Arsenal “lucky” after controversial victory over Sunderland

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SUNDERLAND — Arsene Wenger had a wry smile on his face as he recalled the pivotal play which swung the game in his sides favor during their 3-1 win on Saturday against Sunderland.

Arsenal got away with one.

“We were a bit lucky in that situation,” Wenger said. “We were a bit lucky because this type of situation can go against your favor and in the favor of Sunderland.”

At the center of all this was the highly-controversial decision to disallow a goal from USMNT forward Jozy Altidore that would have made it 2-2 with 20 minutes to go.

(MORE: Di Canio blasts ref after Altidore goal controversially disallowed)

Sunderland forward Altidore was pulled back by Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna on the edge of the box but continued to bulldoze his way through the defense and slotted the ball into the back of the net.

But as the 23-year-old U.S. international rounded the goal to celebrate what he thought was his first Premier League strike in a Sunderland shirt, referee Martin Atkinson pulled the play back and awarded Sunderland a free kick.

Altidore, Black Cats manager Paolo Di Canio and every Sunderland fan in the Stadium of Light threw their arms into the air in disbelief.

“Look it is one of these things that are controversial,” Wenger continued. “Because the referee had blown the whistle before the ball on the foul. If there is no goal people moan because he didn’t give a foul. He could have given a foul for Sagna as well, as they were both holding each other off.”

But to make matters worse, Atkinson only booked Sagna despite many believing the French defender was the last man and deserved a straight red card.

“Was Sagna last man? No,” Wenger said. “I don’t think he was last man because Koscielny was covering.”

Overall, Arsenal deserved to pick up their third-straight win to leave them top of the Premier League after four games. They stroked the ball around with consummate ease, with Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey all reading off the same hymn sheet.

(MORE: Arsene Wenger lauds Giroud and Ramsey after Arsenal win)

Arsenal had taken a first half lead through Olivier Giroud but a penalty kick from Craig Gardner leveled the score before Ramsey volleyed them back in front and the slotted home to make it 3-1 after Altidore’s goal was controversially ruled out.

Wenger was pleased with the first half display and admitted that the Gunners had to fight hard in the second half to seal the victory.

“We had an outstanding first half and with plenty of chances but we were only 1-0 up at half time,” Wenger said. “The break came at the right time for Sunderland. They came back with a different proposition in the second half, they came back strong. We dropped physically but after that we found the mental resources to find two goals again and overall it was a very eventful game.”

Fabinho admits interest in Manchester United

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If even a fraction of this summer’s transfer interest is real, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has taken every precaution against his biggest 2017 enemy: scheduled congestion.

Mourinho was a regular critic of United’s schedule last season in the run-up to its UEFA Europa League title win over Ajax, and is building his roster up for the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Saief completes USMNT switch ]

The manager already had plenty of attacking options, and has added Victor Lindelof to his stable of defenders while reportedly flirting with PSG’s Marquinhos, too. Defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic is also a reported target (as are half of the world’s elite footballers).

And now, a wry smile from Monaco’s Fabinho hints that Mourinho may be making progress with another target.

‘‘It’s a tempting invitation. … I would first talk to my agent, Monaco too, to decide everything right. But it’s a great club, sure enough I would think well about it.”

Fabinho played mostly right back in 2014-15 before splitting time between that position and defensive midfielder the following year and seeing most of his time at CDM last season. Mourinho has lavished praise and given a contract extension to right back Antonio Valencia and has Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Paul Pogba at CDM (though the latter can certainly operate higher up the field).

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.