Chelsea late show deepens Crystal Palace crisis

Chelsea late show deepens Crystal Palace crisis
Chelsea's English midfielder Conor Gallagher shoots to score their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park in south London on Feb. 12, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 13 February 2024
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Chelsea late show deepens Crystal Palace crisis

Chelsea late show deepens Crystal Palace crisis
  • Gallagher fired home his second of the night and Enzo Fernandez added the third in stoppage time to lift Chelsea up to 10th and within two points of seventh
  • Defeat leaves Palace still just five points above the relegation zone in 15th

LONDON: Conor Gallagher struck twice to condemn his former club Crystal Palace to a damaging 3-1 defeat on Monday and keep Chelsea in the hunt for European football next season.

The injury-ravaged Eagles were on course for a huge win in their battle to remain in the Premier League when Jefferson Lerma’s long-range strike opened the scoring.

But Palace have won just three times in 19 games and were undone late on after Gallagher equalized within two minutes of the second half.

Gallagher fired home his second of the night and Enzo Fernandez added the third in stoppage time to lift Chelsea up to 10th and within two points of seventh.

Defeat leaves Palace still just five points above the relegation zone in 15th.

“It was extremely cruel but the game is about goals and unfortunately we made mistakes which led to goals,” said under fire Palace boss Roy Hodgson.

The home side were decimated by key injuries with all three of their star players Eberechi Eze, Michael Olize and Marc Guehi ruled out.

Hodgson and the club’s board are under attack from the fans and banners held up before kick-off took aim at a “weak club culture” and “weak transfer policy.”

But Palace more than held their own for the first 45 minutes thanks to another lacklustre Chelsea performance away from home.

“We started really flat, we didn’t show enough intensity. It was a really tough first 45 minutes,” said Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino.

“Second half we started really well, scored the 1-1 and it allowed us to manage the game.”

Pochettino had hailed his side’s 3-1 FA Cup win at Aston Villa last week as his side’s “best performance of the season.”

However, it was back to the drawing board for the Argentine in the first half at Selhurst Park as Chelsea were pedestrian in possession and were punished.

Noni Madueke was easily bullied out of possession on the edge of his own box and the ball fell to Lerma to take aim and fire into the top corner beyond Djordje Petrovic.

It took until first-half stoppage time for Chelsea to even register a shot as Gallagher dragged his effort across goal.

But that was a warning Palace did not heed.

The start to the second half was delayed while referee Michael Oliver sought repairs to his communication device with his assistants and VAR.

And Palace were caught cold on the restart as Gallagher, who enjoyed a successful loan spell at Palace in the 2021/22 season, smashed home Malo Gusto’s cross.

Chelsea suffered a setback when Thiago Silva was forced off with a groin injury that is likely to keep him out of the League Cup final against Liverpool later this month.

But they will at least head into a daunting trip to Manchester City on Saturday with some renewed confidence thanks to a late show that snatched all three points.

Palace kept Cole Palmer quiet for most of the night, but he still proved decisive with two assists in stoppage time.

The former City playmaker picked out Gallagher at the edge of the box to fire home his third goal in two games having not scored all season before then.

Palmer then freed Fernandez as Chelsea galloped from one end of the field to the other on the counter-attack and he sat down Daniel Munoz before stroking into the top corner.


Eddie Howe answers Newcastle United tactics critics as Magpies outwit rivals Wolves

Eddie Howe answers Newcastle United tactics critics as Magpies outwit rivals Wolves
Updated 03 March 2024
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Eddie Howe answers Newcastle United tactics critics as Magpies outwit rivals Wolves

Eddie Howe answers Newcastle United tactics critics as Magpies outwit rivals Wolves

NEWCASTLE: Criticism, at this level, is only ever just around the corner. One year you may be returning a club to the Champions League after two decades, the next some may be calling for change at the top. That’s the situation that’s faced Eddie Howe at Newcastle United in recent times.

A one-trick pony. The lack of Plan B. Howe has faced up to some tactical criticism from certain sections of the Newcastle fanbase in a drift from top four contenders to the fringes of the bottom half of the division in what has turned into a winter of discontent on Tyneside.

And in fairness, some of that criticism has been justified. However, when a tactical tweak was needed, Howe delivered, landing a blow to his critics by producing a compact, robust Newcastle setup that was far too much for opposite number Gary O’Neil — transforming a resurgent, on-the-rise Wolverhampton Wanderers’ bark in to a whimper at St. James’ Park.

Alexander Isak gave the hosts the lead on the break, while another counter goal by Anthony Gordon had the Magpies cruising at half-time. A late wondergoal from youngster Tino Livramento added a flourish in the dying embers.

Famed for their transition play, Wolves have torn teams apart in the Premier League on their rise. And getting caught by teams on the transition, has been Howe and Newcastle’s kryptonite during their winter struggles.

Answering that, Howe tweaked it, as Newcastle sat deeper, invited the pressure and surrendered possession wilfully. It worked wonders.

“We changed things tactically today. It was a big win,” he said after recording the Magpies’ first home win since December 16.

“We knew, being back at home, that we hadn’t won here for quite a while, certainly in 2024. Our home form has always been so good. Ever since I’ve come to the football club, even in the season when we stayed up and then making the top four in the following one, the home form was really the bedrock of all our success. So, to have our first wobble here was a concern. We’re delighted to win, it was a massive game for us.”

“It was a slight tweak from our normal way of playing. We analyze our opposition, like we do always, and I know there’s a lot of people that say we play the same way every week, but I can assure you that’s not the case. There’s always tweaks and little things we try to do to help us in our performance, and that was one today, to try to maybe play a slightly more transitional game.

“I still think we’re not quite where we were at times last year, and also at times this year, but I thought it was better. I thought we had a better physical look about us, with really good running capacity, highlighted by our first goal, which was really transitional. There were players running the full length of the pitch, with a real desire to score. I thought, individually, we looked better as well in that respect. As I’ve said many times, confidence can ebb and flow, from individuals and the team. But I thought toward the end of the game, we started to see the confidence flow back into the group, and the last ten to 15 minutes was really good.”

Newcastle have so often been starved of options when they’ve needed them, injuries to key players at key times has limited what the head coach can do off the bench. With just 12 games left, that situation is clearly easing — and it is no surprise to see Newcastle put in arguably their most impressive, coherent performance in 2024.

Turning to goalscorer Livramento as well as summer signing Harvey Barnes, coupled with Miguel Almiron, Lewis Miley and Elliot Anderson off the subs bench is as strong a group as Howe has been able to name for months. Arguably, the biggest impact of all, however, was getting Joe Willock back into the starting XI.

After 12 months of struggles, this was the first match the former Arsenal man has started since November. And what a difference his energy and legs gave to a United midfield that has lacked anything like it for so long.

Howe said: “Naturally, I think our midfield does have a different complexion with Willock in the team. I think he has different qualities, although I have to compliment Lewis Miley when he came on because that’s a difficult game situation for someone so young, but I thought he did really well.

“Joe does add a running and an athleticism that maybe we don’t have without him. I was delighted with his contribution. Yes, we’ve managed his game minutes, but it’s great that he’s come through three games and done really well.

“I thought he was (Bruno) was very good and had moments where he really showed his class. When he’s at the top of his game, for me, there’s no one better in playing the role that he does. I was really pleased with his impact in the first goal because it’s a full length of the pitch counter-attack and he’s had to make up a lot of yards to get a vital contribution to that goal. That lets me know that, mentally, he’s in a good place and, physically, he’s in a good place too after a three-game week with extra-time. I was really pleased with that part of his game.”


Blue cards absent from latest changes by football’s lawmakers

Blue cards absent from latest changes by football’s lawmakers
Updated 03 March 2024
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Blue cards absent from latest changes by football’s lawmakers

Blue cards absent from latest changes by football’s lawmakers
  • Details of the trial were believed to have been close to publication by the International
  • Football Association Board (IFAB) last month Stronger enforcement on time-wasting goalkeepers was the major development to emerge from the meeting

LONDON: A controversial sin bin trial featuring blue cards was absent from the latest changes made by football’s lawmakers to improve player behavior on Saturday.
It was reported in February that blue cards were set to be part of a trial of sin bins at higher levels of the professional game.
Details of the trial were believed to have been close to publication by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) last month.
But the negative response to the proposal from Premier League managers like Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Tottenham’s Ange Postecoglou played a role in the trial details being delayed.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Friday that he “wasn’t aware” blue cards were intended to be used in the trial and said his organization was “completely opposed” to the idea.
Sin-bin yellow cards will continue to be trialled at grassroots level instead.
“If the trials at the lower levels work, of course the conversation continues throughout the pyramid,” said the English Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham after IFAB’s annual general meeting near Loch Lomond, Scotland.
“I don’t think that was ever the intention for the trial to start in the Premier League.”
Stronger enforcement on time-wasting goalkeepers was the major development to emerge from the meeting.
Fans could be encouraged to join in countdowns on goalkeepers holding on to the ball too long.
In competitions taking part in the trial, goalkeepers will be able to hold onto the ball for eight seconds and the sanction for holding on too long would be a corner or a throw-in in line with the penalty spot, rather than an indirect free-kick.
Under current guidelines, ‘keepers are supposed to only hold onto the ball for a maximum of six seconds, but the rule is rarely strictly enforced.
The other two trials approved by IFAB are designed to help referees regulate player behavior.
Referees now have the option to create captain-only zones and cooling-off areas in the event of mass confrontations.


Klopp dismisses Forest complaints over Nunez winner

Klopp dismisses Forest complaints over Nunez winner
Updated 02 March 2024
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Klopp dismisses Forest complaints over Nunez winner

Klopp dismisses Forest complaints over Nunez winner
  • Nunez marked his return from injury by heading home nine minutes into stoppage-time at the City Ground
  • “It happened exactly the same in the first half didn’t it? Exactly the same, just the other way round,” Klopp said

NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom: Jurgen Klopp claimed Darwin Nunez’s controversial late winner against Nottingham Forest was legitimate as Liverpool moved four points clear at the top of the Premier League on Saturday.
Nunez marked his return from injury by heading home nine minutes into stoppage-time at the City Ground.
But the Uruguay forward’s decisive contribution left Forest furious after referee Paul Tierney had stopped play before the build-up to the goal for an apparent head injury to Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate.
Tierney blew with Forest in possession on the edge of Liverpool’s area and after Konate had quickly recovered, the official dropped the ball to Reds goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, who then started the move that led to Nunez’s goal.
“It happened exactly the same in the first half didn’t it? Exactly the same, just the other way round,” Klopp said.
“I accepted it would happen like that because it happened in the first half. If it didn’t happen in the first half, I would have asked the question as well.
“I would assume that’s the rule, I don’t know. But because it happened twice and got handled exactly the same, I don’t really see their reasons for a discussion.”
Earlier in the game, Tierney halted a Liverpool attack after Forest captain Ryan Yates was felled by Harvey Elliott’s shot and play resumed with goalkeeper Matz Sels taking possession.
“I understand 100 percent the excitement and the anger of Nottingham, of course, they fought for everything. But it happened twice the same and was consistent,” Klopp said.
Nunez’s winner secured Liverpool their first league victory at the City Ground in almost 40 years.
The priceless success by the banks of the River Trent piled pressure on second-placed Manchester City and third-placed Arsenal, who play on Sunday and Monday against Manchester United and Sheffield United respectively.
Klopp admitted it had been a huge effort from his injury-hit squad, who have registered six straight wins in all competitions, including last Sunday’s League Cup final win over Chelsea.
“Four games in 11 days, come on. Five in 15,” Klopp said. “It’s really tough. With our squad situation it’s super-tough and how the boys fought through that is really special.
“The fourth game was the toughest. It was an unbelievable effort the boys put in. A proper, proper shift.
“If you had asked me 12 days ago if it was possible to win all four games, I’d have said no.”


Chelsea fans turn on Pochettino during draw at Brentford. The Argentine says he doesn’t feel loved

Chelsea fans turn on Pochettino during draw at Brentford. The Argentine says he doesn’t feel loved
Updated 02 March 2024
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Chelsea fans turn on Pochettino during draw at Brentford. The Argentine says he doesn’t feel loved

Chelsea fans turn on Pochettino during draw at Brentford. The Argentine says he doesn’t feel loved
  • “I’ve been told — I didn’t hear, to be honest. It’s difficult for me to understand,” the Argentine coach said
  • Chelsea rescued a point on Pochettino’s 52nd birthday when Axel Disasi headed home Cole Palmer’s cross

LONDON: Chelsea fans turned on Mauricio Pochettino as they watched their team labor to draw at west London rival Brentford 2-2 in the English Premier League on Saturday.
The Blues were leading through Nicolas Jackson’s 35th-minute header but were pegged back by Mads Roerslev’s close-range strike in the 50th.
When Yoane Wissa put Brentford ahead with a spectacular overhead kick in the 69th, the away fans began singing the name of former manager Jose Mourinho as well as calling for Pochettino to go.
“I’ve been told — I didn’t hear, to be honest. It’s difficult for me to understand,” the Argentine coach said.
“But it’s normal, we were losing the game 2-1 and they expressed their frustration. I am one of the ones responsible, I’m the coach.”
Chelsea rescued a point on Pochettino’s 52nd birthday when Axel Disasi headed home Cole Palmer’s cross.
The point left Chelsea languishing in 11th place in another dismal league campaign and the first season under Pochettino.
“I was asked before if I feel the love from the fans — no,” Pochettino said. “I’m not worried — we need to accept this relationship. You win your relationship through winning games.
“I will continue to work and try to change this perception. We need to manage some reality. We are working really hard to try to win games, the team is fighting. If it doesn’t work and the fans are disappointed, I need to respect their opinion.”


Eddie Howe responds to Newcastle United future talk as Julian Nagelsmann links surface

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe reacts. (Reuters)
Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe reacts. (Reuters)
Updated 02 March 2024
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Eddie Howe responds to Newcastle United future talk as Julian Nagelsmann links surface

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe reacts. (Reuters)

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has come out fighting after talk of his Newcastle United future in the media linked Germany head coach Julian Nagelsmann with the job.

Howe has come under pressure from a minority of Newcastle fans due to poor performances, an increasingly concerning defensive record and a slide down the Premier League table. The Magpies are currently 10th in the top-flight standings, with likely eight places set to result in European competition qualification for next season.

And that has seen speculation build, particularly in the European press. Reports from Germany suggest current Germany boss Nagelsmann would be interested in replacing Howe, if Newcastle decide a change is in order this summer. That is, at this stage, not thought to be the position of the Magpies’ hierarchy.

Howe said he had seen the Nagelsmann talk and it did not concern him, insisting his future will be defined by his own actions, not those of others.

“Genuinely it doesn’t affect me. I’m here. I’m sitting in the seat. My future will be defined by what I do, no one else,” he said when quizzed on the matter.

“It’s up to me to continually prove myself. I back myself and my ability. I know my qualities. I know what I bring to the job and I have ambitions for the team and the club and I can’t control what people write and what speculation there is in every sense. I don’t try to get involved in it.”

Howe was then asked whether he felt support from the club’s owners. Newcastle are 80 percent owned by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia; the other 20 percent is split between RB Sports & Media (roughly 14 percent) and Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi (around 6 percent).

The Newcastle boss said: “It’s difficult for me to speak for them, but I have felt a support and an understanding for the season that we have had, and things that have been thrown at us and things that have happened. That’s really important from my side that I do feel that support.

“I’m not going to try and put words in people’s mouths or anything like that, but I think they have seen from afar how difficult this season has been.”

Having won on the road in the cup, it is back to St. James’ Park and the challenge this weekend of Wolverhampton Wanderers, who edged ahead of Newcastle last weekend in the top-flight standings. Victory at the weekend would be Newcastle’s first win at home in all competitions since mid-December, a record which is the antithesis of their form in the 12 months previous to that, where they were near unbeatable on home turf.

Howe said: “We’re not at our fluent best but there is a lot of good. There is some frustration that we’re not quite ourselves, but I think that will come. I have no doubt, once we’re back to full strength, hopefully you’ll see the real Newcastle again.

“The last few games have been frustrating because possibly in the months gone by, they were games that we would have won or found a way to win. For whatever reason they’re games we didn’t win.

“Looking back on those games, it was also important we didn’t lose those games and to have shown the battling and fighting qualities to fight back from losing positions, which is great to see. I'd like to see us, of course, return to our best performances at home.

“I think the environment we've had to play in has been incredible; I have to thank the supporters for that. They haven’t seen us win for a while but they’re still backing us and supporting the players in the time that they’re playing. Hopefully that’ll make the difference.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle's reward for edging past Blackburn Rovers in the fifth round of the FA Cup is a last-eight tie at current holders Manchester City.

On hearing the draw, Howe joked: “I was driving at the time and I almost swerved off the road.

“It wasn’t the draw we wanted, that’s for sure. I don’t think any team wants to play Manchester City four times in a season but we’re looking forward to the game. I believe we can beat anybody when we’re at our best. We’ve had three really tight games against them this year.

“When you have time to analyze things and go through it like you do mentally, you realize that to win the FA Cup you’ll probably have to beat Manchester City at some stage in the competition. So that’s been moved forward from our (point of) view and I just think we have to look at it and give everything to try and win. It will be difficult but we can do it.”