Arsenal fail to take advantage of Manchester United’s title-clinching hangover


Against a clearly half-speed Manchester United, Arsenal were kept off the board over the match’s last 88 minutes, left to hope a controversial Theo Walcott opener would hold up. But two 43rd minute mistakes from Bacary Sagna – a giveaway and then a foul in the penalty area – allowed Robin Van Persie to secure a celebration-less equalizer, leaving the match destined to finish 1-1.

That may be a just result, given the nature of Arsenal’s goal. Manchester United’s line was beaten in the second minute when a Tomas Rosicky pass into the right of the area allowed Theo Walcott, who had blown by Patrice Evra, to beat David de Gea far post. Replays, however, showed Walcott to be clearly offside when Rosicky played the ball; however, since the flag stayed down, the Arsenal winger was merely in an offside position (not offside, strictly) before scoring his 12th goal of the season.

Though Arsenal looked the more dangerous team for much of the first half, at one point they went nearly 20 minutes without a shot, let alone a shot on goal. Manchester United were able to stabilize after a flat-footed start and eventually got back into the match through Sagna’s generosity. Had the Arsenal right back not stepped in, United may have never emerged from the celebratory slumber they carried in into today’s game, having clinched their 20th league title on Monday.

By the second half’s kickoff, United were back, embarking on a controlling run that forced out any air left in Arsenal’s challenge. Fifteen minutes before time, the Gunners seemed to perk up and realize they needed three points, but by then they were second best. While 1-1 was a fair result, if one team were more likely to snatch a goal late, it would have been United.

Given how poorly the Red Devils played in the first half, it was a sorry turn of events for Arsenal – a home side that needed the points more than their guests. With the draw, Arsenal lose ground on Chelsea and stay only two upon Spurs, with top-four rivals carrying a match in hand. Against a United team with little motivation, Arsenal should have expected full points.

There are, however, two things working in Arsenal’s favor:

(a) Their run-in is ridiculously easy, particularly particularly compared to Chelsea’s. The Gunners are “at” QPR, host Wigan, then finish at Newcastle.

(b) Chelsea and Tottenham still play each other.

Arsenal are still on track for a top-four finish, but Sunday’s showing against an ambivalent United will stunt the building notion the Gunners were moving forward. They may be good enough to get back into Champions League, but against a team that didn’t seem to care that much about the result, Arsenal were only good enough for a draw.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. The manager guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).

Report: USWNT star Holiday has brain tumor removed

Costa Rica v United Staes: Final - 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.

Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.

[ MORE: UCL Final in United States? ]

The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.

The BBC added this tidbit:

Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.

Get well soon, Lauren.

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.