Ceballos late heroics send Arsenal into semifinals

Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos after scoring their second goal against Sheffield United on Sunday in the FA Cup quarterfinal match. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 29 June 2020

Ceballos late heroics send Arsenal into semifinals

  • After losing their first two matches following the restart, Arsenal have now won 2 in a row

SHEFFIELD: Dani Ceballos fired Arsenal into the FA Cup semifinals as the Spaniard’s stoppage-time strike clinched a dramatic 2-1 win at Sheffield United on Sunday.

Mikel Arteta’s side rode their luck after surviving a second-half barrage from the Blades at Bramall Lane.

Nicolas Pepe put Arsenal ahead with a first-half penalty after Chris Basham fouled Alexandre Lacazette.

David McGoldrick equalized with three minutes left, but on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Ceballos settled a hard-fought quarterfinal in the final moments.

Arsenal join Manchester United in the last four, with Leicester facing Chelsea and Newcastle hosting Manchester City in Sunday’s other quarterfinals.

Arteta was Arsenal’s captain when they won the FA Cup final against Hull in 2014.

And the Gunners boss remains on course to get his hands on the silverware again as Arsenal look to win the competition for a record-extending 14th time.

“This is a difficult place to get a win. We are back at Wembley. I am really happy with the attitude and performance of the players,” Arteta said.

“It is a great opportunity to try and win a title and play in Europe.”

After losing their first two matches following the restart, Arsenal, who beat Southampton in the Premier League in midweek, have now won two in a row.

Complaining about Arsenal’s hectic schedule, Arteta added: We have played four away games since the restart. Thank you to the Premier League for our calendar playing every three days. But we go again on Wednesday.”

The Blades have gone winless in their four matches since the English season restarted, ruining their hopes of a push to qualify for the Champions League and ending their FA Cup campaign.

Arteta made five changes, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah among those left out.

There was no place for Matteo Guendouzi again after the Arsenal midfielder’s role in the brawl against Brighton, while Mesut Ozil was also absent from the Gunners squad.

David Luiz was back in Arsenal’s defence after serving a suspension for the red card he picked up during a disastrous substitute appearance in the defeat at Manchester City last week.

It wasn’t long before Arsenal’s defensive frailties were on display when John Lundstram nodded home from Oli McBurnie’s header, but the goal was ruled out by VAR for offside against the Blades midfielder.

Despite their unconvincing start, Arsenal grabbed the lead in the 25th minute.

Basham’s challenge on Lacazette looked innocuous, but he caught the Arsenal striker just inside the area and referee Paul Tierney awarded a penalty.

Ivory Coast winger Pepe stepped up to beat Dean Henderson from the spot for his eighth goal of the season.

Arsenal were clicking at last and Kieran Tierney broke down the left, crossing for Pepe to shoot just wide. Luiz’s difficult start to the resumed season continued when the Brazilian limped off injured after stumbling while shepherding the ball out of play early in the second half.

Henderson almost scored a remarkable goal from his own penalty area, the keeper’s wind-assisted kick bouncing past Gunners stopper Emiliano Martinez and narrowly over the bar.

United were denied by another VAR review when John Egan headed home after McGoldrick’s shot from an offside position was pushed out by Martinez.

Basham should have equalised from Jack Robinson’s cross, but the defender headed wide from close range.

Arsenal were undone by a terrible piece of defending in the 87th minute.

Sead Kolasinac made a comical mess of clearing Robinson’s long throw, smashing it into Mustafi and McGoldrick pounced to beat Martinez with a close-range finish.

It was United’s first goal in four games since the restart, but Arsenal had the perfect response.

When Pepe was tackled by Enda Stevens, Ceballos seized the loose ball and drilled past Henderson’s weak attempted save to keep Arsenal’s silverware hopes alive.


Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

Updated 3 min 52 sec ago

Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

  • Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment

SPIELBERG, South Africa: Max Verstappen will seek a hat trick of home wins for Red Bull and an early lead in the drivers championship at this weekend’s delayed and somewhat surreal season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

For everyone involved, the race will be an unprecedented experience — the calendar is unknown beyond the first eight races in Europe in 10 weeks, all to be run behind closed doors and severe limitations introduced with a new paddock protocol forbidding meetings.

As racing returns, the COVID-19 virus remains in circulation, which requires all participants to be tested before travel to Austria on private chartered jets, ongoing tests, the separation of teams and car crews into “bubbles” and controlled hotels.

Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment, there will be no sponsors, no guests and only a limited number of accredited broadcast and written news media.

Journalists, limited to a dozen instead of 300 or more, have to pass a test within 72 hours in advance of arrival and will not be allowed to leave the media center.

All interviews and news conferences will take place by video.

The teams will be kept isolated, based in tents with awnings instead of their usual grand motorhomes — and there is expected to be a synchronized taking the knee by the drivers on the grid, to support Black Lives Matter, ahead of Sunday’s race.

Afterwards, there will be no podium ceremony.

When the race begins, it will end the longest gap between races in the sport since 1962, but with two successive races in Austria and then one in Hungary, the pressure will be immediate and intense.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “There’s been a long drought. We all do this because we love it. We’ve missed it, so we can’t wait to start.”

“It’s going to be exciting and intense. The races come thick and fast.”

Dutch driver Verstappen, who bullied his way past Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc to triumph in front of a mass of his “orange army” of fans last year, says he is unfazed by high expectations or the absence of spectators at the Red Bull Ring, a remote and compact circuit in the Styrian Alps.

“I am not thinking about a hat trick,” he said.

“The most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and to perform at my best.

“I never consider myself as a favorite because, actually, when you look at the track, it’s not even our best one, but last year it was very warm and we were good at keeping the engine cool.

“So I don’t expect an easy win. I think Mercedes will be very strong again and they are the ones to beat.”

Verstappen, who has kept a low profile during the lockdown, delivered three wins and eight podiums last year as Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth title with Mercedes, who this year seek an unprecedented seventh constructors’ and drivers’ double in succession.

Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon will have an upgraded Honda engine package, developed since the coronavirus lockdown ended, to boost them at the contest in the Styrian Alps where the 800-meter altitude can affect engine performance.

Mercedes will also have an updated package while Ferrari, struggling to match them in pre-season testing, announced Tuesday that they are updating their cars for the third race in Hungary.

Hamilton this year bids for a record-equalling seventh drivers title as he campaigns passionately for greater diversity, and against racism, in the sport.

“We are preparing the best way we can for what is going to be the most difficult season that F1 and all of us have experienced,” he said in a video from the team, which — at his prompting — is running black livery this year to support equality and diversity.