Tim Sherwood’s week just got a lot worse. After a weekend drubbing by Chelsea and fallout that saw the Tottenham Hotspur manager question his squad’s commitment, Thursday’s Europa League action dealt Sherwood’s team another blow. Losing 3-1 to Benfica at White Hart Lane, Spurs may be down to the last 90 minutes in their European season.
That time will come next week at the Estadio de Luz. Today, England’s fifth place club dug themselves a potentially inescapable hole, giving up three away goals in the teams’ first Round of 16 leg.
Former Bolton loanee Rodrigo opened the scoring in the 29th minute, with veteran defender Luisãõ adding two goals in the second half. Though Cristian Eriksen’s 64th minute score briefly brought Sherwood’s side within two, Luisão’s second six minutes from time restored Benfica’s edge.
The result may represent a blessing for Tottenham, with the likes of Harry Kane and Kyle Naughton brought into the team ahead of a weekend derby with Arsenal. Having Europa League off the schedule could certainly simplify any lingering desire to finish fourth.
Liverpool’s surge up the Premier League standings means that’s a bit of a pipe dream, perhaps explaining why most of Sherwood’s regulars were in the starting XI. Heading into the game, Europa League was the team’s best chance at silverware this season, a goal they could pursue without worrying about a meaningful slip in the Premier League. Odds are, Spurs will be back in Europa against next year.
After Thursday’s game, that hope of silverware may be done. The team will need to score at least three times in Portugal to account for the away goals edge Benfica has built. Having been outscored 7-1 over the last 180 minutes, it’s unclear Tottenham’s capable of doing that.
- Ludogorets (Bulgaria) 0, Valencia 3 (Spain) – Los Che were up within five minutes through Antonio Barragán but needed a first half penalty save from Diego Alves to maintain that advantage. Goals from Fede Cartabia and Philippe Senderos against 10 men helped Valencia leave Sofia with a decisive edge.
- Porto (Portugal) 1, Napoli (Italy) 0 – Jackson Martínez put the Dragons in front off a second half corner, though Rafa Benítez won’t be too disappointed to get out of Portugal down one.
- Basel (Switzerland) 0, Salzburg (Austria) 0 – The Swiss champions survive after being outshot 15-8 (8-3, shots on target).
- Juventus (Italy) 1, Fiorentina (Italy) 1 – Arturo Vial’s third minute opener was pulled back by Mario Gomez, with the German international scoring in a substitute’s role to send the tie back to Florence even.
- AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) 1, Anzhi Makhachkala (Russia) 0 – A 29th minute penalty converted by U.S. international Aron Johannsson gave last year’s Dutch Cup winners a slight edge before a second leg in Dagestan.
- Sevilla (Spain) 0, Real Betis (Spain) 2 – La Liga’s last place team pulled off the upset thanks to goals on either side of halftime from Baptistão and substitute Sevilla, giving the Verdiblancos a two-goal edge despite seeing only 30 percent of the ball.
- Lyon (France) 4, Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 1 – A surprisingly impressive performance from Lyon saw three assists from Steed Malbranque and goals from Gueïda Fofana (two), Alexandre Lacazette, and Arnold Mvuemba give it the day’s highest goal total.
A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…
[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]
Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.
Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.
Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.
Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.
Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.
Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.
[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]
Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach — quotes from the BBC:
“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.
“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.
“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”
In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.
Given two key factors — the date on the calendar and how far apart the two sides appear to be in their respective valuations — it’s looking increasingly likely that Romelu Lukaku will still be a Manchester United player when the upcoming Premier League season starts, despite numerous bids by Inter Milan this summer.
[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]
According to reports out of the UK, Man United have rejected Inter’s latest bid, said to be for $67.5 million. The Red Devils paid $96 million for the big Belgian forward just two summers ago and appear hellbent on recouping most, if not all, of their investment.
Antonio Conte called Lukaku “an important player for us” this week in an attempt to further unsettle the 26-year-old, but that doesn’t appear to have shaken United’s resolve in holding out for the fee they desire.
[ MORE: Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final ]
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is growing tired of answering questions about the saga, especially since there has been little to no progress made in recent days and weeks. When pressed on the topic again this week, he said he had “no more updates.”
The 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy wrapped up on Saturday, as four PL sides took the field in Shanghai, China…
[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 (3-2 PKs) Man City
Wolves turned in a fantastic defensive display against the two-time reigning PL champions, indicating that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side is very much ready for the start of the season. Man City had plenty of the ball in dangerous areas, but Wolves were quick to close off the passages when City typically dominate.
Wolves captain Conor Coady was part of the stellar defensive performance and he lauded some of the young players who entered the game as second-half substitutes and saw the game out to 0-0.
“To beat City at any point is a great accomplishment for us,” he said after the game. “We rode our luck at times but I thought the young boys were outstanding”
David Silva had perhaps the game’s best scoring chance in the 78th minute, but Rui Patricio made a top-drawer save to deny the Spaniard’s curling effort at the last possible moment.
Silva and Ilkay Gundogan began the penalty shootout with back-to-back efforts saved by Patricio. 20-year-old forward Lukas Nmecha was also denied on City’s fifth and final attempt.
Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United
Newly appointed head coach Steve Bruce watched as an observer, due to “the terms of his visa,” as his Newcastle side beat Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham 1-0 in the third-place playoff.
Yoshinori Muto bagged the game’s only goal in the 34th minute. Jamie Sterry whipped in a cross from the right wing that curled around a pair of defenders at the near post and presented itself to Muto, still with plenty of work to do, for a first-time finish.