Rangers moved 19 points clear of Celtic and Chelsea’s Timo Werner continued his slump in form as Ali Rampling reflects on the winners and losers in the world of football.
Rangers extended their lead at the summit of the Scottish Premiership to a huge 19 points on Saturday with a 1-0 win over rivals Celtic in the Old Firm derby.
Celtic had enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, but came up against Allan McGregor in inspired form in the Rangers goal and saw the game slip through their fingers in the space of eight second-half minutes.
Nir Bitton was sent off for Neil Lennon’s side 17 minutes into the second half for a foul on Alfredo Morelos, before Joe Aribo’s flick deflected in off captain Callum McGregor to give Rangers the lead with 20 minutes remaining. Steven Gerrard’s side are still yet to taste defeat in the league this season as they edge closer to ending Celtic’s nine-year grip on the Scottish Premiership title.
Marine were handed the FA Cup tie of a lifetime when they drew Tottenham at home in the competition’s third round.
However, the game will now be played behind closed doors after the Merseyside region was placed into tier three, denying supporters the opportunity to attend the biggest game in the eighth tier side’s history, and resulting in a dramatic loss in revenue for the club – estimated at £100,000.
Marine have launched a raffle to replace the funds they would have received from the cup tie, with prizes including the opportunity to manage the club for a friendly game. They received another financial boost on Monday after former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher agreed to sponsor the warm-up tops and dugouts via his JC23 Foundation charity.
Serie A returned with a bang on Sunday after a 10-day break, with four of the 10 games serving up five or more goals.
One of these matches was unfortunately not Spezia versus Verona, which looked to be heading for a stalemate before Mattia Zaccagni produced a piece of individual genius.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Verona midfielder received a floated cross from right-back Davide Faraoni, cushioned the ball on his chest with his back to goal and sent a stunning overhead kick past Ivan Provedel in the Spezia goal. A spectacular moment of magic worthy of winning any game.
The German forward’s Chelsea career thus far has very much epitomised the last few months in the UK; every time things appeared to be looking up, they suddenly nosedived.
After a quiet start to life in the Premier League, Werner demonstrated the form that had seen Chelsea spend in excess of £47m to bring him to Stamford Bridge, as he hit 10 goals in nine games for club and country in October and November.
However, the former RB Leipzig man has since gone 12 games without a goal for the Blues, and has emerged as a scapegoat during Chelsea’s slump in form. Werner summed up the current mood surrounding him during Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City as, when attempting to take a short corner – famously the easiest of all the corner variations – he instead kicked the corner flag, hobbled away and left Mason Mount to take charge.
Joey Barton’s debut stint in management came to an end on Monday as the former Newcastle midfielder and Fleetwood Town parted company.
Barton had been in charge of the League One outfit for two-and-a-half years and guided the club to the League One play-offs during the 2019/20 season.
The Cod Army had been back in the playoff picture this term following big wins over Bristol Rovers and Plymouth in November. However, since beating Argyle 5-1, Fleetwood have only won one of their last seven in the league, scoring just four times. Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Crewe Alexander would be Barton’s final game in charge, and he leaves Fleetwood with the club three points off the top six.
Athletic Club got back to winning ways on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over Elche – but this was not enough to save the job of Athletic boss Gaizka Garitano.
The 45-year-old had taken the club from the relegation zone to within a whisker of Europe last term, and had recovered from a slow start this season to lift Athletic comfortably into mid-table.
However, Garitano was dismissed less than two hours after the final whistle had confirmed their win against Elche. Five hours later, Marcelino García Toral had been officially revealed as Athletic’s new manager. Cut-throat.
Follow Ali on Twitter at @alirampling