PFC CSKA Moscow v FC Spartak Moscow - Premier League

Offshore drilling, Russia: at CSKA Moscow 2, Spartak Moscow 1

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Man of the Match: Even though his goals were more luck than marksmanship, former Manchester United protégé Zoran Tosic was the difference today for CSKA. At least, he was the difference on the scoresheet. In the lineup in large part because of his service, Tosic scored both CSKA’s goals from dead balls. The first was an attempted cross Spartak let fall in the box, confusion on the part of the goalkeeper leading to an unfortunately conceded goal. The second was a great strike from the deep right flank, that needed help from the opposition. Spartak’s Ari lifted his left forearm to his face after Tosic struck his shot. The ball deflected off his arm and in for the winner.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • While Zenit St. Petersburg has long secured first in Russia, there is a knockdown, drag out for second place (otherwise known as Russia’s place in the preliminary rounds of UEFA’s Champions League). With the win (and Dinamo Moscow’s loss at Zenit), CSKA jumped from fourth to second, one point ahead of their pair of Moscow rivals.
  • While there no shortage of clubs in Moscow, CSKA-Spartak is the big derby. Both share Luzhniki Stadium, site of today’s game. The crowd was in full-force pre-match, half the stadium waving blue and red flags (for CSKA), the other flaunting their red and whites.
  • CSKA started the game stronger, making headway into Spartak’s attack through the athleticism of right winb Ahmed Musa, but by halftime, Spartak was generating the better chances, especially winning crosses drilled to the edge of Igor Akinfeev’s six yard box.
  • Akinfeev, just back from a layoff after reconstructive knee surgery (for an injury suffered against Spartak), looked confident laying out for a number of first half saves. While only two of the (six, or so) saves were particularly difficult, Akinfeev seemed to have glue on his gloves, getting his body in front of and catching an array of headed shots.
  • There is little Akinfeev could have done on the conceded goal, with Spartak forward Artem Dyzuba leaving Aleksei Berezutski in quicksand before launching an equalizer into the upper 90 from 14 yards out. It almost looked like a high school play: A small shimmy from the dangly attacker before going left to the side of the area and letting go of a rocket.
  • Dyzuba was a part of one the matches strange, quirky symmetries. At 6’4″, he was often playing the number 10 to Emmanuel Emenike’s number nine. Emenike’s only 5’11”. At the other end, CSKA often did their own inverse big-little partnership when 6’3″ Tomas Necid played behind Seydou Doumbia (5’10”).
  • You can spend years watching Russian soccer and it never gets old: There were two sets of twins on the field today. The Berezutski twins (Aleksei and Vasili), Russian internationals, were the central defense pairing for CSKA. The Kombarovs twins (Dmitri and Kirill) took up the fullback positions for Spartak, though they are natural midfielders.
  • The acquisition of Swedish ball-winner Pontus Wernbloom is a perfect fit for CSKA. At least, if allows them to play a very aggressive team, as they did today. Musa was basically an attack-only winger, and with Tosic having little value when he’s in from the left, having Keisuke Honda as part of a two-man midfield could be an invitation to be dominated. Wernbloom, however, was very good today and allowed Honda to roam, even as CSKA was matched against a 4-2-3-1.
  • If you’re somebody who likes seeing the middle-tier countries of Europe do well, you can’t help but hope CSKA holds on to second. They have far too much talent to be fluttering around Europe. With strong international quality at nearly every position, this team should be in Champions League.

Highlights

Wenger slams criticism of Arsenal’s players ahead of fan protests

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Arsene Wenger is not a happy man.

I know, I know, tell us something we don’t know.

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However, the 66-year-old Gunners boss has taken exception to widespread criticism of his players ahead of fan protests against him which are planned for this Saturday’s game against Norwich (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) at the Emirates Stadium.

Speaking to the media on Friday, Wenger stood up for his players who are having their commitment questioned.

“I tell you, this team has character and attitude. Some people who question them, I know them well – they have less character than this team has. I saw them play, and even know them very closely, and they should not question the character of these players,” Wenger said. “There are some groups of people that try to manipulate our fans, but I believe apart from a personal agenda and a big ego there’s not a lot behind [the criticism].”

Okay then…

[ MORE: Wenger has a message for Arsenal’s fans ]

With empty seats galore at the Emirates last Thursday during the 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, Wenger had been dealing with growing fan unrest throughout this season.

Although Wenger urged fans of Arsenal to support the players on Saturday against Norwich he did admit he shares their frustration about limping out of the title race this season, of all seasons.

“I can understand the frustration,” Wenger said. “No one is more frustrated than me, but our disappointment has not to go too far. When a club cannot enjoy anything any more, it is in trouble, and we have to not forget that in football you go down very quickly and you come up very slowly.”

Arsenal looked certain to be making a title charge in February after they beat Leicester City late on but since that huge victory they’ve won just three of their last nine Premier League games, plus lost in the FA Cup to Watford and were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Barcelona at the Round of 16.

After two decades of Wenger in charge and no PL title in 12 years, Arsenal’s fans want more. They want trophies and success.

They also want answers from Wenger and as the protests on Saturday will show, the vast majority also want a new manager.

Goteborg apologizes over crowd trouble at abandoned match

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - OCTOBER 31:  IFK Goteborg receives the silver medal after the match between IFK Goteborg and Kalmar FF at Gamla Ullevi on October 31, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden.  (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images)
Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images
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GOTEBORG, Sweden (AP) Swedish club IFK Goteborg has apologized for crowd trouble that resulted in a league match against Malmo being abandoned after a firework landed next to a visiting player warming up on the sidelines and he responded angrily.

Wednesday’s game was interrupted in the 77th minute, with the score at 0-0, when a firecracker tossed from the crowd exploded next to midfielder Tobias Sana, a former Goteborg player. Jolted by the loud bang, Sana reacted by throwing a corner flag into the stands.

[ WATCH: Sana throws corner flag into Goteborg fans ]

Match officials decided to abandon the match, saying a linesman who was also near the firework when it exploded was shocked by the incident.

Sana, who said he had a headache and ear pain following the incident, apologized for his actions.

“Now that I’ve gotten over the shock, I feel it was the stupidest decision of my life,” Sana said Thursday in statement. “There are many young people who look up to me so I really want to apologize.”

Malmo said that Sana wouldn’t face any sanctions from the club.

In a move suggesting the firework was thrown by home fans, Goteborg posted an apology on its website directed at Malmo, match officials and the spectators. The club could face sanctions from the Swedish football association’s disciplinary committee.

There was another security incident on a chaotic evening in Goteborg. After the match was suspended, a Norwegian hockey player ran onto the field, reportedly as part of a bet with teammates at recently crowned Swedish champion Frolunda.

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Newspaper Aftonbladet said Mats Rosseli Olsen, who played for Norway at the Sochi Olympics, was charged with a public order offense and could face fines.

Frolunda director Christian Lechtaler told Swedish news agency TT that Olsen’s behavior would have “consequences” but didn’t elaborate.

“Mats is very regretful and doesn’t feel good at all about this,” Lechtaler said.

Swedish football has been marred by crowd problems for years, including fans throwing objects at players and match officials and brawling with each other before or after games. Two years ago, a Djurgarden fan was killed after being attacked by hooligans ahead of an away match against Helsingborg.

Flores on future at Watford: “I need to feel happy”

during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Watford at the Boleyn Ground, April 20, 2016, London, England
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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On the surface, it sounds crazy: Why trade a manager who led a first-year Premier League club to relatively quick safety in England’s top flight and a FA Cup semifinal?

But Watford is not any club when it comes to their views on managers, having parted ways with Slavisa Jokanovic after the Serbian manager led them to promotion. Oh, and when hired Jokanovic was the Hornets fourth coach in five weeks.

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So current manager Quique Sanchez Flores isn’t safe despite the Hornets’ 12th place status. That probably has a lot to do with Watford’s four points since the start of March, a tough schedule run that included Leicester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham.

So, could he be gone this summer? Flores has a break clause after this season, and Watford may not have a choice even if they want to keep the Spaniard around.

From Sky Sports:

Asked if he wanted to stay, Flores said: “This is not the question for me now.

“I know the kind of people I want to work with. That’s the only thing I can say. In the last four or five years I work from my feelings. I work around people I feel completely protected with.

“These are my feelings. When we finish the season I will check what the conditions are but I need to feel happy.”

Who needs who the most? Flores’ season has been impressive even with the late struggles, but Watford’s managerial merry-go-round happened before the club advanced into the Premier League and they’ve survived despite making a change in the summer. Still, we’d do our best to keep Flores at Vicarage Road.

Ex-soccer star Weah to run again for president of Liberia

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 25: Liberia soccer legend George Weah speaks during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw at the ICC convention centre on November 25, 2007 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) Former world footballer of the year George Weah says he will make a second bid to become president of Liberia.

The ex-AC Milan striker announced on Thursday he will stand as a candidate in elections next year, when current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second and final term ends.

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Weah, who formed the Congress for Democratic Change party, lost to Sirleaf in the 2005 election.

Declaring his intention to stand again, Weah told supporters he sympathized with the plight of many poor Liberians. He said “there were times I didn’t have school fees. I continued to strive with the hope that one day life will get better.”

Weah was the world footballer of the year in 1995. He is a senator in his West African homeland.