Brighton to face European giants Ajax and Marseille in Europa League

By Sports Desk September 01, 2023

Europa League debutants Brighton were drawn to take on former Champions League winners Ajax and Marseille in Friday’s group stage draw.

Roberto De Zerbi’s men secured a first season in continental football with a sixth-place finish in last season’s Premier League table, and their reward is matches against four-time European champions Ajax and the 1993 European Cup winners Marseille.

The Seagulls’ other group opponents are reigning Greek champions AEK Athens, with the first round of group stage games to be played on Thursday, September 21.

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    Leading 1-0 from the opening leg, first-half goals from brothers Nico and Inaki Williams put the hosts in control of the tie.

    Gorka Guruzeta swept in a third on the hour as Athletic secured a final date with Real Mallorca.

    The visitors created an early opening when Samuel Lino’s effort was straight at Bilbao keeper Julen Agirrezabala.

    Bilbao broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when Nico Williams got to the left goalline and chipped a lofted cross back through the penalty area and his brother Inaki crashed home a volley.

    The Williams brothers soon combined again, this time Inaki fed Nico on the wing and his shot flew narrowly wide of the right post.

    Atletico pushed for a response as Angel Correa fired over the crossbar after being picked out by Alvaro Morata’s pass.

    There was a brief stoppage in play around the 35th minute as a spectator needed medical treatment in the stands, but the game soon resumed.

    Bilbao doubled their lead in the 42nd minute when Inaki Williams was played clear down the right and held off Atletico defender Mario Hermoso before cutting the ball back for Nico to stab in from close range.

    The start of the second half saw another delay for a different fan in the record crowd of 52,061 packed into the Cathedral to receive medical assistance, eventually being carried away on a stretcher.

    Athletic Bilbao later confirmed the person had been struggling to breathe, but was stabilised and taken to hospital.

    When the action restarted, Nico Williams was soon involved again to send Oihan Sancet clear on goal, but his shot was fired well over the crossbar.

    Atletico boss Diego Simeone tried to spark some life into his side with a triple change after 54 minutes, with Memphis Depay, Reinildo Mandava and Pablo Barrios sent on to replace Nahuel Molina, Hermoso and Correa.

    Any hopes of a comeback, though, were ended in the 61st minute when Guruzeta knocked in a rebound after Sancet’s angled effort had been pushed out by Madrid keeper Jan Oblak.

    Depay’s angled free-kick was acrobatically saved by Agirrezabala before Saul Niguez headed wide as Bilbao saw out the closing stages to reach the Copa del Rey final at La Cartuja for the first time since 2021.

  • Marcus Rashford hits back at criticism over his commitment to Manchester United Marcus Rashford hits back at criticism over his commitment to Manchester United

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    The 26-year-old England international has faced questions this season for issues both on and off the field.

    Last month Rashford was under the spotlight after reportedly being seen in a Belfast nightclub before missing the following day’s training due to illness and he subsequently missed United’s FA Cup tie against Newport.

    However, in a piece for the Players’ Tribune website, Rashford has responded to his critics, asking them to show “a bit more humanity”.

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    “But if you ever question my commitment to Man United, that’s when I have to speak up. It’s like somebody questioning my entire identity, and everything I stand for as a man.

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    Rashford added: “I’m not trying to have a go at the media. I understand the game, you know what I mean? They’re not really writing about me. It’s like they’re writing about this character, ‘Marcus Rashford.’

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    The two games to be held Friday and Sunday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, and the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, are being used to help Eve finalise his Soca Warriors squad for the Copa America playoff against Canada, on March 23, while the Jamaicans are also in preparation mode of their Concacaf Nations League semi-final clash with United States, scheduled for March 21.

    Kick off for the friendly encounters are scheduled for 3:00pm and 4:00pm Trinidad and Tobago time.

    Canadian League One midfielder Kai Garvey (Simcoe County Rovers FC) and English League Two forward Justin Obikwu (Coventry City), are the overseas-based players called up by Eve, with Jamaica-based forward Nathaniel James, midfielder Kaile Auvray (both of Mount Pleasant) and defender Josiah Trimmingham (Montego Bay Utd), also included.

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    “We had a mini camp over the Carnival period where we saw some new players and we wanted to see them in a real match environment, and now this is an opportunity for them to get proper match practice so we could see them play. We have some new players. Unfortunately, some of them got injured in the last couple games in the TTPFL matches so they’re not here right now," Eve shared.

    The Soca Warriors play Canada on March 23, at the Toyota Stadium in Texas, with the winner to progress to Copa America Group A, alongside FIFA World Cup champions Argentina, two-time champions Peru and Chile.

    Eve expressed pleasure with the continued expansion of his talent pool continues to grow. He also expressed gratitude to former national coaches Dennis Lawrence and Stephen Hart for their role in getting Obikwu and Garvey on board.

    “When these types of coaches recommend people, you must take a look at them. We’ve seen tapes of them, and this is our opportunity to see them live,” said Eve.

    Meanwhile, Friday’s game will be closed to fans due to a setup being done at the venue for Carifta trials this weekend. However, spectators can view Sunday’s match at Larry Gomes Stadium at a cost of $50.

    Both Games can be seen on SportsMax and SportsMax 2.

    Trinidad and Tobago Squad -Denzil Smith (Club Sando), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Christopher Biggette (Defence Force), Alvin Jones (Police FC), Jamal Jack (Club Sando), Justin Garcia (Defence Force), Robert Primus (Police FC), Josiah Trimmingham (Montego Bay FC), Shervohnez Hamilton (Club Sando), Ross Russell Jr (La Horquetta Rangers), Duane Muckette (AC PoS), John-Paul Rochford (ACPoS), Justin Sadoo (Defence Force), Kaile Auvrau (Mount Pleasant), Kai Moos (Club Sando), Kevon Goddard (Defence Force), Liam Burns (AC PoS), Nathaniel Garcia (Defence Force), Michel Poon Angeron (AC PoS), Kai Garvey (Simcoe County Rovers), Rhondel Gibson (Club Sando), Kaihim Thomas (Defence Force), Nathaniel James (Mount Pleasant), Jem Gordon (1976 Phoenix FC), Justin Obikwu (Coventry City), Michael Chaves (QPCC)

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