Inter striker Lautaro Martinez has signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract, the Serie A club have announced.

The Argentina international's new deal expires at the end of the 2025-26 season and does not contain a release clause, according to reports.

Martinez had previously been heavily linked with Barcelona, while rumours of interest from Premier League clubs including Arsenal and Tottenham circulated in the previous transfer window.

However, the 24-year-old has committed his future to the Serie A champions, who had remained determined to keep the former Racing star after seeing Romelu Lukaku depart for Chelsea.

Martinez said on Inter's website: "I am very happy to be here and to stay for so long. I send a big hug to all the Nerazzurri fans. Come on Inter!"

 

The news of Martinez's new deal came on the day Inter announced losses of €245.6million for the 2020-21 financial year.

Inter said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic amounted to approximately €110m due to the loss of matchday revenue from spectators and reduced income from sponsors.

The Nerazzurri also paid €30m towards "the termination of sports contracts". Head coach Antonio Conte left at the end of last season after reported disagreements with the board over transfer plans.

Financial concerns were largely behind Inter's decision to sell Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain for a reported initial fee of €60m, while they had also cast doubt on a possible extension for Martinez.

However, speaking at a meeting of shareholders, president Steven Zhang made it clear Inter did not want to compromise their sporting objectives despite the COVID-19 toll.

"Within an economic and social context distorted by the pandemic, the stability and financial sustainability of the company, combined with sporting competitiveness at the highest levels, are the focal points of our strategy," he said.

"The results we have achieved are testament to our work and our commitment. The club has returned to winning ways with a clear and defined vision."

Signed from Racing in July 2018, Martinez has scored 54 goals and provided 15 assists in 144 appearances for Inter in all competitions.

He featured in every Serie A game under Conte last season as they ended their 10-year wait for the Scudetto, combining to devastating effect with Lukaku as Inter finished 12 points clear at the top.

Martinez has five goals in 12 games in 2021-22 under new coach Simone Inzaghi, with Inter third in the table after 10 matches, seven points behind city rivals Milan at the summit.

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will face another empty stadium for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against the United States, after a request for permission to have fully vaccinated fans attend the game was denied by the government.

The Jamaicans are scheduled to face the United States in a crucial encounter on November 16, as the team looks to push itself back into contention for a spot at next year’s World Cup. 

So far, the team is the only country not to allow fans into the stadium, in some capacity.  However, with an estimate of just 12.4 percent of the population being fully vaccinated Jamaica also has the lowest rate of any nation in the final round and is the only one below 20 percent.

According to a recent press release the denial was based on concerns regarding the capacity and logistics required to ensure that only vaccinated persons were allowed inside the stadium.  The decision caught Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) boss Michael Ricketts off guard as, according to him, the football body had harboured optimism of having fans return in some capacity for the upcoming round, following positive talks with government entities.

“We had discussions with persons from the Ministry of Health and we would have put our ID unit in motion.  In fact, one suggestion was that we would merge both ID entities so that once you apply for a ticket the JFF could say to you we can or cannot verify your vaccination,” Ricketts told TVJ.

“We put everything in place, all the plans.  We made several site visits.  We were working closely with IPL on how to have the patrons seated.  We had a meeting and went through all the protocols and that gave us the confidence that we would have been permitted to have fans.”

The government has indicated, however, that the proposal is under review and the request could be granted in time for the January round of matches. The team is currently in 6th place on 5 points, three outside of an automatic qualifying spot.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) said it is to meet with Reggae Girlz Head Coach Hubert Busby Jr. next Tuesday to discuss allegations that he tried to solicit sex from a player while he was head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps Women’s team a decade ago.

Busby Jr has denied the allegations.

The 52-year-old Busby was appointed Reggae Girlz head coach in January 2020, taking over from Hugh Menzies, who resigned his position over financial disagreements with the JFF.

“The JFF is aware of allegations surrounding National Women’s Head Coach Hubert Busby. The executive of the JFF will convene next Tuesday to discuss the matter with Mr Busby,” the JFF said in a tersely worded statement on Thursday.

The allegations against the Canadian-born former player emerged in a story published by the Guardian newspaper in England in which it is claimed that he made unwanted sexual advances to Malloree Enoch, who at the time, was seeking a job in the administration of the Whitecaps in September 2010.

According to the Guardian, Busby suggested that she could play for the club instead of working in the front office and plied her with “sports equipment as gifts, take her to restaurants in one-on-one situations, and ask her to stay with him alone in his hotel room while working in his role as Whitecaps coach.”

Enoch told the Guardian that on one of those occasions she spent three nights in his hotel room but said she made no sexual advances toward her during that time.

In another incident, Enoch said: “He insisted I stay (in his hotel room) because now it was late and when I agreed it was far too late to drive back. When we got back to the hotel he again didn’t have a room reserved for me. I had to stay in his room. This particular night there were two beds and I laid in my own bed and he made his way to my bed and at some point was standing over the top of me.

“He was on all fours fully on the bed. He was definitely aroused. He tried to kiss and touch me. The light was not on but I don’t think he had his shirt on. I had to negotiate to get him off the bed. I told him I wasn’t interested.

 “I think there was a lot of emotion. I was definitely scared. I had this dream to be a soccer player and I was trying to pursue something I had wanted to do since I was five and now I was put in a really shitty position. He was using this power because he had something that I wanted. I was very uncomfortable. I was resistant to it and he tried to pursue it and pursue it and then he got pissed off and went over to his own bed and went to sleep.”

She said she did not report the matter to the club because she was embarrassed and did not want to compromise being able to play for the club.

She was eventually signed by the Whitecaps.

However, at the end of 2011, the Guardian reported, the Whitecap players sent an email to club officials detailing a list of complaints concerning inappropriate behaviour by Busby and the coaching staff.

The club hired an ombudsman to interview the players and in October that year, the club sent an email to the players stating that “it was in the best interest of the club to make a change in the coaching staff for our women’s team programme.”

The email also told the players that it would be inappropriate for the players to comment on the matter publicly.

 

 

 

Antonio Conte drew the best out of Romelu Lukaku at Inter after showing him support that felt lacking at Manchester United, the striker's agent has claimed.

As Conte emerges as a possible candidate to become the next United manager, should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continue to struggle, his credentials as a coach who helps players to achieve their potential have been underlined by remarks from Lukaku's representative Federico Pastorello.

When Lukaku joined Inter from United in August 2019, it was on the back of a disappointing second year at Old Trafford in which he scored 15 goals in 45 games – 32 were starts – at a rate of one every 201 minutes.

That was the fewest goals he had managed in a full season since establishing himself in the Premier League during a loan spell at West Brom in 2012-13. Lukaku was owned by Chelsea during his time with the Baggies. He saw little action for the Blues first time around, but his Premier League career has come full circle this year after he returned to Stamford Bridge following two prolific years with Inter in Italy.

Four strong seasons at Everton were followed by a 27-goal first campaign with United, before the team's fortunes nosedived in the final months of Jose Mourinho's tenure, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking over midway through the 2018-19 campaign.

His goals under Mourinho in that season came at one every 273 minutes, improving to one every 151 minutes once Solskjaer took the reins for the Red Devils.

But Pastorello said Lukaku still needed the assurance he was central to a manager's plans, and he found that at San Siro under Conte, a former Chelsea boss who wanted to sign the striker during his stint in west London.

"Two years of work with Mr Conte helped him. He can score left, right, head. He has completed himself as a striker working with Mr Conte. He also had the opportunity to improve himself personally," Pastorello told Sky Sports News.

"He felt wanted. This is what he was not able to feel at Man United. That happens."

 

Across two years in Italy, Lukaku hit 64 goals in 95 games, at one every 121 minutes. He bettered his expected goals tally of 57.73 and created 133 chances, having carved out just 82 in 96 games for United.

According to Pastorello, Thomas Tuchel showed a compelling desire to make Lukaku a prize asset at Chelsea, making "a fantastic speech" that convinced the Belgian striker a second spell at Stamford Bridge was the right switch.

"He gave him the feeling that he really wanted him, that he was the perfect last piece in the puzzle," Pastorello said, recalling Tuchel's words to Lukaku before the reported £97.5million transfer. "It's very crucial for a player to decide to go in a team with a coach that really wants him."

After making a fast start at Chelsea, with four goals in his first four games across all competitions, Lukaku finds himself on a seven-goal barren run, with Tuchel saying the striker is mentally fatigued. He is also currently injured, with no clear indication yet of when he might return.

Despite the brouhaha surrounding his early impressive performances, Lukaku's goals in this spell for Chelsea have now come at an average of one every 208 minutes, albeit these are just the early stages of the campaign. The fact Chelsea sit top of the Premier League has eased the pressure on Lukaku to hit another scoring streak.

"Rom's brain and his mind is very focused with Chelsea," Pastorello said. "He will rest a little bit, but he'll be back with more will to win trophies."

Lukaku has missed Chelsea's last two games due to a minor injury sustained in last week's Champions League win over Malmo.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez has signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract, the Serie A club have announced.

The Argentina international's new deal expires at the end of the 2025-26 season and does not contain a release clause, according to reports.

Martinez had previously been heavily linked with Barcelona, while rumours of interest from Premier League clubs including Arsenal and Tottenham circulated in the previous transfer window.

However, the 24-year-old has committed his future to the Serie A champions, who had remained determined to keep the former Racing star after seeing Romelu Lukaku depart for Chelsea.

Pedri has thanked Ronald Koeman for giving him his breakthrough at Camp Nou and says he "will always be grateful" to the former Barcelona head coach.

Barca confirmed the departure of Koeman on Wednesday shortly after a 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano that leaves them ninth in LaLiga with 10 games played.

The Dutchman lasted just 14 months in the job after replacing Quique Setien in August 2020, during which time he won just 58.21 per cent of his 67 games in charge. 

Koeman had more success when it came to nurturing young players into the first-team fold, though, with Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza and Pedri breaking through last season.

And with Barca's financial issues well-documented, Koeman made further use of the academy this term by giving Alejandro Balde, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez and Yusuf Demir chances.

None of those players have had as big an impact as Pedri, who made the fourth-most appearances under Koeman (56 games), despite this season's injury issues.

Pedri's form last season saw him rewarded with a call-up to the Spain squad ahead of Euro 2020, where he started all six of his country's matches in their run to the semi-finals.

After a memorable 12 months for club and country, the 18-year-old has personally thanked Koeman for giving him a chance to shine.

"I'm sorry things didn't turn out the way we wanted, mister," he posted on his personal Instagram account on Thursday. 

"I will always be grateful to him for everything he has done for me: for giving me his trust from the first moment and for the opportunity to fulfil my dream at Barcelona.

"I wish you the best both personally and professionally."

 

Sergio Busquets was the most used played during Koeman's tenure, featuring 63 times in total – one more than Frenkie de Jong – with 56 of those being starts.

The experienced midfielder also paid tribute to his departing boss on social media on Thursday, posting: "Thanks for everything, mister. Good luck in the future."

Koeman's win percentage is the lowest of all coaches to have taken charge of Barca since Pep Guardiola left in 2012, the next lowest being Setien (64 per cent).

The 58-year-old is also the only Barca boss to average fewer than two points per game in LaLiga (1.96 PPG), again comfortably behind the next worst in Setien (2.21 PPG).

Barca announced on Thursday that Sergi Barjuan will take interim charge while a permanent successor for Koeman – expected to be club great Xavi – is found.

Kylian Mbappe has been ruled out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 clash with Lille through illness, while Lionel Messi is doubtful due to a minor injury.

Ligue 1 leaders PSG welcome reigning champions Lille to the Parc des Princes on Friday aiming to return to winning ways after last week's goalless draw with rivals Marseille.

Mauricio Pochettino's side will do so without Mbappe, who played a full part in Le Classique but has since been struck down by an ear, nose and throat infection.

Mbappe was not the only superstar forward missing from training on Thursday, with Messi also absent due to what Pochettino described as "muscle discomfort".

PSG will make a late decision on Messi's fitness and Pochettino has suggested he may field the Argentina captain through the middle, should he be fit.

"Messi missed training as a precaution," Pochettino said at his pre-match news conference. "He did an individual session instead. We will see tomorrow if he can play.

"Kylian is of course important to us. As he is absent, there are several other possibilities over who plays through the middle.

"Messi can play there, but there are other alternatives. We'll have to see what the final decision is. As Pep Guardiola says, Messi can play anywhere."

 

Since arriving at PSG from Barcelona on a shock free transfer in August, Messi has played either on the right of a 4-3-3 or behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1.

Messi is still finding his feet in the French capital, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner having scored three goals in his first seven appearances in all competitions - each of those coming in the Champions League.

He is yet to score in Ligue 1, making this the first time he has failed to score in his first four league appearances of a league season since 2005-06 with Barcelona.

And with PSG failing to find the net in two of their last three league games, Pochettino was pressed on whether it is time to use Messi as the focal point of the attack.

"The tactical disposition of the team provides us with a base that can vary," he said. "We have a reference for offensive and defensive systems.

"Each player has, in principle, certain responsibilities depending on his position and that of others. Leo is a player who can play on the right, the centre or in the number 10.

"He is a player who can play anywhere. He is the best player in the world, who positions himself where the game demands it, according to the needs of the team."

PSG are also without the suspended Achraf Hakimi for the visit of Lille, while Marco Verratti will be absent for the next month and Sergio Ramos is still not ready for his debut.

However, Neymar is available after recovering from an abductor injury to play a part against Marseille.

Neymar has just one goal and two assists in eight games this season and Pochettino admits he is after more from the Brazil international.

"The circumstances are always different. The comparisons are not fair," he said when asked if Neymar is regressing from previous seasons. 

"For me, Neymar is a player with enormous talent, one of the best players in the world. 

"When we arrived at PSG, we tried to give him everything he needed. He needs to be at his best. I'm happy with him. For me, he's a player with enormous talent. 

"We always hope that he will continue to improve. But this is not enough, because we know that we must continue to do better."

Asked if it was possible Neymar could be benched, Pochettino said: "All the players can be on the bench, or on the field. There are 33 players who think they are playing. 

"If they are not playing, they are not happy. It is not only at PSG, but in the the whole football world. I couldn't give a clearer answer."

PSG have lost their last two games against 10th-place Lille in all competitions and could lose three in a row in this fixture for the first time since a run of four between March 1987 and September 1988.

Barcelona have named Sergi Barjuan as their interim head coach while they search for a permanent successor to Ronald Koeman.

The Catalan giants sacked Koeman on Wednesday following a 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano that leaves them ninth in LaLiga with 10 matches played.

Koeman lasted just 14 months in the job after replacing Quique Setien in August 2020 and departs Camp Nou with a 58.21 win percentage across his 67 games in charge.

Widespread reports from Spain suggest legendary Barcelona midfielder Xavi, who is in charge of Qatari side Al Sadd, is being lined up to replace the former Netherlands boss as early as next week.

Talks between the two parties are said to be ongoing, but Barca have moved to place Sergi in charge for the time being.

The former left-back, who has spent the past four months at the helm of Barcelona's B side, will be introduced to the first-team squad ahead of Thursday's training session.

He has also previously managed Zhejiang Greentown, Real Mallorca, Almeria and Recreativo following a 15-year playing career that saw him spend nine seasons at Camp Nou.

The LaLiga side confirmed the news on their official website, with Sergi set to speak to the media for the first time on Friday ahead of this weekend's visit of Deportivo Alaves.

Barca then have a crucial Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev before travelling to Celta Vigo in their final league game before the international break.

Ronald Koeman has been sacked as head coach of Barcelona following a poor start to the season. 

A 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday proved too much for the Camp Nou hierarchy, who pulled the trigger on Koeman's time with the club.

The Dutchman was brought in to replace Quique Setien in August 2020 and led Barca to Copa del Rey success in his first season, although they finished third in LaLiga and suffered a Champions League last-16 exit, as well as losing the Supercopa de Espana final to Athletic Bilbao. 

The hope was that Koeman could steady the ship in the face of the various financial challenges that were affecting incomings and outgoings at Barca, but after winning just 39 of his 67 games in charge, the former Southampton, Everton and Netherlands boss was relieved of his duties.

A total of 12 draws and 16 defeats during Koeman’s 14-months at the club, with 138 goals for and 75 against, was ultimately not good enough, but was it all bad? Stats Perform takes a closer look at the numbers behind his reign.

 

Worst record post-Pep

Of all the coaches to take charge at the club since the departure of Pep Guardiola in 2012, Koeman had the lowest win percentage (58.2 per cent), with the next lowest being his predecessor Setien (64 per cent), who himself only lasted 25 games in the hot seat.

Koeman is also the only Barca boss to average fewer than two points per game in LaLiga (1.96 PPG), again comfortably behind the next worst in Setien (2.21 PPG).

There was also an undoubted, yet somewhat understandable over-reliance on Lionel Messi. The club's greatest ever player shocked the world when he left for Paris Saint Germain in the summer, but it was no shock to discover that prior to his departure, he had been holding the team up almost single-handedly.

Despite leaving in the summer, Messi has still scored almost twice as many goals as any other Barca player during Koeman’s time as boss (38), has created more chances than anyone else (117), has taken more than twice as many shots as anyone else (271) and is still joint-second in assists (12), behind only Jordi Alba (15).

This season, Barcelona have begun a LaLiga campaign without a win in their first four away games for the first time since 1991-92 – when Johan Cruyff was in charge. They have also failed to score in three consecutive league away games for the first time since February 2003.

They were unable to hit the target in the first half against Real Madrid or Rayo Vallecano, which is just the second time in the last 19 LaLiga seasons they have done so in consecutive games.

During Koeman's reign, Barca dropped 12 points from winning position in LaLiga – only Frank Rijkaard (29) and Ernesto Valverde (26) had poorer records in that regard.

3 - Barcelona are winless in their last four away trips in LaLiga (D2 L2), failing to score in the last three - they have failed to score in three league away games for the first time since since February 2003 (3). Run. pic.twitter.com/cd1Q8QWz7f

— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 27, 2021

 

Did anything go right?

Well, his team did gain 24 points from losing positions in LaLiga – only Valverde (48) and Rijkaard (43) won more.

While reliance on Messi last season was clear, Barca actually coped well on the rare occasions they were without their talismanic figure. 

In the 45 games with the Argentine in all competitions, they had a win percentage of 60 per cent (27), averaged 2.2 goals for, and 1.2 goals against per game. In the nine games without the superstar, their win percentage was 77.80 per cent (seven), with an average of 2.4 goals for and 0.7 goals against.

While his hand may have been forced, Koeman has also given plenty of chances to promising stars of Barcelona's future, in particular overseeing the emergence of Pedri.

The 18-year-old wonderkid was the fourth most used player in Koeman's tenure, playing 56 games, behind only Sergio Busquets (63), Frenkie De Jong (62) and Jordi Alba (57). The former Las Palmas midfielder has clearly benefited from such faith, now starring for both club and country.

Ansu Fati has played significantly fewer games under Koeman (16) but this is mostly due to injury, and would no doubt have featured more otherwise, while Gavi looks to be following in Pedri's footsteps after being given 11 opportunities by Koeman, already earning his first caps for Spain as a result. He is the youngest player to play for the country, and became the youngest Clasico starter since the turn of the century when he was named in the Barca XI on Sunday, for a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid.

There have certainly been promising signs, but whoever comes in next at the Camp Nou will be hoping that the numbers will all start going in the right direction, and soon.

Thomas Muller has apologised to Bayern Munich supporters following his side's "catastrophic" 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday.

Bundesliga champions Bayern were three goals down inside 21 minutes and conceded twice more before the hour mark in the DFB-Pokal second-round tie.

The heavy defeat at Borussia-Park marks the first time Bayern have lost a game by at least five goals since December 1978 in a Bundesliga clash with Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Muller played a full part in the Bavarian giants' heaviest loss in 43 years and was taken aback by the manner of his side's performance, which came despite a strong line-up being fielded.

"We never got to the point where our Bayern engine kicked in," he said. "We can only apologise to the fans and apologise to Gladbach. 

"With the exception of [Manuel] Neuer, it was a catastrophic performance from us.

"I haven't experienced anything like that before. It's difficult to wrap your head round. We have to put it behind us now, because we've got a game on Saturday."

 

Bayern had scored in their previous 83 competitive matches in a run spanning back to February 2020, which includes 60 goals in 15 games in all competitions this season – at least 17 more than any other side in Europe's top five leagues,

The visitors were pulled apart at the back, with Ramy Bensebaini and Breel Embolo helping themselves to a couple of goals each after Kouadio Kone's early opener.

Bayern's loss came in the absence of head coach Julian Nagelsmann, who is continuing to isolate at home after testing positive for coronavirus.

Stand-in boss Dino Toppmoller oversaw Bayern's biggest ever cup defeat and is aware of the importance of hitting back with victory at Union Berlin in Saturday's Bundesliga clash.

"It was an absolutely bad day. I'm sorry that we disappointed our fans today," he said at his post-match news conference.

"We were in constant contact with Julian. We prepared the game plan together and discussed the lineup via FaceTime. 

"I don't think it was a system problem – it was just a dark day and we were late to every ball. It's difficult to accept now but we've to show a reaction."

Bayern have now failed to reach the last 16 of the DFB-Pokal in back-to-back seasons for the first time since between 1994 and 1996, having suffered a shock loss to Holstein Kiel at the same stage last year.

The list of candidates to replace Ronald Koeman at Barcelona is already forming.

Koeman was dismissed after Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano which left them ninth in LaLiga.

Barcelona are battling financial challenges and have struggled since Lionel Messi's exit in August.

TOP STORY – XAVI OFFERED BARCELONA JOB

Barcelona have offered their vacant head coaching role to club legend Xavi, reports Goal.

The Catalans have acted fast with Koeman sacked late on Wednesday.

Xavi is currently coaching Qatari outfit Al Sadd but has an exit clause in his contract, although Barca are prepared to pay any fee required.

The 41-year-old long-time Barcelona midfielder retired from playing in 2019, with his final on-field stint at Al Sadd before moving into coaching.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are in the box seat to sign Leeds United's England international midfielder Kalvin Phillips, according to the Daily Star. Phillips, who is contracted with Leeds until 2024, has been linked with Manchester United too, but the report claims Liverpool are his first choice and the deal would be worth around £60million.

- Manchester United have conceded that agreeing a new deal with Paul Pogba is impossible and are prepared to lose the France international on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, reports ESPN. Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain , Juventus and Real Madrid .

- Manchester United's Amad Diallo is interested in going out on loan to Dutch club Feyenoord, according to Feyenoord TM. The 19-year-old Ivorian winger has not played this season.

- TEAMtalk claims that PSG have joined the pursuit of Leeds United's Brazil international Raphinha. PSG is the current home of Raphinha's Brazilian team-mates Neymar and Marquinhos.

- Chelsea are preparing for Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen's exit by lining up moves for Sevilla's Jules Kounde and Juventus' Matthijs de Ligt, reports Eurosport.

Supporters' Shield winners New England have made more history with Wednesday's 1-0 win over Colorado Rapids breaking the MLS record for most points in a single season.

Bruce Arena's side, who clinched their first-ever Supporters' Shield on Saturday, won thanks to Tajon Buchanan's 74th-minute strike.

The result took Revolution's season tally to 73 points from 33 games, eclipsing the previous record mark held by LAFC with 72 points in 2019.

New England have one more regular season match to extend their record, playing Inter Miami at home on November 7.

Canada international Buchanan came up with the winner, showing fast feet to make space for a low shot that beat Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough, who had sensationally kept out Henry Kessler from close range minutes earlier.

New York Red Bulls slipped out of the Eastern Conference play-offs spots after a 1-0 defeat to DC United who moved above them into seventh place.

United snapped a four-game winless skid, while also ending the Red Bulls' four-game running run and eight-game unbeaten streak in the process. Kevin Paredes side-footed home the ninth-minute winner for United.

Sporting KC moved into top spot in the Western Conference and dented LA Galaxy's play-offs aspirations with a 2-0 win.

Johnny Russell extended his scoring run to eight straight games with both goals for KC who clinched a top-four seeding as well.

Randall Leal scored two goals and grabbed an assist as Nashville came from two goals down twice to win 6-3 at Cincinnati.

Portland Timbers moved in the west's top four with a 2-0 home victory over San Jose Earthquakes, while Vancouver Whitecaps climbed up to fifth with a 2-1 triumph over Minnesota United.

New York City boosted their Eastern Conference top-four seed hopes with a 1-0 home win over Chicago Fire, while Josef Martinez's winner helped Atlanta United past Inter Miami 2-1 after Gonzalo Higuain had opened the scoring from the spot.

Columbus Crew upset Orlando City 3-2, Toronto held Philadelphia Union 2-2 as Jozy Altidore netted while Real Salt Lake scored twice in the final 10 minutes to win 2-1 at Dallas.

Mexico's preparations for next month's crunch World Cup qualifier against the United States have been dealt a blow after a 3-2 defeat to Ecuador in an international friendly in Charlotte.

Walter Chala, making his second international appearance, scored the 75th-minute winner two minutes after coming off the bench for an under-strength Ecuador.

Both sides were missing several key Europe-based players, although that did not detract from an entertaining encounter, where three goals were scored in the opening quarter of an hour.

Jhonny Quinonez opened the scoring in the second minute when his scuffed bouncing effort beat Mexico goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.

Mexico levelled four minutes when a fallen Santiago Gimenez, who had his initial effort blocked, flicked a ball across goal for Roberto Alvarado to tap home.

Ecuador restored their advantage when Washington Corozo worked a neat one-two with Toluca forward Michael Estrada, before bundling a shot past Orozco.

Mexico equalised again on the hour when Osvaldo Rodriguez rifled in a stunning left-foot strike from outside the box after Fernando Beltran's shot had been parried away.

Ecuador found the winner from a throw-in as debutant Djorkaeff Reasco flicked the ball back from the byline, allowing Chala to ghost in at the back post and finish with ease.

Ronald Koeman has been sacked by Barcelona after the club’s dismal start to the 2021-22 campaign rolled on.

Koeman replaced Quique Setien in August 2020 but has failed to make an impact at Camp Nou as he battled with Barca's dire financial situation, which led to Lionel Messi departing for Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca sit ninth in LaLiga after 10 games and Wednesday’s defeat to Rayo Vallecano proved the final straw.

That loss followed on from a 2-1 home reverse at the hands of Real Madrid in El Clasico, with Koeman's vehicle mobbed by an angry group of Barca supporters after that match. 

Barca's form in the Champions League has also been poor. The Blaugrana lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich and Benfica respectively in their opening matches, before clinching a 1-0 home win over Dynamo Kiev.

It is the first time Barca have opened with two losses in the competition, while the defeat to Benfica also inflicted back-to-back group game losses in a single season for the first time since 2000-01, with only Louis van Gaal (five) losing more such matches at Barca's helm than Koeman (three).

After each passing poor result, Koeman has conceded his future is out of his hands, though he argued the performance against Rayo did not befit the result.

Yet Barca's board decided to cut ties, with their decision confirmed early on Thursday morning local time.

 

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