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The Big Boss
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Spain sealed their place in next year’s World Cup with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Albania while Iceland are on the verge of their first finals after recording a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Turkey in Istanbul.

First-half goals from Rodrigo, Isco and Thiago helped make it eight wins from nine matches in Group G for Julen Lopetegui’s unbeaten Spain side, in a match in which the La Roja centre-back Gerard Piqué was again the target of whistles and jeers.


Ireland’s Daryl Murphy keeps World Cup hopes alive in win against Moldova
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The 2010 world champions are now guaranteed to finish in top spot as Italy – who started the day three points behind in second - could only draw at home to FYR Macedonia in what was the penultimate round of fixtures.

Pique’s night at Alicante’s Jose Rico Perez stadium did not run quite so serenely, however. The Barcelona defender has found himself headline news and in the firing line following last weekend’s controversial independence referendum in Catalonia.

Pique, a vocal supporter of Catalan independence, voted in the violence-hit election that been declared illegal by the Spanish government, then later offered to quit La Roja if his presence became a problem.

Pique has since found support from within the national team, but has also been the subject of boos from irate Spain fans throughout the week.

The 30-year-old was under fire again during Friday’s fixture with Albania, with a mixed reception when his name was read out ahead of kick-off followed by boos when he touched the ball - although there was applause for the centre-back as well.

In Group I Berg Gudmundsson and Birkir Bjarnason gave Iceland a two-goal cushion heading into half-time in Istanbul and things got even better for Heimir Hallgrimsson’s team four minutes into the second half when Kari Arnason extended the lead.

The defeat ended Turkey’s hopes of qualifying but Iceland moved two points clear at the top of the table heading into the final round of matches – when they face bottom-placed Kosovo – after Croatia could only draw at home to Finland.

A stoppage-time equaliser from Pyry Soiri left qualification out of the hands of Croatia, who led through Mario Mandzukic’s 57th-minute tap-in.

Croatia face a tough last game away to Ukraine, who can still qualify themselves after a Leart Paqarada own goal and a Andriy Yarmolenko effort saw them win 2-0 in Kosovo to join the Croats on 17 points.
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Farang Joe
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Stoke striker Peter Crouch has entered the 2018 Guinness World Records book for the most headed goals scored in the Premier League.

His tally of 51 goals with his head is five more than former Blackburn and Newcastle striker Alan Shearer managed.

Crouch, 36, has scored 105 Premier League goals in 436 appearances across six different clubs.

"If you are a centre-forward, you should be in the box, ready for the ball," said Crouch.

"That is the way I have always played my game and that will never change. I see centre-forwards hanging around outside the box and it blows my mind, I just can't get my head around it."

Crouch scored the winner in Stoke's last game against Southampton.
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You Dont Fook With Big Joe
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Iceland became the smallest nation ever to progress to a World Cup after beating Kosovo to win their qualifying group for Russia 2018.

The Euro 2016 quarter-finalists, who knocked out England in the last 16, have a population of about 335,000.

They are the only country to qualify for a World Cup with a population of fewer than one million.

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson and Burnley's Johann Gudmundsson got the goals on Monday evening.

Sigurdsson settled the nerves with a neat finish just before half-time and then turned provider for Gudmundsson to ensure victory with a close-range strike.

Iceland have won seven of their 10 Group I games in World Cup qualifying.
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You Dont Fook With Big Joe
Karole From Cluj
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Gordon Strachan has left his position as Scotland manager by "mutual consent".

The decision, taken in conjunction with the Scottish FA board, follows two failed qualification campaigns.

Strachan and his assistant Mark McGhee have stepped down with immediate effect.

"On behalf of the board I would like to thank Gordon for his excellent service to the national team," said Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan.

Strachan was appointed Scotland manager in January 2013, succeeding Craig Levein in the role and overseeing the end of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Euro 2016 campaign began brightly but Scotland ultimately fell short of reaching the finals in France. Strachan and the SFA board agreed that he would stay on to lead Scotland in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, but a 2-2 draw in Slovenia last Sunday ended their hopes of finishing second in Group F and reaching the play-offs.
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Karole From Cluj
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The weekend fixtures
SATURDAY 14TH OCTOBER

Liverpool v Manchester United (12:30)
Burnley v West Ham United (15:00)
Crystal Palace v Chelsea (15:00)
Manchester City v Stoke City (15:00)
Swansea City v Huddersfield Town (15:00)
Tottenham Hotspur v Bournemouth (15:00)
Watford v Arsenal (17:30)
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Blue Moon
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Having moved to Wigan in 2006, Kirkland remembers “crying my eyes out” when he said his goodbyes in 2012, after falling out of favour at the DW Stadium – and eventually contemplated suicide. Thoughts of his wife Leeona and daughter Lucy kept him going and, after quitting football in the summer of 2016, he is thankfully on the mend. But that very nearly wasn’t the case, after years of battling the demons inside his head. “What happened to Gary Speed was the thing that really worried me,” Kirkland acknowledged, referring to the Wales legend’s death in 2011. “I didn’t know how far away I was from that. Hopefully, a long, long way. “I always ask myself: ‘Would I have done something to myself? Would I have harmed myself? “I like to think I wouldn’t have done. I certainly didn’t sit there one night, thinking, right, I’ve got to … you know. “But you think about it. You do, yeah. Because you don’t want to wake up. “I said to my wife, Leeona, that I couldn’t wait to go to sleep at night and just be clear. “But then, I didn’t want to wake up in the morning because it just starts again. “I’d never have done it because of Leeona and our daughter, Lucy. “But I was worried how close I was to the next step. That’s why I said: ‘I need to stop playing football.’” Kirkland says the first signs of depression began in 2012, around the time of his departure from Wigan. Having been undisputed first choice for four years, he slipped down the pecking order following the arrival of Ali Al Habsi in 2010 and spent two years on the sidelines. After three seasons at Sheffield Wednesday, Kirkland was on the verge of an emotional return to the DW before the deal fell through and he signed for Preston. The following summer, he agreed a 12-month deal with Bury, but asked manager David Flitcroft to tear up the contract within weeks – on the eve of the season – after things reached a head. “I restarted training (at Bury) but, on the third day, I was in a five-a-side game, there were shots coming in and I just wasn’t diving,” Kirkland admitted. ““I was thinking: ‘I don’t want to be here any more.’ “I walked off, I went straight up to Dave and I said: ‘I can’t do it anymore. I need you to rip my contract up.’” In a statement, Kirkland admitted he required “time and space away from the game” in order to put his “family’s future and well-being first”. There was no mention of the word ‘depression’, but it was clear something serious was wrong. “I was ashamed,” Kirkland revealed in the Guardian. “I wasn’t getting any help at that point. Nobody knew. But it was straight after that when I said to Leeona: ‘I have to do something here’.” Things are looking up now for Kirkland, who works as a pundit for Sky Sports as well as setting up the ‘Chris Kirkland Goalkeeper Academy’. He says counselling sessions have given him a positive outlook for the future. “She has worked wonders,” Kirkland added. “She’s given me coping mechanisms, such as breathing techniques, because I struggle a lot with anxiety; I still do. It’s an ongoing process but I now know that I can and will get through it.”

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Walking In A Eastlands Wonderland
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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been asked to clarify the comments he made before Sunday's derby defeat by Manchester City.

The Football Association has requested observations from the Portuguese regarding his pre-match news conference on the Friday before the game.

Mourinho suggested City players go to ground easily, saying: "A little bit of wind and they fall."

He has until 18:00 GMT on Monday to respond to the FA.

Mourinho, 54, also said he did not think he would be allowed to make to make a political statement on the touchline like Guardiola, who has recently worn a yellow ribbon - a symbol of protest against the imprisonment of pro-independence politicians in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

United went on to lose the game 2-1 at Old Trafford, which sent City 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Mourinho had milk thrown at him outside the Old Trafford dressing rooms after objecting to City's post-match celebrations and said the incident was "a question of diversity in behaviour, diversity in education".
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Bonnie Lad
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