It changes plan – Nuno Espirito Santo bemoans lack of break as Forest get replay

By Sports Desk January 07, 2024

Nottingham Forest boss Nuno Espirito Santo said his side’s winter break plans were in disarray after they were forced to an FA Cup third-round replay by Blackpool at the City Ground.

Forest needed to come from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with the League One side, who beat them 4-1 at this stage last season, meaning the tie will be decided at Bloomfield Road in the week commencing January 15.

The Premier League side were not due to play again until January 20 and were set to spend time together at St George’s Park, but plans will now change, as Nuno became the latest top-flight boss to bemoan third-round replays.

“We have to reorganise that,” Nuno said of the bonding trip to Burton. “When we decided that, we looked at what was best for the team. Now what is best for the team is to start preparing for the replay in Blackpool. That is the priority.

“It changes the plan. Now we have to reorganise and we won’t get a break because now the priority is the replay. We have to reorganise our plans.

“It is a reality. Everybody is aware there is a big congestion of games, fixtures are every day. It is something we have to look at.

“If you ask me personally, I think it should be finished on the day, extra time, penalties, and allow the players to have a little bit more time to recover.

“Premier League teams are suffering with that. You know the issues with injuries and one of the things is the amount of fixtures.

“Now the best for team is to start preparing for the replay.”

Forest could consider themselves lucky to get a second chance after conceding two goals in three first-half minutes through Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel and Albie Morgan.

Nicolas Dominguez and Morgan Gibbs-White scored either side of half-time but Forest could not find a winner, condemning them to a trip to the Fylde coast, where they were well beaten last term.

Blackpool boss Neil Critchley suggested Premier League managers who have spoken out against replays, including Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Brentford’s Thomas Frank, should “get on with it” as his side completed their 35th game of the season.

“I can’t go against Jurgen Klopp, he’s the boss!” the former Liverpool academy manager quipped. “But I can’t wait – replay at Bloomfield Road.

“I don’t think they should be scrapped at all. It is so important for football in general. The level now between the Premier League and the rest is getting wider and wider – it is harder to cause an upset.

“It is such an achievement to cause an upset. So if you get a second chance to do it, we’d rip your hand off for that. We are delighted we have got a replay. Yeah it’s a busy schedule, but so what, get on with it.

“This was our 35th game of the season. The Premier League teams haven’t played that. They get international breaks, time off. We don’t. I remember going when there was third games and fourth games – brilliant.

“Get on with it. Look at the resources, the finance, the staffing… we don’t have that. It’s tough, get on with it, let’s play football.”

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    The action continued at Euro 2024 on Saturday, with Portugal becoming the second side to clinch their place as group winners, after Spain.

    It was a memorable day for Cristiano Ronaldo, and not only because a total of six pitch invaders attempted to get a picture with the legendary forward.

    He laid on a record-breaking seventh goal at the European Championships as the Selecao crushed Turkiye 3-0, while there was nothing to separate Georgia and Czechia in a 1-1 draw elsewhere in Group F.

    In Group E, meanwhile, it's all to play for with all four teams on three points after two games, following Belgium's 2-0 victory over Romania.

    Here, we run through all the best Opta stats to emerge from the day's matches.

    Georgia 1-1 Czechia: Mikautadze replicates Shevchenko feat

    The first game of the day served up yet another entertaining encounter as Georgia claimed their first point at a major tournament against Czechia in Hamburg. 

    Georges Mikautadze gave Georgia the lead after Robin Hranac was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area, scoring from the penalty spot to become the sixth player to net both of his nation's first two goals at the European Championships, and the first since Andriy Shevchenko in 2012 for Ukraine.

    Giorgi Mamardashvili made eight saves in the first half, equalling the most of any goalkeeper in an entire game at Euro 2024, as Georgia held their advantage until the break.

    Despite his heroics, Georgia's lead was gone 14 minutes into the second half as Patrik Schick moved ahead of Milan Baros as Czechia's top scorer at the Euros, putting the ball in off his chest from close range for his sixth goal at the competition (five in 2020).

    Czechia continued to dominate proceedings, but their lack of clinical edge in front of goal proved costly. They recorded 12 shots on target against Georgia; the most by a team who failed to win a match at the European Championships on record (since 1980). 

    But a lot of that was down to the inspired performance of Mamardashvili. The Georgia goalkeeper made three saves in the second half, taking his tally to 11 for the match, with only Latvia's Alexanders Kolinko (12) making more in a game at the Euros on record (since 1980), against the Netherlands in 2004. 

    However, Georgia had a golden opportunity to earn their maiden win at a major tournament when they found themselves three-on-one with the clock ticking down, but Saba Lobjanidze could only fire the ball over the bar. 

    Georgia now know they must beat Portugal in their final group game in Gelsenkirchen next Wednesday, but they can take confidence from their recent form. 

    Since losing three in a row between June and September 2023, Georgia have only lost two of their last nine games in all competitions (four wins, three draws).

    Turkiye 0-3 Portugal: Ronaldo breaks all-time assist record

    259 miles west of Dortmund, Portugal became the latest team to confirm their place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a comfortable triumph over Turkiye, recording their joint-biggest victory in a match at the Euros in the process. 

    Roberto Martinez's side were aided by a defensive disasterclass from their opponents, having taken the lead through Bernardo Silva's first international goal at a major tournament.

    Samet Akaydin's calamitous own goal doubled their advantage, the defender's misplaced back pass rolling in for only the second own goal from outside the box in European Championship history, after Pedri achieved the unwanted feat for Spain against Croatia at Euro 2020. 

    Portugal will, however, be without Rafael Leao for their final group game against Georgia, having picked up his second yellow card of Euro 2024, both for diving, becoming the only player on record (since 1980) to have multiple cards for simulation at the tournament.

    Bruno Fernandes made sure of the victory 10 minutes into the second half, with more defensive blunders allowing Ronaldo to lay the ball on a plate to secure his seventh assist at the European Championships – the most on record (since 1968) of any player in the competition’s history.

    Manchester United midfielder Fernandes continued his stellar spell for his national side, and he has now been involved in 28 goals in his last 23 appearances for Portugal in all competitions, scoring 15 and assisting 13.

    Martinez's side have now won both of their group-stage games so far in Euro 2024, more than they did in the 2016 and 2020 editions combined (one win, four draws, one defeat). It’s the third time they’ve won their opening two games at a single edition of the competition, after Euro 2000 and Euro 2008.

    After an impressive opening display against Georgia, Turkiye suffered their 11th defeat in the group stages of the Euros, with only Denmark (13) having more such defeats in the history of the competition.

    Belgium 2-0 Romania: De Bruyne the star as Red Devils bounce back

    Following their surprise 1-0 defeat to Slovakia on matchday one, Belgium bounced back with a 2-0 victory over Romania in Cologne, ensuring they continued their run of winning at least one game on all seven of their appearances at the European Championships.

    They wasted little time in getting their noses in front, with Aston Villa's Youri Tielemans lashing home from the edge of the box after just 73 seconds.

    That was Belgium's fastest ever goal at a major tournament (World Cup/Euros) and the third-fastest strike in Euros history, after Russia's Dmitry Kirichenko (76 seconds) against Greece in 2004 and Albania's Nedim Bajrami (23 seconds) versus Italy this year.

    It was Tielemans' first goal at a major international tournament on his 13th such appearance, with five of his eight strikes for his country coming from outside the area. 

    Domenico Tedesco's team continued to dominate as they sought a two-goal cushion, with Romelu Lukaku penalised for offside in the second half following a VAR review, having a third goal chalked off at this tournament – more than any player has scored thus far.

    Fortunately for Belgium, Kevin De Bruyne stepped up to make the points safe 11 minutes from time, prodding past Florin Nita when one-on-one. 

    Since the start of the 2014 World Cup (his first major tournament), no Belgian has been involved in more Euro or World Cup goals than the Manchester City star, whose 13 goal contributions (four goals, nine assists) put him level with Lukaku and Eden Hazard.

    De Bruyne's five shots against Romania were his most in a Euros match since 2016 (seven versus Hungary). No player on the pitch had more shots, shots on target (three), made more tackles (four) or won more fouls (four) than the Belgium skipper.

    The result means all four teams in Group E have three points with one game remaining, setting up a tense finale for next Wednesday.

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    Belgium bounced back from their opening defeat at Euro 2024 with a much-needed 2-0 win over Romania, Youri Tielemans and Kevin De Bruyne scoring as they got off the mark in Group E.

    Following their surprise 1-0 defeat to Slovakia on matchday one, Domenico Tedesco's men knew another defeat would leave them unable to secure a top-two finish.

    They came flying out of the traps and needed just 73 seconds to open the scoring, Tielemans firing home from the edge of the area following good hold-up play from Romelu Lukaku to score the Red Devils' fastest ever goal at a major tournament.

    They continued to press throughout the first half but were unable to find a second goal, Lukaku going close when he saw his shot on the turn blocked by Nicusor Bancu.

    De Bruyne flashed a curling effort narrowly wide of the far corner shortly after the break, then it appeared he had assisted Belgium's second when he released Lukaku to finish into the bottom-left corner, only for the striker to be ruled offside following a VAR check.

    Koen Casteels made a crucial stop from Dennis Man to keep Belgium's lead intact, and they made that reprieve count with 11 minutes to play, De Bruyne latching onto Lukaku's flick-on before prodding his finish past Florin Nita when one-on-one.

    Belgium failed to add a third despite chances for Lukaku and Leandro Trossard late on, but their win tees up an intriguing finale in Group E with all four teams on three points ahead of Wednesday's final set of games.

    Data Debrief: Lukaku's rotten luck continues

    Belgium may have gotten over the line on Saturday, but Lukaku continued to endure some rotten luck up top, his disallowed goal in the second half being the third strike he has seen chalked off at Euro 2024. That is more goals than any player has scored. 

    Not including those strikes, he has now failed to score from eight shots worth a total of 1.27 expected goals (xG) at this tournament.

    He will be desperately hoping it is a different story in next Wednesday's decider against Ukraine.

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    Cristiano Ronaldo's record-breaking seventh assist at the European Championships should be shown to all young players across the world, says Portugal boss Roberto Martinez.

    Portugal sealed their place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 as Group F winners with a game to spare on Saturday, thrashing Turkiye 3-0 in Dortmund.

    Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes scored either side of a comical own goal from Samet Akaydin, as the Selecao produced a far more complete performance than they managed in their last-gasp 2-1 win over Czechia on matchday one.

    Fernandes' clinching goal came when Ronaldo sprang the Turkiye offside trap before unselfishly squaring for his former Manchester United team-mate when they were two-on-one versus goalkeeper Altay Bayindir.

    Ronaldo's assist was his seventh at the European Championships overall, the most on record (since 1968) of any player in the competition's history.

    Martinez believes that incident proved Ronaldo will always put the team first and should serve as inspiration for young players everywhere.

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    Only Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose (25 each for Germany) have recorded more such wins among European players.

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