Ceballos late heroics send Arsenal into semifinals

Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos after scoring their second goal against Sheffield United on Sunday in the FA Cup quarterfinal match. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 June 2020

Ceballos late heroics send Arsenal into semifinals

  • After losing their first two matches following the restart, Arsenal have now won 2 in a row

SHEFFIELD: Dani Ceballos fired Arsenal into the FA Cup semifinals as the Spaniard’s stoppage-time strike clinched a dramatic 2-1 win at Sheffield United on Sunday.

Mikel Arteta’s side rode their luck after surviving a second-half barrage from the Blades at Bramall Lane.

Nicolas Pepe put Arsenal ahead with a first-half penalty after Chris Basham fouled Alexandre Lacazette.

David McGoldrick equalized with three minutes left, but on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Ceballos settled a hard-fought quarterfinal in the final moments.

Arsenal join Manchester United in the last four, with Leicester facing Chelsea and Newcastle hosting Manchester City in Sunday’s other quarterfinals.

Arteta was Arsenal’s captain when they won the FA Cup final against Hull in 2014.

And the Gunners boss remains on course to get his hands on the silverware again as Arsenal look to win the competition for a record-extending 14th time.

“This is a difficult place to get a win. We are back at Wembley. I am really happy with the attitude and performance of the players,” Arteta said.

“It is a great opportunity to try and win a title and play in Europe.”

After losing their first two matches following the restart, Arsenal, who beat Southampton in the Premier League in midweek, have now won two in a row.

Complaining about Arsenal’s hectic schedule, Arteta added: We have played four away games since the restart. Thank you to the Premier League for our calendar playing every three days. But we go again on Wednesday.”

The Blades have gone winless in their four matches since the English season restarted, ruining their hopes of a push to qualify for the Champions League and ending their FA Cup campaign.

Arteta made five changes, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah among those left out.

There was no place for Matteo Guendouzi again after the Arsenal midfielder’s role in the brawl against Brighton, while Mesut Ozil was also absent from the Gunners squad.

David Luiz was back in Arsenal’s defence after serving a suspension for the red card he picked up during a disastrous substitute appearance in the defeat at Manchester City last week.

It wasn’t long before Arsenal’s defensive frailties were on display when John Lundstram nodded home from Oli McBurnie’s header, but the goal was ruled out by VAR for offside against the Blades midfielder.

Despite their unconvincing start, Arsenal grabbed the lead in the 25th minute.

Basham’s challenge on Lacazette looked innocuous, but he caught the Arsenal striker just inside the area and referee Paul Tierney awarded a penalty.

Ivory Coast winger Pepe stepped up to beat Dean Henderson from the spot for his eighth goal of the season.

Arsenal were clicking at last and Kieran Tierney broke down the left, crossing for Pepe to shoot just wide. Luiz’s difficult start to the resumed season continued when the Brazilian limped off injured after stumbling while shepherding the ball out of play early in the second half.

Henderson almost scored a remarkable goal from his own penalty area, the keeper’s wind-assisted kick bouncing past Gunners stopper Emiliano Martinez and narrowly over the bar.

United were denied by another VAR review when John Egan headed home after McGoldrick’s shot from an offside position was pushed out by Martinez.

Basham should have equalised from Jack Robinson’s cross, but the defender headed wide from close range.

Arsenal were undone by a terrible piece of defending in the 87th minute.

Sead Kolasinac made a comical mess of clearing Robinson’s long throw, smashing it into Mustafi and McGoldrick pounced to beat Martinez with a close-range finish.

It was United’s first goal in four games since the restart, but Arsenal had the perfect response.

When Pepe was tackled by Enda Stevens, Ceballos seized the loose ball and drilled past Henderson’s weak attempted save to keep Arsenal’s silverware hopes alive.


Thomas outduels Koepka for WGC win, world No. 1 ranking

Justin Thomas
Updated 03 August 2020

Thomas outduels Koepka for WGC win, world No. 1 ranking

WASHINGTON: Justin Thomas reclaimed the world No. 1  ranking on Sunday by outdueling defending champion Brooks Koepka down the stretch to win the WGC St Jude Invitational by three strokes.

Thomas, who began the day four shots off the lead, fired a 5-under  65 final round to thwart Koepka’s repeat bid and take the title at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, on a 72-hole total of 13-under 267.
“It means a lot, especially with how I felt like I did it,” Thomas said. “In the past, I struggled with coming from behind. I got wrapped up in how far I was behind and how many people.”
The 27-year-old American became the third-youngest US PGA Tour player in the past 60 years to reach 13 career wins, behind Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus and just ahead of Rory McIlroy.
Koepka, who seeks a third consecutive PGA Championship victory next week in San Francisco, closed with a double bogey after finding water off the 18th tee and slid into sharing second on 270 with US compatriots Daniel Berger and Phil Mickelson and England’s Tom Lewis.
Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, jumped from third past McIlroy and top-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm to retake world No. 1, a spot he held for four weeks in 2018.
“It was a hard-fought day, but it meant a lot,” Thomas said.
Three weeks ago, Thomas squandered a three-stroke lead with three holes to play, two bogeys dropping him into a playoff with Collin Morikawa that he lost.
“I feel like I learned a lot from that,” he said. “I just didn’t get ahead of myself anytime those last two, three holes, where I felt like my mind was kind of wandering and maybe thinking about winning.”
“I basically just told myself to shut up and figure out what you’re doing because I could lose that tournament just as easily as I won it.
“I was really proud of myself to stay in the moment and get it done,” he said.
A back-nine shootout saw Americans Koepka, Thomas, Berger and 54-hole leader Brendon Todd deadlocked with Lewis for the lead on 11-under, while Australian Jason Day, American Chez Reavie and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick were on 10-under.
Koepka sank a birdie putt from just inside 10 feet at the par-4 13th to seize the lead at 12-under.
Thomas found the left rough at 15 but blasted his approach to six feet and made the birdie putt to match Koepka for the lead.
Thomas then sent his tee shot way right at the par-5 16th, but recovered by blasting to the low rough just left of the fairway and dropped his approach three feet from the cup, tapping in a birdie to claim the lead alone at 13-under.
“I got unbelievably lucky,” Thomas said. “Somehow, that calmed me down. You usually only get lucky like that when you win the tournament.
“Luckily, I hung on and stayed patient and positive.”
Koepka scrambled on 16 but missed an eight-foot par putt to fall two adrift, only to sink a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th to move back within a stroke as he walked to the 18th tee.
But Koepka sent his tee shot into the water and put his third into a greenside bunker, sealing the victory for Thomas.
Mickelson matched a third-place effort at Pebble Beach for his best result of the season, as the world’s top golfers set their sights on TPC Harding Park and next week’s first major tournament of a year in which COVID-19 has played havoc with the schedule.