Arsenal 1-1 Everton: Late breakthroughs cancel as Deulofeu denies Arsenal all 3 points (Video)

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Arsenal thought they’d gone seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table as Mesut Ozil finally broke down the Everton defense with 10 minutes to go.

Unfortunately, Gerard Deulofeu had other ideas, and his immediate answer helped Everton secure a great road point with a 1-1 draw at the Emirates.

The Gunners started well and developed a few half chances but Everton quickly began to stick their foot into the possession statistics.

Everton held 63% of the possession through the first half, but Arsenal were dangerous on the counter.

The Gunners defense was also very organized, cutting out passes and limiting the Everton build-up.  They didn’t press hard, allowing the Toffees midfielders to pass between themselves but getting forward and into the box was difficult.

Ross Barkley, probably Everton’s best player in the first half, created a chance for Kevin Mirallas in the 22nd minute running through the midfield but Mirallas fired over and wide.

The Gunners broke again, and Kieran Gibbs nearly had a chance off a cross from Cazolra in the 27th.

Arsenal pressed hard just before the halftime break, with Olivier Giroud fed through on goal but Howard came out well to give the Frenchman no room to shoot.  It was the best chance by far for Arsenal in the first half.

The second half brought better possession from the home side, and they created more thanks to it.

In the 50th minute Ozil found Santi Cazorla on the other side of the box, and he one-two’d with Jack Wilshere but Cazorla couldn’t finish with the header, instead hitting at Howard.

On the other end just minutes later Barkley again found space at the top of the Arsenal box and forced a diving save from Wojciech Szczesny with a powerful drive.

source: AP
Mesut Ozil thought he’d poached the winner for Arsenal but the Gunners were denied just four minutes later.

Aaron Ramsey then took a cross from Gibbs and volleyed it on goal from a tight angle but again Howard denied the Gunners with an acrobatic stop.

It was an open spell to open the second half, but things closed off again, with Everton’s midfield again moving back to possession play.  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger then made a very risky move, with a triple substitution.  He brought off Whilshere, Cazorla, and Mikel Arteta and swapped them like-for-like with Tomas Rocisky, Mathieu Flamini, and Theo Walcott.

The build-ups went back and forth, and Everton had a chance as Leon Osman threaded Mirallas through but the shot took a deflection wide. The ensuing corner fell to Sylvain Distin for a header.

With both teams picking and prodding away at the opposition defense, Arsenal finally got the breakthrough for the home fans.

Rocisky worked the ball down the left flank and lofted a ball to the far post for Walcott. The England international mishit it, and Olivier Giroud was there. The Frenchman tried a volley at point blank range and also mishit, but Ozil was there to clean up the mess and his tap-in gave Arsenal the lead on 80 minutes.

But it wouldn’t last long. Bryan Oviedo, filling in brilliantly for the injured Leighton Baines at left-back, sent a cross into the box which Romelu Lukaku whiffed at with a bicycle kick attempt. The ball fell to substitute Gerard Deulofeu, and the young Spaniard somehow with no space ripped off a vicious strike that buried into the far top corner.

Deulofeu’s equalizer came just five minutes after coming on for the bright Mirallas.

Both sides pushed for all three points, but it was not to be. Olivier Giroud nearly won it in added time with a filthy volley – a thunderous shot – it hit the crossbar and like Arsenal’s winning hopes, it pinged away harmlessly.

The point does keep Arsenal five clear of Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the table, while remain in fifth, pipping Tottenham by a point.

GOALS:

Arsenal – Ozil 80′
Everton – Deulofeu 83′

LINEUPS:

Arsenal – Szczesny; Jenkinson, Koscienly, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshere (Flamini, 68′), Ramsey (Rocisky, 68′); Ozil, Cazorla (Walcott, 68′), Giroud.

Everton – Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Oviedo; McCarthy, Barry, Pienaar (Osman, 71′); Barkly (Naismith, 90′), Mirallas (Deulofeu, 79′), Lukaku.

UEFA playoff draw sets up intriguing battles

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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

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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

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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

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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.