Three things learned: Chelsea v. Tottenham

1 Comment

LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur beat Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to end a 28-year wait for a win at their London rivals.

Alvaro Morata put Chelsea ahead in the first half but Christian Eriksen‘s stunner saw Spurs equalize right on half time and two calm finishes from Dele Alli in the second half set Spurs on their way to a historic win, their first in the Premier League era at Chelsea.

Here’s what we learned from a pivotal day in the top four race in a London derby at the Bridge.


DELE ALLI TAKES OVER FOR KANE

Both Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son had helped fill the void left by Harry Kane before Sunday. At Chelsea it was Dele Alli who stood tall as he scored twice in the second half to turn the game on its head.

Dele, 21, scored a sublime first goal on his 100th Premier League appearance for Tottenham as he collected a long ball over the top as delicate as an ice sculptor chiseling the final detail of their latest masterpiece before finishing with aplomb.

His second was a predatory strike, straight out of Kane’s locker, as he hung around in the box and waited for a loose ball to break to him before finishing to make it 3-1.

Eriksen’s equalizer right on half time was crucial as the Danish playmaker spanked home from distance and helped drag Spurs back into the encounter. But it was Alli who did the most damage as he regained the form which saw him win the PFA Young Player of the Year award in each of his first two season in the PL.

After being left out of England’s starting lineups for their recent internationals, Alli seems to have got the message loud and clear. He delivered a timely reminder why he is rated as the top attacking midfield talent 21 and under in Europe.

He stood tall when Tottenham needed him most to all but secure their top four spot as Spurs are the only PL team who remain unbeaten in 2018 with eight wins and three draws. On course for a third-straight top four finish as they will now certainly bring Champions League action into the new White Hart Lane next season, Kane’s goals have been a big part of their success. But Dele Alli, Eriksen and Son have all stepped up when Kane has been missing and on Sunday it was Alli’s turn.


TOTTENHAM RUB SALT IN CONTE’S WOUNDS

This wasn’t the final nail in Antonio Conte‘s coffin at Chelsea, but it was one of the final nails.

Chelsea have now lost five of their last seven games and although they impressed in the first half against Tottenham, they squandered several chances with Marcos Alonso and Willian denied and seemed to be in total control of the game until Eriksen’s stunner on half time.

As for Conte, the Italian coach hasn’t wanted to be around in West London all season long and this defeat for fifth-place Chelsea means they are now eight points off the top four with seven games to go. In other words, Chelsea’s hopes of finishing in the top four are over.

Chelsea’s season is now all but over as their focus will switch to winning the FA Cup. Of course they will try and win their remaining games but this was a massive blow for Conte and should only accelerate either his own departure from Stamford Bridge or at least the plans for life without him from this summer on.

Just under 12 months on from securing the PL title, Conte’s second, and probably his last season, at Chelsea is descending into a huge disappointment.


MORATA REGAINS MOJO

Early on he lost a few aerial challenges against Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen and there were rumblings of discontent among the home supporters. Overall, Alvaro Morata has his mojo back.

The Spanish striker made the most of a mistake from Hugo Lloris to calmly nod Chelsea ahead as he continued his good run of form following a back injury and a dip in confidence which threatened to derail his debut Premier League season.

When Romelu Lukaku went to Manchester United and Morata went to Chelsea in the summer, the debate was around who got the better deal. There’s no question that Lukaku has had a better season than Morata in terms of goals (he has 25 in all competitions to Morata’s 14) or his importance to his team.

But long term, could Morata deliver more than Lukaku?

His hold up play, like Lukaku’s still needs to improve, but he was winning flick ons and making much more of a nuisance of himself than he had done previously. He could have got a shot away early in the second half before Spurs and Dele Alli turned on the magic as a lack of confidence reared its head again, but Morata is showing signs of recovery which will be a positive for Chelsea next season.

With two goals in his last two games, Morata is back to the player Chelsea and Conte thought they had signed to not only replace Diego Costa up front but to improve in that area.

River Plate to sponsor car in Indy 500

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There will be a soccer presence at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500.

On Thursday, Club Atletico River Plate announced, along with car owner Juncos Racing that Kyle Kaiser’s No. 32 car will feature a River Plate logo on the front of the vehicle. Juncos Racing is named after founder Ricardo Juncos, an Argentine native and clearly a big River fan.

Per a press release from River Plate, it’s the first time a soccer team is sponsoring a car in the Indy 500, which takes place this Sunday, May 26.

[READ: Pochettino hopeful Kane will be ready to make an impact in UCL final]

“As a River fan, I always wanted to have the logo of the Club in the car,” Juncos said in a press release.
“This race is very important for me. I am very happy and I believe that in the goal of River to expand into the Indy 500. From here to there will come positive things for both.”

Kaiser, just 23, is one of the new guys on the main IndyCar scene, especially after winning the IndyCar Lights title in 2017. It’s the racing equivalent of winning the Europa League. Unlike River’s reputation as one of the biggest clubs in South America, Kaiser just barely made it into the field all together, bumping former Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso out of the field by about one hundredth of a second.

While it’s cool to see a soccer team get involved in the Indy 500, a worldwide viewing event that’s also akin to a religious holiday throughout the state of Indiana, it’s another Buenos Aires club that really should have been the first to sponsor a car.

Racing Club, defending Argentine league champs, would have been terrific, Racing in Uruguay, or Racing de Santander in Spain. Perhaps one day in the future the three clubs can combine forces to sponsor an IndyCar event or a car competing in a race.

USSF, Relevant Sports clash in court over international matches

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) A lawyer for a promoter asked a judge to order the U.S. Soccer Federation to sanction international league matches in the United States.

The USSF last month denied an application by Relevent Sports, a company partly owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida. The USSF cited an Oct. 26 announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

During a half-hour hearing Thursday before New York Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry, a lawyer for the USSF argued the court should not hear the dispute and it should be sent to arbitration.

Blair G. Connelly, the lawyer representing the USSF, said because Relevent’s application included its executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano, as the FIFA-licensed match agent requesting approval to stage the game, Relevent was bound by a provision in FIFA’s match agent regulations requiring any dispute with a national association be submitted to arbitration. FIFA’s rules specify such a case be heard by its player status committee, whose decision could be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

“What they’re trying to do is outsource the court’s authority … to two bodies in Switzerland that don’t follow New York law and have nothing to do with it,” said Marc Litt, a lawyer for Relevent.

Connelly said the USSF’s decision could be overruled only if the court found it to be irrational. He also cited a 2007 decision by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in Illinois, who ordered a suit against the USSF by ChampionsWorld, a previous Stillitano-affiliated company, be stayed pending FIFA’s arbitration procedure.

“They are bound by the contracts their agent enters into on their behalf,” Connelly said.

Litt said FIFA never issued a formal regulation against international club matches in different countries and the USSF cited only a news release.

“Was U.S. Soccer irrational when it concluded that something that FIFA itself called a decision by its decision-making body was in fact a decision? We’re we crazy to think that? Was U.S. Soccer just in outer space?” Connelly said.

Litt claimed the USSF made its decision to protect Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of the USSF and Major League Soccer.

“We believe that the only reason that they don’t want professional league matches that count in the United States is because that would damage Major League Soccer,” Litt said.

Relevent also attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

Perry did not announce any decision.

Wenger hints he may be retired from management

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been a year since Arsene Wenger‘s Arsenal departure was announced, and the legendary manager remains on the sidelines.

Whether by his choice or not, Wenger has spent the year away from soccer, instead vacationing and being a studio TV pundit in France. In his latest public comments, Wenger hinted that while he still plans to return to a role in soccer, he likely won’t be a club manager anymore.

“I thought I will come back into management very quickly, but I enjoyed taking a little distance,” Wenger told the BBC. Now I’m at a crossroads.”

Per the BBC, Wenger later added: “You will see me again in football. As a manager… I don’t know.”

In the weeks and months after Wenger was effectively forced out of Arsenal after 22 seasons, Wenger repeatedly said that he had many offers to return to management, and it was only a matter of time before he’d accept one of these offers. And yet, it’s been a year and Wenger remains on the outside, perhaps a clear sign that today’s soccer has passed him by, and unless he wants to move to the Middle East or another soccer outpost, he won’t be able to get a top job in Western Europe.

Despite his acrimonious exit, Wenger still supports the Gunners and had some thoughts on the team’s season, as well as the club’s run to the Europa League final.

“I miss competition and I miss Arsenal because I left my heart in there,” Wenger said. “I gave my life to this club for 22 years. Every minute of my life was dedicated to this club and I miss the values we developed inside the club.

“I support Arsenal. It will be forever my club.”

Pochettino hopeful Kane can “give us a hand” in UCL final

Getty Images
1 Comment

Harry Kane returned to training this week as Tottenham continues preparations for the UEFA Champions League final.

The England and Tottenham captain has been out with yet another ankle injury since April 9. Initially feared he would be out for the rest of the season, Kane now looks set to play in the final match of the season, and his manager Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful he can make an impact.

“He’s training and has entered the final stage of his recovery, Pochettino told a conference in Bilbao, via video link, per AS. “We’re hoping he’ll be able to give us a hand – either from the start, from the bench or if not, then by giving us moral support in the dressing room. But we are optimistic that he’ll be able to help us on the pitch.”

Pochettino completed a magnificent feat guiding Tottenham to the Champions League final, but he may have one of the most difficult decisions he has to make in his managerial career ahead.

Should Kane be available to start, Pochettino has to decide whether he should break from the lineup that came back from a 3-0 deficit to Ajax, and potentially put Lucas Moura on the bench. If Tottenham loses, Pochettino is probably darned if he does, darned if he doesn’t with Kane.

Either Kane wasn’t fit enough to play and make a big impact, or he clearly was and he didn’t have enough time in the match.

Regardless, Pochettino will hope to have a full squad available, with Kane able to make a difference should be needed.