Three things we learned from Tottenham vs. West Brom

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion drew 1-1 at White Hart Lane on Monday with Spurs’ title hopes fading.

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Craig Dawson scored at both ends as his equalizer 20 minutes from time means a Leicester City win at Manchester United on Sunday would win the Foxes the title.

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Spurs trail the Foxes by seven points with three games to go and Leicester now needs just one win from their final three games to win the title.

Here’s what we learned from a chilly, and ultimately disappointing night, for the home side at White Hart Lane.


ENIGMATIC ALLI

When the replays started coming through, it didn’t surprise me.

Dele Alli, 20, was crowned the PFA Young Player of the Year on Sunday. On Monday he played well in flashes but was subbed out in the second half. It is likely Alli will not play again this season.

The England international who has taken the PL by storm let himself down in a big way. In the first half he landed a sneaky punch into the stomach of Claudio Yacob, who he was going at it with the entire game. Nobody in the ground saw it. Yacob didn’t really claim because he is perhaps the ultimate master of the dark arts in the PL. However, alternate camera angles caught the incident and if referee Mike Jones doesn’t include the incident in his match report then the English FA can retrospectively ban Alli for violent conduct. Alli has lashed out this season and plays on the edge and I can recall one flashpoint in the Europa League at Fiorentina which Mauricio Pochettino scolded him for. His days in the lower leagues should have prepared him for the treatment and kicks Yacob gave him.

Chelsea’s Diego Costa received a three-game retrospective ban for something similar earlier this season when he clashed with Arsenal’s Gabriel. I’d be shocked if the FA doesn’t intervene and ban Alli for the final three games of the campaign. That would be another big blow in Spurs’ now fragile title hopes.

SPURS SQUANDER CHANCES, TITLE

This turned out to be the night Tottenham chucked away any chance they had of winning the Premier League title.

Spurs were rampant early on as Christian Erisken had a free kick tipped around the post, then Kane combined beautifully with Alli who shimmed and slotted his England teammate in. Boaz Myhill tipped Kane’s shot onto the post but it was a sign of things to come. Eriksen’s curling, dipping free kick clipped the top of the bar and although West Brom grew into the game, the opening goal for Spurs was inevitable.Erik Lamela won the free kick and Dawson bundled the ball into his own net. Relief was in the air at White Hart Lane as the home fans sensed it was going to be “one of those nights” for the home side.

Lamela then hit the post in the second half as Spurs pushed to try and make it 2-0, but then West Brom came roaring back. First Salomon Rondon headed inches wide, then his blast was tipped over by Lloris and from the resulting corner Dawson rose above Dier and Lloris to head home. Silence at the Lane. The home fans tried to rally their team but a resolute West Brom held on for a point and looked more likely to grab a winner.

With three games to go, Spurs must pick up at least seven points and hope Leicester lose all three of their remaining games. Tottenham’s title dream seems all but over.

DEBONAIR DEMBELE

Moussa Dembele controls the ball like he has glass feet. His delicate cushioning of the ball, the way he caresses and pushes it around midfield gets Spurs going and keeps them ticking over. The Belgian midfielder, 28, is enjoying a superb season alongside Eric Dier and those two, combined with the back four and Hugo Lloris showed once again why they’re clearly the best defensive unit in the Premier League. Okay, Lloris and Dier didn’t cover themselves in glory when Dawson headed home, but they have the best defense in the PL for a reason with just 25 goals conceded. Dembele is a big part of that.

A few months ago I got the chance to chat with Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele at Tottenham’s training ground. Those three all came through the Germinial Beerschot youth team in northern Belgium and their comfort alongside one another is clear.

Chatting with Alderweireld, I asked him about Dembele and he raved about his Belgian teammate.

“I think he is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League,” Alderweireld said of Dembele. “He is very strong and it is difficult to be strong and technical. He has both. I think if he is not getting injured again then he will be a massive player for us. He can give even more to the team if he is healthy and I think the game against Liverpool was a massive game from him. I hope he can show it now every week because he deserves it. He works very hard and is a very good guy. I really hope he can show it more because he is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.”

Well, Toby, it’s hard to disagree with that.

Dembele was at his swaggering best on Monday with tricks and flicks bamboozling West Brom’s midfielders and a sublime flick to get away from his marker in the first caused orgasmic cries from those close-by at White Hart Lane.

Dembele arrived at White Hart Lane for $22 million and in the last three campaigns he’s been in and out of the team but has made at 44, 43, 39 and now 33 appearances in all competitions. Dembele isn’t just knocking the ball around and protecting the back four either. He is making a difference in getting Spurs going from midfield to attack. He’s scored four goals this season. He scored five in his previous three seasons combined.

While Alli, Kane and Eriksen may get the plaudits, Dembele has truly been one of the unsung heroes humming along week in, week out. It’s no wonder why his teammates call him one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. Very soon everybody else will start to realize it.

Brighton’s Potter joins Howe in taking voluntary pay cut

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Brighton and Hove Albion boss Graham Potter has joined club chief executive Paul Barber and technical director Dan Ashworth in taking a voluntary pay cut for the next three months.

The trio said the decision was made to support chairman Tony Bloom’s “significant efforts to protect all jobs at our club and charity.”

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Clubs all over the world have been furloughing workers if not laying them off altogether as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on club finances.

On Thursday, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe became the first Premier League manager to take a voluntary pay cut. The clubs were also together in a prior initiative to reward medical workers.

Here’s Potter, via  BrightonandHoveAlbion.com:

“I spoke with Tony Bloom a couple of weeks ago, and I just felt like a normal thing to offer him because he has been good to me. I know the pressure he is under as a chairman and the challenges he faces. It is a small thing we can do but I think it was an important offer.

“Tony being Tony said, ‘Thank you very much but, at the moment we are working through things.’ As things have moved forward, I think we have come to the right decision to do what we have done.”

Man City’s Pep Guardiola donated $1 million to fight coronavirus in Catalonia. Whether donations or pay cuts, surely more will come.

Brazil, Argentina league soccer players seek full pay amid coronavirus

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SAO PAULO (AP) As soccer players around Europe accept pay cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic, some of their less-well-compensated South American counterparts are fighting for every penny.

In Brazil and Argentina, players aren’t budging during the league shutdown despite forced cuts to staffing and wages in other leagues around the continent.

Negotiations in Brazil between an association of clubs and the players’ union have failed to reach a deal on pay and early vacations. Team captains and executives are now trying to reach individual decisions, but those could end up in court.

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Brazil’s top clubs, fearing a loss of sponsors and rising debts, wanted to cut player salaries by 25% until the pandemic ends. But some players – including those who have been paid late in the past – have asked for the Brazilian soccer confederation to step in. So far it hasn’t, but the union did give some ground on the issue of vacations.

Former players, executives and coaches said they were inspired by the example set by Lionel Messi, who took a 70% cut in pay to help Barcelona keep its staffers during the pandemic. But the voices in Brazil sound more like that of Atlético Mineiro defender Guilherme Arana.

“I don’t think there is a reason (to cut). We are stopping because we need to,” the 22-year-old Arana told Fox Sports. “It is the world that is stopping.”

Atlético, however, said Sunday it will cut salaries by 25%, except for staff members on lower wages.

In Argentina, which has about 4,000 male and female professional soccer players, clubs have not cut salaries and the country’s national federation has not made any recommendations on the issue.

Players’ union leader Sérgio Marchi was, unsurprisingly, against any cuts. He insisted in a radio interview that “it is fundamental” to respect the salaries of soccer players because it would allow the league to resume “without any sort of conflict after this contingency is over.”

“Some (officials) are seeking excuses or mitigating factors for their bad management or to their flawed behavior at the time they are setting up a budget,” he said.

[ MORE: Serie A could return in late May ]

Players in Colombia asked for full pay, but clubs acted swiftly to start saving money.

Jaguares suspended the contracts of 13 members of its squad, Millionarios reduced wages without much debate and Santa Fé pitched fans against players on Twitter by asking them if salaries should be cut. The query ended with 62% of fans voting yes.

Colombian league organizers are also asking the government to broaden some economic policies to help clubs, including those that have suspended players’ contracts so they wouldn’t go bankrupt.

“We don’t want taxpayer money to deal with the financial difficulties during this mandatory stop,” Jorge Enrique Vélez, the head of the league, said in an interview with Radio Caracol. “We are asking for policies that the government has already set for tourism and aviation industries. We also had to stop 100%, and we have no revenues during this time.”

In Uruguay, some players are now claiming unemployment benefits after several clubs, including Montevideo powerhouse Peñarol, suspended their contracts. The country’s soccer association has also cut pay for staff, including 73-year-old national team coach Oscar Tabárez.

The biggest exception is in Peru, where Alianza Lima players openly suggested they should be paid less so the club can afford to keep all its workers. Goalkeeper Leao Butrón said the decision was “easy to make.”

“Yes, the offer actually came from us. We wanted to give the club a break,” Butrón said in a radio interview. “They told us that it is not necessary for now. But we don’t know when this will end. We are still willing. Beyond being an economic problem, it is a liquidity issue. A financial issue. We can give a hand if extreme measures are needed.”

Associated Press writers Debora Rey in Buenos Aires and Eric Nuñez in New York contributed to this report.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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

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Blanket testing for players and a 14-day quarantine for foreign players are on the menu as Serie A reportedly looks to resume in May.

Football Italia cites a report from Italian news outlet Adnkronos that discusses a May 2 return to training with matches resuming late in the month.

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Vincenzo Spadafora is Italy’s minister for sport, and is hopeful that the worst of the coronavirus is behind the country.

According to the report, any player returning to Italy from abroad would be quarantined for two weeks before returning to training.

After an initial round of testing for all players, more would follow:

More tests would be made weekly to maintain that level of certainty all the way to the end of the season. Clubs are believed to be stocking up on COVID-19 tests, in accordance with medical structures in their cities, ensuring everyone has enough to go around.

The plan may be met with resistance, as combustible Brescia owner Massimo Cellino says his club will not play and has accepted that it earned relegation.

European bodies implore member associations to wait to abandon seasons

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UEFA is speaking up regarding its hope to finish club seasons once the environment is safer.

Sky Sports reports that UEFA has sent a letter to its 55 members associations imploring them not to cancel their competitions early and that they exhaust all options “until the last possibility exists.”

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The letter is signed by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli and European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson.

The report comes as the Belgian Super League reportedly prepares to award its league title to Club Brugge on April 15. The league would be the first to see its season abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From Sky Sports:

“We are confident that football can restart in the months to come – with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities – and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified.”

Many leagues, such as the Premier League, continue to suspend their seasons indefinitely as they wait for improvements with the coronavirus pandemic.

Although UEFA have relaxed their previous stance that domestic seasons should be finished by June 30, it is looking more likely that the 2019-20 season would need until August or September.