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.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

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It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.