Chelsea qualify for Champions League as Arsenal, Man Utd flop

Chelsea’s Gonzalo Higuain, second from right, scores his side’s third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge stadium. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 May 2019

Chelsea qualify for Champions League as Arsenal, Man Utd flop

  • Chelsea beat Watford 3-0 to lift them into third spot behind Liverpool and Manchester City and their day was made all the sweeter as United drew at relegated Huddersfield and Arsenal were held by Brighton
  • The results mean that with one round of fixtures remaining Chelsea, on 71 points, cannot be caught by fifth-placed Arsenal, who are on 67 points, or United, a point further back

LONDON: Chelsea secured a place in next season’s Champions League on Sunday as Manchester United and Arsenal badly fluffed their lines in the race to finish in the Premier League’s top four.
Maurizio Sarri’s side beat Watford 3-0 to lift them into third spot behind Liverpool and Manchester City and their day was made all the sweeter as United drew at relegated Huddersfield and Arsenal were held by Brighton.
The results mean that with one round of fixtures remaining Chelsea, on 71 points, cannot be caught by fifth-placed Arsenal, who are on 67 points, or United, a point further back.
Fourth-placed Tottenham, on 70 points and with a far better goal difference than north London rivals Arsenal, are virtually assured of Champions League football next season barring an unlikely sequence of events.
Sarri’s team were booed off after a sloppy first half, but two goals in three minutes from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and David Luiz lifted the mood at Stamford Bridge before Gonzalo Higuain sealed victory, Chelsea’s first in four games in all competitions.
Finishing in the top four and winning the Europa League would make the Italian manager’s troubled first season a relative success.
“We want to be in the top four at the end of the season. We want to be in the Champions League,” said Sarri, whose side drew the first leg of their Europa League semifinal against Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1.
“The Europa League is also a very important competition and we want to win it because we think we deserve to a trophy this season. So we have two targets.”
Despite their miserable 1-1 draw, Arsenal can still reach the Champions League after two seasons away from Europe’s top club competition if they win the Europa League.
They are in a strong position after beating Valencia 3-1 in the first leg of the semifinal.
Arsenal, who came into the match after three straight Premier League defeats, started brightly at the Emirates and took the lead through an early Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty.
But they squandered opportunities to extend their advantage and were made to pay when Glenn Murray scored from the spot following the hour mark after Granit Xhaka fouled Solly March.
Arsenal poured forward in search of a winner but Aubameyang volleyed wide from close range and Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan made several fine saves to keep them at bay.
Disappointed boss Unai Emery turned his thoughts to Thursday’s second leg of their Europa League tie, with Arsenal set to finish outside the top four for a third consecutive season.
“We knew it is going to be difficult but our focus is now the Europa League,” he told the BBC. “We have the opportunity in the Europa League to do something important and we will try and do that.”
United slinked off the pitch at Huddersfield after an embarrassing 1-1 draw, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitting his side did not deserve to qualify for the Champions League.
The visitors had to rely on Huddersfield for a helping hand for their only goal as Scott McTominay’s strike from the edge of the box went straight through Jonas Lossl’s to given them an early lead.
Huddersfield had only scored nine goals at home all season, but one hopeful punt from Lossl cut United open for the equalizer on the hour mark.
Luke Shaw failed to cut out the Danish goalkeeper’s clearance and allowed Isaac Mbenza a clear run on goal to slot between David de Gea’s legs.
United have now won just two of their past 11 games in all competitions, leaving the decision to hand Solskjaer the job on a permanent basis in March open to question.
“We gave ourselves a chance to be in the Champions League,” Solskjaer said of a run of 14 wins in his first 17 games in charge before the rot of the past few months set in.
“We got so many opportunities to grab third or fourth and weren’t able to. The Europa League is the right place to be for us next year.”
Barring an astonishing Spurs collapse, the only issue that remains to be decided in the Premier League is the destination of the title.
Manchester City, two points behind leaders Liverpool but with a game in hand, host Leicester on Monday, with the final round of fixtures taking place next Sunday.


Dustin Johnson back to full fitness ahead of Saudi International title defense

Updated 23 January 2020

Dustin Johnson back to full fitness ahead of Saudi International title defense

  • World number 5, Johnson, counts last year’s 61 at the Royal Greens & Country Club as one of his ‘best rounds’
  • Johnson is joined by leading US pros — world number 1 Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed

RIYADH: The Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers returns to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) from January 30 — February 2. Arab News caught up with the big-hitting Dustin Johnson ahead of the European Tour event at Royal Greens & Country Club.

How are you feeling going into the Saudi International after a short spell out with injury?
I’m feeling very good. My knee has recovered well during the off season and I am anxious to get out on the course again. I have been working hard on my game over the last month or so and I am ready to get back to competition. It was a fun event last year and somewhat close over those final few holes, which made it exciting.

You must be excited to return to Saudi after winning the competition last year — what stood out for you from the victory?
Yes, of course. It’s always nice to go back to return to a tournament where you have good memories and my 61 in the second round was one of the best rounds of my year. I was surprised at how good the course was in the first year of playing the event and the hospitality in the country was second to none.

What surprised you about the competition in Saudi Arabia last year and how would you sum up the experience in the country?
Nothing really surprised me about the competition because we all know that it was a world-class field. I loved playing here last year and the field is looking even stronger this year. It’s is great to see a few more Americans making the trip over, which just shows how the tournament is gaining momentum and acceptance.

Last year was the first time the competition was held in Saudi Arabia, do you expect bigger crowds this year and what part can fans play in a Championship?
It was great to see so many people coming to watch us play last year and I hope the turnout will be even bigger this year. The crowds were fantastic and with all of the music concerts also lined up for this year, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

There are more top players competing in the Championship this year – are you confident of recording another victory in Saudi?
I don’t worry about the competition and about defending the trophy and just try to focus on my own preparation. If I play my best golf, I know I’ll have a chance to defend. I have managed to defend a title once before in my career, which is always challenging, so I don’t put any extra emphasis on it and just approach it like any other week.

How important is it for golf to be coming to Saudi Arabia and bring the game into new markets?
It is always good to introduce the game in new markets and although I play the majority of my golf in the US, it is nice come across to the Middle East to compete against such a strong field. Golf Saudi has a really cool vision for the sport in the next ten years and, it will be great to come back to this event in years to come.

Many people in Saudi Arabia will not have attended a golf championship. What can they expect, and what do fans get from watching the golf live and up close that is just impossible to experience through the TV?
It will be great to see more fans coming out to watch again this year. They are able to see what we go through on the course, how we decide which club to hit and experience the excitement of the competition, which is something you can’t really replicate on TV. It is always nice to interact with the fans, sign some autographs and hopefully improve the fans’ experience at the tournament.

More young people in Saudi Arabia are watching sport or taking up sport. What would you say to encourage them to take up golf and what can they learn from the sport?
Just get out there and play and have fun. It’s a great sport that anyone can enjoy for a lifetime. There is more than one way to swing the club and if you watch a few different golfers this week at the Saudi International you will see this for your own eyes.