Arsene Wenger: Not signing Yaya Toure “the top of my regrets”

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On Saturday at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal face Manchester City (Watch live on NBCSN, 1:30 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra) knowing one of their opponents star men probably should’ve be playing for the Gunners.

Yaya Toure reached a deal to sign for Arsenal back in 2003, but with a long wait for his passport to come through after impressing on a trail from Belgian club Beveren, Toure instead went to Ukraine and played for Metalurh Donetsk instead of joining his brother Kolo in North London.

Asked where his regret in not signing Toure ranks all-time, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was obviously remorseful over missing out on Yaya.

“It ranks at the top,” Wenger said. “But let’s not forget Toure had an agreement with Arsenal. We waited for his passport in Belgium but he went to Ukraine instead. He’s not a mistake but he preferred to go to Donetsk without a passport.”

Toure played in a trial game for the Gunners against Barnet back in 2003, and everyone believed the deal would be sealed to see the Ivorian midfielder join Arsenal. However with passport complications meaning he could easily ply his trade in Ukraine, Toure instead decided to go along that route, rather than wait for any red tape to hold up his move to the red half of North London.

After Donetsk he then moved to Olympiakos in Greece, Monaco in Ligue 1, then FC Barcelona where he became superstar before a big money move to Man City.

That’s all in the past. But you can’t help but imagine Toure in Arsenal’s central midfield now, as a marauding destroyer, and how that must make Wenger rue the decision not to chase Toure harder when he had the chance to. With diminutive, yet supremely skillful, midfielders like Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil around, having Toure as their foil to win the ball and give it to others would’ve work wonderfully well in Arsenal’s engine room. And this season the 30-year-old Ivory Coast star has shown he can score goals too, with 21 goals from midfield and most of them of the spectacular variety.

You can’t live in the past, but you just feel that not signing Toure could be one of those decisions that will haunt Wenger until the day he decides to no longer be a manager. On Saturday, will Yaya come back to haunt the team he nearly joined back in ’03?

You just know he will.

STREAM LIVE: West Brom-Palace, Liverpool-Leicester in PL Asia Trophy

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It’s a incredibly early kickoff for the third place game of the Premier League Asia Trophy tournament, at least here in the States, where West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace duke it out at 6 a.m. ET. in Hong Kong.

West Brom lost to Leicester City in its semifinal when youngster Sam Field missed the side’s seventh attempt in penalty kicks. Jay Rodriguez scored the Baggies goal in regulation of a 1-1 draw.

[ LIVE: Stream PL Asia Trophy here ]  

Palace fell 2-0 to Liverpool in its semifinal.

The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)