Can the Saints continue their dramatic climb from the third-tier to deliver European soccer?

Southampton 1-1 Sunderland: Fonte snatches late point for Saints (Video)


Southampton snatched a dramatic late draw at St. Mary’s, denying Sunderland their first win of the Premier League season in the process.

The Saints looked to be heading to their first defeat of the campaign, until defender Jose Fonte popped up in the 88th minute to head home James Ward-Prowse’s delightful free kick.

Paolo Di Canio was incensed with this teams late defensive mishap, but over the course of the 90 minutes a draw was the least Southampton deserved after having 67 percent of the possession.

Emanuele Giaccherini scored the opener with an opportunistic header after just two minutes at St. Mary’s Stadium to grab the lead for Sunderland.

But after that the Black Cats sat back and allowed the home side to put them under pressure. The Saints came close on several occasions but is seemed as though it was going to be one of those days.

Until Portuguese defender Fonte popped up late on to grab a draw.

For much of the game the Black Cats were under the cosh, as the home side pressed for an equalizer. But it was a dream start for Di Canio on the South Coast.

Just two minutes had been played when Sebastian Larsson‘s corner had been whipped into the box and diminutive Italian international Giaccherini rose highest to head home. Giaccherini is only 5 foot 6, so how he managed to head home will certainly upset Southampton.

It was also the 28-year-old Italian internationals first goal since joining this summer from Juventus and Di Canio’s team protected their 1-0 lead with their life.

However after just five minutes, Southampton thought they had equalized when Rickie Lambert slotted in Rodriguez who coolly finished to send St. Mary’s wild.

But the linesman had his flag up and Saints were denied an equalizer, it was certainly a tight decision but the assistant referee may have just got the call correct.

Then a flurry of chances came for the Saints as Ward-Prowse whipped in a great ball that Lambert headed towards the bottom corner but Keiren Westwood saved well down to this right.

source: AP
Jose Fonte celebrates his late equalizer.

Rodriguez and Lallana continued to play direct soccer but Sunderland weren’t in too much trouble. However they could have been on 35 minutes when Fonte appeared to be brought down by Sunderland captain John O’Shea in the box.

Ward-Prowse’s free kick found Fonte and O’Shea was lucky that a penalty wasn’t awarded as he jumped all over Saints’ Portuguese defender. USMNT forward Jozy Alitdore cut a forlorn figure up front for most of the game, as their was a severe lack of creativity from Sunderland.

But they just sat back and let Southampton attack them after scoring so early.

Just before half time O’Shea again was lucky to not conceded a penalty as he brought down Lallana in the box when he was about to get a strike in on goal, the Sunderland skipper was living a charmed life.

At the break Sunderland went in ahead but they’d hardly had a shot apart from Giaccherini‘s early goal. Pochettino brought on new signing Pablo Osvaldo and defender Nathaniel Clyne at half time, replacing Luke Shaw and Morgan Schneiderlin.

Southampton again spurned more chances, but looked livelier after Osvaldo arrived and in the 56th minute he set up Rodriguez perfectly with a chipped cross, but the Englishman headed straight at Westwood.

And less than a minute later, Altidore had his best chance of the game to score his first Premier League goal of the season.

The 23-year-old striker US national team forward was put clean through but Southampton ‘keeper Artur Boruc came off his line to smother Altidore’s shot at close range.

Southampton piled on the pressure as the final minutes ticked and Fonte’s header sent the sellout crowd wild at St. Mary’s Stadium.

The Saints are unbeaten after two games, sitting in third spot with four points. While Sunderland will take heart from a dogged defensive display but they have just one point from their first two games, leaving the Mackems in 15th place.

It’s early days for both of these teams.


Southampton: Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw (Clyne 45), Wanyama, Schneiderlin (Osvaldo 45), Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Ramírez 69), Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs not used: K. Davis,S. Davis, Cork, Hooiveld.

Sunderland: Westwood, Celustka, O’Shea, Diakite, Colback (Vaughan 54), Johnson, Larsson, Gardner, Giaccherini (Wickham 82), Sessegnon (Ji 46), Altidore. Subs not used: Mannone, Cabral,  Moberg Karlsson, Roberge

Goals: Giaccherini, 2 (Sunderland), Fonte, 88 (Southampton)

Arsenal ready to “play for our lives” vs. Olympiakos to remain in UCL

Alexis Sanchez
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Following their 3-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday, Arsenal know what they must do in two weeks time at Olympiakos.

Win by two goals or more and they’re in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the 16th straight.

[ MORE: How can Arsenal make last 16? ]

Anything less means Arsene Wenger‘s side will crash out of the UCL and will be competing in the last 32 of the Europa League when European play restarts in 2016.

It’s a simple equation but don’t underestimate how hard the Gunners have battled to put themselves in this situation. After losing both of their opening Group F games at Zagreb and then at home against Olympiakos, they looked dead and buried.

Now, they have a chance to advance.

“The team knew it was a very important day today – everyone had to turn up and they did. Now we’re going to play for our lives [against Olympiakos],” Arsenal right back Hector Bellerin said. “This was an important test for us, to be alive in the Champions League. The team responded very well. The team is showing we have got a lot of quality, a lot of creativity. When we have all our players back, we’re going to be up there.”

Wenger’s men have been in these kind of situations in the UCL before, but usually in the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: Chelsea hammer Tel Aviv, face tricky final day ]

In each of the past five seasons they’ve fallen at the last 16 hurdle but often that exit has come after after putting themselves in perilous situations from dreadful displays in the first legs and then nearly clawing things back in the second legs. Last season they lost to AS Monaco 3-1 at home in the first leg and won 2-0 away, going out on away goals. The season before that they lost 2-0 at home to Bayern Munich in the first leg but drew 1-1 away from home in the second leg and battled hard in Bavaria.

Simply put, Wenger’s men have been in this kind of “do or die” situation many times in the UCL over the past few seasons. It’s all about one game in Greece in two weeks. Wenger knows it as he spoke following their win over Zagreb which set up the tantalizing encounter in Athens on Dec. 9.

“It promises to be a very interesting game [against Olympiakos], but at least we have a chance,” Wenger said. “I think Mesut Ozil had an outstanding first half, he has got the taste for scoring now. I have never seen Ozil in the box so many times as in the last five or six games. The Europa League is not the target – let us give everything to remain in the Champions League.”

How can Arsenal qualify for last 16 of Champions League?

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC
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Heading into the their final UEFA Champions League Group F game, the Gunners are still alive. Just.

Arsenal beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium in London on Tuesday to keep their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League alive for the 16th straight season.

[ MORE: Champions League standings

So, here’s what Arsene Wenger‘s men must do in their final Group F game in two weeks time in Greece to qualify and what other results will mean for the Premier League side.

  • An Arsenal win by a two-goal margin will see Arsenal finish level on points but finish above Olympiakos by virtue of having better goal different in their head-to-head encounters. Hence sealing a spot in the last 16
  • An Arsenal win by a one-goal margin, a draw or a defeat will see Arsenal eliminated and Olympiakos qualify for last 16
  • The Gunners have already sealed at least a Europa League spot regardless of what happens in Athens

There are your scenarios for Arsenal as it’s pretty simple to break it down: Win by two goals and they’re Champions League dream lives on in the last 16.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

Anything else and it’s a spot of Thursday night soccer in the last 32 of the Europa League for Wenger’s men.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 0-4 Chelsea: Blues go atop Group G

during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Chelsea FC at Sammy Ofer Stadium on November 24, 2015 in Haifa, Israel.
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Chelsea scored thee second-half goals against a ten-man Maccabi side, easing to a 4-0 win in Tel-Aviv tonight.

With the win and Porto’s loss, the Blues now sit atop Group G in the UEFA Champions League, in need of one point from their final match to advance.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

The match got off to a bit of a shaky start for Chelsea, as Tel-Aviv created some early offense on the counter-attack. However, the Blues stuck in after the opening minutes and gained control of the play.

After dominating possession, Chelsea broke through in the 20th minute through Gary Cahill. Willian whipped in a corner kick which Cahill headed on goal, but Predrag Rajkovic made a brilliant save for Tel-Aviv. However, the save hit the post and rolled right back to Cahill, who had an easy tap-in for the goal.

The pitch continued to be tilted in favor of Chelsea, and Tel-Aviv’s chances of a comeback took a huge hit when Tal Ben Haim was sent off in the 40th minute. The former Chelsea man took a wild hack at the legs of Diego Costa, giving the referee an easy decision to show a straight red. It was another case of Costa getting under the skin of his opposition, as Ben Haim lost his cool and made a reckless challenge.

Despite being down to ten men, the hosts didn’t fold in the second half and tried to steal a goal on the counter. After a string of fine saves from Rajkovic to keep Tel-Aviv alive, Asmir Begovic had to come up with a save of his own to keep Chelsea ahead. Eran Zahavi found himself free on the break and fired a shot to the far post, but Begovic just got his fingertips on the ball to hold the lead.

[ RELATED: Zlatan hoping to impress in UCL return to Malmo ]

A bit of bad news came for Chelsea in the 72nd minute, as John Terry went down after getting tangled up in a challenge. The captain looked to be in a lot of pain, as he was stretchered off and replaced by Kurt Zouma.

On the first touch of the ball after Terry’s substitution, Chelsea took a 2-0 lead from a Willian free kick. From his favorite spot at the corner of the box, the Brazilian curled home a set piece to the near post. It was his sixth goal of the season, all of which have come from free kicks in almost the exact same location.

Less than five minutes later, Oscar made it 3-0 for Chelsea. Baba Rahman played in a cross from the left wing as Oscar headed home from close range, officially sealing the points for Jose Mourinho’s men.

Substitute Kurt Zouma would add a fourth for Chelsea in stoppage time, grabbing another headed goal for the Blues in a comfortable yet vital win.

Arsenal 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb: Gunners keep last 16 dreams alive

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Arsenal eased past Dinamo Zagreb in their penultimate game of UEFA Champions Group F play on Tuesday as two goals from Alexis Sanchez and another from Mesut Ozil did the damage.

Arsene Wenger‘s side now sit in third place on six points in Group F and travel to Olympiakos — who currently sit in second spot on nine points — on the final matchday on Dec. 9 where they will need a win by two goals or more to make the last 16 of the UCL for the 16th straight season.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

The Gunners came flying out of the traps and were 2-0 up inside the first 32 minutes. First up Sanchez got free on the left and curled in a beautiful cross which found the onrushing Ozil who stooped and headed home. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Moments later it was 2-0 as Nacho Monreal intercepted a pass on the edge of Zagreb’s box and slotted the ball to Sanchez who finished easily to send Wenger’s men into halftime with a healthy lead.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

In the second half Arsenal were hungry for more goals as Eduardo made a good stop from Santi Cazorla‘s shot and then palmed away Olivier Giroud‘s header from the rebound.

To their credit the Croatian outfit stuck to the task and Alexandru Matel went close with an effort but Arsenal always looked dangerous on the break as Costa Rican forward Joel Campbell volleyed an effort just wide.

Arsenal saw out the game with minimum fuss as Sanchez added another in the 69th minute when Campbell set him up neatly and the Chilean grabbed his second and Arsenal’s third of the game to make it 3-0.

That’s how the game finished as the Gunners now face a showdown in Athens in two weeks as their place in the UCL’s last 16 hangs in the balance.