Villarreal Beat Manchester United To Win Europa League

 

Villarreal stunned Manchester United after a marathon penalty shoot-out, with goalkeeper David de Gea missing the last spot-kick, in the Europa League final to lift their first-ever major trophy on Wednesday in Gdansk.

It finished 1-1 after 120 minutes as Gerard Moreno put the unfancied Spaniards ahead in the 29th minute before Edinson Cavani levelled early in the second half.

But Villarreal won a remarkable shoot-out 11-10, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still waiting for his first trophy as United manager.

Villarreal players celebrate their victory at the end of the 2021 UEFA Europa League football final between Spain’s Villarreal and England’s Manchester United at the Gdansk Stadium in the Polish city of Gdansk on May 26, 2021. (Photo by ALEKSANDRA SZMIGIEL / POOL / AFP)
Villarreal players celebrate their victory at the end of the 2021 UEFA Europa League football final between Spain’s Villarreal and England’s Manchester United at the Gdansk Stadium in the Polish city of Gdansk on May 26, 2021. (Photo by ALEKSANDRA SZMIGIEL / POOL / AFP)
Villarreal’s Spanish midfielder Moises (C) and teammates celebrate after winning the UEFA Europa League final football match between Villarreal CF and Manchester United at the Gdansk Stadium in Gdansk on May 26, 2021. (Photo by Michael Sohn / POOL / AFP)
Villarreal’s Spanish midfielder Moises (C) and teammates celebrate after winning the UEFA Europa League final football match between Villarreal CF and Manchester United at the Gdansk Stadium in Gdansk on May 26, 2021. (Photo by Michael Sohn / POOL / AFP)
Villarreal’s Spanish midfielder Moises (C) and teammates celebrate after winning the UEFA Europa League final football match between Villarreal CF and Manchester United at the Gdansk Stadium in Gdansk on May 26, 2021. (Photo by Michael Sohn / POOL / AFP)
Villarreal’s Spanish forward Paco Alcacer (C) celebrates after winning the UEFA Europa League final football match between Villarreal CF and Manchester United at the Gdansk Stadium in Gdansk on May 26, 2021. (Photo by MAJA HITIJ / POOL / AFP)

Norwich City Promoted To The Premier League

Photo: @NorwichCityFC

 

Norwich City were promoted to the Premier League despite a 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday as draws for Swansea and Brentford sent the Championship leaders back into the top-flight.

Daniel Farke’s side have dominated the second tier with 27 wins from their 42 games so far, earning an immediate return to the Premier League following last season’s relegation.

The Canaries suffered just a sixth defeat of the season after Dimitrios Giannoulis’s red card after just 17 minutes at Carrow Road.

Emi Buendia had already opened the scoring for the hosts before the sending-off, but Bournemouth made the most of their man advantage to consolidate their place in the playoff places.

Second-half goals from Sam Surridge, Arnaut Danjuma and Lloyd Kelly moved the fifth-placed Cherries to within eight points of Watford in the second automatic promotion place.

“It’s massive. It’s not an easy task when you get relegated to bounce straight back and today we’ve managed to do that,” Norwich midfielder Todd Cantwell said.

“It’s disappointing this evening. A controversial decision and some controversial goals but we can go home smiling knowing we’re going up.”

Norwich’s promotion was guaranteed after third-placed Swansea were held to a 2-2 draw by bottom of the table Wycombe, while fourth-placed Brentford drew 0-0 with Millwall.

Farke’s men are 14 points clear of Swansea, who have four games left, and 16 ahead of Brentford, who have five matches left.

They are also eight points clear of Watford, who lost 1-0 at local rivals Luton on Saturday.

Swansea were forced to claw their way back from two goals down against bottom-of-the-table Wycombe to keep alive their slim hopes of challenging Watford for automatic promotion.

Steve Cooper’s side were able to cut the gap between second and third to six points thanks to their dramatic draw.

Admiral Muskwe put Wycombe ahead 19 seconds into the second half at the Liberty Stadium when he lashed a lay-off from Uche Ikpeazu past Freddie Woodman from the edge of the area.

Five minutes later they doubled their lead, Garath McCleary fired into the bottom corner to double Wycombe’s lead.

But Jason McCarthy conceded a penalty for handball in the 80th minute and Jamal Lowe scored his fourth goal in three games.

Swansea substitute Liam Cullen headed home a Connor Roberts cross with eight minutes remaining.

Man Utd Frustrated By Penalty Row In Chelsea Stalemate, Bale Stars For Spurs

 

Manchester United were left frustrated by a VAR penalty controversy in their 0-0 draw at Chelsea, while the revitalised Gareth Bale struck twice in Tottenham’s 4-0 rout of Burnley on Sunday.

Second-placed United had hoped to close the gap on Manchester City with a victory at Stamford Bridge.

But instead they now sit 12 points behind the Premier League leaders as their title hopes fade following a run of one win from four games.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is unbeaten in nine matches in all competitions since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard, but the stalemate was a blow to his team’s top-four challenge.

The fifth-placed Blues are one point behind fourth-placed West Ham and four ahead of sixth-placed Liverpool, who visit Sheffield United in Sunday’s late game.

Neither side could claim they deserved to win in a game of few clear-cut chances.

The biggest talking point came in the first half when United’s appeal for a penalty was rejected by referee Stuart Attwell after he consulted the pitchside monitor when Callum Hudson-Odoi appeared to handle in a challenge with Mason Greenwood.

After five defeats in their previous six league games, Tottenham eased the pressure on Jose Mourinho with a significant contribution from Bale, who made just his third league start of the season.

The Wales forward’s most impressive display since his season-long loan move from Real Madrid gave him four goals in his last four appearances.

Bale, who had clashed with Tottenham boss Mourinho over his fitness earlier in February, took just 68 seconds to score with a clinical close-range finish from Son Heung-min’s cross.

In the 15th minute, Bale’s superb long pass picked out Harry Kane’s run and the England captain’s shot deflected off James Tarkowski for his 22nd goal of the season.

Lucas Moura netted with a predatory finish after Sergio Reguilon’s cross was deflected into the Brazilian’s path by Tarkowski in the 31st minute.

Bale, in his second spell with Tottenham after leaving for Madrid in 2013, scored again with a cool strike from Son’s 55th-minute pass.

Tottenham are up to eighth, six points behind the top four with a game in hand.

“Sometimes you (the media) like to say things that are not really true but there is not one single manager in the world that doesn’t play Gareth Bale if Gareth Bale is in very good condition,” Mourinho said.

“There is not one, but now he is better than ever. It’s not just about the two goals he scored, it’s fundamentally about his physical performance.”

Arsenal down Leicester

Arsenal delivered a hammer blow to Leicester’s faint hopes of winning the title with an impressive 3-1 win.

Mikel Arteta’s side fell behind to Youri Tielemans’ early goal at the King Power Stadium, but David Luiz equalised and Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty gave Arsenal the lead.

Nicolas Pepe’s second-half goal sealed the Gunners’ second win in their last six league games and their first success at a team in the Premier League’s top three since 2015.

Leicester remain in third place and trail City by 13 points with 12 games remaining.

After Thursday’s shock Europa League exit against Slavia Prague, it was a week to forget for Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers.

With Arsenal stuck in mid-table, Arteta has prioritised winning the Europa League as his side’s only hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Having picked his best team for the come-from-behind win against Benfica in the last 32 second leg on Thursday, Arteta left Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka on the bench after the long trip back from the neutral venue in Greece.

After the gamble paid off, Arteta said: “Coming into this game I was concerned. They’re one of the most dangerous teams in the league to play once you go behind against them.

“The reaction was terrific, the team looked really mature.”

Third-bottom Fulham are three points from safety after a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.

Kane’s Return Lifts Mourinho As Spurs End Losing Streak

 

Harry Kane returned from injury to ease the pressure on Jose Mourinho as the Tottenham striker inspired a 2-0 win against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

Mourinho’s side had lost their previous three Premier League games to put their top four hopes in peril.

Revitalised by Kane’s earlier than expected return from an ankle problem suffered against Liverpool, Tottenham got back to winning ways just when the under-fire Mourinho needed it most.

Kane had missed the last two games, but he made up for lost time by opening the scoring in the second half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Kane’s 20th goal in all competitions this season took him to 208 goals in 317 Tottenham appearances — level in joint second place alongside Bobby Smith in the club’s all-time scoring list.

The England captain’s milestone goal was followed by a Son Heung-min strike moments later that killed off West Brom.

Amid criticism of Mourinho’s negative tactics and talk of rifts with several players, there is a long way to go before seventh-placed Tottenham are completely back on track.

Only three wins from the last 12 league games before this weekend — the same sequence that saw Mourinho’s predecessor Mauricio Pochettino sacked — had left the Portuguese coach in the spotlight.

But, in the midst of Mourinho’s winter of discontent, this was a small step in the right direction as snow flurries swirled around frozen north London.

Thursday’s defeat against Chelsea condemned Mourinho to consecutive home league defeats for the first time as a manager.

– Classy Kane –
In the circumstances, second bottom West Brom were ideal opponents for Tottenham to end their dismal decline.

Kane showed the class that Tottenham miss in his absence when he spun away from his marker and delivered a pin-point pass that Son couldn’t convert.

Inevitably at the heart of all Tottenham’s best moments, Kane was inches away from opening the scoring, taking Serge Aurier’s pass in stride and firing just wide.

There was a little sign of rustiness when Kane shot wide from Son’s pass, but he was back involved moments later when his blocked effort was nearly scrambled in by Lucas Moura.

Shifting Lucas’s pass into his right, Kane looked more like his old self when he unleashed a fierce strike that Sam Johnstone pushed away.

Johnstone made an even better save to keep out Aurier’s close-range diving header.

After being outplayed for the entire first half, West Brom’s Mbaye Diagne threatened to give the visitors a shock lead when his header almost squirmed away from Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris.

Kane’s defence-splitting pass sent Son racing through on goal, but again Johnstone rescued Albion with a good stop.

Tottenham’s incessant pressure finally paid off in the 54th minute as Kane beat the offside trap to collect Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s pass before guiding a low shot into the far corner.

Four minutes later, Son wrapped up the points after a rapier thrust from Mourinho’s men.

Taking Kane’s lay-off, Lucas ran from deep inside his own half to the Albion area and picked out Son, whose clinical finish took him to 17 goals in all competitions this term.

AFP

Spurs Hit Man Utd For Six, Arsenal Edge Blades

 

Jose Mourinho humiliated his former club Manchester United as Tottenham swept to a stunning 6-1 win at Old Trafford, while Arsenal moved into the Premier League’s top four with a 2-1 victory against Sheffield United on Sunday.

Tottenham boss Mourinho was sacked by United in 2018 after a turbulent reign, but it was his successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was left red-faced after a shambolic display from the hosts.

Despite taking the lead through Bruno Fernandes’ second-minute penalty, United collapsed as they conceded four goals in the first half of a league match for the first time since 1957.

Tanguy Ndombele equalised in the fourth minute after dismal defending from Harry Maguire and South Korea forward Son Heung-min made it two from Harry Kane’s seventh minute quick free-kick.

United were reduced to 10 men when Anthony Martial was harshly sent off in the 28th minute for his reaction to a push from Erik Lamela.

That opened the floodgates as United surrendered, with Kane grabbing Tottenham’s third in the 31st minute after stealing Eric Bailly’s weak pass.

READ ALSO: Tottenham Hit 10-Man Man Utd For Six On Mourinho’s Return

United were in disarray and Serge Aurier crossed for Son’s close-range finish in the 37th minute.

Aurier drilled home in the 51st minute and Kane made it six with a 79th-minute penalty.

It was just the third time United had conceded six goals in the Premier League era started in 1992.

Solskjaer’s team have lost their first two home games for the first time since 1986 and sit just two places above the relegation zone after their heaviest home defeat since Manchester City beat them 6-1 in 2011.

Tottenham are up to fifth place after their second league win this term, ending a run of four games in eight days that included knocking Chelsea, another of Mourinho’s old clubs, out of the League Cup on Tuesday.

– Saka shines –
Arsenal have taken nine points from their opening four games as they look to return to Champions League football for the first time in five years next season.

But the Gunners were fortunate to take all three points at the Emirates as they had an early escape when David Luiz escaped a red card for a pull on Oli Burke.

Mikel Arteta’s men got going after the break and a fine team move opened the scoring on the hour mark when Bukayo Saka headed home Hector Bellerin’s cross at the far post.

Bellerin was the provider again moments later as Nicolas Pepe drove forward to curl the ball in off the far post.

David McGoldrick halved the deficit seven minutes from time with the Blades first league goal of the season, but they remain without a point.

Leicester rocked

Leicester’s perfect start came to a shuddering halt with a 3-0 defeat at home to West Ham, just a week after the Foxes thrashed Manchester City 5-2.

Liverpool can now leapfrog Leicester to move joint top of the table alongside Merseyside rivals Everton if they win at Aston Villa later on Sunday.

West Ham manager David Moyes was again taking charge from home after testing positive for coronavirus.

But just as in a 4-0 win over Wolves last weekend, the Hammers did not miss his presence as goals from Michail Antonio, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen gave the visitors a full deserved three points.

At St Mary’s, Southampton won their second successive game by seeing off lowly West Brom 2-0.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side dominated throughout but had to wait until the 41st minute to open the scoring when Moussa Djenepo’s clever drag-back eluded Jake Livermore before the winger stroked his finish into the bottom corner.

Oriol Romeu met Stuart Armstrong’s cross with a brilliant volley from the edge of the area in the 69th minute.

Wolves beat Fulham 1-0 at Molineux as Pedro Neto’s 56th minute goal clinched their second league win of the season.

Bamford Strikes Late As Leeds Blunt Blades

 

Patrick Bamford scored a dramatic late winner as Premier League new boys Leeds snatched a 1-0 victory at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United on Sunday.

Marcelo Bielsa’s promoted side earned their second successive league win thanks to Bamford’s header with just two minutes left.

Bamford’s third goal of the season settled a hard-fought clash that was dominated by superb displays from Leeds keeper Illan Meslier and Blades stopper Aaron Ramsdale.

Leeds look well-equipped to enjoy a strong showing in their first season back in the top-flight for 16 years.

On their return to the Premier League, Leeds’ first two games produced 14 goals and they were the first top-flight side to both score and concede seven goals in their first two matches since Liverpool in the 1932-33 season.

But they needed just one goal to earn a valuable victory at Bramall Lane.

“It was a just result. The first half was even. We could have scored, but we could have conceded and the second half was a lot better for us,” said Bielsa, who refused to discuss reports linking Leeds with a move for Norwich midfielder Todd Cantwell.

The Blades have now lost six successive league games dating back to last season and they remain without a league goal this term.

“I’ll be glad to see the back of September. Have we got another game in September? I don’t think we have. So, a fresh start in October at Arsenal!” Blades boss Chris Wilder said.

The bad news kept on coming just before kick-off when Blades defender Jack O’Connell was ruled out for the season with a knee injury.

Leeds made a lively start to the first Yorkshire derby in the Premier League since 2001 as Luke Ayling tested Ramsdale from long range.

The Blades’ lack of confidence was clear and John Lundstram should have ended their barren run when he met Ben Osborn’s cross with a low strike, but Meslier flung himself to his right to make a superb save.

Ramsdale matched Meslier’s impressive stop with a fine save of his own as he kept out a rising drive from Stuart Dallas.

Meslier was unconvincing in Leeds’ first two games this season, but the 20-year-old made another good save to repel George Baldock’s rising drive.

Helder Costa and Bamford had strikes turned away by Ramsdale as the keepers remained on top at both ends.

Even when Dallas managed to get past Ramsdale, Chris Basham was there to clear off the line.

Ian Poveda came on for Leeds and the former Manchester City youngster immediately saw Ramsdale push his shot over.

But Bamford finally broke the deadlock in the 88th minute as he ended Ramsdale’s resistance with a close-range header from Harrison’s cross.

Man City Pounce On Varane Mistakes To Dump Out Real Madrid

 

Manchester City took advantage of two shocking mistakes by Raphael Varane to beat Real Madrid 2-1 in their Champions League last 16-second leg on Friday and advance to the quarter-finals as Pep Guardiola came out on top in his duel with Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman had never been knocked out of Europe’s elite club competition as Real coach, leading them to three consecutive victories between 2016 and 2018 in his first spell before returning to the job last year.

But Madrid had been left with a mountain to climb in this tie after throwing away the lead to lose 2-1 in the first leg in Spain in February, before the coronavirus forced the competition into hibernation.

An identical defeat at an empty Etihad Stadium means it is City who advance 4-2 on aggregate.

READ ALSO: Lyon Hold Off Juventus To Reach Champions League Quarter-Finals

Without Sergio Ramos due to suspension, Real were undone by mistakes by their other first-choice centre-back.

Varane was dispossessed inside the box in the ninth minute allowing Raheem Sterling to put City ahead, and his poor headed backpass attempt gifted Gabriel Jesus another goal midway through the second half.

Before that second goal the tie had been in the balance with the in-form Karim Benzema having scored for the visitors just before the half-hour mark.

The circumstances may be highly unusual, but this is still City’s finest Champions League result, their most significant victory in a knock-out tie.

Their best performance in the competition remains a run to the semi-finals in 2016, when they went out rather limply to Real.

Now they should very possibly be considered the favourites to win the competition in Lisbon on August 23.

If they do so, the victory would taste all the sweeter coming so soon after their successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport against a two-year ban from Europe handed down by UEFA for breaches of their Financial Fair Play rules.

They have already qualified for next season’s tournament after coming second in the Premier League but now they can look forward to facing Lyon in the quarter-finals next Saturday at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Real, meanwhile, will get over this.

They have dined out on success in the Champions League in recent years but their main objective after the coronavirus shutdown was to win La Liga and they did that.

Zidane’s team overhauled Barcelona thanks to 10 successive victories after La Liga returned in June but they were not especially prolific in front of goal during that run, despite Benzema’s fine form.

Uphill struggle

It was already going to be an uphill struggle for them in the absence of Ramos, sent off late in the first leg, and their task became even harder after they conceded an early opener.

City’s high pressing paid off as Varane was barged off the ball in his own area by Jesus, who squared for Sterling to roll in.

There was a response from the 13-time European champions, though, with Benzema and Eden Hazard both forcing saves from Ederson before their equaliser on the night arrived in the 28th minute.

A fine move ended with Benzema feeding Rodrygo and the young Brazilian clipping in a cross from the right for the Frenchman, who rose above Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho to head in from the edge of the six-yard box.

It was his 65th goal in the Champions League, putting him one clear of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski on the overall list and behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Raul.

Unfortunately for Real, Benzema was not able to add to that tally and this tie was effectively ended by another Varane blooper.

The Frenchman struggled with an awkward high ball downfield and his header back towards Thibaut Courtois was short, allowing Jesus to prod it beyond the goalkeeper and into the net.

Real will not return to Lisbon, where they won the Champions League in 2014, but the dream remains alive for Guardiola and City.

AFP

Lampard Hails Chelsea’s ‘Character’ After FA Cup Semi-Final Success

Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

Frank Lampard saluted Chelsea’s “character and personality” as they powered into the FA Cup final with a 3-1 win over woeful Manchester United on Sunday.

Lampard’s side were gifted their goals by an error-strewn display from United goalkeeper David De Gea, but Chelsea were deserved winners as they dominated the semi-final from start to finish.

Olivier Giroud opened the scoring late in the first half and Mason Mount got the second after the interval at Wembley.

Harry Maguire’s own goal killed off United before Bruno Fernandes’ late penalty.

After some shaky performances in recent weeks, including a 3-0 hammering at Sheffield United, Lampard was impressed with the spirited way his players out-classed in-form United at Wembley.

“I can’t ask for any more from my players than that. The work ethic and the level of performance. We were on top and when they changed their system we were even better,” Lampard told the BBC.

“Where we are at, it is going to happen that we have some bad displays like against Sheffield United. But to do that against Manchester United, I’m delighted and very proud.

“There was a lot of work done in the last two days to change the system, and you’re only as good as your players in that situation. They deserve a huge amount of credit.

“They should take confidence from that display. We have leaders, you can’t compare across eras but we have leaders in the team. It was a performance full of character and personality.”

Chelsea’s victory moved Lampard a step closer to silverware in his first season in charge of the club where he earned legendary status as a player.

Before their FA Cup final date with London rivals Arsenal on August 1, Chelsea have to focus on qualifying for the Champions League via a top four finish in the Premier League.

They sit third — one point above Leicester and United — with games against Liverpool and Wolves to finish the league season.

“We have finals ahead. Two in the league and then Arsenal,” Lampard said.

“We want to win things, and at the start of the season we wanted to be up there challenging for the top four.

“A lot of people were tipping against us, but quietly I was always hoping.

“I don’t want to put everything on these three games defining everything we’ve done and the progress we’ve made, but of course we want top four, we want trophies and we’re at the business end, so let’s see.”

Chelsea Crush Everton To Cement Top Four Place

 

Frank Lampard warned Chelsea not to get complacent after they took control of the race to qualify for the Champions League with a 4-0 demolition of Everton on Sunday.

Lampard’s side won for just the second time in seven league games thanks to goals from Mason Mount, Pedro, Willian and Olivier Giroud in a masterful display at Stamford Bridge.

Fourth-placed Chelsea are in pole position to qualify for the Champions League with nine games to play.

But Lampard doesn’t want his stars to rest on their laurels just yet.

Aware that inconsistency has been the Achilles heel of his promising young team, Lampard said: “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. I’m experienced enough to know we go to Aston Villa next week, they are fighting for their lives and we have to replicate this performance.

“There’s still a long way to go. It’s still close. Even if it looks like a cushion as I sit here now, it doesn’t feel that way.

“It’s in our hands, but I’m certainly not going to jump in and say we are favourites. We have had inconsistency at times this season.”

While Lampard struck a cautious note about Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions, the Blues boss was quick to praise his players for delivering their biggest league win of the season.

It was exactly what Lampard demanded after Chelsea got back on track with their FA Cup fifth round win over Liverpool on Tuesday.

“At home yes, it was our best performance, because of the goals and the clean sheet,” Lampard said.

“In terms of performance we have been close to that a lot. We haven’t got the hard bit, the goals. Today we reached that.

“The finishing, the energy in the team, the speed of the pass, getting after the ball. We saw some really good stuff.

“It’s encouraging. You will always need your squad. We have a lot of injuries. The only way to tackle that is to work hard, play with energy and trust either other.

“I thought the whole attitude and focus of the team felt strong after Liverpool.”

Gilmour shines

Too often this term, Chelsea have dominated possession without killing off defensive opponents at Stamford Bridge.

But they tore into Everton from the start, with Mount and Pedro especially lively as they built on the platform provided by 18-year-old midfielder Billy Gilmour.

Gilmour was making his first Premier League start after a fine display against Liverpool and the Scot did everything Lampard asked of him.

“In the position where he plays, receiving the ball under pressure, he has to show balls. He’s done that, then when he played further up the field later in the game, he immediately took that on as well,” Lampard said.

Everton’s revival under Carlo Ancelotti has hit the buffers, with a run of three games without a win exposing them as frauds in the Champions League battle.

“Everything went wrong. We were too open defensively. We lost a lot of duels and with the ball we did a lot of mistakes,” Ancelotti said.

“It is not difficult to analyse this game. It is the first game when we did not compete. We have to learn from this.”

Defeats against Arsenal and Chelsea, along with a draw against Manchester United, have left Everton to focus on a Europa League berth instead.

“We never said we could qualify for the Champions League, but we can fight for the Europa League,” Ancelotti said.

Asked if he was satisfied with Everton’s commitment, Ancelotti gave a pointed pause before saying: “There are things I can analyse with you, and things I can analyse with my players.”

AFP

Sheffield United Weather The Storm To Climb To Fifth

 

Sheffield United closed to within two points of a Champions League place by coming from behind to keep Bournemouth perilously close to the relegation zone with a 2-1 win at Bramall Lane.

John Lundstram came off the bench to score the winner as the Blades moved up to fifth after Billy Sharp had cancelled out Callum Wilson’s early opener for the visitors.

Defeat leaves Bournemouth still just two points above the bottom three, having played a game more than most of their rivals to avoid relegation.

READ ALSO: Man City Clash With West Ham Postponed Over Storm

The only game in the Premier League due to on Sunday went ahead after a pitch inspection as the effects of storm Ciara, which saw Manchester City’s clash with West Ham postponed, were not enough to convince referee John Moss to abandon the game.

Early on it was the hosts who were blown off course as the Cherries looked to build on back-to-back wins that had hauled them out of the bottom three.

Wilson struck his second goal in three games with an emphatic finish on the rebound after Harry Wilson’s initial effort was blocked.

United responded just in time to go in level at the break when captain Sharp was quickest to react as the ball flashed across the Bournemouth goal after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

A day after Jordan Pickford’s blunder nearly cost Everton all three points Dean Henderson did no harm to his chances in his challenge to be England’s number one at Euro 2020.

Henderson produced a brilliant save from Ryan Fraser to prevent Bournemouth retaking the lead 20 minutes from time.

That save proved crucial when six minutes from time Lys Mousset’s cross was controlled and finished by Lundstram on a trademark run into the box to keep the Blades dreams of European football next season very much alive.

Iheanacho Denies Villa As Leicester Earn League Cup Semi-Final Draw

 

 

 

Brendan Rodgers warned Leicester will have to suffer to reach the League Cup final after Kelechi Iheanacho’s late goal earned a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Rodgers’ side fell behind to Frederic Guilbert’s first half goal in the semi-final first leg at the King Power Stadium.

But Iheanacho came off the bench to equalise with his sixth goal in eight appearances this season.

Leicester will feel they should have won after dominating for long periods, but the team in second place in the Premier League will have to finish the job at Villa Park in the second leg on January 28.

“Overall I thought we dominated the game. Villa made some blocks and the keeper made some good saves,” Rodgers said.

“Over two ties it was always going to be tough and to get to a final you have to suffer, but the boys are confident.”

Rodgers has a remarkable record of advancing from his last 30 domestic cup ties with Liverpool, Celtic, and Leicester.

But the last team to beat Rodgers in a domestic knockout competition were Villa in the FA Cup semi-finals in 2014-15 when he was Liverpool manager.

And Villa, whose last major trophy was the 1996 League Cup, will feel they are in pole position to reach the final after surviving a stern examination.

“I thought Leicester were the better team. We have given away a farcical goal. Ezri Konsa has got brain dazzled,” Villa manager Dean Smith said.

“But we defended brilliantly at times and it will be a raucous crowd at Villa Park. I’m looking forward to it. It’s all to play for.”

The second leg winner will play Manchester City or Manchester United in the final at Wembley, with City leading 3-1 after their first leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Leicester last won the competition in 2000, beating Villa in the semi-finals that year, and they were well on top at the start.

Jamie Vardy was back after missing three games due to the birth of his daughter and a calf injury and took the fight to Villa.

He seized Marvelous Nakamba’s wayward header before testing Orjan Nyland, then saw his low drive blocked by Villa’s keeper moments later.

But, having soaked up Leicester’s early blitz on a rain-drenched evening in the east midlands, it was Villa who snatched the lead against the run of play in the 28th minute.

Infused with confidence

Anwar El Ghazi was playing in an unfamiliar role up front due to Wesley’s injury and Jonathan Kodjia’s illness.

The winger drifted back out to the left flank to deliver a cross that landed perfectly for Guilbert, who got in front of Ben Chilwell and stabbed his volley in from close-range.

The French defender’s first goal since August was Villa’s first shot on target in the match.

Infused with confidence after that bolt from the blue, Smith’s team were inches away from doubling their lead before half-time.

Jack Grealish’s inswinging free-kick found Ezri Konsa and the Villa defender headed against the bar from inside the six-yard box.

Leicester wrestled back the initiative after the interval and Nyland alertly smothered the danger when Vardy tried to latch onto a through ball.

Tyrone Mings won header after header as Villa tried to weather the storm and when James Maddison did get past the defender with a bold burst, Nyland was on hand to make another good save.

Maddison tried again with a run onto Ricardo Pereira’s pass, but the Norwegian saved at the near post.

Leicester’s pressure finally told in the 74th minute.

Luiz, put in trouble by Konsa’s sloppy free-kick, lost possession to Hamza Choudhury and Vardy found Iheanacho, who shot high past Nyland from 15 yards.

Vardy nearly won it in the closing minutes, but his shot rippled into the side-netting just as Leicester fans were anticipating a dramatic finale.

Arteta’s Arsenal Off To A Slow Start As Chelsea Falter Again At Home

 

Mikel Arteta got off to an underwhelming start as Arsenal manager with a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth as Chelsea slumped to another shock home reverse, losing 2-0 to Southampton, on Boxing Day.

Carlo Ancelotti had a more positive impact on his Everton bow as Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s brilliant diving header earned a 1-0 win over Burnley.

Chelsea’s defeat allowed Tottenham to move back to within three points of the top four as they came from behind to beat Brighton 2-1 thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

The top two clash later when Leicester host Liverpool hoping to close the gap on the runaway league leaders to seven points.

Arteta got an early lesson in the flaws that have blighted Arsenal’s season as they were caught out trying to play from the back to concede the opening goal when Dan Gosling put Bournemouth in front.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang again rode to the Gunners’ rescue to equalise just after the hour mark and Arteta will be frustrated not to have won all three points as Alexandre Lacazette was denied a winner by a last-ditch challenge from Steve Cook.

– No home comfort for Chelsea –
After the highs of victory at Spurs as Frank Lampard got one over on his former manager Jose Mourinho, Chelsea again struggled when faced with breaking down stubborn defensive opponents in Southampton.

The Blues have now lost to West Ham, Bournemouth and the Saints in their last four home league games.

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl rested in-form talisman Danny Ings, but that decision paid off as his replacement Michael Obafemi scored just his second Premier League goal with a calm finish into the top corner on the counter-attack.

The visitors struck again to seal all three points 17 minutes from time when Nathan Redmond prodded past the onrushing Kepa Arrizabalaga at the end of a fine team move.

– Spurs strike back –
Mourinho’s Tottenham fell behind again at home to Brighton as Adam Webster headed in midway through the first half.

Spurs were shorn of the suspended Son Heung-min after his appeal against a three-match ban for a kick out at Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger was dismissed.

But two of their other star men stood up to be counted as Kane swept home at the second attempt after his first shot was saved by Mat Ryan.

Alli then delivered all three points with a delightful chipped finish from an acute angle.

“It’s hard after a defeat to have confidence and we started poorly, it affects the confidence,” said Mourinho.

“Brighton have monsters in the air and it affected the self-esteem of our team.

“In the second half the players put all the negative aside and were very strong in their performance.”

Sheffield United are behind Tottenham only on goal difference as they missed the chance to close to within a point of Chelsea in a 1-1 draw with bottom-of-the-table Watford.

Gerard Deulofeu gave the Hornets an early lead as they looked to build on a 2-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday.

However, Oliver Norwood’s penalty quickly brought the Blades level and only the brilliance of Ben Foster to deny John Fleck from point-blank range denied Chris Wilder’s men a fourth consecutive win.

Crystal Palace climbed up to eighth and within six points of the top four themselves as they came from behind to beat West Ham 2-1 and hand manager Roy Hodgson his first ever Premier League win on Boxing Day.

Robert Snodgrass put the Hammers in front early in the second half at Selhurst Park, but Palace roared back as Cheikhou Kouyate smashed home the equaliser against his old club.

Jordan Ayew then produced a sublime individual run and finish in the final minute to snatch victory for the Eagles.

Aston Villa won the battle of two of the bottom three as Conor Hourihane’s fine strike was enough to beat Norwich 1-0.