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Rangers 2-0 Ross County: Steven Gerrard’s side stay top of the Scottish Premiership

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rangers 2 0 ross county steven gerrards side stay top of the scottish premiership

Steven Gerrard’s warning had been clear. Amid the dressing-room celebrations that followed last Thursday evening’s win over Galatasaray, the Rangers manager bluntly emphasised the over-riding priority for this season.

Europa League qualification was worthy and valuable, for sure. But domestic trophy success come May was what truly mattered. There could be no excuse for bumping back to earth in the Premiership. Games such as this one simply had to be won. By whatever means necessary.

It was achieved thanks in no small part to the reliability of captain James Tavernier. One of those setting standards in this campaign, the right-back’s first-half penalty made it eight goals in his last eight games – four of them from the spot.

James Tavernier's first-half penalty set Rangers on their way to victory against Ross County

James Tavernier's first-half penalty set Rangers on their way to victory against Ross County

James Tavernier’s first-half penalty set Rangers on their way to victory against Ross County

Steven Gerrard's side stay ahead of Celtic, though his team have played a game more

Steven Gerrard's side stay ahead of Celtic, though his team have played a game more

Steven Gerrard’s side stay ahead of Celtic, though his team have played a game more 

That provided a platform to lift Rangers back to the top of the Premiership, a point clear of Celtic having played a game more. The challenge set down by the identical scoreline at McDiarmid Park was ultimately answered. And, just like their title rivals, this was a victory claimed while some way short of peak form.

Grinding these games out might be an essential facet of any successful championship challenge, but that doesn’t mean Gerrard would have enjoyed the tension felt as the minutes ticked down.

Chances to wrap it up sooner had been wasted – with Alfredo Morelos culpable – meaning an almighty sigh of relief was breathed when Coll Donaldson headed a golden 80th minute opportunity for County too high.

It was substitute Brandon Barker who finally made safe a fourth straight win for the Ibrox men. A fine 88th minute effort marked his 24th birthday and was just a second goal for Rangers since joining from Manchester City last season.

The international break now intervenes before that eagerly awaited first Old Firm game of the season at Parkhead on October 17. Slipping up beforehand would have been a significant psychological blow, so there will be some satisfaction for the Ibrox side in simply ticking this one off.

County showed determination and organisation but now have just one win in their last eight outings. While he couldn’t complain about the outcome on the balance of play, Stuart Kettlewell can only wonder how Rangers might have reacted had Donaldson – penalised earlier for the spot-kick -managed to hit the target.

Changes were inevitable in Gerrard’s line-up were inevitable after the effort invested against Galatasaray. He made four of them.

Allan McGregor, Filip Helander, Steven Davis and Ianis Hagi all dropped out of the starting line-up, with Jon McLaughlin, Leon Balogun, Ryan Jack and Jordan Jones drafted in.

Brandon Barker's 88th minute goal sealed the victory at Ibrox on Sunday afternoon

Brandon Barker's 88th minute goal sealed the victory at Ibrox on Sunday afternoon

Brandon Barker’s 88th minute goal sealed the victory at Ibrox on Sunday afternoon

Jack had been introduced as a late substitute in midweek after recovering from a calf injury, but displayed a tinge of rust when robbed of possession in the second minute.

County sprang forward, with Ross Stewart feeding it wide right to wing-back Regan Charles-Cook. His fizzed, low cross was enticing, but no visiting player was able to able to take up the offer as it sped through McLaughlin’s line of vision.

Charles-Cook was one of three players introduced by Kettlewell in response to a 3-0 defeat from Aberdeen seven days previously. They were also housed in a revised tactical shape featuring three centre-backs.

Kettlewell was perched in the stand as he began a three-match touchline ban for comments made about referee John Beaton in a reverse against Livingston, leaving coach Richie Brittain to patrol the technical area in his place.

Brittain’s early words were of optimistic encouragement. County navigated the first 17 minutes without only a deflected Borna Barisic free-kick to spark any concern. They looked composed. Rangers were struggling to find fluency, but received the lift the needed to dispel early frustration.

Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos jumps over County's Alex Iacovitti during Sunday's contest

Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos jumps over County's Alex Iacovitti during Sunday's contest

Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos jumps over County’s Alex Iacovitti during Sunday’s contest

It again came from the penalty spot as Tavernier continued his flawless sequence from 12 yards, beating Ross Laidlaw with a strike down the middle.

The Ibrox captain had been heavily involved in bringing about the award in the first place. It was his dinked cross that set Morelos running – and prompted Donaldson to bring the striker toppling to the ground. Referee Greg Aitken was swift in his call, Tavernier unerring in maximising it.

That breakthrough settled Rangers, even if clear opportunities remained relatively limited. Callum Morris became the game’s first booking when halting Ryan Kent with an unruly challenge, before Morelos showed power and tenacity to escape a couple of markers and fire straight at Laidlaw.

Connor Goldson then headed narrowly over from a Barisic corner, with Kent no less unfortunate when an intelligent, curling attempt from the fringe of the area was deflected fractionally wide.

At the other end, Stewart still looked a potential handful for the Ibrox centre-backs when County could get him involved. That, though, was problematic. The visitors ended the opening period having failed to ask a meaningful question of the recalled McLaughlin.

Tavernier celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game in the 17th minute at Ibrox

Tavernier celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game in the 17th minute at Ibrox

Tavernier celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game in the 17th minute at Ibrox

That challenge didn’t become any easer once the second half dawned. Rangers penned the visitors deep into their own territory as in pursuit of a second goal. It would have arrived within six minutes of the restart but for a brilliant piece of defending by Donaldson.

Tavernier was once more supplier of the threat, picking out Morelos with a low cross. The Colombian striker took a touch to swivel and was about to pull the trigger when Donaldson slid in with an outstanding block.

Morelos would get a clear strike at goal on 57 minutes. But completely failed to make the most of it.

Released by Glen Kamara’s smart through-ball, the 24-year-old fired too high from the angle of the six-yard box. In between those moments, Laidlaw made a fine stop to deny Balogun’s forceful attempt to covert Kent’s corner.

There was a blow for Rangers after the hour mark. Hurt in a collision with Charles-Cook that required a period of treatment, Barisic was eventually replaced by Calvin Bassey. Jack also made for Hagi as Gerrard sought an additional killer touch of creativity.

Barker's late goal meant County left Ibrox empty-handed and remain on 11 points

Barker's late goal meant County left Ibrox empty-handed and remain on 11 points

Barker’s late goal meant County left Ibrox empty-handed and remain on 11 points 

The points were not yet safe. Having clung on in there, County knew they just needed one moment to have a chance of regaining parity.

It almost arrived when Ross Draper robbed Kent to advance on the right. His pass inside for Stewart was a little over-cooked, however, and the striker’s touch was poor.

Another, even better, chance would be spurned with ten minutes remaining when Donaldson couldn’t keep down his header from Josh Reid’s delivery.

Barker made County pay. Latching onto a lofted through-ball from fellow sub Hagi, he drifted away from two defenders before firing a shot into the net.s

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Justin Gaethje reveals moment shared with emotional Khabib Nurmagomedov following UFC 254

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justin gaethje reveals moment shared with emotional khabib nurmagomedov following ufc 254

Justin Gaethje has revealed what he told Khabib Nurmagomedov in the immediate aftermath of his loss at UFC 254 during emotional scenes inside the octagon on Fight Island.

The Highlight entered the lightweight title fight on the back of huge momentum having beaten perennial winner Tony Ferguson to earn his shot at the Dagestani king.

But Nurmagomedov demonstrated why he is one of the greatest fighters to grace the sport with yet another dominant performance, setting a frenetic pace in the first round before securing a triangle submission in the second.

Justin Gaethje has revealed what he told an emotional Khabib Nurmagomedov after UFC 254

Justin Gaethje has revealed what he told an emotional Khabib Nurmagomedov after UFC 254

The Highlight was seen consoling the Dagestani star following his win on Fight Island

The Highlight was seen consoling the Dagestani star following his win on Fight Island

And after earning his 29th career victory, Nurmagomedov let out a flood of emotion in the centre of the octagon, releasing months of built up agony following the untimely death of his father, Abdulmanap.

The 57-year-old died of coronavirus in a Moscow hospital in July, and his death has been agonising for the lightweight champion who idolised the man that nurtured and developed him into a UFC star.

Gaethje was seen consoling the 32-year-old while the pair were alone in the octagon, and the American has revealed the calming words he gave to the champion.

Nurmagomedov has been rocked by the loss of his father Abdulmanap (L) to coronavirus

Nurmagomedov has been rocked by the loss of his father Abdulmanap (L) to coronavirus

‘I said “I haven’t had the chance to tell you that I am so sorry for your dad’s loss, but you have just made your father really proud,”‘ the fan-favourite told BT Sport.

Gaethje’s third career defeat comes as a blow but the 31-year-old is confident that he can bounce back.  

‘Right now it hurts,’ he admitted. ‘There is not a lot of people that can make me feel better. This is on me. I need to go home and I need to deal with this on my own because I stepped in there alone.’

When interviewed by Jon Anik in the octagon after the bout, Gaethje said sharing the stage with Nurmagomedov made him feel ‘alive’. 

Gaethje told Khabib that Abdulmanap would have been proud of his son after the victory

Gaethje told Khabib that Abdulmanap would have been proud of his son after the victory

‘I felt alive. That’s why I step in here. Adrenaline, endorphins released. The only reason I stuck here was to give this main his praises. He is tough, he is so strong, he has made his father so proud.

‘I fight for a living. The best thing about getting choked out is there’s nothing really consequential to your long term health. I’m ready for the next one whenever. I’m in good shape, I don’t want to get too far. So six weeks, eight weeks.’

Following Khabib’s shock retirement from mixed martial arts, it won’t be too long before Gaethje gets another shot at the lightweight title, with The Highlight in the mix alongside Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson and Conor McGregor. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Liverpool fans step up TV boycott for Sheffield United match and raise £81,000 for local foodbanks

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liverpool fans step up tv boycott for sheffield united match and raise 81000 for local foodbanks

Liverpool fans raised tens of thousands for foodbanks on Saturday night by boycotting the pay-per-view match between their club and Sheffield United.

By the time Jurgen Klopp’s team kicked off against the Blades at 8pm, the running total of the donations had risen to £81,000 according to supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly, who organised the protest.

Fans across the country have expressed their opposition to being charged £14.95 by the Premier League to watch games on Box Office in addition to the subscription charges they already pay Sky Sports and BT.

Liverpool fans boycotted Sky Sports' Box Office broadcast of their match with Sheffield United

Liverpool fans boycotted Sky Sports’ Box Office broadcast of their match with Sheffield United

The Premier League is charging fans £14.95 to access the new pay-per-view service

The Premier League is charging fans £14.95 to access the new pay-per-view service

Spirit of Shankly asked Reds supporters to donate to food-banks rather than put extra money into the Premier League coffers, following the work done by Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford.

The group asked Liverpool supporters to sacrifice watching their team live, saying in a statement: ‘Don’t sign up to the profiteering. Boycott. There is a humanitarian crisis in our country which is only going to worsen.’

The success of the boycott puts pressure on the Premier League to reduce prices for the next round of games.

Supporter group Spirit of Shankly donated several £14.95 fees to food-banks in a protest

Supporter group Spirit of Shankly donated several £14.95 fees to food-banks in a protest

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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UFC supremo Dana White pays tribute to Khabib Nurmagomedov after his career-ending victory

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ufc supremo dana white pays tribute to khabib nurmagomedov after his career ending victory

UFC president Dana White has heaped praise on Khabib Nurmagomedov after he announced his shock retirement following his UFC 254 win over Justin Gaethje. 

The Russian defeated Gaethje early in the second round of their Saturday night fight but revealed that victory was his last in MMA. 

White also claimed that Khabib broke his foot three weeks ago and nearly did not take part in the UFC 254 contest this weekend, while it has also been revealed the Russian contracted mumps in the fight build-up. 

Dana White has paid tribute to Khabib Nurmagomedov after he retired from MMA on Saturday

Dana White has paid tribute to Khabib Nurmagomedov after he retired from MMA on Saturday

Khabib defeated Justin Gaethje (right) in UFC 254 on Saturday night and then quit MMA

Khabib defeated Justin Gaethje (right) in UFC 254 on Saturday night and then quit MMA

White told the media after Khabib’s final victory: ‘What this guy has been through, we’re all lucky that we got to see him play tonight. Apparently he was in the hospital and broke his foot three weeks ago.’ 

‘He’s got two broken toes and a bone in his foot that’s broken or something like that. That’s what his corner was telling me. He never told anybody and was walking around.

‘He is one of the toughest human beings on the planet. He’s the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world and we seriously need to put him up there as a GOAT status.’

Khabib, who recently lost his father to Covid-19, was emotional when he announced his exit

 Khabib, who recently lost his father to Covid-19, was emotional when he announced his exit

It has been a difficult few months for Khabib, who lost his father at the start of July due to coronavirus. 

‘Today, I want to say, this was my last fight. No way am I going to come here without my father. It was first time, after what happened with my father, when UFC called me about Justin.

‘I talk with my mother three days, she don’t want that I go fight without father. I promised her, it’s going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.

‘I know only one thing I want from UFC, you guys have to be me on No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, because I deserve this.’ 

Khabib was emotional after his win, curling up into a ball and crying on the octagon floor

Khabib was emotional after his win, curling up into a ball and crying on the octagon floor

White claimed he believed something was wrong with the Russian fighter in the build-up to the fight, but was still surprised at his bombshell post-fight news.

Khabib’s coach confirmed after the fighter’s retirement that he had contracted mumps in his training programme which was described as the ‘worst camp’ ever. 

He added: ‘I could tell. The way he acted at the weigh-ins (and) the way that he acted when he was walking out tonight. 

‘He didn’t look like himself, he was breathing heavy and taking deep breaths, but wow.’ 

White was asked whether Khabib could make his way back to MMA later on in his life, in a move that would replicate Conor McGregor highly-anticipated return later this year.

White said he will not force Khabib into a MMA return and said the Russian has a broken foot

White said he will not force Khabib into a MMA return and said the Russian has a broken foot

The UFC president said he will give Khabib the space he needs to mourn his father’s death and will not force him into a decision to return.

White continued: ‘If the guys want to fight, let them fight. If they don’t want to fight they don’t want to fight. 

‘Let him take some time off and heal, not physically but emotionally, with what he’s going through from losing his father.’ 

Khabib ended his career with 29 wins and zero defeats after the victory over Gaethje (right)

Khabib ended his career with 29 wins and zero defeats after the victory over Gaethje (right)

The UFC lightweight champion extended his unblemished record to 29 wins, zero defeats with the victory over Gaethje at Saturday’s UFC 254. 

UFC rival McGregor also paid respect to Khabib and his career following the shock news on Saturday night.

The Irishman tweeted: ‘Good performance @TeamKhabib,’ he wrote. ‘I will carry on. Respect and condolences on your father again also. To you and family. Yours sincerely, The McGregors.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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