Abramovich cedes control of Chelsea as Premier League show support for Ukraine
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich handed over control of Chelsea to the trustees of his charitable foundation on Saturday as Premier League players showed their support for war-torn Ukraine.
Elsewhere on a dramatic day in the English top flight, Christian Eriksen made an emotional return to football eight months after suffering cardiac arrest and leaders Manchester City nabbed a late winner at Everton.
Abramovich’s decision, which overshadowed the action on the ground, comes just days after Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine, which drew international condemnation.
The 55-year-old, who has invested £1.5bn ($2bn) in Chelsea since joining Stamford Bridge in 2003, said in a statement on the club’s website that he had always considered his role as “keeper of the club”. .
“I have always taken decisions in the interests of the club,” he said. “I remain committed to these values. That is why today I entrust the trustees of the Chelsea Charitable Foundation with the management and care of Chelsea FC.
“I think they are currently in the best position to defend the interests of the club, the players, the staff and the supporters.”
It is understood Abramovich made the decision in order to protect Chelsea from reputational damage as war rages in Ukraine.
News reports indicated that Abramovich would remain the owner of the club and was not looking to sell the European champions, who thrived under his ownership.
The British government on Friday ordered the freezing of all assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following the invasion of Ukraine.
The Treasury issued a notice of financial sanctions against the two men, adding them to a list of Russian oligarchs already targeted.
Abramovich, whose side will face Liverpool in the League Cup final on Sunday, is not on the list.
Everton’s Ukrainian team-mates Vitalii Mykolenko and Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko hug each other before the late kick-off at Goodison Park, where both were on as substitutes.
Both teams displayed the colors of the Ukrainian flag ahead of the match, with Zinchenko in tears as the crowd unveiled banners including one that read “We stand with Ukraine”.
Phil Foden struck eight minutes from time as City escaped with a 1-0 victory at relegation-threatened Everton to open a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
– Eriksen’s return –
Brentford boss Thomas Frank brought on Danish playmaker Eriksen in the 52nd minute of his side’s 2-0 home loss to Newcastle.
It was the first appearance in a competitive game for the 30-year-old former Tottenham and Inter Milan midfielder since collapsing on the pitch in the opener of Denmark’s Euro 2020 against Finland in June.
Eriksen was given a standing ovation by the crowd and both groups of players at Brentford Community Stadium as he made his entrance.
“If you take away the result, I’m a happy man,” Eriksen told Sky Sports. “Getting through what I’ve been through, being back is a wonderful feeling.
“Thomas (Frank) didn’t say much (when I arrived). I’ve spoken to him every day for the past few weeks. He just said ‘good luck and a good game’.”
Manchester United dropped crucial points in a frustrating 0-0 stalemate with Watford after players from both sides united with a sign saying ‘peace’ in six languages ahead of their game at Old Trafford.
The result puts them fourth in the Premier League, but they are now just two points clear of Arsenal, who are three games behind.
“We did everything except score,” caretaker manager Ralf Rangnick told the BBC.
“It’s hard to take this result. In the end, if you miss so many chances, it’s hard to win the game. We were in total control for almost the whole game. We hardly allowed them to counterattacks.”
Early in the kick-off, Tottenham beat Leeds 4-0 to maintain their chances of finishing in the top four and increase the pressure on Elland Road boss Marcelo Bielsa.
Matty Cash put Aston Villa ahead at Brighton, lifting his shirt to reveal a message to Polish international team-mate Tomasz Kedziora, who plays at his football club Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine, and Ollie Watkins made it 2-0.
Crystal Palace drew 1-1 with relegation-threatened Burnley.