Leicester’s Title-Winning Captain Wes Morgan To Retire End Of Season

Wes Morgan lifting the EPL trophy in 2016. Photo: [email protected] Leicester City FC.

 

Leicester’s Premier League title-winning captain Wes Morgan will retire when the final whistle blows on the season, the club announced on Friday.

The 37-year-old skippered the Foxes to their shock title win in 2016 and helped them lift the FA Cup for the first time when he made a late substitute appearance in last week’s 1-0 final victory over Chelsea.

Morgan has made 324 appearances and scored 14 goals for Leicester in all competitions since joining from Nottingham Forest in 2012, and was capped 30 times by Jamaica.

Leicester City chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha paid a handsome tribute to the long-serving captain, who has struggled with a back problem this year.

READ ALSOIheanacho Scores But Chelsea Beat Leicester To Gain Top-Four Advantage

“Wes has been one of Leicester City’s greatest servants, leading the team through the club’s most successful era and helping to set the standards that have pushed the club forward,” he said.

“A big brother to everyone he has played with, a strong representative of the squad and a valuable source of counsel to managers and senior executives in the club, his contribution has been enormous.”

Full-back Christian Fuchs, another member of the title-winning side, is also leaving the King Power Stadium at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old Austria international arrived on a free transfer in 2015 and has played 152 times, scoring three goals.

Leicester end their season at home to Tottenham on Sunday hoping to secure a top-four finish, which would mean qualification for next season’s Champions League.

AFP

Tuchel Tells Chelsea Not To Fear Leicester Rematch

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel gives a post match interview after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. – Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s 137-year history as Youri Tielemans’s sensational strike beat Chelsea 1-0 in front of 22,000 fans at Wembley. (Photo by Nick Potts / POOL / AFP)

 

Thomas Tuchel encouraged his Chelsea players not to waste the success of his first few months in charge at Stamford Bridge in the final week of the Premier League season ahead of a FA Cup final rematch against Leicester on Tuesday.

Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by the Foxes at Wembley on Saturday to miss out on their first shot at silverware this month.

Tuchel’s men also face Manchester City in the Champions League final on May 29, but need two wins from their final two Premier League games just to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Liverpool’s dramatic late win at West Brom on Sunday, thanks to goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s 95th minute header, means the Reds should finish in the top four if they win their last two games at the expense of one of Leicester or Chelsea.

“It is easier to be self-confident when you constantly win, but there is no need to be afraid,” said Tuchel after experiencing back-to-back defeats for the first time since he took charge in January. “We need to believe in ourselves.

“It’s super important for our ambitions (to qualify for the Champions League). The situation is very clear, it is still in our hands. It is what we have worked hard for.”

Tuchel dismissed suggestions the cup final defeat had put more pressure on his side to gain revenge against the Foxes.

But he lamented a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal last week, when he made seven changes with one eye on Wembley, for blowing a commanding position in the battle for a top-four finish.

The German said he did not watch Liverpool’s late win at the Hawthorns due to his superstition.

“It did not help not to watch it,” he added. “It does not make things boring, it was a fantastic header in the last minute that makes things pretty interesting, but it is still in our hands.

“The setback was the Arsenal game, it is our fault it is so close again. We left the door open and Liverpool put a foot into the door.

“We had a huge performance so far but we need to finish the job. We need to focus, forget the other results and rely on ourselves.”

AFP

Leicester Boss Confident FA Cup Winners Will Seal Champions League Spot

Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers holds up a winner’s medal as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

Brendan Rodgers says his Leicester players are ready to seize the opportunity of rounding off a wonderful season by qualifying for the Champions League to add to Saturday’s FA Cup triumph.

The Foxes face an instant re-match with Chelsea after edging the Blues 1-0 at Wembley to give the club its first FA Cup victory after four previous losses in the final.

Leicester are presently third in the table and victory over fourth-placed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge would secure their top four place — Tuesday’s opponents are two points worse off with two matches remaining.

However, 2020 title winners Liverpool are just three points adrift of Leicester having found a decent run of late form.

Goalkeeper Allison’s last gasp headed goal to beat relegated West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Sunday kept them firmly in the hunt.

Rodgers brushed off the impact the Brazilian’s late goal could have on the race for the Champions League spots.

“There’s no ramifications for us,” he said.

“Everything’s still in our hands.

“The players have been absolutely brilliant up until this point.

“We’ve got European football, we’ve got two games now to arrive into the top four.

“We focus on ourselves and we’ve got a great opportunity to qualify.

“With two games to go, we aim to take it.”

Rodgers will be hoping for a different outcome to what happened last season.

Leicester lost out on Champions League football on the last day after their league form deserted them after the resumption following the first coronavirus lockdown.

The 48-year-old Northern Irishman says his players recovered from Saturday’s exertions on Sunday and are well up for Tuesday’s clash.

He fully expects the game to resemble the final which was decided by a sublime long range effort from Belgian star Youri Tielemans.

“Two teams, super organised, it’s going to be a tight game,” he said.

“That was the beauty of it.

“Maybe neutrals are looking for 5-4 for an FA Cup final but two teams pressing, organised, not so many chances in the game, and then eventually a moment of quality from Youri and a moment of quality from (goalkeeper) Kasper (Schmeichel) allows us to win the cup.

“If it’s the same tomorrow night, then I’ll be really pleased.”

Rodgers says he is not expecting Leicester to spend large amounts of money in the close season even if they qualify for the Champions League, but he hopes the cup victory will make it an easy sell to prospective targets.

“I think success always aids in the recruitment of players,” he said.

“Leicester hopefully is an attractive club.

“When you win a cup final against such a big opponent then of course that can let players see that they want a piece of that and hopefully that can be the case in the summer.”

AFP

Leicester Win FA Cup For First Time After Tielemans Screamer

Leicester City's Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Leicester City's Spanish striker Ayoze Perez (R) during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans (L) celebrates scoring his team’s first goal with Leicester City’s Spanish striker Ayoze Perez (R) during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021.
MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP

 

Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s 137-year history on Saturday as Youri Tielemans’s sensational strike beat Chelsea 1-0 in front of 22,000 fans at Wembley.

The largest crowd for a sports event in England since the coronavirus pandemic hit 14 months ago were treated to a goal worthy to win any trophy as the Belgian midfielder blasted into the top corner on 63 minutes.

Kasper Schmeichel produced a stunning save to deny Mason Mount late on and Chelsea also had a goal ruled out by a VAR review for offside.

Leicester City's English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City's Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner's trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner’s trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP

 

Five years after the Foxes stunned the Premier League’s giants to become champions, Leicester have now claimed English football’s other prestigious trophy at the fifth time of asking.

Four times they had previously lost the final, but the last of those was 52 years ago.

A historic week for Brendan Rodgers’s men could get even better as they are on the verge of sealing a place in next season’s Champions League.

The sides meet again in three days’ time at Stamford Bridge in a pivotal clash to decide who secures a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Chelsea need a quick response after losing for just the fourth time in 27 games since Thomas Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

The ball ends up in the Leicester net but after a VAR (Video Assistant Referee) review the goal id disallowed for offside during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
The ball ends up in the Leicester net but after a VAR (Video Assistant Referee) review the goal id disallowed for offside during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

The Blues also have a Champions League final to look forward to against Manchester City in two weeks’ time, but could end the campaign without silverware or a place in Europe’s premier club competition next season.

Chelsea’s success under Tuchel has come thanks to an excellent defensive record, but their struggles at the other end were again exposed.

Tuchel’s men dominated before half-time but laboured to create clear-cut chances despite Leicester losing defensive lynchpin Jonny Evans to injury midway through the first half.

Wayward Werner

Timo Werner’s wayward finishing has characterised his first season in England since joining from RB Leipzig for £47 million ($66 million) and the German international had another day to forget in front of goal.

Tuchel turned away in disgust after Werner blazed high and wide from the edge of the box with the Leicester defence stretched midway through the first half.

Werner then came closest to breaking the deadlock before half-time as his header drifted just wide and evaded Cesar Azpilicueta as the Chelsea captain launched himself in at the far post.

The welcome return of noise echoing down from 6,000 fans of each side from both ends of the ground helped mask a general lack of quality on the field.

Leicester City's Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (C) is thrown into the air by his players on the pitch after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (C) is thrown into the air by his players on the pitch after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

Another 10,000 local supporters, key workers and Football Association stakeholders were also in attendance as Wembley gears up for hosting matches at Euro 2020 next month at 25 percent capacity.

One moment of magic proved decisive as Tielemans collected possession midway inside the Chelsea half and strode forward before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Tuchel flexed the strength in depth of his squad in an attempt to find an equaliser as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic were all introduced off the bench.

But they were denied by the brilliance of Schmeichel in the Leicester goal.

Chilwell, whose every touch was booed by the Leicester support, nearly came back to haunt his old club as his header was turned onto the post by the Dane.

Mount then could not believe his luck as his sweetly struck shot was turned behind by a brilliant stop from Schmeichel.

Even when the Leicester ‘keeper was beaten, Chelsea were denied by a VAR review.

A Wes Morgan own goal looked set to send the game to extra-time, but Chilwell had strayed offside in the build-up.

Leicester players and fans celebrated the decision like a goal and were in raptures again moments later after seeing out a nervy finale.

 

AFP

Lampard ‘Disappointed’ With Chelsea Exit 

File photo: Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard reacts during the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. – Arsenal won the match 2-1. (Photo by Adam Davy / POOL / AFP) /

 

Frank Lampard expressed his disappointment at not being given time to succeed after being sacked by Chelsea on Monday, with former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel set to take over at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard led Chelsea to a fourth-placed Premier League finish and the FA Cup final in his first season in charge.

However, he failed to match much greater expectations this season after the club spent a reported £220 million ($300 million) on new players in the summer transfer window.

A run of five defeats in their last eight Premier League matches has seen Chelsea slip to ninth, 11 points behind leaders Manchester United.

 

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Frank Lampard (@franklampard)

Sunday’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round win against Championship side Luton was not enough to save the former England midfielder.

READ ALSO: Hurt And Heartbroken McGregor Ponders Future After Knockout Shock

“It has been a huge privilege and an honour to manage Chelsea, a club that has been a big part of my life for so long,” Lampard said in a statement posted on his Instagram account.

“I am disappointed not to have had the time this season to take the club forward and bring it to the next level.”

The club said it had been a “very difficult decision” to part ways with their all-time record goalscorer, who won three league titles and the Champions League during his 13-year career as a player at Stamford Bridge.

“Recent results and performances have not met the club’s expectations, leaving the club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement,” Chelsea said.

In a rare public statement, the club’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich said: “This was a very difficult decision for the club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him.

“He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers.”

Chelsea are aiming to have Tuchel, who was abruptly fired by French champions PSG in December, on the bench in time for the visit of Wolves on Wednesday.

– No return on investment –
After serving a transfer ban in Lampard’s first summer window, Chelsea splashed out on Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Edouard Mendy, but that outlay has failed to translate into improved results.

Lampard’s Premier League points-per-game average of 1.67 is the lowest for any Chelsea manager since Abramovich arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2003.

His departure marks the 14th managerial change since Abramovich’s takeover, which transformed the London club into English and European heavyweights.

A number of younger players handed their breakthrough in the Chelsea first team by Lampard, such as Mason Mount, Billy Gilmour, Tammy Abraham and Reece James, posted messages of thanks to their former manager on social media.

“As a Chelsea fan growing up I’ve always looked up to you, idolised you. I can’t explain what it’s been like to play under you, the whole journey has been surreal,” said James on Instagram. “I cannot thank you enough for putting your trust into me and giving me the opportunity to play for my boyhood club!”

Lampard’s first managerial posting was at second-tier Derby. In his one season in charge in 2018/19, they reached the Championship play-off final, where they lost to Aston Villa.

“I don’t worry for Frank. I’m sure he’ll go on to have a great managerial career as I feel he handled himself fantastically well in that job,” said Lampard’s former England teammate Gary Neville, who predicted Tuchel will also suffer from Abramovich’s hire and fire culture.

“Tuchel will be exposed to exactly the same rules as Frank. We’ll be talking about him being let go in the next 18 months to two years, I’m pretty sure of that.”

Tuchel Says PSG Need New Faces For Champions League
File photo of ex-Paris Saint-Germain’s German coach Thomas Tuchel during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Paris Saint-Germain and SSC Napoli at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, on October 24, 2018. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

 

The German only became available a month ago when he left PSG, less than five months after taking them to the Champions League final, which they lost to Bayern Munich.

The 47-year-old won back-to-back league titles with PSG, but that was not enough to satisfy the club’s Qatari owners, who replaced him with former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Prior to PSG, Tuchel impressed at Borussia Dortmund, having started his managerial career with Augsburg and then Mainz.

AFP

FA Cup: Abraham’s Hat-trick Takes Heat Off Lampard As Chelsea Advance

Chelsea’s English striker Tammy Abraham (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after scoring his third goal, Chelsea’s third during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Chelsea and Luton Town at Stamford Bridge in London on January 24, 2021.
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Tammy Abraham eased the pressure on under-fire Frank Lampard as the Chelsea striker’s hat-trick sealed a 3-1 win against Luton in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

In just his second season in charge at Chelsea, Lampard is fighting to avoid the sack after a wretched run in the Premier League.

An embarrassing FA Cup exit against Championship opposition would have pushed Lampard closer to the axe, but Abraham’s clinical display gave his manager some much-needed breathing space.

Abraham scored twice in the first half before Jordan Clark got one back for Luton after yet another blunder from Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Luton gave Lampard some nervous moments after that, before Abraham finally sent Chelsea through to a last 16 tie at second tier Barnsley.

Lampard will know that Chelsea, who were FA Cup runners-up last season, are still a long way from the finished article.

READ ALSO: Hurt And Heartbroken McGregor Ponders Future After Knockout Shock

One of his biggest headaches has been the poor form of Timo Werner and there was more bad news for the Germany striker as he missed a late penalty.

After notoriously demanding Blues owner Roman Abramovich bankrolled a £200 million spending spree in the close-season, Lampard was expected to mount a title challenge.

But a dismal run of five defeats in their last eight Premier League games has left Chelsea languishing in ninth place.

Amid talk that Lampard will be sacked if Chelsea don’t finish in the top four or fall completely out of contention, former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel and ex-Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri have been linked with his job.

– Clever Abraham –
Lampard insisted this week that he is a “fighter” capable of dragging Chelsea back into contention for the Champions League places.

But as snow blanketed west London, leaving the Stamford Bridge pitch with a white dusting at kick-off, the potentially treacherous conditions must have alarmed Lampard, who made seven changes from the midweek defeat at Leicester.

 

Chelsea’s English striker Tammy Abraham (2nd R) scores his and their third goal during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Chelsea and Luton Town at Stamford Bridge in London on January 24, 2021. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Standing huddled in a thick winter coat and hat on the touchline, Lampard’s fears were initially assuaged as Chelsea made the perfect start.

Abraham was denied by Luton keeper Simon Sluga and Kurt Zouma ahead over before Chelsea scored in the 11th minute.

A quick throw caught Luton napping, with Nathan Jones’ side complaining that two balls were briefly on the pitch at the same time.

Chelsea took advantage of Luton’s loss of concentration and Werner’s deflected cross reached Abraham, who slotted a composed low finish into the far corner from 10 yards.

Abraham’s movement was too clever for Luton and the striker netted again six minutes later.

Reece James hooked a cross into the Luton area and Abraham got in front of his marker to power an unstoppable header over Sluga for his 10th goal of the season.

Luton were gifted a lifeline in the 30th minute when James Bree crossed towards Clark and his scuffed shot crept past Kepa’s woeful attempted save.

Kepa’s howler sparked a prolonged period where Chelsea’s anxiety returned and their momentum disappeared.

Christian Pulisic, stretching to meet James’ cross, was denied by Sluga early in the second half.

Yet Lampard’s men remained nervous and Kepa had to make a good save to keep out Harry Cornick’s shot after Luton carved open the Blues defence.

Fortunately for Lampard, his decision to send on Callum Hudson-Odoi proved decisive.

Hudson-Odoi surged away down left, played a one-two with Billy Gilmour and crossed low for Abraham to complete his treble from a yard out in the 74th minute.

Werner had a chance to score just his second goal in 16 games when he was tripped by Clark, but his dreadful spell continued as his tame penalty was saved by Sluga.

AFP

Man City Survive Huge FA Cup Scare, Arsenal Crash Out

Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (C) shoots to score their first goal during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Cheltenham Town and Manchester City at The Jonny-Rocks Stadium in Cheltenham, central England on January 23, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

 

Manchester City were given a huge FA Cup scare by fourth-tier Cheltenham before a late blitz gave them a 3-1 win on Saturday after Southampton dumped holders Arsenal out of the competition.

Six-time winners City were minutes away from exiting at the fourth-round stage before goals from Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres broke the hearts of the brave League Two side.

City boss Pep Guardiola made 10 changes for the trip to the southwest of England but his side was still packed with internationals.

The home team — 72 places below City in the football pyramid — produced a stirring defensive display but also sporadically threatened at the other end of the pitch.

Jesus hit the post shortly after the restart as City upped the tempo following a goalless first half but it was the home team who broke the deadlock.

The visitors failed to deal with the outstanding Ben Tozer’s long throw and Alfie May fired in from close range just before the hour mark.

Guardiola threw on Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo in a desperate bid to find a way back into the game and was rewarded in the 81st minute when Foden volleyed in Cancelo’s cross.

Three minutes later Jesus made amends for his earlier miss and Torres made it 3-1 with the final kick of the game, turning in Gundogan’s low cross.

“We came here with humility and had the quality to make the difference,” said Guardiola.

“They used their quality in the box, they are taller and better than us there and we showed clips on how to solve it. It is difficult to control that.”

 

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus shoots to score their second goal during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Cheltenham Town and Manchester City at The Jonny-Rocks Stadium in Cheltenham, central England on January 23, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

 

The Catalan had warm words for Foden, who is the club’s top-scorer in all competitions this season.

“Phil Foden is in a great moment and with great confidence,” he added. “He is clinical in front of goal.”

Cheltenham boss Michael Duff said he was “super proud” of his players, bemoaning the fact the match had to be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a shame because (with fans) the place would’ve been bouncing,” he said. “Would that have seen us through in the last 10 minutes? I’m not so sure — but the key is to enjoy it.”

 

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (L) shoots past Cheltenham Town’s English goalkeeper Josh Griffiths but wide during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Cheltenham Town and Manchester City at The Jonny-Rocks Stadium in Cheltenham, central England on January 23, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

 

Arsenal out

Earlier, Arsenal, who have won the competition a record 14 times, went down 1-0 at Southampton courtesy of a Gabriel own goal.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta made seven changes from his team’s 3-0 league win against Newcastle on Monday, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and midfielder Emile Smith Rowe both absent.

Southampton, FA Cup winners in 1976, earned a well-deserved lead in the 24th minute when Kyle Walker-Peters’ ball across the six-yard area was inadvertently turned in by Gabriel.

The visitors went close to an equaliser through Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot but were forced to leave empty-handed.

“We had a dream to do it again like last year (win the FA Cup) and the dream today is over,” said Arteta.

“I am as well disappointed with the way we conceded the goal in an area where we know we shouldn’t be doing that. At the same time I cannot fault the effort of the players.”

West Ham, who will face either Manchester or Liverpool in the next round, crushed third-tier Doncaster 4-0 despite multiple changes from manager David Moyes while fellow Premier League sides Brighton and Sheffield United also progressed.

Pablo Fornals gave impressive West Ham an early lead at home to Doncaster as they dominated the League One side from the kick-off.

Andriy Yarmolenko doubled the lead before a second-half own goal from Andy Butler and a late strike from debutant Oladapo Afolayan.

Goals from Yves Bissouma and Steven Alzate were enough to seal a 2-1 win for Brighton against League One Blackpool.

Chris Basham and Billy Sharp scored for Premier League strugglers Sheffield United against League One opponents Plymouth.

Elsewhere, Swansea thumped fellow Championship side Nottingham Forest 5-1, while Bristol City beat Millwall 3-0. Barnsley beat Championship leaders Norwich 1-0.

On Sunday, Premier League leaders Manchester United face Liverpool in the tie of the round, while Chelsea host Luton.

Southampton Dump Arsenal Out Of FA Cup

Arsenal's Spanish manager Mikel Arteta (R) watches as Southampton's Scottish midfielder Stuart Armstrong (L) vies with Arsenal's Spanish defender Hector Bellerin during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, Hampshire,on January 23, 2021. Ben STANSALL / AFP
Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta (R) watches as Southampton’s Scottish midfielder Stuart Armstrong (L) vies with Arsenal’s Spanish defender Hector Bellerin during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, Hampshire,on January 23, 2021. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Southampton dumped FA Cup holders Arsenal out of the competition on Saturday, winning 1-0 courtesy of a Gabriel own goal to set up a fifth-round meeting with Wolves.

The much-changed Gunners, who have won the competition a record 14 times, fell behind midway through the first half and could not find a way back.

Ralph Hasenhuttl fielded a strong side at St Mary’s, with Danny Ings returning after a hamstring injury and a positive coronavirus test alongside former Arsenal forward Theo Walcott.

Mikel Arteta made seven changes from their 3-0 Premier League win against Newcastle on Monday.

READ ALSO: Mesut Ozil Confirms Leaving Arsenal For Fenerbahce

Southampton, who had never previously beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup, were the brighter team in the first half in the winter sunshine on England’s south coast.

James Ward-Prowse rattled the crossbar from a swerving corner and Che Adams forced a fine save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.

Southampton got the reward their positive approach deserved in the 24th minute.

Mohamed Elneny gave away possession on the edge of his own box and the ball was worked to Kyle Walker-Peters on the right side of the Southampton attack.

The defender drilled it across the six-yard area and it was inadvertently turned in by Gabriel — the first time rejuvenated Arsenal had conceded since December 26 against Chelsea.

Ward-Prowse then struck a shot from distance that sailed wide and Ings hit a fierce volley that was blocked by Hector Bellerin.

Arsenal found their feet in the second half and Fraser Forster was forced to make a sharp save with his feet to keep out Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot after a pass from Nicolas Pepe.

Arteta threw on forward Alexandre Lacazette to bolster his attack as Arsenal pinned Southampton back.

Lacazette was inches away from getting on the end of a teasing cross by fellow substitute Bukayo Saka as the minutes ticked away but Arsenal could not find an equaliser.

The exit will be a bitter disappointment for Arsenal, who have won the FA Cup four times in the past seven seasons — in sharp contrast to their toils in the Premier League.

Arteta’s side will return to Southampton for a league meeting on Tuesday, aiming to continue their fine recent run that has lifted them to 10th in the table.

 

AFP

FA Cup: Leeds Stunned By Crawley As Spurs, City, Chelsea Reach Next Round

Tottenham Hotspur’s English midfielder Dele Alli (L) vies with Marine’s English defender Anthony Miley (R) during the English FA Cup third round football match between Marine and Tottenham Hotspur at Rossett Park ground in Crosby, north west England, on January 10, 2021.
Martin Rickett / POOL / AFP

 

Leeds suffered a humiliating FA Cup exit against Crawley as the League Two side swept to a stunning 3-0 win, while eighth tier Marine’s hopes of causing the competition’s greatest shock were crushed in a 5-0 defeat against Tottenham.

After the spiking coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc with matches across the third round on Friday and Saturday, the FA Cup was back on more familiar ground on Sunday as Leeds became the competition’s latest big name to be knocked out by a feisty underdog.

While Marine’s romantic adventure was cut short by Carlos Vinicius’s hat-trick and Chelsea and Manchester City progressed to the fourth round with ease, Crawley’s unexpected success encapsulated the FA Cup’s unique charm at a time when football is badly in need of some positive news.

READ ALSO: Atletico Madrid Game Postponed Due To Snowstorm

Numerous clubs have been hit by Covid-19 problems as the new variant sweeps across Britain, forcing Aston Villa and Derby to field teams of youth players for third round defeats against Liverpool and non-league Chorley respectively.

Despite calls for the English season to be halted, the FA Cup goes on for now and Crawley relished their chance to steal the spotlight.

Leeds sit 12th in the Premier League after a fine first season back in the top-flight, but boss Marcelo Bielsa paid the price for making seven changes at The People’s Pension Stadium in leafy Sussex.

On a fairytale day for Crawley, it was fitting that Nick Tsaroulla should open the scoring with his first career goal in the 51st minute.

Ashley Nadesan’s low shot crept under Kiko Casilla to double Crawley’s lead two minutes later and Jordan Tunnicliffe wrapped up the victory after 70 minutes.

“These players have got a lot to prove to the clubs who have released them and we’ve showed what we can do against a really good side,” Crawley boss John Yems said.

Rubbing salt into Leeds’ wounds, Crawley handed a debut to former reality television star Mark Wright as a late substitute.

How much Bielsa knew about Wright is in doubt, but he insisted he wasn’t surprised by Crawley’s display.

“It’s not a question of surprise. We knew the characteristics of their players. We had the ball for a long period of time but we couldn’t do much with it,” Bielsa said.

– Vibrant Vinicius –
Marine, of the Northern Premier League Division One North West, were trying to bridge the biggest gap — 161 places — between opponents in FA Cup history.

Marine’s squad is comprised of teachers, NHS staff, bin men and factory workers, with their tiny stadium in the Merseyside town of Crosby providing a surreal setting for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s stars.

Appropriately for a match against a team named after a local pub, virus restrictions meant Tottenham had to change in a stadium function room with a bar.

Marine’s ground is lined on one side by houses, so a few lucky locals were able to watch for free as Neil Kengni almost gave Marine the lead when his 30-yard drive cannoned off the bar.

Tottenham, without Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, took control in the 24th minute when Vinicius finished off Dele Alli’s pass.

Vinicius, on loan from Benfica, was on target again after 30 minutes.

Lucas Moura struck with a fine free-kick in the 32nd minute and Vinicius completed his treble five minutes later

Alfie Devine enjoyed a debut to remember when the substitute fired home in the 60th minute, making him Tottenham’s youngest ever scorer at 16 years and 163 days.

“The boys were professionals and didn’t stop until the game was over. The attitude means a lot for me and also for the competition and to Marine’s guys, because they felt we played seriously,” Mourinho said.

Chelsea, FA Cup runners-up last season, thrashed League Two team Morecambe 4-0.

Mason Mount marked his 22nd birthday with a 25-yard strike and, after 12 games without a goal, Timo Werner finally got on the scoresheet in the 44th minute.

Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kai Havertz netted in the second half.

Manchester City cruised to a 3-0 win against second tier Birmingham at the Etihad Stadium, with two goals from Bernardo Silva and one from Phil Foden.

AFP

FA Cup: Smith Rowe Fires Arsenal Into Fourth Round

Arsenal's English midfielder Emile Smith Rowe (R) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English FA Cup third round football match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 9, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP
Arsenal’s English midfielder Emile Smith Rowe (R) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English FA Cup third round football match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 9, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Emile Smith Rowe made the most of his red card reprieve as the Arsenal youngster sent the FA Cup holders into the fourth round with the decisive extra-time strike in Saturday’s 2-0 victory against Newcastle.

Smith Rowe avoided being sent off when his foul on Sean Longstaff — initially ruled a dismissal — was changed to a booking after referee Chris Kavanagh consulted the pitchside monitor.

It would have been harsh on the promising 20-year-old midfielder if he had been given his marching orders.

Smith Rowe celebrated the escape with a fine finish to open the scoring in a hard-fought third-round tie at the Emirates Stadium.

Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged Arsenal’s second goal — just his sixth of a difficult season — in the final moments.

“It was bit of a relief for me with the (red card) incident. It definitely wasn’t intentional,” Smith Rowe said.

“I’m happy to get the goal. From a young kid I have always wanted to play for this club.

Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) chases the ball during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 2, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP
Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) chases the ball during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 2, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP

 

“We knew how tough it was going to be. It was about breaking them down. It shows how together we are.

“We have been working off the pitch to get closer as a group.”

The Gunners gave boss Mikel Arteta the first silverware of his reign when they beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final in August and the optimism provided by that success is slowly returning to north London after a difficult period.

Arteta was fighting to save his job just two weeks ago, but three successive wins over Christmas lifted Arsenal away from the Premier League relegation zone and eased the pressure on the Spaniard.

Arsenal have won the FA Cup a record 14 times, lifting the trophy four times in the last seven seasons, and another long run in the competition would be a welcome boost for Arteta.

Smith Rowe shines

Bernd Leno, Kieran Tierney, Pablo Mari and Aubameyang were the only Arsenal players to retain their places from the 4-0 win at West Brom.

Arsenal were forced into a late change after Gabriel Martinelli suffered an ankle injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Reiss Nelson.

Newcastle made eight changes of their own but chances were at a premium for Arsenal until David Luiz’s quick free-kick found Aubameyang, whose stinging strike was pushed away by Martin Dubravka.

Andy Carroll scored his first Newcastle goal in 10 years recently and he forced Leno into action with an agile strike from the edge of the area early in the second half.

Newcastle were showing more attacking intent, only for Carroll to waste a golden opportunity to put them ahead when he stabbed wide from close range.

Joe Willock forced Dubravka to make a superb save at full stretch when the midfielder met Nicolas Pepe’s cross with a glancing header.

Arsenal captain Aubameyang couldn’t hit the target with a close-range header before Leno made a brilliant stop to deny Carroll in the final moments of normal time.

Arsenal broke through in the 109th minute when Bukayo Saka chipped a pass to Alexandre Lacazette and his header reached Smith Rowe, who controlled on his chest before drilling a fine finish into the far corner for his second goal of the season.

Aubameyang put the result beyond doubt in the 117th minute when he tapped in Tierney’s cross.

AFP

FA Cup: Aston Villa, Liverpool Tie To Hold Despite COVID-19 Outbreak

File photo: Aston Villa’s English midfielder Jack Grealish (C) scores their seventh goal past Liverpool’s Spanish goalkeeper Adrian during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on October 4, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP) .

 

Aston Villa have confirmed that Friday’s FA Cup third-round clash with Liverpool will go ahead even though many of their players and staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

Villa were forced to close their training ground on Thursday and there were concerns they would have to forfeit their match against Jurgen Klopp’s team.

“Aston Villa can confirm that the Emirates FA Cup third-round tie with Liverpool will be played at Villa Park this evening,” read a brief statement on the club’s website.

READ ALSO: Aston Villa Suffer COVID-19 Outbreak As Concerns Grow For Premier League Season

It is understood that no first-team players will take part in the match, with reports saying 10 players in the first-team bubble had tested positive.

Instead, under-23s coach Mark Delaney is expected to oversee a side made up of under-18 and under-23 players.

The outbreak at Villa also raises questions about how and whether their upcoming Premier League matches can go ahead.

They are due to face Tottenham on Wednesday and are then up against Everton on January 16.

There are growing concerns over whether the Premier League season can be completed on schedule as infection numbers spike in Britain.

A record high 40 positive tests were detected among Premier League players and staff in the week between December 28 and January 3.

Newcastle’s match against Aston Villa last month was the first top-flight fixture this season postponed by a coronavirus outbreak at a club.

Steve Bruce’s side lost captain Jamaal Lascelles and winger Allan Saint-Maximin for a long spell as they suffered the after-effects of the virus.

Lascelles is fit for Saturday’s FA Cup clash with holders Arsenal but Saint-Maximin is still waiting for the all-clear to return to training.

Magpies manager Steve Bruce questioned the morality of playing on as the pandemic worsens.

“The speed which it hit our club within a week, and ripped through, is something which all clubs will be looking at now,” he said.

“It’s difficult to contain and it leaves people sick. Financially it’s right to play on but morally, for me, it’s probably wrong.”

Southampton’s FA Cup match against Shrewsbury is off after a Covid-19 outbreak at the League One club.

Wayne Rooney’s Championship side Derby will fulfil their fixture at non-league Chorley with a youth team after nine positive tests among first-team players and staff.

AFP

Arsenal Face Acid Test Of Arteta Revolution At Anfield

Manchester City’s assistant coach Mikel Arteta takes warm up ahead of the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Oxford United and Manchester City at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, west of London, on December 18, 2019. OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Mikel Arteta has “changed the mood” around Arsenal, according to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp with the Gunners rejuvenated by winning the FA Cup, Community Shield and their opening two games of the Premier League season.

However, the toughest test of what Arsenal can aim for this season comes on Monday with a trip to Anfield, where Klopp’s men have not lost in 60 league games.

Arteta described Liverpool’s home as the “toughest place in the world” to go, but Arsenal can take confidence from two victories over the Premier League champions in the past three months.

AFP Sports looks at three key battles where the game will be won and lost.

Trent Alexander-Arnold v Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Aubameyang has been the key figure in Arsenal’s revival, scoring twice in the FA Cup semi-finals and final to defeat Manchester City and Chelsea and his side’s goal plus the winning penalty in the shootout against Liverpool in the Community Shield.

Arteta has followed Klopp’s example by using his biggest goal threat cutting in from a wide area and Aubameyang will look to exploit the space left by Alexander-Arnold as he marauds forward

“With the speed they have for the counter-attack, that can cause you some trouble,” warned Klopp.

However, Liverpool could just as easily benefit from one of the league’s most creative players in Alexander-Arnold not being tracked by Aubameyang.

A minor injury meant he missed the Community Shield and Aubameyang made the most of his absence against the inexperienced Neco Williams. With the England international back, Liverpool are a different side.

Thiago v Granit Xhaka

Liverpool signalled their intent to defend their crown as champions by adding a world class talent in Thiago Alcantara to a team of winners.

The Spanish international gave a glimpse of what he will offer by completing more passes than any Chelsea player despite playing just the second-half of last weekend’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

An injury to Jordan Henderson means Thiago is likely to make his first start on Monday and Xhaka has the unenviable task of stopping him dictating the game.

The turnaround in the Swiss international’s Arsenal career is symptomatic of the changes since Arteta’s arrival.

Seemingly on his way out of the club after tearing off the armband and swearing at his own supporters when substituted against Crystal Palace just less than a year ago, Xhaka has rehabilitated his reputation among the Arsenal support by becoming the cornerstone of Arteta’s midfield.

Mohamed Salah v Kieran Tierney

Salah’s hat-trick on the opening day of the season against Leeds took his tally in Premier League games for Liverpool at Anfield to 51 in 57 home games.

That includes scoring against Arsenal in each of their previous three league trips, but Tierney is facing Liverpool away for the first time and has added more steel to the left side of the Gunners’ defence.

The Scotland international is perfectly suited to his role as the left centre-back of Arteta’s three-man defence, where he can also push into a more advanced role when in possession, like he did for Celtic prior to his £25 million ($32 million) move to the Premier League.

Salah scored six times in his first six appearances against Arsenal for Chelsea and Liverpool, but failed to find the net the last two times the sides have met up against Tierney.

AFP