Three things we learned from Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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LONDON — On Sunday at the Emirates Stadium Chelsea predictably ground out a 0-0 draw at Arsenal to inch closer towards clinching the Premier League title.

[ VIDEO: Oscar taken to hospital ]

In a game which had no goals and numerous talking points — most of them penalty decisions not awarded by the referee — we learned plenty about how resolute Chelsea is and how far the Gunners are from overtaking their London rivals as they aim to make a title surge next season.

[ RELATED: Mourinho wins tactical battle ]

Here are three things we learned from a rambunctious London derby.

ITS HARD TO GET A PK FROM MICHAEL OLIVER

In the first half three, if not four, penalty shouts were waved away by referee Michael Oliver. The first one in the seventh minute, Oscar seemed to embellish the contact with Hector Bellerin slightly as he fell to the ground. The second incident, which resulted in Oscar leaving the Emirates at half time and heading to hospital amid suspected concussion, was the most blatant penalty kick you will see in a long time. Cesc Fabregs (roundly booed on his return to Arsenal by the home fans) dinked in a lovely ball over the top which set Oscar free and as he lobbed the ball over David Ospina, the Colombian goalkeeper cleaned him out in a clattering collision. Bellerin got back to clear the ball off the line, but Oscar was visibly shaken. A third penalty appeal for Chelsea was waved away in the 23rd minute and Fabregas, much to the amusement of the home fans, was booked for simulation. There was definitely contact between Fabregas and Santi Cazorla right on the edge of the box and Fabregas could feel hard done by.

Just as Mourinho was growing more and more incensed on the touchline, Arsenal’s fans were then up in arms as Cazorla’s shot appeared to strike Cahill on the arm as he threw himself in to block the effort. Did Cahill intentionally raise his arm? No. But he did dive in and when you don’t have control of your body, you don’t have control of the situation. Look, referees have a tough job in the PL but Oliver got at least three key decisions wrong on Sunday as at least one penalty kick should’ve been awarded for the horrific of challenge on Oscar.

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How did Oscar not win a penalty?

LACK OF PACE IN FINAL THIRD THWARTS GUNNERS

Sure, Chelsea is a very good defensive side but Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey made it easy for Mourinho’s team with their slow rate of play as everything was far too congested in central areas. The pace of Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott would have helped and Wenger didn’t introduce those players until the final 15 minutes when Arsenal finally got the ball out wide and got in behind the blue wall which had parked itself on their edge of their own penalty box. By then, it was way too late as the Gunners played into Chelsea’s hands and were reduced to just one shot on target in the entire match. Three of Chelsea’s back four were voted in the PFA’s Premier Legaue Team of the Season on Sunday and John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic proved exactly why they are some of the best in European and World soccer.

[ RELATED: Who was snubbed for team of the season? ]

Terry was sublime. His reading of the game totally nullified the threat of Giroud and he won every ball which was clipped into Arsenal’s French forward. Chants of “Boring, Boring Chelsea!” rang out from the home fans towards the end of the game, but that will have been music to the ears of Mourinho and his players as they secured another point and put on another defensive masterclass to inch closer to winning the Premier League title.

“FALSE NINE” A REAL OPTION FOR CHELSEA

The “false nine” experiment only lasted for 45 minutes for Chelsea on Sunday (due to Oscar’s early removal due to a concussion) and although it isn’t ideal, the formation remains a real option for the Blues. With Diego Costa still nursing his hamstring injury, Loic Remy out and Didier Drogba only fit enough for the bench, Mourinho decided to start with Oscar up front and a fluid three of Ramires on the right, Willian in the middle and Eden Hazard on the left underneath him. Their movement, coupled with third-man running from Fabregas or Ramires, worked well and with Chelsea eager to spring counter attacks as Arsenal ran out of ideas in attack, this experiment proved it can be carried out again if Costa or Remy are both missing for a few games next season. Some would argue that Chelsea need to buy another forward this summer but away from home the “false nine” formation works perfectly and helped Chelsea get the draw they needed but also kept an attacking threat.

Gold Cup: Mexico, Canada win to finish 1st, 2nd in Group A (video)

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A roundup of Sunday’s action from the final round of Group A play at the 2019 Gold Cup…

[ WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: France gets by Brazil in ET | England bests Cameroon ]

Martinique 2-3 Mexico

Mexico fought off a valiant effort from a Martinique side which was more than up for the task of taking down CONCACAF’s premier giant before falling just short of securing their first Gold Cup point since 2002 (appeared in four of six tournaments since then). Mexico secured a first-place finish in Group A with a perfect record of nine points from three games and will face the runner-up from Group B, either Costa Rica or Haiti.

Uriel Antuna opened the scoring with a slow-rolling finish in the 29th minute, but Les Matinino drew level through Kevin Parsemain’s stunning, inch-perfect free kick in the 56th.

Raul Jimenez tapped Rodolfo Pizarro’s cross into a wide open goal to put Mexico back in front in the 61st, followed by a third from Fernando Navarro 11 minutes later.

Martinique refused to go away, though, as Seattle Sounders defender Jordy Delem headed home while left criminally unmarked inside the box to cut the lead back to one.

[ COPA AMERICA: Argentina dispatches Qatar to advance (video) ]

Canada 7-0 Cuba

For the second time in three games this tournament, Cuba suffered a 7-0 drubbing — this time at the hands of Canada, who finished second and will face the winner of Group B, either Costa Rica or Haiti.

19-year-old forward Jonathan David, who plays for Belgian side Gent, bagged a hat trick (3rd, 71st and 77th minutes), as did fellow forward Lucas Cavallini (21st, 43rd and 45th), to go with a measly singular goal from Junior Hoilett in the 50th.

Monday’s Gold Cup schedule

Bermuda v. Nicaragua — 6:30 p.m. ET
Costa Rica v. Haiti — 8:30 p.m. ET

Copa America: Argentina dispatches Qatar to advance (video)

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A roundup of Sunday’s action from the final round of Group B play at the 2019 Copa America in Brazil…

[ WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: France gets by Brazil in ET | England bests Cameroon ]

Qatar 0-2 Argentina

Argentina bounced back from a defeat and a draw in their first two games to avoid what would have been an indefensible disaster — failing to advance from the group — by beating Qatar 2-0 in the two sides’ Group B finale.

Lautaro Martinez scored what turned out to be the game-winner after just four minutes. Qatar attempted to play the ball out of the back, but a pass from a Qatari defender was badly mishit and went straight to Martinez, who was quick to corral the ball and run it down for a one-time finish from just inside the box.

Sergio Aguero put the game to bed with a brilliant individual goal in the 82nd minute. After receiving the ball 40 yards from goal, Aguero bust forward and went past two defenders in a flash before picking out a small window to hit with his left-footed finish from 12 yards out.

Up next for Lionel Messi and Co., is a quarterfinal tangle with Venezuela.

Colombia 1-0 Paraguay

Having already secured a place in the quarters, Colombia finished group play with a perfect nine-point record and locked up first place in the group edging past Paraguay.

Gustavo Cuellar bagged the game’s only goal in the 31st minute, when he snuck the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs from an impossibly tight angle.

Colombia finished Group B with three victories, by way of four goals scored and zero goals conceded.

Monday’s Copa America schedule

Chile v. Ecuador — 7 p.m. ET
Ecuador v. Japan — 7 p.m. ET

AFCON: Senegal start with win despite missing Mane

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Senegal reinforced its status as one of the favorites to win the Africa Cup of Nations by starting its campaign in Egypt with a 2-0 win over Tanzania on Sunday.

Senegal didn’t miss forward Sadio Mane, who was suspended for the game, as it opened with a solid display in Cairo.

Playing just his second competitive game for his country, Krepin Diatta powered in a shot from outside the penalty area to make it 2-0 midway through the second half. Senegal would have won the Group C game by much more if it had been just a little sharper in front of goal.

Tanzania goalkeeper Aishi Manula also helped keep the score down.

Keita Balde got the first goal in the 28th minute after finishing off an intricate attack – which swept from one side of the field to the other – by driving his shot into the bottom corner.

Mane missed the game with a suspension for two yellow cards he received in qualifying.

Senegal, host Egypt and Nigeria are seen as the strongest contenders for the title, although Senegal has played more African Cups (15) than any other team without winning the championship.

Senegal is the No. 1 team in Africa while Tanzania is the second-lowest ranked team at the tournament. It’s making just its second appearance at the African Cup and first since 1981.

Also in Group C, Riyad Mahrez scored the second goal as Algeria began its campaign with a 2-0 win over Kenya, which qualified for the first time since 2004.

Baghdad Bounedjah slotted a penalty for Algeria after Aissa Mandi cut into the area from the right flank and was sliced down. Mahrez added the second before halftime. His first-time shot from a cross was heading for the bottom right corner of the Kenyan net, deflected off a defender, and ended up in the bottom left.

Content with 2-0, Algeria shut the game down in the second half and had little trouble in holding off the Kenyans.

But meetings with minnows have provided early headaches for some of the other top teams in the first three days of action in Egypt. The home team struggled to break down Zimbabwe, Uganda surprised Congo 2-0 and Nigeria needed a late goal to finally beat tournament debutant Burundi, the lowest-ranked team to make it to Egypt. Guinea was held 2-2 by Madagascar, another team making its first appearance.

The trend continued in Sunday’s first game. Morocco got lucky and escaped with a 1-0 victory over Namibia in Group D when Itamunua Keimune scored an own goal in the 89th minute.

“The first game is always difficult,” Morocco’s M’barak Boussoufa said. “We are happy to win, even by a slim margin.”

Striker Keimune was at the wrong end of the field and trying to clear a free kick from Hakim Ziyech. Apparently uncertain whether to kick or head the ball, all he did was divert it into his own net with a minute to go. Bitterly disappointed, Namibia’s players slumped to the ground at the final whistle and were consoled by members of their coaching staff.

“We deserved a draw,” Namibia coach Ricardo Manetti said.

The Morocco-Namibia group is arguably the toughest at the African Cup, with 2015 champion Ivory Coast and South Africa the other two teams. They meet on Monday.

Morocco plays Ivory Coast in its next game, when Morocco coach Herve Renard comes up against the country he coached to the title in 2015.

“We have to get ready for that,” Renard said.

Abraham, Chelsea youngsters ‘buzzing’ for chance amid transfer ban

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Chelsea has never been a club known for building a first-team squad full of young players from the club’s youth academy — at least not in the Roman Abramovich era — but the Blues will have no choice other than to rely upon a handful of youngsters amid the club’s season-long transfer ban.

[ MORE: Pulisic admits hint of satisfying revenge in win over T&T ]

The prospect of regular playing time — even under such circumstances — has the likes of 21-year-old forward Tammy Abraham, among others, “buzzing” at the chance to make their mark and secure an important place at the club for the foreseeable future. There’s also the matter of hiring a new manager ahead of the 2019-20 season, which will afford every player, young or old, a clean slate — quotes from the Guardian:

“This year is the most important year for us. It is now or never. There will never be a better time to play the youngsters. Of course the transfer ban is probably not what the club wanted, but for us it is exciting. I am excited and I am sure the rest of the players are.

“There is a great chance for us young players, so we must get our heads down in training and go for it at Chelsea. I have already been talking to the club about preseason. I’m going to have a couple of weeks and then come back hitting the ground running. There is no better time for a young player to be at Chelsea. I am going to give it my all. With a new manager coming in, there is no better time to show what I am made of in preseason. I am just buzzing at the thought of the new season.”

It’s obviously a bit odd to hear a player speak so positively, and freely, about something as bleak as a transfer ban – especially when you consider the decaying state of Chelsea’s current squad — but perhaps more so is the disconnect which appears to exist between the club’s academy setup and the folks who sanction expensive transfer after expensive transfer rather than giving those young players a chance.

Abraham, who spent last season on loan at Aston Villa and scored 25 goals in the EFL Championship, sees himself, and anyone else who gets a chance due to the transfer ban, as potential agents of change for future classes of academy kids.

“Maybe it will change. Hopefully. Chelsea has always had a great academy. They have lacked playing them and taking them to the next level. You see the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who on the borderline have done that. We have excellent players still there and coming through who are still Chelsea players so fingers crossed if it all goes well it changes the mindset. I got thousands of messages from Chelsea fans on Instagram saying play him, play him. It is nice to have that behind you, knowing the supporters have your back. They believe in you as well. Clearly I was doing something right. Fingers crossed it all happens.”