NWSL relocates the championship game ‘at the request of players’

The National Women’s Soccer League announced the relocation of this year’s championship final to Louisville with a 12:00 pm ET start time ‘at the request of the players’.

The match was initially set to be in Portland at 9:00 am PT, before it received widespread criticism by the players and their supporters.

Several high profile athletes, including Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Rachel Corsie and Jess Fishlock, were the first to hit out at the league for scheduling a final with an early-morning start, highlighting the complications a player faces with a 5am pre-match.

The league has since listened by altering the schedule to accommodate the players.

“At the request of the players, and in coordination with the Portland Thorns organization and the Racing Louisville organization, the NWSL has moved the 2021 NWSL Championship from Portland to Louisville. The NWSL Championship is a marquee event for the players, the league and women’s soccer in the United States and the league wants to ensure that the players are in a position to perform at their highest level.

The change in time zone will allow a later start that is more suitable for players and attending fans,” said the league through a statement.

The match will now be played at the Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky, a soccer-specific stadium where NWSL’s Racing Louisville FC regularly play.

“We are thrilled to be hosting the 2021 NWSL Championship game at Lynn Family Stadium,” said Brad Estes, President of Racing Louisville FC. “Racing Louisville FC joined the league earlier this year and already we’ve felt the immense love and support from our incredible fans and community. Louisville is an outstanding market for women’s soccer, and we look forward to showcasing our beautiful stadium and city through this event.”

This is the first step for the NWSL and the NWSL Players Association as they work together to prioritize the players and their safety.

“The NWSL and the NWSL Players Association have made progress over the past week on issues concerning player safety, transparency, and moving the League forward in a new direction,” the joint statement read.

Inter feel effects of star players’ international commitments in Lazio defeat

“This splendid night will give the colours to our coat of arms: black and blue against the gold background of the stars. It will be called Internazionale, because we are brothers of the world.”

113 years on from Inter’s split with AC Milan to form a club tolerant of any nationality, their latest coach may well have been cursing his new side’s cosmopolitan leaning when he waved goodbye to more than a dozen of his squad jet-setting across the globe for the October international break.

Naturally, Simone Inzaghi’s disposition won’t have been improved by witnessing his weary players cede a first half lead and slump to a 3-1 defeat against his former side, Lazio, on Saturday evening.

In total, Inter’s 15 internationals racked up 31 appearances and more than 2,500 minutes of football for their respective countries over the past fortnight – Lazio, by comparison, could only muster nine caps between them.

12 minutes in there seemed little rust in the cogs of what had been a reliably prolific scoring machine for Inter. Nicolo Barella won’t earn a sixth Serie A assist by making a trademark dart into the area before tumbling under faint contact from Elseid Hysaj, but it did win the penalty which Ivan Perisic converted to give Inter the lead.

Untethered from his normal post patrolling the left flank from wing-back, Perisic was afforded a rare starting berth at the sharp end of the pitch thanks to Lautaro Martinez’s international commitments. Shortly after 2am on Friday morning by Italian clocks, Inter’s number ten scored Argentina’s only goal against Peru, almost 7,000 miles away in Buenos Aires.

While clubs with South American internationals in La Liga, for instance, were granted a week off to allow their full contingent a chance for their ears to pop after the cabin pressure, Lautaro was swiftly thrust onto Inter’s bench for the trip to Italy’s capital.

Lautaro MartinezLautaro Martinez

Lautaro Martinez may have started smiling on the bench against Lazio, but didn’t end the game like that / Giuseppe Bellini/GettyImages

In the absence of last season’s top scorer (and the team’s most prolific provider of assists) Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro has revelled in an enhanced role. Five goals from his first six Serie A games not only reflects his best start to an Italian campaign but also reflects a healthy bump in his underlying numbers – having averaged a highly respectable 0.53 non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes last season, Lautaro is clocking in at an unearthly 0.96 (per UnderStat) this term.

Any team robbed of an attacking threat that potent is going to struggle. However, Inter were able to start their Argentine after a similarly laborious international break in September, yet still dropped points against a middling-to-poor Sampdoria (despite Lautaro’s goal).

Inter took the lead (twice) against Samp yet stuttered to a 2-2 draw with a sterile second half display they did their best to replicate against Lazio. The Nerazzurri – who came into the game on the back of 12 consecutive league matches with at least two goals scored – struggled to carve open any opportunities of note in open play.

In particular, after the interval Inter scrounged together just five shots worth a measly 0.26 xG according to FotMob – Lazio, contrastingly, saved their best thrust for the second half, taking advantage of Inter’s slipping grip on the contest.

Post-game, Inzaghi lamented Inter’s inability to see out a 1-0 lead they still held an hour into the match, telling DAZN (via Football Italia). “All the goals we conceded were avoidable. We should at least have tried to bring home a draw after going behind, not lose our heads like that.”

Bringing his players rather than the three points back home will be Inzaghi’s immediate concern in the wake of their first Serie A defeat of the season. However, Inter have only just embarked on a sickening sequence of seven games in the space of 22 days. The listless approach Inzaghi’s side took to the first of this gruelling schedule doesn’t exactly bode well for the already weary boys in black and blue.

Thomas Tuchel admits Chelsea were ‘very lucky’ to beat Brentford

Thomas Tuchel has admitted that Chelsea were ‘very lucky’ to beat Brentford on Saturday evening, as the Blues had goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to thank, after he produced a string of match-winning saves at the Brentford Community Stadium.

The European champions took the lead through Ben Chilwell on the stroke of half-time, but they were then forced to withstand a barrage of attacks from the buoyant hosts. Brentford ended the match with seven shots on target and over 15 efforts at goal, but the visitors stood strong – largely thanks to their shot-stopper.

Thomas TuchelThomas Tuchel

Stress levels through the roof / Clive Rose/GettyImages

And Tuchel confessed that Chelsea were ‘very lucky’ to come away with all three points, praising his players for their display in the first 70 minutes, but stating that big characters such as Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger were sorely missed towards the end of the game.

“Very strong for 70 minutes, very lucky for 20 minutes.

“In the end the last 20 minutes were suddenly a cup game. They had nothing to lose and they found momentum. It felt like we had one player less.

“We were not clear enough in the challenges. They found the belief and we focused too much on defending.

“I was very content with the first 65-70 minutes where maybe we should have scored more.

“It helps if we have Toni [Rudiger] or Thiago [Silva] to help calm the game down and with that first touch to counter the pressure. We trust the guys who are young, if you don’t play you cannot get experience.

“It is better to be there [top of the table] but there are way too many teams who are close so it is not the main point in October.”

Tuchel was also full of praise for shot-stopper Mendy, describing the Frenchman as ‘key to the clean sheet,’ after making some wonderful saves late in the game to deny the Bees.

“We escaped with the three points thanks to Edouard (Mendy). In the end; they took risks and the atmosphere gave them a lot of courage.

“He was concentrated in the first half; they trouble you with long throws and set pieces. They created big chances and he was the key to the clean sheet.”

Chelsea returned to the top of the Premier League table with the narrow victory, leapfrogging Liverpool at the summit.

Chelsea’s lack of creativity could prove costly in Premier League title race

From Brentford Community Stadium – Romelu Lukaku looked pretty unhappy after being substituted in Chelsea’s narrow 1-0 win over Brentford on Saturday.

Ben Chilwell’s superb strike on the verge of half-time was all that separated the Blues and the Bees, with Thomas Tuchel’s visitors just about escaping with the three points.

But Lukaku failed to score for a fourth successive Premier League game, and more worryingly, the big Belgian barely got a sniff.

The revival of Timo Werner in a supporting role is looking a little promising, but for all of the menace and pace the Germany international brings, his strike partner is still finding himself isolated up top.

Lukaku’s frustrations at getting hooked seemed two-fold – obviously no striker wants to be subbed, but Chelsea’s game plan set him up to fail as well and that’s why he was deemed sub-par. There seemed to be little plan when on the ball and they seemed content to beat Brentford off of it, until the Bees threw the kitchen sink at them late in the game and Edouard Mendy came to the rescue.

Edouard MendyEdouard Mendy

Mendy was the Chelsea hero / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Brentford, as much as they are exciting, also give up plenty of space, but Chelsea rarely took advantage of these situations even on the counter attack.

The champions of Europe were put to the sword by a newly promoted team who, for 75 minutes, created little of their own too, and yet they still gave their neighbours quite the scare – if Kepa Arrizabalaga was in goal instead of Mendy, Chelsea would probably not be top of the table tonight.

N’Golo Kante looked the most likely midfielder to create something for Chelsea (which is fine but there’s a cap on how good you can be if he’s carrying that load). Though Ruben Loftus-Cheek is starting to look like his old self again, he isn’t contributing much in that department yet. Mateo Kovacic was very ineffectual for the most part and the Blues sorely missed Jorginho dictating play.

Mason Mount and Kai Havertz both came on as second half substitutes but didn’t get into the game at all and you’d be forgiven for not realising the two even came on.

Thomas Tuchel, Jorginho, Romelu Lukaku, Ross BarkleyThomas Tuchel, Jorginho, Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley

Tuchel was very animated on the touchline / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund side were famed for their pressing and fluidity in attack, but his Chelsea team could not be more the opposite – sturdy and gritty despite the riches they boast in attacking areas.

The German has, for the most part, managed to squeeze the most out of the players at his disposal. Andreas Christensen was commanding in the absence of Antonio Rudiger, and Malang Sarr stood tall on his surprise Premier League debut.

Maybe Chelsea are a club only built for this kind of football, a rare example of a team whose philosophy isn’t based around attacking. But Liverpool and Manchester City will rarely encounter the same problems up top as they do, and that might swing the Premier League title towards the north-west of England.

For more from Sean Walsh, follow him on Twitter!

Update on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man Utd future after Leicester City defeat

Manchester United are not planning on sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite the Red Devils’ recent poor run of form, which culminated in the disappointing 4-2 defeat to Leicester City on Saturday afternoon.

The pressure is building on the Norwegian coach, and supporters’ frustrations reached new heights upon shipping four at the King Power Stadium, subsequently ending their record-breaking 29-game unbeaten streak away from home.

Ole Gunnar SolskjaerOle Gunnar Solskjaer

Another of those days for Man Utd / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

But Solskjaer’s job remains safe for the time being, as The Athletic reports that the club’s owners have no intention of sacking their manager ahead of a tricky run of fixtures.

Man Utd face Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal all before the end of November, meaning a bad set of results in those clashes could see the Premier League giants lose further ground in the title race.

They currently sit fifth in the league table, one point outside of the top four, and in danger of falling even further behind current leaders Chelsea, who opened up a five-point gap over the Red Devils with a 1-0 win over Brentford.

So, the next six weeks could be a decisive period in the season for Man Utd. However, despite the question marks that linger around the capabilities of their current boss – who has yet to lift silverware as a coach at Old Trafford – the club is maintaining their faith in the 48-year-old.

Solskjaer is still regarded extremely highly by the Man Utd hierarchy, and his work in turning the club around in recent years has not gone forgotten. He took over as caretaker manager in December 2018, and a superb run of form saw him appointed permanently in March 2019.

The team has failed to win any trophies since he was named Man Utd boss, reaching the final of the Europa League in 2021, but falling to a penalty shootout defeat against Villarreal.

Heavy investment over the summer, combined with a brilliant opening day victory against Leeds United, saw expectations grow, but performances ever since have flattered to deceive, leading to this major downturn in results.

Solskjaer will be given time to turn it around, but he’ll have to do it against the toughest opponents in the Premier League.