From the field to the board room, AS Roma is raging with Slovenian referee Damir Skomina after he denied multiple penalty shouts before granting one in stoppage time of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg between Liverpool and the Italian hosts.
“It changes everything,” said Roma director of sport Monchi. “We conceded a goal that was offside in the first leg, here we had two penalties not given, one of which was a clear red card. … It’s time to raise our voices, not just Roma either, as Juventus suffered the same against Real Madrid. Italian football has to raise its voice, because what we saw tonight was shocking.”
Monchi points out that he’s spent the majority of his career in Spain, so this isn’t just pro-Italian refereeing. He’s going to find allies (!!!) in Juve, who grew enraged with English referee Michael Oliver after Real Madrid’s late penalty against the Turin powers.
The biggest gripe is with Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s handball block of a goal-bound effort, though Roma went on to score two more goals on the day including a penalty kick for a less clear handball against Ragnar Klavan.
And it went all the way to the top: American owner Jim Pallotta was enraged with Skomina.
“It’s absolutely clear that VAR is needed in the Champions League, because you can’t let stuff like this go,” Pallotta told reporters in the mixed zone, via Football Italia.
“You can all look at it yourself. Dzeko wasn’t offside, got taken down for a penalty. At the 65th minute, there was a handball that was obvious to everybody in the world except those on the pitch. In the 67th minute Schick gets taken down in the box, I mean it’s just… I know it’s difficult to ref, but it’s really embarrassing when we lose on aggregate like that… By the way, it should’ve been a red card, so would’ve been 10 men from the 63rd minute.
“Again, congratulations to Liverpool, they’re a great team, but if we don’t get VAR in the Champions League, stuff like this is an absolute joke.”
“We’ve seen we’re not so far behind the others, so we must start thinking that Roma should have a Champions League semi-final once every three years, not once every 30. The club will work to make the team even stronger, the fans have followed us so passionately and something has been recreated with the fans that I haven’t seen since I was a child. Now we are all as one, we are united with the fans, and we can achieve great things together.”
He is the second Hazard brother to make a move this summer after Kylian, 23, moved from Chelsea to Cercle Brugge, and with Eden Hazard linked with a move from Chelsea to Real Madrid in the coming weeks, it could be a hat trick of switches for the Hazard family.
As for Thorgan, 26, his fine form out wide for Monchengladbach in 2018-19 has seen Dortmund snap him up for a fee reported to be $38 million, as he looks like being a direct replacement for Christian Pulisic who has officially arrived at Chelsea after the end of the 2018-19 Bundesliga season.
Here’s what Thorgan had to say about his arrival at the Westfalenstadion.
Hazard scored 12 goals in 29 appearances across all competitions and has become a regular in the Belgium national team setup alongside his brother, the captain. In his five seasons at Monchengladbach he’s scored 45 goals in 176 games in all competitions and the former Chelsea loanee has certainly carved out a very good career for himself since he made a permanent move from Chelsea to ‘Gladbach in 2015.
Entering the prime of his career, Dortmund will be a great spot for him to develop further and play a leading role in their push to win the Bundesliga next season and make a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.
Off the back of signing Hoffenheim defender Nico Schulz, Dortmund aren’t messing around this summer as they spent almost $30 million to bring in the German defender.
With most of that Pulisic money already spent, Lucien Favre will be able to kick his team on to the next level next season and push Bayern Munich all the way.
Twenty months ago I pegged Burnley to get relegated with an almost record-low amount of points. The Clarets qualified for the Europa League, and I ate my words (even if Sean Dyche‘s men seemingly out-performed every metric on Earth in spite of stats, like some old man claiming Man City wins because of “better chemistry, not talent”).
Cardiff City Predicted finish: 20
Actual finish: 18
How wrong was I? Not. As much credit as the Bluebirds got for grinding every week, and as much of a difference as the late Emiliano Sala could’ve been to their fortunes, they completed passes at an almost absurdly-bad 63.9 percent rate while having just 39.1 percent of the ball. It was bad.
Huddersfield Town Predicted finish: 19
Actual finish: 20
How wrong was I? Not. Huddersfield Town managed a league-worst .4 attempts per game from inside the six-yard box, and were one of only five teams to attempt less than six shots per game from inside the 18.
Predicted finish: 18
Actual finish: 11
How wrong was I? Pretty wrong. Javi Gracia‘s men were strong against bad teams — for the most part — but never sprung another real upset after beating Spurs to go 4-0 early in the season. Record against the Top Six? 1W-0D-11L.
Predicted finish: 17
Actual finish: 14
How wrong was I? Eh. The Cherries were never really in trouble thanks to a 6-2-2 start, but man did they ride their luck.
Predicted finish: 16
Actual finish: 15
How wrong was I? I’ve learned my lesson. Regardless of how much talent appears to be on a Sean Dyche roster, he’s a rich man’s Tony Pulis and should not be doubted.
Predicted finish: 15
Actual finish: 16
How wrong was I? With respect to Mark Hughes, I thought Saints’ season would come down to when he was sacked and who they identified to replace him. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s in a good place.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Predicted finish: 14
Actual finish: 17
How wrong was I? A bit wrong, and I pretty much blame Pascal Gross, who back slid from 7 goals and 8 assists in his Premier League debut to just three and three in Year No. 2. The Seagulls didn’t score a single goal from outside the 18.
Predicted finish: 13
Actual finish: 7
How wrong was I? It’s not simply about buying players — see: Fulham — but about acquiring hungry players. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and several others had points to prove, and Jimenez especially made it well.
Predicted finish: 12
Actual finish: 13
How wrong was I? To be honest, this went about as I expected given the brutal fixture list to start the season. Had I known Miguel Almiron would’ve transitioned so nicely from MLS to the PL, I might’ve had them 10th.
Predicted finish: 11
Actual finish: 19
How wrong was I? Very, but to my defense so were most people. On paper, the Cottagers improved more than even Wolves.
Predicted finish: 10
Actual finish: 12
How wrong was I? The stats kinda back me up, and it may be worth noting for next season that the Palace’s results didn’t match its performances. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojevic, and Wilfried Zaha gave them difference makers in all thirds of the field, and it’s surprising they didn’t push a bit higher on the table.
Predicted finish: 9
Actual finish: 9
How wrong was I? Not. The Foxes were pretty infuriating all year. Maybe Brendan Rodgers‘ ego and power will match the player power that’s run the club since they won the title. That said, the inconsistency and tumult shouldn’t be a surprise in a season the club had to deal with its owner dying on a match day.
West Ham United
Predicted finish: 8
Actual finish: 10
How wrong was I? It took Marco Silva longer than expected to get his men humming, but think of this: If Jordan Pickford doesn’t give Divock Origi a derby winner, Everton is going to Europe. I know, I know… chaos theory. But still.
Predicted finish: 6
Actual finish: 4
How wrong was I? Like many, I was stunned that Spurs didn’t spend this summer and thought injuries would hurt them. They did, but only to the extent that Tottenham wasn’t able to sustain a title challenge. Spurs rarely gave the ball away, and the only teams that averaged fewer “times dispossessed” than Tottenham’s 9.2 per 90 were teams that never had the ball: Brighton, Cardiff, and Burnley.
Predicted finish: 5
Actual finish: 5
How wrong was I? Spot-on. It was going to take time for the Gunners to come together following a first managerial change in ages, but Arsenal had the offense to challenge for the Top Four. Surprisingly for Arsenal, they averaged just eight dribbles per game, 12th in the PL. Unai Emery had them more cautious than usual.
Predicted finish: 4
Actual finish: 3
How wrong was I? Not. Maurizio Sarri is not for everyone, but he knows how to get results. Granted Gonzalo Higuain was his guy, but he did it without a top striker.
Predicted finish: 3
Actual finish: 2
How wrong was I? Well, considering the Reds had one of the best runners-up finishes of all-time, quite wrong. Mostly, I didn’t expect Mohamed Salah to deliver again and he mostly did (save for a late winter slump).
Predicted finish: 2
Actual finish: 6
How wrong was I? Real wrong. Almost as wrong as United looks for canning Jose Mourinho. The manager needed to leave town, but there was a reason he was playing so packed-in. Ask yourself this: If Ed Woodward gave Mourinho the use of Toby Alderweireld, would Spurs and United be flipped?
Predicted finish: 1
Actual finish: 1
How wrong was I? On point. How good was City? For a club that ranked No. 1 in possession, they were only dispossessed 10.3 times per match. That was the 8th fewest total in the league.
Townsend walked onto a popped-up headed clearance well outside the 18 and smashed a volley home against Manchester City three days before Christmas.
Palace posted this quote from Townsend, “Everything about the game, the opponent, the strike, it was perfection. I think it was a strike like that needed to beat the champions away from home. I’m thankful it kind of dropped nicely for my left foot, I hit it clean and the rest is history.”
The goals were similar, and Townsend does have a knack for scoring beauties. Perhaps it shows something that beating Man City stands out a bit more to voters and the panel than a defender scoring for the champions. We think Kompany’s was a tiny bit better, but we’ll forgive the voters.
He’ll return to a club with which he earned 15 trophies including two Champions Leagues. The three-time Best European Goalkeeper also won three trophies with Arsenal.
It would be pretty surprising if Unai Emery selected him over Bernd Leno for the final in Azerbaijan, but Cech is certainly respected worldwide and will be the type of personality to bring some stability to Chelsea.