Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Fulham: Whites’ hope fading fast (video)

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Fulham remain two points from safety – and that’s before Norwich and West Brom have taken to the pitch. By the time the weekend is out, the Whites’ hopes may be very bleak indeed. Tottenham, meanwhile, move to within four points of fourth, but that faint dream hinges on whether Arsenal can beat Hull City on Sunday.

For the first ten minutes or so, it looked like Fulham might actually pull off a win, lifting themselves out of danger – at least, temporarily. Not two minutes had passed before Alex Kačaniklić barreled down the right and got himself behind the Spurs defense, but he put his strike just wide. Less than a minute later, Hugo Rodallega also had no trouble getting behind the hosts’ back line, but couldn’t get a decent shot in.

(Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win)

Tottenham began working their way into the match, but had difficulty putting their shots on target. Harry Kane’s headed pass found Younes Kaboul free just in front of goal, but the defender’s header hit the top of the net. Soon after, Spurs very nearly took the lead after David Stockdale pushed away Christian Erikson’s cross. Aaron Lennon took advantage, volleying in the rebound, but Stockdale pushed the shot into the post and allowed his defense to mop up the danger.

The breakthrough finally came in the 35th minute. A lovely free kick from Erikson floated invitingly over to the far post, where Paulinho was waiting. With no Fulham players nearby, the Brazilian had no difficulty sidefooting it in from about three feet out.

Fulham, conscious of their need for all three points, responded quickly. Steve Sidwell, running through the heart of the Spurs’ defense, attepted a little 1-2 with Kačaniklić. Instead it was Tottenham defender Zeki Freyers that helped him out, providing the ball that Sidwell knocked in for the equalizer – just 90 seconds after the hosts had taken the lead.

Spurs re-took the lead just minutes after the restart. Lennon had no trouble getting past a host of white shirts to send his cross into the area. Kane slipped past Jonny Heitinga, getting his head to the ball to flick it past Stockdale and into the back of the net. That made three goals in three starts for the young forward.

History almost repeated itself two minutes later, with Rodallega going dangerously close with a header. Hugo Lloris got a hand to it, however, tipping over the bar to preserve the Tottenham lead.

In a great show of self-awareness, Tottenham decided to pad their lead just a bit, taking a 3-1 advantage in the 62nd minute. Again the impetus came from an Eriksen free kick. The Dane whipped in a fast one, Kaboul got away from his marker, and the ball came off the defenders knee to land in the back of the net.

With fifteen minutes left to go, it looked as though that extra goal would be vital. Eriksen stuck out a hand to stop Rodallega from flicking the ball forward, providing Fulham with a penalty. Sidwell, looking for his ninth Premier League goal of the season, demanded to take it. The midfielder sent in a powerful shot, but it was straight at Lloris, who had no trouble saving.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Chadli (Dembele 67), Paulinho, Eriksen (Townsend 84); Adebayor, Kane (Soldado 79)

Goals: Paulinho 35′; Kane 48′; Kaboul 62

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga (Zverotić 66), Amorebieta, Hangeland, Riise; Kvist, Sidwell, Parker (Karagounis 56); Dejagah, Rodallega, Kačaniklić

Goals: Sidwell 37′

FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA has extended the age limit for the men’s soccer tournament at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The amended Olympic rule on Friday retains the “players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997” standard for the Tokyo Games following a one-year postponement agreed last week by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities.

It means players eligible for the intended under-23 tournament in 2020 can still play in Japan at age 24 next year. Men’s soccer kicks off ahead of the July 23, 2021 opening ceremony in Tokyo.

FIFA also postponed two women’s age-group World Cups due this year in Central America and India, and confirmed no international games for men and women will be played in the early June dates protected for national team call-ups.

Soccer’s world body said “health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times.”

The Olympic decision was made by a FIFA panel of soccer officials worldwide, created to address the soccer shutdown during the health crisis.

The 16 men’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics next year can also select three over-age players in their rosters. A stellar lineup includes Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.

Two women’s World Cup tournaments — the Under-20s hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and the Under-17s in India in November — are postponed. No new dates were announced.

[ MORE: Report: Serie A could resume training May 2, games late in month ]

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, national team games scheduled in June included the 2020 European Championship, World Cup qualifying games in South America and Asia, and qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

After Euro 2020 was postponed for one year, UEFA hoped to schedule playoff games in June to confirm the last four places in a 24-nation lineup. Those playoffs were postponed indefinitely this week.

World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar now face uncertain scheduling in a congested calendar in Europe, South America and Asia.

FIFA said on Friday it would “organize bilateral discussions” with continental governing bodies “to finalize a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments.”

FIFA plans to direct hundreds of millions of dollars from its cash reserves to support a global emergency fund, and has agreed to appoint one official from each of the six soccer continents to coordinate the work.

Arsenal want season completed ‘to maintain integrity’ of PL

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Arsenal remain in support of finishing the 2019-20 season in order to “to maintain the integrity” of the competition, despite Friday’s unanimous vote that the Premier League cannot resume at the start of May as previously hoped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Gunners, who currently sit ninth in the PL table with 10 games left to play (one more than the majority of clubs around them), were five points back of fifth-place Manchester United for qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League thanks to Manchester City’s two-year European ban.

In a statement released on Friday, Arsenal reiterated their stance that the current season should be played to completion rather than called to completion at things stand or abandoned altogether.

We are in full support of the objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches from the 2019-20 season to be played, in order to maintain the integrity of each competition.

We also fully agree with the principle that any return to action will only be with the full backing of government and when medical guidance allows.

The restart date is under constant review as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we continue to work together with all stakeholders through this very challenging time

Premier League rivalries: The Merseyside derby

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While the Merseyside derby has been dominated by one side of late, that has not detracted from the spectacle of the most historic matchup in English top flight history.

Uninterrupted in top flight play since 1962/63, the two sides are situated less than a mile apart, with the proximity feeding an already intense matchup.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Despite the incredibly close geographic proximity, the derby is sometimes known as the “Friendly Derby” as there are often families with split allegiances. Still, the matchup has the most red cards in Premier League history with 21, including 17 of those in the especially heated timeframe between 1997 and 2008.

Unfortunately for Everton, the rivalry has become one-sided over the past decade, with the Toffees failing to win since October of 2010. Liverpool has won 11 of the 21 games, with the other 10 ending in a draw. That has somewhat deescalated the vicious nature of the matchup, especially since Liverpool has gone on to become one of the most formidable sides in Europe over the past few years while Everton continues to challenge for a top-half place in the league.

Still, the 228 all-time matches between the clubs continues to fuel one of the great matchups in the English domestic landscape, and sooner or later this rivalry will regain its venom to bring the bite back to this matchup.

Bayern Munich signs coach Flick as permanent boss

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Bayern Munich has locked down interim head coach Hansi Flick as permanent boss, signing the 55-year-old on through the summer of 2023, the club announced on Friday.

Flick took over on an interim basis for Niko Kovac when the Croatian was let go in early November with the club fourth in the Bundesliga table. He impressed during his time as interim manager, leading the club back to the top of the table thanks in large part to a current 11-match league unbeaten run that features 10 wins and a draw.

That streak includes a 0-0 draw with then-second placed RB Leipzig that kept Bayern atop the table, plus a dominant 5-0 win over then-fifth placed Schalke. Successive 2-1 defeats to Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen are the only real blemishes on his record in charge so far, coming way back in late November and early December.

“I’m looking forward to taking on the upcoming tasks along with my staff and the team,” Flick said in the official team release. “The talks with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidžić were very good and in a spirit of good faith. We’ve determined the direction for the upcoming years. I’m sure we can achieve a lot together.”

Flick has also kept the club’s pristine Champions League record alive this season, with wins over Red Star Belgrade, Tottenham, and Chelsea by a combined 12-1 scoreline. The 3-0 first-leg win over Chelsea in the Round of 16 has the club primed to reach the quarterfinal round should the competition eventually resume.

Speaking to Flick’s adaptability, he also kept the club rolling in the recent absence of in-form striker Robert Lewandowski, working 6-0 and 2-0 wins over Hoffenheim and Augsburg without his lead frontman who began a long absence with a broken tibia.

“Bayern are very satisfied with Hansi Flick’s work,” said Bayern’s chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the release. “The team has had a very good development under him, plays attractive football which is reflected in results. We are the only club still competing in all three competitions.”

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic added, “Hansi and I know in which direction we want to develop the team. We believe that Hansi is also the right head coach for the current time.”