Arsenal 1 – Aston Villa 3: Benteke penalties sink Gunners (Video)

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Arsenal scored early but defensive mistakes in the box cost them as Christian Benteke buried two penalties and gave Aston Villa a shock 3-1 win on the road at the Emirates.

Olivier Giroud began the scoring in just the 6th minute when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sprinted down the touchline before cutting back behind the defense and hitting Giroud who was free in the middle.  The French striker used just one touch to direction the ball perfectly to the far post past Brad Guzan.

Guzan barely escaped a chance for Arsenal to go 2 up when the American spilled the ball outside of the net, and it fell to Theo Walcott with an empty net but his cross to the front of goal found a Villa defender.

Christian Benteke then pulled Villa level when Wojciech Szczesny was forced to bring down Gabriel Agbonlahor in the box.  Agbonlahor shot a ball ahead through the defense, and trailing his touch all by himself, Szczseny had no choice.  Szczesny saved Benteke’s original penalty, but the ball came back to the Belgian and he headed in the rebound.  It was a superb performance by Agbonlahor on the day, who ran the thin Arsenal defense ragged.

Szczesny did exactly the same as Guzan before in the 36th minute, deciding to play as an outfield player outside of the box and almost allowed Villa to pull ahead, but the defenders held in time for the Polish keeper to make his way back and make a pretty-looking diving save.

Arsenal continued to build from Jack Wilshire in the midfield in the second half as the game got chippy.  Yellow cards began to fly, and Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny brought down Agbonlahor to give away a second penalty. Benteke buried this one for the lead. Arsenal will believe they’ve been harshly judged, as Koscielny went in hard but did get a foot on the ball before bringing Agbonlahor down.

Koscielny then had insult added to injury when he barely made contact with Andreas Weimann but the winger went down anyways and drew Koscielny’s second yellow.  Arsenal still managed to keep attacking. Santi Cazorla banged a 79th minute shot into the ground and it came up and ricocheted off the crossbar.  Bacary Sagna went down hard in added time, making Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s headaches even worse for after the match.

When Arsenal threw everything forward, they continued to come close, but it bit them in the end as a counter fell to Antonio Luna who buried the one-on-one breakaway past Szczesny to secure the result on his club debut.

The Arsenal fans came down hard on Wenger at the end of the match, berating him for having made no moves so far in the transfer window.

Lineups

Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny; Bacary Sagna (Lukas Podolski, 90′), Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs (Carl Jenkinson, 28′); Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshire; Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Santi Cazorla, 45′), Aaron Ramsey; Olivier Giroud.

Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Nathan Baker (Ciaran Clark, 17′), Ron Vlaar, Antonio Luna, Matthew Lowton; Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph; Andreas Weimann (Leandro Bacuna, 88′), Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke.

Reaction

Arsene Wenger: “I didn’t like the spirit with which he [Anthony Taylor] refereed this game,” Wenger fumed. “That for me is the most worrying thing, more than the decisions he made. I was quite amazed how stubborn his behaviour was through the whole game. I was really amazed. I can’t fault the spirit of the team. Everything went against us. Injuries, decisions and we had a bit of bad luck.”

Wenger: “I want our fans to be happy and proud of their team and when we lost at home, I just have to be sorry.”

Villa captain Ron Vlaar: “I thought maybe I could have got a second yellow but I was standing there and I couldn’t just disappear out of nothing. It’s a little bit silly to get two yellows for obstruction and the second yellow for Laurent Koscielny, I don’t know if that was one. But it’s his [Taylor’s] decision and that’s not the reason we won the game.”

Berhalter made almost as much as Ellis in first few months

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NEW YORK (AP) American men’s soccer coach Gregg Berhalter earned nearly as much from the U.S. Soccer Federation in his first four months as women’s counterpart Jill Ellis took home in 12.

[ MORE: Messi says Barcelona is “home,” but he “sees weird things happening” ]

Berhalter, hired on Dec. 2, 2018, had compensation of $304,113 from the USSF in the year ending last March 31, according to the tax return released by the federation on Wednesday. That figure included a $200,000 signing bonus.

Ellis, who became women’s coach in May 2014, had compensation of $390,409 in the fiscal year. She went on to lead the Americans to their second straight World Cup title, was voted FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year, then left in October. Any bonus she earned as a result of the title likely will be listed on the next year’s tax return.

Her base salary was raised to $500,000 in late 2018, a person with knowledge of her contract told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the USSF has not announced that.

The USSF has said she was the highest-paid women’s coach in the world.

Tab Ramos, who was the men’s under-20 team coach before leaving in October to become coach of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, outearned Ellis with compensation of $460,772.

Ellis did earn more than Earnie Stewart ($291,667), hired as men’s general manager in June 2018, and Dave Sarachan ($241,869), interim men’s national team coach from October 2017 until Berhalter was hired.

[ MORE: Guardiola will not leave Man City: “Truth will prevail” ]

Jürgen Klinsmann, fired as men’s coach in November 2016, was paid $1,475,000 on Feb. 1, 2018. He received $3,354,167 in the year ending March 31, 2018.

Bruce Arena, who replaced Klinsmann and led the men’s team through its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup , was not listed on the latest return. He received $1,249,348 in the year ending March 31, 2018, which included what was listed on that return as a $300,000 settlement.

Earnings were listed for several of the players on the U.S. women team, including Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd (both $313,390), Crystal Dunn ($312,142), Lindsey Horan ($304,142) and Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Megan Rapinoe (all $304,140).

Their salaries ranged from $164,642 to $171,140 and include $100,000 for time with the national team. The remainder is what the federation pays for the time with clubs in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Bonuses were from $133,000 to $146,000 and include per match fees and the payment for qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.

Women’s national team players have filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the USSF that is scheduled for trial starting May 5 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The top two salaries of the administrative staff were chief executive officer Dan Flynn ($899,440) and chief commercial and strategy officer Jay Berhalter ($779,765), the coach’s brother. Flynn retired in September and the federation said Jay Berhalter is leaving at the end of February.

Messi says Barcelona is ‘home,’ but he ‘sees weird things happening’

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Lionel Messi is not sure what to make of recent allegations that Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is responsible a social media campaign which set out to criticize the club’s top players while also aiming to rebuild his own reputation.

[ MORE: Pep’s not-so-subtle warning to Barcelona: “Don’t talk too loudly” ]

Messi once again called Barcelona his “home,” though he also admitted that he “sees weird things happening,” presumably referring to statements made in recent months and weeks by members of the Barca hierarchy, including Bartomeu and sporting director Eric Abidal.

For a club of Barcelona’s size and stature to be airing this much dirty laundry for the world to see is certainly weird, to say the least. Messi sounds like he’s desperate to remain at the club and finish his career there, though it’s beginning to sound as if certain individuals have other ideas — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was a little surprised because I was not present, I was traveling. When I arrived, I discovered it all bit by bit. The president told us the same things he said in public, the same things he said at a press conference — what was the situation, what had happened. And I cannot say more.

“The truth is that I see weird things happening. But, it was also said that there would be evidence. We will have to wait to see if it is true or not. We can’t say much and we have to wait and see what happens. Frankly, the subject seems strange to me.”

“I love Barcelona, although I miss Rosario very much.

“This is my home, I was here longer than in Argentina. I love Barcelona, the place where I live, Castelldefels, and I live a life that I like very much.”

Pep’s not-so-subtle warning to Barcelona: ‘Don’t talk too loudly’

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Manchester City and Pep Guardiola are currently neck-deep in legal troubles after UEFA handed the Premier League side a two-year European ban last week, leading a handful of clubs and figures from around the continent to delight over their current predicament.

[ MORE: Guardiola will not leave Man City: “Truth will prevail” ]

Guardiola’s message for those folks, including some longtime friends and former co-workers at Barcelona? Essentially, don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

Earlier this week, allegations were made that Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who voiced his full support of the punishment handed down by UEFA, was involved in a campaign to bash a number of key players and figures at the club while also attempting to boost his own reputation.

“I don’t know if they spy me, but they know me. It is not necessary to spy me. If they are happy we are suspended, I say to the president of Barcelona, give us two appeals. I ask right now the people trust what they have done. Don’t talk too [loudly], Barcelona. That is my advice because everybody is involved in situations. We are going to appeal and hopefully in the future we can play Champions League against Barcelona.”

Players ‘absolutely dead’: Mourinho finds no faults in Spurs’ performance

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Jose Mourinho can find few, if any, faults in Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-0 defeat to RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday, as he is simply making do with the very limited and exhausted tools presently at his disposal.

[ MORE: Spurs fall under nonstop pressure from RB Leipzig (video) ]

“[Lucas] Moura was absolutely dead, [Steven] Bergwijn was absolutely dead, [Giovani] Lo Celso was absolutely dead,” Mourinho said as he ran through the list of players forced to play all 90 minutes despite desperately needing a reprieve.

Given his side’s current injury list — Harry Kane, Son-Heung Min, Moussa Sissoko and Juan Foyth are all out, while Lo Celso, Erik Lamela and Ben Davies have only just returned to the team in recent days — Mourinho was emphatic in stating his players “did everything they could do” — quotes from the BBC:

“What do you mean by ‘the real Spurs?’ Come on, let’s be loyal to the boys and tell them they did everything they could do.

“Lamela — you know how many training sessions with the team? Zero. Direct from injury to recovery with physios and then direct to 20 minutes in the Champions League.

“There are two perspectives — an amazing group and amazing guys, but another side you see how we are at the moment. It’s a situation like going to fight with a gun without bullets.

“You can say we had luck in some moments, but a great goalkeeper made two magnificent saves. I’m not worried with the 1-0. We can go there and win. What worries me is that these are our players for the next however many matches.

“Moura was absolutely dead, Bergwijn was absolutely dead, Lo Celso was absolutely dead. We are really in trouble. If it was just this game I’d say no problem but we have FA Cup and Premier League games.

“I know Lamela could only give us 20 minutes and I knew Ndombele could not play for 90 minutes. I tried to manage the pieces I had. Don’t tell me Lamela and Ndombele could have started the game, they couldn’t have started the game.

“Here we go, Chelsea [Spurs’ opponent at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday], drinking sparkling water with lemon. Saturday morning [looking at the interviewer — the game was moved for television coverage] — thank you very much for the choice.”

Tottenham’s recent “winter break” was reduce from 14 to 10 days when they were forced to face Southampton in a fourth-round FA Cup replay two weeks ago today.