There will be a new Sheriff in the Champions League this season, giving Moldova its first entry in the group stage.
Sheriff advanced easily Wednesday with a 0-0 draw at Dinamo Zagreb after winning 3-0 in the home leg of their playoff last week.
The low-ranked club from Tiraspol in the breakaway region of Transnistria had to get through all four qualifying rounds to reach the group-stage draw.
Sheriff has won the Moldovan title in 19 of the past 21 seasons and will finally take its place alongside Europe’s most storied teams. The draw Thursday includes 10 of the 12 clubs whose owners tried to wreck the Champions League by launching a European Super League in April.
Moldova is typically described as the poorest country in Europe and Sheriff will now earn about €16-million euros ($23.71-million) in guaranteed prize money from UEFA.
Wealthy Salzburg returned to the group stage with a 4-2 aggregate score against Brondby, adding a 2-1 win in Denmark to victory by the same score in Austria last week.
United States midfielder Brenden Aaronson’s 10th-minute goal for Salzburg on Wednesday followed his 90th-minute winner in the first leg.
Shakhtar Donetsk clinched a berth in the lucrative Champions League group stage with a dramatic 3-2 aggregate win over Monaco after fighting back from two goals down in their playoff round return leg.
UEFA has now abolished the away goals rule, which would have taken Monaco through had it still applied.
Aubameyang grabs a hat-trick for Arsenal
LONDON Once Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started scoring there was no stopping Arsenal. The striker netted a hat-trick Wednesday in a 6-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the second round of the League Cup. The heat is on coach Mikel Arteta with Arsenal losing its opening two Premier League matches and traveling to champion Manchester City on Saturday. It wasn’t the biggest win of the night as Southampton beat fourth-tier side Newport 8-0 to register the biggest away win in the club’s history. Mohamed Elyounoussi had a hat-trick and Armando Broja netted twice, while Nathan Tella, Kyle Walker-Peters and Nathan Redmond also netted. An all-Premier League encounter at St. James’ Park ended 0-0 before Burnley beat Newcastle 4-3 in a penalty shootout. Miguel Almiron saw his penalty saved by Burnley keeper Wayne Hennessey and Charlie Taylor stepped up to send Sean Dyche’s side through.
PSG rejects Madrid offer for Mbappé
MADRID Paris Saint-Germain has rejected an offer of about US$188-million from Real Madrid for Kylian Mbappé but is open to negotiate the player’s transfer, the French club’s sporting director said Wednesday. Leonardo told French broadcaster RMC Sport that the initial Madrid offer is below what PSG expected. He said the club won’t hold Mbappé back if his desire is to leave, but any deal will only be made on the club’s terms. “Kylian Mbappé wants to leave, that seems clear to me,” Leonardo said. “If Real Madrid makes an offer, that seems clear. I am giving a position which, I think, is clear for everyone. We can’t, in the last week of the transfer window, change our plans. If he wants to leave, we aren’t going to keep him, but it’s under our conditions.” It was the first time PSG said Mbappé wants to leave. The club had been saying he was not for sale, but his contract ends this season and it may end up getting nothing for him if it doesn’t sell him now.
Kane says he will stay at Tottenham
Tottenham striker Harry Kane said on Wednesday that he will stay at the club and be “100-per-cent focused on helping the team achieve success”, ending weeks of speculation about a potential move to champions Manchester City. “It was incredible to see the reception from the Spurs fans on Sunday and to read some of the messages of support I’ve had in the last few weeks,” the England captain wrote on Twitter. “I will be staying at Tottenham this summer and will be 100% focused on helping the team achieve success.” The 28-year-old was a major target for Manchester City, with City manager Pep Guardiola earlier this month saying that it was up to Tottenham to make the transfer happen. Kane, who signed a six-year contract at Tottenham in 2018, was keen on a new challenge but an initial bid from City – reportedly worth £100-million ($173.1-million)
Infantino asks England to exempt players
Demanding that all players be released for World Cup qualifiers, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lift quarantine requirements for footballers to allow them to travel next week to play for their countries. Infantino himself took advantage of an exemption in place for the European Championship so he could fly into London from Rio de Janeiro in July and avoid the mandatory 10 days of hotel quarantine in England. The Premier League defied FIFA to decide on Tuesday that almost 60 players from 19 clubs would not be released next week to fly off to qualifiers in 26 countries on England’s red list – including all South American nations. Unlike for other international fixtures during the pandemic, FIFA is no longer allowing exemptions for players to opt out of the trips if they are forced to quarantine on their return to countries to resume club duties. Clubs face FIFA sanctions if they refuse to release players.
The Associated Press, Reuters