Arsenal falter once more at Fulham, Spurs close on top four

Arsenal falter once more at Fulham, Spurs close on top four
The Gunners’ hopes of the title have been rocked by two defeats in four days. (Reuters)
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Updated 31 December 2023
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Arsenal falter once more at Fulham, Spurs close on top four

Arsenal falter once more at Fulham, Spurs close on top four
  • Arsenal remain in fourth, two points behind leaders Liverpool and level on 40 points with Manchester City, but having played a game more than both their title rivals

LONDON: Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge suffered another blow in a 2-1 defeat at Fulham on Sunday, as Tottenham beat Bournemouth 3-1 to close in on their north London rivals.

The Gunners’ high hopes of a first league title in 20 years have been rocked by two damaging defeats in four days.

Mikel Arteta was looking for a response after losing 2-0 at home to West Ham on Thursday and the visitors started brightly at Craven Cottage.

Bukayo Saka pounced to tap home his first goal in six games after Bernd Leno parried Gabriel Martinelli’s initial effort.

But Arsenal failed to build on their early advantage and Fulham hit back to snap a three-game losing run in the Premier League without even scoring a goal.

Raul Jimenez was badly missed during his three-game ban for a red card at Newcastle and the Mexican kick-started the Fulham fightback with his fourth goal in as many games.

Former Arsenal winger Willian sent Tom Cairney free down the left and his dangerous low cross was swept home by Jimenez at the back post.

Martinelli was inches away from restoring Arsenal’s lead before the break.

But it was Fulham who were the better side in the second half and they got their reward just before the hour mark. Arsenal failed to clear a corner and the ball broke kindly for Bobby De Cordova-Reid to smash home from close range.

Only a fine save from David Raya to deny Cairney and the crossbar from Andreas Pereira’s free kick prevented Arsenal from suffering further punishment in the pouring rain in west London.

But enough damage may have been done to their title aspirations over the past week.

Arsenal remain in fourth, two points behind leaders Liverpool and level on 40 points with Manchester City, but having played a game more than both their title rivals.

Elsewhere, Arteta’s men could even be outside the top four by the time they are next in league action in three weeks’ time as Tottenham closed to within a point of the Champions League places.

Ange Postecoglou’s men shrugged off a mounting injury crisis to inflict Bournemouth’s first defeat in eight games.

Pape Sarr’s precise finish into the bottom corner opened the scoring after just nine minutes.

But the Senegalese midfielder left the field in tears midway through the first half with an injury that puts his participation in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in doubt.

Bournemouth will feel they should have been level before the break as the in-form Dominic Solanke hit the bar amid a flurry of chances.

Instead, the visitors were picked off in the second half.

Son Heung-min is also set to depart for a few weeks to lead South Korea at the Asia Cup.

The Spurs captain signed off in style with a thumping finish from a narrow angle before Richarlison made it 3-0.

Alex Scott pulled a goal back six minutes from time, but it was too little, too late for the Cherries, who remain in 12th.


Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti

Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti
Updated 21 sec ago
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Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti

Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti
  • All four quarterfinal first leg matches thrilled supporters this week but some of the brightest names in the game were below their best on the biggest stage
  • Real Madrid visit Mallorca on Saturday looking to extend their eight-point lead in La Liga before second-placed Barcelona play at Cadiz later in the day

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti predicted Friday that Kylian Mbappe and football’s other brightest young stars would bounce back strongly after disappointing showings in the Champions League.

All four quarterfinal first leg matches thrilled supporters this week but some of the brightest names in the game were below their best on the biggest stage.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe was frustrated in Barcelona’s 3-2 win in the French capital, while Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger shackled Manchester City forward Erling Haaland.

Madrid’s top goalscorer Jude Bellingham also struggled to make an impact in his team’s white-knuckle 3-3 draw with the English champions at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“Calm down, calm down, maybe in the first legs they were below their best, but new games are coming and watch out, watch out for the three (of them),” Ancelotti told a news conference.

Real Madrid visit Mallorca on Saturday looking to extend their eight-point lead in La Liga before second-placed Barcelona play at Cadiz later in the day.

Ancelotti said England international Bellingham, 20, was fulfilling his role, even though his early season goal spree has come to an end.

Bellingham has 20 goals across all competitions for Madrid but just three in his last 13 games.

“Bellingham’s goal output is down, but that was a surprise,” said the coach.

“He’s doing his job, which is more as a midfielder, but in a footballing sense he’s doing very well, not missing anything, just goals, which sooner or later will return.”

The coach said forward Rodrygo Goes, who missed training on Friday, would be fit to face Mallorca.


NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match

NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match
Updated 12 April 2024
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NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match

NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match
  • Young fans met their football idols who shared the exciting news with them during a kickabout
  • The mascots will wear innovative haptic technology shirts for the game

NEWCASTLE: Several young members of the deaf community in Newcastle were on Friday invited by Newcastle United stars Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn to be mascots during the club’s Premier League clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
On Thursday, NUFC’s front-of-shirt sponsor, Sela, said they will introduce the haptic shirts — which allow deaf fans and fans with hearing loss to experience the live atmosphere — during Saturday’s match against Spurs at St. James’ Park. Haptic shirts use a technology that transforms the noise of the stadium into real-time touch sensations.
During a visit to meet young fans from the deaf community to invite them to come to the Tottenham game, Burn revealed to the youngsters: “For the Tottenham game you’re all going to be mascots. So, you get to walk out with us in front of the crowd.”


Trippier added: “To walk out in the Royal National Institute for Deaf shirts is special, and we had a good kickabout with the kids as well.”
The youngsters met their football idols at the Newcastle United Foundation where Burn and Trippier shared the exciting news with them during a friendly kickabout.
In addition to acting as mascots, the youngsters will also wear the innovative haptic technology shirts to enhance their matchday experience.
Sela has donated its front-of-shirt sponsorship rights for Saturday’s clash to RNID, a national UK charity that supports 12 million people who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by sela | صلة (@sela)


“The kids were teaching us a goal celebration, so watch out for it. I’ll probably get a few more before the end of the season,” added Burn. The children also taught the players how to sign “love the fans.”
One of the youngsters said: “I was so happy to see Kieran and Dan, it’s the best day of my life.”
Some Newcastle fans will be wearing haptic shirts with the RNID logo for the first time during the Tottenham game, while the branding will be on display around St. James’ Park and on the big screen to raise awareness of the institute’s work.
Teri Devine, associate director of inclusion at RNID, said: “We’re really grateful to Sela and to Newcastle for doing this. It’s absolutely fantastic that the players take time out to come and meet the kids, and actually get to see the barriers that deaf children face.”

 


Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case

Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case
Updated 12 April 2024
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Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case

Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case
  • The judge suspended Rocha’s statement and made him an investigated party in the graft case
  • Rubiales, who was briefly detained by police on his arrival in Spain on April 3 as part of the probe after he arrived from the Dominican Republic, is due to testify on April 29

MADRID: Pedro Rocha’s chances of succeeding the disgraced Luis Rubiales as Spanish football federation (RFEF) president have been placed in doubt after being placed under investigation in the alleged graft scandal which has rocked Spain’s football elite.
Rocha, seen as favorite to fill the post, appeared in court on the outskirts of Madrid on Friday as a witness in the case in which Rubiales is being investigated.
However, the judge suspended Rocha’s statement and made him an investigated party in the graft case.
“(The judge) has agreed this morning to change the procedural status of Pedro Rocha from witness to investigated party,” said the court in a statement.
“The classification of the alleged crimes is yet to be defined, as well as the date of his next statement.”
Rubiales, who was briefly detained by police on his arrival in Spain on April 3 as part of the probe after he arrived from the Dominican Republic, is due to testify on April 29.
Rocha, who moved up from vice president to become interim president after Rubiales resigned last year, seemed poised to replace him officially as president as soon as Monday.
Spanish media have reported the two other candidates, Carlos Herrera and Eva Parera, have been unable to collect the minimum of 21 endorsements necessary from RFEF assembly members, while he has 107.
In March Spanish police searched 11 locations, including the RFEF’s Madrid headquarters and Rubiales’ house in Granada as part of the investigation into corruption and other crimes.
Federation contracts signed since 2018 are being investigated including one by Rubiales to take the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.
The Super Cup contracts are worth 40 million euros a year ($43 million) with the deal brokered by Kosmos, a company owned by former Barcelona and Spain defender Gerard Pique.
Rubiales was forced to step down as RFEF boss in September after forcibly kissing Women’s World Cup star Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s triumph in the Sydney final in August.


Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League

Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League
Updated 12 April 2024
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Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League

Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League
  • The loss damages Liverpool’s hopes of a treble of trophies in manager Jurgen Klopp’s final season at Anfield
  • Bayer Leverkusen got late goals from substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface to top West Ham 2-0 and extend their unbeaten streak to 42 games

Gianluca Scamacca struck twice as visiting Atalanta upset Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday.

The loss damages Liverpool’s hopes of a treble of trophies in manager Jurgen Klopp’s final season at Anfield.

The Italian visitors went into the break up 1-0 after Scamacca got a low drive past goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher in the 38th minute.

Klopp sent on Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai and Andy Robertson as substitutes for the second half, but Scamacca netted again after Charles De Ketelaere fed him at the far post on the hour mark.

Mario Pasalic finished the scoring seven minutes from time.

Atalanta won at Anfield 2-0 in the group stage of the Champions League in 2020.

Liverpool won the English League Cup and are in a tight Premier League title race with Arsenal and Manchester City. Klopp’s team were eliminated from the FA Cup in the quarterfinals.

The lackluster display Thursday might turn out to be Klopp’s final European game at Anfield. The team needs a big comeback in Bergamo to stay alive.

If Liverpool reaches the Europa League final in Dublin on May 22, it would be Klopp’s final game in charge after nearly nine years.

Bayer Leverkusen got late goals from substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface to top West Ham 2-0 and extend their unbeaten streak to 42 games in a season that can also end up with a treble of trophies.

Hofmann netted on a rebound in the 83rd before Boniface clinched a well-deserved victory with a header in stoppage time.

With a 16-point lead atop the Bundesliga, Xabi Alonso’s team are on course to clinch their first-ever league title and have reached the German Cup final.

In an all-Italian matchup, Gianluca Mancini headed in a winner off a corner kick from Paulo Dybala to upset AC Milan 1-0 at San Siro.

Mancini also scored the lone goal in the Italian capital derby against Lazio on Saturday in Serie A.

It was the first win for Roma over Milan since October 2019.

Milan, the seven-time European champions, have never won the second-tier Europa League or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup.

Milan have never even reached the final — something Roma achieved twice, losing both in 1991 and last year.

Rafa Silva and veteran forward Angel Di Maria scored in each half for Benfica to beat Marseille 2-1. In an encounter of two former European champions. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for Marseille, who lost their fifth straight game in all competitions.

Aubameyang has 24 goals this season in total.

The second-leg games will be played next week.

EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE

Kostas Fortounis scored and provided an assist to help Olympiakos beat Fenerbahce 3-2 in the first leg of the Europa Conference League quarterfinals on Thursday.

Olympiakos built a 3-0 lead in Piraeus and held on after the Turkish team fought back with two second-half goals.

Fortounis opened the scoring after just eight minutes, netting his fifth goal of the European campaign. He then set up Stevan Jovetić to double the lead before halftime.

Chiquinho made it 3-0 with a precise low drive approaching the hour mark before Dusan Tadic pulled one back from the penalty spot and İrfan Can Kahveci added the second for Fenerbahce.

Olympiakos is one of the two Greek teams in the last eight hoping to reach a home final in Athens.

The other, PAOK, lost 1-0 at Club Brugge.

Ollie Watkins and captain John McGinn scored early in each half to secure a 2-1 win for Aston Villa over Lille for manager Unai Emery, who claimed the Europa League on four occasions — three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal.

Viktoria Plzen held last year’s runner-up Fiorentina to a 0-0 draw in what was the first European quarterfinal for the Czech club, which hasn’t conceded a goal for seven straight games in the third-tier competition.

As Fiorentina looked in control in the second half, the match was interrupted for several minutes because of flares that its fans threw onto the pitch.


French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga

French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga
Updated 11 April 2024
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French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga

French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga
  • ‘He is far from being a bad person,’ says Gomis on X
  • Post attracts over 11,000 likes, 4,500 retweets, more than 1,500 replies

RIAYDH: French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis on Thursday defended Al-Hilal’s Saudi defender Ali Al-Bulayhi following his altercation with Al-Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday during their Super Cup semifinal showdown.
The Portuguese international was sent off for elbowing Al-Bulayhi during Al-Nassr’s narrow 2-1 defeat.
Gomis, a former Al-Hilal player who turned out for the Riyadh giants between 2018 and 2022, said of his former teammate Al-Bulayhi on X: “An exemplary teammate, first come, last left from training. He gives everything for his country and for his club. Actually, he’s one of the best center-backs in the world and I know a few things from my experience. He is far from being a bad person!!!”

Currently playing for Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale, Gomis’ post has attracted more than 11,000 likes, 4,500 retweets and in excess of 1,500 replies.
One user posted a video of Al-Bulayhi and Gomis hugging, and wrote: “Two historic legends.”
Another user posted a video — which is believed to have been filmed when Gomis left Al-Hilal — of the two players saluting each other and a comment citing the Frenchman as saying “I love you, Bulayhi.”
A user called Yousef commented, saying: “Thank you Gomis for the unforgettable days!”
The Saudi Ministry of Sport denied rumors on Wednesday that its minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki bin Faisal, had held discussions with Ronaldo after his controversial sending off.