Associated Press

UEFA Nations League: Dzeko scores, Finland wins again

1 Comment

England’s 3-1 win over Spain was the biggest news of the day in UEFA Nations League play, but there was plenty else to take from the action on Monday.

Edin Dzeko bagged a double as Bosnia & Herzegovina defeated Northern Ireland 2-0. The Roma striker robbed Jamal Lewis of the ball in his own defensive third after the defender slipped, and he buried the chance before the defense could regroup. He picked up his second with 17 minutes remaining as Miralem Pjanic completely bypassed the midfield with a fantastic long chip to Dzeko waiting on the left side of the box, and he had an easy finish with the defense trailing the play.

Dzeko’s two goals were two of just five total shots on target between the two sides in an otherwise drab match, as Northern Ireland has just one win in its last six matches.

Finland topped Greece 2-0 for its fifth consecutive clean-sheet win, going ahead on a goal by Pyry Soiri who finished off a messy chance in the box just after halftime as Greece failed to clear. Finland has not conceded a single goal since falling 2-0 to Romania in mid-June, a run of 479 total minutes. The center-back pairing of Joona Toivio and Paulus Arajuuri has started and played every minute of the three UEFA Nations League wins. Midfielder Glen Kamara scored Finland’s second, ending the country’s run of three straight 1-0 victories.

Switzerland held on to beat Iceland 2-1, with Haris Seferovic and Michael Lang on target for the visitors in Reykjavik. The former headed in a perfect far-post cross from Granit Xhaka just after halftime, while Lang finished off a beautiful bit of team play as Seferovic switched play from right to left before it came back in front of net, touching two Swiss players before finding Lang on the doorstep for finish in traffic. Alfred Finnbogason picked up a consolation with nine minutes left but that would wrap things up.

Hungary drew 3-3 with Estonia in a wild match that featured a double from Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai. The 30-year-old Hungarian bagged a brace on his 50th cap, including his second that rescued a point for his country in the 81st minute after they wasted a 2-1 lead and fell behind 3-2.

Luxembourg topped 10-man San Marino 3-0, grabbing the opener just four minutes in and cruising to the win. Belarus and Moldova drew 0-0 in Minsk as Moldova failed to register a single shot on target despite holding the majority of possession.

Arsenal hold off late Newcastle charge

Leave a comment
  • Ozil scores in 200th Arsenal app
  • Xhaka bags free kick
  • Clark pulls one back
  • Newcastle one point in five

A stoppage time goal had Arsenal on red alert despite a relatively comfortable 90 minutes in a 2-1 win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil scored for Arsenal, who moves level on points with sixth place Spurs.

Ciaran Clark nodded in a Yoshinori Muto cross in stoppage time to give the Magpies extremely late hope, but Newcastle remains in the drop zone after playing four of their first five against Top Four contenders.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

A big error from a slipping Shkrodan Mustafi forced Sokratis into a good intervention after Jacob Murphy pushed his chance a bit too hard.

Newcastle had to remove injured captain Jamaal Lascelles for Ciaran Clark at the break. Would Arsenal take advantage?

It was Newcastle’s other center back, Federico Fernandez, who allowed Arsenal to score its opener. Xhaka lashed a bending free kick past a flying Martin Dubravka. 1-0.

Xhaka’s long cross led a shot blocked into the path of Ozil, who did not miss.

Petr Cech didn’t have to make a save until the 88th minute, pushing a Joselu header over the goal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

FIFA fines Xhaka, Shaqiri, Lichtsteiner for goal celebrations

AP Photo/Antonio Calanni
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) — FIFA has fined three Switzerland players for making hand gestures of an Albanian national symbol to celebrate World Cup goals against Serbia, and cleared them to continue playing.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri received a warning and a fine of $10,100 for unsporting behavior, in a judgment Monday by FIFA’s disciplinary panel.

Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner was warned and fined $5,050.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

The FIFA judges had the power to impose two-match bans if the actions of the players in a 2-1 win last Friday in Kaliningrad were judged to have provoked the general public.

Xhaka and Shaqiri made hand gestures of a two-headed eagle after scoring second-half goals, and Lichtsteiner joined in the celebration.

FIFA opens case against Xhaka, Shaqiri for celebrations

Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP
3 Comments

FIFA’s disciplinary committee opened disciplinary proceedings against Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for politically charged goal celebrations during their 2-1 World Cup win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

[ MORE: The meaning behind Xhaka, Shaqiri’s eagle celebration ]

FIFA also said Saturday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage. Both of their families come from Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Polish Football Association was fined $10,100 and given a warning by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for a banner that the governing body deemed political and offensive. The banner was displayed during Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday in Moscow.

The committee also opened disciplinary proceedings against the federations of Argentina and Croatia for crowd disturbances during Croatia’s 3-0 win Thursday at Nizhny Novgorod.

Xhaka, Shaqiri display controversial goal celebrations in win over Serbia

Getty Images
3 Comments

A seemingly innocuous goal celebration performed by both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri has thinly veiled, politically charged undertones and could potentially land the pair in FIFA disciplinary proceedings following Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.

Both displayed a bird hand signal as they celebrated scoring goals, and considering their pre-match comments, post-match social media posts, and ethnic backgrounds, those were clearly meant to represent the double-eagle symbol in the middle of the Albanian flag.

This is a complicated political scenario, but it could be considered by FIFA to be politically provocative. Shaqiri is Albanian, born in Kosovo before moving to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings when he was just a year old. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. Xhaka is of Albanian descent, and his father previously participated in a demonstration against the communist Yugoslavian rule in Kosovo that landed him a lengthy jail sentence. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Following the match, Xhaka posted a picture of his celebration on his Instagram story, with the caption in Albanian roughly translated to, “Here you go Serbia, this is why they call me Granit Kosovo!” He deleted the post, and replaced it with an image of his celebration side-by-side with Shaqiri’s, with the slightly more cryptic caption, “We did it, bro!” in English.

FIFA is wildly against any type of political demonstration or involvement in the world of soccer. The governing body has punished individual nation federations in the past for government involvement, while political demonstrations on the field are fiercely frowned upon.

Switzerland captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner came to the defense of his two teammates after the match. When asked about the celebrations, he said to Goal.com, “We had a lot of pressure, it was not an easy game for us. We have a lot of Albanians, so there is a lot of history between Serbia and Albania. It was a very tough game for them mentally.”

“It was good. Why not? This is the history for them,” Lichtsteiner continued. “The war between them was so difficult. I spoke to the father of one of our players who is Albanian, and he told me about this history. This is more than football. This is more than football because they have this period, this war that gave them both big problems. I understand them. I think it’s normal, it’s part of their life. There was also big provocation ahead of the game from them [Serbia], so I think it’s normal.”

Shaqiri could be in especially hot water. The Stoke City midfielder wore boots with the flags of Switzerland and Kosovo. He has made it clear in the past that he values his roots, saying, “I was born in Kosovo, but I grew up in Switzerland. I live both mentalities, it’s not a big difference.”

Switzerland finishes its World Cup group stage round with a match against Costa Rica on Wednesday in which a win would secure a spot in the knockout stage.