Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has officially entered the Guinness World Record book for his haul of 12 assists in the Premier League last season.

The 21-year-old became an undisputed starter at right-back in the 2018-19 campaign, featuring 29 times as the Reds narrowly missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester City.

Alexander-Arnold's performances earned him a place in the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Premier League Team of the Year and he has also become a regular at international level for England.

His effectiveness in the final third has drawn most acclaim and his remarkable haul of 12 assists is a new record for a defender in the Premier League, going one better than his team-mate Andy Robertson, who managed 11 in the same season.

Alexander-Arnold, who also shone in Europe to help Liverpool win the Champions League, described it as "an unbelievably proud moment" to have surpassed the record previously held jointly by Everton duo Andy Hinchcliffe (1994-95) and Leighton Baines (2010-11).

"He [Robertson] probably thought he had the competition wrapped up! Near the end of the season we both hit really good form, we were both getting lots of assists and it was good to help the team in those games that we needed to win," Alexander-Arnold said after being presented with his accolade.

"It's an honour. I've always wanted to go forward and help the team to create as many chances as possible.

"It's obviously down to the lads to put the ball into the back of the net, because football is a team game and without them this record wouldn't be possible.

"It's an unbelievably proud moment for me and my family, and something I hope will stand for a few years."

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov has apologised after initially saying he did not hear the racist abuse directed at England players during Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

England claimed a 6-0 win but the match was marred by incidents in the stands, which were reported to officials and resulted in two delays to the action before half-time.

UEFA opted to charge the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) for "racist behaviour (chants, Nazi salutes)", with local reports indicating four people have been arrested in connection.

BFU president Borislav Mihaylov resigned under pressure from Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov in the wake of the furore.

Before the match, coach Balakov claimed England had a bigger problem with racism in football than his own country, then insisted after the game he had not heart the chanting.

But he has since issued an apology after accepting racist abuse did occur.

In a letter posted to his official Facebook page, Balakov wrote: "I condemn all forms of racism as an unacceptable behaviour that contradicts normal human relations.

"I think that this form of prejudice should be buried deep in our past, and no one should ever be subjected [to it].

"I have trained many Bulgarian teams with players of different origin and never anyone judging by the colour of their skin. In addition, I have always participated actively in all initiatives involving privileged people or those who need to be involved.

"My comments before the game against England that Bulgaria did not have problems with racism is based on the fact that the local championship did not see such a problem on a large scale.

"There may have been individual cases, but it's definitely not something you see at the stadium. The majority of football fans do not participate in this kind [of behaviour], and I believe that this has also been the case in the game against England.

"I would like to say very clearly: since there were cases of racial discrimination in Sofia, I would like to sincerely apologise to the English footballers and to all those who felt offended.

"At the same time, however, I would like to address everyone who uses hateful language on social media, that my words have been incorrectly removed from context - and if that does not stop, I will be forced to take legal action against it."

Luka Jovic will make the grade at Real Madrid if he is afforded time, according to his former Eintracht Frankfurt captain Alexander Meier.

Jovic joined Eintracht on an initial two-year loan from Benfica in 2017 after struggling in Portugal and he went on to star in the Bundesliga.

The Serbia international scored 17 top-flight goals last season and netted a further 10 in the Europa League as Eintracht reached the semi-finals.

That form persuaded Madrid to pay a reported €60million for the 21-year-old, but he has made only two LaLiga starts, with Karim Benzema continuing his fine run of form.

But Meier, who spent a season with Jovic, is adamant there is no reason to panic about Jovic's lack of starts, while he also has no qualms with Sebastien Haller and Ante Rebic departing Eintracht for West Ham and AC Milan, respectively.

Speaking to Omnisport, the Western Sydney Wanderers forward said: "It's never wrong to go to Real Madrid and Sebastien is in the best league in the world. They all went to big clubs and I think it's the best step for their careers.

"When you go somewhere new it takes time and I'm pretty sure Jovic will come good there.

"You could tell after two or three weeks how good his finishing was. He can do everything: left foot, right foot, head. He is perfect in front of the goal."

Willie le Roux is confident South Africa have enough speed of their own to cope with Japan's "Ferraris".

That was the nickname given to Japan fliers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima by head coach Jamie Joseph, whose side have been the surprise package on home soil at the Rugby World Cup.

Japan's attacking brand of rugby yielded shock wins over Ireland and Scotland, the latter seeing the Brave Blossoms top Pool A to set up a quarter-final with the Springboks, who they upset in the group stages four years ago.

South Africa are no slouches themselves, though, with Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi providing pace and threat out wide.

Le Roux, who brought laughter among the press pack by describing himself as a "bakkie" – a type of pickup truck – is eager to face the challenge.

"We've definitely got a few Ferraris out there as well," Le Roux said. "I don't think I'm one of them – I'm more of a bakkie person – a Toyota bakkie.

"The guys who will play this weekend are fast, and if I get an opportunity to play as well, I will do my best to put them away and put them in space."

The 30-year-old full-back is expecting a daunting challenge against Japan's varied attack.

"For the back three, it is going to be very hard work," he added. 

"They put all those kicks in and have specific guys chasing. They are very fast out wide, chasing those balls.

"The guys playing in the back three will have to be awake and be alive to those kicks."

Manchester City's title defence has not started according to plan, with the champions already trailing Liverpool by eight points.

Jurgen Klopp's side have won eight from eight in the Premier League, while City headed into the international break on the back of a surprise home defeat to Wolves.

For Pep Guardiola, City's defence has to be a huge concern, even though the former Barcelona boss has insisted the club will not be looking to replace the injured Aymeric Laporte in January.

Laporte is set to miss the majority of the season after sustaining an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury in August, while Vincent Kompany has left a sizeable void in City's defence.

Nicolas Otamendi has been largely unconvincing, while John Stones has his own injury problems and Fernandinho – arguably the Premier League's best defensive midfielder – has had to fill in at the back.

Ahead of Saturday's trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace, we use Opta data to assess how Guardiola can patch up City's struggling defence.

 

RELIANCE ON OTAMENDI A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Guardiola has not been helped by a spate of bad luck with injuries, especially with Laporte, who has been mightily impressive since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018.

Stones, meanwhile, has been in and out of the side due to both injuries and form, with Kompany preferred for the run-in last season. Otamendi looked set to join Kompany in leaving the club in the off season, though has been a mainstay of City's back line, making seven league appearances and two more in the Champions League. 

The Argentine does boast a passing accuracy of 92.52 per cent, which is higher than Fernandinho or Laporte, while he has also lost possession 148 times fewer than the Frenchman.

While Otamendi has only featured in 25 Premier League matches since the start of last season, he does have a higher tackle, duel and aerial duel success rate than Laporte and only conceded 16 fouls.

However, the former Valencia man showed clear weaknesses in the defeat to Wolves, recklessly lunging in on Raul Jimenez in the build-up to the opener, while it was his mistake at Carrow Road which led to Norwich City's third goal in a 3-2 win for the Canaries.

Of the players who have played at the back for City since the start of 2018-19, only Otamendi (2) has made errors which directly resulted in a goal.

KOMPANY'S IMPACT UNDERESTIMATED?

City reportedly moved for Harry Maguire in the off season, only to baulk at Leicester City's asking price, which was eventually paid by cross-city rivals Manchester United.

However, the decision not to replace inspirational former captain Kompany, who scored a stunning goal against Leicester as he led City to the title last term, seemed a risky one.

City did not lose a single game in all competitions last season in which Kompany started, with the Belgian having been named in 13 Premier League line ups.

Kompany played 1,223 minutes in the top flight last term, making no errors resulting in a shot at goal, while managing an impressive pass accuracy of 93.07% behind only Stones in terms of City's defenders.

The 33-year-old lost possession 93 times, though, perhaps due to a lack of pace, did concede 17 fouls – more than Otamendi or Stones despite playing fewer games.

He was dribbled past by an opponent on only one occasion and, from the 18 matches he started in all competitions last season, City claimed 17 wins, conceding just 12 goals.

SETTLE ON STONES UNTIL JANUARY

The simple answer to City's problems is likely to get Laporte back fit and firing as soon as possible, given they have an 82 per cent win percentage with the 25-year-old starting in the Premier League since the start of last season, compared to 75% without.

However, for now Guardiola must find a defensive pairing he can stick with until January. Fernandinho and Otamendi have featured in the last three league matches, but against Wolves their lack of pace was exposed.

Stones should soon return to action and, though the England international's form has been criticised, his statistics make for promising reading.

The former Everton man has a tackle success rate of 75%, higher than any of City's other centre-backs, and has conceded just six fouls since the start of 2018-19.

If Stones can stay fit, he should be City's first-choice centre-back until the new year, with Otamendi and Fernandinho vying for the other spot.

Lazio have been ordered to play one UEFA competition home match in a partially closed stadium following the racist behaviour of their fans against Rennes in the Europa League.

The supporters were alleged to have engaged in racist chanting at Stadio Olimpico, as Lazio came from behind to win 2-1 on October 3.

UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body has since found them guilty and ordered the partial closure of their stadium – specifically sections 46, 47, 48 and 49 – and the displaying of an 'Equal Game banner' for their next Europa League match.

Lazio must also pay a €20,000 fine and have been handed a suspended one-match UEFA stadium ban, which will only come into effect if they are found in breach again over the next year.

The Serie A were seemingly made aware of the sanctions a day earlier on Tuesday, acknowledging they were to be imposed because of "the hateful racist acts performed by a few".

Lazio also confirmed they plan to prosecute those responsible, continuing a "zero tolerance" policy against racism.

Scottish Rugby has questioned whether misconduct charges brought by World Rugby are "appropriate".

It was confirmed on Tuesday that comments made by chief executive Mark Dodson are to be probed by rugby union's chief governing body.

Dodson had threatened to take legal action if Scotland's crucial Pool A encounter with Japan was cancelled, with the match under threat as a result of Typhoon Hagibis.

The contest went ahead with Scotland losing 28-21 to exit the competition but the row continues to rumble on.

A Scottish Rugby statement issued on Wednesday read: "Scottish Rugby once again expresses its sincere condolences to the people of Japan and all those affected by Typhoon Hagibis which struck last weekend.

"We have been able to convey our best wishes directly to the mayor of Yokohama and the chairman of the Japanese Rugby Union. We stand with the great people of Japan.

"Following receipt of correspondence yesterday from World Rugby, Scottish Rugby confirms that it has received a notice of complaint from Rugby World Cup Ltd. Scottish Rugby is querying whether the matter is an appropriate one for the bringing of misconduct charges.

"If misconduct proceedings are to proceed, Scottish Rugby looks forward to receiving a fair hearing in this matter. No further comment would be appropriate at this time." 

Max Scherzer was delighted to have proven the critics wrong as the Washington Nationals reached the MLB World Series for the first time with a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

The win completed a 4-0 sweep for the Nationals, who face the winner of the Houston Astros and New York Yankees in the showpiece, the former leading 2-1 in the American League Championship Series.

In-form Washington scored seven runs in the first inning with RBIs from Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Yan Gomes, before Patrick Corbin's 12 strikeouts seeing them through.

Remarkably, the Nationals held a 19-31 record in May, prompting speculation around the future of manager Dave Martinez and Scherzer, who was rumoured to be on the trade block, but the veteran pitcher was confident the team's experienced heads would steady the ship.

"We knew we were going to be the oldest team in the league," Scherzer said.

"Everyone said that was a negative. We looked at it as a positive.

"I'm one of the old guys and old guys can still play. I think the older guys bring a lot of value to the clubhouse. The experience we bring, the emotions we bring... all that helps."

The Nationals have been a hard-luck story in playoffs over the years but general manager Mike Rizzo, who has been with the franchise for over a decade, always kept the faith in Washington.

"I think every year we're going to the World Series," he said on the field post-game.

"We've been in the playoffs five times in eight years and have won more games than any team in the majors except the [Los Angeles] Dodgers in that time.

"So, every year we head to spring training expecting to win the World Series. Get to the playoffs and you've got a puncher's chance."

England manager Gareth Southgate praised the leadership qualities shown by defender Tyrone Mings after a challenging international debut against Bulgaria on Monday.

England bounced back from defeat in the Czech Republic with a 6-0 rout of Bulgaria in Sofia, but the Euro 2020 qualifier was marred by racist behaviour from home fans in the partially-closed stadium.

Mings was at the forefront of the unsavoury scenes having noticed racist chants by Bulgarian fans, before beginning the process which led to the implementation of UEFA's three-step protocol for racist abuse.

UEFA has since opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria for the scenes at the Vasil Levski National Stadium with four charges laid out by European football's governing body.

But despite the difficult circumstances which Mings made his debut in, Southgate was full of praise for the maturity shown by the Aston Villa centre-back.

"To me, since I have been watching him for the past 12 months or so, he's displayed outstanding leadership qualities throughout that time. I thought I would see that and I saw that [against Bulgaria]," Southgate told reporters.

"We presented him with his shirt and the point I made was that everybody's journey to becoming an England international is different, but his is very different to most of the boys who have just been in the academy system.

"That worldly wideness, if you like, showed. An incredibly mature performance and you could hear his communication on the pitch I'm sure from where you were sat.

"I said to him the level of opponent often isn't the issue when playing for England. It's being able to handle wearing the England shirt. I didn't think he would have to go through everything tonight that he did, but he's an impressive young man and I couldn't be happier for him.

England finish their qualifying campaign for Euro 2020 with a doubleheader against Group A opponents Montenegro and Kosovo in November.

The Washington Nationals will feature in their first MLB World Series after topping the St Louis Cardinals 7-4 in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

Tuesday's victory over the Cardinals secured a NLCS sweep for the high-flying Nationals.

Thanks to an early surge of offense and some excellent work on the mound, the Nationals were able to see off the Cardinals 4-0.

Washington will now await the winner of the Houston Astros-New York Yankees series as they chase their title dreams.

 

Here are three takeaways from the Nationals' win:

Nationals got the ball rolling early

It is no secret that Washington's offense have been on fire lately, but nobody expected them to explode like they did in the first inning of this critical closeout game. The Nationals scored all seven of their runs in the first inning thanks to RBIs from Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Yan Gomes. Then they coasted from there.

Even after amassing so many early runs, Washington kept fighting for more even though they ultimately could not add to their lead. The Nationals only struck out seven times in the contest after forcing St Louis to yank their starter Dakota Hudson after he recorded just one out.

Washington's pitching was on another level

The Nationals' starters have been phenomenal in the postseason as of late, and Patrick Corbin picked up right where Stephen Strasburg left off on Tuesday. Corbin notched 12 strikeouts through five innings just one day after Strasburg tallied 12 of his own against the Cardinals.

Corbin still gave up four runs in his showing, but Tanner Rainey, Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson kept St Louis scoreless for the remainder of the contest. Washington's rotation held the Cardinals to five hits in the game and only allowed them to score 1.5 runs per game in the series. Consistently being able to limit the opponent's offense made Washington's road to the World Series significantly less difficult.

Top of St Louis' order continued to struggle

The Cardinals needed big contributions from their heavy hitters to avoid elimination, and they still did not get that in Game 4 of the NLCS. The first six men in St Louis' batting order combined for three hits and 11 strikeouts. While this group did account for all four of the Cardinals' runs, three of the players were held hitless — including Paul Goldschmidt, who failed to record a hit in either of the last two games.

St Louis' top six did not capitalise on opportunities while generating nearly 70 per cent of the team's at-bats and the rest made the most of what they had. When it is all said and done, big-time players have to make big-time plays. That did not happen for the Cardinals.

Darwin Nunez came off the bench to rescue a late 1-1 draw for Uruguay against Peru in their international friendly in Lima.

Christofer Gonzales' header gave Peru a 34th-minute lead after Uruguay were reduced to 10-men when Martin Caceres was sent off on Tuesday.

But Nunez headed in Matias Vina's cross against the run of play to earn La Celeste an unlikely draw after victory over the same opposition four days ago at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.

Tuesday's match came to life in the 26th minute after a scrappy opening, when experienced defender Caceres was shown a red card for two cautions within a minute.

The former Barcelona and Juventus defender was booked for his initial challenge on Miguel Trauco before receiving a second yellow for his protests to Colombian referee Carlos Herrera.

Uruguay head coach Oscar Tabarez reacted by introducing Giovanni Gonzalez for Maxi Gomez, the visitors conceded moments later when Peru had their first notable chance of the game.

Luis Advincula beat his marker down the right and whipped in a teasing cross for Gonzalez to head home unmarked.

Peru had defeated Uruguay 5-4 on penalties in June's Copa America fixture en route to a final defeat by Brazil and they continued to look comfortable, as La Celeste lacked the sharpness shown in Friday's 1-0 win.

But two substitutes linked up for La Celeste as Vina's cross found Nunez, who had only been on the pitch for five minutes, to head in and have the final say for the visitors.

The Los Angeles Rams confirmed the arrival of Jalen Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

After reports broke of a blockbuster trade, the Rams made the news official on Tuesday.

The Rams acquired star cornerback Ramsey from the Jaguars in exchange for two first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021.

In an Instagram post, the Rams wrote: "Can't spell Ramsey without Rams."

Ramsey asked the Jaguars to trade him after a Week 2 spat with Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan said he wanted to keep him but Jacksonville appear to have caved.

The Rams also traded Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the day on Tuesday.

Ramsey has been named to two Pro Bowls and one first-team All-Pro roster in his four-year NFL career.

LeBron James said he will not address the turmoil between China and the NBA following the fallout of his comments regarding Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James was critical of Morey on Monday, labelling the Rockets GM "misinformed" for his tweet about the unrest involving China and Hong Kong.

Morey issued an apology for a now-deleted tweet, that read "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" amid the ongoing protests in the region.

The tweet angered Chinese officials and caused backlash in the Asian country against the Rockets and the NBA, which has financial interests in China worth billions of dollars.

James' comments reportedly did not go down well in Hong Kong, with the four-time MVP's jersey burned and trampled in demonstrations.

"I had a sense of [how] what I said felt for me," James said on Tuesday following questions about his comments and how they would be received in Hong Kong. "And like I said yesterday, when I speak upon things, I speak from a very logical standpoint on things that hit home for me. Yesterday, obviously, I gave thoughts on what I felt and how I saw things that transpired from that week that we were [in China]."

When asked whether he plans to learn more about the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, James added: "I plan on being here and being a captain of this team and trying to figure out how we can win a championship.

"That's my main goal right now. I feel like I talked about it yesterday. I tweeted out responses to people not understanding my knowledge and where it came from with my brain and learning from the situation. I'm talking about it now. I won't talk about it again.

"I'd be cheating my team-mates by continuing to harp on something that won't benefit us. We're trying to win a championship. That's what we're here for. We're not politicians. It's a huge political thing. But we are leaders and we can step up at times. I'm not saying at this particular time, but if you don't feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn't have to."

 

Alphonso Davies and Lucas Cavallini were the heroes as Canada outclassed and upstaged the United States 2-0 in their CONCACAF Nations League clash.

Bayern Munich sensation Davies broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute and Cavallini sealed the triumph in stoppage time in Toronto on Tuesday.

It was Canada's first goals against USA since the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the country's first victory over their rivals since 1985 as they stayed perfect in Group A.

USA produced a merciless performance to open their Nations League campaign with a 7-0 rout of Cuba last week, inspired by Weston McKennie's 13-minute hat-trick.

However, USA were second best and struggled to keep the ball throughout the first half in Canada, where the hosts hustled the United States out of their stride.

In a half lacking rhythm, Canada should have taken the lead in the 16th minute but teenager Jonathan David wasted two big chances.

A backpass went straight to the feet of David, who was initially denied by USA goalkeeper Zack Steffen at point-blank range before firing wide of the post.

Another chance went begging for David five minutes into the second half after the 19-year-old Canadian side-footed agonisingly wide of the near post.

USA went up the other end moments later and almost took the lead against the run of play, but Christian Pulisic's tame shot was easily dealt with by Milan Bojan after being played in by Jordan Morris.

Canada finally got their goal in the 63rd minute and it was fully deserved as Davies bundled the ball over the line after USA twice failed to clear the danger.

Only Steffen stood in between Canada and a second goal after he thwarted Junior Hoilett with 19 minutes remaining as USA's dire performance continued, but Cavallini's 91st-minute goal capped a great night for Canada.

 

What does it mean? Canada preserve perfect record

Canada created distance between themselves and USA after making it three wins from three games in Group A. Canada are yet to concede a goal, while USA are six points adrift having played a match less in the race for the semi-finals.

Pulisic's struggles continue

It was another disappointing outing for Pulisic, who was hauled off approaching the hour mark. Already struggling for game time at Chelsea following his arrival from Borussia Dortmund, the USA star cut a dejected figure after being substituted on the back of an uninspiring display.

Canada showcase potential

Much has been made about Canada with Davies and David ushering in a new era of hope for the country. And based on Tuesday's display, the future is bright for Canada, who never gave USA a sniff.

What's next?

USA and Canada will be back in action for next month's rematch in Orlando, Florida on November 15.

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