Warning: include(/home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/breadcrumb.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/search.php on line 9
Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/breadcrumb.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/php:/usr/share/pear') in /home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/search.php on line 9
March 21, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Former Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has signed for Major League Soccer side the Chicago Fire from Premier League giants Manchester United, the English club confirmed on Tuesday.
Schweinsteiger, a key member of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning team, heads to the United States after an unhappy stint with Manchester United, where he has been frozen out by manager Jose Mourinho.
The 32-year-old, who scored 24 goals in 121 appearances for Germany, will join Chicago subject to a medical and a visa being obtained.
“I am sad to leave so many friends at Manchester United,” Schweinsteiger told the Manchester United website.
“But I am grateful to the club for allowing me the chance to take up the challenge at Chicago Fire.”
Schweinsteiger, who is married to now retired former women’s tennis world number one Ana Ivanovic, expressed his thanks to Mourinho and his team-mates.
“I have enjoyed working with the manager, the players and staff here and wish them all the best in the future,” he said.
“But I have to reserve special thanks to the United fans â- whose support has been a very special part of my time in Manchester.
“I was delighted to be part of the squad that won the FA Cup for them last season and will always remember their energy and their passion. Now is the right time for me to start a new chapter in Chicago and I am looking forward to it.”
United kept their tribute to one line with no comment from Mourinho.
“Everybody at United would like to wish Bastian the very best of luck in his new career in the United States,” the club said on its website.
On Monday Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said the signing of Schweinsteiger brought added responsibilities and expectations for the team’s performance.
“We’re adding someone who has won at every level, including the very highest levels, and has done so in a way that is consistent with our values,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying by the Chicago Tribune.
“We as a club will now be forced to hold ourselves to a higher standard, an accountability level.
“Previously, I think we could satisfy ourselves with what is known domestically. Now we need to rise to a standard that is set more internationally.”
- ‘I’m convinced by the club’s vision’ -
Schweinsteiger played his entire club career with German giant Bayern Munich before joining Manchester United in 2015.
The Tribune cited an unidentified club source as saying that Schweinsteiger had signed a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, a salary that makes him one of the highest-paid players in the MLS.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always sought opportunities where I hoped to make a positive impact and to help make something great,” Schweinsteiger said in a statement quoted by the Tribune.
“My move to Chicago Fire is no different. Through my conversations with Nelson and (head coach Veljko Paunovic), I’m convinced by the club’s vision and philosophy and I want to help them with this project.”
Paunovic said the seeds of Schweinsteiger’s move had been sown by a lunch with the German star in Manchester last year.
“The conversation was so spontaneous, so natural and so inspiring for both sides,” Paunovic said.
“At one point it became a very personal conversation. I think that also helped for both sides to understand how we can help each other and how much value we can get from this for both sides.”
The Chicago team has endured a mixed start to the new MLS season, taking four points from their opening two games before suffering a 4-0 thumping by expansion side Atlanta last weekend.
Chicago’s lone success in the MLS Cup came in 1998 and for the past four seasons the team has failed to reach the playoffs.
March 21, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Manchester City face a charge of failing to control their players by the Football Association for their surrounding the referee Michael Oliver when he awarded a penalty in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday.
Oliver, the same referee who was surrounded by Manchester United players in the fractious FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea last week and resulted in the club being fined £20,000 (23,000 euros, $24,700), awarded a penalty to Liverpool when he judged Gael Clichy to have fouled Roberto Firmino in the 50th minute.
“It is alleged that in or around the 50th minute of the fixture, the club failed to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion,” said an FA statement.
James Milner tucked away the penalty to give the visitors the lead but Sergio Aguero levelled with just over 20 minutes remaining to ensure City salvaged a point in the gripping match at Etihad Stadium.
Oliver booked both Clichy and his Spanish team-mate David Silva — who was the most forthright in protesting — after awarding the penalty.
City have until 1800GMT on Thursday to respond to the charge.
March 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Antonio Conte slammed Manchester United’s cynical attempts to intimidate Chelsea in his side’s bitter FA Cup quarter-final win, but Jose Mourinho hit back at his rival by insisting he remains the Blues’ best ever manager.
Chelsea boss Conte was furious with United’s aggressive approach after Ander Herrera was sent off for two fouls on Eden Hazard in Monday’s 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Marcos Rojo escaped a red card for a spiteful stamp on Hazard late in the second half at Stamford Bridge, but the United defender is likely to face a ban if the Football Association retrospectively look at the offence.
Conte was so wound up by the constant fouling he became embroiled in a touchline row with United boss Mourinho that ended with the rivals being separated by the fourth official.
Asked what he made of United’s tactics, Conte said: “My players want to play football, but for 25 minutes it was impossible.
“I think only that Eden got a lot of kicks. I don’t think I’m crazy.
“He started the match receiving kicks and he finished it receiving kicks.
“This is the truth and I don’t think one person can say this didn’t happen. It’s not football for me.
“It could be United’s tactic. Sometimes when you play against players with great talent you try to intimidate them.
“The referee must try to protect these type of players because they can go out with a bad injury.”
It was a chastening return to west London for former Chelsea boss Mourinho, who endured his old club’s fans calling him “Judas” and chanting “you’re not special anymore”.
Mourinho responded to the jibes by holding up three fingers to the crowd to remind them how many Premier League titles he won in his two spells with Chelsea.
And, determined to have the last word, Mourinho, sacked by the Blues last season, took the opportunity to remind Conte and Chelsea’s supporters that they have a long way to go to match his achievements at the Bridge.
“They can call me what they want. I’m a professional,” he said.
“I feel responsibilities on Chelsea’s bad Premier League last season, but when I left we were in the Champions League, winning the Champions League group.
“Now they don’t play in Europe. It’s not my fault.
“Until the moment they have a manager that wins four Premier Leagues, I am number one.
“If a manager wins four I become number two. Until then, Judas is number one.”
Although Conte and Mourinho didn’t shake hands at full-time, the Italian insisted he had done nothing wrong in their touchline clash.
“It was hard work for the fourth official but I controlled my emotion very well today,” Conte said.
“It’s normal for the manager to push his players. What happens outside the pitch is just a circus.”
Conte saluted Hazard for refusing to be intimidated by United’s bullying as N’Golo Kante’s superb second-half winner gave the Premier League leaders a Wembley semi-final showdown with London rivals Tottenham next month.
“For sure, he showed strong character. After the first 25 minutes, every player would have a fear of being kicked. It’s very dangerous to receive a kick from the back,” he said.
Inevitably, Mourinho refused to accept blame for his team’s approach and turned the focus on referee Michael Oliver’s decision to send off Herrera for what was one of the less vicious tackles on Hazard.
“Herrera’s second yellow card, compare that with (Marcus) Rashford going to attack the ball in a counter-attacking situation. He was fouled and the referee doesn’t give a booking,” Mourinho said.
“We all saw the game. We can all agree there was one match until Herrera saw the red card and another after that.
“I thought we were going to win because everything was under control, then with 10 men it was very difficult for us.”
March 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Jose Mourinho fears Manchester United’s bid to qualify for the Champions League will fail because of their inability to kill off inferior opponents at Old Trafford.
United had most of the possession and chances against struggling Bournemouth on Saturday, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s penalty miss forced them to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Mourinho’s side have dropped home points against a number of sides below them in the table this season, with Stoke, Burnley and Hull all picking up draws when second best.
The United manager believes if his team had been more ruthless, they could even be challenging Chelsea for the title, but instead they are three points adrift of the top four.
“I don’t speak about the Manchester City match at home that we lost, because everybody knows what happens, the penalty (we should have had) and the red card (that should have been shown) to (goalkeeper Claudio) Bravo,” Mourinho said.
“But if you look at the points we lost at home, all the other matches we drew. If you accumulate those points, you are talking another 10 or 12.
“Then you are not just talking about top four, but top two or maybe even top one. There are matches to play, points to win and points to lose, but the reality is that we are losing too many points at home.”
The match was dominated by three flash-points just before half-time, first when Tyrone Mings escaped punishment for stamping on Ibrahimovic’s head, then when the United striker elbowed the Bournemouth defender in the face.
Referee Kevin Friend did not penalise either player, but did then send off Bournemouth captain Andrew Surman for a second bookable offence as he pushed over Ibrahimovic in the aftermath of the elbow incident.
Friend than also sent Bournemouth assistant manager Jason Tindall to the stand for making his protests too forcefully at half-time.
That all came after Josh King’s penalty had cancelled out Marcos Rojo’s first league goal for United, and before Ibrahimovic’s second-half spot-kick was saved by Artur Boruc.
Mourinho refused to criticise Friend or Mings, saying: “Zlatan is a big man, who has had too many years in football, like me. We are not the generation who goes to the media and complains.
“We are from that generation of street football and football for big guys. What happens, happens.”
Asked about the confrontation between Ibrahimovic and Mings, Mourinho said: “I don’t comment. I comment on the football, I comment on the game, I comment on the big decisions of the game.
“I think Kevin Friend was very good, the penalty against Phil Jones was a clear penalty, the penalty against Adam Smith was a clear penalty so the two big decisions of the game were good.
“The assistant referees were also good so for me good performance by the referee.”
Tindall took on post-match media duties because Eddie Howe was suffering with illness, although the Bournemouth manager was well enough to stand on the touchline during the game.
“Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to see any of the decisions back again,” Tindall said.
“The only thing I did see was the first yellow card for Surman, which I did think was very harsh.
“My players felt it was an elbow by Ibrahimovic. I am sure there was some kind of communication with the officials which ended up with Andrew being sent off.
“I got sent to the stands. I let my frustrations get the better of me at half-time but that was for the reason of Surman getting his first yellow card, which I thought was harsh.”
March 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Arsene Wenger has told his Arsenal side they “owe themselves” a good performance as they look to revive their faltering Premier League campaign away to Liverpool on Saturday.
The Gunners, who last won the English title in 2004, have yet again seen their bid for Premier League glory falter after an encouraging start that included a 19-game run where they were undefeated in all competitions.
With Wenger’s future uncertain — it’s still to be decided if he will stay with the north London club when his current contract expires at the end of the season — Arsenal face a tough fight to finish in the top four, something they’ve managed in every one of the French manager’s full seasons at the club.
Wenger, 67, has come under renewed pressure from what some Arsenal fans see as the stagnation of recent seasons for all the success the club has enjoyed since he took charge in September 1996.
His cause has not been helped by recent results, with a surprise defeat by Watford preceding a 3-1 loss at leaders Chelsea and a humiliating 5-1 reverse in a Champions League tie away to Bayern Munich.
Arsenal are now 13 points off top spot in the Premier League and on the brink of a seventh straight last 16 exit in the Champions League.
No wonder Wenger said of his team ahead of Saturday’s match at Anfield: “They owe themselves a performance.
“They are quality players and I think on the day (at Bayern) it all went against us because we were 1-1 at half-time and in the second half everything went against us.
“We lost Laurent Koscielny quickly and then quickly conceded without having adjusted, we lost three goals – (in minutes) 53, 56 and 63. After that it was mentally very difficult.
“We responded at Sutton (a 2-0 FA Cup win), that was quite a tricky game and we want to respond again tomorrow. We have an opportunity against Bayern after that to show we can cause them problems.”
Arsenal have a desperate away record against the other members of the current top six in the Premier League, with Wenger having overseen just three wins in the Gunners’ last 26 games at Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Wenger is well aware that victory at Anfield, where Liverpool will kick off just a point behind Arsenal, would be especially beneficial to his team.
“It is even more important because we have not done well recently in these kind of games,” he said.
“For us, this kind of game like Liverpool is of course an opportunity that we want to take. We have to go and take it and not wait for the result.
“The result comes with an attacking attitude and that for me is the most important. That we go to just start on a positive attitude – for the rest of the season, of course it will have vital consequences.”
Arsenal have a game in hand over Chelsea but Wenger said: “We have to focus on our next game
“We have a game in hand, things can change quickly. To do a thing like that, you need exceptional rhythm in your results and as well Chelsea to fade.
“At the moment I think it’s more important that we focus on winning our games and focus on our next game rather than dreaming about coming back to Chelsea.”
Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey are now both fit, while Danny Welbeck has recovered from a second significant knee injury.
February 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the first major silverware of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United reign and broke Southampton’s hearts as the Swedish star’s late goal clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory in Sunday’s League Cup final.
Ibrahimovic was one of Mourinho’s marquee signings in the close-season and he repaid his manager’s faith with a typically dominant display on the big occasion at Wembley.
The 35-year-old opened the scoring with a blistering free-kick before Jesse Lingard doubled United’s lead.
Manolo Gabbiadini sparked a thrilling Southampton fightback, scoring just before half-time and again early in the second half.
But Ibrahimovic had the last word as his 87th minute header — his 26th goal of the campaign — ensured Mourinho joined United legend Alex Ferguson and Nottingham Forest great Brian Clough as the only managers to win the League Cup four times.
Mourinho is the first United manager to win a top prize in his maiden season at Old Trafford, a feat not even Ferguson or Matt Busby achieved.
It was also the 54-year-old’s 19th major trophy of his glittering career.
With United trailing well behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, Mourinho needed this success to guarantee players, fans and the club’s hierarchy remain in his corner.
But the serial winner will hope the victory acts as a catalyst to claim bigger prizes in the near future, just as it did when the League Cup was the first silverware of his maiden spell with Chelsea.
“Ibrahimovic won the game for us because he was outstanding,” Mourinho said.
“Our opponents were better than us for long periods of the game and didn’t deserve to lose over 90 minutes.
“Ibrahimovic made the difference. He gave us a cup.”
In the absence of injured playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan and with Wayne Rooney again on the bench, the stage was set for Ibrahimovic to cement his status as United’s talisman and he wasted little time stamping his authority on his first showpiece occasion in England.
Demanding the ball right from the start, Ibrahimovic’s astute pass set up France midfielder Paul Pogba for a fierce long-range effort that stung the palms of Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Southampton responded with a dangerous raid that should have brought the opening goal in the 11th minute when Cedric Soares crossed low into the six yard box and Gabbiadini side-footed past David de Gea., only to see his celebrations curtailed by a dubious offside decision.
Emboldened by that lucky escape, United swept forward and in the 19th minute Oriol Romeu made a costly error when he try to halt another attack with a crude lunge on Ander Herrera.
Romeu was booked but there was worse punishment to come from the free-kick as Ibrahimovic stepped up to smash his dipping shot over the Southampton wall.
Despite their lead, United still looked alarmingly casual and De Gea was forced to save from James Ward-Prowse and Dusan Tadic.
But Southampton were even more negligent at the back and Mourinho’s men made them pay again in the 38th minute.
Marcos Rojo was given room to pick out Lingard inside the penalty area and the United forward couldn’t believe this luck as the statuesque Saints’ defence allowed him to guide a low finish past Forster.
Yet on the stroke of half-time Southampton were back in it as United were caught napping by Ward-Prowse’s cross and Gabbiadini applied the finishing touch with a cool close-range effort.
With the strangely diffident Pogba offering little protection to United’s defence, Southampton exposed United’s defensive flaws again to draw level in the 48th minute
When a corner was directed back into the United area, Pogba missed a header and Gabbiadini reacted quicker than Chris Smalling to whip his shot past De Gea for his fifth goal in just three appearances since a January move from Napoli.
Romeu almost won it when he headed against a post from Ward-Prowse’s corner.
But, despite a far from convincing display from United, it was Ibrahimovic who delivered the knockout blow with extra-time looming.
He started and finished a United counter, ghosting into the six-yard box to meet Herrera’s cross with a bullet header that added more lustre to both United and Mourinho’s trophy cabinets.
February 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment
The anguished tone in Kasper Schmeichel’s voice told the story of the turmoil gripping Leicester as the Premier League champions slumped into a relegation crisis that triggered Claudio Ranieri’s brutal sacking on Thursday.
“We’re the reigning champions and quite frankly it’s been terrible. It’s been embarrassing,” the Leicester goalkeeper told a television reporter after a dismal 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United on February 5.
“It’s time for every single one of us, right from the top to the bottom of this club, to stand up and be counted because if we don’t, we’re going to end up getting relegated.”
A year on from a stunning 3-1 win at Manchester City that sent them five points clear at the league summit, the loss to United left Ranieri’s men a solitary point above the relegation zone.
Leicester’s Thai owners felt compelled to issue a vote of confidence in Ranieri, but the team remained in dire trouble after an even more damaging 2-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Swansea days later and the beleaguered Italian was about to pay the price.
Reports emerged that Ranieri was unable to quell squad unrest over his tactics and selection decisions, with the former Chelsea boss forced to deny claims his players were unhappy he had banned chicken burgers from the training ground canteen.
A 1-0 loss at third tier Millwall in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, in which his lethargic side were out-fought by 10 men for much of the second half, was another huge blow to Ranieri’s credibility.
His team had lost their past five league matches and were the only side in the top four English divisions without a league goal in 2017.
The final straw came in Sevilla, where Leicester were beaten 2-1 in a Champions League last 16 first leg clash that the Spanish side could easily have won by a far greater margin.
Ranieri had only signed a new contract in August, but by the time Leicester arrived home, he was a dead man walking.
Only 292 days after Leicester’s title triumph climaxed with the trophy presentation amid fireworks and a fanfare from opera singer Andrea Bocelli, Ranieri discovered his time was up.
It was a stunningly abrupt end to Ranieri’s reign and many had sympathy for the genial coach’s demise.
“After all that Claudio Ranieri has done for Leicester City, to sack him now is inexplicable, unforgivable and gut-wrenchingly sad,” Leicester legend Gary Lineker said.
But money talks loudest in the Premier League and the risk of losing over £150 million in television and commercial revenue if Leicester were relegated was too much for vice chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha to stomach with only 13 games remaining.
Leicester’s woes were embodied by the woeful form of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the rough-cut attacking stars whose goals and assists catapulted the Foxes to the title.
N’Golo Kante, Leicester’s other stand-out player last season, was the only departure during the close season and the club have failed to plug the hole created by his move to current leaders Chelsea.
Injury has hampered Nampalys Mendy since he signed from Nice and with Daniel Amartey an unconvincing stop-gap, Leicester splashed out £15 million ($18.7 million, 17.4 million euros) to sign Wilfred Ndidi last month.
Leicester lost head of recruitment Steve Walsh to Everton after last season’s triumph and their transfer activity since has been patchy.
Ahmed Musa has not convinced, Mendy has barely played, Ron-Robert Zieler has looked a less than capable deputy for Schmeichel and Luis Hernandez lasted just half a season before being sold to Malaga.
Ranieri stuck with a tried and tested 4-4-2 system throughout last season, but the Italian’s attempts to broaden his players’ horizons this term produced some confused performances.
Just nine months after the dizzy climax to their 5,000-1 title triumph, Leicester now face the prospect of becoming England’s first defending champions to be relegated since Manchester City in 1938.
Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and ex-Chelsea boss Avram Grant are reportedly among the contenders to replace Ranieri.
Survival will be the new man’s only mission this season, but whoever comes in has little time to stop Leicester’s rags to riches rise coming to a depressing conclusion.
February 22, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Manchester United’s record goalscorer Wayne Rooney returned to training on Tuesday having missed the last four matches with a muscular injury.
The 31-year-old forward — who became United’s all-time goalscorer passing Bobby Charlton’s tally of 249 when he scored against Stoke on January 21 — took part in the squad’s last session before they fly to France for Wednesday’s Europa League last 32 second leg clash with St Etienne.
United — who will be without suspended midfielder Ander Herrera and the injured defender Phil Jones — won the first leg 3-0 part of a four match winning streak coinciding with Rooney’s absence.
Rooney — whom United manager Jose Mourinho said would not be sold despite reported interest from China as the club chases three Cups — trained in front of the media in a group also comprising Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
February 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Manchester City face an unwanted replay in the last 16 of the FA Cup after labouring to a 0-0 draw at second tier Championship side Huddersfield on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side struggled to find any tempo against Huddersfield and must now try again at the Etihad Stadium to book their place in the quarter-finals.
A disappointing day all round for City saw unused substitute Raheem Sterling apparently targeted with a plastic bottle thrown by a supporter from the main stand as as he warmed up in the second half.
The bottle missed the England winger, leaving Guardiola to worry more about his team’s lacklustre display with star forwards including an off-key Sergio Aguero unable to break down the Terriers’ stubborn defence.
The Championship side began the game brightly and might have led early on through Rajiv van la Parra.
He was teed up on the edge of the City penalty area by Collin Quaner but his shot was too close to City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
But it was the visitors who should have led moments later as they were denied by some desperate goalkeeping and defending.
Nolito found himself in the clear but his shot was blocked well low down by Joel Coleman in the Huddersfield goal before Mark Hudson made a crucial goalline clearance from Jesus Navas’s follow-up effort.
Aguero lifted a shot just over for City from the edge of the area moments after being admonished by Guardiola for not pressing defenders quickly enough.
But then came two scares for the Premier League side, first when Jack Payne’s shot was tipped over by Bravo and then when Philip Billing found the City net but was denied the opening goal by an offside flag against team-mate Martin Cranie.
Nolito saw another shot deflected just wide as the game remained an end-to-end affair.
Van la Parra was then denied again by Bravo as the City keeper held comfortably onto his tame shot following a cross by Quaner.
The next chance fell to Aguero after a clever sequence of passes on the edge of the Huddersfield box, but the striker’s effort was saved smartly by Coleman.
Aguero was back in the action just a few seconds into the second half when he weaved into the Huddersfield box but saw a firm shot turned away well by the diving Coleman.
Some more fine footwork by the Argentine then took him away from two Huddersfield players but his pass for Fernandinho was overhit and Coleman gathered.
The game became disjointed and lacking in tempo, although there then came the talking point on the touchline as Sterling went through his paces.
A plastic bottle was thrown from the home fans in the main stand towards the England winger, who did not respond as fellow substitute Bacary Sagna stared at supporters.
February 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Second-half goals from Pedro and Diego Costa earned Premier League leaders Chelsea a 2-0 win in a difficult FA Cup fifth-round tie at second-tier Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
Pedro headed in after 65 minutes following an intricate build-up involving Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Willian.
Costa sealed a place in the quarter-finals in the 89th minute after defender Matt Doherty inadvertently deflected a pass into his path.
The prolific Chelsea striker had the time and space to easily stroke the ball into the Wolves goal, finally killing off the Championship side’s brave resistance.
Having accounted for the Premier League scalps of Stoke City and Liverpool in previous rounds, Wolves looked in the mood to add the division’s leaders to that list.
In front of Molineux’s biggest crowd for 36 years, the home side made an electrifying start.
Asmir Begovic had already been required to tip a dangerous Conor Coady cross over his bar in the opening exchanges when former Chelsea youngster George Saville found the ball at his feet 15 yards out.
The unmarked midfielder unleashed a powerful left-foot shot that thundered against the left-hand post, with Andreas Weimann blasting a follow-up effort over.
That was the start of an absorbing cup tie, with the Championship side putting their league troubles behind them and going toe-to-toe with a Chelsea team who made seven changes from their least league game.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had still fielded a strong line-up, however, with former England international John Terry continuing his ever-present status in the FA Cup and Fabregas handed a start.
Fabregas looked capable of picking a hole in the home defence and did precisely that after 12 minutes when his lofted pass sent Willian sprinting into the area.
The Brazilian attempted to chip over Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, who did well to put a touch on the shot and steer it over his net.
The tie had plenty of aggression and a raucous atmosphere, especially when the home supporters claimed Weimann had been brought down by Willian in the area midway through the first half.
That appeal was turned down by referee Jonathan Moss, but Wolves maintained the pressure when Helder Costa turned neatly and unleashed a low shot that Begovic smothered well.
But Chelsea still posed a serious threat as Fabregas and Willian attempted to find the pass that would play in Costa over the Wolves back four.
A number of times the tactic came close to working and in first-half injury time a cross from the right by wing-back Victor Moses was met by Costa, back to goal, who hooked an effort wide.
Wolves opened the second half in similar, threatening fashion, with Pedro the first Chelsea player cautioned for a crude trip on the dangerous Helder Costa.
But it was Chelsea’s Nathaniel Chalobah who was presented with the first shot of the half, a low strike from the edge of the area that went directly at the goalkeeper.
Chelsea’s Costa also received yet another neat pass from Hazard and almost set up Chalobah for an attempt on goal, only to be denied by more committed Wolves defending.
Wolves’ Costa eased the pressure momentarily with a high free-kick that Danny Batth headed into the arms of Begovic.
But soon after his namesake was played in by yet another Fabregas pass and left Batth on the floor before shooting into the side-netting.
The opening goal was not long in coming, although Dave Edwards looked like he might head in an equaliser minutes later, only to be denied by an important defensive header from Kurt Zouma.
In the closing stages, Fabregas should have doubled their advantage when he shot wide from Eden Hazard’s pass, before Costa’s strike — his 16th of the season — put the game to bed.
February 13, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Chelsea extended their lead atop the Premier League to 10 points on Sunday as the team they seem destined to succeed as champions, Leicester City, sank to yet another defeat.
Bidding to go 12 points clear, Chelsea had to settle for a point after home debutant Robbie Brady’s arcing 24th-minute free-kick earned Burnley a deserved 1-1 draw at Turf Moor.
While the title beckons for Chelsea, it is receding deeper into memory for Leicester, who were left one point and one place above the relegation zone by a 2-0 defeat at Swansea City.
Leicester became the first English champions to lose five successive games since Chelseain 1956 and the first team to go six games without scoring at the start of the year since Stoke City in 1985.
Leicester’s owners gave manager Claudio Ranieri a vote of confidence after last weekend’s 3-0 loss to Manchester United, but the post-game rallying cry issued by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had little effect.
Swansea overcame the loss of former Leicester loanee Nathan Dyer to an early ankle injury to score twice in the latter stages of the first half at the Liberty Stadium.
Centre-back Alfie Mawson broke the deadlock in the 36th minute with an emphatic volley after Federico Fernandez had nodded Robert Huth’s clearing header back into the penalty area.
Swedish left-back Martin Olsson landed a hammer blow in first-half stoppage time when he hared onto Gylfi Sigurdsson’s first-time pass to rifle a shot past Schmeichel at his near post.
Ranieri made a double change at half-time, sending on Ben Chilwell and Islam Slimani, but the closest they came to establishing a foothold was a shot from the latter that was blocked by Lukasz Fabianski.
They pulled four points clear of danger and now have a full two weeks to prepare for their trip to leaders Chelsea.
Chelsea continue to sit pretty at the top of the pile, although their advantage will be eroded to eight points if Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City win at Bournemouth on Monday.
Antonio Conte’s side took a seventh-minute lead at Turf Moor when Victor Moses slipped Pedro in to steer a low shot past Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
But Burnley levelled through £13 million ($16.2 million, 15.3 million euros) record signing Brady’s fine free-kick and managed to prevent Chelsea from registering a single shot on target in the second half.
“We must be disappointed at the point because I think this type of game we could win,” said Chelsea manager Conte.
“We know there is a long way (to the end of the season). It is important to work and play this type of game and fight.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche, whose side have won 29 of their 30 points at home, said: “It was a strong performance against a top, top side.
“I want us to be awkward to play against and be productive and we showed that.”
Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus aims to extend his dazzling start to life in the Premier League with another inspired display at Bournemouth on Monday.
Pep Guardiola’s team dropped out of the Champions League qualification places after losing four of the nine top-flight matches they played during December and January.
Three successive wins across two competitions have brightened the mood however, with Jesus making significant contributions in each match.
The Brazil striker, whose move from Palmeiras was completed during the mid-season transfer window, has scored three times in two Premier League starts, and got both goals as Swansea were defeated 2-1 at Eastlands last Sunday.
In the last few days, team-mates Fernandinho and Yaya Toure have both warned against getting too carried away with the 19-year-old’s excellent start, yet some pundits have asked if this might be the beginning of the end for Sergio Aguero at City.
Aguero has made only brief substitute appearances in each of the club’s last two matches, and suggested after the Swansea match that he was unsure about his future, although City moved swiftly to indicate that they had no plans to sell a striker who is under contract until 2020.
It has been a difficult season for the Argentina international, who has missed seven City matches through suspension, had missed four penalties for club and country by the middle of October.
Aguero has also lost his starting place in the national team of late too and may have to settle for a place on the bench at Bournemouth.
With City in fifth place, behind fourth placed Liverpool on goal difference, Guardiola has other selection issues to consider.
Claudio Bravo, the first choice, has not played well in recent weeks and was dropped after a 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham on January 21.
Willy Caballero, the back-up, has played in the three matches since, all of which City have won.
Despite those selection dilemmas, Guardiola is more content with the way his team are playing now than a month ago, when a 4-0 defeat at Everton prompted him to declare City were out of the Premier League title race.
Nonetheless, the manager respects a Bournemouth side who have beaten Liverpool this season – and should have beaten Arsenal, instead drawing 3-3 after being three goals up.
“In the last two years, it is outstanding what Bournemouth have done,” Guardiola said.
“They are so aggressive. They are an honest team.
“They play for the spectators in that they want to do something. They are fast guys to use the counter attack.
“I know what happened against Liverpool and Arsenal, the big teams. It will be tough.”
Bournemouth are comfortably placed in 14th, six points clear of the relegation places.
But Eddie Howe’s side are yet to taste victory in 2017 however and know they risk being dragged downwards if that trend persists.
The Cherries will look to Jack Wilshere, the on-loan Arsenal midfielder, for inspiration against City.
Wilshere joined Bournemouth for regular football after a succession of injury-hit seasons with the Gunners and inevitably speculation has begun about a permanent switch.
“We would love that to happen,” Howe said. “I can’t rate Jack any higher as a footballer or a person, and how he’s come into the team and what he has delivered for us.
“But there has been no discussion with Arsenal. As I see it Jack is on loan for the season, then we’ll look at it – and Jack will look at it – from that point.”
Alexis Sanchez struck twice as Arsenal returned to winning ways with a contentious and hard-fought 2-0 Premier League win over Hull City on Saturday.
The Gunners had lost their last two games coming into this contest against the relegation-threatened Tigers and had drifted out of the title race as a result.
They were by no means back to their best, but with a Champions League tie at Bayern Munich to come on Wednesday, manager Arsene Wenger will be pleased to have chalked up a timely victory.
Sanchez opened the scoring on 34 minutes with a goal that was allowed to stand despite the ball going in off his right hand.
He confirmed the three points with an injury-time penalty — his 17th goal of the campaign — after Sam Clucas had been sent off for clearing Lucas Perez’s strike off the line with his arm.
Hull threatened on occasion, but failed to get a positive result to lift them out of the bottom three, while Arsenal stay in the top four and provisionally close to within nine points of leaders Chelsea.
Some Arsenal fans decided to stay away in protest at what they deem as another failing Arsenal title bid.
But one man taking his seat in the stands at the Emirates Stadium was the under-fire Wenger, who served the last game of his four-match touchline ban.
His side seemed nervy at the back in the opening exchanges and Liverpool loanee Lazar Markovic broke into their box all too easily, but Oumar Niasse was unable to make contact with the Serbian’s cross.
Niasse tested Petr Cech moments later as he got onto the end of Kamil Grosicki’s smart cross to head towards goal, forcing the Arsenal goalkeeper to tip his effort behind.
The hosts then passed up two glorious opportunities to take the lead, with Hector Bellerin lashing wide when well-placed and Sanchez pulling his own effort wide of the mark from the centre of goal.
Hull’s defences were finally breached 10 minutes before the break and even then, the goal came in controversial circumstances.
After Kieran Gibbs’s shot was scrambled off the line by Andy Robertson, Sanchez followed in with a shot that struck Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic before rebounding into the net off the Chilean’s hand.
Despite protestations from the Hull players, the goal was given after assistant Jake Collin appeared to have a discussion with referee Mark Clattenburg over the incident.
Arsenal survived an injury scare to Francis Coquelin early in the second half before Cech once again saved from Niasse.
Theo Walcott was then cautioned for squaring up to Harry McGuire, with England colleague Gibbs lucky to only see yellow moments later for barging over Markovic as he ran through on goal.
Alex Iwobi shot over after a neat exchange of passes with Ozil before Walcott fluffed his lines as he searched for his 100th goal in Arsenal colours.
Niasse sent a header into the side-netting as Hull looked to ruin another weekend for Arsenal, who had Sanchez booked for simulation late on.
Wenger looked to his bench in an attempt to build on his side’s slender lead, with both Danny Welbeck and Lucas coming on with 10 minutes remaining.
Hull manager Marco Silva, who has now faced Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal since arriving at the KCOM Stadium, saw his own substitute Adama Diomande head a corner over.
The game was sewn up in injury time after Perez saw his header blocked on the line by Clucas, who was trudging down the tunnel after being dismissed by Clattenburg as Sanchez tucked away the penalty to seal the win.
Juan Mata and Anthony Martial helped Manchester United extend their brilliant Premier League form as they outclassed Watford in a comfortable 2-0 victory at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho may have a reputation as a defensive manager, but that accusation could not be made during this contest as United were wonderfully entertaining from start to finish.
With an attack containing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitayran and both goalscorers, United had class to spare and Walter Mazzarri’s Watford had no real answers.
Mourinho will be particularly pleased with the return to form of Martial, a player who has blown hot and cold recently following speculation about his future.
United’s impressive league form has seen them go unbeaten since their humiliating 4-0 reverse at leaders Chelsea on October 23.
They now trail fourth-place Manchester City by just a point ahead of their derby rivals’ trip to Bournemouth on Monday.
Watford arrived in Manchester confident, however, after consecutive wins over Arsenal and Burnley.
United had the best of the opening moments, but clear-cut chances were a rarity early on. That was to change.
Antonio Valencia’s deflected cross fell to Ibrahimovic 12 yards out after 60 seconds, but he mishit his volley, while a jinking run from Martial had Watford worried until his shot deflected wide.
Watford were clearly up for the fight as Jose Holebas and M’Baye Niang targeted Valencia on United’s right flank and repeatedly ran through on David de Gea’s goal, but could not make it count.
After 17 minutes, Paul Pogba nearly opened the scoring with a fine effort from 25 yards that Heurelho Gomes managed to brilliantly claw away at full stretch.
United slowly turned up the tempo and had three brilliant opportunities as Watford began to sit back, a tactic that can prove fatal at Old Trafford.
Firstly Ibrahimovic volleyed over following a fine ball from Pogba before the Frenchman almost scored himself, volleying Valencia’s low cross goalwards, only for Gomes to produce another smart save.
The best opportunity, though, fell to Mkhitaryan, who blasted over from Mata’s intelligent pass, much to Mourinho’s dismay.
It felt like Watford’s resistance had to break and so it proved.
With Mourinho imploring the home crowd to chant more loudly in support of his side, Gomes produced a stunning close-range block from Ibrahimovic before Mata broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.
Martial ran Watford ragged down the left and his pinpoint pass gave Mata an easy tap-in from four yards out for his ninth goal of the season.
Watford somehow reached half-time just a goal down, but Mourinho’s men continued where they had left off after the interval as a Martial effort just went wide of the far post 60 seconds into the second half.
Martial did a little better on the hour, grabbing his side’s second goal as United twisted the knife.
In the blink of an eye, Ibrahimovic fed Martial near the halfway line and he ran through on goal, took his time and then beat Gomes at his near post through a thicket of defenders.
After the goal Watford actually improved as they chased the match and Daryl Janmaat should have halved the deficit with 20 minutes to go, only to blast wastefully over from 12 yards out.
It summed up Watford’s afternoon as United closed up at the back and ran down the clock with ease.
February 10, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho expects Zlatan Ibrahimovic to remain at Old Trafford next season despite speculation linking the Swedish striker with one last big-money transfer, he said on Friday.
Ibrahimovic, 35, has been a revelation in his first season in England, scoring 20 goals, and is expected to trigger the option of extending his contract by a year.
Napoli and clubs in China and the United States have been linked with the former Paris Saint-Germain striker in recent days, but Mourinho is confident he will remain in United red next season.
“I’m totally convinced he is going to stay,” Mourinho told reporters at United’s training base west of Manchester.
“He came with the intention to stay two years, but in the minds of everyone the first year is going better than every expectation.
“He knows we are going to try again to improve next season and try to share with him in a fantastic way probably the last year of his career at the highest level, so I’m convinced that he’s staying.
“He’s adapted to the club, to the situation. I don’t see any problem with his family. I gave him the possibility of a day off to go to Sweden. He doesn’t want (it). So I’m totally convinced he is going to stay.”
The United manager also joked about executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s use of the word “churn” during a conference call with investors to discuss the club’s latest financial results on Thursday.
Woodward said he was expecting to see less “churn” — turnover of first-team players — in the close season and Mourinho was in complete agreement with the approach outlined by his superior.
“First of all, yesterday I had to ask a friend about ‘churn’ because I had no idea. It’s a new word for my vocabulary,” Mourinho smiled.
“You have to learn every time you can and I thank Ed for that word because I didn’t have an idea.
“He’s completely right. Of course we speak about it. Of course we speak about what next and we know that we have a squad that like every squad needs changes.
“But we know also that our squad has potential, our squad has good players, many of them in the best age.”
He added: “We prefer to bring two, three or four players, players that feel an idea, a football we try to play, that can improve our squad.
“We are not interested in signing six or seven or selling six or seven. We are not going to play this game.
“We are stable, so we think our market in the summer will be soft, will be natural. Some players to leave, some players to come, but in a very natural way, so I think the word Ed used was a good one.”
While rivals such as Manchester City are expected to make significant moves in the next transfer window, Mourinho says he intends to keep his squad largely as it is.
“You work with the players and you know the players better. You only know the players really when you work with them,” he said.
“Sometimes you get disappointed because you expect more and even in relation to this everything is balanced. I’m not negatively surprised with anyone.
“I didn’t have an incredible impact with some player, so everything is balanced and I think our summer will be quite small.”
United will be without centre-back Phil Jones for Saturday’s home game against Watford due to a foot injury.
But captain Wayne Rooney is back after missing last weekend’s 3-0 win at champions Leicester City due to illness and defender Marcos Rojo is also available despite picking up a knock in that game.
February 9, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Claudio Ranieri hopes Leicester’s FA Cup victory against Derby can provide a springboard to ease the spluttering champions’ relegation fears.
Ranieri’s side got a welcome boost as they moved into the last 16 of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win in a fourth round replay at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday.
Goals from Andy King, Wilfred Ndidi and Demarai Gray sealed Leicester’s first win in six matches at a most opportune moment.
Leicester are only one point above the Premier League relegation zone and face a crucial clash at fellow strugglers Swansea on Sunday.
Ranieri, who received a vote of confidence from the club’s Thai owners this week, believes the Cup success can lift spirits just in time to pull away from the bottom three.
“In this moment everything goes wrong but tonight one thing went right. Derby played good football and we won,” Ranieri said.
“This is what we needed and I wanted. Wilfred Ndidi made a very good goal, as did Demarai Gray.
“I’m happy with Ndidi. This young player full of personality and good character. We’ve chosen well.
“We want to do well in all competitions. We want to go forward in the FA Cup.
“The Premier League is not so good but we have to stay in the Premier League. This fresh air is good for the players.”
King has seen many ups and downs during his long spell with Leicester and the midfielder echoed Ranieri’s hope that the team’s fortunes could be taking a turn for the better.
“It’s been a tough few weeks and we’ve been getting a lot of criticism. Tonight we showed the fight we have got in the squad,” King said.
“It was important to get a win tonight to try to kickstart some form to take into the league.
“We have 14 massive games left in the league but now we are through in a couple of rounds of the cup. Why can’t we write another story in that?”
February 6, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Gabriel Jesus scored two goals including an injury-time winner as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City recorded a dramatic 2-1 victory over struggling Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
The home side looked in complete control during a dominant first-half showing only to surrender an 81st-minute equaliser to Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The Iceland international capitalised on some poor defending, collecting Luciano Narsingh’s pass, switching the ball to his left foot and scoring with a brilliant low drive from just outside the area.
But deep in injury time David Silva’s right-wing cross found Jesus and after his initial header had been saved by Lukasz Fabianski, the 19-year-old Brazilian tapped the rebound into an open goal.
“Gabriel Jesus is strong, fast and has really good movement,” City manager Guardiola told the BBC.
“He has arrived really, really, well. We are happy to have him.
“Many times this season in last minute we have conceded. It is the first time we have won a game in the last minute.”
Jesus, a January arrival from Palmeiras, had required just 11 minutes of his full home debut to score the first of what City supporters hope will be many goals for them.
The goal was created by the excellence of Silva, who beat defender Federico Fernandez along the byline before pulling the ball back towards Raheem Sterling.
Martin Olsson managed to block the England forward on the six-yard line, but Jesus reacted like lightning, pouncing on the loose ball and making no mistake with a close-range volley.
City’s first-half dominance was complete and Willy Caballero, continuing to deputise for the dropped Claudio Bravo in the home goal, had not one moment of concern.
The afternoon might have been put beyond the grasp of Swansea, showing signs of improvement under new manager Paul Clement, had referee Mike Dean judged that Alfie Mawson had fouled Jesus in the area on seven minutes.
Shortly after the goal, Yaya Toure almost doubled the lead from a 25-yard free-kick that was heading into the top left-hand corner until Fabianski made a superb diving save.
From Silva’s resulting corner, Toure should have made better contact with an unmarked shot that passed harmlessly wide.
Kevin De Bruyne then fired into the side-netting and Toure’s 18-yard shot was smothered, at the second attempt, by Fabianski.
A long Silva pass played Sterling in on goal just before the interval, although the City forward fell while rounding Fabianski and was harshly booked for simulation for his trouble.
However, City’s supporters would have been forgiven for wondering if their failure to score more than one goal would come back to haunt them as Swansea made an improved start to the second half.
Sigurdsson threatened to equalise in the 49th minute with a magnificently struck free-kick that was kept out by a combination of the leaping Caballero’s right glove and his right-hand post.
Leroy Sane sped down the other end in response and delivered a low cross which hit the foot of Fabianski’s post.
But the longer City went without adding a second goal, the more the anxiety grew at the Etihad, especially when Mawson headed just wide from Sigurdsson’s corner.
The Swansea defender was pressed into action at the other end when he blocked a dangerous low cross from Sterling.
It came at the expense of a corner from which De Bruyne picked out Aleksandar Kolarov, whose header flew harmlessly wide.
Mawson again came to his team’s rescue after 72 minutes, producing a well-timed block to stop a Silva shot, set up by Jesus’s superb flick, which had looked destined for the back of the visitors’ net.
“We deserved more,” said Clement. “If we can build on that we will have some more wins not far away.”
February 6, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s masterclass left Leicester fighting for their Premier League survival as Manchester United cruised to a 3-0 victory over the troubled champions on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho’s side condemned dismal Leicester to a fourth successive league defeat thanks in large part to Mkhitaryan’s dynamic contribution at the King Power Stadium.
The Armenian playmaker opened the scoring with a cool solo strike just before half-time and then teed up Juan Mata for United’s third goal after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had doubled the lead.
United’s first win in four league games extended their unbeaten run to 15 and lifted them to within two points of fourth-placed Arsenal in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
“I think we played like we normally play. We played well and tried to win,” Mourinho said.
“We are still in the same position but we are closer to the others so we keep fighting.”
Just nine months after their fairytale title triumph, Leicester are firmly embroiled in a battle to avoid relegation after winning only one of their last nine league games.
Claudio Ranieri’s team are a shadow of the relentless unit that ground opponents into submission last term and have yet to score a league goal in 2017.
They sit one point above the relegation zone and face a crucial clash at fellow strugglers Swansea next weekend.
“Last season everything was right and the players got confidence, now they are anxious. We have to stay together and keep fighting,” Ranieri said.
Given both sides’ recent struggles, it was little surprise that anxiety was the prevailing emotion in an error-strewn opening most notable for Jamie Vardy’s tetchy response to a touchline collision with Eric Bailly.
Riyad Mahrez, such a poised and inspired figure last season, summed up the malaise gripping Leicester when the Algeria winger responded to an early sight of goal with a woeful strike that flew well wide.
Marcus Rashford hadn’t scored in the league since netting against Leicester in September and the United striker, unmarked 10 yards from goal, squandered a good opportunity to end that barren run when he blazed over from Mkhitaryan’s pinpoint cross.
Mata could consider himself fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after the United midfielder lunged into a crude challenge on Vardy.
Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba combined to work the ball into Rashford and the youngster’s quickly-taken low strike carried enough power to force a fine save by Schmeichel.
It was a warning Leicester failed to heed and United took the lead in the 42nd minute when Mkhitaryan punished a mistake from Robert Huth.
When Chris Smalling won a header in midfield, there should have been no danger but Huth made a rash and unsuccessful attempt to win the ball in the centre circle, giving Mkhitaryan space to nudge it past the defender and race clear of the Leicester defence before firing beyond Schmeichel.
Just 88 seconds later, Leicester shot themselves in the foot again when Antonio Valencia was allowed to run unchecked down the right before crossing towards Ibrahimovic.
Despite three Leicester defenders surrounding Ibrahimovic, the trio were all flat-footed as the United forward pounced to slot home his 20th goal of the season.
Ranieri sent on Demarai Gray and Andy King at half-time, but Leicester’s gloom deepened when Mata put the result beyond doubt in the 49th minute.
Mkhitaryan was tormenting Leicester with his clever passing and when the United playmaker deftly clipped the ball to Mata, the Spaniard was played onside by Morgan and guided his shot past Schmeichel from close-range.
Rashford and Mata couldn’t take chances to rub salt into Leicester’s wounds, but the damage had already been done.
Ranieri will hope it doesn’t prove fatal.
February 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Eden Hazard’s brilliant goal in Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Arsenal further buried the title hopes of their Premier League rivals with even angry Arsene Wenger admitting that his London foes are a class act.
Antonio Conte’s side shattered Arsenal’s hopes while Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool hit a new low in a 2-0 defeat at Hull in Saturday’s games.
Belgian winger Hazard picked up the ball in his own half and waltzed past four opposing players to shoot home at Stamford Bridge after Marcos Alonso opened the scoring with a contentious effort, clattering into Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin before heading home.
Cesc Fabregas rubbed salt into Arsenal’s wounds in the 85th minute when the former Gunners midfielder chipped into the empty net after a woeful miskick from ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Olivier Giroud got a consolation but third placed Arsenal trail Chelsea by 12 points with 14 games remaining.
Chelsea have 16 wins in their last 18 league games, prompting Conte to hail the triumph as a significant moment in the title race.
“I consider Arsenal one of the six teams that can fight for the title. To put them 12 points behind is very important for us,” Conte said.
Wenger fumed over Alonso’s opener, saying: “It was 100 percent a foul. It was even dangerous play.”
But he joined Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola in saying Chelsea should have the title wrapped up.
“They look at the moment in full confidence, powerful, strong. They don’t concede goals. It’s for them to lose it.”
Second placed Tottenham are Chelsea’s closest challengers and their 1-0 victory against Middlesbrough meant they are still nine points behind.
When Son Heung-Min was fouled by Bernardo in the 58th minute at White Hart Lane, Tottenham striker Harry Kane stepped up to convert the penalty for his 16th goal of the season.
It was a first win in three league games for Mauricio Pochettino’s team, who are unbeaten in their last nine.
“When you don’t kill the game you leave it open. In the last second you can concede, that’s the Premier League. Thankfully it didn’t and we’re happy,” Pochettino said.
At the KCOM Stadium, Liverpool fell behind in the 44th minute when Alfred N’Diaye took advantage of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s poor handling to bag a debut goal.
Klopp’s side were finished off in the 84th minute when on-loan Everton striker Oumar Niasse raced clear to boost third bottom Hull’s survival bid.
“Obviously that was not good enough. We gave both goals away easily and the overall performance was not like it should be,” Klopp said.
“It makes no sense for us to play like this. We need to wake up, that was not acceptable.”
Liverpool have won only once in their last 10 games in all competitions and will be knocked out of the top four if Manchester City avoid defeat against Swansea on Sunday.
Sunderland stunned former boss Sam Allardyce with an first half goal rush to demolish fellow strugglers Crystal Palace 4-0 at Selhurst Park.
Lamine Kone, signed by Palace chief Allardyce when he was in charge at Sunderland, swept home after Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey dropped a 10th minute free-kick.
The Black Cats were two up in the 43rd minute through Didier Ndong’s first goal for the club.
Jermain Defoe put the result beyond doubt with two goals in first half stoppage-time. One furious Palace fan ran onto the pitch to confront defender Damien Delaney.
Sunderland remain bottom of the table but they are level on points with Palace, who dropped to 19th place.
Romelu Lukaku scored four times in Everton’s 6-3 victory against Bournemouth at Goodison Park.
Ronald Koeman’s side were ahead after just 31 seconds as Belgian forward Lukaku started his goal spree.
Everton doubled their advantage through James McCarthy in the 23rd minute and Lukaku notched his second six minutes later.
Bournemouth’s Josh King set up a tense finale as he netted in the 59th and 70th minutes.
Lukaku struck again in the 83rd and 84th minutes to cap his memorable afternoon before Harry Arter’s 90th minute reply and Ross Barkley’s sixth for Everton.
West Ham bounced back from their mauling by Manchester City with a 3-1 win at Southampton thanks to goals from Andy Carroll, Pedro Obiang and Mark Noble.
Watford consigned 10-man Burnley to a seventh successive away league defeat with a 2-1 success at Vicarage Road.
West Bromwich Albion beat Stoke 1-0 thanks to James Morrison’s sixth minute goal.
February 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment
Arsenal will look to shrug off recurring doubts about their mental strength and the weight of recent history when they visit runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday.
Chelsea dropped points for only the second time in 17 matches in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool, but Arsenal could not take advantage as they crashed to a 2-1 home defeat by Watford.
It means the gap between the teams remains nine points and should Arsenal fall to defeat again at Stamford Bridge, it is likely to spell yet another premature end to a title challenge.
“When you accept competition and you want to be at the highest levels, you have to accept you will have defining moments and defining games,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“If you don’t want that pressure, it is better that you don’t compete.
“Every day there are careless ups and downs, but we have accepted this job and the beauty of this job is that you can have highs, and that is what you want to focus on.”
The defeat by Watford, who scored twice in the opening 13 minutes, was Arsenal’s fourth of the campaign and curbed a resurgence that had seen them take 13 points from a possible 15.
Arsenal’s season is slipping into familiar territory and if they are to avoid yet another campaign boiling down to the contest for Champions League qualification, beating Chelsea would be a good place to start.
They have already defeated Antonio Conte’s men once this season, but it was to prove the catalyst for a surge to the top of the table for the vanquished, rather than the victorious.
It was in the 55th minute of Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium on September 24 that Conte switched to the 3-4-3 system that revitalised his side’s season.
The win left Arsenal third, five places above their London rivals, and came amid a run of six straight wins that would culminate in Wenger’s men drawing level on points with leaders Manchester City.
Four months on, Arsenal find themselves back in third, with Chelsea threatening to disappear over the horizon as they go in search of an 11th consecutive win in front of their own fans.
But despite the dramatic reversal of fortunes, Conte says he has kept the September defeat in mind.
“This defeat seems far (away), but it’s important to remember the defeat against Arsenal,” said the Chelsea manager.
“It was a bad defeat, 3-0 after the first half. And in my mind it’s always present, this defeat.
“I hope also in the mind of my players. I think it’s important to remember the first game against Arsenal.”
Arsenal’s supporters, many of whom took to social media to vent their frustrations after the loss to Watford, have learnt to approach trips to the Bridge with trepidation.
They have not seen their team win there since 2011, Arsenal having lost on each of their last four visits, including a humiliating 6-0 loss on the occasion of Wenger’s 1,000th game in March 2014.
Wenger will be absent from the dug-out on Saturday as he serves the third match of a four-game touchline ban for manhandling fourth official Anthony Taylor during Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Burnley.
Further complicating matters for the Frenchman is a raft of missing midfielders, Aaron Ramsey having joined the list of absentees after sustaining a calf strain against Watford.
Granit Xhaka is banned, Santi Cazorla remains injured, Mohamed Elneny is preparing for the Africa Cup of Nations final with Egypt in Gabon and Jack Wilshere is still on loan at Bournemouth.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to partner Francis Coquelin in the holding roles if he passes a fitness test on a minor knee problem.
Chelsea are a man lighter after Branislav Ivanovic departed for Zenit Saint Petersburg on Wednesday, but Conte again has a fully fit squad to choose from.