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Manchester United out of Conti Cup after Aston Villa lose three points for fielding ineligible player

Aston Villa have been deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player during the Continental Cup group stage, resulting in Sunderland qualifying for the competition’s knock-out stages at Manchester United’s expense.

January signing Noelle Maritz was introduced as a second-half substitute during Wednesday’s 7-0 win over Sunderland. However, the full-back had already played in this season’s competition for former side Arsenal, which is contrary to competition rules.

A Football Association independent tribunal ordered the points deducted from Villa be awarded to Sunderland. As a result, Sunderland have leapfrogged Villa at the top of Group A with 10 points and qualified for the knockout stages, while Villa progress as one of the two best-placed runners up with nine points.

Tottenham Hotspur qualified as the other best-placed runner-up, having finished second to Arsenal in Group D with 10 points.

Manchester United had been on course to claim a best-placed runners-up spot before Villa’s points deduction after finishing second in Group B to Manchester City with nine points. However, the awarding of three points to Sunderland plus Villa’s superior goal difference sees United eliminated.

United said they did not “understand” the “rationale” of the decision and are considering their options.

An FA statement read: “An independent tribunal have deducted three points from Aston Villa for fielding an ineligible player during their FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup group stage fixture against Sunderland on Wednesday 24 January 2024.

“The FA alleged that the player was ineligible for this game, as she had previously featured in the competition for her former club, which constitutes a breach of Cup Rule 8.19.

“Aston Villa admitted this charge and acknowledged the breach had occurred. The independent tribunal ordered that the points deducted from Aston Villa be awarded to their opponents Sunderland, while the 7-0 scoreline is to be expunged from the record.”

Conti Cup rule 8.19 states: “No player may play for more than one club in the cup competition in a playing season.”

Villa believe it was an administrative mistake that caused the error.

A United statement read: “We are very disappointed with this outcome, and do not understand its rationale. We feel that it undermines the integrity of the competition, and of the women’s game.

“We are considering our options in response.”

Conti Cup Group A pre-points deduction

Conti Cup Group A post-points deduction

Conti Cup Group B

The six group winners plus the two best-placed runners-up qualify for the Continental Cup quarter-finals.

Sunderland and Aston Villa join Manchester City, Tottenham, London City Lionesses, Arsenal and Brighton in the last eight.

Villa had secured a comfortable win over Sunderland with goals from Alisha Lehmann, Jordan Nobbs, Rachel Corsie, Ebony Salmon, Simone Magill, Adriana Leon and a Natasha Fenton own goal seeing Carla Ward’s side to victory.

The Conti Cup quarter-final draw takes place on Monday evening.

(Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)



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