Celtic triumph to clinch title
Celtic clinched their third straight league title in stylish and typically dominant fashion on Wednesday, beating Partick Thistle 5-1 to take an unassailable 26-point lead in the standings with seven matches left to play. Anthony Stokes scored twice and Liam Henderson, Stefan Johansen and Kris Commons grabbed the other goals for Celtic, who secured the championship at the earliest date in the calendar since 1928-1929. “You could feel it over the last couple of weeks,” Celtic manager Neil Lennon said. “The anticipation building and the style in which we finished it was fantastic, symptomatic of the way this team is.” With fierce Glasgow rival Rangers spending their second season out of the top flight as punishment for financial mismanagement, Celtic have had free reign in the Premiership over the past two seasons. Neil Lennon’s side have lost just one league game all season on their way to sealing a 45th title. Rangers have won 54 championships. “To lose one game and break a clean-sheet record into the bargain, it has been exceptional,” Lennon said.
Scunthorpe equal record
Lowly Scunthorpe United in the fourth tier equaled a 125-year-old record when manager Russ Wilcox made it 23 unbeaten games from the start of his reign. On their manager’s 50th birthday, Wilcox’s side won 2-0 at Cheltenham Town on Tuesday to match the feat of William Sudell of Preston North End in 1889. “To go 23 league games undefeated is crazy really. It’s half a season. There has to be massive credit to everybody involved — the players, the staff; everybody,” Wilcox told the club’s Web site. Chairman of the League Managers Association and former Leeds United boss Howard Wilkinson described Wilcox as “an inspirational story for any would-be coach or manager.” Scunthorpe, who last lost a league match in November last year before Wilcox took over, are second in League Two.
Benfica’s unbeaten run ends
Jackson Martinez headed an early goal to give Porto a 1-0 win over SL Benfica in the Taca de Portugal on Wednesday and end their rivals’ 27-match unbeaten run in all competitions. Portuguese league leaders Benfica’s last defeat was against Olympiakos in the UEFA Champions League on Nov. 5 last year and their previous domestic defeat was at CS Maritimo on the opening day of the season. Martinez rose above the Benfica defense to head in from a corner in the sixth minute of the semi-final first leg. The Colombia forward was involved in most of Porto’s most dangerous moves and he hit the post from close range in the second half. Porto goalkeeper Fabiano also contributed, making a superb one-handed save from Ruben Amorim.
Nations League vote passed
UEFA has voted to introduce a new Nations League from 2018 with successful sides from the tournament involving national teams able to earn places at Euro 2020. Although the exact format has yet to be finalized, four slots at Euro 2020 will be made available from the new competition. “Twenty teams will advance from the qualifying competition to the Euro 2020 finals,” UEFA general-secretary Gianni Infantino told delegates at a congress in Kazakhstan yesterday. “That leaves four extra slots to be filled and they will come from four teams from the Nations League who have not otherwise qualified through the qualifiers.” The new competition was unanimously passed by all 54 member associations.