Getty Images

Wenger hits out about Chelsea’s first goal; Bellerin update

Leave a comment

LONDON — Arsene Wenger cut a frustrated figure high up in the stand at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things learned

Serving the third match of his four-game touchline ban, he TV cameras often panned to Arsenal’s manager struggling to get messages down to this assistant coaches on the bench.

In truth, even if he was on the touchline it wouldn’t have made much difference.

[ MORE: Conte reacts to victory ]

Arsenal put in an inept defensive display and now trail Premier League leaders Chelsea by 12 points with 14 games to go.

But should Marcos Alonso‘s goal, which set them on their way to a fifth-straight home victory over Arsenal in the league, have been disallowed for a foul on Hector Bellerin?

“Of course it was a foul,” Wenger said bluntly. “But he allowed the goal and after that, I feel we started well, but after that it was a much more difficult task because we were 1-0 down and Chelsea is very strong at defending and very good on transition in counter attack. We paid for that.”

The decision to take Bellerin off, who looked extremely dazed, came very quickly and Wenger has called for more fouls given for aerial battles. He also confirmed that Bellerin was confused after suffering the blow to his face from Alonso’s elbow and “didn’t know what the score was” as he walked off the pitch.

“The decision was for me very quick but you have to respect that, it’s the head,” Wenger said. “One of the particularities of the games today is that referees are much more severe with tackles on the ground and let more go with elbows in the face. It is not only today but in many, many games I see that. It is more dangerous to hit in the head than in the legs.”

Bellerin’s injury aside, Wenger admitted that plenty of his players weren’t up to their usual levels at Stamford Bridge.

Asked if Arsenal’s slim title chances are now over, he wouldn’t throw the towel in and said he would be focusing on the next game.

“We were maybe not good enough in possession to get our game more dangerous. We lost many balls in positions where you can’t afford to lose it when you play against a team who is good on counter attack. Overall, look at all their shots. Our goalkeeper didn’t have a lot to save today, even if I concede we did not create a lot in the final third. It was the kind of game Chelsea loves and they mastered it very well.”

What about Chelsea, are they the champions elect?

“They look at the moment in full confidence, powerful, strong, they don’t concede goals. It’s theirs to lose. They are in the best position. They don’t play in Europe. They can wait every week for the next game and prepare properly. They are in a very, very strong position.”

Arsenal are not.

After a fourth defeat in nine games in the Premier League they are now embroiled in a battle for a top four finish. Arsenal has 47 points, with Tottenham on 47 points, plus Liverpool and Manchester City on 46 points ahead of the later games in Week 23.

That means one of those giants won’t finish in the top four and given Arsenal’s back-to-back defeats and slack defensive display at Chelsea, the Gunners will be looking over their shoulders nervously.

With Wenger’s contract running up in the summer, plus the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil (both of whom had off days) up in the air. There’s a massive few months coming up in Arsenal’s future.

Honduras holds Costa Rica 1-1

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
Leave a comment

Honduras did the United States a favor by taking a point from visiting Costa Rica in Tuesday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula.

Anthony Lozano pushed a 35th minute chance past an indecisive Keylor Navas, as Los Catrachos set the stage for a hopeful three points.

[ STREAM: T&T-Mexico, Panama-USMNT ]

Vancouver Whitecaps center back Kendall Waston’s haphazard defending helped allow the goal, but he scored off a late Costa Rica corner kick to ensure Costa Rica will finish the international break in second place.

With four points, Honduras moves ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States before both sides play Tuesday.

Costa Rica beat the U.S. 4-0 in 2016, while the Yanks battered Honduras 6-0 on Friday.

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

Leave a comment

France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?

Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina in World Cup qualifying

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
Leave a comment

Argentina took steps backward Tuesday in its pursuit of a 2018 World Cup berth, on and off the field.

It started as Lionel Messi was suspended four matches for verbally abusing a referee in Argentina’s Friday win over Chile.

Then La Albiceleste made another move in reverse with a shocking 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. Argentina started Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the bench in what many presumed to be an easy win.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins scored as ninth-place La Verde picked up its third win of qualifying with a win over powerful Argentina.

The bad news kept coming for Argentina (and Everton), as Ramiro Funes Mori left the match in the 36th minute with injury.

Bolivia will finish the international break at least 10 points back of the playoff spot, while Argentina could finish as low as that fifth-place spot.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
Leave a comment

CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.