Premier League Wrap-Up (Matchweek 31)

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Matchweek 31 delivered on the excitement it promised as Spurs moved into 3rd place with a win over Swansea (and Chelsea’s loss), Arsenal once again proved its desire for Champions League football and Wigan secured a vital three points that (for now) moves the Latics out of the relegation zone.

SUNDERLAND 0 MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (Stadium of Light)

An enemic offensive display from Sunderland dropped them to within one point of the relegation zone as Manchester United triumphed 1-0 at the Stadium of Light. The goal came via a Titus Bramble own goal from a Robin van Persie strike in the 27th minute and was all Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad would need to preserve its 15 point advantage over 2nd placed Manchester City. 

ARSENAL 4 READING 1 (Emirates Stadium)

Gervinho (11′), Santi Cazorla (48′), Olivier Giroud (67′) and Mikel Arteta (77′) were all on target as the Gunners showed real quality to defeat a desperate Reading side 4-1. The Royals cut Arsenal’s lead to 3-1 through Hal Robson-Kanu’s 68th minute header but it wasn’t enough to spur a comeback in Nigel Adkins’ first match as manager.

MANCHESTER CITY 4 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 (Etihad Stadium)

After a sound 2-0 defeat at the hands of Everton, Roberto Mancini’s men found their feet on Saturday with a clinical display against Newcastle. City received goals from Carlos Tevez (41′) David Silva (45′), Vincent Kompany (’56) while a 69th minute own goal by James Perch sealed the Magpies fate. With the win City holds a five point cushion over 3rd place Spurs while the loss drops Newcastle to 15th in the table, merely three points above the drop.

SOUTHAMPTON 2 CHELSEA 1 (St. Mary’s Stadium)

Another huge scalping for Mauricio Pochettino as goals by Jay Rodriguez (23′) and Rickie Lambert (35′) buried Chelsea 2-1. Since the Argentinian manager’s arrival on the south coast in late January he’s secured victories over Manchester City, Liverpool and now Chelsea, confirming that Southampton is a squad to be reckoned with.

SWANSEA CITY 1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (Liberty Stadium)

Spurs held on for victory at the Liberty Stadium with Jan Vertonghen (7′) and Gareth Bale (21′) each producing stunning first-half goals before a Michu header in the 71st minute cut the lead in half. It was a massive three points for Tottenham, who leapfroged Chelsea into 3rd place after the Blues were outclassed by Southampton.

WEST HAM UNITED 3 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1 (Upton Park)

West Brom’s hopes for an end-of-the-season push to qualify for the Europa League were dashed at Upton Park as a confident West Ham side destroyed the Baggies 3-0. A thunderous header from Andy Carroll opened the scoring in the 16th minute and four minutes later Gary O’Neill doubled the lead with a sweet curler from the top of the box.  Carroll found his brace in the 80th minute and West Brom got one back through a Graham Dorrans’ penalty but it was all West Ham as Sam Allardyce earned a much needed three points.

WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 NORWICH CITY 0 (DW Stadium)

Arouna Kone was the hero for Wigan as his 81st minute strike from the edge of the penalty area being the difference at the DW Stadium. For now the win raises the Latics out of the relegation zone, heaping pressure on Aston Villa to get a result in tomorrow’s clash with Liverpool.

EVERTON 1 STOKE CITY 0 (Goodison Park)

Everton kept its European hopes alive with a 1-0 victory over Stoke City at Goodison Park. The difference came in the 28th minute when Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard punched Marc Wilson’s cross into the path of Kevin Mirallas, who collected the ball and exploded into a pitch-long counter-attack before slotting the ball past Asmir Begovic. The fantastic individual effort was the crown jewel of an otherwise drab contest and was enough to secure the Toffees stayed in 6th place, two points behind 5th place Arsenal and four points behind 4th place Chelsea.

ASTON VILLA 1 LIVERPOOL 2 (Villa Park)

Thirty minutes in and a Christian Benteke goal gave Aston Villa hope of distancing themselves from the relegation zone but it was all-for-naught as Liverpool scored twice in the 2nd half to stay within three points of 6th place Everton. Jordan Henderson leveled in the 47th minute courtesy of Philippe Coutinho’s brilliant through-ball and thirteen minutes later Steven Gerrard converted a Luis Suarez penalty to secure the Reds’ victory.

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

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Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

UPDATED: Fox Sports Argentina is reporting that Messi will receive a two to four match suspension and will be effective for tomorrow’s match against Bolivia.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.