Arsenal moves 5 points clear in Premier League after last-gasp win but Raya’s form remains a concern

Arsenal moves 5 points clear in Premier League after last-gasp win but Raya’s form remains a concern
Arsenal's Declan Rice celebrates after scoring the winning goal. (AP)
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Updated 06 December 2023
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Arsenal moves 5 points clear in Premier League after last-gasp win but Raya’s form remains a concern

Arsenal moves 5 points clear in Premier League after last-gasp win but Raya’s form remains a concern

As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya sprinted the length of the field to celebrate the last-gasp winner with his jubilant teammates.
No player will have been more relieved than Raya to see Declan Rice’s glancing header creep into the corner and seal a chaotic 4-3 victory over Luton in the Premier League on Tuesday.
While Rice is proving value for money after his club-record signing in July, Raya — another offseason recruit — remains an issue for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta as the team bids to win the league title after last season’s near miss.
Arsenal moved five points clear with its fourth straight victory in the league, overcoming errors from Raya that led to two goals for Luton by netting in the seventh minute of stoppage time through Rice at Kenilworth Road.
“The spirit of the team — how we fought, showed our quality in the right moments and never gave up,” Arteta said. “We went for it and got our rewards.”
Arteta chose not to talk about the mistakes by Raya, which looked like they’d be costly for Arsenal.
The team was leading 2-1 in the 49th minute when the Spanish goalkeeper was beaten in the air at a corner by Elijah Adebayo, who powered in a header for an equalizer.
Eight minutes later, Raya allowed a shot by Ross Barkley to go under his body as he dived to his left.
Luton, a promoted team likely to be battling relegation this season, was suddenly 3-2 ahead and Raya didn’t know where to look.
Kai Havertz scored an equalizer almost immediately, though, and incessant pressure in the final minutes ended with Martin Odegaard whipping in a cross and Rice rising to flick a header into the bottom corner, sparking wild celebrations in the away end and jeers from Luton fans. The goal came after the six allotted minutes of stoppage time had expired.
Arsenal has won nine points from goals in the last five minutes of games this season, a good sign for a club looking to win the league for the first time since 2004.
Arteta now has to decide what to do with Raya, who has taken the place of Aaron Ramsdale since arriving from Brentford. He is better with his feet than Ramsdale but has produced errors in other parts of his game, like being caught completely out of position to let in a cross from Mykhailo Mudryk in a match at Chelsea in October.
Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus scored first-half goals for Arsenal, either side of Gabriel Osho’s equalizer for Luton.
Second-place Liverpool can move back to two points behind by beating last-place Sheffield United on Wednesday. Manchester City, a further point back in third, visits Aston Villa.

FREE-SCORING SOUTH KOREANS
South Korea boasts two of the leading scorers in the Premier League this season.
While Tottenham’s Son Heung-min isn’t too much of a surprise, Wolverhampton’s Hwang Hee-chan certainly is.
Hwang made it eight goals in 15 games in this campaign with the first-half winner in Wolves’ 1-0 victory over Burnley at Molineux. That’s as many league goals as he managed in his first two full seasons for Wolves after joining from Leipzig in August 2021, initially on loan.
Hwang is one goal behind Son, with only Mohamed Salah (10) and Erling Haaland (14) ahead of them.


Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool

Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool
Updated 21 February 2024
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Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool

Haaland ‘shuts mouths’ as Man City close on Liverpool
  • Just two points separate the top three in a fascinating Premier League title race as City moved to within a point of leaders Liverpool

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Pep Guardiola said Erling Haaland had “shut the mouths” of his critics after scoring the only goal of a nervy 1-0 win for Manchester City over Brentford on Tuesday.
Just two points separate the top three in a fascinating Premier League title race as City moved to within a point of leaders Liverpool, with third-placed Arsenal one point further back with 13 games to go.
Haaland was keen to make amends for a frustrating night in front of goal as City were held 1-1 at home by Chelsea on Saturday.
The Norwegian has only recently returned from a two-month injury layoff and Guardiola said he was also coping with the loss of his grandmother off the field.
But Haaland was more like his old self in front of goal when he raced onto Julian Alvarez’s pass to slot in his 22nd goal of the season 19 minutes from time.
“Top strikers score a lot of goals. Don’t criticize, he will shut your mouth. Sooner or later he is there,” said Guardiola.
“He was out for two months, he lost his grandmother, it is not easy for a human being.
“We spoke about the moment (missing chances against Chelsea), and I realized this later, but he didn’t say anything about the passing away of his grandmother.”
Kevin De Bruyne was left on the bench for the entire match as Guardiola revealed he has “niggles” in his hamstring.
The Belgian missed the first five months of the season due to a hamstring tear.
De Bruyne’s ingenuity was missed as City struggled to make their domination count despite enjoying nearly 70 percent possession and having 25 shots on goal.
The Bees were the last visiting side to win at the Etihad 14 months ago and had their chances to spring another huge surprise.
Frank Onyeka failed to beat Ederson when one-on-one midway through the first half before Ivan Toney sent a dipping free-kick inches over the bar.
The vast majority of goalmouth action came at the other end.
Oscar Bobb came closest to opening the scoring in the first half, on a rare start for the Norwegian youngster, when his effort was cleared off the line by Ben Mee.
Bernardo Silva also headed a glorious chance wide as Thomas Frank’s men held out until the break.
Liverpool and Arsenal’s hopes of a second unlikely gift from City in the title race in four days would have been raised by a quiet start to the second period.
However, City remain well in the hunt to become the first side ever to win four consecutive English top-flight titles for a reason.
One slip by Brentford defender Kristoffer Ajer provided the moment Haaland had been waiting for as he galloped clear on goal and kept his composure to score for just the third time in his last eight games.
“I’m incredibly proud. We didn’t give much away until the goal — which is a slip,” said Brentford boss Frank.
“I think they’re good enough. They don’t need that luck to get over the line!“
City should have extended their advantage, especially as goal difference could yet prove decisive in the title race.
Phil Foden scored a hat-trick when the sides met earlier this month in City’s 3-1 win in west London.
But the England international was denied twice late on by Flekken as the goalkeeper tipped over a blistering shot and then stood up well to block as Foden tried to go round him.


Arnautovic gives Inter slender Champions League advantage over Atletico

Arnautovic gives Inter slender Champions League advantage over Atletico
Updated 21 February 2024
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Arnautovic gives Inter slender Champions League advantage over Atletico

Arnautovic gives Inter slender Champions League advantage over Atletico
  • Atletico have been a more attacking proposition this season but retreated into the dogged defensive mode more representative of Diego Simeone’s long reign in Spain

MILAN: Marko Arnautovic gave Inter Milan a single-goal advantage in their Champions League last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid after netting the only goal in Tuesday’s hard-fought 1-0 win.
Austria striker Arnautovic replaced Marcus Thuram at half-time and rammed home Inter’s winner with 11 minutes left at the San Siro after Jan Oblak failed to hold Lautaro Martinez’s shot.
The 34-year-old turned jeers into deafening cheers with his goal, which came after a series of missed opportunities left home fans wondering whether Inter would get the win their performance deserved.
His worst miss came just after the hour mark when he ballooned over a sitter, a dreadful finish which came before and after failed attempts to latch on to promising balls.
“It is certainly one of the most important goals of my career,” said Arnautovic to Sky Sport.
“In recent weeks I’ve missed a lot of chances. But the fans and the players showed they are behind me... It gave me the energy I needed to score the goal.”
Arnautovic has had a hard time since returning to Inter on loan from Bologna last summer and those misses further frustrated supporters.
However, thanks to him Simone Inzaghi’s side, who are nine points clear at the top of Serie A, take a slender lead to Madrid where they will face Atletico in the decisive second leg on March 13.
Atletico have been a more attacking proposition this season but retreated into the dogged defensive mode more representative of Diego Simeone’s long reign in Spain.
They could not keep Inter out and now have to overturn Tuesday’s result in order to reach the quarter-finals.
“We have to keep our heads up, there is one game left and we are going to do everything possible to to get through,” said Oblak to Movistar.
“They had two or three chances when we weren’t perfect and in a game like this you have to be perfect all the time.”
A cagey first half between two resolute teams left fans with little to shout about, with only a few pot shots getting supporters off their seats until the 36th minute, when Martinez saw his powerful header from Nicolo Barella’s cross saved by Oblak.
And moments later Martinez left Inter fans with their heads in their hands after uncharacteristically wasting a golden opportunity to open the scoring.
Martinez was handed a clear chance after Marcus Thuram intercepted Rodrigo De Paul’s wayward pass and burst toward Oblak’s goal, only for the Argentina forward to scuff his effort off Jose Maria Gimenez.
Thuram then had a powerful effort of his own easily saved by Oblak as Inter finished the opening half in the ascendency.
However the France forward hurt his right thigh while taking that shot and he was replaced at half-time by match-winner Arnautovic, who three minutes after the break could not quite direct Federico Dimarco’s teasing cross on target.
Samuel Lino, who curled a decent effort wide in the first half, wasted Atletico’s best chance of the night in the 56th minute when he fluffed his finish from a tight angle after exchanging passes with Rodrigo De Paul.
And Arnautovic, who has had a hard time since his return, did himself no favors when he shot over the bar when it looked easier to score.
But he was submerged by delighted teammates when he forced home the winner, which was just reward for a display which highlighted why Simeone said on Monday that Inter were one of the five best teams in Europe.
However the tight nature of the tie was evident when substitute Alvaro Morata headed wide when presented with a great chance to take Atletico back to Madrid level.


PSV rue chances as old boy Malen earns Champions League draw for Dortmund

PSV rue chances as old boy Malen earns Champions League draw for Dortmund
Updated 21 February 2024
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PSV rue chances as old boy Malen earns Champions League draw for Dortmund

PSV rue chances as old boy Malen earns Champions League draw for Dortmund
  • PSV haven’t lost at home all season and started the second half on the front foot

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands: PSV Eindhoven coach Peter Bosz was left ruing missed chances after his side squandered several opportunities in a 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last-16 first-leg tie on Tuesday.
“In the second half, we had loads of chances. It was a shame that we didn’t score a second,” Bosz told reporters after the game at the Philips Stadion.
Donyell Malen snatched a vital goal to earn the Bundesliga giants the away draw at his old club but wasteful PSV were left to wonder what could have been.
The big question pre-match was which Borussia Dortmund would show up: the team that topped the Champions League ‘Group of Death’ or the outfit struggling for consistency in the Bundesliga?
And it was a cagey opening in an intimidating atmosphere in Eindhoven, the home fans letting off a volley of fireworks at kick-off.
“We started very nervously, I think both sides were nervous in the first minutes,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.
When the smoke cleared, the hosts had the better of the opening exchanges, Mexico international winger Hirving Lozano causing the Dortmund defense headaches down the left.
PSV midfielder Malik Tillman fluffed two gilt-edged chances in front of goal, once firing wide after a clever through-ball from veteran Dutch striker Luuk de Jong.
And the visitors punished PSV’s profligacy, taking the lead against the run of play in the 24th minute when Malen squeezed a deflected shot into the top corner.
Malen had been prolific for the Dutch giants, scoring 55 goals in all competitions in just 43 games, and chose not to celebrate in front of PSV’s hardcore fans.
The misfiring Tillman somehow then contrived to miss another goal that looked easier to score, this time with a header right in front of goal.
Then it was Belgian international winger Johan Bakayoko’s turn to scuff a shot wide, with the home fans starting to wonder if it was going to be one of those nights as they went into the break 1-0 down.
PSV haven’t lost at home all season and started the second half on the front foot.
They were soon level.
Tillman redeemed his earlier errors by winning a penalty in the 56th minute, which De Jong slotted calmly past Alexander Meyer.
Dortmund defenders were incensed at the penalty award, insisting veteran central defender Mats Hummels had nicked the ball before bringing down Tillman.
Terzic described it as a “hard decision” and even Bosz acknowledged: “You could see from the reaction of the Dortmund players they didn’t agree with it.”
“Zero percent a penalty. Zero,” Hummels himself told Prime Video after the game.
“Tillman was laughing all over the place. Bakayoko was laughing himself to death. They were all grinning for minutes later.”
The controversial equalizer opened the game up, with chances at both ends, a flick by Dortmund’s Marius Wolf forcing a sharp save from Walter Benitez in the PSV goal.
With 15 minutes to go, Bakayoko danced through the Dortmund defense but failed to get any purchase on his shot — summing up the night for PSV.
PSV midfielder Joey Veerman said: “I think that we had the second half completely under control and in the first half we had big chances.”
“When you look at the whole game, we had better chances than Dortmund,” he said, adding “I think that 1-1 is not all that bad a position” to take back to Dortmund.
Hummels admitted his team let the “charged atmosphere get to us too much” but was confident of advancing into the quarter-finals when the two sides meet again in three weeks.
“I saw a very beatable Eindhoven today. In our home game, the second leg, we simply need to play better with the ball. Then, I am very confident that we will progress,” said Hummels.
“We know we still have the second leg to play. Then, there will be 80,000 people on a Champions League night. We are unbeatable there,” added Dortmund defender Nico Schlotterbeck.


Jota out for months, says Klopp, as Liverpool’s injury crisis deepens

Jota out for months, says Klopp, as Liverpool’s injury crisis deepens
Updated 20 February 2024
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Jota out for months, says Klopp, as Liverpool’s injury crisis deepens

Jota out for months, says Klopp, as Liverpool’s injury crisis deepens
  • “It will obviously take months,” Klopp said
  • The injury potentially threatens Jota’s involvement in the European Championship in Germany

LIVERPOOL, England: Liverpool forward Diogo Jota will be missing for months because of injury, manager Jurgen Klopp said on Tuesday.
The Portugal international hurt his right knee in the first half of Liverpool’s 4-1 win at Brentford in the English Premier League on Saturday.
“We have Diogo with a knee issue ruled out — it will obviously take months,” Klopp said ahead of Liverpool’s home match against Luton on Wednesday.
The injury potentially threatens Jota’s involvement in the European Championship in Germany starting in June.
Liverpool’s injury crisis have deepened, with nine senior players unavailable heading into a key period of the season that includes the English League Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday.
Klopp didn’t give a return date for injured pair Curtis Jones or Alisson Becker, and he described Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai as “longer term” problems.
Striker Darwin Nunez was replaced at halftime against Brentford as a precaution.


Germany’s Andreas Brehme, 1990 World Cup winning goal scorer, dies

Germany’s Andreas Brehme, 1990 World Cup winning goal scorer, dies
Updated 20 February 2024
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Germany’s Andreas Brehme, 1990 World Cup winning goal scorer, dies

Germany’s Andreas Brehme, 1990 World Cup winning goal scorer, dies
  • “FC Bayern is deeply shocked by the sudden death of Andreas Brehme,” the club said
  • Brehme left a mark for teams across Europe, playing for Kaiserslautern and Inter Milan, as well as Bayern, Saarbruecken and Real Zaragoza

BERLIN: Andreas Brehme, whose 85th-minute penalty sealed victory for West Germany over Argentina in the 1990 World Cup final, died overnight into Tuesday at the age of 63, his former club Bayern Munich said.
“FC Bayern is deeply shocked by the sudden death of Andreas Brehme,” the club said in a statement.
“We will always keep Andreas Brehme in our hearts. As a world champion and as a very special person.”
A versatile left-back, Brehme spent two seasons with Bayern Munich between 1986-88, winning the Bundesliga in 1987.
Brehme left a mark for teams across Europe, playing for Kaiserslautern and Inter Milan, as well as Bayern, Saarbruecken and Real Zaragoza.
But the defender’s footballing journey began in his hometown of Hamburg at HSV Barmbek-Uhlenhorst, a small club from a working class neighborhood.
Brehme’s remarkable ability with both feet was down in part to the influence of his father and coach, Bernd.
In Italy, Brehme will be remembered for the partnership he formed with compatriots Juergen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthaeus at Inter Milan.
“Ciao Andi, forever a legend,” said the club for whom Brehme made more than 150 appearances, winning the Serie A title and a UEFA Cup.
The Nerazzurri will wear black armbands in honor of Brehme during their Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid later on Tuesday at the San Siro.
Brehme’s closest sporting connection is arguably with Kaiserslautern, where he played for 10 seasons over two stints, later going on to manage the club in the early 2000s.
The Kaiserslautern legend was moved to tears when the “Red Devils” were relegated from the Bundesliga in 1996.
But the team immediately bounced back to the top flight, and marched straight to the title in 1998 with Brehme as captain.
Brehme played 86 times for his country, although nothing would top his exploits in the 1-0 victory over Diego Maradona’s Argentina in Rome.
The goal, a coolly taken penalty, atoned for West Germany’s 3-2 loss against the very same Argentina side in the 1986 World Cup final in Mexico.
Four years later, Brehme stepped up to the spot instead of team captain Matthaeus, who did not want to take on the responsibility after changing his boots at half-time.
“No matter where I am, at the airport, out shopping, I am always asked about it,” Brehme had told SID, AFP’s sports news subsidiary.
“I didn’t think about the significance of this penalty. I didn’t think anything,” said Brehme, who slotted the ball to the goalkeeper’s right.
Brehme’s World Cup-winning teammates reacted with shock at the passing of the goalscoring hero.
“Andi was always positive and radiated pure life. He was a great person, a great friend,” defender Guido Buchwald told SID.
Brehme’s passing comes shortly after the death of another German footballing legend, Franz Beckenbauer.
Beckenbauer, who died in January, was the manager when West Germany won their third World Cup title.
“Unfortunately, the sad news doesn’t stop,” midfielder Pierre Littbarski told SID.
“This is very, very sad for German football and especially for us, the 1990 world champions.”
Rudi Voeller, another of Brehme’s national team colleagues, said the death left him “infinitely sad.”
“Andi was our World Cup hero, but for me even more — he was my close friend and companion.”