Willian extends Chelsea run; Liverpool downs City

Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta in action with Stoke City's Bruno Martins during their Premier League match at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 31 December 2016
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Willian extends Chelsea run; Liverpool downs City

LONDON: Willian scored twice as Chelsea claimed a record-equalling 13th consecutive Premier League victory by beating Stoke 4-2, while Liverpool kept in touch with the leaders after a 1-0 win over Manchester City.
Stoke twice hit back to level after falling behind at Stamford Bridge, but Willian’s second goal and a late Diego Costa strike saw Chelsea match Arsenal’s run of 13 wins within the same season from 2001-02.
Antonio Conte’s side remain six points clear of second-placed Liverpool heading into 2017.
“Congratulations go to my players. To win 13 games in a row in this league is very difficult,” Conte said.
“Now they are fantastic and we are proud, but we must concentrate on the second part of the season. Numbers are not important if you do not win the title.”
At Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp and City boss Pep Guardiola meeting for the first time in the Premier League, the clash of managerial heavyweights was a tense affair.
Third placed City had star striker Sergio Aguero back from suspension and they dominated possession for long periods.
But it was Klopp’s team who delivered the knockout blow when Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum headed home from Adam Lallana’s cross in the eighth minute to seal Liverpool’s fourth successive win.
Manchester United came perilously close to seeing their own winning streak end, only for late goals by Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba to secure a 2-1 home win over Middlesbrough.
It was sixth-place United’s fifth straight league win and took them to within a point of fourth-place Arsenal, who host Crystal Palace on Sunday.
“My players were phenomenal. We managed to do something I love — bring the fans to the pitch. The last 15 mins were 70,000 on the pitch against 11,” United manager Jose Mourinho said.
Chelsea welcomed back N’Golo Kante and Costa from suspension for the visit of Stoke and took a first-half lead when Gary Cahill headed in a corner from Cesc Fabregas.
Bruno Martins Indi equalized within seconds of kick-off in the second half, slotting in after Peter Crouch nodded down Charlie Adam’s free-kick.
After Willian had restored the hosts’ lead, lashing in from Eden Hazard’s lay-off, Crouch drew Stoke level again in the 64th minute when he tapped in Mame Biram Diouf’s cross.
But Willian put Chelsea back in front a minute later and Costa’s late strike sealed victory.
At Old Trafford United produced a comeback reminiscent of the glory years of the watching Alex Ferguson to continue their recent upturn.
But they had to do it the hard way, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic initially denied an 18th goal of the season in a contentious incident late in the first half.
Leaping to meet Martial’s left wing cross, the Swede jabbed the ball past goalkeeper Victor Valdes at the near post, only for referee Lee Mason to rule it out.
United’s players, and Mourinho, contested the decision, and there was worse to come when Grant Leadbitter drilled Boro in front from Alvaro Negredo’s knock-down in the 67th minute.
But Martial levelled in the 85th minute and barely a minute later Pogba headed in the winner from Juan Mata’s cross.
Champions Leicester City claimed a much-needed win, beating West Ham United 1-0 courtesy of Islam Slimani’s 20th-minute header to climb six points clear of the relegation zone.
Swansea City made a demoralizing start to life without sacked manager Bob Bradley, slumping to a 3-0 home defeat against Bournemouth that kept them at the foot of the table.
Andre Gray became the first Burnley player to score a Premier League hat trick as Sean Dyche’s men beat third-bottom Sunderland 4-1 to climb to 11th place.
Matt Phillips and Wales’s Euro 2016 star Hal-Robson Kanu scored as West Bromwich Albion came from behind to win 2-1 at Southampton, who had center-back Virgil van Dijk sent off.


Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

Updated 17 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

  • A double from Almoez Ali means Qatar top Group E.
  • Juan Antonio Pizzi's men now face Japan in second round on Monday.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia now know they will have to overcome Japan in the second round if they are to keep their hopes of a fourth Asian Cup title alive. 

A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar meant Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men finished second in Group E — both sides went into the top-of-the-table clash knowing they had already secured a spot in the knockout stages. 

A brace from Almoez Ali in Abu Dhabi was enough to give Qatar the three points and leave them top of the group. 

From the kick-off the Green Falcons were the ones who looked the more likely to make the initial breakthrough —  Fahad Almuwallad slamming a right-foot shot against the post after 22 minutes.

Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos then missed a penalty in the 42nd minute after Ali had been clattered in the box.

But Ali, who scored four goals in Qatar's 6-0 rout of North Korea last weekend, made no mistake in first-half stoppage time.

He calmly slotted the ball past Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais to become the first player to score six goals in a single Asian Cup since South Korea's Lee Dong-gook in 2000.

Ali subsequently headed in a seventh goal of the tournament 10 minutes from time, celebrating with a jig of delight.

While the defeat was not ideal Green Falcons coach Pizzi said he was still hopeful Saudi Arabia would be able to go far in the tournament. 

"It was an intense game but we have to hide our feelings and prepare for the last 16," Pizzi said.

"We were missing quality in the final third and individual errors have cost us," he added.

"But we will bounce back. I respect every team left in the competition, including Japan, but I don't feel that we are inferior to them in any way."

Qatar, who have never gone beyond the quarterfinals, advance to face Iraq in the last 16.