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Sadio Mane double secures Champions League spot for Liverpool

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Sadio Mane struck twice as Liverpool secured Champions League qualification with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield on Sunday ensuring a third-placed finish for Juergen Klopp’s side.

A fifth straight win completed an impressive end to what had been a disappointing and injury-plagued Premier League campaign for last season’s champions as they finished with 69 points, two clear of fourth-placed Chelsea and three ahead of Leicester City.

“If you had told me five weeks ago that we would finish third, I would think it is not possible,” said Klopp.

“Credit to the boys I can’t believe how it worked out in the last few weeks. From outside you cannot understand it. In the hardest moments you can learn the most. We really stuck together all the time, no arguments,” added the German.

With 10,000 home fans present, Liverpool made a nervy start and Palace’s Andros Townsend missed a great chance when he intercepted a poor pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold but with only Alisson Becker to beat, he fired wide of the post.

Liverpool grew into the game though and Rhys Williams should have opened the scoring but, unmarked at a corner, his header flew high over the bar.

Mohamed Salah had an opening but shot straight at keeper Vicente Guaita before Mane broke the deadlock in the 36th minute, firing home from close range after Palace were unable to clear an Andy Robertson corner.

Mane made sure of the win and a top-four spot when he drilled in a left-footed shot in the 74th minute after being set up by Salah.

A run of six defeats in seven games in February and March had threatened to leave Liverpool without a place in Europe’s elite competition.

Yet Klopp’s side ended the season unbeaten in their final 10 matches, winning eight of them. They finished 17 points behind champions Manchester City.

The game was the final match in charge of Palace for their manager Roy Hodgson, the former England boss who had a brief spell with Liverpool. He is leaving the role at the age of 73.

There were also farewells on the Liverpool side with midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum given a strong send off from the crowd and his team mates. The Dutchman’s contract at the club runs out in July and no new deal has been signed.

“A wonderful player. From the first moment it clicked. Very smart, open person. Emotional for me, I lose a friend and we’ll miss him but it’s normal in football. Not always nice but normal. He will find a great place, whichever club is interested,” said Klopp.

Retiring kitman Graham Carter was also given a guard of honour after the final whistle and was paraded around the field by Klopp.

(Reporting by Simon EvansEditing by Toby Davis)

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CFL to return in August

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The Canadian Football League (CFL), which saw its entire 2020 campaign wiped out by the COVID-19 outbreak, said on Monday its board of governors voted unanimously to kick off a shortened 14-game season in August.

The CFL, whose biggest source of revenue comes from ticket sales rather than TV deals like those enjoyed by larger U.S.-based leagues, also said fans will be able to return to the stands in line with provincial guidelines.

“This is an exciting day for Canadian football and for Canada itself,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a news release.

“I want to thank our fans, players, coaches, and partners for their incredible support and patience as we’ve worked together towards this day.”

The season will begin Aug. 5 while the Grey Cup championship game will be played Dec. 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.

The full schedule will be released on Tuesday along with each of the league’s nine team’s plan for distributing tickets to season ticket holders and, where government restrictions on stadium capacity allow, ticket sales to the general public.

After first delaying its 2020 season, the CFL decided to scrap it entirely following a last-ditch effort to secure financing from the Canadian government to stage a shortened campaign that would have been held entirely in Manitoba was turned down.

The CFL had previously said it would only move forward with a 2021 season if it could secure the government approvals for its plans to keep players and coaches safe and the green light to allow a “significant” number of fans to attend games.

“We are on track to receive all of the necessary health and safety approvals, thanks to our tireless medical advisers and staff, and the dedicated government officials who have been working with them,” said Ambrosie.

“And while the outlook for fans in the stands varies from province to province, we are confident that process is also on the right track.”

 

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA

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Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.

Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.

USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.

It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.

Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.

However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.

“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.

“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.

“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.

“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”

HEADLINE FIGHT

Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.

However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.

“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.

“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”

As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.

“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.

“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

 

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships, the International Skating Union (ISU) said on Wednesday, after the 2020 event Canada was to host was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.

“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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