Liverpool’s record bid hit by Burnley draw

Liverpool's Naby Keita, center, attempts to cross the ball under pressure from Burnley's Ashley Westwood, left and Phil Bardsley during their match at anfield. (AP)
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Updated 12 July 2020

Liverpool’s record bid hit by Burnley draw

  • It is the first time the Reds failed to win a home league game since January 2019

LONDON: Liverpool’s bid to set a new Premier League points record was rocked by a 1-1 draw against Burnley, while Norwich were relegated as Michail Antonio’s four-goal blitz fired West Ham to a thumping win on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are chasing the record total of 100 points set by Manchester City in 2018, but the champions have no margin for error after being held at Anfield for the first time this season.

They have 93 points and need to win their remaining three matches against Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle to break City’s record.

They would tie the 100-point mark if they win two and draw one of those matches.

Liverpool took the lead when Andrew Robertson met Fabinho’s lofted pass with a powerful header in the 34th minute.

But they wasted chances to increase their lead, with Roberto Firmino hitting the post before Curtis Jones and Mohamed Salah fired wide.

They were made to pay for those misses in the 69th minute.

Liverpool were unhinged by a long free-kick into their area as James Tarkowski’s header found Jay Rodriguez, who drilled a superb low strike past Alisson Becker.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson almost won it for Burnley when he hit the bar in the final minutes.

It was the first time Liverpool had failed to win a home league game since January 2019.

At Carrow Road, a seventh successive league defeat condemned Norwich to relegation as Antonio’s ruthless display boosted West Ham’s own survival bid after a 4-0 victory.

Daniel Farke’s side are 13 points from safety with only three games left, meaning they are certain to make an immediate return to the Championship after last season’s promotion campaign.

The Canaries have set an unwanted record with a fifth Premier League relegation after going down on four previous occasions in 1995, 2005, 2014 and 2016.

“We wanted to beat the odds again but when the dust settles the outcome is more or less what was expected. It doesn’t take anything away from the fact that we are disappointed,” Farke said.

“From the first day after promotion our chances to survive were perhaps 5 percent so in 19 out of 20 cases you will go down. If you have luck and no injuries then you have a chance. “When we are 100 percent we are competitive but when it’s 96 or 97 percent then it sometimes looks like men against boys. That’s what I expected.”

West Ham’s second win in four games was a huge lift to their hopes of staying up.

David Moyes’ side are 6 points above the bottom three with three games left against Watford, Manchester United and Aston Villa.

The early signs were ominous for Norwich as West Ham took the lead in the 11th minute.

Arriving to meet Issa Diop’s flick from Jarrod Bowen’s corner, Antonio volleyed into the roof of the net from close range for his third goal in his last four games.

Norwich were surrendering with a whimper and Antonio pushed them closer to the relegation trap door in first half stoppage time.

Rising above the meek challenge of two Norwich defenders, Antonio glanced his header into the far corner from Mark Noble’s free kick.

Antonio completed his hat-trick in the 54th minute, looping a header into the net after Tim Krul saved his initial effort.

Antonio completed a memorable performance with his fourth goal in the 74th minute, coolly finishing from Ryan Fredericks’ cross.

Troy Deeney scored two penalties as Watford improved their survival prospects with a 2-1 win against Newcastle at Vicarage Road.


How postponing Asia World Cup qualifiers affects Saudi Arabia’s plans

Updated 12 August 2020

How postponing Asia World Cup qualifiers affects Saudi Arabia’s plans

  • With the coronavirus pandemic still active around the world, Saudi Arabia’s games with Yemen, Singapore, Palestine and Uzbekistan will be held some time next year.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s qualification plans for the 2022 World Cup were hit again on Wednesday as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) postponed qualifiers that were scheduled in October and November to 2021.

However, the decision could boost the Champions League hopes of the country’s clubs.

With the coronavirus pandemic still active around the world, Saudi Arabia’s games with Yemen, Singapore, Palestine and Uzbekistan, originally due to take place in March, will be held some time next year.

“With the aim of protecting the health and safety of all participants, FIFA and the AFC will continue to work together to closely monitor the situation in the region and to identify new dates for the respective qualifying matches,” the AFC said in a statement. “Further details on the new dates for the next round of qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 will be announced in due course.”

It means that there have been no World Cup qualifiers in Asia since November 2019 when Saudi Arabia picked up a crucial 3-2 win over Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

The Green Falcons still have some work to do to finish on top of Group D and guarantee a place in the third stage where 12 teams battle it out for the continent’s four automatic places at the global tournament. The best four runners-up of the eight groups also progress to the next stage.

Hervé Renard’s men are a point behind leaders Uzbekistan, although they have played a game less and will go top if they defeat Yemen in Jeddah in the next game.

It remains to be seen when that will take place and when the second round, originally scheduled to have finished in June, comes to an end and the third stage, due to have started in September, can get going.

“From talking to various federations and hearing their concerns, it was clear that it was best to take a decision as early as possible,” an AFC official told Arab News.

With China announcing in July that it would not host any international sporting event for the rest of 2020 unless it was connected to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and other countries set to follow suit, the AFC felt it had little choice. “The situation was becoming more difficult and complex,“ the official said.

AFC staff admit that, assuming the sporting situation returns to something close to normal next year, then 2021 will be hectic. UEFA has already said that it will add extra games to international windows next year and while that is more difficult in Asia with travel demands, the AFC is looking to do something similar as well as find more spaces in an already-crowded calendar to add more games.

It also means that there will be greater demands on Saudi Arabia as the U-23 team will participate at the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics next July.

There is a silver lining, however. The postponement of World Cup qualifiers will make it easier for Saudi Arabian representatives in the AFC Champions League.

The 32-team competition was delayed in March after just two games in the group stage and will resume in mid-September in west Asia and a month later in the east.

Clubs had been concerned about squeezing in Champions League games during World Cup qualifiers. This was more difficult in the East where, unlike the West, leagues seasons are coming to an end. The K League, the J.League and the Chinese Super League still have many rounds remaining.

“Delaying World Cup qualification gives everyone much more breathing space to finish the Champions League,” an AFC official said.

It was announced in July that the rest of the western group stage — the tournament is split into two geographic zones until the final — will all take place in Qatar.

All four Saudi Arabian representatives are well-placed after two games to continue to the knockout stage. Al- Ahli lead Group A with four points while defending champions Al-Hilal share the lead in Group B with Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan after two wins. Al-Taawoun lead Group C, with Al-Nassr second in Group D.

The final is scheduled to be held on Dec. 5.