moors v Bromley Ladbrokes Scottish Championship Dundee Utd v Queen of the South Ladbrokes Scottish League One Airdrieonians v Alloa; Albion v Ayr Ladbrokes Scottish League Two Edinburgh City v Clyde; Elgin v Stirling; Stenhousemuir v Cowdenbeath Women’s Champions League Quarter-finals: First leg Manchester City v Linköping (7pm); Montpellier v Chelsea Wednesday (7.45pm unless stated) International Match Liechtenstein v Andorra (5pm) Sky Bet League One Walsall v Wigan Sky Bet League Two Crawley Town v Wycombe Vanarama National League Barrow v Hartlepool BT Sport 1; Maidstone Utd v Macclesfield Thursday Sky Bet League One Doncaster v Bradford (7.45pm) Sky Sports Football ESFA Under-18 Colleges Trophy Final Newcastle-under-Lyme College v St Charles Sixth Form College (1pm) FreeSports China Cup China v Wales (11.35am) BBC red button, BBC One Wales International Matches Algeria v Tanzania (5pm); Denmark v Panama (7pm); Faroe Islands v Latvia (7pm); Malta v Luxembourg (5pm); Slovakia v UAE (9.30am); South Africa v Angola (1pm) European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group One Greece v San Marino (3pm) Group Five Germany v Israel (6pm); Kosovo v Azerbaijan (6pm) Group Six Hungary v Cyprus (7pm) Women’s Champions League Quarter-finals: First leg Lyon v Barcelona (5.45pm); Wolfsburg v Slavia Prague Tuesday (7.45pm unless stated) Friday (7.45pm unless stated) Tomorrow Sky Bet League One Northampton v Shrewsbury; Rochdale v Fleetwood Town International Matches Argentina v Italy; Austria v Slovenia; Bulgaria v Bosnia-Herzegovina (4pm); Cyprus v Montenegro Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (pictured) has now scored 36 goals in all competitions – the most for a player in a debut season in the club’s history. His goals against Watford took him past Fernando Torres’s record of 33, set in 2007-08. FA Cup Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen has now had a hand in 13 goals in 10 games against Swansea in all competitions (8 goals, 5 assists) – more than he has against any other opponent. Meanwhile, 56% of the home goals Swansea have conceded in 2018 have been against Tottenham (5/9). (4pm); Egypt v Portugal; France v Colombia (8pm); Germany v Spain BT Sport 3; Greece v Switzerland (8pm); Japan v Mali (12.20pm); Holland v England ITV; Norway v Australia (5pm); Poland v Nigeria; Portugal v Egypt; Russia v Brazil (4pm); Scotland v Costa Rica Sky Sports Football; Serbia v Morocco (7.30pm); Turkey v Republic of Ireland (5.30pm) European U-21 Championship Qualifying Group One Czech Rep v Croatia 3pm) Group Two Albania v Slovakia (4.20pm) Group Three Georgia v Faroe Islands (3pm); Lithuania v Finland (4pm) Group Four Andorra v Scotland (5pm) Group Six Turkey v Sweden (1pm) Group Seven Gibraltar v Serbia (7pm); Macedonia v Russia (1pm) Group Eight Bosnia-Herzegovina v Wales (2pm); Portugal v Liechtenstein (5.45pm) Group Nine Kazakhstan v France (1pm); Luxembourg v Montenegro (5.30pm) Under-18 Centenary Shield England v Scotland (7pm) FreeSports Saturday (3pm unless stated) International Matches Armenia v Estonia (2pm); Canada v New Zealand; Georgia v Lithunia; Israel v Romania (6.30pm); Kosovo v Madagascar (6pm); Mexico v Iceland (2.30am); Northern Ireland v South Korea (2pm) FreeSports; Sweden v Chile (5pm) Under-21 International England v Romania (5.15pm) BT Sport 2 Sky Bet League One Bradford v Gillingham; Bury v Wigan; Charlton v Plymouth; Doncaster v Blackburn; Fleetwood Town v Northampton; MK Dons v Blackpool; Oldham P Walsall P; Peterborough v Bristol Rovers; Scunthorpe v Rochdale; Shrewsbury v AFC Wimbledon; Southend v Rotherham Sky Bet League Two Accrington Stanley v Yeovil; Carlisle v Cambridge Utd; Coventry v Grimsby; Crawley Town v Cheltenham; Exeter v Swindon; Forest Green v Mansfield; Luton v Barnet (5.15pm) Sky Sports Football; Morecambe v Lincoln City; Newport County v Crewe; Stevenage v Colchester; Wycombe v Port Vale Vanarama National League Aldershot v Boreham Wood; Barrow v Dover; Huddersfield (0) 0 Crystal Palace (1) 2 Tomkins 23 Milivojevic 68pen Att 23,918. Ref Mike Dean (Wirral). Liverpool (2) 5 Watford (0) x Salah 4 43 77 85 Firmino 49 Att 53,287. Ref Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). Stoke (0) 1 Everton (0) 2 Choupo-Moting 77 Tosun 69 84 Att 30,022. Ref Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire). LEADING GOALSCORERS 28 Salah (Liverpool). 24 Kane (Tottenham). 21 Agüero (Man City). 15 Sterling (Man City). 14 Lukaku (Man Utd); Vardy (Leicester). Emirates FA Cup Quarter-finals Manchester Utd (-) L Brighton (-) L Ref Andre Marriner (Birmingham). Swansea (0) 0 Tottenham Eriksen 11 62 Lamela 45 Ref Kevin Friend (Leicestershire). (2) 3 Dag & Red v AFC Fylde; Ebbsfleet United v Maidenhead Utd; FC Halifax v Solihull Moors; Hartlepool v Bromley; Leyton Orient v Woking; Macclesfield P Gateshead P; Sutton Utd v Chester FC; Torquay v Guiseley; Tranmere v Eastleigh (12.15pm) BT Sport 1; Wrexham v Maidstone Utd Ladbrokes Scottish Championship Dundee Utd v Dunfermline; Morton v Brechin; Queen of the South v Livingston; St Mirren v Falkirk Ladbrokes Scottish League One Airdrieonians v Raith; Albion v Alloa; Arbroath v Stranraer; Ayr v Queen’s Park; Forfar v East Fife Ladbrokes Scottish League Two Berwick v Edinburgh City; Clyde v Montrose; Peterhead v Annan Athletic; Stenhousemuir v Elgin; Stirling v Cowdenbeath Irn-Bru Challenge Cup Final Dumbarton v Inverness CT (4.15pm) BBC Alba Buildbase FA Trophy Semi-final: Second leg Gateshead (2) v Bromley (3); Wealdstone (0) v Brackley (1) Buildbase FA Vase Semi-finals: Second leg Stockton Town (2) v Marske Utd (0); 1874 Northwich (0) v Thatcham Town (1) FA Women’s Super League Two London Bees v Durham (noon) Sunday European U-21 Championship Qualifying Group One San Marino v Belarus (5pm) Sky Bet League One Portsmouth v Oxford Utd (4pm) Sky Sports Football Sky Bet League Two Chesterfield v Notts County (1.30pm) Sky Sports Football FA Women’s Super League Birmingham v Liverpool (2pm); Bristol City v Manchester City (12.30pm); Chelsea v Reading (2pm); Everton v Yeovil (2pm); Sunderland v Arsenal (noon) FA Women’s Super League Two Doncaster v Tottenham (2pm); Oxford Utd v Millwall (2pm); Sheffield v Brighton (1pm); Watford v Aston Villa (3pm) Wolves Cardiff Fulham Aston Villa Derby Middlesbrough Bristol City Preston Sheffield Utd Millwall Brentford Ipswich Norwich Leeds QPR Nottingham Forest Sheffield Wed Hull Bolton Reading Barnsley Birmingham Burton Albion Sunderland Barnsley P 38 37 38 38 37 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 W 14 14 10 11 9 11 10 7 11 9 7 8 6 7 9 8 5 6 8 3 3 7 2 2 HOME D L F A W 3 2 41 16 11 3 2 35 13 9 7 2 34 15 9 6 2 36 18 9 5 4 29 14 7 3 5 26 14 7 5 4 31 18 6 7 5 22 19 8 3 5 29 16 7 7 3 28 18 6 9 3 32 21 7 4 7 24 19 7 8 5 20 19 7 5 7 25 24 7 5 5 26 25 3 2 9 20 25 5 7 7 25 28 4 7 6 37 29 3 4 7 22 24 1 7 9 21 29 5 7 9 16 26 4 2 10 14 21 2 4 13 13 36 5 6 11 17 33 3 (0) 0 Millwall (1) 2 Gregory 24 Marshall 63 Barnsley Townsend, Yiadom, Jackson, Lindsay (Isgrove 81), Pinillos, Mallan (Moncur 46), Gardner, Potts (Bradshaw 66), Thiam, Moore, McBurnie. Subs not used Cavare, Mahoney, Pearson, Walton. Millwall Archer, Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith, Wallace, Williams, Saville, Marshall (Onyedinma 79), Morison (Cahill 90), Gregory (Shackell 75). Subs not used Martin, Tunnicliffe, Elliott, O’Brien. Att 13,041. Ref Peter Bankes (Merseyside). Birmingham (1) 3 Hull (0) 0 Jota 12 59 Adams 48 Birmingham Stockdale, Harding■, Morrison, Dean, Colin, Jota, Gardner (N’Doye 28), Kieftenbeld, Maghoma (Boga 76), Adams, Jutkiewicz (Davis 83). Subs not used Roberts, Lowe, Kuszczak, Seddon. Hull McGregor, Aina, Dawson, Mazuch, Clark, Larsson, Henriksen, Bowen, Irvine (Campbell 57), Wilson (Grosicki 76), Hernandez (Toral 73). Subs not used Meyler, Marshall, Tomori, Hector. Att 22,970. Ref Tony Harrington (Cleveland). Bolton (1) 1 Aston Villa (0) 0 Le Fondre 19 Bolton Alnwick, Flanagan, Burke, Beevers, Andrew Taylor, Henry■, Osede, Ameobi, Pratley (Vela 27), Buckley (Robinson 81), Le Fondre. Subs not used Noone, Wilbraham, Wheater, Howard, Clough. Aston Villa Johnstone, Elmohamady, Chester■, Terry, Bree, Bjarnason, Snodgrass■ (Davis 82), Hourihane (Hepburn-Murphy 54), Grealish, Adomah (Hogan 72), Grabban. Subs not used Lansbury, Jedinak, Onomah, Bunn. Att 19,304. Ref Robert Jones (Merseyside). Brentford (1) 1 Middlesbrough (1) 1 Macleod 34 Traoré 21 Brentford Bentley, Dalsgaard, Egan, Mepham■, Clarke, Woods■, Mokotjo (Judge 84), Jozefzoon, Macleod (Sawyers■ 75), Watkins (Canos 67), Maupay. Subs not used Yennaris, Marcondes, Daniels, Barbet. Middlesbrough Randolph, Shotton, Ayala (Fry 60), Gibson■, Friend■, Howson (Leadbitter 65), Clayton■, Besic■ (Assombalonga 75), Traoré, Bamford, Downing. Subs not used Konstantopoulos, Cranie, Harrison, Baker. Att 11,134. Ref Simon Hooper (Wiltshire). Bristol City (0) 1 Ipswich (0) 0 Djuric 64 Bristol City Fielding, Pisano, Wright, Magnusson (Hegeler 71), Kelly, Brownhill, Pack, Smith■, Paterson (O’Neil 83), Reid, Diedhiou (Djuric 56). Subs not used Walsh, Wollacott, Diony, Kent. Ipswich Bialkowski, Spence, Carter-Vickers, Chambers, Webster, Knudsen■, Ward (Celina 83), Skuse, Connolly, Sears (Morris 90), Waghorn. Subs not used Hyam, Crowe, Gleeson, Drinan, Kenlock. Att 21,509. Ref Darren England (S Yorkshire). Fulham (2) 2 QPR (1) 2 Cairney 32 Luongo 45 Piazon 45 Wszolek 81 Fulham Bettinelli, Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett■, Cairney (Rui Fonte 79), McDonald, Johansen, Piazon (Ayite 68), Mitrovic■, R Sessegnon (Ojo 79). Subs not used Norwood, Christie, Button, Kamara. QPR Smithies, Furlong, Onuoha, Lynch■, Bidwell, Manning (Cousins■ 74), Luongo■, Freeman, Wszolek, Eze (Smyth 69), Smith (Washington 69). Subs not used Ingram, Baptiste, Perch, Samuel. Att 23,347. Ref Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire). Leeds Grot 86 (0) 1 Sheff Wed Nuhiu 71 90 (0) 2 D 4 4 5 3 9 5 8 8 3 6 3 3 5 3 6 5 7 5 8 5 5 4 5 7 AWAY L F 4 28 5 23 5 32 7 25 3 26 7 28 5 23 3 26 9 22 7 18 9 22 9 23 7 21 9 25 10 19 9 23 8 16 11 16 10 11 9 23 10 21 13 14 9 14 9 21 A 17 18 26 19 20 22 24 18 27 19 25 29 25 29 30 29 24 30 32 28 30 36 31 35 GD +36 +27 +25 +24 +21 +18 +12 +11 +8 +9 +8 -1 -3 -3 -10 -11 -11 -6 -23 -13 -19 -29 -40 -30 Pts 82 76 69 69 62 62 61 60 60 58 54 52 52 50 47 46 41 39 39 36 33 33 30 28 Form LWLWLW WWWWWW WWWWWD WWWLWL DDLDDD DWWWWD LWLDDW LWWLLW WLDWDD WDWWWW LWLLLD WWDLDL DDLDLW WLLDDL LDWWWD WWDDDD LLLDDW DLWWWL DLDDDW LDDLDL DLLDLL LLLLLW LLDLDL DDLLLL Leeds Peacock-Farrell, Berardi, Jansson, Pennington, Pearce (Grot 77), Forshaw, O’Kane (Phillips 78), Alioski, Hernandez, Dallas, Ekuban (Lasogga 70). Subs not used Anita, Wiedwald, Sacko, Ronaldo Vieira. Sheff Wed Wildsmith■, Hunt, Frederico Venancio, Lees, Pudil, Boyd, Pelupessy (Fox 90), Hutchinson■ (Bannan 66), Reach■, Lucas Joao, Nuhiu■. Subs not used Jones, Rhodes, Butterfield, Palmer, Dawson. Att 31,638. Ref Keith Stroud (Hampshire). Norwich (3) 3 Reading (1) 2 Vrancic 14 Kelly 32 Hanley 26 Smith 51 Maddison 37pen Norwich Gunn, Ivo Pinto, Hanley■, Klose, Lewis, Reed, Vrancic, Hernandez■ (Zimmermann 90), Maddison, Murphy (Hoolahan 90), Srbeny (Watkins 90). Subs not used Husband, Oliveira, Edwards, McGovern. Reading Jaakkola■, Gunter, Tiago Ilori, Moore, Blackett■, Aluko (Swift 52), Kelly (van den Berg 62), Clement■, Edwards (Kermorgant■ 82), Smith, Barrow■. Subs not used Mannone, Evans, Bacuna, Holmes. Att 25,098. Ref Oliver Langford (W Midlands). Sheff Utd (0) 0 Nottm Forest (0) 0 Sheff Utd Blackman, Leonard (Holmes 71), Stearman, O’Connell, Baldock, Lee Evans, Duffy (Donaldson 81), Fleck■, Stevens, Clarke, Sharp (Brooks 60). Subs not used Moore, Lundstram, Wright, Lafferty. Nottm Forest Pantilimon, Darikwa, Tobias Figueiredo, Fox■, Osborn, Cash, Colback■, Watson■, Dowell (Lolley 62), Murphy (Tomlin 74), Brereton. Subs not used Mancienne, Guedioura, Kapino, Worrall. Att 28,095. Ref Paul Tierney (Lancashire). Sunderland (0) 0 Preston (0) 2 Maguire 50 Robinson 63 Sunderland Camp, Matthews, Kone, O’Shea, Clarke-Salter■, Oviedo, Honeyman (LuaLua 69), Cattermole, Ejaria (McNair 76), Asoro, Maja (Fletcher 64). Subs not used McManaman, McGeady, Robson, Max Stryjek. Preston Maxwell, Fisher, Huntington, Davies, Earl■, Pearson, Gallagher (Johnson 72), Barkhuizen (Bodin 86), Browne, Robinson (Harrop 86), Maguire. Subs not used Clarke, Woods, Moult, Hudson. Att 28,543. Ref Darren Bond (Lancashire). Wolves (2) 3 Burton Albion (1) 1 Costa 15 Dyer 44 Afobe 41 56 Wolves Ruddy, Bennett, Coady, Boly, Doherty, Saïss, Neves (N’Diaye 90), Douglas, Costa, Afobe (Bonatini 82), Ivan Cavaleiro (Gibbs-White 76). Subs not used Batth, Mir, Roderick Miranda, Norris. Burton Albion Bywater, Flanagan, Naylor, Buxton, McFadzean (Varney 46), McCrory, Sordell (Sbarra■ 46), Davenport, Akpan, Dyer, Boyce (Egert 82). Subs not used Murphy, Bent, Campbell, Barker. Att 29,977. Ref Geoff Eltringham (Tyne & Wear). Top scorers Reid Bristol City Vydra Derby Grabban Aston Villa Adomah Aston Villa Clarke Sheff Utd Bowen Hull Jota Wolves Maddison Norwich R Sessegnon Fulham Sharp Sheff Utd Assombalonga Middlesbrough Bonatini Wolves League 17 17 16 14 15 13 13 13 14 12 12 12 Total 19 18 16 15 15 14 14 14 14 13 12 12 • The Observer 18.03.18 Sky Bet League One Blackburn Shrewsbury Wigan Rotherham Scunthorpe Plymouth Peterborough Portsmouth Charlton Bristol Rovers Bradford Gillingham Southend Blackpool Oxford Utd Walsall Doncaster AFC Wimbledon Oldham Fleetwood Town Northampton MK Dons Rochdale Bury P 37 36 34 37 38 37 37 37 36 37 35 36 37 37 36 37 36 37 36 36 37 37 34 37 W 11 11 10 12 7 10 10 9 8 10 6 4 9 6 7 7 6 7 7 4 6 6 4 6 HOME D L F 6 2 38 3 3 24 6 2 27 2 5 38 6 6 23 2 7 29 3 6 32 3 7 26 6 5 25 2 6 32 2 9 21 9 4 20 6 4 28 7 5 25 4 7 29 6 5 26 7 4 25 3 8 19 3 8 27 6 9 26 3 10 15 7 6 22 8 3 14 4 9 17 Blackpool (1) 1 Southend (1) 1 Robertson 45 Fortune 11 Blackpool Lumley, Turton, Tilt, Robertson, Daniel, Ryan, Spearing, Solomon-Otabor, Longstaff (Gnanduillet 78), Philliskirk■, Vassell (Agyei 78). Subs not used Aimson, D’Almeida, Clayton, Cooke, Mafoumbi. Southend Oxley, Demetriou, White, Turner■, Coker■, McLaughlin, Yearwood, Timlin■, Wordsworth, Fortune (Mantom 74), Cox■ (Robinson 46). Subs not used Kightly, Bishop, Cotton, Ladapo, Harrison. Att 3,213. Ref Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear). Charlton (0) 0 Fleetwood Town (0) 0 Charlton Amos, Konsa, Bauer, Pearce, Sarr, Aribo, Forster-Caskey, Marshall (KaiKai■ 66), Reeves (Ajose 60), Fosu, Magennis (Zyro 60). Subs not used Jackson, Lennon, Dijksteel, Maynard-Brewer. Fleetwood Town Cairns, Coyle, Eastham, Bolger, Jones, Sowerby, Dempsey, Diagouraga■, Hunter, Madden (Hiwula 87), Burns (McAleny 75). Subs not used Neal, Pond, Grant, Maguire, Glendon. Att 9,865. Ref Mark Heywood (Cheshire). Gillingham (-) P Blackburn (Postponed due to snow) (-) P MK Dons (1) 2 Bury (0) 1 Aneke 11pen 57pen Miller 76 Milton Keynes Dons Nicholls, Wootton, Ward, Lewington, B Williams, Brittain, Upson, Muirhead, Pawlett (McGrandles 71), Sow (Thomas-Asante 54), Aneke■ (Ebanks-Landell■ 84). Subs not used Cisse, Sietsma, Agard, Ugbo. Bury Ripley, Edwards (Maguire 58), Cameron■, Clarke■, Leigh, O’Shea, Ince (Danns 46), Bunn (Dawson■ 46), Mayor, Miller, Hanson. Subs not used Murphy, Tutte, Thompson, Styles. Att 9,247. Ref Gavin Ward (Surrey). Northampton Rotherham (1) 3 Smith 17 Ball 62 Towell 81 Northampton O’Donnell, Moloney, Taylor, Turnbull, Bunney, O’Toole (van Veen■ 70), Grimes, Hoskins (Ariyibi 59), Hildeberto, Powell, Luckassen (Mathis 79). Subs not used Cornell, Barnett, Shaun McWilliams, Facey. Rotherham Rodak, Emmanuel, Vaulks, Ajayi■, Mattock■ (Ihiekwe 67), Taylor■ (Forde 66), Palmer, Towell, Williams, Ball (Newell 84), Smith. Subs not used Wood, Price, Yates, Lavery. Att 5,882. Ref Ben Toner (Lancashire). Oldham (0) 0 (0) 0 Portsmouth (2) 2 Pitman 29 42 Oldham Placide, Dummigan, Wilson, Bryan, Moimbe (Nazon 80), Jack Byrne, Gardner, Fane, McLaughlin (McEleney 56), Doyle, Davies (Holloway 59). Subs not used de la Paz, Sam Edmundson, Pringle, Hunt. A W 18 11 10 11 9 11 20 8 21 8 28 6 24 5 19 7 22 6 25 5 28 9 18 8 21 3 25 5 29 5 24 4 19 4 24 4 27 3 31 6 28 4 24 3 12 3 23 1 Sky Bet League Two AWAY D L F 4 3 32 5 3 25 2 3 36 3 7 25 7 4 32 7 5 18 8 5 27 1 10 19 4 7 19 3 11 21 3 6 27 4 7 22 5 10 15 6 8 19 5 8 23 5 10 21 6 9 18 6 9 18 7 8 23 3 8 20 6 8 20 4 11 15 5 11 20 5 12 14 A 17 17 14 23 25 17 23 28 24 31 24 22 34 23 25 30 25 24 35 26 32 27 30 32 GD +35 +22 +40 +20 +9 +2 +12 -2 -2 -3 -4 +2 -12 -4 -2 -7 -1 -11 -12 -11 -25 -14 -8 -24 Pts 76 74 71 65 58 57 56 52 52 50 50 49 47 46 45 44 43 42 40 39 39 38 34 30 Form WWWDWW WLDWWW LWDDWD WWWLLL DDDLDD WWWWDD DDWWWW LLWLLL DWLLLL WLDWDD LLDDLL WDDLWW DWLDDD WDWLWL LLLDLL LLWLLL DLWLDD LWDLWW WDWWDD LLLDDD WLDDDD LLDDLW DLWWDW DLWDLD Portsmouth McGee, Walkes, Whatmough, Clarke■, Haunstrup, Close, Donohue■, Lowe, Ronan, Naismith, Pitman■. Subs not used Burgess, Kennedy, Chaplin, Deslandes, May, Widdrington. Att 4,306. Ref Seb Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear). Oxford Utd (1) 2 Peterborough (0) 1 Dickie 6, Henry 61 Marriott 62 Oxford Utd Eastwood, Kane, Dickie, Mousinho, Smith-Brown, Henry, Ledson■, Brannagan, Mowatt (Ricardinho 88), Obika (Van Kessel 46), Thomas (Napa 69). Subs not used Martin, Shearer, Ruffels, Buckley-Rickett. Peterborough Bond, Shephard, Baldwin■, Taylor, Hughes, Da Silva Lopes, Doughty, Anderson (Bogle 38), Ward (Forrester 46), Maddison■, Marriott, Forrester (Lloyd 54). Subs not used Tafazolli, Morias, O’Malley, Cooper. Att 6,804. Ref Rob Lewis (Shropshire). Plymouth (1) 3 Bristol Rovers (2) 2 Ness 34 48 Lines 12 Carey 85pen Harrison 36 Plymouth Matthews■, Threlkeld, Vyner, Songo’o, Sawyer, Makasi (Paton 90), Fox, Ness, Carey■, Taylor, Lameiras (Taylor-Sinclair 90). Subs not used Ainsworth, Grant, Letheren, Fletcher, Sangster. Bristol Rovers Slocombe, Partington■ (Bola 71), Lockyer■, Craig, James Clarke, Ollie Clarke (Nichols 87), Lines, Sinclair, Sercombe, Harrison (Gaffney 87), Bennett■. Subs not used Sweeney, Broadbent, Smith, Mensah. Att 13,466. Ref John Brooks (Leicestershire). Rochdale (1) 1 AFC Wimbledon (1) 1 Cannon 25 Oshilaja 7 Rochdale Lillis, McGahey, McNulty, Delaney, Wiseman, Inman (Davies 74), Camps, Cannon (Kitching 74), Done, Humphrys, Henderson■. Subs not used Rathbone, Moore, Hart, Alexandru Dobre, Gillam. AFC Wimbledon Long, Fuller, Nightingale, Oshilaja, Meades, Trotter, Soares, Abdou (Forrester 63), Francomb, Pigott (Barcham 63), Taylor. Subs not used Robinson, Parrett, Sibbick, Kaja, McDonnell. Att 2,667. Ref Scott Oldham (Lancashire). Scunthorpe Morris 8 (1) 1 Shrewsbury (0) 2 Nolan 51 Payne 59pen Scunthorpe Gilks, Bishop (Clarke 68), McArdle■, Burgess, Wallace, Holmes (Adelakun 68), Ojo, Yates, Morris, Toney■ (Wootton 78), Hopper. Subs not used Townsend, Goode, McGeehan, Watson. Shrewsbury Henderson, Hendrie, Nsiala■, Sadler, Beckles, Godfrey (Payne 32), Whalley, Nolan■, Ogogo, Rodman, Carlton Morris■ (John-Lewis 87). Subs not used Lowe, Thomas, MacGillivray, Bryn Morris, Jones. Att 3,824. Ref Michael Salisbury (Lancashire). Accrington Stanley Luton Notts County Wycombe Mansfield Coventry Lincoln City Exeter Swindon Carlisle Newport County Crawley Town Colchester Cambridge Utd Cheltenham Stevenage Yeovil Morecambe Port Vale Crewe Forest Green Grimsby Chesterfield Barnet P 37 38 38 37 37 37 37 36 37 38 37 37 37 38 38 37 37 36 37 37 37 38 36 38 W 14 13 12 10 10 11 10 11 8 7 6 8 8 10 7 7 8 6 5 7 8 4 6 4 HOME D L F 2 3 37 2 4 52 5 2 37 4 5 40 8 1 37 3 4 25 6 3 32 3 4 24 2 8 23 7 5 28 9 2 24 3 7 22 6 5 27 5 4 24 6 6 27 8 3 34 4 7 27 4 7 19 6 7 21 3 9 24 2 9 28 7 8 15 3 10 22 6 9 16 Accrington (1) 3 Forest Green (0) 1 Johnson 3 Reid 64 Clark 81 Jackson 90 Accrington Stanley Chapman, Johnson, Hughes, Dunne, Donacien, Clark, Brown, Conneely, McConville, Jackson, Kee. Subs not used Richards-Everton, Nolan, Zanzala, Williams, Maxted, Sousa, Rodgers. Forest Green Bradley Collins, Charlie Cooper (Grubb 89), Gunning, Rawson, Hollis, Osbourne, Lee Collins, Clements, Campbell, Reid, Wishart (Brown 85). Subs not used Bennett, Laird, Simpson, Belford, Bray. Att 2,313. Ref David Webb (County Durham). Barnet (0) 0 Wycombe (0) 2 Jacobson 52pen O’Nien 72 Barnet Ross, Vilhete (Brindley 42), Sweeney, Santos, Tutonda, Watson, Weston■, Ruben Bover (Jack Taylor■ 65), Coulthirst (Clough 75), Akinde, Nicholls. Subs not used Akinola, Akpa Akpro, Renell McKenzie-Lyle, Nicholson. Wycombe Brown, Moore, El-Abd, Jombati, Jacobson, Bloomfield (Thompson 85), Gape, O’Nien, Mackail-Smith (Tyson 57), Akinfenwa, Freeman (Kashket 79). Subs not used Bean, Cowan-Hall, McGinley, Makabu-Makalamby. Att 2,103. Ref Lee Collins (Surrey). Cambridge Utd (0) 1 Ikpeazu 73 Swindon (1) 3 Norris 16 Richards 62 84pen Cambridge Utd Forde, Halliday, Taft, Taylor, Dunk, Deegan, O’Neil (Ibehre 72), Waters, Maris (Amoo 58), Jevani Brown, Ikpeazu. Subs not used Carroll, Legge, Mitov, Elito, Lewis. Swindon Moore, Purkiss, Robertson, Menayese, Hussey (McGivern 78), Mullin (Gordon 86), Dunne, Elsnik, Taylor, Norris (Woolery 59), Richards. Subs not used Knoyle, Twine, Anderson, Henry. Att 5,123. Ref Lee Swabey (Devon). Carlisle (1) 2 Crawley Town (0) 2 Bennett 38 Ahearne-Grant 56 81 Hope 47 Carlisle Bonham, Liddle, Ellis, Hill■, Parkes■, Lambe, Devitt (Joyce 64), Jones, Hope■, Bennett (O’Sullivan 70), Nadesan (Twardek 77). Subs not used Grainger, Gray, Brown, Stockton. Crawley Town Morris, Young, McNerney, Connolly, Evina, Bulman, Payne (Tajbakhsh 70), Ahearne-Grant, Smith, Boldewijn■, Randall (Camara 54). Subs not used Cox, Mersin, Djalo, Lelan, Sanoh. Att 4,097. Ref Martin Coy (County Durham). Cheltenham (0) 1 Chesterfield (0) 1 Graham 79 Dennis 74 Cheltenham Flinders, Moore, Grimes (Joe Rodon 76), Boyle, Chatzitheodoridis, Atangana, Dawson (Graham 78), Winchester, Morrell, Andrews■ (Pell 54), Eisa. Subs not used Cranston, Lovett, Odelusi, Lloyd. Chesterfield Ramsdale, Barry, Whitmore, Nelson, George Smith, Brown (Dodds 73), Weir■, Talbot, Kay (Binnom-Williams■ 82), Kellett, Dennis. Subs not used O’Grady, Anyon, Maguire, McCourt, Hines. Att 2,822. Ref Ollie Yates (Staffordshire). Colchester Yeovil (1) 1 Fisher 21 Colchester Walker, Eastman, Prosser, Kent, Vincent-Young, Lapslie, Comley■ (Senior 46), Wright, Szmodics, Mandeville (Shodipo 71), Guthrie (Mandron 65). Subs not used Rooney, Murray, Stevenson, Dillon Barnes. Yeovil Nelson, James, Sowunmi, Donnellan, Dickson (Mugabi 40), Green, Wing, Bird, Browne, Zoko (Barnes 82), Fisher (Surridge 65). Subs not used Khan, Maddison, Seager, Santos. Att 2,772. Ref Tom Nield (West Yorkshire). Crewe Bowery 33 Shrewsbury were just warming up after Jon Nolan’s equaliser sparked a 2-1 second-half comeback win over Scunthorpe (0) 0 (1) 1 Coventry (2) 2 Ray 5og Bayliss 43 Crewe Garratt, Ng, Ray■, Nolan■, Bakayogo (Ainley 21), Kirk, Pickering, Green, Sterry, Miller (McKirdy 72), Bowery (Dagnall 80). Subs not used Raynes, Richards, Lowery, Barlaser. A W 18 9 21 7 17 6 30 9 19 6 13 7 19 6 14 7 32 11 19 8 17 7 17 7 18 5 16 3 23 4 21 4 19 3 23 3 23 4 28 4 30 2 23 5 29 2 24 3 21 Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership AWAY D L F 3 6 27 9 3 27 7 6 23 5 4 30 7 5 19 4 8 18 6 6 21 3 8 22 1 7 35 4 7 27 5 8 23 5 7 22 6 7 19 6 10 14 6 9 26 3 12 16 5 10 20 8 8 18 5 10 20 1 13 20 5 11 16 3 11 17 4 11 15 3 13 18 A 22 19 22 22 19 18 21 26 23 29 30 29 25 34 31 34 38 24 30 33 34 34 36 32 GD +24 +39 +21 +18 +18 +12 +13 +6 +3 +7 0 -2 +3 -12 -1 -5 -10 -10 -12 -17 -20 -25 -28 -22 Pts 74 71 66 66 63 61 60 60 60 56 53 53 51 50 45 44 42 39 38 37 37 37 31 30 Form WDWWWW WDDLDL DLWDWW WWLLDD WWDDDD LDWWDW WLLDWW LWWDDD WLWLLL WWWWDD LDDDWW WLWLDD DWLLDD WWLDDD LLDDWW DLWLDD WLLLDL DDWLDD LLDDDD LWLWDD WDWDLL LLLLDD LLLWLL DLWLDL Coventry O’Brien, Grimmer, Hyam, McDonald, Haynes, Vincenti (Ponticelli 88), Doyle, Bayliss (Kelly 48), Shipley (Reid 77), Clarke-Harris, McNulty. Subs not used Stokes, Biamou, Barrett, Bilson. Att 4,666. Ref Antony Coggins (Oxfordshire). Lincoln City (3) 3 Grimsby (1) 1 Frecklington 31 Davies 45pen Green 34 Wharton 39 Lincoln City Allsop, Eardley, Bostwick, Wharton, Habergham, Whitehouse, Woodyard, Frecklington (Wilson 81), Green (Anderson 65), Rhead (Palmer■ 59), Williams. Subs not used Farman, Long, Pett, Rowe. Grimsby McKeown, Hall-Johnson (Mitchell Rose 56), Clarke, Collins, Fox, Clifton■, Berrett, Davies, Woolford (Jaiyesimi 66), Cardwell (McSheffrey 46), Matt. Subs not used Mills, Vernon, Dembele, Killip. Att 9,774. Ref David Coote (Nottinghamshire). Morecambe (1) 2 Exeter (1) 1 Lavelle 43 Sweeney 37 Rose 78 Morecambe Roche, McGowan■, Lavelle, Winnard, Conlan, Kenyon, Rose, McGurk (Oliver 80), Thompson, Wylde (Campbell 80), Lang (Wildig 85). Subs not used Brough, Nizic, Lund, Fleming. Exeter Pym, Sweeney, Brown, Archibald-Henville (Simpson 83), Moxey■, Boateng, James (Tillson 60), Harley (Jay 82), Taylor, Stockley, Edwards. Subs not used Jones, McAlinden, Wilson, Croll. Att 1,056. Ref Carl Boyeson (E Yorkshire). Newport County (1) 1 Luton (1) 1 Sheehan 2 Potts 24 Newport County Day, White, Demetriou, O’Brien■, Butler, Sheehan (Nouble 70), Dolan■, Tozer, Aaron Collins, Amond (McCoulsky 86), Willmott. Subs not used Pipe, Jackson, Bennett, Reid, Bittner. Luton Stech, Stacey, Cuthbert, Sheehan, Potts, Gambin (McCormack 88), Rea, Berry, Elliot Lee (Cornick 68), Collins, Hylton (Jervis 84). Subs not used Justin, Mullins, Olly Lee, Shea. Att 3,512. Ref Craig Hicks (Surrey). Notts County (1) 1 Mansfield (0) 1 Hawkridge 35 Hemmings 90pen Notts County Collin, Tootle, Duffy, Hall, Dickinson, Hawkridge (Alessandra 82), Hewitt■, Noble (Smith 90), Grant, Stead, Ameobi. Subs not used Virtue, Brisley, Husin, Jones, Fitzsimons. Mansfield Logan, Anderson (Digby 90), Bennett, Pearce, Benning■, Atkinson■, King (Angol 61), MacDonald■, Hamilton, Hemmings, Rose. Subs not used Olejnik, White, Sterling-James, Byrom, Miller. Att 12,563. Ref Andy Woolmer (Northants). Port Vale (0) 2 Stevenage (1) 2 Wilson 65 Amos 10 Hannant 77 Kennedy 48 Port Vale Boot, Davis (Gibbons 46), Raglan■, Smith, Montano, Worrall, Pugh, Tonge, Hannant, Harness (Wilson 46), Forrester. Subs not used Howe, Hornby, Barnett, Whitfield, Howkins. Stevenage T King, Vancooten (Franks 46), J King, Wilkinson, Martin■, Goddard, Sheaf, Jonathan Smith■, Amos (Gorman 87), Kennedy, Newton■, Franks (Whelpdale 72). Subs not used Fryer, White, Wade-Slater, O’Donnell. Att 3,462. Ref Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria). Top scorers Kee Accrington Stanley Doidge Forest Green Eisa Cheltenham Collins Luton Grant Notts County Akinfenwa Wycombe Hylton Luton Rose Mansfield Stockley Exeter Dennis Chesterfield McNulty Coventry League 21 16 17 17 15 16 15 14 12 15 15 Total 22 21 19 18 18 17 17 17 17 16 16 Celtic Rangers Aberdeen Hibernian Kilmarnock Hearts Motherwell St Johnstone Hamilton Dundee Partick Ross County P 29 30 29 30 29 30 29 30 27 29 29 29 W 20 18 16 14 11 9 10 9 8 8 6 5 D 7 4 5 10 10 12 5 7 5 4 7 6 L 2 8 8 6 8 9 14 14 14 17 16 18 F 59 61 43 43 39 29 34 30 38 30 26 31 A GD Pts 20 +39 67 35 +26 58 33 +10 53 33 +10 52 38 +1 43 29 0 39 39 -5 35 43 -13 34 48 -10 29 47 -17 28 47 -21 25 51 -20 21 Aberdeen (1) 1 Dundee (0) 0 Shinnie 35 Aberdeen Woodman, Logan, O’Connor, McKenna, Considine, Nwakali (Stewart 72), Shinnie■, McGinn (Mackay-Steven 90), McLean, Christie, May (Rooney 90). Subs not used Cosgrove, Arnason, Ball, Rogers. Dundee Parish, Caulker, Meekings (Kerr 78), O’Dea, Leitch-Smith, O’Hara, Kamara, Deacon, Holt, McGowan, Moussa (Murray 48). Subs not used Ferie, Lambert, Aurtenetxe, El Bakhtaoui, Curran. Att 15,208. Ref William Collum (Scotland). Hearts (3) 3 Partick (0) 0 Lafferty 17 Naismith 21 Souttar 44 Hearts McLaughlin, Godinho, Souttar, Berra, Hughes, Cowie (McDonald 77), Michael Smith, Adao (Cochrane 66), Amankwaa (Moore 90), Naismith, Lafferty■. Subs not used Hamilton, Randall, Callachan, Henderson. Partick Cerny, Elliot, Devine■, Cargill, Booth, Erskine (Edwards 64), Osman■ (Barton 46), Woods, Lawless (McCarthy 46), Doolan, Storey. Subs not used McGinn, Spittal, Scully, Penrice. Att 17,179. Ref Euan Anderson (Scotland). Rangers (0) 0 Kilmarnock (0) 1 K Boyd 54 Rangers Foderingham, Tavernier, Martin, Bruno Alves■, John, Docherty, Goss (Holt 46), Candeias (Miller 76), Windass (Morelos 61), Murphy, Cummings. Subs not used Fabio Cardoso, Herrera, Halliday, Alnwick. Kilmarnock MacDonald, O’Donnell, Broadfoot, Findlay, Taylor, Dicker, Mulumbu (Erwin 83), Tshibola■ (Power 61), Brophy, Jones, K Boyd (McKenzie■ 62). Subs not used Fasan, Simpson, Kiltie, S Boyd. Att 49,396. Ref Don Robertson (Scotland). Ross County (1) 2 Hamilton (0) 2 Lindsay 23 Imrie 49pen Davies 76 Ogboe 52 Ross County McCarey, Fraser (Gardyne 84), Davies, Fontaine, Naismith, Lindsay, Draper, Chow (Curran 72), Routis, McKay, Schalk■. Subs not used Ngog, Fox, Dow, O’Brien, Melbourne. Hamilton Woods, Want■, Tomas, van der Weg, Templeton■ (Redmond■ 78), Lyon, Jenkins, Ferguson, McMann■, Rojano■ (Imrie 46), Ogboe (Bingham 81). Subs not used Miller, Fulton, Cunningham, Hughes. Att 3,586. Ref Kevin Clancy (Scotland). Top scorers League 15 9 10 13 12 7 8 7 8 8 Boyd Kilmarnock Sinclair Celtic Lafferty Hearts Morelos Rangers Windass Rangers Forrest Celtic Murray Dundee Dembele Celtic Griffiths Celtic Rooney Aberdeen Total 20 18 17 17 17 16 16 13 12 10 Championship P W D L F A GD Pts St Mirren 28 20 3 5 52 29 +23 63 Livingston 28 14 9 5 44 28 +16 51 Dundee Utd 25 13 5 7 35 30 +5 44 Morton 29 11 10 8 38 28 +10 43 Dunfermline 28 10 9 9 40 30 +10 39 Queen of South 28 10 8 10 41 40 +1 38 Falkirk 28 8 10 10 31 40 -9 34 Inverness CT 26 8 7 11 31 32 -1 31 Dumbarton 27 6 9 12 19 33 -14 27 Brechin 27 0 4 23 19 60 -41 4 Brechin 1 Dumbarton 3; Dundee Utd 1 Inverness CT 1; Dunfermline 0 Morton 0; Livingston 0 Falkirk 0; Queen of the South 1 St Mirren 3 League One Ayr Raith Arbroath Alloa East Fife Stranraer Airdrieonians Forfar Albion Queen’s Park P 29 29 29 29 29 30 29 30 28 30 W D L F A GD Pts 19 4 6 76 33 +43 61 17 7 5 56 30 +26 58 14 7 8 56 40 +16 49 13 7 9 45 36 +9 46 12 3 14 42 49 -7 39 11 5 14 47 58 -11 38 9 9 11 39 50 -11 36 8 4 18 34 60 -26 28 7 6 15 52 65 -13 27 6 8 16 36 62 -26 26 Albion 1 Arbroath 2; Alloa 2 Airdrieonians 2; Forfar 0 Ayr 2; Stranraer 2 Queen’s Park 3 Today Raith v East Fife (4.10pm) League Two P W D L F A GD Pts Montrose 29 18 7 4 45 31 +14 61 Peterhead 30 18 4 8 68 37 +31 58 Stirling 28 15 4 9 52 34 +18 49 Stenhousemuir 27 13 5 9 44 34 +10 44 Elgin 28 12 4 12 44 50 -6 40 Annan Athletic 30 9 10 11 38 35 +3 37 Clyde 28 9 9 10 37 42 -5 36 Edinburgh City 28 7 6 15 30 43 -13 27 Berwick 27 7 5 15 22 49 -27 26 Cowdenbeath 27 2 8 17 17 42 -25 14 Annan 1 Clyde 1; Berwick P Stenhousemuir P; Cowdenbeath 3 Elgin 1; Edinburgh City 2 Stirling 2; Montrose 3 Peterhead 2 Non League Vanarama National League Top eight P W D L F A GD Pts Macclesfield 37 21 8 8 51 39 +12 71 Sutton Utd 38 20 9 9 57 40 +17 69 Boreham Wood 38 17 14 7 53 35 +18 65 Tranmere 38 18 10 10 62 39 +23 64 Wrexham 38 16 16 6 45 30 +15 64 Aldershot 38 17 13 8 58 45 +13 64 Dover 38 17 12 9 52 33 +19 63 AFC Fylde 38 16 11 11 71 49 +22 59 AFC Fylde 3 Hartlepool 3; Boreham Wood 2 Tranmere 1; Bromley P Dag & Red P; Chester FC 0 Aldershot 0; Dover 2 Macclesfield 0; Eastleigh 0 Leyton Orient 0; Gateshead P Ebbsfleet United P; Guiseley 1 FC Halifax 1; Maidenhead Utd 0 Barrow 1; Maidstone Utd 1 Sutton Utd 0; Solihull Moors 1 Torquay 1; Woking 2 Wrexham 2 Vanarama North Top eight P W D L F A GD Pts Salford City 33 22 5 6 60 36 +24 71 Harrogate Town 33 21 6 6 82 40 +42 69 Brackley 32 18 10 4 57 28 +29 64 York 34 15 8 11 59 50 +9 53 Kidderminster 32 14 10 8 54 36 +18 52 Blyth Spartans 32 17 1 14 67 50 +17 52 Spennymoor 28 14 6 8 54 44 +10 48 Southport 33 13 8 12 52 55 -3 47 Alfreton P Kidderminster P; Blyth Spartans P Curzon Ashton P; Boston Utd 4 FC United 4; Brackley P Chorley P; Bradford PA P AFC Telford P; Darlington 6 North Ferriby Utd 0; Gainsborough 2 Stockport County 3; Leamington 1 Nuneaton 0; Salford City 3 Spennymoor 2; Tamworth 1 Harrogate Town 1; York P Southport P Vanarama South Top eight Havant and W Dartford Hampton & Rich St Albans Chelmsford Truro City Hemel H Braintree Town P 33 34 33 33 34 32 33 33 W 18 18 15 15 14 15 14 13 D L F A GD Pts 10 5 52 24 +28 64 8 8 68 42 +26 62 14 4 47 29 +18 59 8 10 57 43 +14 53 11 9 50 38 +12 53 7 10 55 43 +12 52 10 9 53 41 +12 52 11 9 57 46 +11 50 Bognor Regis Town 0 East Thurrock 2; Braintree Town P Whitehawk P; Chippenham 2 Weston-super-Mare 0; Concord Rangers 1 St Albans 2; Dartford 3 Hemel Hempstead 2; Gloucester 4 Hungerford Town 0; Havant and W 0 Hampton & Richmond 0; Poole Town 0 Bath City 4; Truro 2 Chelmsford 0; Wealdstone P Eastbourne Borough P; Welling 1 Oxford City 3 Other football BUILDBASE FA TROPHY Semi-finals: First leg Brackley 1 Wealdstone 0; Bromley 3 Gateshead 2 BUILDBASE FA VASE Semi-finals: First leg Marske Utd 0 Stockton Town 2; Thatcham 1 1874 Northwich 0 EVO-STIK NORTHERN PREMIER Altrincham 1 Stalybridge 2; Hednesford 3 Marine 2; Matlock Tn 1 Farsley Celtic 2; Nantwich Tn 1 Halesowen 3; Stafford Rgrs 4 Coalville Tn 1; Stourbridge 2 Ashton U 3; Sutton Coldfield Tn 2 Mickleover S 1; Warrington Tn 2 Grantham 1; Witton Albion 4 Shaw Lane 0; Workington 1 Buxton 2. Postponed: Whitby v Rushall O; Barwell v Lancaster C. EVO-STIK SOUTHERN PREMIER Basingstoke 3 Hereford FC 1; Bishop’s Stortford 2 Slough 2; Frome Tn 2 Kings Langley 1; Gosport B 2 Redditch 5; Kings Lynn Tn 3 Farnborough 1; Merthyr Tn 1 St Neots 0; Stratford Tn 0 Kettering 4; Weymouth 2 Dunstable 0. Postponed: Hitchin v Dorchester; Royston Tn v Banbury; St Ives Tn v Chesham; Tiverton v Biggleswade Tn. BOSTIK PREMIER Burgess Hill Tn 1 Brightlingsea 2; Enfield Tn 3 Staines Tn 4; Leatherhead 1 Dorking W 0; Leiston 4 Wingate & F 0; Merstham 2 Harlow 0; Met Police 2 Margate 2; Tonbridge As 3 Kingstonian 1; Tooting & M 0 Hendon 2. Postponed: Billericay v Needham Market; Harrow Borough v Lowestoft Tn; Thurrock v Folkestone I. PRESS & JOURNAL HIGHLAND LEAGUE Cove Rgrs 1 Wick Ac 1; Forres Mechs 1 Buckie Th 0; Inverurie LWs 9 Lossiemouth 1; Nairn Co 1 Formartine Utd 2; Turriff Utd 1 Clachnacuddin 0; Keith 1 Brora 2; Fort William 1 Huntly 4. Postponed: Rothes v Fraserburg; Strathspey Thistle v Deveronvale. • 22 The Observer 18.03.18 Football Extra Time Programme Notes Real Madrid claim their €100m academy is ‘the greatest sports facility ever built by a football club’. Alex Clapham pays a visit The score was locked at 2-2 when Marco Asensio hit a 25-yard rocket that dipped and whipped in front of Manuel Neuer’s face before landing in the bottom corner. Ecstasy and an eight-man pile-on ensue as the other player screams expletives and claims his controller is faulty. With less than four hours to go until kick-off, the Cadete B players are supposed to be relaxing before a testing league encounter under the lights. Playing a Fifa tournament on Playstation isn’t exactly doing the trick. Competitiveness is encouraged by staff around the Real Madrid complex, says academy coach Javier Morán. “These are boys who are representing Real Madrid – they need to be a certain kind of individual to succeed here. You can’t coach desire but you can surround the boys with drive and belief. Our ethos is nunca se rinde [‘never give up’]: they need that edge to achieve their targets.” As players retire to their rooms to rest before the game, which will be broadcast on national television, I look around at the murals of Alfredo Di Stéfano, Zinedine Zidane and Raúl on the corridor walls. Only one of them played his youth football in La Fábrica [the Factory] and the club has not exactly shied away from major Look out for A touchline rant José? Arsène? Pep? Amateurs. No one dominates a technical area like Neil Warnock, and he’s back on TV today – taking Cardiﬀ to promotion rivals Derby (12pm SSF). It should be lively. Hasn’t he calmed down in his dotage? Two things. First, he’s only 69 – it just feels like he’s been around longer. He’s still nine months younger than Roy Hodgson. And second, he’s lost nothing. Last week he reacted to a 3-0 win with an extended attack on the referee for a “dicky” penalty award signings in recent years. Real have broken the world transfer record five times since Florentino Pérez took over as president in 2000 and began the galácticos era. The boys know they are up against it. When Spain lifted the World Cup in 2010, Juan Mata, Álvaro Arbeloa and Iker Casillas were the only players to have been moulded in Real’s academy. In contrast, nine of the 23-man squad came through Barcelona’s famed La Masia. Real are trying to redress that balance. “Real Madrid want to be the club known for breeding the players that play for the national team,” says Morán. “When scouting, we know we need the boys to be extremely gifted technically. Where we’re different to Barça and others is how we strive to create complete players who can play in any system. You never know what’s going to change at the top with first-team managers coming and going, so we focus more on individuals than creating a certain profile for each player.” Real Madrid City, “the greatest sports facility ever built by a football club”, was opened in 2005. The €100m complex is 40 times bigger than the Bernabéu stadium and contains enough dressing rooms to host every La Liga club on the same day, with multiple gyms, classrooms and offices as well as a hydrotherapy pool, medical centre and press area. The club provide schooling and transport for youngsters from far and wide as well as housing 40 players. On average they will stay for three years and when the boys, who are often as young as 10, arrive against his side, given for a shirt pull. “It was for nothing. You wouldn’t even call security in a shopping centre for that. The referee’s made up his mind to give it – he wanted to give it.” But that’s an isolated case, right? Other Warnock highlights this season include his reﬂections on a 2-1 win over Barnsley: “The ref should have sent Moore oﬀ twice. It’s a disgrace”; on a 1-0 defeat at Birmingham: “The referee was so poor, how didn’t we get a penalty, Joe Bennett had his head kicked oﬀ”; on a 1-1 draw at Millwall: “I just think the ref is appalling at this level. His concentration levels must have been minus. He’s let us down, he’s cost us, it’s an absolute disgrace”; and on a 2-2 draw at Reading, where he was sent to the stands: “I feel betrayed: I said some things to the fourth oﬃcial and he REAL MADRID VIA GETTY IMAGES ‘Only a certain type of person succeeds here’ Real Madrid’s extensive academy complex features facilities including a 6,000-capacity stadium and some well-used playseats on their first day they are told: “You are no longer a son of your parents; you are now a Real Madrid player.” It is a ruthless welcome into the unforgiving world of elite football. Details are important here: siestas lasting no longer than 40 minutes, and rest-day meals being plated up at precise times. Early morning recovery work is a habit drilled into youngsters who played the day before, with “compensation work” for those who didn’t have a game. When boys arrive aged 10 they are told: ‘You are no longer a son of your parents, you are now a Real Madrid player’ must have written them down. I ﬁnd that very unusual, for a fourth oﬃcial to be taking notes. What I said couldn’t be construed as oﬀensive.” There’s a theme here. The main message from it all, unless you’re a referee, is that Warnock is as entertaining as he always was – and the idea of him being back in the top ﬂight next season is deﬁnitely a good thing. And that’s going to happen? Cardiﬀ are looking solid. They collapsed around Christmas with four straight defeats but they face Derby today looking for an eighth consecutive win. They are second with 27 points to play for, meaning Warnock is on course for a record eighth promotion. How does he do it? “I pride myself on the spirit,” he says. “I look around the dressing room before a game and think: ‘Wow, I’m Tactically, the coaches will work on simulating match situations and hypothetical scenarios. Positioning is essential and coaches demand perfection. The players will be told they are 1-0 up with five minutes left to play and asked to pressure, screen, delay and cover while hanging on with desperation. Attackers are urged to be patient with every pass while also moving the ball quickly to penetrate defences. Players are instructed to create two-on-one situations to drag their opponents out of position. Tactic boards and sheets containing plays that wouldn’t go amiss in the folder of an NBA coach are all out in force on the pitches at the academy. The Cadete B players who were battling against each other on the Playstation a few hours ago are now on the same side and losing 1-0 to their plucky opponents, Trival Valderas Alcorcón. Parents and local fans alike are murmuring about head Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, offering officials some feedback coach Pedro Sánchez’s decisions, with every stray pass met by grumbles. This is very much the youth football equivalent of being greeted by 80,000 white hankies from angry fans in the Bernabéu. Feeling sorry for yourself won’t cut it around here and a late equaliser is scrambled home before two more goals in injury time give the under15s a scrappy 3-1 victory. The players pile on to each other in celebration after the whistle, producing a mountain of bodies by the corner flag, as the parents and supporters rise to give them an ovation. The win has kept the team a point clear at the top – but the delight around the place has less to do with the result and more to do with the boys showing a nunca se rinde attitude. That’s the minimum they will need to make it here. Alex Clapham is a football coach and writer for canofootball.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexclapham. glad they’re my lads, these.’” His hungry, no-nonsense side are also great at set pieces. They’ve scored from a league-high 22 this season, including seven of their last 13 goals. And he’ll stay on if they go up? Owner Vincent Tan, also a natural entertainer, handed him a new two-year deal last month. “Vincent knows that I know what I’m doing,” Warnock said then. “He still tells me when we don’t have enough shots and things like that, does Vincent, but I think that’s good, me.” What about Derby? “It’ll be as tough as you get,” he says. “The toughest we’ve had in a long time.” And who’s refereeing? Robert Jones. Warnock’s view on Jones, as set out earlier this month: “He’s not good enough.” Keep an eye on that touchline. • The Observer 18.03.18 The opening ceremony of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow – 66 countries joined a US-led boycott From the Archive 23 March 1980 What happened next History repeating … when sport faced calls to boycott Moscow The Agenda The week ahead An enduring message Paralympics finale A memorable 10 days ends with the Winter Paralympics closing ceremony in Pyeongchang today (12.30pm, Channel 4). Besides the standard basics – fireworks, South Korean pop rock bands and British Popopera outfit Il Divo – organisers plan a tribute to the late Stephen Hawking, who narrated the opening ceremony of the 2012 summer Paralympics. His closing remarks in London, six years ago: “The Paralympic Games is about transforming our perception of the world. We are all different, there is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being, but we share the same human spirit. What is important is that we have the ability to create. This creativity can take many forms, from physical federations attending Tuesday’s meeting and we believe that the probable decision will be to accept the invitation to attend the Games. Three clear themes emerged from our discussions with those delegates. First, opinion is hardening against the government because they have handled the affair so badly and with such ignorance. Second, those administrators who either attended the House of Commons debate on Monday or who read the report of it in Hansard were amazed at the appalling standard of the debate. As one gallery listener put it: “I’ve never heard so much rubbish. Only three members knew what they were talking about – Denis Howell, Eldon Griffiths and Terence Higgins.” Howell and Griffiths, of course, are ex-ministers of sport and Higgins is a former Olympic competitor. Third, there is disappointment and growing annoyance that the government has continued to put sport in the front line of its attack against Russia. It is quite clear to me that if the Government had put an embargo on all trade with Russia and had withdrawn our ambassador from Moscow then all 26 sports would be united in rejecting the invitation to Moscow. But since trade There is real resentment that young athletes are being used as guns and soldiers continues apace and diplomats still come and go, there is considerable resentment that young sportsmen and women are being used as the government’s guns and soldiers. So the odds-on bet is that the BOA will decide to accept the invitation because many sports want to clear up the uncertainty in competitors’ minds and because the BOA need to go ahead with their preparations and fund raising. Indeed their fund-raising activities have been severely hit and it may be necessary to make an appeal to the public at large – they need one million people to contribute £1 each. But even if the BOA do accept, it does not mean that all sports will send official teams. Some, notably equestrianism, may decide not to nominate an official team but they will not stand in the way of any Stephen Hawking, pictured during his address at the London 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony, will be honoured during today’s closing ceremony in Pyeongchang achievement to theoretical physics. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. The Games provide an opportunity for athletes to excel, to stretch themselves and become outstanding in their field. So let us together celebrate excellence, friendship and respect. Good luck to you all.” Chris Brasher’s analysis was correct. The British Olympic Association voted by a large majority to defy Thatcher’s demand, and Britain sent a strong lineup to Moscow – minus equestrian sports, hockey and yachting. The then sports minister, Hector Monro, wrote privately to Douglas Hurd, then a junior Foreign Office minister, to say that most athletes “believe they are being singled out as a means of attacking the Soviet Union whilst politicians permit the business of trade and commerce to continue as usual”. The British team ended up seventh in the final medals table, winning five golds including Sebastian Coe’s in the 1500m and Steve Ovett’s in the 800m. The boycott, meanwhile, had little impact. It did not convince the Soviet Union to change policy – and, four years later, they responded in kind: boycotting the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. individual of Olympic standard who wants to go. Other sports may go ahead with trials and then leave the decision to a vote of the competitors themselves. So the probability is that there will be a substantial and strong British team in Moscow. It is also probable that few, if any, of the team will take part in the opening ceremony – unless a suggestion that western countries should parade in black tracksuits emblazoned with the word “Afghanistan” (in Russian script) across their chests gains support. Two final points. If the Russians withdraw from Afghanistan then everybody, including, I suspect, the Americans will go. But if the British government bans trade and withdraws our diplomats, then there will be no British competitors – and no press or television coverage. Kingsholm (3pm, BT Sport 1) is Bath’s first senior final for a decade, since 2008’s European Challenge Cup final win at the same venue. Opponents Exeter, who won in 2014 to claim their first major trophy in 143 years, have lost the past two finals. Exeter skills coach and former Bath back Ricky Pellow: “This time we’ve just got to finish the job.” GLYN KIRK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES Will the agonising be over on Tuesday when the British Olympic Association meet again to decide whether or not to enter a British team in the Moscow Olympics? The competitors certainly hope so; many administrators hope so, and so, fervently, do we in the press. There is nothing fresh to say. It is time to decide. We have talked to many of the delegates from the 26 sports TONY DUFFY/GETTY IMAGES 38 years ago, the Thatcher government tried to use sport as a diplomatic weapon against the Soviet Union. It did not go to plan In December 1979, seven months before hosting the Olympics, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter, the US president, responded by calling for a global boycott of the Games. But while 66 nations joined the protest, British Olympians were unconvinced. In March 1980, they met to agree a final response to Margaret Thatcher’s demand for them to stay at home. The Observer’s Chris Brasher previewed their meeting. 23 Europe’s elite City and Chelsea in action Breaking up the men’s international break this week: the Women’s Champions League quarterfinal first legs – including Manchester City v Sweden’s Linkoping (Weds, 7pm) and Chelsea away at Montpellier (Weds, 7.45pm). Chelsea beat Bayern Munich en route, while City are smarting after losing the WSL Cup final to Arsenal. Captain Steph Houghton (pictured left), says City “can’t dwell on the defeat … we just have to look ahead, and go again.” Rugby gongs Bath’s long time waiting Today’s Anglo-Welsh Cup final at Endurance presenting Sport Relief returns It’s that time again: Sport Relief 2018 runs all week, with the main BBC1 event starting at 7pm on Friday, and ending at 1am on Saturday. Gary Lineker, Davina McCall, Ore Oduba, Paddy McGuinness, Claudia Winkleman and Freddie Flintoff will keep those grins fixed for six hours. Among this year’s features: Chris Kamara in a football-themed Strictly, Wayne Bridge in Celebrity Boxing, and John Bishop’s version of the James Corden Smithy England sketch. Donate via sportrelief.com. Said & Done returns next week • 24 Thee Observer 18.03.18 03.18 Daniel Taylor Sports Writer of the Year Uefa a pussycat over Welbeck’s dive P wrote in his autobiography, full of admiration. “When I saw the replay, I realised that Daniel was about a metre away from [Nemanja] Vidic. I said to Daniel later: ‘Can you imagine what would have happened if that would have been me?’ He said: ‘I felt him touching me,’ and started laughing.” Not just cheating, but virtually high-fiving about how clever it was. Suárez and Sturridge didn’t always get on – but in this moment they sounded like blood brothers. T DIGITALSOUTHSHM/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK resumably, everyone is up to speed by now about the reassuring news from Uefa, permanently trying to find different ways of curing football’s ills, that it has launched disciplinary action against Besiktas because of the pitch invader that briefly interrupted the club’s Champions League tie against Bayern Munich. Even by Uefa’s standards, it’s a belter of a story given that it was actually a ginger cat who had wandered in off the streets to investigate what all these silly humans were up to. Unfortunately for Besiktas, nobody at Uefa appears to be aware that cats, as a general rule, do as they please, rather than what they are told. Nor is it particularly easy to understand what Besiktas should have done to avoid the charge of “insufficient organisation”. I mean, how does one organise the pussycat community of Istanbul these days? Should a saucer of milk and tin of Whiskas be kept by the dugout just in case? And, all silliness aside, could Uefa really not have taken the lead from Bayern – whose supporters voted the feline as their man of the match – rather than directing a moment of harmless fun towards its sanctions department. The case will be heard on 31 May and, knowing what we do about Uefa’s disciplinary tariff, don’t rule anything out – who could really be shocked if a stray kitty ends up costing Besiktas more in fines than a Nazi salute or racist chant would? It was interesting, though, that there was nothing from Uefa about what happened the following night when Arsenal played Milan in the Europa League and the latest evidence that maybe it was time for the people in charge of these affairs to reassess their priorities. A few paw prints on the pitch at Besiktas certainly seemed less offensive to me than the sight, once again, of a professional footballer duping the officials into awarding a penalty and it is strange, to say the least, that Uefa doesn’t employ the same rule as the Football Association, whereby the relevant player would now be banned for two games. There is an option to take retrospective action if the referee or match delegate raised the matter. Plainly, they didn’t – and I doubt Danny Welbeck, the player in question, will care too greatly that the headline in Corriere della Sera was “Affondati da un tuffo” – “Sunk by a dive” – or that Enrico Currò, the correspondent for La Repubblica, described it as a moment Italy’s most famous high-board diver, Tania Cagnotto, would have been proud of. Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck goes to ground against Milan – leading one Italian paper to dub him ‘as cunning as a weasel’ Not that the Italian media are demanding Welbeck is put in stocks outside the Duomo. One newspaper’s description of Welbeck as “cunning as a weasel for pinching a penalty that never was” comes across as praise rather than condemnation and Corriere dello Sport actually made him man of the match, acknowledging his movement, his two goals and the way he won, then scored, the penalty that turned the game heavily in Arsenal’s favour. It’s a different culture, far more conditioned to players who dive, but that doesn’t mean to say English football can be arrogant enough to give itself a pat on the back. I still see no English player as unsteady on his feet as, say, Diego Costa or Didier Drogba. But the gap is closing and it is starting to feel like a close-run thing. For the hard evidence, just look through the list of players Gareth Southgate has called up for England’s forthcoming friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy and tot up the ones who have previous for these kind of deceptions. All four of the players listed as forwards, just for starters. Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy have made an art form of initiating contact with the defender and then going down in the penalty area. Marcus Rashford’s dive to win a penalty against Swansea last season was one of the reasons why the FA beefed up its rules. Welbeck has just proved Arsène Wenger’s point about English players taking over as the “masters” of diving – if you remember the penalty Welbeck won against Wigan at Old Trafford in September 2012 you might argue this is nothing new. When it comes to the midfielders, it is not just Dele Alli who appears to consider thespianism just an extension of all his other talent. Jesse Lingard and Jordan Henderson have both been booked for diving, and in the kind of games when it is bemusing to think they felt it necessary to try it on – Lingard in a Europa League tie against Midtjylland and Henderson in a League Cup tie against Exeter. Alli is, however, the worst of the lot by some distance: a serial offender who has been booked three times for diving since his Premier League debut in August 2015, as well as getting away with the same kind of offence more times than he will probably want us to remember. He cheats. He will do it again, soon probably, because he doesn’t learn from it and doesn’t seem to care too greatly that he is now thought of in this regard as even more Who knows what a stray kitty will cost Besiktas? But there was nothing from Uefa about what happened when Arsenal played Milan a day later prolific than Ashley Young – a player Roberto Mancini once referred to by leaning forward in his chair, putting his hands together and stooping his head in the manner of another Tania Cagnotto. If you are wondering how many that leaves with a clean slate from the list of England strikers or attacking midfielders, the answer is three: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere. Or four, perhaps, if Harry Kane was fit and given the benefit of the doubt. Daniel Sturridge? His only booking in the last four years for Liverpool was for – you’ve guessed it – a dive. You might also remember the little piece of mid-air sorcery to conjure up a penalty at Manchester United in 2014. “Such a good dive,” as Luis Suárez later he difficult part is knowing what to do about it now it is such an unshakeable part of football life. The new FA rules have changed little and it didn’t need Uefa’s inaction after the Arsenal-Milan tie – a game, incidentally, when a Milan player, Suso, was booked for diving – for one to suspect European football’s governing body still doesn’t understand why so many people find it a turnoff. One idea is that if Premier League managers were fined a certain amount – £15,000, for example – every time it happened they would quickly make sure the players got the message. But that kind of money is still chickenfeed for today’s multimillionaires and it would be much fairer, surely, to punish the players themselves. Each player caught diving should get one strike, to act as a warning. But I like the idea that if somebody does the same again, and gets another booking in the process, that player should serve an automatic two-match ban. If it happens a third time, it goes up to three matches. And so on – with all offences counted over the previous three seasons. Uefa could introduce something similar if it were not too preoccupied with the issues caused by Istanbul’s stray kitty community. Except Uefa has promised before to tackle diving in football but never kept to its word. “Uefa is prepared to crack down on what it considers as the intentional cheating of referees and opponents, by suspending ‘simulators’ for gross unsporting conduct if evidence such as TV video footage shows that a player has intentionally duped a referee by, for example, diving in the opposition penalty area,” the press release announced in November 2004. “It is important that Uefa sends a message on simulation out to players,” Peter Limacher, Uefa’s disciplinary services manager, added. “They must know that if they are going to cheat, they will face disciplinary proceedings.” All of which raises one obvious question: how did that one go?