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European champions Italy have been knocked out of qualifying for this year’s World Cup.

They suffered a 1-0 defeat to North Macedonia in their play-off semi-final thanks to a last minute goal by Aleksandar Trajkovski’s that earned the visitors a famous win.

European champions Italy did not qualify for the World Cup four years ago, their first failure to reach soccer’s global showpiece tournament since 1958, but they dominated from the off in Palermo and looked on course for victory.

The hosts became more desperate in their search for a winner after the break as chances continued to come and go before, in stoppage time, Trajkovski arrowed in a stunning winner to spark wild North Macedonian celebrations.

Roberto Mancini’s Italy side had 32 efforts at goal in the match, but somehow fell short, with North Macedonia going on to play Portugal in the playoff final next week for a place in the Qatar World Cup which will not involve Italy once more.

Without veteran pairing Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini through injury, Italy’s makeshift defence was barely troubled in the first half, as all the action took place down the other end.

Domenico Berardi had the best of the openings having been presented with the ball after North Macedonia goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski misplaced a pass, but the Sassuolo forward’s shot was tame, with Dimitrievski getting back to make the save.

Ciro Immobile also wasted a glorious first-half chance for Italy when blazing over the bar from a good position.

Berardi was again guilty of profligacy after the break, shooting over when he should have hit the target.

As the match wore on, Italy nerves kicked in and their finishing became more erratic. Mancini shuffled his pack, giving Cagliari striker Joao Pedro his debut, but with their only meaningful attack of the match, North Macedonia seized their chance.

Italy did not look to be in too much danger, but Trajkovski, who plays in Saudi Arabia for Al-Fayha, had other ideas, writing his name into North Macedonian folklore with a shot that crept inside the post to stun the home fans.

Elsewhere, Portugal will take on North Macedonia for a place in Qatar after they beat Turkey 3-1.

Wales remain on course for a first World Cup appearance since 1958, following a 2-1 win over Austria.

Gareth Bale scored twice for the winners in Cardiff. They will meet either Scotland or Ukraine in the play-off final.

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The front-runners in the race to buy Chelsea are still on tenterhooks waiting to discover whether they will make the shortlist of preferred bidders.

Todd Boehly’s consortium, Chicago Cubs owners the Ricketts family and Sir Martin Broughton’s offering are understood to remain favourites to be included on the shortlist.

New York merchant bank Raine Group informed a clutch of suitors on Thursday that their candidacy had been unsuccessful, the PA news agency understands.

Saudi Media Group and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson are understood to be among those who have already been informed they are out of the race.

LA Dodgers part-owner Boehly, Cubs chief Tom Ricketts and former Liverpool chairman Broughton are now thought to be at the top of the pile of suitors to buy the Blues.

But the Raine Group has yet to confirm the shortlist of preferred bidders that will go through to the next stage of the sale process.

British property developer Nick Candy’s Blue Football Consortium appeared a long-shot to make the shortlist by Thursday night.

But Candy’s bid and the consortium offering from London-based global investment firm Centricus still had a chance of progression should Raine have opted for a four-strong shortlist.

The New York bank is expected to finalise that list on Friday, with both the Premier League and UK Government holding influence over the final sale.

Roman Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on March 2nd amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian-Israeli billionaire was then sanctioned by the Government on March 10, with Downing Street claiming to have proven his links to Vladimir Putin.

The Blues must operate under strict Government licence, with Abramovich unable to profit from Chelsea’s sale.

Downing Street must approve another new licence to authorise Chelsea’s eventual sale, with the money either frozen or distributed to charitable funds to aid victims of the war in Ukraine.

Abramovich has pledged to write off Chelsea’s £1.5billion (€1.8 billion) debt, and the bidding frenzy for the club could see the eventual deal hit £3bn.

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Pep Guardiola wants his side to return injury-free from the international break but played down talk of Manchester City’s chances of winning the treble.

Phil Foden scored a stunning strike as City booked their place in the FA Cup semi-finals with a 4-1 win over Southampton at St Mary’s on Sunday.

Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne (penalty) and Riyad Mahrez were also on target for the visitors, with Aymeric Laporte’s own goal levelling the scores just before half-time.

Guardiola believes winning the treble would not be an easy feat, and remains focused on the more short-term goals of his side.

“How many times has it happened in this country? Once in this lifetime, once. It’s not easy, I would love to tell you it’s not easy,” the Manchester City manager said.

“It’s better to hopefully pray that the players come back from the national teams fit because it’s tough to fight, fight, fight for many things.

“Now the players have 15 days off and they arrive (back) two days before they have to play Burnley, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, then Atletico Madrid.

“When you have 10 points clear to the second (placed team in the Premier League) with three games to play and are in the finals of the Champions League and the FA Cup, after (that) we can talk about that (the treble).

“But in the position that we are (in) it’s far, far away (from the treble), the best intention is to be focused on Burnley.”

Guardiola admitted that everyone needs a break, with City not due to play again until April 2 against Burnley after they secured an enticing FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Wembley.

“We are there so I think everyone needs a little break, to not see each other for a while would be good, to see new faces for the manager, some players will go on holiday for one week,” Guardiola said.

“And after we come back we know what we have, we have the quarter-finals of the Champions League, we have the Premier League, we have the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

“The nice thing for the team is that fact, the last few weeks of the season and we are fighting for it, we are there for the titles and this is so nice.

“I would have signed (up for that) at the start of the season – to be here in front of you, in the later stages, in this position. We’ll see what happens.”

Ralph Hasenhuttl also is welcoming the international break, as his side head into it on the back of four successive defeats in all competitions.

“The international break always comes at a good time. It is an intense time. It is good to have,” the Southampton manager said.

“(We will) recover. Recharge the batteries. We have nine games to go.

“(We) have work to do to finish as high as possible. We need this break now to get a bit of rest and we come back with full batteries ready to go.”

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Taylor Fritz has snapped Rafael Nadal’s 20-match winning streak as the Californian claimed his first ATP Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells.

There were errors from both throughout as Fritz took the first set and the pair entered a tiebreaker at the end of the second, with neither having lost one at Indian Wells this year in singles.

But it was the 24-year-old, ranked 20th, who emerged victorious to finish 6-3 7-6 (5) over the world number four, with Fritz becoming the first American to win the tournament since Andre Agassi in 2001.

Earlier, Poland’s Iga Swiatek won the women’s title with a commanding victory over Maria Sakkari.

Swiatek rose to number two in the world after a 6-4 6-1 win over her Greek opponent.

“We’ve already started a pretty cool rivalry and I think it’s going to last a few more years so it’s pretty exciting,” Swiatek said in her on-court interview.

“We’re going to play many more finals. Today was pretty crazy because of the conditions. My team did an amazing job.”

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Phil Foden’s stunning strike capped off a dominant Manchester City performance as they booked their place in the FA Cup semi-finals with a 4-1 win over Southampton at St Mary’s.

Pep Guardiola’s side had failed to win either Premier League game against the Saints this season, but their emphatic victory kept them on course for a treble.

Raheem Sterling had handed the league leaders an early advantage, tapping home in the 12th minute, but it was cancelled out by Aymeric Laporte’s own goal just before half-time.

The hosts fought hard with the scores level, but were deflated when Kevin De Bruyne’s 62nd-minute penalty restored City’s lead.

City’s performance was capped off by a well-struck left-footed shot from the edge of the box from Foden in the 75th minute, with Riyad Mahrez also putting his name on the scoresheet three minutes later.

Southampton started brightly and almost had an early breakthrough when Adam Armstrong was played in behind the City defence, but his slightly scuffed shot rolled back off the far post.

Moments later Manchester City took the lead, when Sterling scored his first goal since February 15.

Jack Stephens failed to clear his lines, allowing Gabriel Jesus to attack the loose ball and play in Sterling in the centre of the box, and the England forward made no mistake slotting home via a slight deflection off Tino Livramento.

Fraser Forster had to be alert in the 27th minute as he made an instinctive diving save to deny Ilkay Gundogan from close range, just managing to tip the ball on to the post before Kyle Walker-Peters cleared the ball away from Jesus.

Oriol Romeu had a chance to level the tie just before the half-time break, but his well-hit effort from the edge of the box was straight at City goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

The hosts did equalise just before the interval when Mohamed Elyounoussi beat the offside trap and saw his effort deflected into his own net by Laporte.

At the start of the second half Southampton worked well to break down City’s attacks and disrupt their playing style, while they had attempts of their own, including a James Ward-Prowse strike from range that Steffen was able to gather.

But just as the home side looked to be on top, Guardiola’s team retook the lead from a spot-kick.

Referee Mike Dean pointed at the spot after Mohammed Salisu brought down Jesus at the edge of the box with a needless foul and De Bruyne dispatched the penalty, beating Forster who had dived the right way.

Southampton came close to levelling the score for the second time, but Steffen was alert to save Che Adams’ effort after he was played in.

Foden all but secured his side’s place in the FA Cup semi-finals with his strike from distance, before the visitors added a fourth with just over 10 minutes remaining when Mahrez fired past Forster.

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Tottenham boss Antonio Conte says his side have nine cup finals left as they try and earn Champions League qualification.

Spurs kept themselves firmly in the race for the top four with a 3-1 win over West Ham, which came thanks to Son Heung-min’s brace and a Kurt Zouma own goal.

That moved them three points behind Arsenal, who have a game in hand, but have to visit their north London rivals in a game that is yet to be rescheduled.

Having distanced his side from the race for so long, Conte says that top-four qualification is now the only target going into the final run-in after the international break.

“The only way to put pressure on Arsenal is to get three points and to win,” Conte said. “There are nine games to go and for us every game has to be a final.

“At the moment they have a good advantage, especially because they are working with the same coach for many years and they have had many transfer markets with the same coach, maybe at this moment they are more ready than us.

“But in five months we have done a fantastic job with these players and we have reduced the gap with many teams in England.

“Now in our dressing room there is only one target in our mind. I want this to happen because it is right, if you want to improve the mentality it is right to start under pressure.

“For this reason I want to make this target, the race for fourth place. We know the difficulty to reach this target. Tottenham needs to have the ambition to play the best competition.

“In England it is not simple, in this moment there are four teams that are very, very top but if one of these four teams has a struggle and then we have to try and stay there.

“We know there is Arsenal that is taking advantage in the table and they are showing great stability and there is West Ham and (Manchester) United. We want to try to fight and to have this ambition is important to ask all of the players, especially the important players because they are able to take the responsibility to show this message.”

West Ham’s own top-four challenge suffered a terminal blow as they are now six points behind Arsenal, having played two more games.

They got themselves back into the game through Said Benrahma but could not get anything out of it.

Boss David Moyes said: “I am a bit annoyed that I am getting asked it, but also I’m quite pleased because it’s telling me we were seen as a side that was getting seen for top four.

“If somebody had said that to me I would have belly laughed. We have been challenging but if you’d have said that at the start of the season none of you would have said yes.

“It should be put as how well have West Ham done to stay in the race until the last part of season and maybe for the first time they have dropped out of the running for the top four.

“Because in truth we have been in that bracket, but you would never see West Ham being a top-four side.”

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Son Heung-min’s double saw Tottenham register a huge win in the race for Champions League qualification as they beat West Ham 3-1.

The South Korean scored twice, having also been involved in Kurt Zouma’s own goal, as Spurs made it four Premier League victories from five to close the gap on fourth-placed Arsenal.

They are now three points behind the Gunners, who have a game in hand but still have to visit their north London rivals in a clash that is yet to be rescheduled.

Antonio Conte’s men, who also climbed above the Hammers, will believe they have the momentum in the battle for the top four as they signed off for the international break in style.

This was a damaging defeat for West Ham, who got on the scoresheet through Said Benrahma, in their own pursuit of the top four as they are six points behind the Gunners having played two games more and winning the Europa League may now be their most realistic route of getting Champions League football next season.

The Hammers’ exertions against Sevilla on Thursday night must have played a part as Tottenham made an impressive start and went ahead in the ninth minute, becoming the beneficiaries of another own goal.

Matt Doherty won the ball high up the field with some good pressing, Harry Kane squared to Son and the last touch came from Kurt Zouma – the sixth time an opposition player has put through his own net against Spurs this season.

West Ham should have levelled almost instantly as Eric Dier was muscled off the ball by Michail Antonio, but he drilled inches wide.

A matter of inches also denied Spurs a second shortly afterwards as a forging run by Dejan Kulusevski, followed by a one-two with Kane, saw him break into the box and his pullback was turned onto a post by Son.

The South Korean finally got his goal as Spurs doubled their lead in the 24th minute as he again paired up with Kane.

Kane’s defence-splitting pass sent him clear and he lashed the ball past Lukasz Fabianski with the aid of a deflection.

Spurs were in total control, but they allowed West Ham back into the game 10 minutes before the break as they were punished for some poor defending.

Doherty conceded a needless corner which was allowed to make its way to the far post where Benrahma was waiting to convert, having lost his marker.

The second half was on a knife edge as both sides had chances in the first 15 minutes.

Kane wasted a massive chance to make it 3-1 as a heavy first touch from Son’s through ball allowed Fabianski to come out and make a save, while Antonio blazed well over at the far post from Aaron Creswell’s cross.

Spurs began to find space on the counter-attack and had Sergio Reguilon any sort of confidence in the penalty area he might have been able to extend the lead, but after two Kane passes put him in the clear, he first elected to go down looking for a penalty and then shot straight at Fabianski.

The England captain was then guilty of missing a golden chance to wrap the game up with 10 minutes remaining.

A clever pass by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg played him in on goal, but Kane skied his effort when trying to clip the ball over Fabianski.

Spurs finally ensured it would not be a nervy finish as Son killed the game in the 88th minute, latching onto Kane’s header and converting with ease for the pair’s 39th goal combination in the Premier League.

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Timothy Castagne and James Maddison each produced superb first-half strikes as Leicester beat Brentford 2-1 at the King Power Stadium and moved into the top half of the Premier League.

Castagne marked his return from injury in style by powering a shot into the top corner in the 20th minute to put the Foxes ahead, and Maddison added a delightful free-kick 13 minutes later.

Having brought some good saves out of Kasper Schmeichel after the break, Brentford pulled a goal back through Yoane Wissa with five minutes of normal time remaining but they were unable to save themselves from defeat.

A third victory in four league outings for Brendan Rodgers’ men sees them move up two places to 10th in the table.

Thomas Frank’s Bees, who were without Christian Eriksen due to coronavirus, remain 15th, eight points above the relegation zone.

The first real attempt of the contest was registered in the fifth minute as Maddison struck wide, before Bryan Mbeumo went down under the attentions of Caglar Soyuncu and Daniel Amartey. Visiting supporters called for a penalty but none was given.

The build-up to that incident had featured a mistake by Castagne – but the Belgian, making his first appearance since December after recovering from a thigh problem, then had Leicester fans on their feet three minutes later as he collected the ball from Harvey Barnes and fired in from just outside the box.

After Schmeichel blocked a Mathias Jensen effort the home crowd were then sent into raptures by another show-stopper, this time from Maddison as he curled a free-kick past David Raya.

Leicester continued to pressurise, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall hitting a shot wide having dispossessed Christian Norgaard, and James Justin being denied by Raya just before the interval.

Things continued where they had left off at the start of the second half as Maddison had a shot saved by Raya, and Iheanacho advanced from the halfway line into the box and tried a chip that hit the outside of the post.

Brentford then brought two decent stops out of Schmeichel, the Dane tipping a Pontus Jansson header over and blocking Mbeumo’s nodded effort.

Applause rang around the ground as Rodgers replaced Castagne with Jonny Evans, another man returning to action for the first time in three months.

Either side of that, Jensen and Ivan Toney sent attempts over the Leicester bar, and Brentford then reduced the deficit in the 85th minute as Wissa cracked a shot in.

Schmeichel subsequently dealt with a Tariqe Fosu effort as Brentford searched in vain for an equaliser, and Barnes then sent an effort wide before the final whistle confirmed Leicester as victors.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as a rejuvenated Barcelona gave a football masterclass to inflict a humiliating 4-0 defeat on rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, thrashing Carlo Ancelotti’s LaLiga leaders on their own ground.

A sold-out Santiago Bernabeu stadium watched silently as a much-improved Barca under the command of new coach Xavi Hernandez dominated El Clasico from the start.

With Ousmane Dembele and Ferran Torres exposing Real’s defensive frailty on the flanks, Barca opened the scoring in the 29th minute with an Aubameyang header from a Dembele cross.

Barca kept up the tempo against a disorganised and lifeless Real Madrid and extended their lead when defender Ronald Araujo, headed in from a Dembele corner.

Ancelotti tried to change the dynamic, making two substitutions during the break but Barca scored in the first minute of the second half with an angled shot from Torres after a backheel by Aubameyang.

Five minutes later, former Manchester City forward Torres returned the favour, teeing up ex-Arsenal striker Aubameyang for his second goal.

Barca had several opportunities to extend their lead, but Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois avoided any further humiliation.

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Liverpool left it late to book a Wembley semi-final against Manchester City, but Diogo Jota’s 78th-minute goal was enough to end Nottingham Forest’s valiant FA Cup run.

The City Ground has been a graveyard for Premier League sides this season, with Arsenal and Leicester both exiting at the hands of former Reds academy coach Steve Cooper’s entertaining and exciting side.

And, while lesser top-flight teams may have cracked in the red-hot atmosphere, Jurgen Klopp’s team weathered an early storm and bided they time, although almost too long, before Jota’s 19th of the campaign secured a 1-0 victory.

The match hinged on a three-minute spell preceding his close-range strike as Philip Zinckernagel should have set up the biggest shock here yet, only to shoot wide with just goalkeeper Alisson Becker to beat.

Not many sides get given a second chance like that and so it proved as Jota, having scored the crucial first goal in midweek against Arsenal to increase the pressure on Premier League leaders City, struck again.

This was the first meeting between the sides in 23 years and an enthralling encounter was worth the wait as Forest, looking to reach their first FA Cup semi-final since 1991, came flying out of the blocks fired up by a bouncing and confident City Ground crowd.

Liverpool retained a strong spine with Alisson, Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Jota keeping their places from midweek and in the early stages they needed it.

Van Dijk was, typically, a beacon of calm and, knowing what was coming, the visitors looked to take the sting out of the situation and pick off their opponents in the opening stages.

Only Joe Worrall’s superbly-timed tackled denied Jota a good shooting opportunity, while Kostas Tsimikas’ swerving volley dipped just over.

But for all their fervour, Forest, who left 97 seats empty in memory of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster during an FA Cup semi-final between the two sides, really only had a Ryan Yates shot deflected wide to show for their efforts.

Fabinho dragged a shot wide from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain corner, while Roberto Firmino squandered the best opportunity of the half when through one-on-one, his decision to go for a cheeky chipped finish proving the wrong one as Ethan Horvath saved.

In between, Van Dijk showed Forest just how they would have to go up a level if they were to threaten the visitors as Djed Spence, the rampaging right-back who had done so much damage in previous rounds, looked to have space to run into the penalty area only to be comfortably ushered off the ball by the Holland captain.

The half ended with Liverpool, lacking both first-choice full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold (hamstring) and Andy Robertson (illness) having established control in midfield but not in the final third as deputising right-back Joe Gomez blazed over.

Forest started the second half with renewed vigour and Spence’s first real incursion into the area won a corner but nothing more.

Hovath saved comfortably from Jota before Klopp made a quadruple substitution in the 63rd minute, sending on midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson and forwards Luis Diaz and Takumi Minamino.

With Forest legs tiring, the game appeared to be Liverpool’s for the taking, but it was the hosts who should have seized victory 15 minutes from time.

Van Dijk vacated his position in central defence to carry the ball into midfield only to lose possession and the hosts countered with a two-on-one which saw Zinckernagel shoot wide with only Alisson to beat.

He was made to pay three minutes later as Jota struck his second important goal of the week following Tsimikas’ cross to the far post.

There were some late scares for the visitors when Alex Mighten went down under a challenge from Alisson, but referee Craig Pawson saw no foul and VAR agreed, and then Cafu fired over in added time as Forest went out beaten but unbowed.