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Asian Cup: Japan, Iran advance to semifinals

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For the first time since winning the tournament in 2011, Japan has returned to the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup.

Japan recorded a 1-0 win over Vietnam in the quarterfinal round, thanks to a VAR-determined penalty kick goal in the second half by starlet Ritsu Doan. It was Japan’s fifth straight win in the competition, all by a one-goal margin. Japan now advances to face Iran, who recorded a 3-0 win over China in the second match of the day.

[READ: Chelsea advance to League Cup final]

Captained by Maya Yoshida, Japan’s defense has continued to improve throughout the tournament, shutting out both Saudi Arabia and the technically gifted Vietnam in the last two rounds.

It was an even bigger milestone for Iran. For the first time in 15 years, Team Melli is heading to the semifinal round. Iran took advantage of a mistake by China defender Feng Xiaoting when Sardar Azmoun picked his pocket as the last defender, squaring it to Mehdi Taremi for the opening goal in the 18th minute. Iran doubled the lead in the 31st minute through another defensive error from China on a long ball, as Azmoun rounded the goalkeeper to score. Yet again, another defensive miscue led to Iran’s third goal, with Karim Ansarifard providing the finishing touch.

China striker Yu Dabao and We Lei were each held scoreless, despite scoring two goals each so far in the tournament.

Hasenhuttl “unbelievably proud” of Southampton’s warriors

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Ralph Hasenhuttl hailed his 10-man Southampton side for digging deep to win away at Leicester City and drag themselves out of the relegation zone. 

Saints were 2-0 up at half time but had Yan Valery sent off in the 45th minute, putting them up against it in the second half. Leicester had 85 percent possession and 19 attempts at goal in the second period, but scored just once as Saints put in a valiant defensive display to secure a huge three points.

Speaking after the game, Hasenhuttl praised the mentality of his players and suggested they rather enjoyed the challenge.

“The second half was getting in the same compact with the defense and to try to defend,” Hasenhuttl said. “This manner and mainly the passion and the mentality was the winner of this game today. I thought we got too early 2-1, so it would be a long time then to get something here. The players enjoyed it. They felt the way we defend it is very difficult for the opponents to score. The longer the game went on, the more stable we were.”

Hasenhuttl also told BBC’s Match of the Day that he is “unbelievably proud” of his players.

“To be manager of this team, it’s a fantastic job,” Hasenhuttl said. “Today they showed their quality. To go 2-0 in the lead at Leicester is not easy and we defended with fantastic commitment.”

This feels like a massive moment in Southampton’s season.

Saints have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League this season but their players stood up to the challenge and were calm despite being pegged back to 2-1 with over 30 minutes remaining. Jan Bednarek, Oriol Romeu, Long, Jannik Vestergaard and Jack Stephens were all impressive as they made sure Hasenhuttl will have a selection dilemma in the weeks to come.

They were without regulars Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Charlie Austin (both suspended), Danny Ings, Michael Obafemi, Mario Lemina, Ryan Bertrand (all injured) and Maya Yoshida (on international duty at the Asian Cup) and had eight players from their famed academy in their 18-man squad. Callum Slattery made his Premier League debut as a sub, while Sam Gallagher played his first minutes of the PL season late on as Hasenhuttl’s squad was stretched to the limit.

No matter who was out there Saints’ players showed they are fighting for their new manager, and Hasenhuttl has now won three of his first seven PL games as Southampton manager. That equals as many victories as Mark Hughes, the man he replaced, managed in 22 matches as Saints boss.

Hasenhuttl has momentum and Southampton now have a favorable run of games with Everton, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City at home, plus a trip to Burnley. The next few weeks are pivotal for their chances of not only staying in the Premier League but pushing themselves into midtable.

Gunn helps Saints to point at Chelsea

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  • Blues have 72 percent possession
  • Gunn makes several big saves
  • Morata goal ruled offside

Angus Gunn‘s first Premier League start saw a clean sheet and a big point for Southampton, who drew Chelsea 0-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Gunn was aided by the linesman’s flag, as Alvaro Morata did appear to have a goal in the second half only to be ruled offside.

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Saints sat in to stymy Chelsea, and Eden Hazard nearly defied it in the 34th minute. Southampton keeper Angus Gunn was able to block the close-range shot.

Young Southampton defender Yan Valery was able to flick an Alvaro Morata shot out for a corner in the 40th.

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Kepa Arrizabalaga moved well to stop Stuart Armstrong‘s attempted opener early in the second half.

Gunn then stopped Hazard again when the Belgian cut in to shoot in the 59th.

Morata was controversially ruled offside and saw a goal taken off the board by the linesman’s flag.

Gunn made another stop on Morata when Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek combined to set up the Spaniard.

Saints got a big tackle from Maya Yoshida when N'Golo Kante moved into the box late in the match.

Saints snap Arsenal unbeaten run at 22

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  • Austin scores late winner
  • Ings nets two headers
  • Mkhitaryan twice equalizes

Charlie Austin‘s late goal joined Danny Ings‘ brace as Southampton topped Arsenal 3-2 on Sunday at St. Mary’s to give Ralph Hasenhuttl his first win as Saints boss.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s two equalizers were not enough for Arsenal, who remains fifth with 43 points.

Saints move 17th with 12 points, pushing Burnley back into the Bottom Three.

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Arsenal attacked first with Matteo Guendouzi setting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on goal, but Saints keeper Alex McCarthy cut down the distance considerably to block the shot.

Nathan Redmond won a corner for Saints in the 14th minute, but it led to nothing for the South Coast side. And Stuart Armstrong curled a shot that Bernd Leno fell to catch four minutes later.

Saints went ahead through Ings, nodding home a Matt Targett cross with authority for the first goal under Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Mkhitaryan made it 1-1 when Nacho Monreal sent a cross to the penalty spot for a headed goal.

But Redmond’s cross put Ings in for a with a header that was either lucky, clever, or equal parts both. The brace was his first in the Premier League since Nov. 22, 2014, when he scored twice for Burnley against Stoke City.

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Mkhitaryan had another answer for Arsenal, though, thanks to a shot that took a significant turn off of Jannik Vestegaard to leave McCarthy answerless. It was 2-2 with 37 minutes to play at St. Mary’s.

Arsenal had the better of the chances and the proverbial rub of the green when Saints did challenge, as Shane Long was viewed offside when Maya Yoshida scored late.

Mesut Ozil was well saved by McCarthy, and Aubameyang had a promising opportunity blocked as Saints worked hard for their point.

Would they get three? Yes! Austin was alone to nod home when Leno couldn’t reach Long’s cross.

Southampton furious after ‘joke’ offside decision

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Southampton striker Charlie Austin was not a happy man after their 1-1 draw with Watford on Saturday at St Mary’s.

When 1-0 up in the second half Saints had a goal chalked out for offside by the officials, led by referee Simon Hooper, as Austin’s shot was deflected and found the back of the net.

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However, after a minute or so of confusion the goal was disallowed as Saints’ Maya Yoshida, in an offside position, was adjudged to have interfered with play. Yoshida didn’t attempt to go towards the ball and none of Watford’s players remonstrated with the officials as Yoshida wasn’t close to the ball. The Japanese defender said afterwards that “the referee realized they got it wrong. I heard that he said that.”

Speaking to the TV cameras after the game about the decision, a furious Austin didn’t mince his words.

“It’s ridiculous, they shouldn’t be in the game. We scored a perfectly good goal that was ruled out for offside. The officials cost us two points,” Austin said. “They said it was offside, that is a joke. People go on about VAR, they clearly need help. If this is the best, most-watched league in the world then give them all the help they need. It is a joke. Sure there are many positives, we worked hard, we deserved three points and we would have got that had we not been let down by the official. We feel like we have been let down. We started well, worked hard to be up 1-0 at half-time and we stuck to the plan. We didn’t get beat but we should have gotten away with three points going into the international break. The performance was there, we can take that away and we should manage the game. I’m angry is what it is, we should have won 2-0.”

It is safe to say that Austin could potentially be banned and fined for airing his strong views about the officials. But was he incorrect to call out the incorrect decisions? You can hardly disagree with his facts but the manner of his complaints may see him in trouble.

His manager, Mark Hughes, agreed totally with Austin and had a few more minutes to compose himself before hammering the officials further.

“It is not good enough, the performance of the referee,” Hughes told BBC Sports. “All we want in a game is the key match-defining moments to be correct. It is a skill, a talent and a referee has to have that or they won’t be at this level. The ref today is a little inexperienced. At 2-0 the game is over. It is unfortunate and a bad mistake. He admitted it on the pitch. I mean for goodness sake, he needed a bit of help. These decisions affect what we are trying to do here. People will say they should have had a penalty, it doesn’t matter. Our keeper could’ve saved it. Our goal went in and was ruled out. At 2-0 we could manage the game out, the momentum when the goal was chalked off went to them.”

Hooper was officiating his fourth game in the PL all-time and just his second this season and it appears his assistant referee was the one who called him over after Austin’s goal.

Saints are struggling just outside of the relegation zone with one win in their 12 games so far this season as they’ve now gone eight matches without victory and they’ve won just once in the last 12 months at home.

In truth, they should have conceded a penalty kick when Ryan Bertrand took down Nathaniel Chalobah moments before the Austin no-goal, so you could say these things even themselves out.

But they were two poor decisions and Southampton can rightly feel that if they had gone 2-0 up with 25 minutes to go, the game would be done and dusted.

The frustration from Austin and Hughes caps a tough week for Southampton as a whole, as Vice Chairman Les Reed was fired and so too was Technical Director Martin Hunter as Saints continue to struggle after near relegation last season.

Hughes and his players put in a solid display against Watford but they’ve now drawn five (the most draws of any club in the PL) of their 12 games this season and look destined for another relegation scrap.