England will face the Republic of Ireland at Wembley after Australia pulled the plug on talks to replace neighbours New Zealand in the November international.
According to the Daily Mail, the Socceroos were in advanced talks to face Gareth Southgate’s side in a friendly after the Kiwis pulled out of the originally-arranged fixture due to “restrictions on their return home”.
And now Australia have followed suit, abandoning plans due to ‘complexities’ in travelling to and from the UK and playing sport in Europe amid the current pandemic.
The proposed game with the USA, also in London, will similarly not be able to go ahead.
With infection rates rising again across Europe and particularly in the UK, the FFA decided it would not be safe or responsible to play at this time.
Costa Rica were then reportedly set to fill in until the same travel problems were again posed, leaving the Republic of Ireland to fulfil the fixture, given all but one of Stephen Kenny’s last international squad are based in the UK already.
It will still provoke an irksome response from Premier League managers who had hoped the cancellation of the New Zealand fixture would have allowed top players to rest for a week instead in what promises to be the busiest of seasons.
Real Madrid made an embarrassing start in the Champions League on Wednesday by losing 3-2 at home to a depleted Shakhtar Donetsk, their second consecutive defeat ahead of the Clasico against Barcelona on Saturday.
Shakhtar were without 10 first-team players and nine members of staff due to coronavirus infections but recorded a remarkable win at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium, after scoring three times in 13 first-half minutes.
Strikes from Tete and Manor Solomon, either side of a Raphael Varane own-goal, gave the Ukrainian champions a shock lead at the interval and while Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior pulled goals back, Madrid fell short.
Fede Valverde thought he had grabbed an equaliser in injury time but his deflected shot was ruled out after VAR showed Vinicius was off-side.
A huge upset puts Madrid on the back foot in Group B, especially as Shakhtar were in theory their weakest opponent, the others being Inter Milan and Borussia Moenchengladbach.
But it also cranks up the pressure, on the Real team ahead of the Clasico in La Liga on Saturday, and on their coach Zinedine Zidane, who had just overseen a dreadful display in last weekend’s loss to Cadiz.
Zidane paid the price for rotating his starting line-up for that game and shuffled his team again, presumably with the upcoming clash at the Camp Nou in mind.
Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema both started on the bench and had to come on in the second half while Eder Militao, in for the injured Sergio Ramos, Rodrygo and Marco Asensio were given chances to impress.
Modric blasts a ROCKET!
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Shakhtar’s three-goal flurry before halftime began with Viktor Korniyenko beating Militao too easily and as Marcelo was pulled across to cover, he left Tete free behind him to finish Korniyenko’s poked pass.
Luka Jovic should have equalised with a free header but instead Shakhtar scored again, Tete’s rasping effort from range palmed out by Thibaut Courtois and prodded in for an own-goal by Varane has he tried to stop Dentinho reaching the rebound.
Madrid looked shell-shocked but it got worse.
Tete raced in behind and this time a brilliant backheel allowed Solomon to take a touch and fire in number three.
Liverpool ride their luck
Benzema replaced Rodrygo at halftime but it was Modric who kickstarted the comeback attempt, shifting right past two Shakhtar defenders before unleashing a superb shot into the top-right corner.
Tete then missed a sitter for 4-1 and Vinicius capitalised. The Brazilian came on as a substitute, stole the ball back and found the net, seemingly all in one movement.
Madrid had 31 minutes to rescue a point but their momentum stalled. Benzema’s finish was blocked by Valerii Bondar and Shakhtar thought they had a fourth but it was ruled out for off-side.
Valverde celebrated an equaliser in injury time when his deflected shot from the edge of the area crept in but there was a final twist in the tale as VAR showed the off-side Vinicius was obstructing the goalkeeper’s view.