After a 100 days in a footballing desert, the Premier League returned last night in front of empty stands but complemented by artificial crowd noise for TV viewers. But before football came the Premier League’s stance in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. All four teams wore jerseys devoid of names, which were replaced by words that define the movement. The teams also held a minute’s silence prior to kickoff, and the players and even the referees took a knee on the pitch.
In the opening game, Sheffield United and Aston Villa played out a damp squib 0-0 draw, with the only highlight a highly contentious disallowed goal ‘conceded’ by Villa in the first half.
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The incident occurred in the 42nd minute when United’s Ollie Norwood fizzed an inswinging free-kick over from the left wing and the home goalkeeper, Orjan Nyland, stretched to catch it. His momentum and a collision Kienan Davis defender took him backpedaling over the line and crashing into the side netting. He took the ball with him. The referee Michael Oliver’s watch did not buzz though deeming the ball to have not crossed the line.
Manchester City made a winning return with a comfortable 3-0 victory over 10-man Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.
Raheem Sterling capitalised on a David Luiz error to give us the lead on the stroke of half-time with his first goal of 2020 and when Luiz was dismissed for hauling down Riyad Mahrez early in the second half, Kevin De Bruyne converted the resulting penalty.
Phil Foden came off the bench to wrap up the points during 11 minutes of added time, after Eric Garcia was stretchered off following a nasty collision with Ederson.
The restart will see 92 league games played over a period of 40 days before the season ends on July 26. There have been 16 covid-19 positive cases from 8,687 tests conducted over eight rounds of twice a week coronavirus screening for Premier League players and staff.
IM Vijayan for Padma Shri
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) recommended former national captain IM Vijayan for the country’s fourth highest award, the Padma Shri.
Vijayan scored 40 goals in 79 matches for India and was awarded the Arjuna Award in 2003. He was also awarded ‘Player of the Year’ during 1993, 1997 and 1999 seasons.
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“Yes, we have sent Vijayan’s name to the Ministry of Home Affairs for Padma Shri,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told PTI.
There have been six Indian footballers who have been awarded the Padma Shri in the past namely Sailen Manna (1971), Chuni Goswami (1983), P K Banerjee (1990), Bhaichung Bhutia (2008), Sunil Chhetri (2019) and Oinam Bembem Devi (2020).
“I am happy that I have been recommended for the Padma Shri and I thank the AIFF for that. I will be happier if I get the award,” Vijayan said from his home in Kerala. “I have served Indian football to the best of my abilities and I have no regrets.”
The 51-year old served as the Indian captain from 2000 to 2003 and has been known to have formed a formidable pair with fellow striker Bhaichung Bhutia. He has also played with Mohun Bagan, Kerala Police, FC Cochin and JCT Phagwara.
He scored one of the fastest international goals in history finding the back of the net in just 12 seconds in a match against Bhutan at the 1999 SAFF Games.
Lisbon Venue for Champions League Mini Tourney
UEFA confirmed plans to conclude this year’s Champions League with a mini-tournament over 12 days in Lisbon. Eight teams will play knockout games -- which will be almost like quarter finals at two venues in the competition that will commence from 12 August.
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UEFA has said matches will be split between Benfica’s Estádio do Sport stadium and the Estádio José Alvalade, the home of Sporting Lisbon. The quarter final games are scheduled to be played between August 12-15, the semi-finals on August 18 and 19 and the final, at Benfica’s stadium, on August 23.
The quarter-finals, semifinals and final of the Europa League are also set to be played as a straight single-match knockout tournament. They will be held from August 10-21 at four stadiums in Germany with the final match in Cologne.
The Champions League’s remaining last 16 second-leg matches -- including Manchester City’s home tie against Real Madrid and Chelsea against Bayern Munich -- has been scheduled for August 7 and 8 with UEFA yet to confirm if they will be played at clubs’ home grounds or also in Portugal.
Newcastle Takeover From the US
American television executive, Henry Mauriss has offered £350 million ($438 million) to buy Newcastle United from Mike Ashley.
The figure is £50 million ($62 million) more than the original price offered (and agreed to) by a consortium involving Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and supported by Reuben Brothers and Amanda Staveley.
While Mauriss is ready to act swifty, the deal will be contingent on the crash of the Saudi-led takeover currently subject to the owners of Premier League and directors test.
If the Saudi-led proposal fails the league’s owners’ and directors’ test, Mauriss could take over Newcastle United by as early as September. He will be allowed to finalise a fresh agreement ending Ashey’s 13-year tenure of ownership.
The move comes after the World Trade Organisation reported that Saudi Arabia was responsible for pirate satellite TV and streaming services that illegally broadcast sports events.
However, the members of the proposal,Staveley, the Reuben brothers and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund were not directly mentioned. The bid from the Middle East is still under scrutiny to fulfill the Premier League owners and directors test and it is still vague if top-flight chiefs are assessing Mauriss’s proposal.
UK Minister Apologises for Misnaming Rashford
UK Health Minister, Matt Hancock apologised to England footballer Marcus Rashford for getting his name wrong by calling him ‘Daniel’ while attempting to praise the England star for his work on free school meals.
After misnaming 22-year old Rashford in a live discussion on Sky News, he later put the blame on the actor Daniel Radcliffe, saying ‘maybe I had Harry Potter on my mind’.
In an open letter, the Manchester United footballer called for an extension on the food voucher scheme for underprivileged children during summer holidays. Caving to pressure, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a $150 million fund on Tuesday to provide food vouchers to 1.3 million children in England that are eligible for free school meals.
"Righty-ho, I will tell you what happened, the Prime Minister talked to Daniel Rashford, he considered it and made his decision - I think it's terrific," Hancock said Sky News on Wednesday morning.
The minister later told radio station LBC that his child's fondness for the JK Rowling novels may have been to blame and ‘maybe I had Harry Potter on my mind’.
"My seven-year-old listens to Harry Potter and reads Harry Potter avidly, including at 5:30 this morning when I got up to do this morning's media round," added Hancock.
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