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Yarmolenko inspires Ukraine to 2-1 win over North Macedonia
17 June 2021, 5:10 PM

Andriy Yarmolenko grabbed a goal and an assist as Ukraine edged out North Macedonia 2-1 on Thursday to boost their chances of reaching the European Championship knockout stages, leaving their opponents’ hopes hanging by a thread.

Yarmolenko put Ukraine ahead from a corner in the 29th minute, popping up at the back post to beat Stole Dimitrievski with a side-footed finish after latching on to Oleksandr Karavaev’s flick on.

Ukraine‘s captain helped double the lead five minutes later, receiving the ball wide on the right and finding Roman Yaremchuk, who raced into the penalty area and bent a low shot past Dimitrievski at the near post.

Ezgjan Alioski dragged North Macedonia back into the match from a 57th-minute penalty after Karavaev fouled Goran Pandev. Georgiy Bushchan saved the spot kick but the ball rebounded straight back to Alioski who fired home his second attempt.

Ukraine were awarded a late penalty after Daniel Avramovski was adjudged to have handled the ball following a video assistant referee intervention but Dimitrievski batted away Ruslan Malinovskyi’s effort from the spot.

The defeat means North Macedonia, who lost 3-1 to Austria in their first game in Group C, need Austria to beat Netherlands later on Thursday if they are extend their stay at their first major tournament.

PSL promotional playoffs ‘postponed’ again as league heads to court
17 June 2021, 1:32 PM

The back-and forth regarding the PSL Promotional Playoffs and the promotion legal wrangles look far from over as the PSL has now postponed the commencement of the matches, which were scheduled to kick off on Thursday afternoon with a match between Chippa United and Richards Bay. 

In a letter seen by the SABC News, the National Soccer League’s legal representatives state that “… due to the dispute on the correct interpretation of the Nyathi AJ order raised in your letter, we are instructed that the commencement of the 2021 GladAfrica promotion/relegation playoff matches between Chippa United Football Club and Richards Bay Football Club, scheduled for 15h00 this afternoon, will be postponed. 

The games were initially put on suspension Monday evening when Royal AM, who are fighting to stay at the summit of the GladAfrica Championships, succeeded, through Judge Nyathi, in seeking an urgent interdict against the commencement of the playoffs, which were initially scheduled to kick off on Tuesday. 

However, following the ruling the league made known their intentions to appeal the interdict – a move they believed would then set aside the interdict against the playoffs, paving the way for games to go ahead on Thursday. 

This prompted Royal AM, who are fighting to stay at the top of the GladAfrica Championship, to give an ultimatum to the PSL to abide by the interdict issued on Monday and suspend the playoffs. The KwaZulu-Natal club gave the PSL until 10am to respond or face legal action and as things stand, it the league has now given in to the pressure. 

The league was quick to point on that the postponement was not an admission that Royal AM was correct in their interpretation of the Nyathi ruling. “This is in no manner whatsoever an admission that your client’s position is correct – it is not. 

The league’s legal representatives have now responded to the Royal AM, stating that there seems to be a “dispute” regarding the order by Judge Nyathi on Monday. 

“Your letter illustrates that there is clearly now a dispute regarding whether the Nyathi AJ order is final (in which case section 18(1) of the Superior Courts Act applies) or whether the Nyathi J order is an interlocutory order not having the effect of a final judgment (in which case section 18(2) of the Superior Courts Act applies). Our client adopts the former interpretation and your client adopts the latter interpretation. 

The league has stated that it intends to apply to the High Court on an urgent basis for a declaratory order on the Judge Nyathi order and its suspension. 

In order to resolve the dispute regarding the proper interpretation of the Nyathi J order, our client intends to apply today to the High Court on an urgent basis for an order declaring that section 18(1) applies so that the operation and execution of the Nyathi AJ order was suspended by its application for leave to appeal. In the alternative, our client will ask that the operation and execution of the Nyathi J order be suspended in terms of section 18(2) if it were found to be an interlocutory order not having the effect of a final judgment. The founding papers will be served on your client, via email to your offices as attorneys of record in the matter, as soon as possible during the course of the day. 

On Saturday, judgment was handed in the much-anticipated GladAfrica Championship promotion case involving Sekhukhune United, Polokwane City and Royal AM, at the Johannesburg High Court. On that day, Judge Roland Sutherland upheld an earlier ruling by the SAFA Arbitration process which had awarded three points to the Limpopo side, putting United at the peak of the GladAfrica Championship and making them the winners of the competition with a straight promotion to the DSTV Premiership. 

“The counterclaim to review the arbitration award given by Epstein SC on 19 May 2021 is dismissed,” read in part the High Court order. 

A week before the final round of matches of the first division, the PSL promotion contest was thrown into a battle in the boardroom when the SAFA Arbitration process awarded Sekhukhune United three points and three goals for their contentious match against Polokwane City in January. Following that match, which they lost 1-0, Ba Bina Noko, as Sekhukhune United are affectionately known, lodged a complaint with the PSL DC, complaining that City had failed to include five Under-23 players on their team sheet, as per the PSL rules. 

While the PSL DC found Polokwane City guilty and deducted the three points they had irregularly secured against Sekhukhune, they decided not to award those point to the opposing team, as it had done so in similar previous cases. 

This prompted Ba Bina Noko to lodge an appeal against the PSL DC’s decision, the results of which was a decision by arbitration to award the three points and three goals to United, a few days before the final round of matches which would decide which team between Royal AM and United would gain straight promotion to the DSTV Premiership. 

However, the PSL Executive Committee, subsequently, challenged the decision by arbitration, refusing to award the points and the goals to Sekhukhune United. The decision was to the benefit of Royal AM who went into their final match against Cape Town All-Stars at the top of the first division log. They went on to win their final match after being awarded a much-talked-about soft penalty in the final stage of their decisive match even though the PSL didn’t hand the trophy and medal citing that they had been served with court papers. 

Royal AM has since appealed that judgment which is now delaying the start of the PSL Promotional Playoffs and will subsequently delay the 2021/2022 PSL season. 

No crunch-time pressure on North Macedonia, says Angelovski
17 June 2021, 12:17 PM

Major tournament debutants North Macedonia are under no pressure to reach the Euro 2020 last 16 ahead of their pivotal Group C clash with Ukraine on Thursday, coach Igor Angelovski said.

Both teams are looking for their first wins after the Ukrainians conceded a late goal in a 3-2 defeat by the Netherlands while North Macedonia lost 3-1 to Austria.

“It’s like a final for both sides but we feel no pressure whatsoever while Ukraine will be extremely disappointed if they fail to reach the knockout stages,” Angelovski told a news conference on Wednesday.

“They are a top quality side that showed character to score twice after falling 2-0 behind to the Dutch and they have outstanding individuals in the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ruslan Malinovskyi.

“But we too came here hoping to advance to the business end of the competition and we have to stay focused. We’re mixing it with Europe’s best teams.”

The North Macedonians held their own for long spells against Austria in Bucharest, but were undone by two late goals as they appeared to run out of steam.

Angelovski remained tight-lipped about possible changes to the starting line-up and formation. A thin bench does not give him too many options, although Ivan Trickovski could be preferred to Aleksandar Trajkovski up front.

Defender Stefan Ristovski said team spirit was still high.

“We can’t let one defeat sink our mood and being in the Euros for the first time. There isn’t much time for misery or celebrations whatever happens,” he said.

“We are heading into a tough game and we’ll need to produce a top performance to stand any chance of winning. Defensively, two echelons will be required to thwart Ukraine‘s attack.”

North Macedonia play the Netherlands in their final group match in Amsterdam on Monday while Ukraine take on Austria in Bucharest.

Ukraine will not need extra motivation heading into Thursday’s Euro 2020 Group C game with North Macedonia and are feeling positive despite narrowly losing their opening match against the Netherlands, head coach Andriy Shevchenko said on Wednesday.

Ukraine came back from 2-0 down against the Dutch on Sunday and looked set to earn a draw but a late goal by Denzel Dumfries left them empty-handed.

“We have complete understanding within the team. We know the tasks we have ahead of us and additional words aren’t necessary. The team is getting ready mentally,” Shevchenko told reporters.

“This is a really important tournament. It’s not every year that we get to the group stage of the European Championship, so every player understands the importance of each match and has responsibility for their own game and the game of the team.

“So we don’t need any additional words.”

North Macedonia were beaten 3-1 by Austria in their first match and sit bottom of the group standings below Ukraine.

Shevchenko said the atmosphere in his team was good and they would not underestimate their opponents, who are playing their first major tournament as an independent nation.

“We know we lacked just a little bit to achieve a positive result. The reaction from the team was great. And we had many good moments and we are very positive about the game ahead,” Shevchenko said.

“North Macedonia are a team that deserve respect. They have character, their own style of play and they counter-attack well.

“During the last couple of years they have had several good games where they have beaten top teams. So we have to be really careful of their counter-attacks.”

Locatelli brace eases Italy into Euro 2020 knockouts
16 June 2021, 11:01 PM

Manuel Locatelli bagged a brace of goals for the first time in his career as imperious Italy defeated Switzerland 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday to become the first side into the last-16 of the European Championship.

Midfielder Locatelli, 23, opened the scoring with a simple tap-in following Sassuolo team mate Domenico Berardi’s excellent run down the right wing, before he rifled a shot into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box early in the second half.

Ciro Immobile added a late third to secure back-to-back 3-0 wins for Italy in the tournament, which extends their unbeaten run to 29 games, the last 10 of which have been victories where they have scored 31 goals and conceded none.

Italy lead Group A with six points after two rounds of matches and are ahead of Wales (four), Switzerland (one) and Turkey (zero). They can seal top spot with a draw in their final pool game against Wales on Sunday.

Ramsey and Roberts give Wales 2-0 victory over Turkey
16 June 2021, 9:09 PM

 

Wales moved a big step closer to qualifying for the knockout stages of the European Championship after Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts scored in a 2-0 win over Turkey in their second Group A match at Baku’s Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.

Ramsey failed to convert two chances early in the first half but scored just before halftime when he made a run through the middle to chest down Gareth Bale’s perfect ball over the defence and slip it past the goalkeeper.

Wales could have doubled the lead at the hour mark when Bale was tripped by Zeki Celik at the edge of the box and awarded a penalty, but the Welsh skipper skied his effort after a stuttering run up.

Wales scored right at the death in injury time when a corner was played short and Connor Roberts was on hand to divert a Bale pass past goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir to seal the victory.

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