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USMNT striker Daryl Dike reacts to scoring first goal in over a year following injuries

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After scoring his first goal in over a year, American striker Daryl Dike has revealed just how tough his road back to fitness has been.

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Dike joined Championship outfit West Bromwich Albion from Orlando City in January in a deal worth $9.5m. However, since then, the forward has been restricted to just five appearances due to a series of hamstring and thigh injuries.

In his latest outing on Monday, Dike delivered an 82nd-minute strike as West Brom came from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1, lifting the Baggies out of the Championship relegation zone.

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It was Dike’s first goal since finding the net in Orlando City’s MLS Cup Playoffs defeat to Nashville SC back in November 2021, and one that came with equal parts relief and perspective.

“You’re scared to get back on the pitch, thinking ‘am I going to get injured again? Am I ever going to be the same again?’,” Dike told the BBC of his road to recovery.

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“But the Albion staff have worked with me and given me the courage to go around and do things to full strength without worrying, and proving to myself I can still go on the pitch and do the same things I used to do.”

Getting Dike back on the pitch has been a team effort involving West Brom’s medical staff, those close to the player, and his own mental fortitude. The eight-time United States international is definitely stronger for his troubles and is now looking to put everything behind him to focus on contributing for West Brom.

“I’ve had the support of a lot of people,” he said.

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“I’m not going to say I’m happy that it [the injuries] happened but it’s something I’ve learned from. I’ve learnt about my body. I’ve learnt about me, physically and mentally. It’s taught me a lot. It’s something I can carry forward on and off the pitch.

“It was so cold and you know there are a lot of people at home, keeping warm, watching on TV – but it’s great to have the fans with us, always pushing us. To have them there behind you is a great feeling. The one thing Carlos talks about is ‘never giving up, never giving in’. And we showed that resilience and the togetherness of the squad.

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“Getting a win was important but, from a personal point of view, to get on the scoresheet was something I have now got off my shoulders.

“All I’ve tried to do throughout all this time is just get on the pitch and make an impact – and now I’ve finally managed to do that.”

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England’s plan to keep Folarin Balogun from switching allegiance to the United States

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England Under-21 manager Lee Carsley is hoping to ‘convince’ Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun to commit his international future to the Three Lions, having pulled out of this month’s junior squad.

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Balogun has a number of options at international level. He was born in the United States to Nigerian parents, but was raised in England from the age of two, making him eligible to represent all three.

The 21-year-old has almost exclusively played youth international football for England aside from a handful appearances for the United States at Under-18 level. He has also expressed an openness to playing for Nigeria, but was reported to have travelled to America for talks with USA coach Anthony Hudson upon recently withdrawing from England’s Under-21 squad.

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Speaking after his side lost to Croatia this week, Carsley admitted that the junior lions ‘missed’ Balogun, who has been in fine form at club level on loan at Reims this season.

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“Ultimately, he is going to have to make a decision,” Carsley said. “All we can do is tell him how much we rate him, how much we want to support him and the rest is down to him.

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“’Hopefully we can talk a little bit about patience and understanding that he is going to have to keep doing what he’s doing to break through to the senior team.”

Balogun is yet to make the senior breakthrough at Arsenal and struggled to have an impact during a loan at Middlesbrough last season. But his record at Reims, where he is coached by managerial prodigy Will Still, has seen him score 17 goals in 27 Ligue 1 appearances so far.

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90min understands that Arsenal don’t currently have any plans to let Balogun leave but will hold potentially decisive talks with the player about his future.

“Contractually I have to go back,” he said recently. “Because the loan was only for one year so that was always the agreement. I’m not sure what is going to happen in the future. A lot could happen in football, a lot could change, and it just depends on the conversations we have between me and the club in the summer, and we’ll see what happens.”

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Player ratings as Gunners complete UWCL comeback

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Arsenal are into the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League for the first time in 10 years thanks to a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.

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The Gunners had first half goals from Frida Maanum and Stina Blackstenius, as well as a monstrous collective effort over the 90 minutes, to thank for overturning a 1-0 aggregate deficit from the first leg.

Earning her place in the starting XI from the north London derby, Victoria Pelova was at the heart of an early goalmouth scramble that Bayern just about managed to hack clear. But the Gunners soon received a potentially enormous blow when Kim Little hobbled off the pitch moments later, seemingly suffering from an awkward fall after trying to ride a reckless tackle.

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But as she so often has done, Maanum stood up to be counted. Notwithstanding the loss of their skipper, the Gunners were the better side in the early stages and Maanum’s glorious opener – lashing the ball into the top corner after a sharp one-touch move – was exactly with the run of play.

Only the sharp reactions of goalkeeper Maria Grohs stopped the Gunners doubling that lead midway through the first half, with Pelova racing towards a loose back pass from Maximiliane Rall and getting there just after the Bayern stopper cleared it.

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They didn’t keep Arsenal out for long, though. Katie McCabe had the awareness to keep an overhit cross alive, whipping it back into the penalty area where Blackstenius was waiting to head in. There was even an element of Bayern clinging on by the time the interval came, with Grohs making close-range saves in quick succession from Maanum and Blackstenius, and moments later another outstanding save from Grohs from a Blackstenius header.

As Bayern struggled to get going, Arsenal continued that intensity when the teams returned and Maanum might have hit a killer blow but for her fierce strike catching Glodis Viggosdottir plumb on the chin and knocking the Icelandic defender clean off her feet.

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An hour had been played before Bayern got remotely close to landing a glove on Arsenal. The chance belonged to winger Klara Buhl, skipping inside from the right but finding Lotte Wubben-Moy firmly in the way of her shot. It was a warning sign for Arsenal, but they responded when McCabe waltzed through the away defence but her shot was deflected wide by Grohs.

Bayern were starting to come more into the game but Arsenal kept making chances and had the opportunity to put the tie to bed when Caitlin Foord inexplicably fired over the top when in acres of space and only Grohs to beat.

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Late substitutions from both sides disrupted the rhythm of the game, probably more to Arsenal’s benefit. Into seven minutes of stoppage time, the Gunners were determined to weather a growing storm – even Grohs went up for a late corner – but an ultimately disappointing Bayern found no way through.

GK: Manuela Zinsberger – 6/10 – Would have expected to be busier. Her biggest contribution was a convenient injury break for treatment midway through the second half.

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RB: Noelle Maritz – 7/10 – Took a yellow card for gamesmanship in the second half.

CB: Leah Williamson – 7/10 – Moved into midfield when Little went off an recorded an excellently cheeky backheel assist for Maanum. Gave her team more defensive solidity.

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CB: Rafaelle – 7/10 – Didn’t face too much of a direct threat.

LB: Katie McCabe – 8/10 – Played with good energy that allowed her to get forward and pin Bayern back. Assisted the vital second goal with a great cross.

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CM: Frida Maanum – 9/10 – Another exceptional Champions League night for the Norwegian. Scored a superb goal and was involved in everything good that Arsenal did.

CM: Kim Little (c) – N/A – Forced off inside 12 minutes due to injury after an awkward fall.

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CM: Lia Walti – 7/10 – Gave a super disciplined performance in the middle of the pitch.

RW: Victoria Pelova – 7/10 – Tried to make things happen right from the start and was involved in several early moves. Worked hard off the ball too.

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ST: Stina Blackstenius – 8/10 – Continued her excellent recent form by finding the net and making herself a real problem for Bayern to deal with.

LW: Caitlin Foord – 5/10 – Worked hard out of possession but hadn’t been involved as much as her teammates until squandering a second half chance to seal the tie.

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Substitutes

SUB: Lotte Wubben-Moy (12′ for Little) – 7/10

SUB: Laura Wienroither (77′ for Pelova) – 6/10

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SUB: Lina Hurtig (89′ for McCabe) – N/A

SUB: Jen Beattie (89′ for Blackstenius) – N/A

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Manager

Jonas Eidevall – 9/10 – His team were clealry fired up and the decision to reshuffle slightly when Little was forced off was proven to the right one.

GK: Maria Grohs – 8/10 – Kept Bayern competitive in the tie with a string of important saves.

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RB: Maximiliane Rall – 5/10 – Guilty of a slack pass that almost gifted Arsenal another first half goal

CB: Glodis Perla Viggosdottir – 6/10 – Shook off a blow to the face when she blocked a fierce shot.

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CB: Saki Kumagai – 6/10 – Lost Blackstenius in the six-yard box for Arsenal’s second. Some big late tackles on Blackstenius and Maanum were vital to keep Bayern alive.

LB: Tuva Hansen – 6/10 – A little wasteful in possession and found it difficult against Pelova. Made a crucial tackle on Foord in the closing stages.

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CM: Sarah Zadrazil – 5/10 – Her early tackle was what forced Little out of the game.

CM: Georgia Stanway – 5/10 – Saw plenty of the ball but didn’t do enough to make an impact.

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CM: Lina Magull (c) – 6/10 – Began to exert a little more influence in the final quarter.

RW: Klara Buhl – 6/10 – A quiet first hour but then looked to be Bayern player most likely to do something later on.

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ST: Lea Schuller – 5/10 – Starved of service and hardly touched the ball.

LW: Franziska Kett – 5/10 – A challengning night for the 18-year-old. Safe with possession yet unable to match Arsenal’s intensity while she was on the pitch.

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Substitutes

SUB: Jovana Damnjanovic (64′ for Kett) – 5/10

SUB: Sydney Lohmann (80′ for Zadrazil) – 5/10

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SUB: Emelyne Laurent (80′ for Rall) – 6/10

SUB: Ivana Rudelic (88′ for Magull) – N/A

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SUB: Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir (88′ for Schuller) – N/A

Manager

Alexander Straus – 5/10 – Saw his team be too passive for much of the game. Made attacking changes towards the end, but was it too little too late?

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Player of the match – Frida Maanum (Arsenal)



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Luis Enrique reveals desire to manage in the Premier League

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Former Spain and Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has revealed a desire to work in the Premier League while unveiling himself as something of an Anglophile.

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Four-and-a-half years after he was first appointed, Enrique permanently left his post as manager of the Spanish men’s national team following La Roja’s galling World Cup penalty shootout defeat to surprise package Morocco in the round of 16. Enrique was first hired after Spain exited the 2018 tournament in Russia to the hosts on penalties at the same stage of the competition.

Personal issues forced Enrique to take a leave of absence for nine months in 2019 but the former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder returned to steer his nation to the semi-finals of Euro 2020, losing out to eventual champions Italy on, you guessed it, penalties.

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Enrique revealed he was stepping down from the national team post two days after the defeat to Morocco in Qatar and went three months without returning to the footballing sphere. The 52-year-old detailed his budding interest in all things English to the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser after returning from the gruelling Cape Epic cycle ride in South Africa which, according to Enrique, consisted of eight days of mountain biking over 658km.

Luis de la Fuente, Enrique’s successor as Spain manager, won his debut match against Norway but suffered a shock defeat to Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday night. Enrique claimed that he didn’t watch either game – with his focus aimed at the other side of Hadrian’s Wall.

“I follow English football a lot, more than Spanish,” he revealed. “I am clearly influenced because I would like to work there.”

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Enrique has previously expressed an interest in dipping his toe into Premier League waters. “I’d like to manage in England at some point,” he said in 2013. “My wife wouldn’t like the weather, she’s from Barcelona and likes the sun. It would depend on the team and the football they played.”

Tottenham Hotspur have a clear vacancy after the departure of Antonio Conte during the March international break, with his former assistant Cristian Stellini and Ryan Mason put in interim charge until the end of the season. Enrique has also been linked to Chelsea in the past but Graham Potter managed to keep his position despite a ruinous run of form.

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However, Enrique was quick to stress that he would not aimlessly leap into any empty seat in the English top flight.

“I am not going to go to any team,” the 2015 Champions League winner explained. “I would like to go to someone who has clear options to do important things and that reduces the equation to a very small number [of teams]. In addition, there are many coaches worldwide at a high level who want to train there. I’m under no illusions, but you never know.”

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Enrique revealed that he has had ‘some offers from national teams, not clubs’. The patriotic Asturian manager admitted that he is reluctant to take over another nation because he would have to be very ‘strong’ to come up against Spain.

The former Barcelona treble winner also quashed any suggestions that he was next in line to take charge of Brazil: “Today the rumour becomes news and no one from Brazil has contacted me.”

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Never one to mince his words, Enrique described the critics which were plentiful during his tenure in charge of Spain as ‘the vermin and the vultures’, insisting: “I feel very proud of my time as a coach, very satisfied with what I did.” Fortunately, he no longer reads the Spanish press.

On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!

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If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!





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