Jonathan Cook’s World Game Wrap-Up

Collision course for City, Reds

Manchester City and Liverpool warmed up for a big week of action with comfortable victories in the English Premier League.

City beat Burnley 2-0 and Liverpool saw off Watford by the same score ahead of Champions League quarter-finals this week.

Pep Guardiola’s side, who are a point ahead of second-place Liverpool in the Premier League, are at home to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday (WA time), while Liverpool travel to Portugal to take on Benfica.

All eyes will shift back to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday when England’s top two teams clash in the Premier League.

Third-placed Chelsea fell further adrift of City and Liverpool after a humbling 4-1 loss at home to Brentford.

No spring in Socceroos step

Australia’s road to Qatar is as bumpy as they come.

After failing to finish in either of the top two positions in their group and winning just one of their past seven matches, the Socceroos got what they deserved.

A first-ever qualifying defeat to Saudi Arabia, who topped the group, was the last act in a miserable group phase.

They will now have to beat the United Arab Emirates in June to earn a chance to take on Peru for a place at the World Cup.

On current form, it’s an almost impossible task for the Socceroos, who have qualified for every World Cup since 2006.

If Australia can qualify, they will need to improve quickly with France, Denmark and Tunisia awaiting in World Cup Group D.

Incentive for Wales and Scotland

It’s not yet clear exactly who England will play on November 29 but it already looms as one of the most important dates on Gareth Southgate’s calendar.

England have been drawn in a World Cup group that includes the United States, Iran and one of either Scotland, Wales or Ukraine.

Scotland love an opportunity to upset the auld enemy and Wales will also relish a game against the highest ranked Home Nations team in Qatar.

FIFA are yet to determine when a knockout qualifier between Scotland and Ukraine will take place. The winner of that match will take on Wales for a place at the World Cup and a match against England.

Salah’s laser treatment

Sadio Mane fired home the crucial final penalty in Senegal’s shoot-out victory over Egypt to earn a place at the Qatar World Cup.

Fortune did not favour Mane’s Liverpool teammate, Mohamed Salah, who is so often a sensation for club and country. Salah, faced with a barrage of laser’s pointed from the stands in Dakar, fired Egypt’s first penalty over the bar.

Boulaye Dia’s goal had drawn Senegal level on aggregate just four minutes into the second leg match and that’s the way it stayed before the drama of the shoot-out.

World Cup groups drawn

The draw for the Qatar World Cup was held last week with 29 of the 32 places already filled.
Play-offs are still to be held to determine the final team in Groups B, D and E.

The top two teams from each of the eight World Cup groups will qualify for the first knockout phase.

A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands.
B: England, Iran, United States and either Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.
C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland.
D: France, Denmark, Tunisia and either Peru, United Arab Emirates or Australia.
E: Spain, Germany, Japan and either Costa Rica or New Zealand.
F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia.
G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon.
H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea.

Spurs in race for Europe

Tottenham Hotspur made an emphatic statement about their European credentials with a 5-1 thrashing of Newcastle United.

Trailing to Fabian Schar’s goal, five different players chipped in for the Spurs cause and, surprisingly, Harry Kane wasn’t one of them.

Ben Davies drew the home side level before half-time and second half goals from Matt Doherty, Son Heung-Min, Emerson Royal and Steven Bergwijn sealed a comfortable win.

Tottenham have a tenuous grip on fourth place with Arsenal, who trail them on goal difference, with two games in hand, including tonight’s match against Crystal Palace.

England’s top four teams qualify for next season’s Champions’ League group stage.

Glory blow big chance

Despite stunning goals from Giordano Colli and Trent Ostler, Perth Glory suffered yet another A-League defeat yesterday.

A Glory side missing a string of senior players looked to be tearing up the form guide with Colli’s stunning free-kick in the first minute and Ostler’s thumping finish in the 18th minute.

But the two-goal lead was wiped out by two Macarthur FC penalties either side of half-time.

Despite a red card to Macarthur’s Kokola M’Mombwa with 24 minutes to play, Glory failed to take the initiative and goals from Al Hassan Toure and Moudi Najjar sealed a 4-2 win for the home team.

Glory are rock bottom in the league and have won just one of their last 13 matches.

Sky Blues top in Sydney

Two second-half goals from Trent Buhagiar were the difference as Sydney FC claimed bragging rights with a 3-2 win over Western Sydney Wanderers.

Adam Le Fondre gave Sydney an early lead that was pegged back by Tomer Hemed. Buhagiar’s double in a five-minute spell edged Steve Corica’s side ahead.

The game was far from done and the home side had to survive a Western Sydney fightback that was sparked by Tate Russell’s 75th-minute goal.

While the Sydney sides were locked in a tight contest, Melbourne City made light work of Wellington Phoenix, scoring a 6-0 win that put them five points clear at the top of the A-League.

Barca on the climb

Barcelona are up to second in Spain’s La Liga thanks to a 1-0 win over Sevilla.

Pedri’s brilliant second-half goal was enough to secure three points and send Sevilla tumbling from second to fourth place.

Barcelona, who have been revitalised under coach Xavi, are now unbeaten in 14 matches.

Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are all on 57 points, 12 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Inter get lucky

Inter Milan’s Serie A title ambitions were kept alive by a controversial penalty against Juventus.
Hakan Calhanoglu scored from the spot – but only at the second attempt – to seal a 1-0 win that put Inter three points behind league leaders AC Milan and second-placed Napoli.

Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved Calhanoglu’s initial penalty but he was given a second opportunity because the video assistant referee (VAR) had noticed Matthijs de Ligt entering the box before the spot-kick was taken.

The penalty was initially awarded following a VAR revIew of Alex Sandro’s foul on Denzel Dumfries.
Defeat for furious Juve left them in fifth place, seven points behind AC Milan, who are at home to Bologna tonight.

Celtic edge Old Firm

Ange Postecoglou’s growing popularity at Celtic received another boost after he orchestrated a come-from-behind win over Old Firm rivals Rangers.

The 2-1 victory has put Celtic six points clear of Rangers, who also have a significantly inferior goal difference, with six games to play.

Celtic went behind when Aaron Ramsey fired home after a sweeping Rangers move at Ibrox.
But goals from Socceroos midfielder Tom Rogic and Cameron Carter-Vickers sealed the visitors’ win.

Celtic, who had been six points behind Rangers going into the winter break, are now in a great position to win the Sottish Premier League title in Postecoglou’s first attempt.