‘Unacceptable’ goal costs Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano one Champions League match

5 Comments

Last week, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Luiz Adriano screwed up. In UEFA Champions League action, the Brazilian striker took a ball played back to Danish champions Nordsjaelland and scored a goal. He sprinted past a pair of unresponsive central defenders, won a race to the ball that only he was contesting, and dribbled around a bewildered goalkeeper before finishing into an open net.

Today, UEFA has suspended Adriano one match and ordered him to perform one hour of community service for “violation of the principles of conduct” (pasted, below). Shakhtar Donetsk’s owner, Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov, has already said the club will abide by the punishment, calling the behavior “unacceptable.”

The controversy was born from a play we see almost every game. For whatever reason (usually, suspected injury) a ball is played out of bounds or the lead official has stopped play. Be it by throw in or a return ball from a drop kick, the team that had possession is allowed to re-gain it. The event is so common that players rarely have to discuss what’s happening before normal play resumes.

Last week in Copenhagen, somebody should have stopped and talked to Luiz Adriano, because he never stopped playing. Though he conceded after the game that what he thought was a good goal shouldn’t have happened, it’s difficult to believe the thought never occurred to him in real time. Again, this is a play that happens so often that he couldn’t have been caught by surprise. When his team needlessly punted the ball toward Nordsjaelland’s keeper (and nobody on the field reacted), he should have figured it out.

His team certainly did. At least, most of them did. Coach Mircea Lucescu immediately ordered his team to give up a return goal only to see a defender interfere with the concession. The game went on, with Shakhtar winning in Copenhagen, 5-2.

Here’s the goal:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10Rj79yTNo0]

Now Adriano is set to miss next week’s Champions League game against Juventus. Shakhtar, having already secured a place in the knockout round, needs at least a draw to secure first place in Group E (and a much easier route in the knockout round), with a loss giving the packet to Juventus.

That means Chelsea have been hit with some collateral damage from this whole affair. The Blues need to beat Nordsjaelland and have Shakhtar win in order to advance to Champions League’s Round of 16.

In case you’re curious, here are UEFA’s Principles of Conduct — Article 5 of the governing body’s disciplinary regulations:

Article 5 Principles of conduct
1
Member associations, clubs, as well as their players, officials and members, shall
conduct themselves according to the principles of loyalty, integrity and
sportsmanship.
2
For example, a breach of these principles is committed by anyone:
a) who engages in or attempts to engage in active or passive bribery and/or
corruption;
b) whose conduct is insulting or otherwise violates the basic rules of decent
conduct;
c) who uses sporting events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature;
d) whose conduct brings the sport of football, and UEFA in particular, into
disrepute;
e) who does not abide by decisions and directives of the Organs for the
Administration of Justice;
f) who does not comply with instructions given by the match officials;
g) who culpably reports for a match late or not at all;
h) who culpably causes a match to be interrupted or abandoned or who is
responsible for its interruption or abandonment;
i) who inscribes on the match sheet a player who is not eligible to play;
j) who acts in a way that is likely to exert an influence on the progress and/or
the result of a match by means of behaviour in breach of the statutory
objectives of UEFA with a view to gaining an undue advantage for himself or
a third party.
k) who commits an act of assault;
l) who participates directly or indirectly in betting or similar activities relating to
UEFA competition matches, or who has a direct or indirect financial interest
in such activities.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza
Leave a comment

Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
Leave a comment

“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”