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EURO qualifying: Hazard drives Belgium past Russia; Scotland rocked

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EURO 2020 qualifying allows for a few hiccups along the way. Both Scotland and Russia produced one each on opening day.

Granted the Russians lost a game many suspected they might, falling 3-1 at Belgium, but we want to highlight the unexpected first, don’t we?

Scotland’s trip to Kazakhstan was just that, Alex McLeish’s men falling for the seventh time in his 11-match second tenure with the club.

[ MORE: Hazard, Real, and the back-up plan ]

And boy, did they fall. Scotland conceded twice in the first 10 minutes and again after halftime in a 3-0 loss to the 117th ranked team on the FIFA scale (106th in the slightly fairer Elo Ratings).

Plucky Azerbaijan served notice that it remains a solid dark horse, scaring World Cup finalists Croatia before ultimately losing 2-1.

Back to Russia, it fell by a pair of Eden Hazard goals after Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans and Valencia’s Denis Cheryshev traded first half markers.

Hazard now has 29 international goals ahead of his 100th cap, which will come the next time he hits the pitch.

He may have dove to earn his penalty, but there’s no debating he had the skill buttons activated on the day:

EURO qualifying

Croatia 2-1 Azerbaijan
Slovakia 2-0 Hungary
Netherlands 4-0 Belarus
Austria 0-1 Poland
Israel 1-1 Slovenia
Macedonia 3-1 Latvia
Cyprus 5-0 San Marino
Belgium 3-1 Russia
Kazakhstan 3-0 Scotland
Northern Ireland 2-0 Estonia

WATCH: VAR controversy sees Mourinho call out referee Oliver (again)

Jose Mourinho Michael Oliver
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
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Imagine the sound VAR Michael Oliver made when he saw the call he had to make against Jose Mourinho in Thursday’s 0-0 draw between Bournemouth and Tottenham.

Mourinho can’t get over his thing with referee Michael Oliver, who was again in the middle of controversy during a Tottenham Hotspur match.

“The same referee that was the VAR against Sheffield United,” Mourinho said. “In the world everybody knows that is a penalty. And I say everybody, I mean everybody.”

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Harry Kane was shoved to the turf by Joshua King very early in the contest but also made contact with teammate Jan Vertonghen.

Most expected to see a penalty given, but referee Paul Tierney didn’t think it was a foul and Oliver saw nothing on the video worth overruling.

From Football.London:

“The game had the most important moment, you know when, you know who, and I don’t want to say anything more in relation to that because everyone knows and I don’t need to say much more. Everybody knows.

“The performance was not good enough, but good enough to win. I am not saying a strong performance or a sharp one but good enough to win. In a way they surprised us with the way thy played, since Bournemouth were in the Premier League I don’t remember them playing the way they did, but that is an option for them because they have a point they wanted. They played direct, only direct, they didn’t move the ball in the first phase like they used to do and they made it difficult for us in their approach.”

Spurs face Arsenal at the weekend in a statement North London Derby between Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho, before Newcastle, Leicester City, and Crystal Palace complete the fixture list.

Spurs, Bournemouth split points in drab draw

Bournemouth - Tottenham recap
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Twelve minutes of stoppage time barely injected life into a scoreless, slumberous slog between Tottenham Hotspur and Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Thursday.

Hugo Lloris made a terrific stop on Harry Wilson deep in 12 minutes of stoppage time to keep Spurs’ sheet clean.

Tottenham has 49 points, six back of fifth-place Manchester United who plays Thursday and behind three teams in the race for Europa League places.

BOURNEMOUTH – TOTTENHAM FULL MATCH REPLAY

Spurs face Arsenal at the weekend in a statement North London Derby between Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho, before Newcastle, Leicester City, and Crystal Palace complete the fixture list.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Bournemouth’s 28 points are three back of safety. The Cherries finish with Leicester City, Manchester City, Southampton, and Everton.


Three things we learned

1. South coast snooze: Bournemouth fans wouldn’t have minded the point, but the journey to a rare clean sheet was just about as boring as you’ll see apart from an early penalty controversy, a gnarly injury, and a goal being pulled off the board by handball when Callum Wilson’s clever 90th-minute goal took a turn off Josh King and into the goal.

2. Scary incident for ex-Spurs man Smith: There was a lengthy delay around the hour mark when Cherries defender Adam Smith was involved in a violent collision at midfield, requiring plenty of medical attention. The former Spurs man was given oxygen and needed a stretcher to get off the pitch. Hopefully the long time right back is doing alright.

3. Mourinho’s offense looks toothless: First, let’s admit that Harry Kane had a goal egregiously taken away from him via the rulebook when Lucas Moura’s unwitting handball led to a goal against Sheffield United. But Spurs have five goals in five matches since the Premier League’s return. As much as it’s nice to see three clean sheets in four outings, Mourinho has to find a way to get his men moving.

Man of the Match:

Hugo Lloris – The Frenchman’s incredible stop of a surging Harry Wilson deep in stoppage time was a welcome moment for a sleepy match. Lloris made the only two saves of a slumberous affair.

Bournemouth – Tottenham recap

Harry Kane was not given a penalty in the opening minutes as he was shoved to the turf but also collided with a teammate while tracking a pass. Referee Paul Tierney didn’t see anything in it, and surprisingly neither did VAR.

The Cherries had a good spell of play after that, a mini-vibe of how Spurs looked after the Harry Kane goal was took off the board against Sheffield United.

The game flowed back into Spurs control for the final stanza before halftime.

Spurs let Bournemouth stick around and Harry Wilson’s nice run led to nothing in the 68th minute as the match looked destined for goose eggs, sadly enough.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Everton, Southampton battle to draw

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Everton – Southampton was a tight, tense clash as Danny Ings’ opener was canceled out by a fine Richarlison goal.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Saints first missed a penalty kick as James Ward-Prowse’s spot kick hit the bar but Ings scored soon after as Saints impressed. Everton hit back just before half time through Richarlison’s lovely finish and despite chances for both teams in the second half, it ended even.

EVERTON – SOUTHAMPTON: FULL REPLAY

With the point Everton have 45 for the season and remain in 11th, while Saints have 44 and stay in 12th.


Three things we learned

1. Ings sharp throughout: Danny Ings hit the bar, scored a goal, was occupied by several Everton defenders throughout and still came out on top. The Englishman has 19 goals this season and his hold-up play and quality on the ball compliments his clever runs and incredible work ethic. It is great to see Ings in full flow like this and he is key, obviously, to Southampton sitting in midtable. He may come up just short in the Golden Boot race but he’s had a superb season.

2. Everton’s formation switch changes game: Everton were lucky to go in level at the break and then the maestro Carlo Ancelotti changed the game with his tactical switch. He went to a 3-4-3 formation with Sidibe on as a right wing back and that pinned Saints back and stopped their high-press. Everton were much better in the second half and looked more in control. Ancelotti has improved Everton’s defense impressively since he arrived and these little tactical tweaks show his experience.

3. Both teams set up for top 10 in 2020-21: Both of these teams have improved massively from December onwards and they look to be set up nicely for a top 10 finish next season. Saints and Everton are evenly-matched but have very different budgets and Europa League for Everton next season is a must, while Saints will be happy to finish in the top 10.

Man of the Match

Danny Ings – He was absolutely everywhere as he scored, hit the woodwork and Everton just couldn’t handle his movement.


Southampton thought they had taken the lead as Ings wriggled free superbly and crossed for Adams who knocked the ball down to Stuart Armstrong who finished, but the Scotsman had just strayed offside. James Ward-Prowse had a shot from the edge of the box but his own player Adams as they set the tempo.

Lucas Digne’s cross fell to Alex Iwobi at the back post but his powerful shot was pushed away by Alex McCarthy. Ward-Prowse then had a free kick at goal which Jordan Pickford tipped over. From that corner Ings hit the crossbar as Everton half cleared and a few moments later Ward-Prowse was then brought down by Andre Gomes for a penalty kick.

Ward-Prowse smashed the bar with the penalty as Saints passed up a great chance to take the lead but soon after they were ahead. Armstrong’s scuffed shot found the lively Ings and he adjusted his feet superbly and tapped home to make it 1-0.

Gordon went down in the box after a shoulder barge from Kyle Walker-Peters but no penalty kick was given and just before half time Everton equalized. One long ball over the top from Digne found Richarlison who lobbed home. 1-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At half time Everton made a tactical switch as Djibril Sidibe came on and they move to a 3-5-2 system with Gylfi Sigurdsson also on to replace the injured Gomes before the break.

Saints went close twice early in the second half as Pickford pushed Adams’ shot away, then Ward-Prowse’s free kick was deflected wide. An almighty scramble then saw Ings denied as Everton somehow cleared after Adams’ shot was blocked.

McCarthy then denied Sidibe as Everton’s formation change saw them improve drastically in the second half. In the closing stages Saints kicked on again but couldn’t find a winner as Ings had a shot blocked, plus Nathan Redmond flashed a shot wide and Armstrong smashed it over.

Last-16 games to be hosted by home teams in Champions League

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GENEVA (AP) The remaining four games of the Champions League’s round of 16 can be hosted by the home team, UEFA announced Thursday, instead of playing them in neutral Portugal.

The competition was halted in March because of the coronavirus and is set to conclude with a mini-tournament at an empty stadium in Lisbon next month, starting with the quarterfinals.

However, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester City will be allowed to host the second leg of their last-16 matches at home.

[ MORE: New Premier League TV schedule ]

UEFA confirmed Thursday it had clearance from public authorities in Spain, Germany, Italy and England to let the teams play at home on Aug. 7 and 8. Few or no fans will be allowed in the stadiums.

UEFA also said no tickets will be sold to fans for mini-tournament in Lisbon.

“In light of the current situation, the UEFA executive committee felt it prudent to conclude that UEFA matches should take place behind closed doors until further notice,” the governing body said.

In the Europa League, six clubs including Manchester United can also host their outstanding second-leg games in the round of 16 ahead of a mini-tournament in Germany.

Starting on Aug. 12, the Champions League quarterfinals will be played on four straight nights in single-leg knockout games at the home stadiums of Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.

The semifinals are on Aug. 18 and 19, and Benfica’s Stadium of Light hosts the final on Aug. 23.

In the remaining round-of-16 games, Bayern is the clearest favorite to advance having won 3-0 at Chelsea in the first leg in February.

Man City leads 2-1 over Real Madrid, Juventus trails 1-0 against Lyon, and Barcelona resumes at 1-1 against Napoli.

Atalanta, Atlético Madrid, Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain already advanced to the quarterfinals in March.

[ MORE: Solskjaer hopeful of new long-term Pogba deal ]

The quarterfinals and semifinals pairings will be drawn Friday at UEFA headquarters.

The final was postponed from May 30 at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul. It will host the 2021 final.

In the Europa League, six second-leg games will now be hosted on Aug. 5 and 6 by Man United, Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolverhampton, Basel and Copenhagen.

The first-leg games were played in March with four in empty stadiums. Only İstanbul Başakşehir and Rangers had fans in the stands for games against Copenhagen and Bayer Leverkusen, respectively.

The two remaining pairings – Inter Milan-Getafe and Sevilla-Roma – could not be played in Italy or Spain in March as those countries were hit hard by the spreading coronavirus. Those pairings will be settled in single knockout games in neutral Germany, also on Aug. 5 and 6.

The quarterfinals are scheduled for Aug. 10-11 in Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Gelsenkirchen. The semifinals are Aug. 16-17.

The final is Friday, Aug. 21 in Cologne, replacing the postponed May 27 final in Gdansk, Poland.

By GRAHAM DUNBAR
AP Sports Writer