Spain in disarray as Julen Lopetegui is sacked and replaced by Fernando Hierro just two days before World Cup opener against Portugal

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The World Cup had its first shock before a ball was even kicked, when Spain boss Julen Lopetegui was axed two days before the side's opener against Portugal. (AFP)
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Fernando Hierro, in his pomp at Real Madrid, is the new manager of Spain. (Getty Images)
Updated 13 June 2018

Spain in disarray as Julen Lopetegui is sacked and replaced by Fernando Hierro just two days before World Cup opener against Portugal

  • Shock in Russia as Spain axe Lopetegui after move to Real Madrid was announced.
  • Set to face Group B rivals Portugal on Friday as Fernando Hierro takes over.

LONDON: Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales said he had no choice but to sack Julen Lopetegui, replacing him with Fernando Hierro, after he agreed to join Real Madrid without informing the Federation.
The decision throws the team, one of the favorites to lift the trophy on July 15, into disarray just two days before their World Cup opener against arch-rivals Portugal.
To say this is not ideal preparation for both that match and the rest of the tournament is an understatement, but Rubiales insisted the federation was “forced” to take action.
”It’s the Spanish team. You cannot do things this way,” Rubiales said.
Rubiales said the situation was “very complicated” but believes the coaching staff will “do everything in their power” to help Spain succeed in Russia.
“I admire Julen a lot, I respect him a lot, I think he’s a top trainer and that makes it more difficult to make the decision,” said Rubiales.
“I don’t feel betrayed. Lopetegui, while he’s been with us, has done impeccable work.
“I know it’s a very difficult situation. I know there’s going to be criticism whatever I do.
“I’m sure this will, in time, make us stronger.”

The 50-year-old Hierro’s only real coaching experience came when he was in charge of second division Spanish outfit Oviedo for one season.

Spurs rocked on Bale’s return, Mitrovic suffers penalty misery

Updated 18 October 2020

Spurs rocked on Bale’s return, Mitrovic suffers penalty misery

  • Bale misses golden opportunity to wrap up the points before West Ham’s Lanzini snatches an equalizer

LONDON: West Ham ruined Gareth Bale’s Tottenham return with a stunning late fightback from three goals down to rescue a thrilling 3-3 draw, while Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic endured a penalty nightmare in a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United on Sunday.

Tottenham were leading 3-0 when Bale came on as a 72nd minute substitute for his first appearance since joining on a season-long loan from Real Madrid.

But Bale suffered a debut to forget as Tottenham capitulated in astonishing fashion.

The Wales star was one of the main Tottenham culprits as he missed a golden opportunity to wrap up the points before West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini snatched a stoppage-time equalizer.

Tottenham took the lead with just 45 seconds gone when Son Heung-min and Harry Kane combined to create a goal for the seventh time this season.

Kane was the catalyst, dropping deep into midfield before unfurling a majestic long pass that found Son, who cut into the West Ham area and curled his shot into the far corner.

It was Kane’s turn to get on the scoresheet in the 8th minute as he nutmegged Declan Rice and fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Tottenham’s sizzling start featured a third goal in the 16th minute, with England captain Kane heading in from Sergio Reguilon’s pin-point cross for his 10th goal of the season.

Having crushed Manchester United 6-1 in their last game before the international break, Jose Mourinho’s side looked odds on for another emphatic victory.

Back at Tottenham seven years after leaving for Real in a then world record deal, Bale hopes to prove he is still a world-class talent despite a long spell out of favor with Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

But it was West Ham who were the dominant force after Bale’s introduction to replace Steven Bergwijn.

Fabian Balbuena nodded in from Aaron Cresswell’s cross after 82 minutes and Davinson Sanchez’s headed own goal from Vladimir Coufal’s delivery three minutes later left Tottenham panicking.

Bale should have scored in stoppage-time, but he shot wide after bursting into the area and Lanzini made him pay with a brilliant 25-yard blast into the top corner.

It was just the third time in Premier League history that a side has avoided defeat despite trailing by at least three goals going into the 80th minute.

At Bramall Lane, Fulham’s Mitrovic fired over with his second half penalty after Jack Robinson handled.

On-loan Leipzig winger Ademola Lookman put Fulham ahead in the 77th minute with a superb solo effort, beating two men before firing into the roof of the net.

But Serbia international Mitrovic was penalized for a high foot on Robinson in the 85th minute following a VAR check and Billy Sharp made him pay as he drove his penalty down the middle.

Mitrovic is the first player to commit the unwanted penalty double in the same Premier League game since Mikel Arteta for Arsenal against Fulham in 2012.

Meanwhile, Liverpool said on Sunday that the club’s star Virgil van Dijk will undergo surgery on his right knee after damaging ligaments in a challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the Merseyside derby.

Liverpool did not give a timescale on Van Dijk’s absence, but an injury of that nature will likely keep the Netherlands international out for a long period.