Fernandinho own-goal costs Manchester City more points

Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez leaps during Saturday’s match against Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium in England. (AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Fernandinho own-goal costs Manchester City more points

  • Tottenham’s hopes of finishing in top four dented by goalless draw at Watford

LONDON: Pep Guardiola’s 49th birthday celebrations went flat as Fernandinho’s late own goal forced Manchester City to settle for a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace, while Tottenham’s hopes of finishing in the top four were dented by a goalless draw at Watford on Saturday.

On a busy day of top-flight action, the pitch side VAR monitor was used in the Premier League for the first time at Norwich and Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw by Sheffield United.
It was the drama at the Etihad Stadium that took the spotlight as Fernandinho’s last-gasp blunder left Guardiola in no mood to party after City’s faint hopes of retaining the title suffered another hammer blow.
The champions trail Liverpool by 13 points ahead of the runaway leaders’ clash with rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
Palace won the corresponding fixture at the Etihad Stadium last season and the south Londoners took a shock lead in the 39th minute.
Cenk Tosun marked his first league start since his loan move from Everton with his maiden goal for the Eagles, the Turkish striker netting a close-range strike from Martin Kelly’s flick.
Sergio Aguero appeared to have turned the game on its head in the 82nd minute when the Argentine striker turned in Gabriel Jesus’ cross for his 250th goal in 360 games for the club.
Aguero put City ahead in the 87th minute with a typically predatory header from Benjamin Mendy’s cross. But there was a sting in the tale for Guardiola as Fernandinho turned Wilfried Zaha’s cross into his own net in the 90th minute to end second-placed City’s run of three successive league wins.
At Vicarage Road, Troy Deeney’s 70th-minute spot kick was saved by Paulo Gazzaniga before Tottenham’s Erik Lamela was denied a last-gasp winner by Ignacio Pussetto’s goal-line clearance.
With England captain Harry Kane sidelined after hamstring surgery, Tottenham have gone three league games without scoring.
Jose Mourinho’s side are without a win in four league matches since Dec. 26 and sit eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who visit Newcastle in Saturday’s late game.
Toothless Tottenham thought they had stolen the points in stoppage time when Lamela flicked Serge Aurier’s cross toward the goal, but Watford’s new signing Pussetto cleared off the line, with goal line technology showing just 10.04mm of the ball had not gone over.
“I know it was only a couple of millimeters but goal line technology does not make mistakes like VAR. We have to accept it was not a goal,” Mourinho said.
Arsenal are 10 points adrift of the top four after the Blades continued their superb first season back in the Premier League.
Gabriel Martinelli broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time at the Emirates Stadium.
The 18-year-old Brazilian striker claimed his ninth goal of the season with a clinical finish from Bukayo Saka’s cross.
But Chris Wilder’s side snatched an 83rd-minute equalizer when John Fleck lashed home after Arsenal failed to clear.
Bottom of the table Norwich’s vital 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Bournemouth saw the pitch side monitor finally used to decide a red card call.
Norwich took the lead when Bournemouth defender Steve Cook was sent off after flinging himself across the goal to block Teemu Pukki’s shot with his hand.
Pukki fired home the resulting penalty in the 33rd minute, but the Canaries had to survive a tense finish after Ben Godfrey was sent off in the 76th minute.


UEFA warn clubs risk Champions League exclusion if seasons are not completed

UEFA and the European Club Association said that they were working on the possibility of playing on into July and August if need be. (AP/File)
Updated 04 April 2020

UEFA warn clubs risk Champions League exclusion if seasons are not completed

PARIS: UEFA and Europe’s top clubs have stated their determination that the current football season should be played to a conclusion and threatened that teams may be excluded from the next Champions League if their domestic competitions are ended prematurely.
In a joint letter released late on Thursday, UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA), and the European Leagues body representing nearly a thousand clubs in 29 countries, said that they were working on the possibility of playing on into July and August if need be.
The Champions League and Europa League — both of which are frozen in the last-16 stage — could be completed once the domestic seasons are finished, and “stopping competitions should really be the last resort after acknowledging that no calendar alternative would allow to conclude the season.”
The joint response came after the Belgian Pro League announced on Thursday that it recommended declaring the season over with the present table accepted as final.
It is the first European league to take such a measure, although more could follow.
That means Club Brugge would in theory go straight into the next Champions League group stage, but UEFA, the ECA and the European Leagues indicated that they may be barred from continental competition if the Belgian league decision is finalized.
“It is of paramount importance that even a disruptive event like this epidemic does not prevent our competitions from being decided on the field, in accordance with their rules and that all sporting titles are awarded on the basis of results,” the joint letter said.
“We are confident that football can restart in the months to come — with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities — and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified.
“Since participation in UEFA club competitions is determined by the sporting result achieved at the end of a full domestic competition, a premature termination would cast doubts about the fulfilment of such condition.”
The letter concluded: “UEFA reserves the right to assess the entitlement of clubs to be admitted to the 2020/21 UEFA club competitions.”
The Belgian Pro League said it had had “constructive” discussions with UEFA on Friday in which it “contested any approach which would force a league to continue in the current health crisis.”
It has called for a “varied approach” based on the specifics of individual leagues and countries.
UEFA has set up two working groups to devise a way for European football to get out of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.