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Euro 2020 qualifiers: Italy, Spain, Switzerland all secure wins

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Sergio Ramos provided the winner from the spot as Spain took home a 2-1 win over Norway in Valencia. Rodrigo bagged the opener 16 minutes in, volleying home Jordi Alba’s floated baseline cross. Alvaro Morata nearly bagged a headed goal just past the half-hour mark as part of a ruthless first-half onslaught by the home side, but Rune Jarstein made a fabulous stop. Alba then nearly had his own, putting it into the back of the net but pulled back for the offside flag.

The hosts would rue not taking their first-half opportunities as Norway would pull level after the break as Inigo Martinez toppled over substitute Bjorn Johnsen in the box on a set-piece. Bournemouth attacker Joshua King slotted it home from the spot and evened the score. That wouldn’t last long though, as Spain moved back in front just six minutes later with Ramos from the spot as Jarstein came off his line on a Spain break and scythed Morata down, delivering a cheeky Panenka down the middle.

Italy went wire-to-wire to top Finland 2-0 in Udine. 22-year-old Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella opened things up in the seventh minute with a deflected volley that found its way past Lukas Hradecky. Finland could only manage a single shot on target the entire way through, with Teemu Pukki badly missing wide in the 65th minute with their best opportunity, and Italy secured the win with a second goal 10 minutes later. 19-year-old Moise Kean made a perfect run through the two center-backs and Ciro Immobile delivered an incredible ball to slice them up, with the teen needing just one touch to slot it home for his first international goal on his first start.

Edin Dzeko earned his 100th cap, but 24-year-old Deni Milosevic was the biggest winner as he provided the eventual winner for Bosnia & Herzegovina who picked up a 2-1 win over Armenia. Rade Krunic put the hosts 1-0 up past the half-hour mark in Sarajevo, and then Milosevic struck with 10 minutes to go, streaking down the middle to meet Edin Visca’s long cross from the right. Henrikh Mkhitaryan slotted home a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time but it was nothing more than a consolation.

Greece flew to a 2-0 win over Lichtenstein in Vaduz as Konstantinos Fortounis and Anastasios Donis delivered the strikes. The first came at the stroke of halftime, brilliantly volleying a laser beam delivery from Dimitrios Kourbelis. The second came with 10 minutes to go with Donis firing home sealing the victory. It was elementary for the visitors, holding 73% possession and holding Liechtenstein without a single shot on target on just three total efforts.

Ireland topped Gibraltar 1-0 in Mick McCarthy’s first game back as manager. On a windy day at Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar, Ireland held 63% possession but could only manage three shots on target, picking up a 49th minute winner off the foot of Jeff Hendrick who came streaking down the middle to meet David McGoldrick’s cross from the left.

Sweden held off a late comeback from Romania to win 2-1 in Stockholm. Mainz striker Robin Quaison bagged the opener just past the half-hour mark with a wonderful touch on the outside of his foot at the near post. They doubled the lead through Victor Claesson just seven minutes later as Quaison’s cross was deflected right to his feet near the top of the box and he fired past Ciprian Tatarusanu. Romania scored just before the hour mark but it proved just a consolation as they couldn’t find an equalizer.

It was an elementary day for Switzerland who topped Georgia 2-0 behind second-half goals from Steven Zuber and Denis Zakaria. Switzerland was dominant from start to finish, pumping off 25 shots with eight on target and holding the hosts to just a single shot on target among six total efforts.

RESULTS

Spain 2-1 Norway
Italy 2-0 Finland
Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-1 Armenia
Lichtenstein 0-2 Greece
Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland
Sweden 2-1 Romania
Georgia 0-2 Switzerland
Malta 2-1 Faroe Islands

Pochettino praises Tottenham: ‘We were better in all aspects’

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LONDON — The north London derby ended in a dramatic 1-1 draw, but Mauricio Pochettino didn’t believe his team deserved anything other than a victory.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

From Harry Kane‘s controversial penalty kick equalizer to Arsenal having a spot kick saved in the 90th minute, there was plenty of late drama on show at Wembley between the bitter rivals.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Pochettino believed his side were superior to Arsenal “in all aspects” and should have taken the victory.

“If we assess the game I think we were better than Arsenal in all the aspects,” Pochettino said. “It was a fantastic game, exciting game with great atmosphere with two teams that wanted to play and win the game. It’s tough to play Arsenal, conceding after 15 minutes was tough for us. But I am so happy with the character and personality that we played with. Our performance was not great, but it was really good to draw and maybe deserve to win. After two defeats it was important today to start to build our positive run.”

Pochettino is maybe heaping a little too much praise on his team here.

In the first half they really struggled to control Arsenal’s counter attacks as Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan wrecked havoc supporting Alexandre Lacazette. There’s no doubt Spurs were the better team in the second half, so from a simplistic standpoint a draw was a fair result in this game.

As for the controversy which dominated the game, Pochettino has previously revealed his disdain towards VAR but seemed less critical of the technology on Saturday.

When asked about whether Kane should have been awarded a penalty kick (replays show he was clearly offside when the cross came in) and if Aubameyang’s missed PK should have been retaken due to encroachment, his answer was clear.

“Football was never fair and it is never going to be fair,” Pochettino said.

Although he argues that Spurs should have won the game, they are showing signs of fatigue and mental mistakes which are costing them dear at a pivotal stage of the season.

With Tottenham in the title race one week ago, they are now in a real battle to finish in the top four as Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United have made up considerable ground amid Spurs’ two defeats and a draw in the past seven days.

Let’s see if Pochettino’s positivity has the desired impact and gives his players a boost for the tough games ahead.

Three things we learned: Tottenham v. Arsenal

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal went at it in a wild 1-1 draw in the north London derby at Wembley on Saturday.

Aaron Ramsey‘s opener was canceled out by Harry Kane‘s controversial penalty kick, as Hugo Lloris then saved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s spot kick in stoppage time and Lucas Torreira was sent off in a wild finish.

Here’s what we learned from a pulsating clash at Wembely, as Spurs stay four points ahead of Arsenal in the table.


VAR CONTROVERSY REIGNS SUPREME

VAR is once again a talking point in the Premier League. Tottenham’s penalty kick came after Harry Kane was legitimately bundled over by Skhodran Mustafi, but he was clearly offside when the free kick was swung in. The linesman couldn’t see around the defenders as he wasn’t in the correct position, and if VAR had been used the penalty decision would have been overturned. Simple as that. The incident for Spurs’ penalty kick is exactly why VAR is arriving in the Premier League for the 2019-20 season, and highlights that it was a mistake to not introduce it this season. Once again we are talking about a mistake being a game-changing one, and Arsenal’s top four chances have taken a hit due to VAR not being used this season. Throughout the game there were other moments of controversy as Granit Xhaka hit Kane hard early on, Danny Rose could have seen red for a challenge on Bernd Leno, then on the penalty kick Arsenal missed in stoppage time there was clear encroachment from Jan Vertonghen who eventually cleared the ball on the rebound. Officials need help and VAR can’t come soon enough to help eradicate these major mistakes in huge games.


ARSENAL’S TWEAKED LINEUP LOST MOMENTUM

Emery surprised many by leaving the likes of Lucas Torreira, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil on the bench, but his lineup choice and tactics were spot on. At least in the first half…

The Spanish coach set up his team to sit back and launch counters, with Alexandre Lacazette popping the ball back and some incisive one touch football opening Spurs up easily. The way Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ran riot with their midfield runs in the first half set Arsenal up for victory.  The former scored the first goal and will be sorely missed when he heads to Juventus in the summer. His clever runs allow Arsenal’s entire side to push higher up the pitch quickly and quite how Ramsey has been allowed to leave for Juve boggles the mind. Yet when Aubameyang, Ozil and Torreira came on in the second half, Arsenal lost the momentum and danger they had on the break and bringing on Ozil at 1-0 up was a strange decision. Maybe Ozil’s arrival subconsciously impacted the Arsenal players, as he is not the ‘closer’ you need in these type of games just as Tottenham were building a head of steam. Emery got his tactics right in the first half but in the second half they couldn’t cope with Spurs’ extra attacking player.


TOTTENHAM’S TOP FOUR CHANCES IN TROUBLE

Tottenham avoided a third-straight defeat in the Premier League for the first time since November 2012, but it was not pretty. Pochettino’s men are struggling at precisely the moment everyone thought they had cracked it. Last week they were genuinely in the title race despite having several injury problems to contend with. One of those who has returned recently, Harry Kane, looked shattered once again and in the first half he failed to control the ball on several occasions and he lost the ball in the box in the build up to Arsenal’s first goal. A lot has been made about Kane’s return to the team coinciding with a string of defeats for Spurs and if he’s fit enough to start, but the issues run a lot deeper than that.

Kane rallied in the second half and bullied Arsenal’s defense, and even though he may not be at his sharpest, he is still a menace. In truth, in the four Premier League games Kane missed, Spurs snatched victory against Fulham, Newcastle, Watford and Leicester, both they were poor for large spells of those games and got out of jail on several occasions. Their good luck has run out and just a week after they were supposed to be in the title race, their top four chances are in serious trouble with Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United hunting them down and all three have greater momentum than Spurs. The latter have trips to Liverpool and Man City coming up and even though they nicked a point against Arsenal, the cracks are showing. Big time. Spurs look shattered.


Arsenal stay hot, hammer Bournemouth (video)

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  • Arsenal stay fourth
  • Ozil, Mkhitaryan score, grab assists
  • Bournemouth lose fourth-straight away game

Arsenal smashed Bournemouth 5-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, as the Gunners were dominant from start to finish.

Mesut Ozil started the scoring, then set Henrikh Mkhitaryan up to make it 2-0. After Lys Mousset made it 2-1 in the first half, Laurent Koscielny scored early in the second half to make it 3-1 and late goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette put some extra gloss on the scoreline.

With the win Arsenal remain fourth on 56 points, while Bournemouth sit in 12th on 34 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Gunners took an early lead after dominating the play, as Ozil was played in free on the left side of the box and dinked a lovely finish over Artur Boruc to make it 1-0.

Arsenal kept pouring forward early on but Bournemouth had a rare chance as Josh King headed just over.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Bournemouth had an ever better chance moments later as Josh King played in Ryan Fraser by Bernd Leno saved well. Arsenal doubled their lead before the break as a slick passing move ripped open Bournemouth’s defense and Ozil was on hand to tee up Mkhitaryan to slot home.

But soon after Bournemouth halved the deficit as Arsenal played around with the ball at the back and Matteo Guendouzi ran into Dan Gosling. He played it to Mousset who stroked home to make it 2-1.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

At the start of the second half Arsenal sealed the victory with Mkhitaryan free on the inside right channel, then pulling the ball back for Koscielny to slot home and make it 3-1.

Arsenal turned on the tricks and flicks in the closing stages as Ozil hit the post as Boruc made a fine stop, and Emery’s men eased to victory with Bournemouth in damage limitation mode.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The Cherries did hit the bar from distance through Dan Gosling, but moments later Arsenal scored their fourth. Mkhitaryan played in Aubameyang who rounded Boruc and finished with ease.

Lacazette scored a fifth late on from a free kick to rub salt into Bournemouth’s wounds, as the Gunners turned on the style to keep their place in the top four.

Mkhitaryan leads Arsenal back into Top Four (video)

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  • Lacazette redirects Mkhitaryan shot
  • Mkhitaryan adds goal of his own
  • Saints remain 18th

Henrikh Mkhitaryan recorded a goal and an assist as Arsenal beat Southampton 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The win pushed Arsenal back into the Top Four, while Southampton remains a point back of 17th place in the race to avoid relegation.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Nathan Redmond flew down the right side of the pitch to trouble Bernd Leno with a sixth minute effort.

Arsenal went ahead within a minute of that, with Lacazette redirecting a Henrikh Mkhitaryan shot into the goal.

Saints had a left-footed shot from Matt Targett blocked by Leno before play was stalled to treat a Sead Kolasinac head injury.

Arsenal doubled its advantage through Mkhitaryan, who took the honors himself this time with a low drive inside the near post following a cross through the 18.

James Ward-Prowse had an early second half effort rocket wide of the frame for Saints.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

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