Premier League Roundup: Both clubs from Manchester fall, Arsenal assumes two-point lead atop the table (video)

4 Comments

There was history making stuff on Saturday as the bulk of Round 6 played out across England. And those tables … they are looking a bit wacky today, with Southampton ahead of Manchester City and well ahead of mighty Manchester United!

Here’s the full recap of Saturday’s PL matches, with video highlights of each:

Swansea 1-2 Arsenal – Recap

Wasn’t it just one month ago with the pitchfork-and-lantern crowd were at Arsene Wenger’s North London door? It has all turned so Gunners golden, as Arsenal’s 15 points matches the club’s best start since 2007-08. (They earned 16 points from their first six contests that year.) The Gunners are top of the PL table now after goals by Serge Gnabry and Aaron Ramsey at the Liberty Stadium.

Hull City 1-0 West Ham United – Recap

The big talkers of the day were those two glamour sides from Manchester falling. But we should save a few excited words for little Hull City, too! How about those Tigers, a newly promoted side now sitting (almost regally) in seventh after Saturday’s win over West Ham. Yes, these newly promoted sides have a way of starting fast and then slipping slowly through the year. But never mind that for now, because three wins in six matches is worthy achievement, indeed.

Fulham 1-2 Cardiff City — Recap

How about Cardiff, with its first win away from home in England’s top flight since 1961! Meanwhile, the shot of beleaguered Martin Jol on Fulham’s bench tells the story of this one, a big three points at Craven Cottage for the team from Wales. What will come of Jol this week?

Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea – Recap

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has not always had the kindest words for midfielder Juan Mata this year. But the Spanish midfielder has responded just as a good pro should, raising his game recently. And Mata was certainly the difference in Saturday’s London derby. Mourinho got his second half tactics right as the Blues split the points with Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

Manchester United 1-2 West Bromich Albion – Recap

It was elation for West Brom (first win at historic Old Trafford since 1978, back before most of the players were even born) and more grim news for Manchester United and first-year manager David Moyes. This is the worst start for a league campaign around Old Trafford since the 1989-90 season. Coming off last week’s 4-1 hammering by the local rivals, the heat on Moyes must be absolutely intense.

Southampton 2-0 Crystal Palace – Recap

It may not have been the prettiest of matches, but Dani Osvaldo and Rickie Lambert hit for Southampton, and look who is suddenly in fourth place! If the Champions League places were chosen today … well, never mind. It’s a bit early for all that. Still, another big day for Southampton’s excellent defense (just two goals conceded) and more woe for Crystal Palace, just one spot off the bottom.

Aston Villa 3-2 Manchester City – Recap

It must have been difficult for City to come back to Earth after last week’s ginormous 4-1 win over rival Manchester United. But credit to Villa for a big second half performance, especially from Dutch midfielder Leandro Bacuna (who scored on a free kick) and to Andreas Weimann, who raced past the visitor’s clunky defense to poke in the game-winner. Said Weimann: “Scoring the winner against Man City, you don’t do that every day. It is incredible!”

UEFA playoff draw sets up intriguing battles

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The fight for the final four 2018 World Cup spots from UEFA is well and truly on.

On Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland the draw for the two-legged playoffs was made as the eight best runners up from the UEFA qualifying group stages found out their fate.

[ MORE: Latest World Cup rankings released ]

The Republic of Ireland will face Denmark over two games, while Northern Ireland face Switzerland and two monster clashes have been set up as Sweden and Italy will lock horns and Croatia and Greece will do battle.

A spot at the World Cup in Russia next summer is the prize for the four winners of these home and away playoffs.

The Republic of Ireland seem to have got the better draw, especially as they will play at home in the second leg in Dublin. Northern Ireland will also be okay with having Switzerland but are slightly hampered by playing the first leg in Belfast. Italy against Sweden will be a tight game and one neither nation will relish, and the same can be said for Croatia vs. Greece with their intense local rivalry.

First leg matches will take place on November 9-11, while the second leg will take place on November 12-14.

Below is the full schedule for the two playoff games.


UEFA playoff schedule

First leg

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland
Croatia vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland
Sweden vs. Italy

Second leg

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland
Greece vs. Croatia
Republic of Ireland vs. Denmark
Italy vs. Sweden

Watch Live: England, Mexico, Spain, France in U-17 World Cup action

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It is a busy day at the U-17 World Cup in India as four Round of 16 games take place.

[ LIVE: Stream U-17 World Cup ] 

Red-hot England play Japan, while France and Spain collide and Mexico clash with a very impressive Iran side who won all of their group games. Mali and Iraq complete the Round of 16 games on Tuesday.

The winners of the England v. Japan game will face the U.S. on Saturday after they blew away Paraguay 5-0 on Monday.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s four games, while you can click on the link above to watch all four games live.

Tuesday’s U-17 World Cup Round of 16 games

Iran vs. Mexico – 7:30 a.m. ET
France vs. Spain – 7:30 a.m. ET
England vs. Japan – 10:30 a.m. ET
Mali vs. Iraq – 10:30 a.m. ET

Benevento remains alone in Europe without a point

Twitter/@jonurbana1
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Benevento remained the only club in Europe’s top five leagues without a point after losing at basement rival Hellas Verona 1-0 in Serie A on Monday.

[ MORE: USA U-17s top Paraguay in convincing style ]

Romulo scored with a long volley to conclude a counterattack in the 74th minute.

Benevento center back Luca Antei was shown a direct red card for a sliding tackle late in the first half and Verona striker Giampaolo Pazzini nearly took advantage immediately when he hit the post.

With its first win of the season, Verona moved up to 16th place with six points.

Benevento has lost all eight of its matches.

All of the top-division squads in England, France, Germany and Spain have earned at least a point.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Calls for exiled player to go to WCup stirs storm in Egypt

Twitter/@ug_football
1 Comment

CAIRO (AP) Soon after Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, a hashtag began trending on social media: “Aboutrika to the World Cup.”

In a country where soccer and politics often mix, and often with explosive results, the pro-government media didn’t like that.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

The hashtag unleashed an intense online campaign by tens of thousands of fans calling for former star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who is now living in exile in Qatar, to come out of retirement and play for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia next year.

It stirred a storm in the Arab country because of Aboutrika’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group that has been outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood was outlawed after the military’s ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The 38-year-old Aboutrika faces a host of charges rooted in his alleged financial support for the Brotherhood and lives in exile knowing he risks arrest if he returns home. His assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and his name is on a terrorism list. He now makes a living as a soccer pundit on the Qatar-based sports channel beIN.

Aboutrika turned down the call to return in a message to his supporters.

“These are kind feelings for which I thank you,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “But realism is better and I don’t steal the efforts of others. Those men (on the current team) deserve to be there alone.”

Yet that gentle refusal didn’t stop the storm around him, and the unfavorable comparisons made by some between Aboutrika and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, the team’s current star and new darling of the pro-government media.

“Mohammed Salah is the player who stood by his country, not like the other one (Aboutrika),” said Ahmed Moussa, perhaps the most ardent government supporter among TV talk show hosts. “He (Salah) is Egypt’s only star.”

The 25-year-old Salah endeared himself to fans with both goals, including an injury-time penalty, in a 2-1 win over Republic of Congo on Oct. 8 that ensured Egypt qualified for the World Cup for just the third time, and first time in nearly 30 years.

Salah has also been embraced by the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and its supporters in the media as a patriot. A donation of 5 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $300,000) Salah made in December to a development fund founded by el-Sissi has gone a long way to endear him to them.

In the week since qualification, Salah has been branded “golden boy,” “legend” and “genius.”

One media commentator, Dandarawy el-Hawary of the daily “Seventh Day,” wrote of Salah’s decisive goal against Republic of Congo: “It touched off the volcanoes of patriotism, sense of belonging and love of one’s country.”

Not long ago Aboutrika was the national hero – he still is to many – after playing a central role in Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Now, the pro-government media refers to him as a traitor.

Another talk show host, Amr Adeeb, suggested the campaign to bring Aboutrika out of retirement was the work of government critics and berated him for his failure to lead Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Aboutrika has been labeled a mercenary, with his job with the Qatar-based beIN used as evidence of his lack of patriotism because of Egypt’s diplomatic spat with Qatar over the tiny Gulf nation’s alleged support of terrorism.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Aboutrika’s supporters argue that to have him back on the team would be a just reward for his dedication to Egypt and compensation for his failed efforts to get the team to previous World Cups. They point out that Argentina great Diego Maradona and Cameroon’s Roger Milla both came out of retirement to play for their countries at the World Cup.

Responding to the criticism from government supporters, Aboutrika’s fans have also been posting videos of him scoring goals for club and country in years past, with commentators lavishly praising him for his skill and passion.