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.

Manchester United triggers Bailly contract extension

Manchester United triggers Bailly contract extension
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Manchester United has picked up a two-year option on Eric Bailly‘s contract, according to Sky Sports.

The Red Devils now have the giant 25-year-old center back under wraps through the 2021/22 season.

Bailly is nearing full fitness after his latest injury setback, knee and ankle injuries costing him dozens of matches since arriving from Villarreal in 2016. He underwent knee surgery in late July.

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There’s little reason for United not to pick up the option, as Bailly could’ve left for free in the summer and the extension allows for a possible transfer fee.

That said, Bailly has been very good with healthy and in-form, especially in an exceptional debut season at Old Trafford. He has 34 caps for the Ivory Coast, and is nearing the prime age for a center back.

United visits Liverpool at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday, and Bailly is not expected to play.

The center back may get a chance to get to know Bruno Fernandes, who is being tipped for a $77 million transfer. He likely won’t see Ashley Young, who’s arrived in Milan ahead of a transfer to Inter.

Report: Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United after Lisbon Derby

Manchester United lands Bruno Fernandes
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Bruno Fernandes may get his move.

The 25-year-old Sporting Lisbon midfielder wants a move to Manchester United, and Sky Sports is reporting that the two clubs are close to agreeing on a fee.

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The move will cost $56 million and could escalate to $77 million with incentives, and that it could happen as soon as the end of Friday’s derby between Sporting and Benfica.

From Sky Sports:

Part of the negotiations over a deal for Fernandes included Manchester United not wanting him to play in Friday’s game but the player and Sporting insist that he was going to play in order to say a proper goodbye to the club and the supporters.

United will be crossing its fingers over Fernandes’ health during the 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff is Lisbon.

Sporting is already 12 points off the Champions League places, and 16 off Benfica’s title pace.

Fernandes has been red hot for Sporting, notching 15 goals and 13 assists in 25 appearances, including five and three in five Europa League outings.

He scored 32 times with 18 assists in 2018/19, and could take United’s Top Four push to a whole new level.

Liverpool’s Klopp rips AFCON move, says FIFA needs to step in but won’t

Liverpool's Klopp rips AFCON move
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Jurgen Klopp is furious about Cameroon moving the Africa Cup of Nations to January 2021, something that would hinder the Reds’ likely title defense.

(No, Klopp is not counting his title chickens before they hatch, even if it’s a foregone conclusion).

Cameroon moved the tournament from summer to winter due to its climate, which seems like a decision that could’ve been made ages ago. The nation had hosting rights stripped away for the 2019 tournament, but will host in 2021.

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The Reds could be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita for the better part of a month should Senegal, Guinea, and Egypt all qualify for the tournament. Joel Matip could be there with hosts Cameroon if the federation is successful in convincing him to return to the international fold.

Klopp went on a lengthy and mostly understandable diatribe against the move. We write mostly because there’s something lost in translation regarding the import of the tournament.

He’s upset at how it will tax his squad and how he keeps the players happy if he needs to add players just to deal with one month of the schedule.

“Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. Difficult circumstances a lot of times,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked. … FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.”

He continued.

“For us it’s a catastrophe, If we say (a player) can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide. If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa so they can have a look. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time. As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”

Manchester City (Riyad Mahrez), Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Leicester City (Wilfried Ndidi) are among the many clubs who could lose stars for a month.

Premier League tells referees to view replays for red cards

Premier League tells referees to view replays for red cards
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LONDON (AP) The Premier League has advised its referees to use sideline monitors to make a final ruling on red card decisions.

Through 22 rounds of the first Premier League season with video review, referees have not gone over to the screens at any point to watch replays after being told to use them sparingly. Instead, referees have been relying on feedback from the video assistant referee in a London control room.

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But officials were reminded at a meeting of Premier League referees this week that they should go over to what is known as the “referee review area” when VAR suggests upgrading a yellow card to a red or downgrading a red to a yellow.

It has been a more familiar sight at games in other European competitions, like the Champions League, to see referees watching replays in the stadium.

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