Early EURO 2024 Power Rankings: Where all 24 teams stand at the start of one of football’s biggest tournaments

With the club season now over, all the attention moves now to the international game.

All eyes now will focus on Germany with 24 teams competing to take out the Henri Delaunay Trophy and be the best in Europe.

The Euros have just gotten underway, let’s look at how the 24 teams are shaping up.

1. France
The World Cup runners-up and favourites to win the Euros.

Since that World Cup final, France has only lost two games which were both friendlies to Germany showing their strong form.

Their latest victories come against weaker competition against Chile and Luxembourg but would draw to Canada.

Their 25-man squad (one short of the full allocation) is very similar with 18 players in the squad having played in the 2022 World Cup.

Most of that focus will be on Real Madrid’s latest Galactico in Kylian Mbappe. After going goalless in Euro 2020, he is among the favourites for the Golden Boot and will be influential in how they do in the tournament.

2. Germany
A lot has changed in the space of twelve months for Germany.

After consecutive defeats against Poland, Colombia and Japan which all but brought Hansi Flick’s reign to an end, another former Bayern Munich manager Julian Naglesmann, has come in and helped provide a shot in the arm for the host nation’s chances for its tournament chances.

Naglesmann has come in and nailed down a consistent XI finding success with a 4-2-3-1 format in his friendlies with wins against France, the Netherlands and most recently Greece.

He also managed to bring Toni Kroos out of international retirement for one final tournament on home soil.

For Germany’s sake, they will want to ensure that they can send their 108-capped star out on a famed July night in Berlin.

3. England
When you have a squad containing the likes of Jude Bellingham, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden and Harry Kane, you will always come into any tournament being among the favourites to win.

After beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-nil, there was little concern about preparations. But this was before their 1-nil loss to Iceland which has put a slight spanner in their lead-up.

This has certainly seen the pressure mount further on Gareth Southgate. As he admits himself, this is likely to be his last tournament in charge if he does not bring back the Henri Delaunay Trophy with him.

A performance like they had against Iceland does not help to remove some of that pressure coming into the Euros, whether this was a blip on the radar or something bigger.

Only two players from the Bosnia and Herzegovina match would start in the Iceland game but it was a far more experienced starting eleven for Iceland.

It does not appear like much right now before the tournament, but a poor showing in their opening game against Serbia may see the pressure go from 0-100 in a quick amount of time for the Three Lions.

4. Spain
Spain has once again managed to find their way into the contention of favouritism for this upcoming Euros.

The Nations League champions despite an early hiccup in the Euros qualifier losing to Scotland, would qualify with ease topping their group.

They have made light work of their most recent friendlies beating Northern Ireland 5-1 and Andorra 5-nil although those would be expected results.

Having beaten both Italy in the semis and then Croatia in the final of the Nations League, this will likely give confidence that after twelve months they can do it again in Group B.

5. Portugal
Portugal has some serious star power that will hopefully get them into the pointy end of the tournament.

With the likes of the Man City duo of Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva who both made the FIFPro World Eleven at the start of the year.

As well, Bruno Fernandes from Manchester United has the most assists across the Euro Qualifiers in the starting eleven, they have the potential to replicate what happened in Euro 2016.

Being led by the experienced combo of the 41-year-old Pepe in defence and 39-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo will certainly help.

Despite having a perfect record during the qualifying period, their latest form has been a mixed bag.

They have had a 5-2 win over Sweden and a 4-2 win over Finland this year, but they have also suffered losses to Croatia and Slovenia which you would expect Portugal to at least draw with, if not win against.

6. Italy
The previous Euros winners, Italy will hope to be the first team since Spain in 2008 and 2012 to go back-to-back. While they do not come into the tournament as favourites, that will not bother them.

It is quite a different look for Italy with only eight of the 26 players from their Euro triumph in 2020 returning for their defence of the trophy. These include the likes of Federico Chiesa, Nicolò Barella and Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

But arguably the most important from that 2020 squad playing in 2024 is Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The Paris Saint-Germain keeper who was named the player of the tournament from Euro 2020 is now four years later, leading the side as captain.

Winning results against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador and Venezuela are expected and delivered with the only real unusual result being a draw to Turkey.

7. Netherlands
Back on his second stint as coach of the Netherlands, Ronald Koeman will want to avoid a repeat of Euro 2020 after dominating their group but being knocked out by the Czech Republic in the Round of 16.

In their most recent matches, they have had a trifecta of 4-nil wins against Scotland, Canada and Iceland which would be sandwiched by a 2-1 loss to Germany.

The major news surrounding the squad has been Frenkie de Jong. He has been ruled out for the tournament due to injury.

However, the midfield will largely be unaffected as his last game for the national team was back in September last year with plenty of depth coming from the PSV duo of Joey Veerman and Jerdy Schouten in that space.

8. Croatia
While in their last two World Cup appearances they have been able to finish 2nd and 3rd, the Euros have been a different story for Croatia.

Their last two appearances at the Euros have seen them knocked out in the Round of 16 both going to extra time.

Croatia will come into Germany with an experienced team once again as they try to squeeze the last bit of a golden generation.

They will have nine players with more than 50 caps which include Ivan Perisic, Domagoj Vida and Luka Modric demonstrating the longevity of this group.

From their most recent friendlies, they managed to beat North Macedonia 3-nil as well as defeat Portugal 2-1.

This goes along with their win at one of the newly introduced FIFA series competitions at the start of the year.

9. Belgium
Belgium comes into this tournament with plenty of experience. Seven out of the 25 players selected have played more than 60 caps for Belgium and this does not include Thibaut Courtois who was withdrawn from the squad.

His absence has created a battle for the No. 1 spot between Nottingham’s Matz Sels and former Wolfsburg keeper Koen Casteels now playing in Saudi Arabia.

They have won their last two friendlies against Luxembourg and Montenegro and in the two prior had draws against Ireland and England.

The key to their success will be how well Romelu Lukaku can perform. Over the last two years, he has scored 17 goals in the last 11 eleven matches for Belgium which will be a key focus for their Group E opposition to prevent his influence in the game.

10. Denmark
While it appears unlikely that the Danes will be unable to reach the semi-final as they did at the last Euros, there is still a team with upside that could challenge fellow knockout teams.

Currently on a three-game win streak heading into the tournament beating the Faroe Islands, Sweden and Norway, having some form coming into the tournament will help provide some confidence within a team environment.

Being an incredibly possession-based side as evident during qualification with the third highest possession percentage with 64.2% as well as most passes attempted with 6889.

With this importance on possession, it means that players with great passing completion within the squad such as Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg, Joachim Andersen and Andreas Christensen will be important to maintaining possession allowing for more opportunities to be created for their striker in Rasmus Hojlund.

11. Ukraine
With the backdrop of the war taking place, Ukraine will hope to inspire its people through a strong performance in Germany.

After managing to make their place at the Euros through the playoffs time around, Ukraine has managed to fall under the radar of most with a youth-led squad taking the charge and trying to make the quarter-finals and more once again.

This Ukraine squad has loads of depth with players having breakout seasons within their league competition. This includes the likes of Girona’s Artem Dovbyk who won the La Liga golden boot in his debut season.

In the same league, goalkeeper Andriy Lunin has also had a breakout year. Lunin has spent the majority of the season being the first-choice goalkeeper for Real Madrid after injuries to Courtois and Kepa saw them forced to play Lunin in goals who has thrived after years of being the third-choice pick.

Their form guide into the tournament with a 4-0 win to Moldova, nil-all draw against Germany and 3-1 loss to Poland is about where most people expect them to be.

12. Switzerland
After a quarter-final appearance for the first time in Euro 2020, the Swiss are hoping that was not merely a one-time occurrence.

Consistently, the Rossocrociati have found ways to make it beyond the group and appear likely to do so again in Group A. Since the 2014 World Cup, they have always qualified for the knockout stage.

Their latest results have not set the world on fire but are consistent with expectations with wins against Ireland and Estonia and draws against Denmark and Austria.

With the trio of Yann Sommer having a career-best season at Inter Milan having 25 clean sheets across 43 games and Granit Xhaka having a career-best year at Leverkusen leading the way and Manuel Akanji’s versatility across defensive positions helping him have a stellar season at Man City, they should be able to keep the knockout streak alive.

13. Austria
Taking his experience from managing Schalke, RB Leipzig and interim manager at Manchester United, Ralf Rangnick has helped Austria qualify for a third consecutive time at the European Championship which is a first for the nation.

Since their qualification, the Burschen have been in very good form and may cause an upset for a top-two place within Group D.

Through players such as RB Leipzig’s Christoph Baumgartner who has managed to score a goal in each of Austria’s last five games.

At the moment, they are currently on a seven-game unbeaten run with only one of them being a draw against Switzerland. Their other scalps include Serbia, Turkey, Slovakia and most notably Germany back in November.

This has been mostly done without captain David Alaba having been injured since December making it more impressive.

14. Hungary
Hungary is a team on the rise coming into the Euros.

After going undefeated in their qualifying group, they continued with wins against Turkey and Kosovo before a loss to Ireland which would break their 14-game unbeaten streak.

In their last game before the Euros against Israel with a 3-nil win.

Headlined by Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai, Hungary has drastically improved its squad in the three-year duration from their last Euros. From that 2020 squad, only four players were playing in Europe’s top five leagues.

Now in 2024, there are eight players with the likes of left-back Milos Kerkez and midfielder András Schäfer now playing for Bournemouth and Union Berlin helping provide more high-level experience to this side.

15. Serbia
For the first time in Serbia’s history, they will be participating in the Euros.

While in previous tournaments they have played as Serbia and Montenegro during the 1990s and early 2000s, this will be the first time they do so as a standalone country.

They have depths within the forwards positions with the likes of Dušan Vlahović and Aleksandar Mitrović capable of playing the No. 9 role with Sergej Milinković-Savić and Dušan Tadić helping supply chances from the midfield.

Managing wins against Cyprus and Sweden but were not able to defeat fellow Euro participant in Austria as well as losing to Russia 4-0.

Their best chance at progressing seems likely to be through being one of the best third-place finishes

16. Czech Republic
After a surprise quarter-final appearance in Euro 2020, the Czech Republic will hope that this type of performance can be the norm rather than the exception.

Led by Ivan Hašek, the Czechs come into the tournament with a very young squad. Only two players in the squad are over the age of 30.

In their last couple of rounds of friendlies, they have beaten Norway, Armenia, North Macedonia and Malta which should serve as confidence going into Group F.

One to watch for the Czech Republic is Patrik Schick. It was this time three years ago, that he would tie with Cristiano Ronaldo for top goal scorer for EURO 2020 (Ronaldo winning on a tiebreak) which included a goal from the halfway line against Scotland.

While he has not been able to hit the same heights within the national team since the tournament, he has played well for club side Bayer Leverkusen when fit scoring 13 goals this season.

17. Scotland
After going on a five-match unbeaten streak at the start of their qualifying group for the Euros, Scotland has not had the best run of form coming into the tournament.

They have only won one game since their qualifiers which was against Gibraltar after suffering losses to the Netherlands and Northern Ireland alongside a draw with Finland.

Scotland does have the potential to be able to get into the knockouts for the first time as shown by their qualifying record but will face stiff competition.

Scott McTominay will be the key to Scotland’s success in the tournament. During that five-game win streak, McTominay was formidable scoring seven out of his eight international goals throughout that run.

If he can replicate that form, then that will go a long way to the Tartan Army’s knockout chances.

18. Poland
Getting their place through the playoffs after beating Wales on penalties, Poland has had to go the long way to get here.

In a tough position in Group D competing against France, the Netherlands and Austria, they are not the favourites to progress out.

It does appear likely that star Robert Lewandowski will miss the first match against the Netherlands and remains unclear if he will miss any further matches beyond that.

Without him, it makes their chances a lot harder although not impossible.

Lewandowski only played 33 minutes over the last two friendlies but yet Poland was able to win against the Ukraine and Turkey showing they can find a way without their star player.

19. Slovenia
Slovenia have been in form coming into this tournament and it might see them win their first match in a European Championship and get a knockout spot for the first time in history.

Wins against two top-12 ranked sides in Portugal and the USA would certainly be given a boost of confidence. But coupled with draws against Malta and Bulgaria would bring them back to earth.

While the most notable name on this team is Atletico Madrid keeper Jan Oblak, most of the focus on Slovenia will be on 21-year-old Benjamin Šeško.

In his debut season at RB Leipzig, Šeško managed to score 18 goals and could be a contender for the Young Player of the Tournament if Slovenia can play well.

20. Turkey
After a rather disappointing Euro 2020 for Turkey, this time Turkey will hope to do far better this time around.

Although recent form suggests that it might be a similar occurrence. Whilst able to obtain a nil-all draw against Italy, they would see losses to Hungary, and Poland and a 6-1 demolition by Austria.

While mainly reliant on captain Hakan Çalhanoğlu and striker Cenk Tosun for attacking opportunities with half of the squad goals on an international level coming from those two, there are others to watch out for such 19-year-old midfielder/forward Arda Guler making an impact on the team’s chances.

21. Slovakia
Slovakia have had a mixed run of form coming into the tournament. In their most recent international window, they beat Wales and San Marino 4-nil.

But in the international window before, they could only draw with Norway and suffered a 2-nil loss to Austria.

With the mainstay and captain of this Slovakia side Marek Hamšík since retiring from football last year after 16 years and 138 caps for Slovakia, it has seen a new transition for them as a team to be without his midfield process and leadership.

Now it is Milan Škriniar who is currently playing for PSG and who captains the team from the defence who will hope to have a similar impact and get Slovakia to the knockout stage for the second time in their history.

22. Romania
Managing to beat out Switzerland to top their qualifying group for the Euros, Romania hasn’t quite been able to maintain that level of form into the European Championships.

Since their qualification in November, they have had a 1-1 draw to Northern Ireland, nil-nil draws to both Bulgaria and Lichtenstein and a 3-2 loss to Colombia.

The key to their success and likelihood of being able to make the knockouts for the first time since 2000 will likely be based on their defence.

Romania managed six clean sheets which were the second best in qualifiers with their first-choice goalkeeper in Horatiu Moldovan managing to get five of those during qualifying as well as only conceding four goals throughout.

23. Albania
Being drawn in what is widely considered to be the Group of Death in Group B for this tournament would make it hard for any team to make it to the knockouts let alone Albania.

After doing well to top their qualifying group for the Euros which included the Czech Republic and Poland, they have struggled for form since.

Draws to Moldova and Faroe Islands to end their qualifying campaign as well as losses to Chile and Sweden have taken some muster out.

They have had a slight recovery in their last international window with wins against Lichtenstein and Azerbaijan, but it does not look promising for a first-time trip to the knockouts.

24. Georgia
Georgia will make their debut at this year’s Euros. Their route to getting here was through the playoffs defeating Luxembourg and Greece.

The most notable name within the team is Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. He’s currently averaging a goal every two games for Georgia.

He would also finish equal third for total attempts on goal during the Euros qualifiers with 32 being the focal point of their attack.

If Georgia is to find a way out of Group F, then it will likely be off the back of his performances.

They have only played one game since the playoffs. This would be a comfortable 3-1 win against Montenegro.

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Matildas draw 1-1 with China after Michelle Heyman’s stoppage-time equaliser

The Matildas’ final preparations for the Paris Olympics have got off to a rusty start after a scrappy 1-1 draw with China in Adelaide on Friday.

Australia’s coach Tony Gustavsson fielded a largely experimental line-up for the opening hour of the Adelaide Oval fixture, but they were upstaged by the reigning Asian Cup champions, with a well-organised and disciplined China keeping the Matildas shotless for the first half.

And while a sell-out 52,912 people had packed in to see the Matildas strut their stuff, they were instead silenced in the 30th minute after Chinese winger Zhang Linyan opened the scoring, volleying home a cross from Central Coast Mariners winger Wurigumula.

But veteran striker Michelle Heyman came to the rescue in stoppage-time of the first half, tapping in from a goal-mouth scramble after a Mary Fowler free kick was fumbled by China’s goalkeeper.

Before the match, Gustavsson said he remained undecided on four spots for the 18-woman squad to contest the Paris Olympics starting in late July. The team’s starting XI reflected his need to test out those peripheral players, beginning without big guns Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Ellie Carpenter, Hayley Raso and Kyra Cooney-Cross.

But the team that started the game struggled to break down a tightly-packed Chinese defence, and regularly coughed up possession before being punished by quick transitional counter-attacks.

While the momentum of the game began to swing after five senior players were substituted on in the 60th minute, winger Caitlin Foord lasted just 15 minutes, leaving the field after being felled in a tackle, despite appearing in no great discomfort.

Following a tepid opening 29 minutes, China struck on the half-hour when a fast break down the right flank left Australia’s Kaitlyn Torpey sprawled in the grass after grappling with powerful striker Wurigumula.

As the pair jostled, Torpey slipped and fell to ground — replays showed a slight tug on her jersey from her opponent — while Wurigumula was quick to recover from the contact, her follow-up cross into the box deflected into the path of Zhang, who scored with a reflex right footer.

After half time, Australia showed far greater attacking intent and almost had a reward in the 56th minute when Cortnee Vine swung a cross into the box.

The ball landed near Fowler who was set to pull the trigger and shoot, but advancing China keeper Xu Huan knocked the ball away. Six minutes later, Gustavsson made five substitutions, summoning Catley, Foord, Raso, Carpenter and Kyra Cooney-Cross.

The injection of the Matildas mainstays had instant impact, with the Australians crafting a series of scoring chances through Raso and Fowler, though a scrambling China kept the Matildas scoreless.

But in a bizarre series of events in stoppage time, where Australia won a free kick just outside China’s penalty spot after the goalkeeper slid out to collect an innocuous ball only to hand-ball it and give a set piece away, a powerful striker by Fowler was fumbled by Xu and duly poked home by Heyman.

The Matildas meet China again in Sydney on Monday night and Gustavsson will announce his Olympic squad the following day.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

See you Monday!

I still think Heyman’s (and Fowler’s) issues tonight were more about distribution. They both should be on the plane to Paris. But maybe those in midfield (who aren’t feeding through enough quality ball) should be a bit worried – they need to step up and do better in the next leg.

– Ingrid

I think tonight that those who are already locked in to the Olympic squad are there for a reason…not sure any of the questions Tony had about the remaining four players were really answered tonight

– Tania

I think we’re all on the same page about tonight’s game: the Matildas definitely didn’t show enough against China to convince us of anything, so they’ll really need to step it up in the second match in Sydney on Monday to settle out nerves about their readiness for the Olympics.

We’ll have a match report out shortly, but for now, thanks so much for engaging with the blog tonight, and I’ll see you all again here on Monday night from 7:00pm AEST!

Until then, enjoy your weekend, and gooooo Tillies!!!

So what did you make of that?

Redemption rocks. Phew! Okay, how do you pick an optimal 18 squad out of that? I guess that’s why Tony’s paid the big bucks. More questions than answers, maybe the answers’ll arrive on Monday. Thanks Sam!

– Big Ben

High energy and effort leads to chances and finally a goal. Why did they play so conservatively for the first 88 minutes? Raso showed the way

– Tobi

Matildas lack quality. Any squad with EVE and Polkinghorne hasn’t hope against the new top nations.

– The bill

Great to see Michelle Heyman score at the death to salvage the draw, she’ll definitely be on the plane to Paris in July.

– Adam

What’s the answer? Give them time (and hope Ford’s injury heals)

– Betty

Whenever the Matildas have two-game windows, they do tend to be quite rusty and slow in the first of the two matches. So in that context, tonight’s game isn’t a huge surprise, nor is it a shock given the five changes Tony Gustavsson made to the starting line-up.

And yet… with Paris less than two months away… the Matildas don’t really have time to be this sloppy, do they? They certainly won’t be forgiven for it against the USA, Germany, and Zambia.

But who do you reckon impressed tonight? Did any player convince you that they should go to the Olympics? Or do we need another game to figure it out?

Heyman redemption!

Let the scoreboard show that it was Michelle Heyman who equalised. I won’t hear a bad word said about her! (even if she didn’t have a great game 🙂 ⚽️💚💛

– Leo

michelle heyman doesn’t miss in front of goal! she might not be sam kerr but she should be in paris as a CF.

– alex

– Samantha Lewis

I was literally typing a post about Michelle Heyman’s game tonight, and then she just goes and scores.

Maybe that’s why she goes to Paris: because she can be there right until the very end.

Full time: Australia 1 – 1 China

The commentators curse Sam…Michelle Heyman unseen all night…bobs up in the 95min…extraordinary!

– stumcin

Yeeeeeeesssssssss!!!! 🥳🥳🥳

– Tania


– Natty


– M

I feel that goal should be given to the china goalkeeper. She put a lot of effort to make australia score

– First

Michelle is back online!!!

– Micko

Geez. Oztraylia. You got damn lucky with that goal at the end! Coulda/shoulda done better. And sooner.

– Ingrid


– sandye


– jag

Just like the last time they played, a stoppage-time equaliser rescues the Matildas after a pretty sluggish display.

Absolute scenes from the sold-out stadium – and from all of you – right at the death!



A free kick just outside China’s box was awarded after their goalkeeper came sprinting off her line and seemed to hand-ball it after a miscontrol?

Mary Fowler stood over the ball, sending her rocket of a right foot through the set piece towards the front post, where the keeper isn’t able to catch it and the deflection falls right to the feet of Heyman, who pokes it home.


93′ Where are our goals coming from?

The hole left by Sam Kerr’s absence is starting to look bigger and bigger with every minute that goes by tonight!

– stumcin

Hopefully Caitlin Foord doesn’t have a serious injury, this would be disastrous for the Matildas 55 days out from the first game in the Olympics.

– Adam

As I wrote at the start of tonight’s blog, the Matildas really haven’t figured out the answer of how to score goals without Sam Kerr.

As Adam says, this injury to Caitlin Foord is a worry. She was massive for the Tillies during the World Cup when Kerr was unavailable. Mary Fowler’s wobbly form in this game is a concern, as has Michelle Heyman’s kinda-nothing performance.

So what’s the answer?

91′ Chance China!

Another counter-attack from China sees Wu Chengshu through one-on-one with Clare Hunt, who’s backtracking into her own box, trying to hold up the energised substitute.

Chengsu twists and turns and finds a half-space, swinging her foot through the ball, but she doesn’t quite connect and it fizzes into Mackenzie Arnold’s hands.

Five minutes of added time

87′ Hunt gets crunched

A wildly spinning aerial ball from Hayley Raso that deflected off a Chinese player falls dangerously towards the top of the box, where Clare Hunt and substitute Wu Chengshu both race towards it, trying to nick it out of the air and do something.

Hunt is the tallest of the two and is able to head it away in time, but Chengshu barrels straight through the centre-back, sending her crashing into the grass.

There’s a couple words exchanged between the Chinese striker and Steph Catley afterwards as Hunt catches her breath. Not so friendly after all, this.

86′ Big Woman Up Top

I don’t know how you folks feel, but when I see Alanna Kennedy thrown up front into the centre-forward position, that’s when I know that Tony Gustavsson is running out of ideas.

Like, I get it. She’s tall and good in the air. But so is Michelle Heyman. Is this really Plan B if the Matildas are behind during the Olympics?


85′ China substitutions

Mengwen Li is off for Mengyu Shen.

Shuang Wang Shuang is replaced by Cong Yuan.

And Yanwen Wang is off for Jiali Tang.

82′ Michelle Heyman’s gone missing

Another watcher/reader (Olive) mentioned that Mary Fowler was “struggling to do her Mary magic here”. I wonder if both her and Michelle Heyman are suffering from not being fed enough good balls? Hopefully, the subs will change that and improve distribution.

– Ingrid

Is hayman in her space jam version?

– First

She’s really just been a warm body out there for this second half, hasn’t she? It’s like the game has been happening around her and she’s just kinda been watching from a really awesome front-row seat.

I do think that the build-up play has affected her tonight, though. She barely connected with the two midfielders in the first half, and now is having to deliberately involve herself in plays to try and get anywhere near the ball.

She leaps onto a moment now, spinning on the ball after a China error, and takes a couple charging steps into the box, but just as she tries to shoot, a Chinese defender gets a toe on the ball and it spins into the keeper’s arms.

80′ Chance Australia!

They’re throwing more bodies forward now, trying to overload China’s backline and create a bit of chaos.

Another corner is taken short, with Fowler delivering the ball to the very back of the box, where Hayley Raso nods it back towards the penalty spot.

Kennedy is there, and tries an acrobatic sideways kick, but she doesn’t quite catch it and it spins over the bar.

79′ Not many beliEVErs on the blog tonight

Surprised TG left EVE out there….thoughts?

– Tania

not sure why tony is so keen on emily van egmond? she cannot play as a striker and as a midfielder not anymore effective than clare wheeler or yallop…

– alex

Honestly? I agree. Emily Van Egmond doesn’t seem to have the speed or style that you associate with this high-intensity Matildas team, so it’s odd that she’s played such a pivotal role in the side for so long.

78′ Aaaaaand she misses

Kennedy goes for it, trying to whip the ball up and over China’s wall and into the top corner, but it flies over the crossbar instead.

78′ Matildas win a dangerous free kick

Emily Van Egmond was clipped from behind by a clumsy Chinese player just outside the top of the box.

Steph Catley and Alanna Kennedy are standing over it. China have five players in the wall…

Crowd: 52,912

Hectic. Well done, Adelaide!

76′ Australia substitution

Uh oh.

Caitlin Foord, who came on only 15 minutes ago, goes down in the grass, gesturing towards her hamstring.

A minute later, she walks off the field, replaced by Brisbane Roar winger Sharn Frier.

75′ China substitution

Goal-scorer Zhang Linyan is off for Liu Yanqui.

74′ Chance Australia!

A more characteristic passage from Australia with Ellie Carpenter slotting through the speedy Hayley Raso down the right wing.

She cuts the ball back from the by-line, aiming for the penalty spot, where Mary Fowler is steaming in to meet it.

But Carpenter is there instead, and gets in the way of Fowler’s swing, so she doesn’t quite meet it properly and the ball deflects off a China defender and bounces away up-field instead.


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Players paid $10k to give away yellow cards in A-League games, police allege

Macarthur FC captain Ulises Dávila is one of three players from the A-League side who have been charged over an alleged betting scandal.

The NSW Police Organised Crime Squad Gaming Unit launched an investigation into the alleged manipulation of yellow cards during football games for gambling purposes.

Police will allege detectives discovered midfielder Mr Dávila, 33, had been allegedly taking instructions from a man — believed to be in South America — to organise yellow cards to occur during certain points in A-League games.

Three players have been charged with numerous offences.(Supplied: NSW Police)

The alleged offending occurred during games between November 24 and December 9 last year.

Mr Dávila received a yellow card during Macarthur FC’s game against Melbourne Victory on November 24 and another yellow card during his side’s match against Sydney FC on December 9.

Failed attempts to allegedly control the number of cards issued during games happened between April 20 and May 4 this year.

Players paid $10k for yellow card, police allege

Detectives executed five search warrants across Sydney this morning, arresting Mr Dávila in South Coogee.

A footballer sat on the ground with a ball at his feet

Ulises Dávila was arrested by detectives in South Coogee on Friday morning.(AAP: Jeremy Ng)

Police will allege a senior player paid junior players $10,000 for giving away yellow cards, acting under instruction of an organised crime figure in South America.

Assistant Commissioner Fitzgerald said the money was insignificant compared to the impact the actions of these players has had on the integrity of the game.

“We will allege that the giving out of four yellow cards and the subsequent penalties that arose out of those yellow cards could in fact change the way that result of that game went,” he said.

“While $10,000 may seem a lot of money to a young sportsperson, we will advise that is incredibly insignificant when you consider the damage that being charged with this offence and conviction results in.

“We will allege that these instance in November and December 2023, that these players betrayed the trust of their supporters.”

Police said in addition to the three players arrested this morning, they are looking for another player who is currently out of the state.

Betting done ‘predominantly in South America’

NSW Police State Crime Command’s Organised Crime Squad Detective Superintendent Peter Faux said investigators had not identified any betting in Australia, but “predominantly in South America”.

“There’s multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid out in respect to the game we are alleging this occurred in,” he said.

Police officers outside a house

Police executed five warrants across Sydney this morning.(Supplied: NSW Police)

Superintendent Faux said he wanted to make it clear that there was currently no other evidence or indication that any other club within the A-League is involved.

Mr Dávila has been charged with a number of offences, including two counts of engage in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome of an event.

A 27-year-old player from Parramatta and a 32-year-old player from West Hoxton have also been charged with offences, including participate in a criminal group.

All three have been granted bail to appear in court at a later date.

Mr Dávila plays as an attacking midfielder and is the first Mexican to sign with English Premier League club Chelsea in 2011, and has previously played for Wellington Phoenix.

He recently signed on for another two years at Macarthur FC.

Club ‘shocked by arrests’

Macarthur FC said in a statement the club was “shocked” by the arrests

“Integrity of our game is a foundation pillar and we will work closely with all relevant agencies on this matter,” the club said.

Detectives from the organised crime squad are working with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Sports Integrity Australia, Football Australia, Australian Professional Leagues and the NSW Crime Commission.

The investigation is ongoing.

Look back at how ABC readers and other Australians responded to this live moment.

Wondering what this is? Join us next time we’re live and be part of the discussion.

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It has produced a string of talented players for the AFL, but can Halls Creek calm its troubled footy crowds?

An outback town in northern WA faces a huge test this football season — to stop crowd fighting and feuding from overshadowing its reputation as an AFL talent factory.

Halls Creek is the hub of the East Kimberley Football League’s southern division, where teams from largely Indigenous communities play a fast, instinctive and highly-skilled style, grounding an over abundance of top league players.

The AFL has identified Halls Creek’s potential and, along with the state government, has invested in the region to smooth the pathway from the remote town to the highest level.

Families enjoy the thrill of watching football in Halls Creek.(ABC Kimberley: Ted O’Connor)

Most people in Halls Creek are Indigenous and football in the dry season is a huge part of the town’s identity, instilling pride in players and their families.

But leaders lament the sporting spectacle has an unwanted dark side.

They say for too long it’s been a magnet for drunken spectators looking to settle old scores in long-running family feuds.

Community advocates say intergenerational trauma and entrenched social problems such as alcohol abuse and welfare dependency help fuel bad behaviour, especially when bragging rights are on the table.

Brawl mars grand final

Last year, when the Yardgee Dockers soundly defeated the Kururrungku Roos in the grand final, their celebrations were tarnished.

When the siren blew, spectators came onto the field and a brawl broke out, injuring three police officers.

A group of spectators running on a football field

The brawl cast a shadow over the football season in Halls Creek.(Supplied)

More than a dozen people were charged and criminal court proceedings are still playing out.

The incident meant Yardgee’s players did not receive their premiership medallions after the match.

an Indigenous football team on an oval

The Yardgee Dockers won the East Kimberley Football League southern division premiership last year.(Supplied: Jahmal Stretch)

Yardgee assistant coach Dennis Chungulla said the brawl ruined a moment to recognise the players’ profound achievements, especially those who had used football to turn their lives around.

He said some players had been involved in youth crime, in particular stealing cars, until they were encouraged to join the club.

“We got all those young fellas in, they didn’t know they were going to make it to the grand final, they were just happy,” he said.

“When the kids know themselves they realise something, instead of skidding in cars and stealing … (they think) let’s do something for our family.”

An Indigenous man stands in a park

Dennis Chungulla says a tough stance needs to be taken against violence at football games.(ABC Kimberley: Ted O’Connor)

The leader in the Halls Creek-based Indigenous community said while the league should take a harder line with violent spectators — families and elders also needed to step up.

“Respect your elder, respect your players and respect your family, that’s the most important thing,” he said.

“It’s got to start from your home. Mob want to see their kid play.”

League to crack down

Supporters from the two clubs had brawled previously in 2021, leading to spectator bans and games held without crowds.

In the lead-up to last year’s grand final brawl, clubs in Halls Creek warned the league that feuding in communities was spilling into games and could have an impact on the decider.

The league sought help from police and breathalysed spectators on entry, but it was to no avail.

EKFL president Wayne Paul said tougher measures would be considered this season.

“People have got to understand there are acceptable levels of behaviour,” he said.

“If something like that happens again we might say, ‘Right, we’ll have a grand final but there are no spectators’,” Mr Paul said.

Halls Creek Hawks players mingle with family members

Community leaders say football games at Halls Creek should be a safe space for families.(ABC Kimberley: Ted O’Connor)

He said the league would ban the spectators convicted by criminal courts for their involvement in the brawl for at least a year, depending on the circumstances.

“Hopefully, that’ll put the word out to the rest — if you misbehave in football you run the risk of getting a ban,” the league president said.

a boy holds a footy on an dry oval near players warming up

Young people in Halls Creek look up to football players as role models. (ABC Kimberley: Ted O’Connor)

Halls Creek to go it alone

Football in Halls Creek has traditionally been administered from Kununurra, more than 350km to the north, under the East Kimberley Football League umbrella.

Now planning is underway for the southern division to stand alone in 2025.

Games will be played on the one oval in Halls Creek, and leaders say attracting enough officials, umpires and volunteers from that town and surrounding Indigenous communities will be a huge task.

The state government and AFL have made millions of dollars of funding available to boost football in the Kimberley, where socio-economic barriers and huge geographical distances limit its much-vaunted potential.

a man kicks a football during a game

There’s an abundance of Indigenous football talent in Halls Creek and the surrounding area.(Supplied: Jahmal Stretch)

That cash injection has supported work on the ground by Country Football WA East Kimberley regional representative Louis Tanner, who says the grand final brawl exposed shortcomings with local capacity.

“We realised we had a few less volunteers than we needed on that day and we had to rely on police support,” he said.

“The lesson learned is they need extra support from the community to help football grow and survive.”

Indigenous footballers play footy on a red gravel oval

Some people in Indigenous communities in the Kimberley play football on rocky hard ovals.(Supplied: Giancarlo Mazzella)

This year’s football season is likely to be delayed and shortened due to upgrades on the oval.

Mr Tanner wants to kick the season off with a round robin carnival to allow teams to meet and work towards creating a smooth-running competition.

“I think the grand opening of the new oval would be a start, almost like a clean slate,” he said.

“There’s so much funding support, it’s really just looking for local leaders to step up.”

A Halls Creek Hawks player about to kick the football during a match

Halls Creek teams play a fast free-flowing style.(ABC Kimberley: Ted O’Connor)

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Captain’s knocks, new faces and match-winning braces: The A-League players who were the difference in Round 19

Round 19 was an interesting weekend of football with no draws, 19 goals in six matches, two five-goal games on Sunday and for the third consecutive week three teams kept a clean sheet.

In the three games where a team claimed three points, the winning team had less possession than their opponent.

Take a look at who made a difference.

Macarthur FC

Bernardo Oliveira scored two goals that came ten minutes apart, early in the second half.

The 19-year-old broke the deadlock in the 47th minute, in what was a finish that he made look easy, thanks to a marauding run down the right-hand side by former Melbourne City player Raphael Borges Rodrigues, who caused havoc for the City defence.

The future star showed his class with a clinical finish in the 57th minute with a curling shot that hit the post and ended up in the back of the net. Credit to Ulises Davila for the assist, but the young talent still had plenty to do.

What’s great about him is that he’s so level-headed: “Good to be winning this game and actually got to celebrate it tonight. The first goal was great from Raphael. We obviously want to keep going.”

Melbourne City

Alessandro Lopane did his utmost to try and get City back into the game in a gutsy performance coming off the bench in the 67th minute when the deficit was two goals.

The young prospect created three chances and was unlucky not to score in the 79th minute as his shot hit the post, due to a brilliant save by Bulls goalkeeper Filip Kurto.

Western United

Josh Risdon was everywhere; he put in a real captain’s knock, as the right-back never shirked a contest and was the player who was in the right place when it counted.

The 31-year-old provided the assist for the goal that broke the deadlock through youngster Noah Botic with a defence-splitting pass.

He summed it up succinctly post-match: “It was positive to put on a pretty good performance today. I’m happy to get an assist.”

Perth Glory

Darryl Lachman led from the front for the Glory, as the score would’ve been worse than 1-0 without his intervention.

The Dutch defender was at his best when it mattered and showed all his experience and guile.

Newcastle Jets

Ryan Scott made three crucial saves to keep the Jets in the game; the first two were a double save from point-blank range in the 40th minute from Mariners midfielder Max Balard.

The Jets goalkeeper kept the deficit for the home side at one goal with a great save against Mariners left-back Jacob Farrell in the 77th minute.

Central Coast Mariners

Josh Nisbet was rewarded for his persistence when he broke the deadlock in the 75th minute, with a clinical finish on his left foot; you wouldn’t have known that he’s right-footed!

The 24-year-old broke the drought, scoring his first goal of the season and proved his worth to the Mariners team, in a game that was lacking a goal.

As per usual Nisbet was perceptive in his post-match comments: “Thankfully we got the goal and we got the clean sheet today. It shows the character.”

Western Sydney Wanderers

Zac Sapsford was responsible with the only goal of the game scored by the Wanderers with his shot deflecting into the back of the net through Sky Blues centre-back Jake Girdwood-Reich in the 72nd minute.

The 21-year-old substitute proved his worth; as well as being involved in the goal, he created three chances and was unfortunate not to score from a header in the 93rd minute, which was brilliantly saved by Socceroo goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.

Sydney FC

Fabio Gomes scored a brace and it could’ve been more.

The Brazilian cooly slotted the ball into the back of the net from the penalty spot in the seventh minute, to make it 2-0.

Clearly, he has been working on his pressing, which brought about the fourth goal of the game for the Sky Blues due to a calamitous error by the Wanderers defence and goalkeeper Daniel Margush in the 59th minute.

Wellington Phoenix

Ben Old scored twice in what was a great performance, in a game where the Phoenix midfield displayed his potential.

The Kiwi international broke the deadlock in the 34th minute with a superbly timed run and inch-perfect pass from Tim Payne.

In the 69th minute, Old may have scored another goal, if not for Phoenix substitute Oskar van Hattum getting a touch, just before the ball crossed the line.

The 21-year-old scored a crucial goal in the 78th minute, as it gave the Phoenix what proved to be an unassailable two-goal lead.

Adelaide United

Harry Van der Saag took to his attacking role well, even though he usually plays as a right-back.

The 24-year-old was there when the Reds needed him to be as he won a penalty in the 59th minute after drawing a foul from Phoenix skipper Alex Rufer. The resultant penalty, which was scored by Luka Jovanovic made it 1-1 in the 60th minute and gave Adelaide United some hope.

Brisbane Roar

Marco Rojas produced when he had to in what may prove to be an important win for the Roar.

The ‘Kiwi Messi’ scored a brace, with both of his goals scored with his head; he broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute following an effort from Thomas Waddingham that was saved by Victory goalkeeper Paul Izzo.

His second goal was scored in the 56th minute, thanks to a pinpoint cross by Keegan Jelacic, which made the score 2-1 in favour of the Roar.

The NZ international showed why he’s so highly thought of post-match: “Happy and grateful to have started the game.” He also said in relation to Victory: “I have a lot of respect for that club.”

Melbourne Victory

Zinedine Machach got Victory back into the match with an equaliser in the 35th minute with a great run and a clinical finish, which made the score 1-1.

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Champions League: Napoli draw with Barca, Porto beat Arsenal

Victor Osimhen was described as “a huge player” after marking his return for Napoli with a goal that gave the Italian champions a 1-1 draw with Barcelona and hope that a dreadful season might have reached a turning point.

Nigeria forward Osimhen rolled home the leveller with 15 minutes left of the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, in his first match since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 25-year-old equalised Robert Lewandowski’s 60th-minute opener, which seemed likely to be the decisive goal as Barca were for long periods the better team, with Napoli’s first and only shot on target.

“He’s a huge player for us,” said Napoli skipper Giovanni Di Lorenzo to Amazon Prime Video.

“He’s come back with the right attitude. We knew he would though as he’s a great player and professional. He’ll give us a hand in the matches to come.”

Osimhen had last played for Napoli in a 2-0 defeat at Roma just before Christmas, when he was one of two players from his team to be sent off.

His ninth club goal of the season came at a crucial time, not just in the match but in Napoli’s campaign as they play under their third manager of the season in Francesco Calzona, their league title defence up in flames.

Calzona had less than 48 hours to prepare for his first match in charge after replacing Walter Mazzarri on Monday night, and Osimhen gave Napoli a chance of progressing despite a disjointed performance by his team.

Napoli head into next month’s second leg in the Catalan capital knowing that with Osimhen in the team there is always a chance of a goal regardless of the overall team display.

“It’s a good starting point,” added Di Lorenzo.

“We know that we need to do more but we’ve taken a step forward and now we have a chance in the return leg. It’s all to play for.”

Osimhen saves Napoli

For Barca meanwhile it was the latest misstep of a complicated campaign at the end of which coach Xavi will leave, assuming president Joan Laporta doesn’t sack the coach before then.

The away side had the better chances but couldn’t put Napoli away and could yet pay for their wastefulness.

“We’re a little disappointed with the result because we could have come out with a win,” said Ronald Araujo to Movistar.

“Napoli had a lot of the ball in the last 15 minutes but they barely created a chance. The Champions League is like that.”

Barca showed why they were pre-match favourites in the opening exchanges, dominating the ball and creating shooting opportunities which dulled an initially raucous crowd.

Teen sensation Lamine Yamal come close to becoming the Champions League’s youngest ever scorer when his ninth-minute effort was well-saved by Alex Meret.

In the 23rd minute, the away side twice went close to taking the lead, Lewandowski’s flicked finish kept out by Meret who then tipped away Ilkay Gundogan’s long-range rocket.

From that point on Napoli’s presence in the game grew, but the hosts failed to let off a single effort on goal before the break despite pushing their opponents on back.

Gundogan forced another smart save from Meret shortly after the restart after being put through by Yamal before blasting over another presentable chance.

Barca had the lead their performance deserved on the hour when Lewandowski collected Pedri’s pass and drilled a perfect low finish past Meret.

With the away side looking like they would push home their advantage, Osimhen pounced as Inigo Martinez slipped on the edge of the area to level the scores and transform the atmosphere in the stadium.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and substitute Giovanni Simeone both had efforts off target with the home side’s tails up, but it was Barca who went inches away from snatching a late win.

Gundogan’s frustrating night in front of goal continued deep into stoppage time as his low effort flew just wide.

Galeno stuns timid Arsenal with late Porto winner

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta bemoaned his team’s lack of cutting edge as Galeno’s sublime stoppage-time goal earned Porto a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.

Appearing in a first knockout match in Europe’s premier club competition for seven years, Arsenal struggled to break down an organised Porto defence before Galeno’s stroke of brilliance in the 94th minute.

The defeat ended Arsenal’s eight-game unbeaten run against Portuguese opposition and the Gunners with plenty of work to do in the return leg in London on March 12.

“We lacked threat. We lacked aggression, especially when we had the ball in the final third,” Arteta told TNT Sports. “So we will tweak a few things to attack better. We can do better.”

Arsenal last made it to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2010, when they beat Porto in the last 16, but it is the Portuguese club who now have the upper hand. 

“I think it’s a team that’s very well-organised defensively and they break your rhythm all the time,” said Arteta.

“We want to be in the quarter-finals, you have to beat your opponent and this is what we have to do at the Emirates.”

Arsenal failed to register a single shot on target as their recent goal spree came to a shuddering halt.

“When it’s 0-0, you look up at the clock and it’s 93 minutes gone, if you aren’t going to win the game then don’t lose it,” said Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth because we’ve conceded late but we know what to do. We’re not going to let our heads drop.”

Arteta stuck with the same starting line-up for the third game in succession following his team’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley at the weekend.

Porto defender Pepe, who turns 41 next week and is the oldest outfield player in Champions League history, made his 119th appearance in the competition. 

By comparison, Arsenal’s starters had combined for a total of 104 before kick-off at the Estadio do Dragao.

While short on Champions League experience, Arteta has said his squad have the belief they can mix it with Europe’s best.

Flee-flowing attack stalls 

The Gunners have started 2024 with five successive wins in the Premier League, scoring 21 goals in those games, and are firmly in the race for a first title in two decades. 

As well as reigning supreme in England for the first time since 2004, the north Londoners are convinced they can also conquer Europe, spurred on further by the prospect of a Wembley final.

Arsenal have never won the Champions League — losing their only final appearance against Barcelona in 2006.

Porto, European champions in 1987 and 2004, are a disappointing third in Portugal this term, but frustrated Arsenal throughout. 

They were happy to cede possession and allow Arsenal to dictate the tempo in the first half, but it was the hosts who created the best chance. 

Francisco Conceicao darted in from the right and slid over a cross that looped off a sliding Gabriel, with Galeno rifling against the far post and then steering the rebound wide after the ball came right back to him.

William Saliba and Kai Havertz headed wide at corners either side of a Nico Gonzalez drive that sailed over in a physical opening 45 minutes.

Leandro Trossard, deployed again as the leader of the attack alongside Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, lashed over on the volley from Rice’s driven corner early in the second half.

Arteta made his lone change with a quarter of an hour left, replacing Trossard with Jorginho, but Arsenal’s lack of a prolific striker was exposed and they were ultimately undone by a moment of magic from Galeno.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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World Darts Championship: Luke Littler’s dreams ended by Luke Humphries in sensational final

Luke Littler defeated 7-4 by world No 1 Luke Humphries in final; Premier League Darts returns to Sky Sports on Thursday February 1 as Cardiff kicks off the 17-week extravaganza all the way through to the Play-Offs on Thursday May 23 at London’s O2

Last Updated: 03/01/24 10:51pm

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Humphries hits the winning darts to defeat Luke Littler 7-4 in the World Darts Championship final

Humphries hits the winning darts to defeat Luke Littler 7-4 in the World Darts Championship final

Luke Littler’s World Darts Championship dreams were finally ended by world No 1 Luke Humphries in a sensational final at Alexandra Palace on Wednesday night.

Humphries fought back from 4-2 down to win five consecutive sets and win his maiden world title 7-4 to make it four major victories in a row following his success at the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts, and Players Championship Finals in recent months.

“I’ll draw a lot from this and this will be a moment that will never be forgotten,” Humphries told Sky Sports. “I don’t want to say that I’ve completed darts but everything that you want on the resume I’ve done now, so now it’s now about motivating yourself to do more and more.

World Darts Championship Final

Luke Humphries 7-4 Luke Littler

Humphries said he couldn't ask for more after claiming the World Darts Championship title

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Humphries said he couldn’t ask for more after claiming the World Darts Championship title

Humphries said he couldn’t ask for more after claiming the World Darts Championship title

Littler said: “It has been unbelievable. The one negative was I lost too many legs with my throw so Luke could break me.

“That was the only negative, I just couldn’t hold my own throw and I didn’t win. Every game has been good but that one has just really annoyed me, especially the three missed to keep it going.

“That’s what the crowd wanted but fair play to Luke, he deserves it.”

Humphries started the better by capitalising on a slow start from Littler to take the opening set 3-1 with a 99.2 average despite eight missed darts at doubles.

It didn’t take ‘The Nuke’ long to discover his best in the second set, coming from 2-1 down by producing two 12-dart legs with the aid of a spectacular 142 checkout and a ‘Shanghai’ 120 finish.

Littler hit a 142 and a 120 checkouts to win the second set

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Littler hit a 142 and a 120 checkouts to win the second set

Littler hit a 142 and a 120 checkouts to win the second set

The third set also went the distance with ‘Cool Hand’ edging it from 2-0 down to regain the upper hand with a 116 checkout to take it, but the Warrington teenage sensation struck back to secure the fourth set 3-1 and restore parity with a 99 average and an impressive 47 per cent on the doubles.

It was 2-2 in sets and 9-9 in legs with nothing to separate the two players.

Littler nailed this 122 checkout to the despair of Humphries

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Littler nailed this 122 checkout to the despair of Humphries

Littler nailed this 122 checkout to the despair of Humphries

For the first time in the match, the player who started the set won it after nine break of throws in 22 legs, with World Youth Champion Littler going ahead for the first time in the match before wrapping up the fifth set, averaging a ton.

The new world No 1 found himself under pressure here as Littler made it nine legs from the last 11 to open up a two-set advantage at 4-2.

Humphries reeled in his second 170 finish in a matter of days in a seventh set which was full of carnage.

Humphries took out 'The Big Fish' in the final

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Humphries took out ‘The Big Fish’ in the final

Humphries took out ‘The Big Fish’ in the final

Littler responded with a third ton-plus finish of the final – a 122 checkout – which Wayne Mardle described as “spiteful, dirty, nasty!” in the commentary box, before Humphries survived a set dart before sealing it on double 14 to reduce the deficit.

And Humphries piled in a classy 121 checkout on the bull to make it back-to-back sets to get back on level terms with a 114.17 set average but it also coincided with Littler slightly dropping off.

Humphries took out this 121 checkout in a sensational final

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Humphries took out this 121 checkout in a sensational final

Humphries took out this 121 checkout in a sensational final

The 28-year-old Newbury thrower threw back-to-back 108 checkouts to lead 2-0 in the ninth set and although the teenager battled back to level up, a 180 to start the set and a 36 checkout enabled Humphries to win the leg and set in 11 darts.

Humphries pinned back-to-back 108 checkouts

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Humphries pinned back-to-back 108 checkouts

Humphries pinned back-to-back 108 checkouts

A relentless Humphries made it four sets on the spin as he took full control of the final to go within a set of the title, despite Littler reeling in a ‘Big Fish’ of his own.

However, it was ‘Cool Hand’ who got his hands on the Sid Waddell Trophy to become the 12th different PDC World Champion after pinning double 8 in the 11th set.

Talking about Littler, Humphries said: “I’m not just saying this because it will please everyone, but Luke has been an unbelievable talent.

“Not just about the dartboard, he has been fantastic with all the media that has come about with him and he took the defeat so well.

“He said go on and celebrate. You will never see another down-to-earth 16-year-old kid like him who is just something else.

“I really hope he’s in the Premier League because, if he don’t want to play in it fair enough, but I think he’d be a pleasure to play alongside this year.

“He’s one of the best players in the world, there is no doubt about that.”

Littler nailed his own 170 checkout in an incredible final

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Littler nailed his own 170 checkout in an incredible final

Littler nailed his own 170 checkout in an incredible final

Social media reaction to Humphries win…

Premier League Darts returns to Sky Sports on Thursday February 1 as Cardiff kicks off the 17-week extravaganza all the way through to the Play-Offs on Thursday May 23. Stream Sky Sports Darts without a contract through NOW

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Luke Littler reaches World Darts Championship final after beating Rob Cross at Alexandra Palace

Luke Littler, 16, moves one win away from Alexandra Palace glory after crushing Rob Cross 6-2 in semi-finals; Littler will face Luke Humphries in final; We’re back at 7.30pm on Wednesday for the World Darts Championship final – live on Sky Sports Darts

Last Updated: 03/01/24 12:15am

Luke Littler defeated 2018 champion Rob Cross to reach the World Darts Championship final

Teenager Luke Littler made it through to the World Darts Championship final after crushing Rob Cross to go within one match of a remarkable maiden title at Alexandra Palace.

Littler averaged 106.05, hitting 16 maximums and ton-plus finishes of 149, 142 and 132 en route to a magnificent 6-2 victory against 2018 winner Cross at the age of 16.

He will face another in-form player in Luke Humphries, who hit top gear to whitewash Scott Williams 6-0 in the second semi-final to become the new world No 1 and stretch his unbeaten run to 18 matches.

“No words! Crazy to think I’m in a World Championship final in my debut,” Littler told Sky Sports. “I was happy winning one game but I could go all the way!

“You’re playing Rob, he’s a world champion and won on debut. Rob told me ‘God bless, you’re a step away, do it’.

“I’ve just settled on the stage. It took me a few legs to settle in the game and once I found that rhythm I was good to go.”

World Darts Championship Semi-Finals Results

Rob Cross 2-6 Luke Littler
Scott Williams vs Luke Humphries

Littler was greeted by the Warrington Wolves’ mascot during an electrifying walk-on, but it was Cross who stormed out of the blocks and edged a quality set in a deciding leg with a 108.6 average.

It was the first time Littler had lost the first set in the tournament.

Littler showed no signs of nerves as he took out this majestic 142 checkout

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Littler showed no signs of nerves as he took out this majestic 142 checkout

Littler showed no signs of nerves as he took out this majestic 142 checkout

The teenager recovered from 2-1 down in the next set and a crucial 74 checkout in the deciding leg saw him draw level with a 101 average and four 180s.

Cross, the 2018 champion, appeared flummoxed by Littler’s incredible accuracy on the treble 20 bed and it wasn’t long before the 16-year-old moved ahead by cracking in a stunning 142 checkout before hitting the front with a 101.6 average.

The teenager nails an incredible 147 finish during his semi-final with Cross

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The teenager nails an incredible 147 finish during his semi-final with Cross

The teenager nails an incredible 147 finish during his semi-final with Cross

Littler opened the fourth set with an 11-darter and he then struck with a mammoth 149 on double 16 to move 2-1 up in legs.

‘Voltage’ levelled and he then hit six perfect darts in the next leg, but it was the world youth champion who extended his lead with a magnificent 11-darter to move 3-1 ahead averaging 103.8 with nine 180s and 65 per cent on the doubles.

What an extraordinary leg! Cross nearly hits a nine but Littler wins it in 11 darts

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What an extraordinary leg! Cross nearly hits a nine but Littler wins it in 11 darts

What an extraordinary leg! Cross nearly hits a nine but Littler wins it in 11 darts

Cross, who made a remarkable comeback from 4-0 down to beat Chris Dobey 5-4 in their quarter-final on Monday, pinned an unorthodox 138 checkout in the second leg of the fifth set.

Littler missed one set dart at tops to extend his lead, allowing former electrician Cross to pounce and close the gap to 3-2 in sets.

‘The Nuke’ wrapped up the sixth set 3-1 with a 107 average compared to Cross’ 91.58 to restore a two-set cushion with 14 maximums.

Littler had one foot in the final after closing out the seventh set by the same scoreline, averaging 110.55 for sets six and seven.

Littler was running riot at Ally Pally and he produced this outrageous 132 finish in the eighth set on his way to victory

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Littler was running riot at Ally Pally and he produced this outrageous 132 finish in the eighth set on his way to victory

Littler was running riot at Ally Pally and he produced this outrageous 132 finish in the eighth set on his way to victory

The teen star was showboating by now and he raised the roof with a 132 checkout by using the bullseye on his way to Wednesday’s final against three-time major champion Luke Humphries or Scott Williams.

Looking ahead to the final, Littler added: “I’ll do what I’ve been doing. In the morning, go for a ham and cheese omelette, then come here have a pizza and then practice. That’s what I’ve done every day.”

Littler got better the longer the match went on. In the last three sets (13 legs) he averaged 112.62

106.05 match average

12x 180s

47% doubles

Humphries produced a statement victory against ‘Shaggy’ Williams with a 108.74 average, 14 180s, a breath-taking display on the doubles and a sensational six ton-plus finishes.

“It was amazing. I would never have imagined myself to be the world No 1. That is a special feeling. And to do it in style,” said a delighted Humphries.

“I’m really pleased with that performance. But, world No 1 can last for a couple months, World Champion is forever so I’ve got a really tough task tomorrow against Luke.”

Luke Humphries is in scary form after he hit six-ton-plus finishes in his demolition against Scott Williams

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Luke Humphries is in scary form after he hit six-ton-plus finishes in his demolition against Scott Williams

Luke Humphries is in scary form after he hit six-ton-plus finishes in his demolition against Scott Williams

Live World Darts Championship

January 3, 2024, 7:30pm

Live on Sky Sports Arena

How social media reacted to Littler’s win…

The sport’s biggest event sees the final two players compete for the Sid Waddell Trophy and £2.5m in prize money at Alexandra Palace on Wednesday night. You can watch all the action live on our dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel.

Watch the World Darts Championship final on January 3, 2024 – live on Sky Sports Darts. Stream Sky Sports Darts without a contract through NOW

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World Darts Championship: Michael van Gerwen suffers shock exit to Scott Williams in quarter-finals

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A look back the best of the action from the evening session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace

A look back the best of the action from the evening session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace

Michael van Gerwen’s hopes of a fourth World Darts Championship title were dashed in stunning fashion by Scott Williams at the quarter-final stage on New Year’s Day.

Williams pulled off a sensational 5-3 scalp of Van Gerwen at Alexandra Palace, punishing 27 missed darts at doubles from the three-time champion to set up a meeting with Luke Humphries.

World Darts Championship: New Year’s Day Evening Results

Michael van Gerwen 3-5 Scott Williams
Luke Humphries 5-1 Dave Chisnall

Rob Cross, only former PDC world champion left and in the semi-finals for the first time since winning the title on debut

Luke Littler, 16 years old, in the semi-finals on his debut

Scott Williams in his first major semi-final

Luke Humphries, the pre-tournament favourite, into his first Ally Pally semi-final

Seasonal prize money prior to the World Championship: £32,750

Minimum prize money at the World Championship: £100,000

Scott Williams is in to the semi-finals and the world’s top 32

Scott Williams produced one of the biggest shocks in World Darts Championship history by beating Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals

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Scott Williams produced one of the biggest shocks in World Darts Championship history by beating Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals

Scott Williams produced one of the biggest shocks in World Darts Championship history by beating Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals

Williams came charging out of the blocks by winning the opening set in straight legs, but ‘Mighty Mike’ took out 81 for back-to-back 11-darters to close out the second set 3-1 with a set average of 116.71 despite missing 12 darts at double.

Van Gerwen took out a magnificent 121 checkout before pinning double 16 to seize the initiative in the third set.

Van Gerwen hits this magnificent 121 finish during his quarter-final clash against Williams

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Van Gerwen hits this magnificent 121 finish during his quarter-final clash against Williams

Van Gerwen hits this magnificent 121 finish during his quarter-final clash against Williams

However, the Dutchman threw in a stinker of a set, averaging just 78, and Williams railroaded it 3-0 to get back on level terms at 2-2.

Van Gerwen appeared to have fallen off a cliff when Lincolnshire showman Williams made it six legs on the spin to lead 3-2, but the three-time World Champion soon restored parity in three consecutive legs to stop the rot.

‘Shaggy’ punished more crucial mistakes from the world No 2 to seal the seventh set 3-1 and go within one of a sensational victory before taking the eighth 3-1 to secure a last-four meeting with either Luke Humphries or Dave Chisnall.

Williams said he probably should have beaten Van Gerwen a bit easier after knocking out the pre-tournament favourite

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Williams said he probably should have beaten Van Gerwen a bit easier after knocking out the pre-tournament favourite

Williams said he probably should have beaten Van Gerwen a bit easier after knocking out the pre-tournament favourite

“I just knocked the best player in the world out,” Williams told Sky Sports.

“He wasn’t the Michael van Gerwen we’ve seen over the last couple of games but that’s not my problem.

“I hit the doubles and probably should have won it a little bit easier. I’m absolutely loving it up there. I love a crowd.”

Wayne Wardle was surprised at how 'erratic' Van Gerwen was during his loss

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Wayne Wardle was surprised at how ‘erratic’ Van Gerwen was during his loss

Wayne Wardle was surprised at how ‘erratic’ Van Gerwen was during his loss

Wayne Mardle called Williams’ win a “massive shock”, but also admitted he did a “number” on the Dutch ace.

“Michael van Gerwen normally loses to someone who is a big hitter already, a world champion or a major champion,” ‘Hawaii 501’ said.

“Scott Williams did a number on him. He was there to clean up when he had to clean up and he held it together so well.

“Even Luke Littler and Rob Cross are giving it… ‘WHAT!?’ What an opportunity for everyone left in the tournament.”

Michael van Gerwen missed 30 doubles in his first three games. He missed 27 against Scott Williams

52.4 per cent (33/63) – First 3 games

29.0 per cent (11/38) – vs Williams

Luke Humphries made it through to the semi-finals with this magical 117 checkout

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Luke Humphries made it through to the semi-finals with this magical 117 checkout

Luke Humphries made it through to the semi-finals with this magical 117 checkout

Williams will take on Humphries in the semi-finals after ‘Cool Hand’ thrashed Dave Chisnall 5-1 with a 103.50 average, a dozen 180s, 40 per cent on the doubles and a high checkout of 164.

The World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts and Players Championship winner made it 17 victories in a row to break new ground at Ally Pally.

“It felt strange to be the frontrunner for once,” said Humphries. “I have been used to a lot of comebacks for the last few days and it has just been nice to be me.

“It was nice to be in front and keep pushing hard and I didn’t relent. Chizzy played really well, he made it really tough for me.

“I haven’t been myself in the first couple of games. Tonight, we saw the form I have been showing in the last few majors.

“I played as well as I needed to.”

Humphries thinks the Worlds is wide open after Van Gerwen's exit to Williams

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Humphries thinks the Worlds is wide open after Van Gerwen’s exit to Williams

Humphries thinks the Worlds is wide open after Van Gerwen’s exit to Williams

How Littler set up Cross semi-final…

A look back the best of the action from the afternoon session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals

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A look back the best of the action from the afternoon session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals

A look back the best of the action from the afternoon session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals

World Darts Championship: New Year’s Day Afternoon Results

Rob Cross 5-4 Chris Dobey
Luke Littler 5-1 Brendan Dolan

In the afternoon, Luke Littler’s amazing Alexandra Palace journey continued after he became the youngest semi-finalist ever after he beat Brendan Dolan 5-1 in the quarter-final.

‘The History Maker’ Dolan had beaten former World Champions Gerwyn Price and Gary Anderson but could not compete with Littler, who finished with an average of 101.93 to thrill his adoring fans inside Ally Pally.

All the best moments from Luke Littler in his quarter-final clash against Brendon Dolan

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All the best moments from Luke Littler in his quarter-final clash against Brendon Dolan

All the best moments from Luke Littler in his quarter-final clash against Brendon Dolan

“It feels unbelievable. I would never have thought I would have got to the semis on my debut year,” he said.

“Brendan was just another opponent in my way and I have brushed him aside and now I am into the semi-final.

“It’s going to take a lot to stop me, based on my performances so far. But it is about whatever Luke Littler turns up.

“I have got the ability to go all the way, if it’s not to be tomorrow night, it’s not to be.

“I know I have got a good chance and I have got a good feeling I could go all the way tomorrow.”

Littler believes he is one of the best in the game at board management and he's thinking about lifting the title

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Littler believes he is one of the best in the game at board management and he’s thinking about lifting the title

Littler believes he is one of the best in the game at board management and he’s thinking about lifting the title

He will meet Rob Cross for a spot in the final after ‘Voltage’ looked dead and buried when he was 4-0 down after barely 45 minutes as Chris Dobey played one of the matches of his life.

However, the off-stage break worked wonders for Cross as the former electrician sparked into life.

He reeled off four sets of his own and then took out 130 to seal a remarkable win but he will have to improve if he is stop the Littler train.

“Everyone loves an underdog story,” he said. “As the public and people looking at the game, everyone loves an underdog story.

“I am not being rude, I am on his side, I love an underdog story.

“It took a bit of pressure off me winning it first time as well.

“He’s fantastic and he deserves all the luck in the world, he is a nice young boy. Tomorrow we play darts, though, and I have to go down to business.”

Cross came back from 4-0 down to Chris Dobey to complete a 'darting miracle!'

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Cross came back from 4-0 down to Chris Dobey to complete a ‘darting miracle!’

Cross came back from 4-0 down to Chris Dobey to complete a ‘darting miracle!’

The teenager was taking selfies after beating Brendan Dolan

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The teenager was taking selfies after beating Brendan Dolan

The teenager was taking selfies after beating Brendan Dolan

What’s happening on semi-finals night at the World Darts Championship?

Luke Littler returns to the Ally Pally stage when he aims for a spot in the World Championship final

Luke Littler returns to the Ally Pally stage when he aims for a spot in the World Championship final

Littler will take on 2018 winner Cross in the first semi-final having already proven he is ready to compete on the biggest stage after taking out UK Open winner Andrew Gilding and his hero Raymond van Barneveld on his way to the last eight and he maintained that form against Dolan on New Year’s Day.

Cross produced one of the most memorable Alexandra Palace comebacks having gone 4-0 to Chris Dobey before reeling off four sets of his own and then taking out 130 to seal a famous win.

Live World Darts Championship

January 1, 2024, 7:00pm

Live on Sky Sports Arena

Luke Humphries will face Scott Williams in the second semi-final on Tuesday

Luke Humphries will face Scott Williams in the second semi-final on Tuesday

Having knocked out three-time World Champion Michael van Gerwen, ‘Shaggy’ Scott Williams will take on ‘Cool Hand’ Luke Humphries as he continues his quest for a maiden Ally Pally title.

Humphries came into the tournament as the favourite after winning three of the last four majors but had endured a bumpy ride to the last eight, surviving a sudden death leg against Joe Cullen in the last round.

But he was back to his best in his quarter-final, dispatching Dave Chisnall 5-1.

The sport’s biggest event sees the remaining players compete for the Sid Waddell Trophy and £2.5m in prize money at Alexandra Palace. You can watch all the action live on our dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel.

Watch the World Darts Championship all the way until the final on January 3, 2024 – live on Sky Sports Darts. Stream Sky Sports Darts without a contract through NOW

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‘Inconsistent, awful and the most boring team in the Premier League’: Man United manager’s $750m calamity

Under-fire manager Erik ten Hag says misfiring Manchester United have to “step up” and find a modicum of consistency after Nottingham Forest inflicted their 14th defeat of a chastening season.

A year that began with positivity and silverware ended with the Red Devils under intense scrutiny given they are already out of Europe, the Carabao Cup and Premier League title race. 

Critics have pounded them again after this latest defeat.

United have been infuriatingly inconsistent throughout the campaign, epitomised by the thrilling 3-2 Boxing Day turnaround against Aston Villa being followed up Saturday’s limp 2-1 loss at Forest. 

“Manchester United are back to their worst, back to what they are – inconsistent and awful,” fumed club legend Gary Neville.

“One thing is clear we are not consistent,” Ten Hag acknowledged. “We can beat the best teams in the league, but we also lose games we should win, and I think today was one of them. 

“We always have to swap (players due to absentees). I don’t think I talk a lot about players we don’t have. Every time I am telling it doesn’t matter who we line up, we have to win. 

“But the routines are not there if every time we have to swap. 

“Today is another example. When (Rasmus) Hojlund is ill, we have to swap our frontline and we have seen it in the first half there was no speed in the game there.” 

This was quite the comedown from the Boxing Day victory against Villa and the positivity some fans felt after the Christmas Eve announcement that Sir Jim Ratcliffe is becoming minority owner. 

INEOS are taking responsibility for the footballing operations and Ten Hag said on Friday that he was convinced they wanted to keep him on as manager. 

Sir Dave Brailsford, INEOS’ director of sport, watched Saturday’s game in the directors’ box alongside Sir Alex Ferguson, whose final league title in 2013 looks unlikely to be added to anytime soon. 

“They know me and they know when I have a squad what is available, then the results will be there,” Ten Hag said. 

“We are already proving against the top teams we can go head to head, so I’m convinced and have strong belief we get more progress in this team, that we get more consistency in. 

“I think this is part of a project. We were overperforming last year. This year so, far, we are underperforming. 

“We have to do better, we have to step up and I have to lead that process.” 

The performances have made as grim viewing as the results, with this United’s 14th loss of the season in all competitions and 21st in total of 2023. 

Asked if he is confident of things improving, Ten Hag said: “Yeah, of course I believe that. 

“I know when players are returning, then I am sure this side will be stronger. 

“You have to clinically analyse this, then we know where it’s come from. We have a lack of routines, we have to work on that.” 

The post-match analysis will be dominated by United, but this was Forest’s night. 

Four days on from winning 3-1 at Newcastle, new manager Nuno Espirito Santo celebrated his first home win in charge as they beat the Red Devils for the first time since 1994. 

Morgan Gibbs-White’s late strike from the edge of the box wrapped up a memorable triumph after Marcus Rashford had capitalised on a terrible Matt Turner pass to cancel out Nicolas Dominguez’s opener. 

Neville said the result left ten Hag facing pressure to retain his job.

“They [Ineos] will make a decision on the manager before the end of the season, I have no doubt, even though they will keep him in charge until the end of the season. They have been so poor though and if that continues, Erik ten Hag will find himself under real pressure,” said Neville.

“Ten Hag did a very good job in his first season, now the new ownership will be on a watching brief and Brailsford will look at what this club is and he is not going to like what he sees.

“I have more optimism under the new owners. They are currently operating without a sporting director, without a CEO and without a head of recruitment. What club in the world does that?

“Ten Hag is operating without a management team around him, which is incredible to think. He has been handed the keys to the safe and that shouldn’t happen.”

Ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Chris Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I had someone message me earlier asking if Manchester United are the most boring team in the Premier League. You know what, it’s hard to argue with that.

“The thing that troubles me with Erik ten Hag is I don’t know what game he was watching when he comes out and answers like that. There comes a time when he has to take responsibility. He has spent over £400m ($750m).”

Former Wales midfielder Robbie Savage added:  “You are looking at the standard of players like Antony. He will develop but at Manchester United is the number of goals and assists he has good enough? No.

“Who has been saying, ‘let’s go and buy Antony for £90m’ when he’s worth £30m? Or Casemiro for £60m? And also, how many of the players who have been brought in have increased their value?”

Aston Villa have scored a late penalty to beat strugglers Burnley 3-2 and move second in the Premier League, while world champions Manchester City defeated Sheffield United 2-0 to move third.

Villa’s win puts them level on points with leaders Liverpool, while City have moved to within two points, although both the pursuers have played a game more than the Anfield pacesetters.

Villa went ahead in the 28th minute through Leon Bailey but Burnley equalised just three minutes later when Zeki Amdouni fired home from close range.

Moussa Diaby added a second for Villa in the 42nd minute and the visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 56th minute when midfielder Sander Berge was given a second caution for tugging back Douglas Luiz.

Foster, though, hauled short-handed Burnley level with 20 minutes left only for Aaron Ramsey to foul Jhon Duran to concede an 89th-minute penalty.

Luiz sent his spot-kick on to the underside of the crossbar and into the roof of the net to secure another home win for Villa.

At the Etihad, after Man City paraded all the five trophies they’ve won in 2023, Rodri gave them the lead in the 14th minute with a low finish into the bottom corner after good hold-up play by Phil Foden.

Midfielder Jack Grealish – whose Cheshire home had been burgled while he was away playing at Everton on Wednesday night – was taken off early in the second half and replaced by Oscar Bobb.

And Bobb was involved with City doubling their lead just after the hour from close range after he played in Foden.

City’s ladder position is not bad considering Pep Guardiola’s team have struggled to hit the heights of last season’s treble-winning campaign and have been without the talismanic Kevin De Bruyne since August.

The Belgium international is on his way back from a hamstring injury and City are finding form after a recent run of just one win in six league games.

“We’re not top of the league, Liverpool are better,” Guardiola said. “We’ve had injuries and some problems. Our level is really good I would say and we are there.”

Earlier, Chelsea survived a spirited late fightback by Luton to win a 3-2 thriller at Kenilworth Road.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team had looked to be cruising to a first away victory since early November following a brace from Cole Palmer – his second goal showing fine close control – either side of Noni Madueke’s strike just before halftime.

Luton, though, set up a tense final 10 minutes after Ross Barkley scored against his former club before Elijah Adebayo pulled another back late on, but the Blues held out.

Michael Olise scored twice as Crystal Palace returned to winning ways after coming from behind to beat Brentford 3-1 at Selhurst Park.

Keane Lewis-Potter had fired the Bees into an early lead after just two minutes, but Palace equalised in the 14th minute when Olise volleyed home and Eberechi Eze completed the turnaround shortly before halftime.

Olise fired in a well-taken second from the edge of the penalty area in the 58th minute as Palace ended an eight-match winless run.

Wolves maintained their good form with a 3-0 win over relegation-battlers Everton at Molineux, their third straight win coming with goals from captain Max Kilman, Matheus Cunha and Craig Dawson.

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