RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo walked off the field with the gleeful chants of “Messi! Messi!” ringing in his ears from delighted Al-Hilal fans who had just watched their Saudi Pro League team beat the Portugal superstar's Al-Nassr 3-0 in the Riyadh Derby on Friday.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner may have finished on the losing team — Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice after fellow Serbian Sergej Milinkovic-Savic opened Al-Hilal — but Ronaldo still remains the focus of attention in Saudi Arabian soccer despite the taunts of opposition fans referencing his great rival of nearly two decades.
As thousands of cars headed east out of downtown Riyadh to watch the top two league teams and bitter local rivals face off at the King Fahd International Stadium — the last to be played at the arena for three years as it is to be renovated to host games at the 2027 Asian Cup and anticipated 2034 World Cup — one Al-Nassr fan leaned out and shouted: “Are you here to see Cristiano?”
When Ronaldo warmed up, there were cheers from the several thousand away fans, many of whom had No. 7 on their backs, and jeers from the masses of home supporters. But even in those hostile sections, parents pointed out the 38-year-old soccer great to sons and daughters.
Saudi soccer has not been the same since the former Real Madrid and Manchester United forward completed a move last December. Even fans of Al-Hilal, the most successful club in Saudi Arabia and Asia, with 18 and four championships respectively, acknowledge what he has done at Al-Nassr which has nine domestic titles.
“He has lifted the level of the whole of football here,” Riyadh resident Fahad Al-Qahtani, 25, told The Associated Press. “Al-Hilal will still be champion this season and we are still the biggest in Asia but Ronaldo has been amazing.”
In the previous 14 games of the league season, Ronaldo had netted 15 goals to top the scoring charts and help Al-Nassr move into second in the league behind Al-Hilal. His teammates now include former Liverpool star Sadio Mane, Marcelo Brozovic from Inter Milan and Alex Telles, who arrived from Manchester United.
“Cristiano is an example for everyone, an example that Al-Nassr are lucky to have,” Al-Nassr coach Luis Castro said. “He is an example of rigor, ambition and discipline. Lots of people want to be like Cristiano Ronaldo but few want to work like Cristiano Ronaldo. If you want something you have to give everything to get it.”
Ronaldo tried everything on Friday. In the second half with Al-Nassr trailing by a solitary goal, he shot a fierce volley high into the net but it was marginally ruled out for offside. Soon after he rolled around the floor of the Al-Hilal penalty area claiming that he had been elbowed. When Mitrovic scored his first and Al-Hilal’s second late in the game, Ronaldo insisted that he had been fouled in the buildup.
Hilal has its own superstar but a less influential one right now as Neymar, who signed from Paris Saint-Germain in August, suffered a serious injury while on international duty with Brazil in October.
On social media, Neymar posted good luck messages to his teammates, such as Mitrovic, midfielder Ruben Neves and defender Kalidou Koulibaly who all arrived in the summer as highly rated English Premier League players. They joined several Saudi Arabian internationals in the team such as Salem Al-Dawsari and Saleh Al-Shehri, who scored against Lionel Messi's Argentina in Saudi Arabia’s famous 2-1 win at the 2022 World Cup.
The derby defeat on Friday left Al-Nassr seven points behind leader Al-Hilal after 15 rounds. Ronaldo may have his work cut out to help his team win title No. 10 but, given his form so far this season, he may still have the last laugh with the Messi chants fading away.
Ronaldo's day was further soured with news from the U.S. that he has been hit with a class-action lawsuit seeking at least $1 billion in damages for his role in promoting cryptocurrency-related “non-fungible tokens,” or NFTs, issued by the beleaguered cryptocurrency exchange Binance.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps say they are not exercising the 2024 contract option for long-time midfielder Russell Teibert.
Teibert, 30, has been with the Major League Soccer club since 2008 and has made 300 appearances for the team.
The club says in a statement that contract discussions are still ongoing.
Teibert made seven appearances as a substitute during the 2023 MLS regular season, but failed to record and goal or assist.
He has five goals in all competitions in his 300 appearances.
The Whitecaps also say they are still in discussions with Richie Laryea, Junior Hoillet and Sebastian Berhalter.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2023.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The longest, busiest, most grueling season in Major League Soccer history is almost over for Los Angeles FC.
And there's still a chance to end it with a trophy.
LAFC hosts the Houston Dynamo on Saturday in the Western Conference final, which will be its 52nd match of 2023 across all competitions. No MLS team has ever played more matches in a calendar year than coach Steve Cherundolo’s LAFC squad, which earned that dubious achievement by winning the Supporters’ Shield and its first MLS Cup title last year and then having moderate success in the various in-season tournaments for which it qualified this year.
When the LAFC players and coaches involved in this epic look back, they sometimes struggle to remember every match, every competition and every challenge they've met in the year since raising the Cup.
“The season this year, you have to look at it in multiple parts,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta said. “You had the Champions League, you had Open Cups, Leagues Cup, the first part of the (regular) season and now the playoffs, so you look at everything in little tournaments. We’ve had a lot of adversity this year in terms of injuries and some bad losses.
"But from our standpoint at the beginning of the year, this is where we wanted to be. This is our goal, to give us a chance to compete for MLS Cup. We’re one game away.”
One game away from having one more game, that is.
If LAFC can beat Houston, it will travel to Ohio for a second straight MLS Cup Final appearance next weekend in either Cincinnati or Columbus. LAFC could become the first back-to-back MLS Cup champions since the LA Galaxy in 2011 and 2012.
Along with the sheer volume of competition, no MLS team has played more big matches in a year than LAFC, which has participated in the CONCACAF Champions League, the U.S. Open Cup, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup in addition to the 34-match MLS regular season and playoffs.
“It speaks volumes about the organization,” Cherundolo said. “There’s been an incredible work ethic across the entire organization. Very proud of that, to be able to maintain success, stay calm, don’t panic with all the situations we’ve been dealt with this year, which have been plentiful and difficult at times.”
All of these games haven't led to a trophy, however: LAFC has reached two non-league finals, but lost both.
Simply getting this far is an extraordinary achievement in MLS, however. The league's salary rules annually frustrate ambitious owners who would like to spend more money to build deeper, more talented rosters — and the rules effectively penalize its championship teams by making it more difficult for those clubs to retain their top players while still paying championship bonuses and giving deserved raises.
LAFC had to part with nearly half of last season’s title-winning roster, including star goal-scorer Chicho Arango, key midfielder José Cifuentes, sparkplug forward Kwadwo Opoku and the retired Gareth Bale.
That firepower vacuum has been largely filled by Dénis Bouanga, whose extraordinary season peaked last weekend with his jaw-dropping 37th goal across all competitions in LAFC's 1-0 win at Seattle.
LAFC met its many commitments admirably, fielding a competitive squad in every competition. The weary team went into a six-week slump after losing the Champions League final to León in early June, but Cherundolo rallied his team out of the doldrums and back into contention for a repeat MLS title.
Saturday's game is the last of the season at BMO Stadium, the club's famed arena with a north end supporters' section always packed with fans who sing, drum and never sit down.
The match also could be the LA farewell for several players.
Giorgio Chiellini, the Italian great who bolstered LAFC's back line after he arrived from Juventus in 2022, could be considering retirement at 39.
Diego Palacios, the gifted Ecuadorian left back and a semi-secret key to the club's success since 2019, is expected to leave for a bigger opportunity.
Even Carlos Vela, LAFC's original player and the 2019 MLS MVP, doesn't know if LAFC will be able to give him a fair offer when his contract ends this winter. The 34-year-old forward could still attract European interest six years after he left the continent, even though he's no longer the best player in MLS — or even on his own team, given Bouanga's emergence.
But Vela is hoping Saturday isn't his Los Angeles farewell.
“Well, I want (to return to LAFC),” Vela said. “But I don't decide. It's not my choice. My heart is there, if the other part maybe doesn't work, or it doesn't work in the way I want, we won't be there. Of course I love LA. I want to stay in LA, and my goal is (to) stay in LA.”
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
Toronto FC has exercised the option on six-foot-six centre back Aime Mabika.
On Nov. 2, when Toronto announced its first round of roster moves, the MLS club said it had retained a 2024 contract option for Mabika and remained in discussions with the defender.
On Friday, TFC said Mabika was staying in the fold.
Also Friday, San Jose confirmed it is not exercising the purchase option on Canadian forward Ayo Akinola who was loaned by Toronto to the Earthquakes in late July. The 23-year-old went scoreless in seven league appearances for San Jose.
The 25-year-old Mabika, who made US$93,570 this season, made 21 appearances for Toronto with 17 starts in 2023. He joins Kobe Franklin, Shane O’Neill, Raoul Petretta, Sigurd Rosted and Luke Singh as defenders under contract for next season.
Toronto acquired Mabika in late April from Inter Miami in exchange for US$100,000 in general allocation money with an additional US$100,000 in allocation money going to Miami if certain performance-based metrics were met.
Mabika arrived with contract options for 2024 and 2025.
Born in Zambia to Congolese parents, Mabika was seven or eight when his family moved to the United States. He was part of a championship-calibre high school team in Lexington, Ky., before making the University of Kentucky team as a walk-on.
At Kentucky, Mabika was named Conference USA player of the year and co-defensive MVP. He started 53 of 62 career appearances, scored 10 goals (including two game-winners) and added two assists, while helping the Wildcats to record 28 shutouts.
Kentucky head coach Johan Cedergren called Mabika, also took penalties, “probably be one of the biggest steals in college soccer history.”
Mabika was taken by Miami in the first round (26th overall) in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. He spent the 2021 season with Inter Miami CF II before signing a first-team contract in January 2022, making 18 appearances across all competitions in his first season with the club.
He made his international debut for Zambia in a 3-1 win over Congo in a friendly March 25, 2022.
Toronto FC’s current roster for 2024
Goalkeepers: Luka Gavran, Sean Johnson.
Defenders: Kobe Franklin, Aimé Mabika, Shane O’Neill, Raoul Petretta, Sigurd Rosted, Luke Singh.
Midfielders: Latif Blessing, Alonso Coello Camarero, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Jonathan Osorio, Brandon Servania.
Forwards: Ayo Akinola, Federico Bernardeschi, Adama Diomande, Lorenzo Insigne, Deandre Kerr, Cassius Mailula, Hugo Mbongue, Prince Owusu, Jordan Perruzza
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2023
BERLIN (AP) — Cologne moved off the bottom of the Bundesliga on Friday with a much-needed 1-0 win at Darmstadt.
Davie Selke got the goal that mattered early in the second half.
Selke wrong-footed the Darmstadt defense after 60 minutes and poked home a knock on from a corner.
Three times this season Cologne has been drawing 0-0 at halftime only to go on and lose the game, but Selke’s fourth goal of the season rewrote that grim script for the visitors.
Cologne also had a goal chalked off after a video review.
It was only Cologne's second league win of the season and lifted it immediately above Darmstadt and into 15th place in the 18-team division. Darmstadt also has nine points but trails Cologne on goal difference.
Union Berlin dropped to last place.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer
Postecoglou has stunned the Premier League. Now the blunt-talking Australian is ready to take on Pep
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After a record-breaking start as Tottenham manager, Ange Postecoglou is experiencing the other side to life in a job that has proved too much for some of the biggest names in soccer.
A three-game losing streak has seen Spurs fall from first to fifth in the Premier League, while a growing injury list means it could get worse for Postecoglou's team as the congested Christmas schedule approaches.
But ahead of Sunday's game at the home of defending champion Manchester City, the Australian coach is adamant he will stick to the formula that has made Tottenham the surprise package in England's top flight this season.
“You look at the top teams and there’s one common trait amongst them — they’ve all got a plan, they invest in that plan, and they stick to it,” Postecoglou said. “They don’t shy away from that at the first difficulty. Whether it is City or Arsenal or Liverpool, all the teams that have dominated in recent years, they’ve got a plan and they stick to it. You have to.”
It is a measure of just how good Spurs' early-season form was that even after three straight losses they are only four points off league leader Arsenal.
A win at Etihad Stadium on Sunday would see the Londoners move level on points with City.
“For me these are the important times because this will show what kind of football team we want to be," Postecoglou said. "You can sort of shy away, say we have injuries, we’re playing Man City away, but you’re either going to be a club that tries to knock off the big clubs or you are a big club. You are one or the other.
“My hope and my ambition for this club is to make it a big club and to do that you have to be successful and win things."
The former Australia and Celtic coach has won a lot of admirers for his blunt-talking approach and attacking style of play. He also won the Premier League manager of the month award for the first three months of the season as Tottenham charged ahead.
No other manager had achieved that feat in the first three months of a campaign — or the first three awards available to them in a job.
Not even Guardiola, who has led City to five league titles in six years.
Postecoglou's impact on Spurs has been noted by City's manager.
They faced each other once before when City played Yokohama F. Marinos in a preseason friendly in 2019. Postecoglou was coaching the Japanese team at the time.
City won 3-1, but it prompted Guardiola to say “wow, there are things I like.”
“We won, all respect to Yokohama, but we had better players,” Guardiola said. "But I realized for the first time I met him, and have followed him when he was at Celtic winning trophies and now in the short time he’s been (at Spurs).
"As a manager and a spectator I enjoy a lot watching them play with the approach they have. I think all the Spurs fans and the people in England can admit that his impact has been quick and really good.”
When hired by Tottenham in June, Postecoglou became the club's fourth permanent manager since the departure of Mauricio Pochettino in 2019. In that time, serial winners like Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte both came and went after short-lived spells.
Having led Celtic to five trophies in two seasons, Postecoglou was tasked with the responsibility of turning Spurs' fortunes around after failing to qualify for Europe for the first time since 2009.
As if that task wasn't hard enough, he had to do it without record scorer Harry Kane, who was sold to Bayern Munich in the offseason.
A run of eight wins from his first 10 league games in charge suggested Postecoglou had discovered a way to live without the iconic striker, with summer signing James Maddison in outstanding form and Son Heung-min helping to fill the scoring void.
But a 4-1 loss at home to Chelsea when down to nine players last month brought an end to that streak, with Spurs going on to lose against Wolves and Aston Villa. All of those defeats came after Postecoglou's team had taken the lead and appear to show the fragility of a squad that has lost host of key players to injury, including Maddison, Richarlison and Ivan Perisic.
Rodrigo Bentancur has now been ruled out for about two months with an ankle injury.
Postecoglou refuses to compromise his style.
“Whatever you believe in, whatever you really strongly believe in, you as a person, only gets tested in the toughest of times. It doesn’t get tested when things are going well,” he said. “And for me these are the important times because this will show what kind of football team we want to be.”
Guardiola is expecting nothing other than a typical attacking performance from Postecoglou's team on Sunday.
"I encourage our fans to come to the stadium because we will have fun,” he said.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
PARIS (AP) — France coach Didier Deschamps won't attend Saturday’s draw for next year’s European Championship after undergoing surgery.
The French federation said in a statement on Friday that Deschamps was operated on earlier this week after suffering back pain for several weeks. France will instead be represented by assistant coach Guy Stephan.
“It was not a light-hearted decision that I decided not to go to the draw,” Deschamps was quoted as saying in the statement. "It’s always a pleasant moment, during which I really enjoy chatting with my counterparts. But wisdom dictated a few days’ rest."
Tournament host Germany and France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and England are in Pot 1 for the 24-team draw in Hamburg.
AP soccer: apnews.com/hub/soccer
LANGFORD, B.C. — As the clock counts down on Christine Sinclair's international career, her teammates and coach say their intensely private captain is trying to make the best of being squarely in the spotlight.
"She doesn't love the attention. That's not her personality," said veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt, a longtime friend and oft roommate on the road. "But she deserves it. She's never got the credit or the spotlight that she's deserved in her career. But I think especially this being at home, in front of home fans and family and friends, she's just enjoying it and making the most of it."
Sinclair calls time on her international career against Australia in games Friday and Tuesday in Langford and Vancouver, respectively.
Schmidt and goalkeeper Erin McLeod are also being feted Tuesday at B.C. Place Stadium, which is being renamed "Christine Sinclair Place" for the evening.
The 35-year-old Schmidt, who announced in February she was retiring from international football after this summer's World Cup, will pull on her Canadian jersey for the last time in Vancouver. The 40-year-old McLeod, a world-class goalkeeper, will watch from the sidelines after announcing her international retirement in January.
The three players have earned Tuesday's celebration, having made a combined 672 senior appearances for Canada.
For Sinclair, the attention is awkward if appreciated. The 40-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., the world's all-time leading goal-scorer with 190 goals, prefers to do her talking on the pitch.
Canada Soccer says Sinclair will speak at a news conference Sunday, along with Schmidt. The skipper was not made available Thursday in the lead-up to the Langford game at Starlight Stadium.
But her impending retirement was the main topic of conversation. And Sinclair's teammates are dealing with what life will be like without their leader.
Canada coach Bev Priestman, who told her players at the start of camp they had to embrace the emotion of the moment, says there has been a "lightness" around Sinclair.
"She's had that freeness about her," said Priestman. "I feel like she's taking in every moment … But (the emotion) it's real, it's there and it's going to become more real as this camp goes on probably."
Sinclair, who has started 312 of her 329 senior appearances for Canada, came off the bench in October friendlies against Brazil. But she will start in her farewell match Tuesday before a crowd of 41,000-plus including former teammates, friends and family at the Vancouver game.
"B.C. Place is Sinc's night … Obviously that's the night in which you would expect to see, one last time, the captain leading out this team," said Priestman.
Forward Janine Beckie, in camp while rehabbing a knee injury says the team is feeling "a mixture of happiness and sadness" for Sinclair "because we all know she's ready and she's ready for this moment to come and she's prepared herself."
Unlike others, Beckie will get one more season with Sinclair with the NWSL Portland Thorns.
Forward Nichelle Prince says the team, knowing its captain, has been careful about showering Sinclair with extra attention in the lead-up to the B.C. games.
"We're just trying to focus on the game. But we all know that this is more for Sinc than anything else," she said.
But she says that hasn't stopped more than a few jokes made at the skipper's expense, mostly around her longevity.
Jayde Riviere calls the moment "bittersweet."
"I think our team has come to the conclusion that none of us are ready to see her go. But we're enjoying the last couple of days that we have with her," said the 22-year-old Manchester United defender. "She's a legend. She's the GOAT, as everyone says. And to us, she's Sincy. She's a lot more than what you see on the pitch. She's a role model for us off the pitch, so it's going to be really hard to see her go."
Simi Awujo, a 20-year-old midfielder with the USC Trojans with seven caps for Canada, is also still trying to wrap her head around a Canada team without Sinclair.
"I can't imagine it because she's such a big presence on the field. And off the field as well. I just feel lucky to have played with her. And to get to call her my teammate."
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2023
LONDON (AP) — Tottenham midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur is likely to be out of action for about two months with an ankle injury, manager Ange Postecoglou said Friday.
The Uruguay international was hurt after a challenge from Matty Cash in last week's 2-1 loss to Aston Villa and appeared to be in pain clutching his right leg.
Bentancur had only recently returned from a nine-month absence following an ACL injury.
After scans on his ankle, Tottenham said he was expected to miss the rest of 2023. Postecoglou thinks it will take even longer to fully recover.
“It’s disappointing for him,” the Tottenham manager said. “I kind of saw it on the day and the outcome wasn’t great. He’ll probably miss a fair chunk of time between now and the New Year. It’s probably a couple of months for him to get back, which is disappointing for him because we alll know and have witnessed how hard he has worked to get back.
“For him personally, everyone is fairly gutted but he is such a positive guy. He can’t wait to get cracking again and I’m in no doubt we will see him back as soon as possible.”
Tottenham already has a lengthy injury list that includes James Maddison, Richarlison and Ivan Perisic.
Tottenham was at the top of the Premier League standings after an impressive start under Postecoglou, but is now on a three-game losing streak going into Sunday's match against defending champion Manchester City.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Antoine Griezmann knows what João Félix is going through at Barcelona.
Like Félix now, Griezmann once tried to make the switch from Atletico Madrid to the flashier Barcelona. Griezmann, a World Cup winner with France, spent a disappointing spell from 2019-21 with the Catalan club before returning to Atletico.
After eventually winning over some fans miffed at him for having joined a direct rival, the 32-year-old Griezmann is having one of his most productive seasons ever. The creative forward, who stands out among coach Diego Simeone’s workmanlike group, now has Atletico dreaming of another title run.
Atletico will play at Barcelona — and against Félix — on Sunday looking to beat the defending champions at Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium.
Atletico enters the weekend even on points with Barcelona — both four behind Real Madrid and Girona at the top of the standings. But Atletico also has a game in hand against a struggling Sevilla team that is set to be played later this month, so a win would put the club in position to potentially take the lead in the Spanish league.
The game will also be the first time Atletico will face Félix since the Portugal playmaker switched clubs in the offseason.
When asked about Félix this week, Griezmann said his former teammate “had moments when he played well and worked hard, but you have to be consistent and maybe there was a moment when he got tired of it.”
Félix responded in a separate interview on Movistar Plus television that he was not the only one to blame for the falling out between him and the club.
“Obviously, one can always have done things better, and things did not go well," he said. "But it was not just one person's fault, rather of several people.”
Griezmann has established himself as one of Atletico’s all-time great players. He is three goals away from equaling Luis Aragonés’ club scoring record of 173 goals set between 1964-74.
But oddly enough, Griezmann’s only major trophy with Atletico is the 2018 Europa League title. He was still playing for Real Sociedad when Simeone guided Atletico to the Spanish league title in 2014, and he was at Barcelona when Atletico won the league title again in 2021. His only title while at Barcelona was the 2021 Copa del Rey.
“I really want to win a league and will do everything I can to do so,” Griezmann said this week.
Griezmann leads Atletico with 13 goals this season, including the Champions League. His nine goals in the Spanish league are second only to Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham.
Griezmann is also linking up well with striker Álvaro Morata. Griezmann scored once and Morata twice when Atletico beat Real Madrid 3-1 in September. That is still Madrid's only loss in 19 games in all competitions.
Griezmann pointed to the difficulties Barcelona has been having recently, as well as its trouble with injuries. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has missed two games for Barcelona with back trouble, meaning backup Iñaki Peña could start again against Atletico. Barcelona also recently lost key midfielder Gavi Páez to a season-ending knee injury.
“(A win) would be a big step forward but it would not be decisive, there is a long way still to go,” Griezmman said. “Barca has doubts. So we will have to see how they decide to attack and defend, but I am sure we will arrive prepared for the game.”
Félix has made a good start at his new club after he successfully pushed for Atletico to loan him out to Barcelona, which he joined on the last day of the transfer window — along with João Cancelo from Manchester City.
The two Joãos both scored as Barcelona defeated Porto 2-1 this week to secure its return to the knockout rounds of the Champions League after two consecutive group-stage eliminations.
Félix remains an Atletico player, but he seems ready to make his departure permanent. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Everton filed an appeal Friday in a bid to overturn the Premier League's decision to deduct 10 points from the club for breaching the competition’s financial rules.
The deduction was the biggest sporting sanction in the Premier League’s 31-year history, dropping Everton into the relegation zone and threatening its 70-year status in the top division.
The club was found by an independent commission to have made a loss of 124.5 million pounds ($155 million) over three years up to the end of the 2021-22 season. The league’s profit and financial sustainability rules allow clubs to lose a maximum of 105 million pounds ($130 million) over a three-year period or face sanctions.
“Everton Football Club has today lodged with the chair of the Premier League’s judicial panel its appeal of the decision by a Premier League commission to impose a 10-point deduction on the club,” Everton said in a brief statement. “An appeal board will now be appointed to hear the case.”
Everton had earlier said the points deduction was “a wholly disproportionate and unjust sporting sanction” and that the club “does not recognize the finding that it failed to act with the utmost good faith.”
The Merseyside club is one of England’s most storied teams as a nine-time league champion and a top-division club since 1954.
Everton, one spot above last-place Burnley on goal difference, plays at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Both Manchester City and reportedly Chelsea have been accused by the league of various breaches of regulations. City, the defending English and European champion, was accused by the league in February of providing misleading information about its finances from 2009-18, covering 115 alleged breaches.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — Aston Villa filed a complaint with UEFA on Friday over the conduct of Legia Warsaw officials and the “unprecedented violence” of the Polish team's fans outside Villa Park.
Police arrested 46 Legia supporters after “ 90 minutes of sustained violence " Thursday night when 1,000 Polish fans arrived to the stadium but weren't given their tickets to the Europa Conference League game.
“This shocking behavior followed Legia club officials’ complete lack of cooperation with West Midlands Police, Aston Villa and UEFA throughout the day,” the Birmingham club said in a statement Friday.
The Warsaw club had been upset that local officials who license all stadium events required the ticket allocation be reduced from 1,700 to 1,000 in response to disorder by Legia fans at an Oct. 5 game against AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
At a standard pre-match meeting Thursday morning, “Legia Warsaw refused to confirm if they would accept their allocation of tickets for the match at that point,” Villa's statement said. “This is in stark contrast to normal UEFA operational procedures.”
The Polish club's officials confirmed at 4 p.m. that they would accept the allocation and then were handed the tickets when they arrived at Villa Park at 6:16 p.m., Villa said.
West Midlands Police said their investigation will include determining why the tickets weren't distributed, and that they'll pursue charges against those arrested after four officers — as well as a police dog and horse — were injured in what they described as “planned violence" by the away fans.
“The disorder that we encountered last night was the most severe that a lot of us have ever seen," assistant chief constable Damian Barratt told Talk Sport radio.
“It was undoubtedly, as I say, instigated as a result of this issue related to ticket allocation,” he continued. "That’s something I’ll be taking up with football authorities and UEFA in particular. I will be expecting some strong decisions on their part.”
Villa won the game 2-1. The away fans section of the stadium was empty.
UEFA said it “strongly condemns the unacceptable violence” and was "in the process of gathering all official reports from the game before deciding on potential next steps. We have no further information or other comment to make at this stage.”
Legia fans were also involved in violent clashes with police during a game at Leicester in 2021.
Legia Warsaw did not return an emailed message Friday seeking comment. On Thursday night, it blamed Villa for “refusing to allocate tickets to away fans.”
Barratt described “enormous hostility” among the away fans, some of whom started fires and threw flares. Police did not indicate that their officers' injuries were serious.
“One officer’s fluorescent jacket caught fire after they were hit with a flare. Fortunately his jacket was removed quickly and he was not injured,” West Midlands Police said in a statement. “He was later taken to hospital with smoke inhalation after the smoke from the flare made it into his helmet.”
Most of the arrests were for violent disorder, four for “possession of a knife/offensive weapon,” and four for assaulting emergency workers," police said.
Police confirmed on Friday that all of the arrests were away fans “and we’ll be working hard to charge and remand those suspects where we can today.”
Chris Heck, Villa's president of business operations, said the club “will be making further representations to UEFA in order to ensure that other clubs and police forces across Europe are not exposed to similar serious safety risks at the hands of Legia Warsaw.”
AP soccer: apnews.com/hub/soccer
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