The night Tottenham’s latest title bid ended

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LONDON — For the second season running Tottenham Hotspur will come up short in the Premier League title race.

“It’s happening again, it’s happening again… Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happening again!” was the taunting chant aimed at Spurs’ fans by supporters of West Ham.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

In Spurs’ shock 1-0 defeat at West Ham United on Friday, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men froze when they had the chance to cut Chelsea’s lead atop the PL table to one point.

Now Chelsea have the chance to extend their lead to seven points with three games to go when they host second from bottom Middlesbrough on Monday night and if Chelsea then beat West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns next Friday they will seal the title.

[ MORE: Spurs gutted by defeat ]

For Tottenham, they’ll want to put out of their misery as soon as possible.

The damaging defeat at West Ham left their players looking stunned at the final whistle with Christian Eriksen stood with his hands on his hips and Harry Kane had his hands on his head in disbelief.

After the game Pochettino was subdued in his press conference, looking down at the table often and he already seemed resigned to finishing second in the table.

Can he explain why for the second season on the spin Spurs have found themselves in similar situations at the end of a campaign?

“If we win the league it is because you learn, and if you finish second it is because you improve but I think it is a big topic in football. You need to show that you can show up in the moment to win a league, to win a trophy,” Pochettino said. “Today was a key moment that we can show that it is not about playing well and not about running more or less. It’s about when you must win, you win. If you want to be a champion in our game, you must win. How? I don’t know. For me we have to try to move on and finish in the best way the season and still fight. Now, to be realistic, it is more difficult than before.”

Tottenham’s task has been made incredibly difficult, almost impossible, and their title hopes could be over before they next kick a ball.

Following their late collapse last season which saw Leicester pull away and Spurs eventually finish in third place, there must be some Tottenham fans dreading the final three games of the season with Liverpool and Manchester City still mathematically able to catch them in second place.

Where did this surprisingly dour display come from?

Spurs had won nine-straight games heading into this London derby with Pochettino’s side looking unstoppable and hunting Chelsea down. Yet, their sluggish performance suggested that something deeper than just tiredness was at play. Loose passes early in the first and second halves did damage, with Dele Alli off the pace and the usually unshakable Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld spooked.

Tottenham played like the knew the entire league, and every Chelsea fan, was waiting for them to fail under the Friday Night Lights at the London Stadium.

When Manuel Lanzini‘s second half strike put West Ham ahead, the home side never looked like relinquishing their lead. In fact, it was West Ham who looked more likely to score again and their manager Slaven Bilic said he’s side deserved to win and probably by more than one goal.

It’s hard to argue with him as the usually rock solid Spurs defense was all over the place, panicking as they tried to pour forward to grab an equalizer. Hugo Lloris‘ fine save from Jonathan Calleri kept Spurs in it but apart from a chance in the 21st minute which Adrian saved superbly from Harry Kane, plus a stop from Heung-Min Son early in the second half, Tottenham never looked fluid in attack.

There’s no disgrace that for a second season running a young Tottenham squad have stumbled in their bid to win a title.

The circus surrounding Leicester City last season saw them come unstuck and now they’ve come up against another seemingly unstoppable force in Chelsea. In fairness to Spurs they’ve never led Chelsea in the title race this season and, once again, they’ve always been playing catch up.

They haven’t thrown away the title or handed it to someone else. The chase, both this season and last, has simply worn them down. Still, phrases such as “that’s so Spursy” will not go away until they win a piece of silverware, something they haven’t achieved since the League Cup in 2008.

Spurs have still won more games and won more points than any other PL team over the past two seasons but the fact that they haven’t got any silverware to show for their fine campaigns will haunt them over the summer. However, there is plenty of promise ahead for this young side who have already had to deal with damaging moments as a unit.

Light often appears from our darkest moments.

Tottenham crumbled under the Friday Night Lights against West Ham but everyone connected with Spurs will be hoping it’s another setback which will only make them stronger in the future.

Italian soccer federation signs deal with Chinese government

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ROME (AP) The Italian soccer federation has signed a wide-ranging memorandum with the Chinese government to promote soccer between the two countries.

The deal foresees playing the Italian Super Cup or Italian Cup in China within the next three years.

[ MORE: Upsets in EURO qualifying ]

The Italian Super Cup – which pits the Serie A champion against the Italian Cup champion – has already been played in China four times over the last 10 years.

The meeting with China Media Group head Shen Haixiong also focused on TV content and rights, collaboration over developing young Chinese players in Italy and instruction for using the video assistant referee.

Shen was in Rome for the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Italian federation president Gabriele Gravina says, “Soccer has shown once again to be a bridge between different cultures.”

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

WATCH: Asprilla scores terrific bicycle kick on USL cameo

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Portland Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla has had to spend some time in the USL Championship this season, and the second tier would probably like to see Gio Savarese keep the Colombian in Major League Soccer.

[ REPORT: Liverpool to sell Keita? ]

Asprilla scored twice and added an assists on Saturday night in a defeat of Eric Wynalda’s Las Vegas Lights, and he put up a near picture perfect bicycle kick on the highlight reel.

Watch as he sets himself up, willingly or not, for the endeavor before splashing a shot in the side panel for an amazing aesthetic.

Report: Bayern, BVB ready to buy Keita from Liverpool

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A report claims that Liverpool is ready to admit defeat in the case of Naby Keita.

Keita, 24, was bought from RB Leipzig last season and arrived at Anfield in the summer, but has struggled to find consistent playing time under Jurgen Klopp.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Saief shines for FC Cincinnati ]

Viewed as the missing link between the Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s torrential attack, Keita has not come close to replicating the form that saw his price tag reach $69 million.

Indeed, Team Talk says Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich look prepared to pay around $53 million to bring Keita back to the Bundesliga.

Keita has played 27 matches in all competitions for Liverpool, accumulating 1,388 minutes and just one assist. He had nine goals and seven assists in more than double the minutes one season ago.

According to WhoScored.com, he’s passing the ball better and taking almost a foul less than last season, but almost every other measurable has declined since he moved to England.

I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking Keita would be everything the Reds required after an improved 2017-18, but he’s either being used very poorly or having trouble adjusting to the culture.

It’s early to quit on a player so talented, but maybe Klopp and he just don’t mesh well. But if it isn’t a case of clashing with the club, it may be worth waiting out a player who looked a giant just eight months ago.

EURO qualifying: Hungary stings Croatia, Israel hangs 4 on Austria

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It wasn’t just Germany and the Netherlands staging a tight and entertaining match in EURO 2020 qualifying on Sunday.

[ VIDEO: Saief, Manneh lead FC Cincinnati ]

Hungary 2-1 Croatia

Ante Rebic’s early goal made a “business as usual” statement for the World Cup runners-up, but Hungary can be a handful against any opponents and rallied at home.

Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai brought the hosts level at halftime, and Mate Patkai gave Hungary a deserved 2-1 win in Budapest.

Coming three days after a loss in Slovakia to start qualifying, it was an early almost-must-win for Marco Rossi’s men.

Israel 4-2 Austria

Marko Arnautovic‘s brace in defeat couldn’t have come with different vibes. His eighth minute marker gave the Austrians a leg up, his 75th minute goal meaning very little with the side having conceded four-straight in between.

China-based striker Eran Zahavi scored a hat trick for Israel, and RB Salzburg star Munas Dabbur scored the fourth goal to keep the hosts within sight of first place Poland.

Austria is winless through two qualifiers.

Elsewhere
Wales 1-0 Slovakia
Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
San Marino 0-2 Scotland
Netherlands 2-3 Germany — RECAP, VIDEO
Northern Ireland 2-1 Belarus
Poland 2-0 Latvia
Slovenia 1-1 Macedonia
Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia