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The sports wrap 24 December 2018

LanguedocLiving, Dec 23

Liverpool go four points clear as Crystal Palace shock Man City

Unbeaten Liverpool stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to four points as second-placed Manchester City suffered a shock 3-2 home loss to Crystal Palace. And Tottenham Hotspur sounded a warning to the top two with a 6-2 thrashing of Everton at Goodison Park to move within two points of City. Chelsea also went down 1-0 at home to Leicester City to stay in fourth place on the same number of points Arsenal who beat Burnley 2-0. Manchester United, who sacked manager Jose Mourhino in the week, gave acting manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer an early Christmas present with a 5-1 thumping of Cardiff to stay in sixth spot, At the Etihad Stadium, lowly Crystal Palace stunned Manchester City with striker Andros Townsend smashing home a sublime 30-metre volley to help his team cause the biggest shock of the league campaign by claiming their first win at City for exactly 28 years and ending the defending champions' 100 per cent home record in the top flight this season. Ilkay Gundogan headed City into the lead from Fabian Delph's cross, but the events of the next eight minutes left the home fans in stunned silence. First, Jeffrey Schlupp equalised with a fizzing angled drive into the bottom corner then Townsend gave the visitors the lead. In the second half, Palace scored again - this time from the spot, Luka Milivojevic sending Ederson the wrong way with his penalty. A late goal from Keivin de Bruyne was not enough to deny Palace a deserved victory. At Molineux, Egyptian marksman Mohamed Salah inspired a victory at Wolves, taking the Reds to 48 points from 18 matches. In heavy rain, the Reds went ahead on 18 minutes when Fabinho played a one-two with Sadio Mane and crossed for Salah, who flicked the ball into the net with the outside of his foot. He set up Liverpool's second with a wonderful lofted pass over the home defence, allowing Virgil van Dijk to side-foot a six-metre volley past Rui Patricio. At Stamford Bridge, a predatory Jamie Vardy strike in the 51st minute earned Leicester a surprise 1-0 victory which saw the Blues losing at home for the first time this season. Chelsea had been dominant before the break and struck the bar through Eden Hazard following a Harry Maguire error - the best of a host of chances. But having gone behind, it was Maurizio Sarri's side who became sloppy as Leicester grew in strength having resisted heavy pressure. In the Scottish Premiership, defending champions Celtic stayed top after a comfortable 3-0 home win over bottom club Dundee, one point ahead of Rangers who beat St Johnston 2-1 away from home. Celtic teenager Mikey Johnston scored his second and third senior goals - four days after netting his first. Filip Benkovic added a third as Celtic won a ninth straight home league game.

Normal service resumed as league leaders PSG beat Nantes 1-0

Runaway Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint Germain, whose last two fixtures were postponed because of security fears from gilets jaunes protests, were back on the winning path on Saturday with a 1-0 home win over Nantes. French international striker Kylian Mbappe sent his team 13 points clear at the top when he netted from close range for his 13th goal in 12 league games this season. Second-placed Lille, who have played two games more than unbeaten PSG - lost 2-1 at home to Toulouse while Lyon and Montpellier battled to a 1-1 draw to stay third and fourth on the Ligue 1 table. In the Spanish La Liga, Barcelona restored their three-point lead at the top of La Liga with a comfortable home win over Celta Vigo. Ousmane Dembele opened the scoring on 10 minutes, following up Lionel Messi's saved shot after the Argentine had initially played a delightful ball through to Jordi Alba. Messi doubled the lead just before half-time, finishing neatly from the edge of the area as the defence parted. Atletico Madrid had moved level on points with Barca by beating Espanyol. Antoine Griezmann's penalty gave Atletico a 1-0 victory, but the Catalans re-established their advantage with a fourth straight league win without conceding. In the Italian Serie A, Juventus maintained their record-breaking start to the season with a 1-0 win over AS Roma that ensured they will go into the winter break on top of the table. Mario Mandzukic struck a first-half winner to hand Juve their 16th win in 17 games, giving them an eight-point advantage over second-placed Napoli who defeated SPAL 1-0 at home. A 1-1 draw with Genoa in October is the only blot on Juventus’s otherwise perfect record. In the German Bundesliga, Jadon Sancho scored his seventh goal of the season as Borussia Dortmund reacted to their first Bundesliga loss of 2018-19 to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 in a top-of-the-table game. The 18-year-old England winger received a pass from Mario Gotze and scored a low drive from a tight angle which went in via the post. Christoph Kramer equalised from close range in first-half injury time. Sancho had a hand in the second goal before Marco Reus slid in Gotze's pass. Last season’s champions Bayern Munich moved up to second spot as Franck Ribery inspired his team with two goals for a 3-0 away win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

Real Madrid beat Al Ain to win Club World Cup for fourth time

Real Madrid lifted the FIFA Club World Cup for a record fourth time on Saturday after thrashing local side Al Ain 4-1 in the final in Abu Dhabi with the help of impressive distance strikes in either half from midfielders Luka Modric and Marcos Llorente. Recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner Modric took one touch before thumping the ball into the bottom corner from outside the box to break the deadlock in the 14th minute after Al Ain had missed two early chances to take a shock lead. Madrid’s home-grown midfielder Marcos Llorente doubled the European champions’ lead on the hour-mark with a superbly struck volley from outside the area. Real captain Sergio Ramos grabbed his side’s third goal with a powerful header from a corner before Al Ain, who shocked South American champions River Plate in the semi-finals, got a late consolation goal through Japanese defender Tsukasa Shiotani. Madrid substitute Vinicius Jr. burst through in stoppage time and fired in a shot which defender Yahia Nader diverted into his own net. Real have won the last three editions of the tournament, also lifting the trophy in 2014, and moved ahead of Barcelona as the team to have won it the most times.

Exeter halt Saracens’ unbeaten run with thrilling 31-13 victory

Exeter Chiefs ended Saracens' 22-game unbeaten run and replaced them at the top of the Premiership with a thrilling 31-13 win on Saturday. Two Owen Farrell penalties gave Sarries an early lead but Luke Cowan-Dickie's try and a Gareth Steenson penalty saw the home side go into the break ahead. A Farrell penalty hit the post at the start of an error-strewn second half. But scores from Harry Williams and Matt Kvesic, plus a penalty try, sealed the victory over the defending champions, with Ben Spencer's effort a mere consolation for Saracens. The win moves Exeter three points above Saracens at the top of the table as they approach the midway point of the season. Gloucester remain in third place on the ladder after Billy Twelvetrees kicked a late penalty to give them a thrilling 20-17 win at the Premiership's bottom club Newcastle. Ed Slater's try on the stroke of half-time had the Cherry and Whites 10-6 in front at the break. Falcons hit back through Vereniki Goneva's score and two Sonatane Takulua penalties, to add to his two first-half efforts, to lead 17-10. But Ben Morgan crashed over to level the scores before Twelvetrees won it with his kick from the touchline. Wasps, in fourth place, lost the chance to move closer to Gloucester, going down 24-14 at home to Bath who moved into the top six in the Premiership on the same number of points as Harlequins who went down 35-24 to the Leicester Tigers. Wasps’ fly-half Freddie Burns scored 19 points with a try before half-time which gave Bath a lead they never surrendered.

Clermont remain French Top 14 leaders but Toulouse give them a fright

Clermont Auvergne stayed three points clear at the head of the French Top 14 but Toulouse fought back to tie the top of the table clash 20-20 after falling behind 17-3 at the break. Clermont, playing at home, gave themselves a handy cushion with tries from centre Apisai Naqalevu and wing Peter Betham to go with seven points from Morgan Parra’s boot. But after the break wing Matthis Lebel and replacement centre Romain Ntamack crossed for Toulouse before Thomas Ramos levelled late on. The draw will sting Clermont as they looked set to go seven points clear at the top. But the Toulouse campaign continues to impress in both Europe and domestically, with Ugo Mola doing a wonderful job for Les Rouge et Noir this season. In other weekend matches, La Rochelle moved up to third spot with a 28-23 away win over lowly Pau while Racing 92 are fourth, one point behind, after thumping bottom-placed Perpignan 64-28. Montpellier slipped to ninth position after losing to Grenoble 71-16. Bordeaux-Begles moved up to fifth after picking up a superb 32-13 win over reigning champions Castres at Stade Pierre Fabre. Despite having Mahamadou Diaby sent-off on 29 minutes with the score at 7-6, they still eased to a vital four points.

French rugby want change to tackle height following tragedy

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) and the French National League (LNR) have proposed changes to World Rugby to lower the legal height of a tackle to waist level. During a meeting in Paris between the three governing bodies, French rugby chiefs, including FFR president Bernard Laporte, also suggested banning head-on-head tackles and those made by two players at the same time. The conference was organised following the recent death of Stade Francais teenager Nicolas Chauvin - and the FFR have offered to trial the new laws in their amateur competitions. 19-year-old Chauvin died in hospital after suffering a broken neck, which triggered a heart-attack during a match in Bordeaux last Sunday. In September, World Rugby trialled lowering the tackle height from the shoulder to nipple line at the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Romania.The organisation also confirmed it will put together a world forum to discuss player health and the evolution of the game's laws in March 2019 in France. It will begin the process of eventual law experimentation ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.

Russian athletes facing further ban after WADA refused lab access

Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is again on the verge of suspension after a World Anti-Doping Agency inspection team visiting a Moscow laboratory was denied access to raw data to complete its full reinstatement, WADA. The five-member WADA team had spent a week in Russia but left the Moscow lab and returned home frustrated and without having retrieved any of the data in the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) it had been promised access to. If RUSADA is found to be non-compliant Russian athletes could again be on the outside looking in with another Olympics approaching in Tokyo in 2020. Russian authorities said that the inspection team’s equipment was not certified under Russian law. Access to the lab and data was a condition of WADA’s September decision to reinstate RUSADA. The inspection team will now prepare a formal report which will be sent to the independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC). The CRC will meet on Jan 14-15 when RUSADA’s code compliance status will again be considered.

Australian Open follows Wimbledon and introduce final set tie-breaks

Tie-breaks will be played in the final set at the Australian Open for the first time in January, after organisers decided to move away from the existing practice of advantage final sets. If the match reaches 6-6 in the final set, the winner will be the first player to reach 10 points. Organisers made the decision following the "most extensive consultation in the tournament's history". Wimbledon announced in October it would use final-set tie-breaks next year. That change came after the final set of Kevin Anderson's semi-final with John Isner this year lasted almost three hours. Afterwards South African Anderson, who eventually won the set 26-24, called for a rethink of the format.

For full reports on all the weekend sporting events go to:,,,,,

Calendar Keynotes: 24-30 December 

Monday, 24 December

No major fixtures scheduled

Tuesday, 25 December

No major fixtures scheduled 

Wednesday, 26 December

Football: English Premier League - Leicester City v Manchester City, Liverpool v Newcastle United, Manchester United v Huddersfield Town, Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth, Brighton & Hove Albion v Arsenal. Watford v Chelsea, Scottish Premiership – Aberdeen v Celtic, Hearts v Hamilton Academical, Motherwell v Kilmarnock, Italian Serie A – Frosinone v AC Milan, Atalanta v Juventus, Bologna v Lazio, Roma v Sassuolo, Inter Milan v Napoli.

Cricket: Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne (until 30 December – series stands at 1-1), South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Centurion, (till 30 december).

Thursday, 27 December

Cricket: Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne (until 30 December – series stands at 1-1), South Africa v Pakistan 1st Test, Centurion (till 30 December).

Friday, 28 December

Rugby Union: Gallagher Premiership – Northampton v Exeter.

Cricket: Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne (until 30 December – series stands at 1-1), South Africa v Pakistan 1st Test, Centurion (till 30 December).

Saturday, 29 December

Football: English Premier League – Tottenham Hotspur v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Liverpool v Arsenal, Scottish Premiership – Rangers v Celtic, Kilmarnock v St Mirren, Livingston v Aberdeen, Hibernian v Hearts, Italian Serie A – Juventus v Sampdoria, Empoli v Inter Milan, Parma v Roma, Napoli v Cagliari, AC Milan v SPAL.

Rugby Union: Gallagher Premiership – Saracens v Worcester, Gloucester v Sale, Harlequins v Wasps, French Top 14 – Lyon v Agen, Stade Francais v Grenoble, La Rochelle v Castres, Perpignan v Clermont Auvergne.

Cricket: Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne (until 30 December – series stands at 1-1), South Africa v Pakistan 1st Test, Centurion (till 30 December). 

Sunday, 30 December

Football: English Premier League – Crystal Palace v Chelsea, Southampton v Manchester City, Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth.

Rugby Union: Gallagher Premiership – Bath v Leicester, Bristol v Newcastle, French Top 14 – Montpellier v Pau, Bordeaux v Racing 92, Toulouse v Toulon.

Cricket: Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne (final day - series stands at 1-1), South Africa v Pakistan 1st Test, Centurion (final day).






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