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Player ratings as Ronaldo sets record in crazy game

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Portugal survived a late scare against Ghana to begin their World Cup campaign with a 3-2 win, with Cristiano Ronaldo became the first ever player to score at five different World Cup tournaments.

All five goals came in the final half hour, with Ronaldo scoring from the spot, before an Andre Ayew equaliser and quickfire Portugal strikes from Joao Felix and substitute Rafael Leao. Ghana sub Osman Bukari made a game of things late on, while Ghana could even have equalised at the death.

Mohammed Kudus had made the headlines ahead of the game for spiky comments about Neymar he later branded ‘fake news’. But the Ajax talent started poorly and was caught on the ball a couple of times when trying to play too deep.

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The second of those saw Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi, usually a back-up until injuries made him number one here, rush out to smother a Ronaldo effort. Not long after, Ronaldo had another glorious chance, this time in the air, but bizarrely didn’t connect properly.

Ronaldo did hit the back of the net half an hour in, only for the play to be pulled back as the 37-year-old had committed a foul when winning the ball.

Ghana had worked hard throughout the first half to keep Portugal at bay at the expense of much attacking inventiveness. But Kudus was always likely to be the best source of something and he showed flashes of his quality with a driving run and low shot that just missed the target.

The Black Stars probably should have seen Alidu Seidu sent off around the hour mark. He was cautioned for a foul on Felix but was then only warned rather than further punished when he aggressively pushed his head against the Portuguese player.

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Ghana were incensed not long after when Ronaldo went tumbling in the area as Mohammed Salisu tried to win the ball. But the 37-year-old did get to the ball first ahead of the touch from the defender and then made no mistake as he fired into the top corner from 12 yards.

Kudus had started to threaten more and more, and when he ran beyond the ball into an advanced position, he was able to fire a low cross into the path of Ayew to equalise. The ball squeezed through the legs of Danilo Pereira before the Ghana captain fired in.

But Kudus and Ayew didn’t last much longer on the pitch and the momentum quickly shifted back to Portugal when Bruno Fernandes finally popped up with some meaningful contributions. Two measured through balls, one to the right, one to left, handed Fernando Santos’ team a quick fire double a couple of minutes apart. Felix finished calmly to re-establish the lead at 2-1, before a sublime first-time finish from Leao made it 3-1.

That should have been the game done and dusted for Portugal. But a lapse in defensive concentration from Joao Cancelo allowed Baba Rahman in to cross from the left and Bukari headed in to give Ghana the chance of mounting a late comeback.

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Portugal looked like they had done just enough to hold on, but a moment of madness in the final seconds saw goalkeeper Diogo Costa place the ball down without realising that Inaki Williams was hiding behind him. Williams nicked it but then slipped at the crucial moment and the chance went.

GK: Diogo Costa – 3/10 – Made fewer saves than goals conceded and almost gifted Ghana an equaliser in the final seconds with a lack of awareness.

RB: Joao Cancelo – 4/10 – Not the same attacking full-back that Manchester City fans are used to seeing. To blame for Ghana’s second goal.

CB: Ruben Dias – 5/10 – Not his best day considered there was ample opportunity for Portugal to be in cruise control.

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CB: Danilo Pereira – 5/10 – Has become used to playing as a centre-back at international level but should have cleared as Ghana scored their first.

LB: Raphael Guerreiro – 5/10 – The more adventurous of the Portuguese full-backs in the first half. Defensively suspect in the second.

CM: Bernardo Silva – 6/10 – Saw a lot of the ball without doing a great deal with it to really test Ghana.

CM: Ruben Neves – 6/10 – Shielded the back four and was always an option to keep the ball moving.

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CM: Otavio – 5/10 – His final ball into the box was lacking quite a few times. Ended up coming off injured early in the first half.

AM: Bruno Fernandes – 7/10 – Too quiet in the first half but improved dramatically after the break. Two inch-perfect assists.

ST: Cristiano Ronaldo (c) – 7/10 – Missed early chances he might normally have buried. Had a goal disallowed for a foul but converted from the spot and generally led the line pretty well.

ST: Joao Felix – 7/10 – Radar seemed to be way off in the first half like many of his teammates. Composed finish for his goal.

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SUB: William Carvalho (56′ for Otavio) – 7/10

SUB: Rafael Leao (77′ for Neves) – 7/10

SUB: Joao Palhinha (88′ for Silva) – N/A

SUB: Joao Mario (88′ for Felix) – N/A

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SUB: Goncalo Guedes (88′ for Ronaldo) – N/A

Manager: Fernando Santos – 7/10 – Things weren’t going that well in the first half, but the changes he made did make a big impact.

GK: Lawrence Ati-Zigi – 6/10 – A strong early save against Ronaldo was an important confidence boost. Beaten by the power of the penalty strike and stood little chance with the others.

CB: Daniel Amartey -7/10 – Defended pretty well on the right of the back three. Always quick to close down, tackle and clear.

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CB: Alexander Djiku – 6/10 – Okay in the circumstances.

CB: Mohammed Salisu – 5/10 – As much as he protested, he was a split second too late tackling Ronaldo and conceded the penalty.

RWB: Alidu Seidu – 5/10 – Arguably luck to stay on the pitch when he put his head in on Felix. Subbed off soon after anyway.

CM: Thomas Partey – 6/10 – Showed moments of quality and tried to find incisive passes.

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CM: Salis Abdel Samed – 7/10 – Passed accurately and had plenty of energy to recover the ball in midfield.

CM: Mohammed Kudus – 8/10 – Caught on the ball a few times early on. Played better when he was positioned further forward and was easily Ghana’s best source of attacking threat.

LWB: Baba Rahman – 6/10 – Couldn’t sort his feet in time to cut out the through ball that gave Portugal their second goal. But his persistence made Ghana’s late second.

ST: Andre Ayew (c) – 7/10 – Showed a real striker’s instinct to equalise in the six-yard box. Looked less than pleased to come off soon after.

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ST: Inaki Williams – 5/10 – Lacked the service he needed.

SUB: Tariq Lamptey (67′ for Seidu) – 6/10

SUB: Jordan Ayew (77′ for Ayew) – 6/10

SUB: Osman Bukari (77′ for Kudus) – 7/10

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SUB: Daniel-Kofi Kyerah (90+3 for Djiku) – N/A

SUB: Antoine Semenyo (90+3 for Samed) – N/A

Manager: Otto Addo – 6/10 – It was an odd move to take off both Kudus and Ayew right after Ghana had got back into it. Arguably should have had Kudus further forward from the start.

Player of the match – Mohammed Kudus (Ghana)



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EPL

Mikel Arteta provides injury updates on two key Arsenal stars

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Mikel Arteta lifted the lid on the condition of both Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Jesus following Arsenal’s friendly victory over Lyon.

The Gunners breezed to a 3-0 win against the Ligue 1 side out in the United Arab Emirates, while taking part in the Dubai Super Cup as a part of their preparations for the impending return of club football.

Naturally, Arsenal have plenty of first-team regulars away still representing their country at the World Cup or on leave following a recent elimination, but are still stepping up their efforts with one eye on football’s return, with the aim being to continue an incredible first half of the season.

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Unfortunately, Brazil forward Jesus saw his World Cup campaign come to an end as a result of a knee injury, which the club have since confirmed he has had surgery to correct. After the win, Arteta responded ‘no’ when asked if there was a timescale for the 25-year-old’s return.

“We know that he needed some intervention in the knee and we have to take day by day, week by week and see where that takes us,” Arteta said.

When asked if injury to Jesus would influence the Gunners’ transfer plans, he responded: “What it affects is who we are as a team because he gives us so much.

“What we can do after that, when we know the timescale better and when we can have him back, we will look at the options and try to make the right decisions.”

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If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

Smith Rowe, meanwhile, has been missing for the majority of the 2022/23 campaign, but has travelled with the squad to Dubai for their mid-season camp. Arteta said: “With Emile, he has returned to training and he’s in that process after we rehab, after a period where he had some real discomfort.

“So we are giving him time – he’s getting closer and closer. So hopefully in the next few weeks, we’ll be able to see him.”

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Vilde Boe Risa stakes claim for more regular Man Utd chances

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Manchester United midfielder Vilde Boe Risa has been crying out for a proper chance this season. With competition for places so stiff in a much-improved squad, the Norway international has been limited to just 52 minutes across the club’s eight WSL games so far.

In United’s last five league games, Boe Risa has been afforded just nine minutes.

Ella Toone recently spoke about the high standards in training and the usual starters being pushed on by the rest to keep performing or risk losing their place.

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That has been the problem for Boe Risa this season. She has shown in the past that she can cut it in the WSL – nominated for last December’s PFA fans’ player of the month award – and there was hope that she might get more opportunities following the September departure of Jackie Groenen.

But displacing Toone in a ‘number’ 10 role or either Katie Zelem or Hayley Ladd slightly deeper has been close to impossible due to the form of all three. Toone in particular has really stepped it up in recent weeks, while Zelem has been remarkably consistent and in the form of her life, and Ladd’s physical attributes and midfield engine are not really matched by anyone else.

That was what made Wednesday night’s game against Everton in the Continental Cup so important for Boe Risa to get an opportunity and stake her claim for more meaningful minutes going forward.

She absolutely took it, getting forward from midfield to score in the first minute and then doubling her tally less than 20 minutes later as United raced into a 3-0 lead.

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“It’s nothing I didn’t already know,” United boss Marc Skinner said to 90min afterwards.

“I have never ever doubted that Vilde has unbelievable qualities. All keep asking is to keep evolving her game – the physical side and duelling, something we’re working on together,” he added, reiterating a previous explanation as to why she doesn’t often start.

“Her quality has always been there – I’ll never doubt that with her. Her attitude is brilliant, she’s a great person, lots and lots of qualities. I can’t speak any more highly of her, it’s just we’re a competitive team and we’re showing that in our games. Sometimes you have to be patient.”

Speaking to club media on her performance, Boe Risa herself said: “It’s nice to score, I always want to score and I scored two, so really happy about that. I always enjoy playing and to get a 90 is really nice so hopefully get more minutes as we go.”

Ultimately for Boe Risa, a lack of playing time at club level is threatening to hurt her international career with Norway. She was dropped from the squad earlier this season – although later recalled due to injury withdrawals – by head coach Hege Riise, who suggested to the player at the time she might be better suited joining a club that will offer her more game time.

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Only a few months out from the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Boe Risa also seemed to suggest during the last international break in comments to Norwegian media that leaving United is not completely out of the question if her situation doesn’t change.

Boe Risa is out of contract at the end of this season, although there is an option to extend her deal by another year until 2024, and the ideal for both parties would be to stay together. Longer-term, that will of course hinge on the player getting chances, but at least with a standout performance this week she has now pushed herself right into contention for more as the season progresses.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter!





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When do Liverpool play first after the World Cup?

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It has not been the season that many Liverpool fans expected so far but there is still plenty of cause for optimism when the play resumes after the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Jurgen Klopp’s side expected to be challenging for the Premier League title from the outset but that is not how things have panned out and now a Champions League spot has to be the overall aim for the Reds.

They are still in the Champions League and the Carabao Cup though, meaning the chance for silverware is high later in the campaign. Some of their key players have also not been in World Cup action and have had a genuine break.

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Here is a look at the fixtures that await Liverpool after the World Cup.

As Liverpool managed to get through the previous round of the Carabao Cup by beating Derby County on penalties, their first game will be in that tournament rather than the Premier League.

They may wish that wasn’t the case, as they have been drawn away against Manchester City who are serial Carabao Cup winners. That game takes place on December 22 at 20:00 GMT.

When Premier League action returns, Liverpool will try to get back on track by beating Aston Villa away from home on Boxing Day at 17:30 GMT. That is followed up by a match at home to Leicester City on December 30, meaning there is a great chance for Liverpool to get six points on the board straight away.

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An away game against Brentford is on January 2, before the FA Cup third round match against Wolves at Anfield on January 7.

The month is rounded out with an intriguing trip to Brighton and Hove Albion on January 14 and then a game at home to Chelsea on January 21. Overall, it is a set of fixtures Klopp and his side will feel fairly confident about as beyond the Carabao Cup tie, there is no fixture against another major side until the Chelsea match.

Harry Kane, Thiago Alcantara

Liverpool recently got the better of Tottenham Hotspur / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Something has not been quite right for Liverpool this season. They had a bad season in 2020/21, but that could largely be explained away by the mass of injuries they had to contend with.

This season though, many key players have all been available at the same time and results have still been below par. Liverpool were sixth when the break for the World Cup came and they are four points behind fifth-placed Manchester United having played the same number of games.

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A top four finish is certainly possible and given the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Andy Robertson have not been at the World Cup some of their key players may be fresher than other sides’.



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