Is Everton getting skunked by Arsenal for FA Cup ticket allocations?

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When Everton travels to Emirates Stadium for the March 8th FA Cup quarter-final match with Arsenal, the club will have to make due without 3,814 supporters that would normally be in attendance.

This is because Arsenal’s Safety Advisory Group fears safety issues due to “persistent standing” and the use of smoke bombs/pyrotechnics in the upper tiers of the Emirates stadium.

Per FA Cup rules, visiting fans are typically given 15% of available seats. As the Emirates has an approximate capacity of 60,000 fans, this means 9,000 tickets should have been allocated. As a result of the Advisory Group, that number has been decreased to 5,186.

The decision has infuriated Evertonians and the club has spoke to the FA and Arsenal demanding to know why they have been denied full 15% allocation.

The outrage has now prompted Member of Parliament, Andy Burnham, to intervene in the row. Burnham has written to Greg Dyke urging the FA Chairman to “stand up for Everton” and demanding the club receive the fair number of seats in accordance with rules.

The Merseyside born Burnham, an admitted Everton fan, gave credence to the view of the Advisory Group while maintaining his belief that Arsenal is capable of managing the alleged threat.

“The views of the Ground Safety Advisory Group are important and should not be ignored, but I fail to see how a club with years of experience handling big fixtures, in a purpose built stadium, cannot devise a solution to meet the ticketing rules.”

Joining Burnham is fellow MP and die-hard Liverpool supporter, Steve Rotherham, who also sent a letter demanding evidence from the Football Association as to why it sanctioned Arsenal’s decision to reduce away supporter tickets.

“In the 21st century, with the Emirates stadium the most modern ground in the top flight having only opened in July 2006, it is somewhat perplexing that Arsenal Football Club can have such little confidence in their own stewarding structure that they feel the only course of action is to deny more than 4,000 Evertonians the chance to enjoy the FA Cup quarter final.”

The plausible explanation Arsenal is likely to put forth concerns a survey conducted in December 2013 finding that one-third of fans have been directly affected by pyrotechnics at a stadium in the past and that 86% are concerned for their safety.

The study also showed that Everton, Manchester United and Wigan Athletic are the clubs with the most incidents flares (5) in 2013-14 while Liverpool, Manchester City, Sheffield United have each had four incidents.

Such argument is weakened due to the modern nature of the Emirates stadium and the alternatives at the club’s disposal. Many believe that Arsenal’s decision actually serves as a pretext to infringe upon the support of competing Premier League clubs to gain an unfair advantage. Tottenham and Liverpool were denied the proper allocation during the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup, while League One side Coventry City was curiously offered greater allocation.

Beyond that, the fear that Premier League fans are more likely to engage in “persistent standing” is nonsense. Are League One fans not prone to standing? Equally questionable is the concept that security at the massively conservative and overly protective Emirates stadium couldn’t control the fans. Anyone who has attended a match there knows the Yellow Jackets are as strict as they come.

If it’s deemed too dangerous for 9,000 away fans to sit together then dividing the group into two or three sections seems a plausible alternative. If seating the fans in the upper tier is a projectile threat than seating in a lower section should resolve the issue.

The alternatives are there. Whether the FA is willing to stand up in the face of Arsenal’s questionable decision making, remains to be seen.

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.