Chelsea 0-0 West Ham United: Blues slip up in the title race (video)

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Jose Mourinho cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines at full time, as Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw by London rivals West Ham United on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.

For vast swathes of the game it was like watching an attack vs. defense training session, with the Hammers withstanding immense pressure in both halves as Chelsea looked to climb above Arsenal in the Premier League standings.

But it wasn’t to be.

Chelsea came closest in the first half when Oscar saw his curling effort tipped onto the bar and late on West Ham ‘keeper Adrian pulled off some stunning saves from Frank Lampard, John Terry and Samuel Eto’o as Chelsea missed a glorious chance to close the gap on those above them ahead of their clash with league leaders Manchester City next Monday.

To their credit West Ham defended tremendously and only created a few half chances throughout a rain-soaked 90 minutes.

Chelsea had 39 shots as West Ham blocked 24 of them, with one way traffic flooding toward the Hammers goal for almost the entire game. West Ham had just one shot the entire game, as Allardyce’s men grabbed a valuable point in their fight against relegation.

With the draw Chelsea are now three points off Man City in top spot as the Blues have 50 points, while West Ham move up to 18th and are now just two points from safety.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

It was an even start at a rain soaked Stamford Bridge, as West Ham looked at ease in the treacherous conditions.

But Oscar almost gave Chelsea the lead in the 8th minute, as the Brazilian’s curling effort was tipped onto the crossbar by West Ham’s ‘keeper Adrian.

Chelsea continued to probe in front of West Ham’s defense but the visitors were easily thwarting any advances as Mourinho didn’t look pleased with this sides display.

source: Getty Images
Samuel Eto’o and his Chelsea teammates came up against a stubborn West Ham defense.

In the 25th minute West Ham’s Diame had a nasty injury as he was sent tumbling into the stands following a slip on the sidelines. With the nasty fall, that knocked over some cups of tea and a hot dog, Diame injured his ankle and had to be replaced by Matt Jarvis. Samuel Eto’o went close to giving Chelsea the lead in the 45th minute, as the Cameroonian striker saw his snapshot palmed away by Adrian in the pouring rain in West London.

Try as they might Chelsea couldn’t break down West Ham before the break, as Allardyce’s side set their stall out to defend resolutely and were doing a marvelous job as half time came and the score remained 0-0.

After the break Chelsea kept flooding forward but the pitch conditions at Stamford Bridge were hampering their usual free-flowing style of play.

In the 59th minute West Ham had a glorious chance to score as Jarvis’ left wing cross was tipped away by Chelsea ‘keeper Petr Cech but only as far as Andy Carroll. However the big man had a rush of blood to the head and took a wild swipe at the ball as he completely missed his kick. A real let off for Chelsea.

That miss spurred Chelsea into life as Lampard came off the bench and smashed plenty of efforts in on goal that the Hammers blocked heroically on multiple occasions.

As the game went on West Ham dropped deeper and deeper towards their own goal and they kept inviting pressure from Chelsea as a sea of Blue shirts poured towards the Hammers goal. Eto’o thought he had scored when he cheekily tapped home following Adrian putting the ball down in the incorrect position for a West Ham free kick, but the Blues found Adrian in inspired form as he saved tremendously with his feet late on from Lampard.

Not such a special performance from the “Special One’s” team, as Chelsea now have some work to do to catch Man City at the summit.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta (Lampard, 63); Ramires, Mikel (Matic, 63); Willian, Oscar (Ba, 83), Hazard; Eto’o

West Ham: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, O’Brien, Noble, Taylor, Nolan (Nocerino, 80), Downing, Diame (Jarvis, 30), Carroll (Cole, 64)

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.