Ianis Hagi's first-half strike saw Rangers maintain their unbeaten league run this season after edging past Hibernian 1-0 on Boxing Day as Steven Gerrard's side extended their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a 10th straight league win at Ibrox.
On being able to pick Reece James and Ben Chilwell: “It’s good news because they’ve been in great form this season,” he says. “Reece has a knee problem but we’re managing it. Chilly is playing with a bit of pain but we’ve all done that.”
No, we haven’t Frank. Also: Chilly?
2 - Chelsea have lost just two of their last 17 Premier League meetings with Arsenal (W9 D6), with both of those defeats coming at the Emirates (0-3 in September 2016, 0-2 in January 2019). Guarded.Continue reading...
Frodon and Bryony Frost sprang a 20-1 shock to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Frodon, previously successful under Frost at this Grade One level when they won the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year, was delivering a 12th success in the Boxing Day showpiece for trainer Paul Nicholls.Continue reading...
Ten-man Villa thumped Crystal Palace to move up to sixth, while Southampton had two goals disallowed in their draw at Fulham
That’s it for today’s blog, but the Premier League football continues. Next up, Arsenal v Chelsea. Bye!
Full time: Cardiff 2-3 Brentford Peep peep! Sergi Canos’s memorable second-half hat-trick gives Brentford a vital victory at the Cardiff City Stadium. Will Vaulks scored both Cardiff’s goals, the first from inside his own half.Continue reading...
Bristol climbed to second in the table after recovering from a first-half Christmas hangover to condemn Harlequins to a fifth straight home defeat.
Quins led 9-0 with less than a minute of the first-half remaining having largely traded on Bristol’s willingness to run from their own half despite players operating on different wavelengths. Two of Marcus Smith’s three penalties followed Bristol players being caught in possession within the outside-half’s range and the home side were unfortunate the prop Wilco Louw was denied a try despite claiming to have grounded the ball.Continue reading...
Manchester United led twice but ultimately failed to win an away league match for the first time this season, as the unfortunate Axel Tuanzebe deflected a shot by Jamie Vardy into his own goal five minutes from time.
Leicester deserved that bit of luck and a point from an entertaining game in which both sides demonstrated the qualities, and shortcomings, that account for their positions. The teams who began the day in second and third place in the Premier League produced a result and performances to satisfy the leaders, Liverpool.Continue reading...
With the festive season upon us, we reflect on reasons for football fans to be thankful as the year draws to an end
Alex Smith was the deserved comeback player of the year before the season even began. His indescribable resolve pulled him through the spiral and compound fracture to his right tibia and fibula in 2018 that led to 17 surgeries after developing necrotizing fasciitis and onto Washington’s roster as their third-string quarterback for 2020. The 36-year-old came within 24 hours of losing his leg after his injury but was determined to eventually take a snap at FedExField. But would we see Smith as he sat behind Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen? Absolutely. Haskins’s underwhelming play meant he was scratched as the starter against the LA Rams and Allen stepped up. But injury struck and Smith was finally back, a mere 693 days since his last appearance under center. The veteran naturally completed his first pass with a quick strike to JD McKissick for six yards. As starter Smith delivered his first victory in 742 days for Washington against Cincinnati. “Just another thing I never thought I’d be doing,” said Smith. So far, so incredible. But the best was yet to come. A short trip to Pittsburgh to face the all-conquering, undefeated Steelers at 11-0 with his own team struggling at 4-7. So much for that. Smith erased Pittsburgh throwing for 296 yards and a crucial touchdown to tie the game in the fourth quarter that Dustin Hopkins converted to a stunning 23-17 win with two late field goals. NFL lore meet Alex Smith.Continue reading...
Australian quick Mitchell Starc landed a late blow on India after the hosts were rolled for 195 on an eventful first day of the Boxing Day Test.
India went to stumps at 36-1 as the tourists endured 50 minutes of supreme fast bowling on the most lively MCG pitch for years.Continue reading...
The Australian golf great Greg Norman has revealed he tested positive for Covid-19 on Christmas Day. The 65-year-old two-times Open champion, who lives in the United States, announced the news in an Instagram post containing photos of him in a hospital bed.
“This sums it all up. My Christmas Day. On behalf of millions, fuck Covid,” Norman wrote to his 188,000 followers. “Get this shit behind us never to experience it again.”Continue reading...
Former England and Surrey bowler Robin Jackman has died at the age of 75.
Jackman played in four Tests and 15 one-day internationals for his country, while he took 1,402 wickets in a 399-game first-class career between 1966 and 1982.Continue reading...
Alvin Kamara tied an NFL record by running for six touchdowns in a game and finished with a career-high 155 yards rushing to help New Orleans beat the Minnesota Vikings 52-33 and clinch a fourth straight NFC South title.
Wearing different colored shoes – one red and one green – for Christmas Day, Kamara sprinted for a 40-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive. He added five more scoring runs, all on rushes of below 10 yards, against a Minnesota defensive front hit hard by injuries. Kamara equaled a record set by Hall of Fame fullback Ernie Nevers in 1929 for the Chicago Cardinals.Continue reading...
Since the first Guardian top 100 in 2012, 39 different players have made the top 10. Here is how the list has changed
Nine years ago, when we did our first 100 best male footballers in the world list, we had 11 judges on the panel. In 2020 we had 241, including Cesc Fàbregas and Juan Pablo Ángel.
But it is not only the number of judges that has changed, the whole footballing landscape has evolved. In 2012 Chelsea won the Champions League final against Bayern Munich but Barcelona were still considered the best team in the world. That was reflected in our top 10 with Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta all included.Continue reading...
When Leicester cut down on his freedom it was clear once more that United rely on two or three key players
At some level, this game happened. In a sense it was perfect fare for a bleary Boxing Day lunchtime. It was engaging enough without ever being especially demanding, and if you did happen to doze off for quarter of an hour or so you wouldn’t have missed anything overly consequential. It certainly didn’t answer any questions. We still don’t know how good Leicester or Manchester United are or whether either is remotely capable of sustaining a title challenge.
Both sides have had good patches this season, but neither has entirely convinced, a pattern this game distilled perfectly. No sooner had one narrative begun to take control than another rose up to deflect it off course. Both sides have been inconsistent. Both have been better away from home. Both like to play on the break. United had gone behind in all six previous Premier League away games this season but won them all; here they took the lead twice and ended up drawing.Continue reading...
In another of our stories about the pandemic and sport, Scott Bland explains its impact on his club: ‘We have kids with anxiety, depression – so we had to be there for them’
Drumchapel did not need a pandemic to accentuate their commitment to a greater good. Slowly but surely this club in one of Glasgow’s most deprived areas had been emphasising that the idea of football being intrinsic to a community need not be antiquated.
Drumchapel has needed a positive reference point. Deprivation and life expectancy rates are among the worst in Scotland. The situation looks even more acute when compared with nearby Bearsden and Milngavie, both highly affluent areas.Continue reading...
Lewis Hamilton has brought his hugely successful year to a close by reflecting on the emotions that drove him to take such a committed stand against racism. Hamilton is the guest editor on Boxing Day’s Today programme on Radio 4, which will include the world champion sharing his thoughts on Black Lives Matter and diversity with the historian David Olusoga.
Hamilton won his seventh world drivers’ championship this season, matching Michael Schumacher’s record but away from the track, following the killing of George Floyd, he became strident in his activism against racial injustice, a cause he said spurred him on to achieve success.Continue reading...
The Exeter wing Olly Woodburn has said the Chiefs have become used to being overlooked after they ended up empty-handed at last Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards despite their domestic and European double.
Liverpool were crowned team of the year and Jürgen Klopp won the coaching award after the Reds claimed their first Premier League title in 30 years in June, having become European champions in May 2019. Exeter, meanwhile, won their first European title before adding their second Premiership title a week later – 10 years after they were promoted to the top flight. They were shortlisted for the team of the year award but Liverpool ended up with the prize.Continue reading...
One of the great English batsmen and captain of Surrey hailed for his gritty concentration
The cricketer John Edrich, who has died aged 83 after suffering from leukaemia, was one of the best English top order batsmen of the 20th century. Short, stocky, bushy-eyebrowed and brave, he played 77 times for his country between 1963 and 1976, and had an especially good record against the two best sides of his era – Australia and West Indies. In 1970-71, his superb batting performances were one of the key reasons that England managed to win the Ashes in Australia for the first time since 1956, and with Geoffrey Boycott in the late 1960s and early 70s he created a formidable opening partnership that provided many good platforms in Test matches. His best score, 310 not out against New Zealand, is the fifth highest for England in Tests.
In county cricket, Edrich was a leading figure for Surrey, whom he captained in his later days and with whom, from 1958 to 1978, he accumulated most of his 39,790 career runs, one of the highest tallies in history and at an impressive average of 45.47. By the end of his career, he had also become one of the rare breed of cricketers to have scored 100 hundreds (103 in all), putting him in the company of greats such as WG Grace, Jack Hobbs and Wally Hammond.Continue reading...
The 33-year-old thought he had ‘blown it’ but beat Alexei Shirov in the final to finish top of field of 353 competitors
Gawain Jones, the 33-year-old England No 4, scored a career-best success when the Yorkshireman won the online European blitz championship. The €12,000 tournament, organised from Katowice in Poland, had 353 entrants from 40 countries, among them 134 grandmasters.
The time limit was fast for blitz, three minutes per player per game with a two seconds per move increment. An 11-round qualification stage reduced the field to 16, who played a knockout with best of four- game matches followed by an Armageddon where White had five minutes and Black four, with no increment and draw odds for Black.Continue reading...
The James Harden soap opera in Houston now comes with a canceled season opener – and a $50,000 fine for the league’s leading scorer.
Houston’s opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night was scrapped after coronavirus cases and Harden’s violation of the NBA’s Covid-19 protocols left the Rockets without the league-mandated eight players available to start a game.Continue reading...
Robert Lewandowski is our new No 1 while Erling Braut Haaland gatecrashes the top 10 at No 6
Experts are warning that female athletes could be more likely than men to develop sports-related dementia
When Hannah al-Khaldi experienced a knock to the head in the final seconds of an Allianz Premier 15s game last season, there were no immediate signs of head injury or concussion. Days later, terrifying stroke-like symptoms began to appear.
“The right side of my face and body went numb, I lost the ability to use my right arm, I couldn’t speak,” the 34-year-old prop recalls. And yet she says that she struggled to get an accurate diagnosis. Khaldi spent two weeks in and out of hospital, being told she was suffering from tension headaches and migraines: “The pain was blinding, I couldn’t function.”Continue reading...
The Olympic gold medallist is rediscovering her love for the sport after verbal abuse from her former coach led to her stepping away
When times have been hard and Laurie Hernandez found herself questioning why she decided to return to the pounding and perfectionism of elite gymnastics, one of the memories that has kept her moving forward was the time she wanted to let it go.
It was at the beginning of 2016 as the Olympics rounded into view that her frustration with injuries led her to consider stopping. She stepped away for around three days. As she began training for her comeback two years ago, it became a constant point of reference during her older brother’s motivational speeches: “He was like: ‘You’re two years out! It’s gonna make sense that you want to quit now when at Olympic level you wanted to stop. You’ve just gotta hang in there.’”Continue reading...
City’s murals of Maradona have become pilgrimage sites since footballer’s death in November
A month since the death of Diego Armando Maradona and the southern Italian city of Naples is looking more like a Maradonaland each day.
After renaming Napoli football club’s San Paolo Stadium and a train station in his honour this month, local authorities are planning a large museum, commissioning statues and dedicating an entire square to the Argentinian who took the city’s football team to glory and is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.Continue reading...
The prolific Pole has simply never stopped scoring whether for Dortmund or Bayern, and now he is finally getting the recognition his career deserves
There is a video with the title “Robert Lewandowski – All 250 Bundesliga Goals” on YouTube, lovingly prepared by the official Bundesliga account to celebrate the Bayern Munich striker reaching that milestone.
The only small problem is that even on the day it went up, 18 December, it was out of date. The Pole actually scored twice against Wolfsburg on the 16th, meaning he had 251 goals in 332 Bundesliga games. There was a solution though: the producer simply added a strapline saying “but it doesn’t end there …” and included the 251st strike as well.Continue reading...
The positions of some players on our list have been debated. Here is your chance to see how all 9,640 votes were cast
Our 241 judges from 71 countries cast exactly 9,640 votes in total to choose the world’s top 100 male footballers for 2020. Led by 27 current and former professionals boasting a combined total of 1,087 international caps, each member of the Guardian panel chose their own top 40 players from a long list of global names. These votes were then collated to create the Guardian’s 100-best male footballers of the year.Continue reading...
Rangers survived another tough test of their title credentials as Ianis Hagi’s strike earned the Scottish Premiership leaders a 1-0 victory over Hibernian at Ibrox.
Steven Gerrard’s team had not dropped points since they last faced Hibs at Easter Road in September but they were made to fight to the end to claim their 12th straight win against determined visitors.Continue reading...
Jürgen Klopp has told Mohamed Salah the only reason to leave Liverpool is the weather but conceded the club cannot force a player to stay against his will.
Salah did not rule out a future move to Barcelona or Real Madrid when he gave a rare interview last week to the Spanish sports daily AS and expressed disappointment at not being named captain for Liverpool’s Champions League group finale at Midtjylland. On the flipside the Egypt international, who became the club’s leading goalscorer in the Champions League in that game, also stated he wanted to break “every record in the club” and his immediate aim was winning the Premier League and Europe’s elite competition again with Liverpool.Continue reading...
Mikel Arteta has admitted to feeling the psychological strain of Arsenal’s dire predicament and accepts the next three matches will determine whether the club are dragged into a relegation battle.
Arsenal are 15th in the Premier League, after taking five points from their past 10 games and, following the Boxing Day visit of Chelsea, they go to Brighton on Tuesday and West Brom next Saturday – teams currently two and seven points below them.Continue reading...
The German arrived with a big reputation but his style is complex and Frank Lampard is still trying to work it out
Naturally the Germans have a word for it. They call it chancentod: literally, “chance death”. Being described as a chancentod doesn’t necessarily make you a bad player. It’s not a tag you’re stuck with for life. All it means is that at the moment, you possess an unerring and uncanny ability to squander whatever goalscoring opportunity is presented to you. Which, for all his manifold qualities, feels like a pretty good way of describing Timo Werner at Chelsea right now.
To watch Werner of late is to be torn between pity and disbelief. The £52m summer signing has now gone nine club games without a goal in all competitions. But this isn’t your regular dry patch. Werner isn’t just not scoring. He’s dramatically, spectacularly not scoring.Continue reading...
Pep Guardiola says that Phil Foden must play the game at different speeds to maximise his enormous potential, slowing down during decisive moments close to goal.
The Manchester City manager offered rare insight into where he feels Foden must improve as he discussed the 20-year-old’s boundless energy, his desire to operate at full throttle all the time or, to borrow the phrase that he used, to “eat the world”.Continue reading...
Carlo Ancelotti has said Everton will continue to observe concussion guidelines with Richarlison and must prove they can finally win a Premier League game without the Brazil forward should he be ruled out against Sheffield United on Boxing Day.Continue reading...
Can you name these men who came and went in the English top flight with barely a trace?
Quique Sánchez Flores
12 and above.
You're a managerial genius!
9 and above.
Well done! You might get a pay rise at this rate.
6 and above.
The board are happy with a mid-table finish this time round but expect improvement next term.
3 and above.
We're not saying you're sacked but if your car parking space is taken tomorrow you might want to consider other career options.
0 and above.
You're sacked!Continue reading...
Jürgen Klopp has said Mohamed Salah would not be held back from moving on from Liverpool – but the only reason to leave is the weather. Salah did not rule out a future move to Barcelona or Real Madrid when he gave a rare interview last week to the Spanish mediaContinue reading...
Pep Guardiola was satisfied with Manchester City's 'incredibly important' 1-0 victory over Southampton on Saturday.
He also singled out John Stones for high praise, who continued his resurgence in City's central defence, with Guardiola saying he is a 'an incredibly nice person' and a 'top father'.Continue reading...
After Liverpool demolished Crystal Palace 7-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday, Jürgen Klopp praised his players' finishing ability, while Roy Hodgson said Crystal Palace were "humiliated" by the result and added: "There is nothing positive I can say."
Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah both scored twice as Liverpool moved six points clear at the top of the Premier League table.Continue reading...
The Manchester United and England forward says speaking out personally about his experience of food poverty was 'necessary to get the message across' about ensuring vulnerable children are fed during school holidays. In a BBC documentary about his campaign, he says: 'It should never be normal for somebody to feel how I felt.' Rashford spearheaded two campaigns that forced Boris Johnson into high-profile U-turns over extending free school meals into the holidays for low-income families. Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain's Children airs on 21 December on BBC One.
José Mourinho claimed the 'best team lost' after Roberto Firmino’s late header at Anfield gave Liverpool a 2-1 victory against Tottenham to take the champions top of the Premier League. While Jürgen Klopp characterised a win that displaced Spurs as 'really special', Mourinho also criticised the German’s touchline behaviour, speculating he would have been sent off if 'grabbing' the fourth official’s board as he claimed his opposite number did.Continue reading...
Chess is enjoying something of a renaissance, thanks to the Netflix series The Queen's Gambit – along with it being a game well-suited to Covid lockdowns.
Yet many chess-lovers contend its lure is simultaneously being killed off by computers, which take the romance and mystery from the game in ever more accurate analysis. But this is an adaptable game of paradoxes, and technology has proven to both give and take. Will chess ever be 'solved'? And could it survive if it was?Continue reading...
Max Rushden, Barry Glendenning, Jonathan Wilson and Lars Sivertsen get together for a special Christmas edition, answering listener questions and tackling everything from Ireland at Italia ‘90 to anti-dandruff shampoo.Continue reading...
Our cartoonist offers some seasonal cheer with a look at Arsenal stats, Sam Allardyce’s return and Covid-19 of course
Plus: the coldest football match and kings of Christmas. The Knowledge is having a festive break but returns on 6 January
“What has been the most eventful match played on Christmas Day,” asks Bryn Mills.
“I’d offer Bury 6-5 Manchester City in 1925,” answers, erm, Bryn, who was clearly always planning on featuring prominently in this week’s edition. “As was often the case in those days the reverse fixture was played on Boxing Day, with Bury winning 2-0 at Maine Road. Christmas Day matches were a Football League commonplace right up until the late 1950s, with a single late outlier of Blackpool 4-2 Blackburn on Christmas Day 1964. The most eventful English League Christmas Day seems to have been 25 December 1957, when Chelsea beat Portsmouth 7-4 at home in Division One and Swansea beat Bristol Rovers 6-4 at home in Division 2.”Continue reading...
From the superb Stuart Broad and Monty Panesar to the less celebrated Boris Johnson and Cricket South Africa
Spending a fortnight locked in a quarantine hotel with a 10-month-old, as I learned in Perth this month, can inspire any number of strange decisions. For me, this included going back to read the earliest editions of this column. And before going any further, yes, I’m well aware it was this type of behaviour that made me so popular in high school. But it was all with a purpose in mind: to pen this end-of-year reflection, aiming to work out the origin of The Spin annual awards – inventively titled … The Spins.
Of course, it was Lawrence Booth who started this newsletter – cricket’s answer to The Fiver – in time for England’s 2002-03 Ashes hiding. By the end of the next home summer, awards season arrived, morphing into a Christmas stocking-stuffer in late 2004. From there it was a handy “get-out clause” – to quote the now-Wisden supremo – when there wasn’t much else on. By the time Andy Bull was on the tools, it was more often than not rebadged as a Test XI of the year, others occasionally flirting with the earlier lampooning style at the end of an English season. Given the shambolic time 2020 has been, I feel compelled to follow suit.Continue reading...
Welcome to the 2020 Fiver Christmas Awards. We’ve long lost count of how many times we’ve done this, so don’t be expecting us to furnish you with a number now. All we know is, it’s been too many. You know it too. But despite the grinding familiarity and futility of it all, despite the absolute state of 2020, we go again. It’s a time-honoured festive tradition, see, like crackers, carols and government U-turns. So here it is, merry Christmas, everybody’s trudging on. Charge your glass with a generous shot of your cheapest aftershave, top it up with a little turps, dig out the packet of tablets you should have taken for your bad back a few months ago but decided to save for the holidays, and sink into a gorgeous haze of delight, the better to deal with the next few minutes of existence. Enjoy, enjoy.Continue reading...
One way or another, rugby is breeding players who expect to be told what to do rather than express themselves
Do they believe it? The coaches who say, in response to complaints on social and mainstream media, that spectators have never had it so good? Like those who believe that a no-deal Brexit will be the best thing for the country since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, they want to believe it.
They have to believe it because they are part of it. “Used to love it, now boring, boring down,” is the start of a poem by Guardian reader Mark Lewis called Rugby Union. “Bang it up the middle,” it continues. “Bang it up the middle. Fall down. Ruck. Scrum-half forms a committee … Box kick. Ruck. Crunch it up the middle … Fall over. Ruck.”Continue reading...
This week’s roundup also features obstacles on the skeleton course and the delicate skills of Zinedine Zidane
1) Tributes have been pouring in this week for Gérard Houllier, the former Liverpool, Lyon, Aston Villa and France manager who died on Monday aged 73. And where better to start a Houllier highlights package than that thrilling 5-4 Uefa Cup final win over Alavés, the third part of Liverpool’s cup treble in 2001, following their League Cup final win over Birmingham and the Michael Owen-inspired FA Cup triumph over Arsenal. Here’s his Lyon side securing a vital victory over Marseille en route to the 2006 Ligue 1 title. And here he is in his own words on Liverpool.
2) With Donald Trump set to vacate the White House next month after four years, time to recall some other short-lived ventures of his. For two years he had a cycling race named after him. The Tour de Trump started in 1989, covering 837 miles in five eastern US states. The following year’s edition went from Wilmington, Delaware to Boston. Trump explains his motivations here, before it all went pear-shaped, Trump withdrawing his sponsorship from 1991 due to financial problems. The renamed Tour DuPont lasted until 1996.Continue reading...
From a Jamaican debut to an empty Lord’s in 2020 the job has changed so much but I always did struggle for an intro
Just one more intro, that’s all that’s needed … “It was 31 years ago that I joined the Observer …” No, no, that’s not so snappy; it’s ancient history and on a par with one I sent off early in my time as its cricket correspondent which began with two riveting words: “Last Wednesday” (thankfully there was an intervention by the desk).
How about: “It’s hard to write with tears in your eyes”? Just a couple of drawbacks here. It’s a tad over the top – this is for sport for heaven’s sake, not the review section – and it’s not true either. I’ve never really believed Don Bradman had tears in his eyes when he was bowled by Eric Hollies at the Oval in his last Test innings in 1948 and as I stare at a disappointingly empty screen here my eyes remain stubbornly dry. (How can I be so presumptuous to summon up a parallel with the last days of the Don? It must be time to move on.)Continue reading...
Some of college football’s most storied programs have discovered that even seemingly innocuous fight songs and fan-friendly chants aren’t safe from their problematic histories
In Alabama, “Roll Tide!” is a phrase for all seasons.
Love for the University of Alabama’s football powerhouse runs so deep in the southeastern state that the iconic college chant routinely doubles as shorthand for “hello”, “goodbye” and everything in between.Continue reading...
The pandemic forced the 33-year-old German to step away from the treadmill of being a top-20 player and announce an unexpected retirement
“I can feel it now on my body,” says Julia Görges. “It’s less tension, less pain because the mental stress which affects your body and affects your mind a lot, this has gone away.”
Görges, who has been a constant presence on the tour for the past decade, was describing the perpetual tensity that has accompanied her career. Now, finally, it is all gone. In October, the 32-year-old German unexpectedly retired.Continue reading...
Grealish, Fabinho, Calvert-Lewin and Bamford are exceeding expectations. Aubameyang, Havertz, Martial and Traoré are not
We’ve made it to Christmas early in the Premier League schedule this year, but there has still been plenty of time for players and teams to impress and indeed underwhelm us. In a season full of surprises, here are 10 surprise packages so far, in terms of overachieving and underachieving.
A handful of teams have surpassed expectations, with Leicester, Everton and Southampton all sitting above Manchester City. However, there are two other teams whose places in the top half of the table are even more surprising given that they were expected to be involved in the relegation battle.Continue reading...