Football Roundup – Manchester United fail again as Barcelona relinquish two-goal lead

English giants Manchester United ended a challenging week with another loss, this time losing 2-1 to newly promoted Bournemouth on Saturday. The defeat adds more pressure on manager Louis van Gaal although injuries meant they were missing their entire first-choice back four.

The Red Devils were eliminated from the Champions League in midweek after losing 3-2 to Wolfsburg in Germany, which compounded underwhelming recent domestic form.

Van Gaal’s men failed to make amends at the Vitality Stadium, with former United player Joshua King scored the decisive goal for the Cherries after Marouane Fellaini had cancelled out Junior Stanislas’ early opener.

The loss means that United have not recorded a victory in their last five games in all competitions and will drop out of the Premier League’s top four if Tottenham Hotspur beat Newcastle on Sunday.

The Old Trafford supporters have become disillusioned with Van Gaal’s style of play, with a defensive outlook going against the years of attacking football they had become accustomed to under Sir Alex Ferguson.

The United fans would surely consider sacrificing substance if results take its place, but the recent dip in form, added to abject performances, has increased the pressure on the Dutch coach.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Manchester City regained the top spot with a last-gasp 2-1 win over a dejected Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium.

The Welsh side thought they had salvaged a late point when Bafetimbi Gomis equalized in the 90th minute, but Nigerian youngster Kelechi Iheanacho broke their hearts with an injury time winner.

In Spain, European champions Barcelona relinquished a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Deportivo La Coruna at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi scored a sublime free-kick and Ivan Rakitic added a second, only for the visitors to rally and score twice in the last 15 minutes.

Inter Milan stretched their lead at the top of Serie A to four points with a commanding 4-0 away win over Udinese, with captain Mauro Icardi netting a brace.

In Germany, Bayern Munich recorded a 2-0 win over Ingolstadt in the penultimate game before the Bundesliga’s winter break, with Robert Lewandowski and Philipp Lahm on target.

The result ensures the Bavarians go into the halfway point of the domestic campaign top of the table for a record fifth season in succession.

Despite the importance of club fixtures across the continent, all eyes were on the Euro 2016 draw in Paris.

The groups for next summer’s tournament in France were drawn, with Russia partnered with England, Wales and Slovakia in Group B.

Kane extends points streak to 24 games but Gretzky’s record is still far away

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane took his points streak to 24 games, but not everyone was happy about it.

With Chicago 3-0 down going into the third period against Nashville Predators they needed someone to ignite some offensive. Kane, as is so often the case, delivered.

Blackhawks dumped a puck deep towards Predators netminder Pekka Rinne early in the final session. He appeared to cover up the puck with his glove, but no whistle was blown so play carried on.

Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger charged at Rinne from the right and dislodged the puck in the crease as he made contact with the goaltender. Kane picked up the rebound and slotted it home for his 16th goal and 24th consecutive game with a point.

The Predators challenged the play for interference with the Bridgestone Arena crowd heckling the officials for the lack of a whistle after the initial shot on Rinne.

The goal was ruled good so Kane extended the records for the franchise and American-born NHL players to 24 games.

Rinne strongly disputed the decision, having numerous conversations with officials during breaks in the action. The Predators went on to win 5-1, but Rinne still wasn’t happy after the game.

He said: “I guess it was loose, but for sure, he didn’t make the contact with the puck. He tried to push me in the net.”

Kane will look to extend the record to 25 games on Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets. That would tie Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (2010-11) for the longest streak this century, but would still leave him some way short of the all-time League record set by Wayne Gretzky in 1983-84 at 51 games with the Edmonton Oilers.

Gretzky believes Kane can break his record: “He can get there, absolutely,” he said. “What does it take to get there? It’s a combination of things. First of all, you have to be good and you have to get a little bit lucky.

“I was a little bit lucky during the streak, whether it was a (secondary) assist late in the game or an empty-net point. You have to stay healthy and you have to be surrounded by really good teammates. He has all the intangibles he needs.”

Gretzky also spoke about the team’s importance in making individual records happen – especially when it comes to maintaining a streak over such a large number of games.

“Even though it’s an individual record it becomes a team-oriented record when the players start thinking about it and trying to be part of it. There are going to be scenarios and situations probably when Kane might not have been on the ice in the past and Joel Quenneville is going to give him that opportunity as Glen Sather gave to me. You have to run with it and so far he has.”

“Records are made to be broken. I’m going to watch him and if he breaks the record I’ll be the first guy to shake his hand.”

Fifa to expand World Cup to 40 teams from 2026

Fifa is reportedly planning to expand the World Cup to 40 participating teams, with the potential expansion to be discussed today.

The proposal is designed to increase parity between European countries and the rest of world in World Cup participation and as such will appeal to the majority of the 209 FIFA member countries.

The game’s governing body will discuss the proposal at an executive committee meeting today, with the change hoping to appeal to the majority of the 209 members.

There is a collective feeling that European football and Uefa have too many qualification berths for the World Cup, with the scope for increasing the number of participating teams allowing more nations from across the world to take part and potentially succeed.

The decision to increase the number of qualifying places is being seen as a sweetener to get the majority of the Fifa countries on board with other reforms and governance issues that are also going to be voted on.

With five candidates vying for the FIFA presidency in 2016, increasing World Cup participation is a campaign objective for all of them considering they need global support in order to win votes in next year’s elections.

Currently there are 14 places at the 2018 World Cup in Russia for Uefa-qualified nations, including the hosts.

Currently, Africa will have five spots at the competition, with four-and-a-half for Asia and South America (the fifth-ranked side in qualifying from each continent are entered in a playoff).

North and Central America (CONCACAF) have three and half places, with the fourth ranked side entered in a playoff fixture with the top ranked side from Oceania.

If the motion to increase the amount of teams is passed it will be the second increase in participating nations, after the number was boosted from 24 to 32 in 1994. The expected increases will most likely result in guaranteed participation for Oceania and increased participation for the rest of the continents. It remains to be seen whether Europe will get an increase in their allocation, but even then their overall % in terms of representation at the World Cup will fall to 40% if not less.

The reforms in the structure of the game continue to be discussed despite the fact that Fifa has been hit with a corruption scandal that has plagued the sport right to its core.

The latest black mark on football saw two more Fifa officials arrested in Zurich today, with scope for further allegations against senior members of the organisation.

Renowned Russian pentathlete Alexander Kukarin, 22, dies in unexpected circumstances

Russian pentathlete Alexander Kukarin has unexpectedly died aged 22, with the cause thought to have been a heart attack.

The distinguished athlete passed away at a Moscow hotel last Thursday, with a reported cardiac arrest stated as an early reason.

Kukarin’s death was confirmed in a statement by the Modern Pentathlon Federation of Russia.

“Modern Pentathlon Federation of Russia is sad to announce that on November 26 Russian pentathlete Alexander Kukarin died,” the acknowledgement on the organisation’s official website reads.

“Modern Pentathlon Federation of Russia expresses condolences to the families and friends of the athlete.”

The statement continued by ruling out foul play or suspicious circumstances.

“We did not find any signs that he had been attacked, while there were no suspicious signs,” it said.

“The athletes have finished their season and Alexander was not at a training camp. An unexpected cardiac arrest is our initial diagnosis. The autopsy and final results will be ready in one and a half to two months.”

Kukarin’s proudest competitive moment came as he won a relay silver at the 2015 World Championships in Berlin earlier this year.

The Russian also claimed a bronze medal in the mixed relay at the 2015 European Championships in Bath back in August.

The 22-year-old was also a champion of junior sport, winning World and European tournaments back in 2011.

Kukarin was buried at a St Petersburg cemetery on Sunday.

Cristiano Ronaldo calms crying fan while signing autographs

Cristiano Ronaldo was signing autographs at Bilbao airport when a boy become emotional after meeting his idol. Ronaldo was there to hug and comfort him.

Cristiano Ronaldo was walking through Bilbao Airport with his Real Madrid teammates when they decided to stop and sign autographs for the fans waiting for the team’s arrival.

One young boy was overwhelmed with emotions and started crying as Ronaldo signed his poster and Real Madrid shirt, leading to Ronaldo giving the boy a hug and few encouraging words.

The young boy was able to regain his composure and posed for attending cameras with his autographed shirt afterwards.