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DANNY INGS DOUBLE HELPS ASTON VILLA BEAT BRIGHTON TO CLAIM FIRST AWAY LEAGUE WIN

A brace from Danny Ings helped Aston Villa end their away day blues in the Premier League at the eighth time of asking with a 2-1 victory at Brighton.

Villa’s dismissal record on the road this season contributed towards Steven Gerrard’s sacking last month but successor Unai Emery was able to celebrate three points on the south coast following a fine comeback.

Alexis Mac Allister fired Brighton into an early lead but the away side regrouped and claimed the spoils with Ings netting a first-half penalty before his deflected strike early into the second half downed Roberto De Zerbi’s men, who were denied a late penalty by VAR.

This was the penultimate Premier League fixture before the World Cup and while there were some absentees, seven Qatar-bound players started.

Mac Allister was one of them and celebrated his Argentina call-up with a goal after 49 seconds against his compatriot Emi Martinez.

Villa goalkeeper Martinez was partly culpable after playing a short pass into Douglas Luiz, but the Brazilian was brushed aside too easily by Mac Allister, who rifled home his fifth goal of the season.

A frantic opening period continued with Adam Lallana being forced off with injury before Jacob Ramsey went down for the visitors, but he was able to continue.

Levi Colwill had already denied Ings with a fine sliding tackle to make an impressive start to his full debut in the Premier League.

Villa responded well to going behind and claimed a deserved leveller in the 20th minute.

Emi Buendia found space and produced a perfectly-weighted pass for John McGinn to race onto with Lewis Dunk bringing down the Scotland captain inside the area.

It gave Ings the chance to score from 12-yards, which he duly accepted but only after Robert Sanchez got a hand to his penalty kick.

Poland international Matty Cash and Mac Allister had to shake off niggles not long after, before Pascal Gross almost caught out Villa goalkeeper Martinez with a wicked inswinging delivery from a corner.

Down at the other end, Dunk made a timely sliding block to thwart Ramsey following Ings’ flick to ensure it remained 1-1 at half-time.

Leandro Trossard found the net five minutes into the second period but his long-range screamer did not count after referee Chris Kavanagh had already blown his whistle for a foul on Cash.

Cash almost created Villa’s second when he got in behind Pervis Estupinan and crossed in for Buendia, but the Argentinian’s diving header hit the post.

Emery’s side stayed alert and did take the lead seconds later in the 54th minute.

Luiz was able to atone for his mistake for Brighton’s opener after he won possession from Mac Allister outside the hosts’ penalty area and Ings dribbled past a rash Dunk tackle before his effort beat Sanchez following a deflection off Colwill.

De Zerbi had seen enough and brought off early substitute Julio Enciso in a double change that saw Deniz Undav introduced.

It improved the Seagulls, who wanted a penalty when Lucas Digne and Solly March came together with the Villa defender clearly catching the home winger but despite a VAR check by Jarred Gillett, no spot-kick was given.

This only added to the frustration of De Zerbi, who was booked for repeatedly remonstrating about Villa’s time-wasting and despite eight minutes of stoppage time, no leveller could be found with Emery celebrating another win.

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QATAR UNVEILS WORLD CUP FAN VILLAGE CONSISTING OF 6,000 CABINS

Qatar has unveiled a 6,000-cabin village built on a car park near its airports for fans attending the World Cup.

The 1.1 square-mile site features a metro station, a bus stop, and a temporary restaurant and convenience store. The area could hold as many as 12,000 people if booked at capacity, officials said.

Artificial green grass covers the walkways outside, with common areas filled with large bean-bag style chairs.

Competing nations’ flags flapped in the strong desert wind and there is a large screen for fans to watch matches.

The brightly coloured cabins, with thin walls, are designed to accommodate one or two people with twin beds, a nightstand, a small table and chair, air conditioning, a toilet and a shower inside.

They will be available for around $200 a night — $270 with board.

Some 60 per cent of the cabins are already booked for the tournament, said Omar al-Jaber, the head of accommodation at Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for the tournament.

There will be other rooms offered at $80 a night farther out than this site near Doha International Airport and Hamad International Airport, both of which will be seeing flights at all hours during the tournament.

Those staying at the Fan Village can expect a 40-minute commute to stadium sites.

“Most of the fan(s) they prefer if it’s not a hotel, they prefer the apartment and villa,” Mr al-Jaber said, noting those options are managed by French hospitality company Accor. However, those wanting budget accommodation will come to this site and the other for cheaper options, he said.

In the lead-up to the tournament, concerns about hotel room space and high prices for the rooms available have affected Qatar, which lacks hotel capacity for all teams, workers, volunteers and fans at the World Cup. So Doha has created camping and cabin sites, hiring cruise ships, and encouraging fans to stay in neighbouring countries and fly in for games.

Qatar has estimated it will have 130,000 rooms per day for the tournament.

Already, nearby Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has planned for an influx of World Cup fans who want to stay there where their money may go further.

“Now, the shuttle flights option, it’s one of the options for the people who stay already in our neighbour countries and … they would like to just to spend a day to attend the match,” Mr al-Jaber said. “So this is a good option for them in a state of their case.”
He added: “If they would like to come and stay, they are more than welcome, of course, and there are many, many options for them.”

There are still multiple options available for fans in Qatar available to rent, ranging from hotels, cruise ship rooms, traditional dhow sailing vessels and tents, the fan village, portable cabins and caravans, Mr al-Jaber said.

“We have enough accommodation and people still they can come and enjoy the tournament and of course they can choose what they are looking for from the accommodation,” he said.

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MARTIN ODEGAARD DOUBLE DOWNS WOLVES, SENDS ARSENAL FIVE POINTS CLEAR AT CHRISTMAS

Arsenal sent out a title warning after Martin Odegaard’s double sent them five points clear at the top of the Premier League.

The captain’s second-half brace earned a 2-0 win at Wolves and showed Manchester City their crown is under threat.

Mikel Arteta’s side are genuine contenders, grinding out a victory to put daylight between them and the reigning champions.

They seized on City’s 2-1 defeat to Brentford with a performance which demonstrated their steel and a slick opener proved they can find the magic when needed.

Wolves will be bottom at Christmas but held their own for long spells and there remains reasons to be positive with Julen Lopetegui’s era imminent.

Chairman Jeff Shi called the search for Bruno Lage’s replacement painful after Lopetegui initially rejected the club and Michael Beale performed a U-turn to stay at QPR.

Introduced to the home fans before the game, Lopetegui took the acclaim during a lap of the pitch six years after Wolves first tried to appoint him.

It has been a long wait and the former Spain and Real Madrid manager will be expected to work wonders to beat the drop but will have the same problems as caretaker Steve Davis and Lage.

Lopetegui will need reinforcements in January – especially a striker – for Wolves to extend their top flight stay to a sixth season.

He will have at least been encouraged by the hosts’ resilience, despite defeat, which will be desperately needed during a relegation battle.

Arteta has no such problems and his team will be top at Christmas, something not even the most optimistic Gunner would have predicted.

City’s surprise loss gave them the chance to take command at the top but they were initially frustrated by a determined Wolves.

Gabriel Jesus drilled in but was offside and Jose Sa hurriedly turned Bukayo Saka’s deflected cross over.

Arsenal lost Granit Xhaka, forced off after 15 minutes after needing treatment, and replaced him with Fabio Vieira.

The Gunners dominated the ball but Wolves reminded the visitors of their threat when Goncalo Guedes fired over following a quick break.

Despite their territorial dominance Arsenal struggled to create clear openings, a credit to Wolves’ organisation.

Davis, ahead of his final game in charge, openly admitted to encouraging his side to use the darks arts to wring any advantage from a game and they managed to stifle the flow.

But a driving run from Saka created a chance for Jesus and, with a hint of offside, the striker hit the bar with 10 minutes of the half remaining.

The Brazil international, without a goal in his previous 10 games, then wasted a promising opening when he volleyed Ben White’s cross wide.

While it remained tight the struggling hosts were always in the contest and William Saliba gifted them a golden chance just before the break.

The defender’s backpass was read by Guedes, who had a free run on goal, but Gabriel came to the rescue to deflect his shot wide.

But if there were any growing Arsenal frustrations they disappeared 10 minutes after the break when Odegaard opened the scoring.

It was the first time the visitors wriggled in behind Wolves and, when a delightful ball from Jesus gave Vieira space in the box, his cross was turned in by Odegaard.

From then it was comfortable for the Gunners and Odegaard added a second with 15 minutes left.

Dexter Lembikisa lost the ball to Gabriel Martinelli who teed up Oleksandr Zinchenko to cross. The ball fell for Martinelli who was denied by Sa but Odegaard controlled the rebound and lashed into the bottom corner.

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CRISTIANO RONALDO CLAIMS HE’S BEEN ‘BETRAYED’ BY MAN UTD AND IS BEING FORCED OUT

Cristiano Ronaldo claims he has been “betrayed” by Manchester United and believes they are trying to force him out of the club.

The Portugal star said that head coach Erik ten Hag and others want him out of Old Trafford, in excerpts of a 90-minute interview with Piers Morgan Uncensored, which will be broadcast next week on TalkTV.

When asked if United’s hierarchy were trying to force him out of the club, Ronaldo said: “Yes, not only the coach, but another two or three guys around the club. I felt betrayed.”

When quizzed again if senior club executives were trying to oust him, the 37-year-old said: “I don’t care. People should listen to the truth.

“Yes, I felt betrayed and I felt like some people don’t want me here, not only this year, but last year too.”

The PA news agency has contacted United for comment.

Ronaldo said he did not respect boss Ten Hag, admitting: “I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t show respect for me. If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.”

Ronaldo refused to come on as a substitute in last month’s win over Tottenham, leading to him being banished from the squad for the subsequent trip to Chelsea, although he then returned to the fold.

Ronaldo, who was heavily linked with a move away from Old Trafford in the summer, also hit out at former United team-mate Wayne Rooney over criticism the former had received for refusing to come on against Spurs.

Writing in The Sun newspaper, Morgan revealed Ronaldo said: “I don’t know why he criticises me so badly… probably because he finished his career and I’m still playing at a high level.

“I’m not going to say that I’m looking better than him. Which is true…”

Ronaldo also claimed United had not progressed as a club since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.

Ronaldo, who played under Ferguson for six years during his first spell at United before joining Real Madrid in 2009, said: “I don’t know what is going on, but since Sir Alex Ferguson left I saw no evolution in the club, the progress was zero.

“For example, we have an interesting point that how the club as Manchester United, after (they) sack Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer), they buy – they bring (in), sports director Ralf Rangnick, which is something that nobody understands.

“This guy is not even a coach. A bigger club like Manchester United brings (a) sports director – surprised not only me but all the world, you know.

“Nothing changed. Surprisingly. Not only the pool, the jacuzzi, even the gym…Even some points, the technology, the kitchen, the chefs, which is, I appreciate, lovely persons.

“They stopped in a time, which surprised me a lot. I thought I will see different things…different, as I mentioned before, technology, infrastructure.

“But unfortunately, we see many things that I used to see when I was 20, 21, 23. So, it surprised me a lot.”

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ROBERTO FIRMINO MISSES OUT ON BRAZIL SQUAD AS ARSENAL DUO ARE INCLUDED

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino has been left out of Brazil’s 26-man squad for the World Cup as Arsenal duo Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli are included.

Brazil head coach Tite had a wealth of attacking options at his disposal meaning 31-year-old Firmino, who has not featured for his country since the Copa America final in July 2021, missed the cut.

Jesus’ place was in question following a nine-game goalless run for Arsenal, while club colleague Martinelli has been rewarded for his fine form with the Gunners having notched five goals and two assists already this season.

Another Gunner has missed out, though, with defender Gabriel overlooked in an attacking squad named by Tite.

Manchester United’s Antony and Tottenham’s Richarlison are among the forwards, with Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and Rodrygo also part of the enviable options at the head coach’s disposal.

United midfielders Casemiro and Fred will be hoping to earn starting roles, with competition from Liverpool’s Fabinho, Newcastle’s Bruno Guimaraes and West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta.

Defensively could be where Brazil’s weaknesses lie, with 39-year-old former Barcelona full-back Dani Alves included alongside Chelsea’s 38-year-old Thiago Silva.

Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson will battle it out to be number one.

Antony reacted to his inclusion on Twitter, posting a video of him celebrating with his family alongside the caption: “For you!!! Thank you, God!! Thank you everyone… friends, family, mom, dad, brothers!! Love you!!! Too much emotion!!”

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LEWIS HAMILTON BECOMES HONORARY CITIZEN OF BRAZIL AHEAD OF BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX

Lewis Hamilton has become an honorary citizen of Brazil following a ceremony in Brasilia on Monday.

The seven-time Formula One world champion traces his desire for motor racing back to watching Brazilian great Ayrton Senna during his youth.

Last year following his victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Englishman completed an additional lap while holding the Brazil flag – mimicking Senna at his home race in 1991.

It was that gesture which helped see Hamilton, 37, bestowed with the honour by the president of the chamber of deputies, Arthur Lira, ahead of this weekend’s race at Interlagos.

“When I was five years old, I saw Ayrton race for the first time, and that was the moment when I knew I wanted to be world champion,” Hamilton said at the event.

“Many people said it was impossible, but fortunately, the fact that I’m here today is proof that persistence and hope can make everything possible.”

Hamilton, born in Stevenage, is currently fifth in this season’s drivers’ championship and has won the Brazilian Grand Prix on three occasions.

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MENDY TELLS COURT HE ENJOYED ‘HAVING SEX WITH A LOT OF WOMEN’

Premier League footballer Benjamin Mendy has told a court he enjoyed “having sex with a lot of women”.

On Monday, the player, who is accused of seven counts of rape, told his trial at Chester Crown Court it was “honestly, so easy” for him to meet women to have sexual activity with.

But the 28-year-old French international player said being in prison while on remand for the charges had made him “learn lots of things about life”.

Mendy, wearing a navy blue suit, white shirt and tie, said he began to receive attention from women when he was 18 and playing for Marseille.

When asked by Eleanor Laws KC, defending, if he realised why, he said: “At the beginning, no, but after, yes. Because of status.”

When he joined Manchester City in 2017, he said, the attention became “10 times more”.

He said: “The way they came to me, it’s not because of my look, it’s because of football.”

Asked about his attitude to having sex with women he did not know particularly well, he said: “At the time I was not thinking like how they were feeling or they can be upset because, for me, if they wanted to have sex and I wanted to, everything was fine, and I would carry on my partying.”

He said he was enjoying “having sex with a lot of women”.

But, he said if a woman said “no” he would “be fine, I’d accept it and I’d stop”.

The World Cup winner said he “didn’t worry” about using contraception although he “knew the risks”.

He said sleeping with different women on the same night was “normal” for him.

When asked why he carried on having parties with women he didn’t know after his initial arrest, Mendy said: “I did nothing wrong so I was just like, carry on.”

Ms Laws said: “Is that something you regret now?”

Mendy replied: “Yeah.”

He said: “When I was in prison it made me realise a lot of things.

“The partying I was doing, inside I had some pain.”

He told the court he had been injured a number of times while at City.

When asked to speak up during his evidence, Mendy said he was “ashamed” to talk about sex.

He said: “More embarrassed, like when you ask me the question I can’t scream ‘yeah I love sex’ because it would seem weird.”

The jury was told Mendy was in prison on remand from August last year until January.

He said: “All my life I have never had the time to really think about what I was doing.

“When I went there I was alone, you’re sat down all day, the only thing you can do is think.”

Asked what he thought now about women, he said: “I didn’t know I can hurt their feelings if we were both OK to have sex.”

He said he realised the way he would sometimes speak about women was “disrespectful”.

Mendy told the court prison was the first time in his life he was working on something other than football and would earn £4 a day which he would spend in the canteen.

He said: “For the first time I was really careful, like ‘I need to buy this but if I get that I can’t have that’. The life I had before, everything I wanted to have I just bought it.

“So it taught me the value of money.”

He added: “I was sad and upset to be going there but at the same time I learn lots of things about life and the way I was.”

Mendy denies seven counts of rape, one count of attempted rape and one count of sexual assault against six young women.

His friend and ‘fixer’ Louis Saha Matturie, 41, of Eccles, Salford, denies six counts of rape and three counts of sexual assault relating to seven young women.

The trial, which began in August, will continue on Tuesday.

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FENWAY SPORTS GROUP ‘FULLY COMMITTED’ TO LIVERPOOL AMID REPORT OF CLUB FOR SALE

Fenway Sports Group remains “fully committed to the success” of Liverpool amid claims the club has been put up for sale.

A report on Monday suggested the American-based owners had produced a sales deck and investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were assisting the evaluation process.

However, while FSG admits it is open to accepting new shareholders, it has not gone as far as to say the Premier League club as a whole is on the market.

“There have been a number of recent changes of ownership and rumours of changes in ownership at EPL clubs and inevitably we are asked regularly about Fenway Sports Group’s ownership in Liverpool,” said a statement.

“FSG has frequently received expressions of interest from third parties seeking to become shareholders in Liverpool.

“FSG has said before that under the right terms and conditions we would consider new shareholders if it was in the best interests of Liverpool as a club.

“FSG remains fully committed to the success of Liverpool, both on and off the pitch.”

FSG, then New England Sports Ventures, bought Liverpool for £300million in 2010, completing their purchase after the dysfunctional management of predecessors Tom Hicks and George Gillett had left the club on the brink of administration.

Forbes now value the club at around £3.5bn, and a weak pound currently makes the Premier League club more attractive to overseas investors.

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FIVE CONTENDERS TO REPLACE SACKED SOUTHAMPTON BOSS RALPH HASENHUTTL

Southampton are searching for a new manager after sacking Ralph Hasenhuttl on Monday.

Here, the PA news agency picks five contenders for the job.

Nathan Jones

Bookies’ favourite Jones has impressed with Luton on a tight budget in the Championship, taking the Hatters to within two points of the play-offs with a game in hand. The former Brighton full-back, who originally took over at Kenilworth Road in 2016 and had a brief spell at Stoke before returning, would probably jump at the chance of a crack at managing in the Premier League.

Rafael Benitez

The former Liverpool, Chelsea and Newcastle boss could find a route back into the English top flight after he was sacked following a disappointing spell at Everton in January. Spaniard Benitez may find the prospect of managing a progressive club like Saints tempting and his CV will surely impress the St Mary’s hierarchy.

Sean Dyche

After nine years of swimming against the tide at Burnley, Dyche has a proven record of keeping a club above water and seems ready to return to management having finally left Turf Moor in April. The 51-year-old may not be the left-field choice Southampton have a habit of going for, but if they want a quick fix, he may be the perfect fit.

Marcelo Gallardo

Widely considered River Plate’s most successful coach in their history, Argentinian Gallardo is leaving the club in December when his contract expires after eight years in charge. The 46-year-old certainly fits the Saints mould but whether he fancies a relegation battle remains to be seen.

Mauricio Pochettino

Talking of Argentinians, what about a return for former boss Pochettino? Available after leaving Paris St Germain in July, Saints could try to tempt the man who guided them to eighth in his first full season in charge back to St Mary’s. But the former Tottenham boss may have his sights set a little higher.

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LIVERPOOL FACE REAL MADRID IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE LAST 16 IN REPEAT OF 2022 FINAL

Last season’s Champions League finalists Real Madrid and Liverpool have been paired together in this season’s last 16.

The Reds finished runners-up in their group behind Napoli and will host the reigning European and LaLiga champions at Anfield in February.

Real beat the Reds 1-0 in the 2022 final in Paris in May, a match marred by organisational chaos which led to the kick-off being delayed.

Premier League champions and 2021 Champions League finalists Manchester City have been drawn to face German side RB Leipzig – fourth in last season’s Bundesliga – in the last 16.

Tottenham, who sealed top spot in their group with a last-gasp winner from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg away at Marseille, have been drawn to face Italian champions AC Milan with the first leg at San Siro.

Chelsea, winners of the competition in 2012 and 2021, will be up against Bundesliga runners-up Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16.

The first leg ties will be played on February 14, 15, 21 and 22, with the second legs on March 7, 8, 14 and 15.

German champions Bayern Munich – who did not drop a point in the group phase – are up against French league champions Paris St Germain, who they beat in the 2020 final of the competition.

Inter Milan, who finished runners-up behind Bayern in Group C, face Portuguese champions Porto while Club Brugge take on Benfica.

Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt will go up against Napoli for a place in the quarter-finals.