Man United, Chelsea book spots in Champions League

Man United’s midfielder Jesse Lingard slots the ball into an empty net to seal the 2-0 win after dispossessing Leicester’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, left. (AFP)
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Updated 26 July 2020

Man United, Chelsea book spots in Champions League

  • Bournemouth and managerless Watford fall short to drop to the Championship

LONDON: Manchester United and Chelsea sealed Champions League places on Sunday as Bournemouth and Watford fell through the trapdoor on a dramatic final day of the longest Premier League season.

Liverpool were crowned champions last month but there were many issues at stake in the final 90 minutes of a campaign that started on Aug.  9 last year and was interrupted by a three-month coronavirus shutdown.

United finished third after a nervy 2-0 win in a Champions League shootout against Leicester while Chelsea ended in fourth spot after beating Wolves 2-0 thanks to two goals on the stroke of halftime.

At the other end of the table, Bournemouth and managerless Watford dropped to the Championship while Aston Villa fans breathed a huge sigh of relief after they got the draw they needed at West Ham.

Leicester, in fifth spot, will play in the Europa League next season where they will be joined by Tottenham, who drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace to leapfrog Wolves.

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea required just a draw to seal Champions League qualification for next term and two goals in first half stoppage time gave them breathing space.

Mason Mount whipped in from a free kick to give Chelsea the lead and the home side went further in front almost immediately, when Olivier Giroud slid home.

United, whose form has dipped in recent weeks after they pulled themselves back into contention for the Champions League, were locked at 0-0 at halftime at the King Power Stadium.

But they finally broke the deadlock in the 71st minute, when Bruno Fernandes scored from the penalty spot after Anthony Martial was upended. Jesse Lingard scored late to seal the win.

The result is a huge lift for Solskjaer, whose team slipped well off the pace earlier this season, but is a bitter blow for Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester, who have been camped in the top four for almost the whole campaign.

Watford, who sacked Nigel Pearson earlier this month, started in disastrous fashion when they conceded a penalty in the opening minute at the Emirates.

Craig Dawson floored Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette and, after a lengthy VAR review, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tucked home the resulting spot kick.

Their fate was effectively sealed by further first half goals from Kieran Tierney and an Aubameyang overhead kick, though a Troy Deeney penalty and a Danny Welbeck strike gave them hope.

Bournemouth beat Everton 3-1 at Goodison Park but needed West Ham to beat Aston Villa to survive.

Jack Grealish’s late goal for Villa was a hammer blow but the home side dramatically levelled a minute later through Andriy Yarmolenko. However, Villa held on to secure their Premier League survival.

An early goal by Harry Kane put Tottenham in front against Crystal Palace but Palace equalized early in the second half through Jeffrey Schlupp. That was enough for Jose Mourinho’s men to finish in sixth position.

Liverpool beat Newcastle 3-1 to finish the season on 99 points and second-placed Manchester City finished the season with a flourish, thrashing Norwich 5-0 to reach 102 goals for the campaign.

Elsewhere, Brighton beat Burnley 2-1 and Southampton beat Sheffield United 3-1.

Leicester’s Jamie Vardy won the Golden Boot with 23 goals.


Real Madrid aim to put crisis behind them

Updated 31 October 2020

Real Madrid aim to put crisis behind them

MADRID:  Real Madrid will be hoping to leave their sticky patch behind them when they play Huesca in La Liga on Saturday, with an early six-point lead to preserve over Barcelona.

The resignation of Barca’s club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has overshadowed what has been a dramatic week for Madrid, who barely salvaged a 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Trailing 2-0 with three minutes left, Madrid were facing a defeat that would have squandered the momentum gained from last weekend’s Clasico win at Camp Nou.

A late double from Karim Benzema and Casemiro ensured Zinedine Zidane’s side snatched a draw that felt like a win but to consolidate that positivity, they cannot afford another slip this weekend.

“The team is what it has shown, it’s about a reaction,” said Zidane. “The first half was very good, we played well. The pity is we conceded the first goal, but we continued to think it was possible, even at 2-0.

“That showed the character of the team and I’m very proud of them. We are not happy because we want to win, but we must be happy with the performance.”

Madrid play a Huesca side that is yet to win this season, as they followed four consecutive draws with a 4-1 loss away at league leaders Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Zidane could also hand Eden Hazard his first start since August, after the Belgian came off the bench in midweek.

That was Hazard’s first appearance of the season as he tries to overcome his latest injury setback, which the club have only described as a muscle injury.

“It’s good. I’m here to play football,” said Hazard on Wednesday. “After two or three months off the pitch, I’m so happy. I just want to play football, that’s why I’m here.”

On the last-gasp draw in Germany, Hazard said: “We showed great character, to be 2-0 down with five minutes to play, I think we could have scored one more, I could have scored one more, but I missed. It’s not three points but it feels like a victory.”

Zidane was determined to give Hazard time to recover fully and he believes the club will have to be cautious.

“He’s just started playing. It is his first game after a long time away,” said Zidane. “The plan was for him to try to play but little by little is what we have to do.”

A Madrid victory against Huesca could send them back to the top of the table, above Real Sociedad who are the only team to have retained top spot in consecutive rounds so far this term.

Real Sociedad play away at Celta Vigo on Sunday, just before third-placed Granada host Levante and struggling Valencia play at home to Getafe.

If Atletico Madrid win their two games in hand they will go top, with Diego Simeone’s side away at Osasuna on Saturday.

Barcelona, who beat Juventus on Wednesday, also have two games in hand but are seven points off the lead. Their new era without Bartomeu begins in La Liga away at Alaves on Saturday night.