Chelsea, Leicester losses open up Champions League chase

West Ham United’s Andriy Yarmolenko scores their third goal in West Ham’s 3-2 Premier League victory over Chelsea on Wednesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Chelsea, Leicester losses open up Champions League chase

  • Man United and Wolverhampton are only 2 points behind Chelsea with 6 games remaining

LONDON: With Leicester and Chelsea both losing, the race for European spots is heating up in the Premier League.

Leicester once looked certain of returning to the Champions League, but is now winless in four games after a 2-1 loss to Everton on Wednesday. Only Chelsea’s 3-2 loss at West Ham kept Leicester in third place — ahead of Frank Lampard’s side by one point.

Manchester United and Wolverhampton are only two points behind Chelsea with six games remaining of a season that resumed two weeks ago after the three-month pandemic-enforced break.

Even north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham will have renewed — if fainter — hopes of returning to Europe’s
elite competition.

After beating last-place Norwich 4-0, Arsenal moved within six points of United in fifth place, which will secure a Champions League spot if Manchester City’s two-season European ban
is upheld.

 

Leicester slump

Four years after its shock run to the title, Leicester had been enjoying another standout season. Until January at least.

When the Foxes beat Newcastle on New Year’s Day, they were 15 points clear of sixth place. Now they are only three in front of Wolverhampton.

Leicester has only won two of its 11 league games since Jan. 1, with five losses.

The latest came after Richarlison struck 10 minutes in and Gylfi Sigurdsson doubled Everton’s lead six minutes later with a penalty. Kelechi Iheanacho’s second half-goal couldn’t spark a Leicester recovery.

“How we have performed for the best part of this season has got us into a strong position,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said. “Our form hasn’t been the best for a period now but we still have it in our hands to achieve what would be a dream for us, getting into the top four. But we can only get that if the performance is right.”

 

West Ham boost

West Ham turned around a night of frustration against Chelsea to seal a victory that moved the side three points clear of the relegation zone.

Tomas Soucek was denied an opener for offside after a lengthy VAR review. But his goal from another corner did stand in first half stoppage time to cancel out a penalty converted by Willian after Christian Pulisic was tripped.

Michail Antonio put the hosts in front at the start of the second half and Willian looked like recovering a point for Chelsea when he netted for a second time in the
72nd minute.

But Andriy Yarmolenko completed a counterattack to end a run of three successive losses since before the season was suspended.

It ended Chelsea’s three-match winning run in the league.

“We had an opportunity to move third,” Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. “If there’s moments when you switch off you are going to encourage teams on. It’s been there. I’m very aware of it. The players then have to show that extra mentality, that extra bit.”

 

Aubameyang double

Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was gifted two goals by Norwich to end a four-game run without scoring. The captain also set up Granit Xhaka’s first goal of the campaign and Cedric Soares grabbed Arsenal’s fourth on his injury-delayed debut from the bench.

With 50 Premier League goals in 79 appearances, Aubameyang is the fastest Arsenal player to reach a half-century.

Now manager Mikel Arteta hopes he will sign a new contract beyond next season.

“A player that is able to score as many goals as he’s done in that short space of time tells you everything about the importance he has for us,” Arteta said.

Bournemouth missed a chance to climb out of the relegation zone after a 4-1 loss to Newcastle extended the winless run to seven games.

A club-record 19th loss in a top-division season was inflicted by goals from Dwight Gayle and Sean Longstaff in the first half and substitutes Miguel Almiron and Valentino Lazaro after the break.

Bournemouth remains a point from safety in next-to-last place.

 


Cold comfort as Roland Garros starts in shadow of coronavirus

Updated 27 September 2020

Cold comfort as Roland Garros starts in shadow of coronavirus

  • A resurgence of COVID-19 cases means that only 1,000 spectators will be allowed into the grounds each day

PARIS: Roland Garros gets underway in chilly, damp Paris on Sunday still in the grip of the coronavirus which organizers had hoped they would escape by unilaterally pushing back the clay court Grand Slam event by four months.
Opening day will see 2018 champion Simona Halep start her bid for a third major while 40-year-old Venus Williams kicks off her 23rd French Open.
Andy Murray takes on fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the day’s marquee tie in a rematch of their epic 2017 semifinal duel.
However, it will be an eerily unfamiliar tournament, even for defending champion Rafael Nadal, chasing a 13th Paris title, and 2016 winner and world number one Novak Djokovic, as well as Serena Williams, pursuing an elusive 24th major.
A resurgence of COVID-19 cases means that only 1,000 spectators will be allowed into the grounds each day.
In 2019, more than 500,000 people watched the two-week tournament on site.
Organizers had hoped to welcome 20,000 fans a day but in the space of just a few weeks, that figure was quickly downsized to 11,500, then 5,000 before the French government slashed it to a 1,000 maximum.
“Tens of millions of euros have gone up in smoke,” said French Tennis Federation marketing chief Stephane Morel as he mourned the loss of ticket income.
Players, meanwhile, have been confined to two tournament hotels with tight restrictions on their movements.
It’s at the hotels where they undergo Covid-19 testing, a source of controversy and recrimination in the build-up.
Last weekend, five players due to take part in men’s qualifying were stood down.
Two had tested positive while three others had been in contact with coach Petar Popovic who also tested positive.
Popovic told L’Equipe it was a “scandal” and had “(Rafael) Nadal been in our shoes, he would have had the right to a second or third test.”
On Friday, veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco said he was “outraged and frustrated” after being withdrawn following one failed Covid-19 test which he claimed fell between a steady stream of negative results.
Verdasco said he should have been allowed a second test.
Inside the grounds of Roland Garros, situated in the prosperous western district of Paris, there are further signs of the effect of the pandemic.
Normally bustling shops, food outlets and other commercial stalls have been shuttered.
Everyone at the tournament, including players if they are not in action or in practice, is masked. Hand sanitizers dot the site.
Instead of the early summer sun usually associated with the tournament in its traditional May-June slot, players will shiver in 16°C on Sunday with rain and high winds forecast for the first week.
That should mean overtime for the new retractable roof over the showpiece Court Philippe Chatrier.
On court Sunday, Halep, the top seed in the absence of world number one Ashleigh Barty, who opted not to defend her title on health grounds, takes on Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, ranked at 70.
Wimbledon champion Halep is the favorite especially with US Open champion Naomi Osaka missing through injury.
Former world number one Murray tackles 2015 champion Wawrinka in his first appearance in Paris in three years.