Chelsea suffer heaviest defeat in 28 years with Man City loss

The result was the Blues’ worst since a 7-0 thrashing from Nottingham Forest in April 1991

Chelsea suffered their heaviest defeat in 28 years when they were beaten 6-0 by Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. 

It was the worst result for the Blues in any competition since their 7-0 Premier League loss to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in April 1991 at the City Ground.

Maurizio Sarri’s side went 4-0 down in a shocking first 45 minutes at the Etihad Stadium, which led Jamie Carragher to suggest the Italian has turned them into Arsenal since arriving from Napoli last summer.

Second-half efforts from Sergio Aguero – the Argentine completing his 11th Premier League hat-trick to equal Alan Shearer’s record  – then consigned the Blues to a third defeat in four league games.

The result was Sarri’s heaviest ever league defeat as a manager, with the Italian having never conceded more than four before Sunday. 

It was also the first time Chelsea conceded four goals or more in consecutive top-flight matches since December 1990 after they lost 4-0 to Bournemouth  at the Vitality Stadium on January 30.

Chelsea are now sixth in the Premier League table, a point behind fourth-placed Manchester United who have enjoyed a revival since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over in December.

Sarri is under pressure in the Stamford Bridge hot seat and some crucial cup games coming up. 

The Blues face Malmo in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday and then host Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup before the Carabao Cup final against City on February 24.

That fixture at Wembley Stadium in just two weeks time could look particularly daunting after today’s heavy defeat.

They will then return to league action at the end of the month with another tricky game against Tottenham, who sit just five points behind City and Liverpool, at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea will be hoping January signing Gonzalo Higuain can add to his tally having scored two goals in three league appearances so far, both of which came in the 5-0 win over Huddersfield.

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Higuain played all 90 minutes against City but had little service to work with as the visitors enjoyed only 44 per cent possession. 

Guardiola marvels at hat-trick hero Aguero's consistency

The Argentine scored three times in Manchester City’s thrashing of Chelsea on Sunday

Pep Guardiola applauded Sergio Aguero for his “fantastic” consistency after scoring a record-equalling 11th Premier League hat-trick in Manchester City’s remarkable 6-0 win over Chelsea.

City were 4-0 up after just 25 minutes, as Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan found the net either side of Aguero’s first two goals.

The Argentina striker’s opener was a 30-yard stunner and he sealed his treble from the penalty spot early in the second half.

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That meant Aguero went level with Alan Shearer for the most hat-tricks in the Premier League, also taking his top-flight goals tally for the season to 17.

And Guardiola is astonished at Aguero’s continued consistency in his eighth season with City. 

Speaking to BBC Sport, Guardiola said: “I have said many times, Sergio scores every single season a lot of goals.

“I admire these kind of players, the consistency. Young players come, but some stay for a long time, that is fantastic.”

It was also put to Guardiola that Aguero might have surprised the coach by how good he has been in recent years, but he dismissed such suggestions.

Adding to Sky Sports, he said: “Aguero is a player that was always involved in what we want to do, he wants to help us with the structure of the team.

“Chelsea depend a lot on our pressing, but we have a lot of quality. Sometimes he is a little bit tired, but he is a special player.”

Force leaving fear at home

The Force want to bring aggression and attack to their clash with the Blues, but there’s one thing they’re leaving at home.

Coach Michael Foley says the side will approach the game without fear, following on from their win over the Sunwolves a fortnight ago, that snapped a seven-game losing run.

“The whole attitude of no fear and play the way we want to play has probably been a little bit liberating,” he said.

“The biggest shift for us was attitude (in that win),” he said.

“One of the real difficulties of going through a period where you’re not getting the results you want is keeping your chin up and continuing to fight.

“Our guys have always had that fight but without a doubt disappointment distracted us.

“The guys went into that game, attacked it wanted to enjoy it, they wanted to play aggressive rugby, they wanted to play expansive rugby and I think they did those things pretty well.”

With wind and storms forecast for Saturday night’s game, the sides’ kicking battle will be pivotal.

Foley has opted to include Luke Burton on the bench over flyhalf Peter Grant, but is confident that his backline has the weaponry by foot without Grant.

“The beauty of Luke is it gives us some versatility to cover centre and 10 if not also 15,” he said.

“I think we’re really fortunate with the backs we have Kyle (Godwin) and bend who are left-footers, while Dane (Haylett-Petty) Luke and Marcel are all right-foot kicks.

“There’s probably not a back in our side that can’t kick the ball.

“I’m not too concerned about having Luke out there versus Pete. Luke and Peter’s kicking game are pretty similar.”

Foley said he hoped the Force would have a bit more certainty off the field, with ARU CEO Bill Pulver set to visit Perth next week, amid reports of a governing body takeover.

“I think there’s still a bit of uncertainty around what’s happening with the ARU. Bill Pulver’s coming over to Perth so it’ll  be a good thing to have that communicated,” he said.

“Outside of that, in terms of what’s happening on the field, I think the guys have got a strong belief in what they’re trying to achieve and how they’re trying to play.”

The Force host the Blues on Saturday at 7:40pm AEST LIVE on FOXSPORTS 2 502.

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Pocock suspended for three weeks

Brumbies flanker David Pocock has been suspended for three weeks following his SANZAR Judicial Hearing.

While the Brumbies have a bye this week, Pocock will miss just two Super Rugby matches against the Waratahs and the Crusaders.

Pocock grasped the neck of Chiefs #8 Michael Leitch during a maul in the 74th minute of the match between the Brumbies and Chiefs at GIO Stadium in Canberra on 2 April 2016.

SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Cassleden assessed the case and ruled the following:

“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from the player and submissions from his legal representative I accepted the player’s admission that he had committed an act of foul play contrary to law 10.4(e).

In its Memorandum on “Dangerous tackles (high tackles), dangerous grasping of neck and/or head area of player not in possession of the ball and dangerous grasping/holding of ball carrier above the line of the shoulder” dated 22 May 2015, World Rugby stated “this type of dangerous play which is foul play must be dealt with severely by match officials and all those involved in the disciplinary process.”

With respect to sanction I deemed the act of foul play merited a low-end entry point of 2 weeks.  I then added one week for aggravation due to the need to deter this type of dangerous foul play.  However, taking into account mitigating factors including the player’s early plea, his good character, his genuine remorse and his excellent disciplinary record I reduced the suspension to a period of two weeks.”

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“The player accepted my indication of sanction of 2 weeks, and is therefore suspended from all forms of rugby up to and including Sunday, 24 April 2016.  The player is free to resume playing on 25 April 2016.”

Super Rugby would transform Fiji: McKee

John McKee believes the creation of a Pacific Islands Super Rugby franchise would eventually transform Fiji into heavyweights of the game.

Plans are underway to establish a team comprised of players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would compete in an expanded version of the southern hemisphere competition.

By offering professional rugby in the Pacific Islands in the form of a franchise that would be operational in the early 2020s, it is hoped that the player drain to overseas clubs can be stemmed.

England are among the nations profiting from Fijians opting for the greater riches available outside their homeland as they prepare to name Fijian-born Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni in their starting XV for Saturday’s Test at Twickenham.
McKee, the current Fiji national coach, views the emergence of Argentina since their exposure to Super Rugby as proof that Fiji might also power into rugby’s top tier.

“It costs a lot of money to run a Super Rugby franchise and the economies in the Pacific are small economies, but it could become a reality in the next five to six years,” McKee said.

“I certainly feel that the groundswell has changed a little bit and we’re realistically moving towards that now.

“From a national coaching perspective, to have our players playing in Super Rugby would be hugely beneficial for the national team because the windows fit in with the Test match windows.

“We would have access to a fair number of our squad at home over the whole 12 months. We would still select players from Europe, but the core of our team would be at home.

“With the talented athletes we have, if we had a Super Rugby team, we would be right up there.”
Fiji captain Akapusi Qera believes that having a Super Rugby franchise in the Pacific Islands would have a profound impact on their ability to halt the exodus and urges World Rugby to invest in the project.

“Having Super Rugby would bring professionalism to the islands and it would raise question marks on whether to come to Europe or not. If it happened, most of the boys would tend to stay rather than moving on,” Qera said.

“If World Rugby wants the tier two nations to compete with the tier one nations, then they have to look into this investment in order to level the playing field.”

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Folau voted Australia's best centre

Israel Folau is Australia’s best 13, according to the Rugby Union Players’ Association People’s Choice Team of the Year.

Folau has been picked in the outside centre spot ahead of his Brumbies counterpart, in the fan-voted team.

Melbourne Rebels flyer Sefania Naivalu and Waratahs backrower Jed Holloway have been voted in the team after breakout seasons with their respective clubs.

Brumbies openside David Pocock has vested Waratahs Michael Hooper as well, in the eclectic team.

12 of the 15 players selected feature in Michael Cheika’s current Rugby Championship Wallabies squad, while Rory Arnold would be in Test contention if not for an elbow injury.

 All five Super Rugby clubs have a presence in the side with the Brumbies and Waratahs boasting five players.

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 RUPA CEO Ross Xenos congratulated all players on their selection.

 “Congratulations to all players who’ve been selected in the first ever Volvo People’s Choice Team of the Year,” Xenos said.

“This team is voted on exclusively by the fans, whose contribution to their team and the game, be it in the stands, in front of their televisions, or from anywhere in the world, makes it possible for our members to play rugby professionally.

“To be selected in this team is a wonderful recognition for players, particularly some of the names that we are less familiar with around the national team.

“All fifteen players richly deserve their selection although there are plenty of others who have only very narrowly missed out.”

2016 Volvo People’s Choice Team of the Year:

1. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)

2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)

3. Greg Holmes (Queensland Reds)

4. Rory Arnold (Brumbies)

5. Adam Coleman (Western Force)

6. Scott Fardy (Brumbies)

7. David Pocock (Brumbies)

8. Jed Holloway (NSW Waratahs)

9. Nick Phipps (NSW Waratahs)

10. Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs)

11. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)

12. Matt Toomua (Brumbies)

13. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)

14. Sefanaia Naivalu (Melbourne Rebels)

15. Dane Haylett-Petty (Western Force)

McIntyre calls for patience from Reds

Jake Mcintyre has called for patience from the Reds, after their fourth-straight loss for 2017

McIntyre was steering Queensland in the absence of Quade Cooper, still suspended for another two weeks, and said they rushed their attack too much.

“I think there’s a lot we could point the finger at but I think it’s just a patience in attack is probably the biggest thing,” he said.

“In that second half We left a lot of points out there, we built a lot of pressure, it was just a matter of executing and getting the ball over the white line but there’s not much we can do about it now, so we’ve just got to move on and be better.”

The Reds’ only win this season came against the Sharks in round one and their next stretch of games won’t be any easier, kicking off with the defending champion Hurricanes on Saturday night.

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A much-hyped team, both for their new recruits and newly intense preseason training, McIntyre said they needed to start putting action where words have been.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said.

“Obviously we wanted a better start to the season, no one likes losing games and that one was definitely tough to swallow.

“All we can do is keep working hard, as a team we know it’s there, we know what we’re capable of but as we said it’s got to be done on the field.

“We can’t just keep talking about it, we’ve got to do it “

The Reds take on the Hurricanes on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.

 

Moore's Brumbies legacy seen in the team

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has played alongside modern superstars, but rates departing captain Stephen Moore as the most passionate he has ever been involved with.

When asked what kind of legacy Moore would leave in the ACT, Larkham handed his captain the highest of compliments.

“He’s got a huge network of people that respect him and will do anything for him and he’s the most passionate leader I’ve been lucky enough to either play or coach with,” he said.

“He’s only ever looked out for the team and making sure that the team does everything that they can possibly do.

“Whether it’s in the program or individuals or himself, he’s constantly looking at trying to make it the best program in the world and that’s the legacy that he will leave for this organisation.”

Moore (Queensland) is just one of a number of Brumbies heading away from the team next year, with Matt Toomua (Leicester) and Joe Tomane (Montpellier) going overseas and David Pocock heading on sabbatical.

Ita Vaea has already retired and Michael Wells and Michael Dowsett will also be moving on next season.

Moore has become somewhat of a symbol of the Brumbies, Larkham said, and his loss would be the most acutely felt of any of the side’s leaving players.

“‘Squeak’ has been a massive driver of the culture down here of just trying to get better every week,” he said.

“He’s going to be missed I mean the other guys are going to be missed as well but it’s every hard when you lose your captain and particularly a captain who is so entrenched in the organisation, the community and the way we play rugby.

An emotional Moore was gushing in his gratitude to the Canberra community after eight years in the nation’s capital, in which the Brumbies made the playoffs four times and the Super Rugby final once, in 2013.

“I hadn’t thought at all about it during the week…It obviously hits you a bit there at the end but that’s it and I’m very proud to have been part of this great club and hopefully I’ve made a contribution in a positive way,” he said.

“The way that the city has embraced me and my family…I’ll never forget my time in Canberra.

“I’ll certainly remember it fondly and it’ll always be a part of our life.”

And, as it so often is with the Wallabies captain, he simply oped he had succeeded in putting the Brumbies first during his tenure.

“I don’t like to talk about myself too much but I think I’ll always try to do what I think’s best for the team and make it a better place,” he said.

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“Every day you come in, you try and do what you think is the best outcome for the team and I’ve been lucky to have some great teammates and some great coaches, some of the best that anyone could hope for, in my time here.”

Moore was confident, though, that the Brumbies would be able to continue growing despite the farewells.

“I’ve played in teams here that have been star studded and haven’t achieved what we wanted to and the opposite,” he said.

“Look at the couple of years ago we didn’t really have big name players, we did probably better than anyone expected.

“It all comes down to the quality of the program, the culture and the place and I’m confident  there are players here going forward who can carry that and make it a better place.”

Real Madrid goalkeeper Courtois supports VAR introduction in Champions League

It may not always work in his team’s favour, but the Belgian is pleased to see the video technology introduced

Thibaut Courtois said he is a fan of using technology to help out officials ahead of Real Madrid’s first Champions League fixture with the involvement of VAR.

UEFA will have a VAR team – consisting of a video assistant referee, an assistant video referee and two video operators – in action for all knockout games in the remainder of this season’s competition.

LaLiga introduced the use of video replays for the 2018-19 campaign, so Madrid have experience of playing under such circumstances. It was also used at the 2018 World Cup, where Courtois helped Belgium reach the semi-finals.

The former Chelsea goalkeeper appreciates VAR may not always work in his team’s favour, even if Santiago Solari’s side appeared to come out on the right end of two close calls in Saturday’s away derby against Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid won the game 3-1 but their rivals felt aggrieved at a penalty awarded for the visitors, before another call saw Atletico miss out on a spot-kick of their own when Alvaro Morata went over after a collision with Casemiro.

“I like it [VAR]. I think we saw in the World Cup it was a good experience with all countries in favour of VAR and it worked well,” Courtois told the media. “In Spain, the same thing. 

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“Sometimes they aren’t sure about the rules and when to intervene, it needs to be a mistake, some people don’t know this. But in general this is football and it if helps it’s good. 

“Sometimes it might go against you and the same the other way, so this is fair.”

Bidding to be crowned champions of Europe for a fourth successive year, Madrid are in Amsterdam for the first leg of their last-16 tie against Ajax.

Their Dutch opponents qualified behind Bayern Munich from Group E, with talented young duo Frenkie de Jong – who has agreed to join Barcelona at the end of the campaign – and centre-back Matthijs de Ligt catching the eye.

Courtois is also aware of the quality posed by two familiar faces from his time in the Premier League – former Manchester United defender Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic, who joined Ajax from Southampton.

“I think they have a really good team – Blind and Tadic, experienced players and good players, as well as talented young players like De Jong and De Ligt,” Courtois said.

“They know how to keep the ball and we have to be careful. I think Ajax have shown in the Champions League they can do really well. They have a good team and qualified for a good reason.

“They will give us a difficult game and we have to be concentrated. Although we have experience, we have to give everything and we will not think it will be an easy game.”

Wenger reveals attempt to lure Sancho to Arsenal from Man City

The former Gunners boss admitted that he tried to lure the youngster to London from Manchester when he was still in charge at the Emirates Stadium

Arsene Wenger has revealed that he tried to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho from Manchester City while he was managing Arsenal.  

The former Gunners boss is now working as a pundit but claims he wanted to bring the England star to London from Manchester as the Frenchman saw the youngster as one of the best players of his generation.  

Sancho has turned into a star for Dortmund and England since making the jump to the Bundesliga in 2017 with his pace and willingness to run at and unsettle defenders, and Wenger claims that confidence was one of the things that caught his eye early on.  

“I wanted to sign him from Man City when he wasn’t getting games,” Wenger said on beIN Sports. 

 “I tried to lure him because he is from London. I tried to get him to Arsenal. 

“He is one of the best players of his generation. He can dribble, he has the arrogance. There is something in there that is part of the big players. 

“You can call it confidence, belief, arrogance but it has to be there.” 

Wenger, who long had a reputation as a manager willing to turn to young players, also believes that the amount of money on offer to players like Sancho before they’ve earned it on the pitch could be hampering their drive to improve. 

“The pressure on these young boys from an early age is very big,” he said

“They get a lot of money before they have played games. It doesn’t improve the hunger index. 

“It is a test because they are rich before they play.” 

With Wednesday’s match against Tottenham, Sancho became just the seventh English player to face an English side in the Champions League as a member of a non-British team, following the likes of David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Owen Hargreaves and Steve McManaman.

Unfortunately for the Bundesliga side Sancho wasn’t able to produce any real magic against Spurs.

A second-half onslaught from Tottenham doomed Dortmund to a first-leg defeat in their round of 16 clash with Tottenham.  

The good news for Dortmund supporters is that the club still sit five points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table.