Authorities must work together to stamp out Jack Grealish and Chris Smalling incidents

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Jack Grealish sits stunned on the ground after being assaulted by Birmingham fan Paul Mitchell.

Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor has called the attack on Jack Grealish “disgraceful” and “cowardly” and believes the authorities must work with the government to help stamp out such incidents.

Aston Villa captain Grealish was punched by a fan during his side’s derby match at Birmingham in the Championship on Sunday, while later in the afternoon Manchester United defender Chris Smalling was also confronted on the pitch at Arsenal.

Those incidents came after a supporter confronted Rangers player James Tavernier during their game against Hibernian at Easter Road on Friday.

After a spate of incidents, Taylor insist the authorities must “put a lid on the problem” quickly and he has called on the Football Association to work with the government, police and stewards at the grounds to help stamp out such behaviour.

“It was disgraceful, cowardly and criminal. We have seen an increase in such behaviour at clubs this season. It’s been racist abuse, it’s been anti-Semitism and now it’s real fear for the safety of players,” Taylor told Sky Sports News.

“From that point of view, we had a meeting just the other week with the Minister for Sport about engaging on this issue between the police and the stewards, which is crucial, and the responsibility of clubs about trying to get the right balance between educating supporters but also having sanctions to make sure we put a lid on it because we’ve been down this road before and we don’t want to go there again and see the game threatened.”

Minister for Sport Mims Davies called the incidents “a disgrace” and added: “It is right that they are investigated immediately and strong action is taken by the football authorities and clubs.

“Protecting players’ safety is of paramount importance and every possible step must be taken to ensure that they are not put at risk.”

Birmingham fan Paul Mitchell, 27, pleaded guilty to assaulting Grealish at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Birmingham had earlier said Mitchell would be banned for life from St Andrew’s and Arsenal later pledged the same punishment would be imposed on the pitch invader at their match at the Emirates Stadium.

When asked about what sanctions should be implemented, Taylor said: “That’s a job for the Football Association, but it’s also a job for the police when the culprits are caught because these are criminal acts.

“If it happened on the high street then severe action would be taken. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t be done just because it’s a football ground.

“There’s a combination of sanctions you can consider – fines, ground closures, playing games behind closed doors and points deductions. Every case needs to be looked at on its merits but it has to be a job for the national association.

“I do believe it needs football getting together with government, as it has in the past, with the police and with stewards. I just feel it does need a coming together for us to deal with it.”

Former Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie backed Shearer’s calls for urgent action, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “It could have been someone running on with a knife – how are you meant to stop this?

“It’s going to take something, that’s going to cause a big, big scene in football, that’s going to make people really stand up.

“Why do we need to wait for that to actually happen before someone gets really hurt? Imagine Jack’s family sitting at the side and thinking about what could possibly have happened.”

Meanwhile, United defender Smalling took to Twitter on Monday morning to reflect on what happened during his side’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.

He said: “Commenting would only add to the attention he craved… Disappointed with yesterday’s result but we’ll learn from it. Looking ahead. Have a good start to the week everyone!”


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European Teams of the Week: Bayern Munich are top with Arsenal in second after Man United win

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Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry

The only thing in football more contentious than a dubious refereeing decision is a rankings system.

There are plenty of them out there – though many are deliberately divisive – but given the tribal nature of football they do drum up some interesting debates among supporters.

We’re going to add our twist to the list. Each week we pick out the 10 best teams from Europe’s top-five leagues (minus cup competitions).

It’s not cumulative, the rankings is based on a team’s performance in that particular game week.

So, who makes the top-10 this week? Check out below.

1 Bayern Munich (beat Wolfsburg 6-0)

With the Champions League opening up and Bayern back on top in the Bundesliga, it’s not farcical to consider them clinching a remarkable double. Die Rotten’s rediscovered killer instinct has seen them go from the hunter to the hunted, and they are the league’s most prolific side after smashing six past Wolfsburg.

Robert Lewandowski emerged as the highest scoring non-German in Bundesliga history with a double and he is benefiting immensely from Bayern’s final-third incision.

2 Arsenal (beat Manchester United 2-0)

Games are won in moments and Arsenal succeeded by profiting from crucial chances despite United enjoying better and more sustained phases. Unai Emery is now at the wheel with the Gunners in the driving seat for the top four.

Granit Xhaka’s odd, swerving strike and a penalty decision tinged with softness inflicted a first Premier League defeat for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since taking charge. After the chastening Europa League defeat to Rennes, a spirited riposte is exactly the tonic Emery had hoped for, though.

Arsenal players celebrate

Arsenal players celebrate.

3 Southampton (beat Tottenham 2-1)

The final period of the Premier League season can often throw the entire narrative on its head, but even by its mental standards, Spurs dropping from title challengers to embattled top-four hopefuls is utterly remarkable.

Saints served notice of their ability by frightening Man United and the two scorers last weekend, Yan Valery and James Ward-Prowse, replicated their feat to stun Spurs. They deserved the points for their enterprise after going behind and the winner was another set-piece beauty from Ward-Prowse.

4 Juventus (beat Udinese 4-1)

Moise Kean doesn’t get too many opportunities, which is a bit strange considering Mario Mandzukic’s all-action style should really require more breaks, but when the teenager does, he always impresses.

Still only 19, the striker’s time will come and he was instrumental in helping Juventus decimate Udinese. The Italian displayed all the traits of an elite centre-forward with clinical finishes, intelligent movement between centre-backs and constant activity on the ball. He scored twice, won a penalty and could well feature against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

5 Newcastle (beat Everton 3-2)

Everton’s season has completely flat-lined, as evidenced by Newcastle’s quite incredible comeback victory which kept their survival hopes well and truly alive. The visitors were 2-0 up through Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison before the break only for Rafael Benitez’s men to dig in and battle back.

The supposedly lightweight Ayoze Perez delivered the heavy blows, delightfully setting up Salomon Rondon for the first before benefiting from poor goalkeeping to equalise in the 81st minute. The winner arrived minutes later as he smacked Everton into the realms of unconsciousness.

Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon

Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon.

6 Marseille (beat Nice 1-0)

Not exactly a high-quality game but a trademark Mario Balotelli header against his former employers settled a fixture with European ramifications. A gap is beginning to emerge now OM are four points clear in fourth with the top 10 having been so close all season.

Balotelli’s January move is proving the difference as the Italian has now scored five goals in seven games since. His movement to manoeuvre space in the box before directing Lucas Ocampos’ cross from the left into the opposite corner was vintage Balotelli. It just had to him.

7 Sevilla (beat Real Sociedad 5-2)

Without a win in their last five, including four defeats during that period, Sevilla’s top-four ambitions were beginning to burn. The nadir arrived last weekend when rock-bottom dwellers Huesca picked up three points with an injury-time winner.

However, Wissam Ben Yedder has flamed at just the right time and his hat-trick against Real Sociedad saw his side roar back into contention. Pablo Sarabia’s 25th-minute opener was quickly cancelled out by Mikel Oyarzabal but Ben Yedder took centre stage after the interval.

8 Barcelona (beat Rayo Vallecano 3-1)

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Atletico Madrid remain in the title hunt and, after winning early on in the weekend, Barcelona were under pressure to dispose of Rayo Vallecano.

Fears were heightened when Real Madrid loanee Raul de Tomas’ driving run and artful low finish gave the capital side – who came in on a five-match losing streak – hope.

Barca remained undaunted, though, and equalised through Gerard Pique’s header from a Lionel Messi free-kick. The Argentine scored from the spot after the break with Luis Suarez securing the win late on.

Lionel Messi scores from the penalty spot

Lionel Messi scores from the penalty spot.

9 Cardiff (beat West Ham 2-0)

Cardiff just keep coming back. At every step when they appear to be dead and buried, they respond with a massive win. After three straight defeats, even Neil Warnock seemed to be losing hope, but then they ran into a West Ham side which has curiously struggled at home and escaped with three points.

Junior Hoilett returned to the team and justified his selection by scoring the first and playing a pivotal role in the second as Victor Camarasa stabbed home. The Bluebirds remain in 18th after results elsewhere went against them, but they’re giving themselves a fighting chance.

10 Wolves (drew 1-1 Chelsea)

One week Maurizio Sarri is in, the next he’s out. Recent performances suggested they had turned a corner until Wolves provided a pretty robust roadblock.

Nuno Espirito Santo should be marvelled at for the work he has done with his newly-promoted outfit this season. Granted, they were focused in the extreme on a defensive approach, but the Portuguese deserves admiration for pivoting between scintillating football and resolute protection depending on their opponent.

It took a cracking Eden Hazard injury-time winner to cancel out Raul Jimenez’s smash-and-grab opener.

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European Teams of the Week: Juventus beat Napoli for top, too easy for Barcelona in eighth

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The only thing in football more contentious than a dubious refereeing decision is a rankings system.

There are plenty of them out there, though many are deliberately divisive, but given the tribal nature of football they do drum up some interesting debates among supporters.

We’re going to add our twist to the list. Each week we pick out the 10 best teams from Europe’s top-five leagues (minus cup competitions).

It’s not cumulative, the rankings is based on a team’s performance in that particular game week.

So, who makes the top-10 this week? Check it out below:

1) Juventus (beat Napoli 2-1)

Juventus, virtually, wrapped up an eighth-successive Serie A crown with a turbulent 2-1 win at second-placed Napoli that contained a red card apiece and late missed penalty for the hosts. A 16-point lead is now theirs.

The victory also ended an unbeaten home run that stretched back exactly a year until March 3, 2018.

2) Bayern Munich (beat Borussia Monchengladbach 5-1)

Buoyed by long-term leaders Borussia Dortmund’s shock 2-1 loss at Augsburg on Friday, more on that later, Bayern Munich dismantled, then, third-placed Borussia Monchengladbach 5-1 to go level on 54 points.

The champions were nine points in arrears just nine rounds ago. Bayern also became the first team to score 4,000 Bundesliga goals.

3) Lazio (beat Roma 3-0)

A surprisingly one-sided contest in the Eternal City saw Lazio smash Roma 3-0.

This was only the second time that the Biancocelesti had recorded a three-goal winning margin in the Derby della Capitale’s 90-year history, plus it ended the vanquished’s eight-match unbeaten run in Serie A. It’s getting tight in the race for the top four.

4) Augsburg (beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1)

BVB continue to stumble towards the Bundesliga’s finishing line after they incurred a damaging 2-1 loss at Augsburg.

South Korea’s Ji Dong-won scored both goals to inflict a first league defeat since December on his former employers. This ended Augsburg’s three-match losing run and kept them out of the relegation play-off spot.


5) Getafe (beat Real Betis 2-1)

Head coach Jose Bordalas would have taken multitudes of joy out of Getafe’s 2-1 win against Real Betis.

The result kept his Madrid minnows on course for remarkable Champions League qualification. It also saw Bordalas strike a hammer blow to Quique Setien’s job prospects – animus caused by contrasting styles stretches back to 2013.

6) Stuttgart (beat Hannover 5-1)

In the relegation dog fight with Hannover, Stuttgart roared to a 5-1 victory.

This result followed a debilitating run of two points from eight matches and also saw a star emerge in Turkey youth centre-back Ozan Kabak. In Bundesliga history, only Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson were younger when they got braces.

7) Cagliari (beat Inter Milan 2-1)

Cagliari eased worries of the drop and increased the pressure at Inter Milan with Friday’s impressive 2-1 victory.

Leonardo Pavoletti’s 43rd-minute strike proved the difference, ending the Nerazzurri’s three-match winning streak in Sardinia. A healthy nine-point gap to 18th-placed Bologna is ample reward for Cagliari’s efforts at Sardegna Arena.

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8) Barcelona (beat Real Madrid 1-0)

Victory at Santiago Bernabeu would usually earn top ranking in our team of the week.

Barcelona, however, have made results like Saturday’s 1-0 triumph seem de rigueur. They became the first away club ever to win four La Liga matches in a row at Real Madrid, plus now lead the head-to-head for the first time in 87 years.

9) Fortuna Dusseldorf (beat Schalke 4-0)

Dusseldorf heaped more misery on Domenico Tedesco’s sorry Schalke with a 4-0 thrashing.

Striker Dawid Kownacki got a double to seal a second-successive win for the promoted side. They’ve now emerged victorious from seven of their last 10 Bundesliga matches, racing clear of the relegation places.

10) Brighton & Hove Albion (beat Huddersfield Town 1-0)

Brighton’s long wait for a first top-flight win in 2019 is over – at the eighth time of asking.

Substitute Florin Andone’s superb header ended this dire run, that had included taking just two points from 21 available. A five-point gap to the drop zone provides welcome breathing space.

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