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The Week in Women’s Football: CONCACAF & Asian 2020 Olympic Qualifying finals;

This week we report live from the CONCACAF 2020 Olympic Games Semifinals and Final matches in Los Angeles, which sends the region’s two representatives to the Tokyo Olympics this summer and we also wrap up the third round of group play for the CONCACAF finals. We also look at the progress so far in the Asian Football Confederation’s Olympic Games Third Round groups, which have seen so much turmoil, having been moved from two cities in China to Australia due to the Coronovirus and Korea DPR dropping out of the group because of some dissatisfaction with the host Korea Republic, which has been rather vague in explanation, leaving only three teams participating, with two moving onto next month’s semifinals to send two teams onto Tokyo.CONCACAF 2020 OLYMPIC GAMES QUALIFYING FINALS The U.S. and Mexico advanced to the 2020 Olympic Games in women’s football over the weekend of February 7 through 9 in Los Angeles, with the Americans defeating Canada 3-0 in the CONCACAF Final on February 9 to advance as the regional champions. Lynn Williams had a goal and two assists (to Lindsey Horan and Megan Rapinoe) with all three goals coming in the last thirty minutes against the Maple Leafs. In the semifinals on February 7, Canada defeated a gritty Costa Rica 1-0 with a Jordan Huitema (Paris St. Germain) goal in the 72nd minute. Her shot from close range first hit the left post and on the rebound she slotted it into the right hand side of the net. Substitute Deanne Rose (20) of the University of Florida came on minutes before to take on the right side of the Costa Rican defense with her blinding speed and her pinpoint cross found Huitema in the box for the winner. Huitema, only 18, finished the tournament atop the goal scorers table with 7 goals. Canada qualified for its fourth consecutive Olympic Games Finals in women’s football. In the nightcap, the U.S. dispatched Mexico 4-0, with two goals from Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage) and singles from Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit) and Christen Press (Utah Royals). The Americans qualified for its seventh consecutive Olympic Games Finals—making all 7 events held with women’s football including this summer. They won four Gold Medals, in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012.Note: Next week we will have quotes from coaches and players of all four teams, including thoughts for the future of their respective programs and our view of where the competitive balance stands in CONCACAF among national teams at the conclusion of this tournament. In the last game of CONCACAF 2020 Olympic Games Final Qualifying Group A play, the U.S. secured top spot in the group in Houston on February 3, defeating Costa Rico 6-0. Christen Press (Utah Royals) was stellar with two stunning first half goals and one assist while midfielder Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage) also had two goals along with Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns) and Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage) scoring once each, with Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC) chipping in with two assists. The U.S. outshot Costa Rica 24-1 (for shots on goal 13-0) and had a 5-1 advantage on corner kicks. The two games attracted 7,082 fans to BBVA Stadium in Houston, Texas.In the other game to conclude Group A, Haiti overwhelmed Panama 6-0, scoring their first goals of the tournament and finishing in third place with 3 points, while Panama finished with 0 points and a -19 goal differential. Two French-based forwards, Mikerline Saint Felix (Montauban FC, currently second in Group A of the Feminine Division 2) and Nerilia Mondesir (Montpellier, currently fourth in Feminine Division 1), each scored a brace. 16-year-old Melchie Dumornay (AS Tigresses of Haiti) and Batcheba Louis (FF Issy Les Moulineaux, first in Group A of the Feminine Division 2, from which only one team is promoted) added singles for Haiti. Despite losing to the U.S. (4-0) and Costa Rica (2-0), Haiti continues to improve with a rich group of talented youngsters, and just as we saw when they qualified for the 2018 U-20 Women’s World Cup Finals and performed quite well in the group stage, Haiti will at some point soon break through at a senior CONCACAF Finals to advance to a major tournament.2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Group A Final StandingsTEAMGPWLDGFGAGDPTSUSA 3 3 0 0 18 0 +18 9 Costa Rica 3 2 1 0 8 7 +1 6 Haiti 3 1 2 0 6 6 0 3 Panama 3 0 3 0 1 20 -19 0 In the final Group B matches on February 4 in Edinburg, Texas, Canada took top honors in the group stage with a 2-0 defeat of Mexico. Canada used first half goals by the Portland Thorn’s Christine Sinclair (adding to her now record haul of international goals with her 186th) and the Orlando Pride’s Shelina Zadorsky to secure the win. Mexico’s defense stymied Canada for good portions of the match and Mexico’s ball control and movement out of midfield was quite sophisticated. This was always going to be a nervy contest as the Group B winner would play Costa Rica in the semifinal, on paper an easier draw than the Americans, who second place Mexico now have to play. There was some history here as well as in the semifinals of the 2004 CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the Athens Greece Olympics, heavily favored Canada was surprisingly eliminated by Mexico 2-1 and earned a trip to Greece. Canada had come off of a surprising fourth place finish just months before at the 2003 Women’s World Cup in the States while Mexico had not qualified for that World Cup and were still trying to build their program under former Mexican national team star Leonardo Cuellar, who utilized about half of his squad from college trained Mexican-American diaspora. In an interview at a friendly match some months later with this reporter, Cuellar said that he prepared his team for the match by ramping up their physical play in practice. Canada expected Mexico to play their usual technical passing game but was surprised when they matched Canada’s signature, aggressive, battling style and directly attacked the goal. The wily coach felt that match could have a long-term impact on the sport in his country, particularly since it was telecast live nationwide. Even Pellerud, the Norwegian Coach of Canada from 2000 through 2008, told this reporter that his proudest achievement was qualifying Canada for their first Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing, rather than the 2003 WWC campaign.In the final Group B match, Jamaica defeated St. Kitts and Nevis 7-0. Khadija (Bunny) Shaw of Bordeaux in France—who are currently third in the Feminine Division 1 as Shaw has 9 goals to be joint fourth on the league goal scorer’s table—and Kayla McCoy (Houston Dash—who tore her ACL just before the 2019 WWC and missed the event in France) both scored braces to power the Reggae Girlz. Tiffany Cameron (Stabaek of Norway), Havana Solaun (Klepp of Norway—who scored Jamaica’s only WWC Finals goal in France against Australia—and Trudi Carter (AS Roma of Italy) from the penalty spot added single tallies. Jamaica still has to deal with more support from the Jamaican Federation as 2019 Women’s World Cup coach Hue Menzies resigned late last year over unpaid compensation totaling a reported $40,000—Menzies began with the team in 2015 and had not received any salary. He explained, “We have a business to run here and things to do so I really can’t just be on the fence trying to figure out what I am doing without any type of communication, so I decided to step down. I didn’t want to leave the players but at the end of the day, I have to take care of some things here that are actually paying my bills. I still have not been paid by the JFF and they still owe me money for reimbursements, so without any type of communication, we just can’t operate like that.” Menzies runs a youth club in Orlando.Menzies’ long-time assistant Lorne Donaldson took the team through Olympic Games qualifying when Menzies refused to continue to work without pay but Donaldson resigned in January saying in a letter to the Jamaican Football Federation, “This decision is primarily based on the questionable integrity and lack of professionalism within the leadership of the JFF.” The team was led in Texas by former Vancouver Whitecaps Women and Seattle Sounders Women’s coach Hubert Busby.Last month it was reported that the JFF had made compensation payments of 80% to the women’s coaches and team staff, but Cedella Marley, daughter of Reggae singing legend Bob Marley, and the Bob Marley Foundation has stepped in again to support the team as they have for years. Busby is a really good coach and I have known him for some years, but this program needs to have the JFF step up and support it as they do with the men’s side and help the local women’s league grow. They cannot continue to go through coaches and shortchange the team on support or they will quickly find themselves in the weeds like Trinidad and Tobago has for the same reasons, who lost badly to St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean Football Union Qualifying Rounds and did not make this tournament—5 years ago they narrowly lost to Ecuador in a two-leg intercontinental qualifying tie for the last 2015 WWC spot. Jamaica, as the first ever Caribbean WWC team, needs to lead the region and they are an inspiration to players that I have talked to in other CFU nations—it can all slip away so quickly and their marvelous generation of player—mainly in the States and with clubs abroad—need to be encouraged and supported for further success to take place, particularly since CONCACAF should have more spots available than 3.5 for the expanded 2023 WWC.As far as St. Kitts and Nevis is concerned, despite not scoring at all in three games, they were quite interesting to watch and quite surprising because the team was so young, including 14-year-old Kayla Uddenburg (who lives in Canada), 15-year old Kaylee Bennett from Baltimore, 16 year old Ellie Stokes (who her coach Jene’ Baclawski said she should definitely be picked up by a Division 1 American college team in the years to come) and 17-year-old Iyania Bailey-Williams (who lives in Puerto Rico and plays with Bayamon F.C.) Cloey Uddenberg is 17-years-old (one of 3 sisters on the team) and was quite impressive in midfield and should be a solid college player and have a potential professional career. Backup goalkeeper Quinn Josiah (19) is from Ontario in Canada and started the final group game against Jamaica. She plays at Prairie View University in Texas, who qualified for the NCAA playoffs for t the first time and lost to 2019 College Cup Champions Stanford in the first round (15-0).2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Group B Final StandingsTEAMGPWLDGFGAGDPTSCanada 3 3 0 0 22 0 +22 9 Mexico 3 2 1 0 7 2 +5 6 Jamaica 3 1 2 0 7 10 -3 3 St. Kitts and Nevis 3 0 3 0 0 24 -24 0 Asian 2020 Olympic Games Third Round QualifiersThe 2020 Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Women’s Olympic Games Qualifying Football Tournament Third Round Group B between Australia, China, Chinese Taipei and Thailand has come under some considerable turmoil in recent weeks. Originally scheduled to be held in Wuhan China, which became a non-starter as Wuhan was the source of the Coronavirus breakout. The tournament was then shifted to Nanjing. With incidents of the virus found spreading throughout China, the tournament group was shifted at the last minute to Sydney, Australia on January 30. Football Federation Australia Chief Executive James Johnson said, “FFA very much appreciates the collaborative approach displayed by everyone to re-schedule the Olympic Qualification tournament. I’d like to thank the CFA [China Football Association] for their understanding and cooperation, despite the difficult situation their team and staff have found themselves in since arriving in Brisbane. FIFA, AFCand the clubs have also been extremely flexible and supportive of the changes to the match schedule. I’d also like to thank the Australian and Queensland Governments, Campbelltown City Council [near Sydney] and Venues NSW, along with the many organizations involved in accommodating and transporting the teams. As always, the health of everyone involved, from players and officials to the fans and contractors, remains the number one priority. This new format allows us to stage these matches with that priority in mind and we now look forward to welcoming all teams and hosting a successful tournament.”The schedule, originally set for two games each day on February 3, 6 and 9, had to be reconfigured a few times, in part because China, who had trained in Australia last month and lost to Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 in an exhibition in Brisbane, were quarantined to their hotel in Brisbane as a standard health procedure since late in January to ensure that no team members had the virus. The group matches were rescheduled for February 3, 7 1nd 10, while a final day was added for February 12 to accommodate the crucial China versus Australia game, which was later switched to a day later on February 13.It was not just women’s football that was affected by the virus as men’s domestic and Asian Champions League matches have been postponed, as has the start of the Chinese Basketball Association League, which was due to start on February 1. The Asian Indoor Track and Field Championships later this month in Hangzhou were cancelled, as was the first Winter X-Games in China for Chongli, as was the Hong Kong Marathon, and Olympic Qualifying events in boxing and women’s basketball were moved out of the country.In the first Group B game on February 3, Chinese Taipei upset Thailand 1-0, with a 19th minute goal by Ting Chi (24) assisted by Wang Hsiang Huei (32). Thailand led by a 2-1 margin in possession over Chinese Taipei, while the winners led in shots (14-7) and shots on target (4-2) despite only having 1 corner to 11 for Thailand. Thailand had played in the last two Women’s World Cup Finals while Chinese Taipei played in the first Women’s World Cup Final tournament in 1991 in China. Chinese Taipei was brought back down to earth on February 7 when Australia pounced for 7 goals—3 from Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord—in suburban Sydney. The day before, the People’s Republic of China opened their tournament with a 6-1 thrashing of Thailand, with braces from Li Ying (along with 1 assist) and Tang Jiali (24 of Shanghai Ladies). Ying currently plays with Shandong Ladies and at 27, has over 100 caps for her country, and played for a short time in the Korea Republic with Suwon. Silawan Intamee of Chonburi in Thailand scored her country’s first goal of the tournament in the 80th minute.Group A was not without its controversy as well. Korea DPR dropped out of the group last month because of some dissatisfaction with the host nation Korea Republic, which has been rather vague in explanation but seemed tied to the fact that the Korea Republic ended up not bidding on the 2023 Women’s World Cup by the December 2019 deadline—which could have had some games held in the North. It might also have been because Korea DPR would have had to compete against their southern neighbors in their third round group. The result left only three teams participating, with two moving onto next month’s semifinals to send two teams onto Tokyo.In Group A’s opener on February 3, Korea Republic blasted Myanmar 7-0 with 5 second half goals and braces by Ji So-yun (Chelsea) along with 2 assists, Park Yee-Un and Yeo Min上海419论坛-Ji (Gumi Sportstoto in Korea Republic and the 2010 Women’s U-17 World Cup Golden Boot Winner). On February 6, Vietnam ensured that it advanced to the semifinals after a 1-0 defeat of Myanmar, with Ngan Thi Van Su scoring the loan goal in the 62md minute. Vietnam had substantial advantages over their opponent in possession (64% vs 36%), shots (21 to 2), shots on frame (7 to 2) and corner kicks (6-1). Van Su is 18 and has played for her country’s youth teams since 2015. On February 8, Korea Republic defeated Vietnam 3-0—with a 76% to 24% possession advantage and 24 shots to 0 for Vietnam (10 to 0) for shots on goal—to win the group. Korea Republic will face the runner-up in Group B for a spot in Tokyo while Vietnam will go against the Group A winners in the two leg regional final ties next month.Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women’s football. Get your copy today.Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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Pundit’s insight into Dean Smith’s Aston Villa battle cry

Aston Villa can “turn a negative into a positive” in their battle to avoid Premier League relegation, according to Danny Higginbotham. Dean Smith’s men were beaten finalists in the Carabao Cup final, losing 2-1 to Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday. While gut-wrenching at the time, Villa took pride from their performance against the reigning champions, and can take that into their Premier League campaign. The weekend results saw slip into the bottom three, with victories for Watford, West Ham United and Norwich City. Former Stoke City man, turned pundit, Higginbotham believes Villa’s performance at Wembley can give them confidence ahead of their final 11 top flight fixtures. “100%,” Higginbotham told Sky Sports when asked if it could be used as momentum for Smith’s side. “They would have been disappointed because they got back into the game. At 2-0 people are looking and thinking it could be four or five. “Dean Smith would be disappointed and the emotion onThe Gunners were poor for 60 minutes at the London Stadium, as West Ham put themselves deservedly ahead through Angelo Ogbonna late in the first-half.But out of nowhere, Freddie Ljungberg’s side snapped into life when Gabriel Martinelli struck on the the pitch I would imagine the first thing he content_imgsaid was to remember this performance. “Against one of the best teams in Europe to know what you’re capable of. Every game they go into, take that performance and they will stay up. “That would be the message. “Disappointing because they didn’t win it, but there were a huge amount of positives for the way they performed.” He added: r Martin Odegaard is confident he’ll get a chance at parent club Real Madrid.Odegaard is currently on-loan at La Real.He said, “I went to Madrid because I was going to train with the first team, with the best players in the world, and to play in Cast“The cup run and getting to the final, we went on a similar run with Stoke and it started to build up when you sense a feel-good factor. “They can turn a negative to losing a cup final into a positive.”

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Real Madrid matchwinner Sergio Ramos: I dedicate this goal to my wife

Real Madrid are back at the top of the table following a 2-1 win against Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu.Madrid had found themselves behind after 25 minutes following an own goal from goalkeeper Keylor Navas, the first shot-stopper to put through his own net in the league this season.However, Cristiano Ronaldo equalised for Real with his first-ever goal against Betis four minutes before half-time and after right-back Cristian上海419论坛o Piccini had been shown a 78th-minute red card, Sergio Ramos headed the home side’s winner nine minutes from time.”In football what is important is the result, but it is right that we have to improve our play a little more so that the fans can enjoy it,” Ramos told Movistar+ after the game.”I am happy to score again, I dedicate it to my wife. It was a strange game, the team did some things well, Betis defended well and the few chances we had didn’t end in a goal, so we had to go on the counter.”It was important to win to put ourselves top.”

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‘Overwhelmed’ – national media deliver their verdict as Wolves claim deserved point at Arsenal

Pressure continues to grow on Arsenal boss Unai Emery after they dropped points at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. deservedly took a point from their clash in the capital as they Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had given Arsenal a first-half lead, but Wolves’ pressure paid off when Raul Jimenez headed home Joao Moutinho’s cross 14 minutes from time. Here’s how the national media summed it up… DAILY MIRROR Wolves striker Raul Jimenez cancelled out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first-half goal for Arsenal in a 1-1 draw. Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil was in the team after his midweek League Cup performance but there was no place in the squad for captain Granit Xhaka, who was heavily criticised followhed a last-gasp equaliser through Samuele Longo after a Timo Kehrer header, then beat PSG on penalties in Macau.“I am certainly very happy and I believe that looking at the match overall, we absolutely did not deserve a defeat,” Conte told Inter TVing his angry reaction to being substituted last week. Arsenal looked set to break a run of poor league performances that has seen them take five points from the last four games when Aubameyang stabbed home Alexandre Lacazette’s pass in the content_img21st minute. Despite dominating possession, Arsenal failed to score again and were hit by a sucker-punch in the 76th minute when Mexican striker Jimenez headed home Joao Moutinho’s looping ball into the box for the equaliser. Arsenal pressed forward looking for a late winner but the Wolves rearguard survived the loss of Irish international defender Matt Doherty to injury as they held firm to make it eight league games unbeaten. With the home fans booing at the final whistle, the result leaves Arsenal fifth on 17 points, with Wolves 11th on 13. DAILY MAIL When it was all done, the locals had themselves a little grumble. Not the kind of frothing mutiny of Arsenal’s recent past, but the kind they know so well in these parts. The kind that comes when those folk of lofty standards in the crowd feel all is not right in their world. Which, of course, it isn’t. It almost never is these days, and this was one of the more trying ones, when in the absence of the captain they seem to loathe, they still found themselves flapping about without a win or a clue. Not that anyone expected Granit Xhaka’s absence to herald an instant fix. Nor did anyone seriously believe the return of Mesut Ozil would bring back the sunshine. No, because the problems run deeper than small tweaks. How deep? That, ultimately, is for the powerbrokers of the club to decide, but Unai Emery must be feeling uneasy about his standing, even if he says he isn’t. Indeed, it remains one of the truisms of football that boos at the final whistle tend to signify a shortening runway for a manager and there were plenty at the end of this one. An element of that was down to the frustration of seeing a win fade into something less for the third time in a week, with Raul Jimenez cancelling out the first-half goal of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But it was about more than that – it was about the balance of this game, which largely favoured Wolves. It was about a playing style that again lacked a single recognisable trait and a muddled system which often saw a defensive midfielder in Lucas Torreira at the attacking tip of the diamond. It was about playing on the counter at home against a mid-table side and ending up outdone by 25 shots to 10. Plenty of the football played under Emery has lacked logic and here the message was as confused as ever, up to and including Arsenal’s best moment – the goal – which came about because a central defender in David Luiz found himself in possession on the right wing. Bizarre times. After it was done, Emery was asked about his position, saying: ‘I am very demanding (of) myself and I feel every time the opportunity to work and come back with a better result.’ But will they come? At this stage, it feels hard to buy into that with any confidence. Even the inclusion of Ozil didn’t bring about a significant improvement. He was given the warmest reception of the day ahead of kick off and worked hard, even defensively, but he ld have a regular place in the Liverpool side.The Ox reminded everyone of his talent when he scored a wonder goal as the Reds marched past Genk in the UEFA Champions League group stages.Ferdinand believes that Oxlade-Chamberlain has qualities that arlooked rusty, which is to be expected on the back of only one previous Premier League appearance this season. GUARDIAN If there was any cold comfort for Granit Xhaka, at least the boos this time were not directed at him. Arsenal’s captain watched this match from home, insulated from any risk of stoking the flames that have consumed the club’s past seven days, and what he saw left little doubt that Unai Emery’s problems extend far beyond the trials, tribulations and errors of one man. It was not Xhaka who dozed off at a throw-in to let João Moutinho stand up the cross that Raúl Jiménez threw himself at to equalise in the 76th minute; that was Dani Ceballos. Nor was it Xhaka who failed to prevent the Wolves forward from reaching that delivery, Calum Chambers and Sokratis Papastathopoulos instead being bullied like a pair of England rugby players. And nobody could pillory Xhaka for yet another loose and colourless collective display, devoid of any real control even after Pierre‑Emerick Aubameyang had given Arsenal a first-half advantage, that led to a second consecutive home lead thrown away and added to the sense that this team is going nowhere fast. “The result is a bad result, but tactically we worked like we wanted,” Emery said. It was presumably not part of the masterplan that Wolves out-shot Arsenal by 25 to 10 or that his side barely left their own half in the opening 15 minutes. They improved to the extent it felt just about possible to envisage them seeing things out this time, but their problems are systemic and it is clear Emery faces a battle to survive beyond his contractual break clause next summer. By the end Arsenal were chasing a winner with teenagers Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, two outstanding but raw talents, while the club record signing, Nicolas Pépé, was confined to the bench. TELEGRAPH Arsenal’s turbulent week took another downward lurch when they let slip a much-needed victory that could have applied some balm to the red-raw controversy engulfing them over Granit Xhaka, their estranged captain. It had all looked good for the Londoners when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, wearing the captain’s armband, gave them a first-half advantage but spirited Wolves were never quelled and fully deserved to share the points, provided by Raul Jimenez’s smartly-taken header 14 minutes from the end, when some desultory jeers again drifted across the stadium. The seven troubling days had started with Xhaka’s foul-mouthed exchange with supporters as he was substituted in last weekend’s home draw with Crystal Palace. The Xhaka affair rumbled all week, with Emery leaving him out of two subsequent match squads but refusing to confirm if he remains club captain. Amid all that, Arsenal bowed out of the Carabao Cup on penalties after a 5-5 thriller at Liverpool. Xhaka had doubled down on Thursday’s defiant Instagram statement, in which he revealed he and his family had received death threats and other threatening and abusive social media messages, by republishing his response in his captain’s column in Saturday’s Arsenal match day programme. “In these notes, I hope you will respect that I just wish to repeat the message which I posted on Instagram on Thursday,” he wrote by way of an introduction. And there was another message for those Arsenal supporters checking their social media feeds before kick-off on Saturday, Xhaka posting an image of himself working out in a gym. What he might have made of events at the Emirates, in his absence, can only be imagined but his team-mates responded with a committed display that their oft-critical north London audience quickly warmed to, although there were frustrations towards the end as the prospect of three points slipped away. BBC After a slow start to the season Wolves have now collected 10 points from the last 18 available on an unbeaten run that has seen them climb from 19th. This performance which mirrored their showing in the 1-1 draw the Emirates last season was brimming with pace, energy and swift counter-attacking football which at times overwhelmed the hosts. Roared on by 3,000 supporters draped in gold and black, Jimenez, Dioga Jota, Matt Doherty and Ruben Neves all featured prominently, particularly during the first period. With the visitors sweeping forward at every opportunity, they conceded the softest of goals as the absence of their regular defenders – Willy Boly and Ryan Bennett – was felt when deputising midfielder Leander Dendoncker failed to spot Aubameyang’s run. But that did little to jolt or unnerve them as they continued in the same vein and pushed Arsenal back.

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Thompson: Liverpool must beat Hoffenheim to stand a chance of keeping Coutinho

Jurgen Klopp’s side face Hoffenheim in Germany on Tuesday night in the first left of their Champions League play-off and Thompson believes that losing isBalthazar not an option for the ‘Reds’.Speaking to ‘Sky Sports’ ahead of the game, the 63-year-old said: “I think the outcome of the play-off could have a knock-on to Coutinho; if things go pear-shaped then has a pretty good excuse to say, ‘Let me go, I want to play in the Champions League’, so it is even more important in that respect.”If we get through to the group stages then I think the owners – because they put everything at Coutinho’s disposal before, giving him a five-year deal and the pay increase that he and his agent asked for – have strong enough grounds to stand firm.”The owners know it’s Barcelona but to them it’s a contract signed and until they’ve got a player who can fill his boots then they have no interest in selling, especially after the way the clu coach Gian Piero Gasperini is staying.Gasperini had been linked with AS Roma and AC Milan after guiding the Oribici to Champions League qualification.“With great satisfaction, I can confirm that the relationship between Atalanta and our Coach Gianb was embarrassed with the timing of the transfer request.”The former England international also admitted that Liverpool are in for a tough test against the Germans, sased of the midfielder’s current form, but the former Ajax star insists he feels good about his decision to join Barca.De Jong said, “I found my place.content_img I feel at home here, at the club, in the team, in the city and where I live. I really feel at home.ying that it was the most difficult tie possible for the Merseysiders.”Out of all the teams we could have played this was the hardest. We could have had Nice, Steaua Bucharest, Young Boys or Istanbul BB and we pulled out Hoffenheim. They are very good defensively, very good at set-plays and Liverpool obviously need to improve at the back,” he explained.

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Chelsea legend Zola bemoans decreasing prestige of FA Cup

Birmingham City manager Gianfranco Zola has lamented the ever-decreasing importance of the FA Cup.The FA Cup is the oldest tournament in the history of football and the competition certainly used to be regarded very highly by every team across England, as well as the fans.However, the cup has seen its prestige fall dramatically over the years as top flight teams regularly put out their second string sides, prompting Chelsea legend Zola to suggest that the historic tournament has lost its value due to the exorbitant money currently on offer in the Premier League.Zola told talkSPORT: “Unfortunately that’s the kind of money involved in the Premier League and, obviously, going up to the Premier League being a Championship team is huge.”More often, they have squads where they have 20 or 22 very good players.”As a manager you have to make them count and, on the one hand, you have to try and go to the Premier League – you have to think about everything. On the other hand you have 22 quality players and you have to give them a run, you have to play them, because obviously you need to keep the balance in the team.”If you have a squad with 12-13 players that can be in the team, and you have young players that come up, when you have a lot of players that are potential first team players then you have to play them. This is the reality of the situation.”It’s very sad for the FA Cup because it is a great competition and I always say it is one of the best in the world but the reality is that the money isn’t there.”Unless th上海419论坛ey find a clever way to motivate the teams to play their best teams in this competition it will be hard.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Atletico Madrid possess star power in Griezmann, Saul Niguez – Tiago Mendes

Tiago Mendes is confident that Atletico Madrid are in good hands for years to come due to the presence of a pair of quality attackers.Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez promise to be key performers for the Spanish club in 2016/17 and beyond having developed into top-class players while at the Vicente Calderon.25-year-old France international Griezmann, in particular, is expected to continue to flourish for Los Colchoneros after scoring 57 goals (32 last season) since arriving from Real Sociedad two years ago and midfielder Mendes has backed him to join the world’s absolute elite in the not too distant future. “Griezmann had a fantastic season,” Portuguese veteran Mendes told Tribalfootball of the forward who was unable to guide Atletico to victory in the Champions League final while also missing glory at Euro2016 with his country. “Unfortunately for us and for him he l上海419论坛ost two finals, two big titles. “Although I was happy that he lost the second one because it was against Portugal…(laughs)”But he is a fantastic player. He is intelligent, he’s technically great, he scores goals.”He will be top three in the world for sure.”Regarding promising midfielder Niguez, who has been heavily linked with Manchester United in recent times, Mendes has high hopes for the 21-year-old who has been a Rojiblancos player since making his way across the Spanish capital from Real Madrid as a kid in 2008.Mendes added: “They are already very, very good players.”Saul Niguez. A young player with a lot of quality.”He’s strong, he can play several roles in the midfield.”He has a big future ahead of him.”

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as United’s record signing when he joined from Juv

hester United content_imgstrike in selling Paul Pogba this summer.The Daily Mail says Pogba was United’s record signing when he joined from Juventus in a mega £89million deal three years ago.But United are for offers in excess of £160m – which would mean doubling their profits.Tr Dimitar Berbatov says they need a shot of passion for Monday’s clash with Arsenal.United will welcome the north Londoners to the Theatre of Dreams on the back of two disappointing results, a 2-0 defeat to West Ham and an unconvi

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Sputtering offense still a sore spot for Colorado

The Colorado Rapids might have their postseason berth secured, but it’s anyone’s guess how far their offense can take them from here.The Rapids have scored only eight goals in their last 10 matches in all competitions, and three of those came in the win by a largely reserve team over Isidro Metapán in the CONCACAF Champions Legaue in El Salvador on Sept. 28.Apart from that game, they have failed to score more than one goal in any one game in their last 10, and Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Santos Laguna in the CCL group-stage finale proved that offensive firepower is simply something the club lacks heading into the playoffs.“If we had had a little more quality in the final third tonight, it’s a d上海419论坛ifferent story,” defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Mexico after the match. “That seems to be the bug we need to get out of our system. We have some world class scorers on our side, and we need them to do that.”Once again, the lack of consistent goal scoring comes down largely to the inability of the Omar Cummings and Conor Casey partnership to flourish this year like it did in 2010, and for their replacements to consistently step up and take charge offensively.The duo, who netted 27 goals between them last season on the road to MLS Cup, has barely been on the field together this year. Cummings, who has just three MLS goals all year, was out injured for much of May and June just before Casey went down with a season ending injury mid-July.Casey’s injury allowed Sanna Nyassi an opportunity to play as a withdrawn striker behind Cummings or Caleb Folan, and he initially grabbed it with big hands with a hat-trick in the Rapids’ dominant performance at home over the New York Red Bulls July 20.But the goals from all sources have dried up significantly since the end of August, and it’s causing some concern.“If you look at the guys in the past that we have relied on, Omar is going through a lean period and Conor is unavailable,” head coach Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “We have to find a solution to that and they have got to find their scoring boots, to be honest.”The Rapids head back early to Colorado from Mexico on Thursday before traveling Friday to Vancouver for the final MLS regular-season game on Saturday afternoon against the Whitecaps.

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Red Bulls in peak form heading into Sporting KC test

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Somehow, someway, the New York Red Bulls might actually peak at just the right time after all.Stuck in neutral for much of the late summer and once dangerously close to missing the postseason, the Red Bulls actually have the chance to vault right back into the Eastern Conference race with a win against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday (4 pm ET, TeleFutura).The automatic postseason bid is enough motivation for the Red Bulls, winners of three of their last five matches.“I think everybody is aware of the situation — we need to pick up points,” head coach Hans Backe said. “Heading into the playoffs and with the run we have had, I think everyone is so, so focused, we’ve given ourselves a chance — taking care of our own business, not looking at the other results or standings. With the last couple of games, I still think we are getting better and better for every game.”It’s been a meteoric rise through the rankings for the Red Bulls,上海419论坛 who at one point in September sat outside the playoff picture despite having topped the Eastern Conference for much of the first half of the year. A rocky July and August where they won just once in league play led to a slide down the standings.“We can be everything but overconfident after the season we’ve had,” striker Thierry Henry said. “If anyone is overconfident on this team, it’d be wrong. If you had told me four weeks ago that we’re maybe battling to be second or maybe first if a miracle happens, I’d have said to you, ‘Yeah right, let’s grab that last spot.’ So now it looks a bit better, but I wouldn’t go so far as saying or maybe thinking or maybe dreaming of being overconfident. We’re far from it.”Now with the chance to take a big step this weekend and get points on the road against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the push from New York will be to finish strong after a roller-coaster season.“This whole team is realizing we’re going to keep playing,” midfielder Joel Lindpere said, “or we’re going to just go home and watch the games from the television.”Follow@KristianRDyer