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Player ratings as Mbappe scores twice & Giroud makes history

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Olivier Giroud became France’s all-time men’s record international goalscorer and Kylian Mbappe scored twice as their strikes saw off Poland to earn the reigning champions a place in the 2022 World Cup quarter finals.

Former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Giroud collected Mbappe’s pass to fire beyond Wojciech Szczesny. Mbappe smashed in the second on the counter attack before a stoppage-time third – another wonderful Mbappe effort – wrapped up the victory.

Poland showed a little more intent than they did in their tough-to-watch group stage games but only got a consolation from the penalty spot as Robert Lewandowski rolled one in late on.

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The early exchanges saw Raphael Varane head an Antoine Griezmann corner wide before Aurelien Tchouameni brought a save from Szczesny with a strike from distance.

Elder statesman Grzegorz Krychowiak carelessly lost possession to allow Ousmane Dembele to drive at goal. The Barcelona winger cut in onto his left foot but his shot failed to trouble Szczesny.

Les Bleus’ attacking intent continued as a floated ball forward from Tchouameni found Griezmann, whose clever backheel forced Szczesny into action before Kamil Glik cleared the danger.

Poland did attempt to press high in the early exchanges but only got a first clear sight of the 21st minute, though Lewandowski’s ambitious shot from distance never looked like troubling Hugo Lloris.

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Giroud sliced a fizzed Dembele cross wide of the post from close range – Dembele was flagged offside – before France escaped a goal-mouth scramble in front of their own net shortly before half time.

Lloris was needed to bat away Piotr Zielinski’s drive before the Napoli midfielder’s rebound effort was blocked by Theo Hernandez. Varane then diverted Jakub Kaminski’s strike away from goal as France eventually cleared their lines.

France ramped up the pressure before half time and got the breakthrough as Giroud made history. Mbappe slipped in the AC Milan striker and he finished superbly across Szczesny for his 52nd senior international goal, surpassing the great Thierry Henry at the top of France’s scoring charts.

The reigning world champions came close to extending their lead at the start of the second half as Mbappe cut inside and saw his shot deflect off Krychowiak, bouncing inches wide of the post.

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Poland pressed without creating chances through the second half and the result was wrapped up with more than 15 minutes to play as Mbappe struck on the counter.

Les Bleus exploited Poland on the counter as Giroud released Dembele. He found the free Mbappe, who took his time to pick his spot, giving Szczesny no chance by hammering into the top corner.

Poland were given a parting gift on their way out of the World Cup by Mbappe in second-half stoppage time. Substitute Marcus Thuram gave him the ball and the 23-year-old picked out the top corner to make it 3-0.

The two strikes took Mbappe clear at the top of the 2022 World Cup scoring charts with five goals. Lewandowski did net a penalty after Dayot Upamecano was penalised for handball – needing a second bite after Lloris came off his line – but it meant little as France surged on in their title defence.

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Olivier Giroud

Giroud made history on Sunday / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

GH: Hugo Lloris – 4/10 – A vital stop from Zielinski was overshadowed by some increasingly sketchy handling and kicking. Almost got a penalty save but was off his line and beaten by the retake.

RB: Jules Kounde – 6/10 – Somehow made it onto the field with a golden chain around his neck. Kept things tight on his side without offering too much in attack.

CB: Raphael Varane – 7/10 – Vital clearance off the line prevented Poland from taking the lead. Rarely gave the ball away.

CB: Dayot Upamecano – 7/10 – On hand to scramble away a couple of dangerous Poland opportunities.

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LB: Theo Hernandez – 7/10 – Blocked a shot in the heat of Poland’s goal-mouth opportunities. A few shots in attack.

CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 7/10 – Harshly booked in the first half. Early strike from distance was on target but not threatening. A couple of inventive passes forward.

CM: Adrien Rabiot – 6/10 – Didn’t join attacks as much as he would have liked but was workmanlike in midfield.

AM: Antoine Griezmann – 7/10 – Lost the ball a little frequently but was never too far away whenever any scraps for possession.

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RW: Ousmane Dembele – 7/10 – Shot straight at Szczesny when well placed. Made the difference with a precise ball for Mbappe to score the second.

LW: Kylian Mbappe – 9/10 – Played in Giroud who finished clinically. Got more and more opportunities to stretch his legs as Poland chased an equaliser. Everything fell into place when he grabbed France’s second on the counter with a brilliant finish into the top corner. Was just taking the mickey with his brilliant second.

ST: Olivier Giroud – 7/10 – Kept his cool to slot in the opener and cement his place as France’s record men’s goalscorer. Involved in the second goal.

Substitutes

SUB: Youssouf Fofana (66′ for Tchouameni) – 6/10

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SUB: Marcus Thuram (76′ for Giroud) – 7/10

SUB: Kingsley Coman (76′ for Dembele) – 6/10

SUB: Axel Disasi (90′ for Kounde) – N/A

Manager

Didier Deschamps – 7/10 – Went back to his favoured XI after the loss to Tunisia and got a functional display out of it. May be worried at how much France’s attacking displays depend on Mbappe, but it’s another World Cup quarter final.

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Wojciech Szczesny

Szczesny made a lot of saves / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

GK: Wojciech Szczesny – 7/10 – Was required frequently in the first half to prevent France from surging into the lead.

RB: Matty Cash – 5/10 – Given the unenviable task of playing opposite Mbappe. Made two expert recoveries challenges on the PSG forward but was a tough outing for the most part.

CB: Kamil Glik – 7/10 – Made a couple of vital last-ditch interventions to stop France getting in on goal.

CB: Jakub Kiwior – 5/10 – Was beaten by Giroud who got his shot away to score.

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LB: Bartosz Bereszynski – 6/10 – Unlucky to get a booking when he seemed to win the ball off Dembele.

DM: Grzegorz Krychowiak – 5/10 – Looked quite sluggish in the face of some quicker and sharper midfielders. Few sloppy giveaways in possession.

RM: Jakub Kaminski – 5/10 – Had one or two threatening moments in attack but had to do a lot of backtracking in defence.

CM: Piotr Zielinski – 6/10 – Had two glaring opportunities within seconds but was denied by Lloris and Varane.

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CM: Sebastian Szymanski – 6/10 – Lung-busting run back saw him deny Mbappe a shot on goal at the last second.

LM: Przemyslaw Frankowski – 6/10 – Got clear down the left to set up Zielinski’s two chances. Final ball just evaded him.

ST: Robert Lewandowski – 6/10 – Scuppered a few excellent chances when Poland got brief opportunities in transition. A late consolation from the spot earned Poland something.

Substitutes

SUB: Arkadiusz Milik (64′ for Szymanski) – 5/10

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SUB: Nicola Zalewski (71′ for Kaminski) – 5/10

SUB: Krystian Bielik (71′ for Krychowiak) – 5/10

SUB: Jan Bednarek (87′ for Kiwior) – N/A

SUB: Kamil Grosicki (87′ for Frankowski) – N/A

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Manager

Czeslaw Michniewicz – 5/10 – Poland opened up slightly more than their group stage matches. However, their main aim was only to hang on in there and pray for a Lewandowski chance.

Player of the Match – Kylian Mbappe



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Man Utd’s fixture list up to Carabao Cup final including Barcelona & Leeds clashes

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Manchester United reached their first final under Erik ten Hag by securing safe passage through the Carabao Cup semi finals at the expense of Nottingham Forest.

The Red Devils have enjoyed a brilliant run of form after their infamous defeats to Brighton and Brentford to start the season. They’re firmly in the Champions League qualification mix and remain alive in the FA Cup and Europa League.

However, their commitments in cup competitions means Ten Hag faces a tough February as he tries to balance the playing time of a squad that has recently been struck by injuries to key players.

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Here’s United’s truncated schedule leading up to the Carabao Cup final, including some juicy derbies and European fixtures.

Michael Olise, David De Gea

Olise denied Man Utd with a late free kick last time out / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Fresh from sealing their spot in the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle, United are back into Premier League matters when they host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday 4 February in a 15:00 GMT kick off.

The two sides duked it out earlier a few weeks ago in their first meeting of the season as a late Michael Olise free-kick earned Palace a point after Bruno Fernandes’ strike just before half time.

Manchester United and Leeds are fierce rivals and the tension between the two teams has risen again following Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League.

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The Red Devils have scored 15 goals in the four meetings in that time, only failing to win once when they were held to a goalless draw in April 2021. The fixture was originally postponed following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September and will take place on Wednesday 8 February at 20:00 GMT.

Fred, Anthony Elanga

Fred and Elanga struck at Elland Road last season / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

That fixture rearrangement means the two Uniteds will face each other twice in four days.

In this fixture last season, two headless chickens went at it as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds were downed 4-2 by Ralf Rangnick’s Man Utd. Goals from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had the visitors 2-0 up before two goals in two minutes from Rodrigo and Raphinha squared things up.

Substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga gave the Red Devils all three points. However, they would win only three more league games before the end of the season.

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The stakes are really upped in mid February when Man Utd travel to Barcelona to face the Catalan giants at Camp Nou in the Europa League knockout play-off round.

It’s Barça who hold the edge in recent meetings, having won the past four games between the two sides.

Once they return home from the trip to Catalonia, United have a home game against Leicester to contend with.

The Foxes have endured some turbulent form this season but have mostly been a mess at the back, though the sides were only separated by Jadon Sancho’s strike they met back in September.

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Lionel Messi

A lot has changed since United and Barça last met in 2019 / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

The return leg of the Europa League knockout play-off round will determine who between United and Barça continue in the continent’s secondary club competition.

United’s last win over Barça came at Old Trafford in 2008 when Paul Scholes scored the only goal of a Champions League semi final tie to send his side to final in Moscow.

Two of the most improved sides this season meet in the Carabao Cup final in late February when Newcastle face Man Utd.

Both sides are eyeing up Champions League qualification and each sit in the top four currently and this meeting could be an opportunity to land a significant psychological blow.

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Player ratings as Catalans pull clear in La Liga

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Barcelona survived a late scare against Real Betis to secure a 2-1 win and at least temporarily extend their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points before Real Madrid play on Thursday night.

Barça went into the game at Benito Villamarin knowing they had the opportunity to start pulling away from their fierce rivals in Madrid. But it took until well into the second half for the breakthrough to come, with Raphinha and later Robert Lewandowski eventually netting.

An own goal from Joules Kounde in the closing stages threatened to make it a difficult end for Xavi’s team, but they managed to see it out. Betis midfielder William Carvalho, who had already been substituted with an hour played, was then sent off for dissent at the game’s conclusion.

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Betis were actually the first to threaten in the contest, seeing Luiz Henrique only narrowly miss an early chance when his shot was deflected just wide by Alejandro Balde.

Pedri had a chance for Barça at the other end not long after, but his touch in the penalty area wasn’t sharp enough and Rui Silva in the home goal got down to pick the ball off his toe.

Silva again denied Pedri after the restart, but Raphinha broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. The Brazilian, whose debut season hasn’t been a rip-roaring success, tapped in from close range after excellent work from Balde down the left flank.

Lewandowski’s ultimately decisive second was from only a little further out, pounced on by the Pole after Ronald Araujo flicked on Raphinha’s cross.

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That cushion was enough for Barça and ensured that Kounde’s own goal mattered little in the end.

GK: Silva (6); RB: Ruibal (7), CB: Pezzella (6), CB: Felipe (6), LB: Abner (6); CM: Rodriguez (6), CM: Carvalho (5); RM: Henrique (7), AM: Fekir (6), LM: Canales (6); ST: Iglesias (6)

Subs: Guardado (6), Juanmi (6), Rodri (6), Jose (5), Sabaly (6)

GK: Ter Stegen (6); RB: Kounde (6), CB: Araujo (7), CB: Chistensen (7), LB: Balde (8); CM: De Jong (7), CM: Busquets (8), CM: Pedri (7); RW: Raphinha (8), ST: Lewandowski (7), LW: Gavi (7)

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Subs: Fati (5), Torres (N/A), Kessie (N/A)

Player of the match – Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)



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Player ratings as Mbappe injury mars routine win

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Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 win over Montpellier in Ligue 1 on Wednesday night was marred by Kylian Mbappe limping from the field with a suspected hamstring injury.

The Frenchman wandered off down the tunnel after just 21 minutes, which will no doubt concern PSG’s supporters less than two weeks before the Parisians are due to lock horns with Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Mbappe’s absence didn’t affect the result of the game, as Fabian Ruiz, Lionel Messi and Warren Zaire-Emery bagged second half goals for PSG, but the Frenchman did have a rather eventful night despite being on the field for less than a quarter of the game.

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After Sergio Ramos was hauled down in the area, Mbappe saw his ninth minute penalty saved by Montpellier goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte, only for VAR to determine that he’d come off of his line too soon.

But Mbappe missed the second spot kick as well, with Lecomte again denying him, before he sunk to the turf 10 minutes later clutching his hamstring.

Messi had a goal chalked off by VAR for offside before the half-time interval as PSG dominated, and it was deja vu eight minutes after the break when Achraf Hakimi also had an effort ruled out by the officials.

PSG weren’t to be denied though, and they took the lead through Ruiz after some good smart build-up play involving Vitinha, Hakimi and Mbappe’s replacement, Hugo Ekitike.

Spanish midfielder Ruiz then produced a sublime assist for Messi’s goal 15 minutes time, linking up nicely with Ekitike before sliding a perfectly weighted pass through to the Argentine. He, inevitably, did the rest by dinking the ball past the impressive Lecomte.

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Montpellier scored in stoppage time to reduce the arrears when PSG could, and should, have been out of sight, and almost levelled the game when the visitors were caught dozing moments later.

Zaire-Emery, aged just 16, sealed the deal to become PSG’s youngest ever goalscorer, but the main worry for Christophe Galtier will be whether Mbappe is fit to face Bayern when the Champions League returns to the Parc des Princes on Valentine’s night.

Warren Zaire-Emery is PSG's bright new star

Warren Zaire-Emery is PSG’s bright new star / PASCAL GUYOT/GettyImages

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma – 6/10 – Statuesque as Arnaud Nordin pulled a goal back for Montpellier late on. Didn’t have much to do.

RB: Achraf Hakimi – 7/10 – Denied a fantastic goal by the assitant referee’s flag. There are few better full-backs to watch than Hakimi when he’s in full flow.

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CB: Marquinhos – 7/10 – Passing accuracy was on point and seemed to be in full control until a late blip almost cost PSG dear.

CB: Sergio Ramos – 6/10 – Was doing pretty well, even winning a penalty, before an unfortunate clash of heads ended the Spaniard’s night.

LB: Nuno Mendes – 6/10 – Still working his way back to full fitness but got a good hour and a bit under his belt.

DM: Danilo Pereira – 6/10 – Slipped into the back four after Sergio Ramos went off injured – a role he’s becoming increasingly familiar with.

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RCM: Carlos Soler – 6/10 – A little quiet compared to those around him and was often outduelled.

CM: Vitinha – 7/10 – Again impressive in the heart of midfield, playing a key role in PSG’s opening goal.

LCM: Fabian Ruiz – 8/10 – Was in the right place at the right time to give PSG the lead, and then produced a fantasticly weighted pass for Messi’s goal.

ST: Lionel Messi – 8/10 – Denied by VAR in the first half but showed his class to put the game beyond Montpellier. The lead orchestrator of all things good, as per.

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ST: Kylian Mbappe – 4/10 – Missed two penalties and went off injured. Not a night for Mbappe to remember.

Substitutes

SUB: Hugo Ekitike – 7/10 – Gave PSG an outlet up front, and his hard work and endeavour allowed PSG to break the deadlock.

SUB: Renato Sanches – 6/10 – Helped PSG control proceedings after coming on for the injured Ramos.

SUB: Warren Zaire-Emery – 7/10 – Took his goal superbly to become PSG’s youngest ever goalscorer. A real talent.

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SUB: Juan Bernat – 6/10 – A steady but unspectacular 20 minutes or so for the former Bayern Munich man.

Player of the Match: Fabian Ruiz (PSG)





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