Klopp and Guardiola serve up another Premier League classic but Arsenal are the big winners

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp (L) and Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola shout instructions to the players from the touchline during their English Premier League football match at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on March 10, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 11 March 2024
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Klopp and Guardiola serve up another Premier League classic but Arsenal are the big winners

  • Arsenal ended the weekend top of the standings on goal difference, but the Londoners’ 2-1 win at Brentford on Saturday felt like a sub plot in comparison to the latest and possibly last clash between Klopp and Guardiola
  • It is shaping up to be another fiercely contested title race and time will tell how important a point at Anfield was

LIVERPOOL, England: Liverpool and Manchester City showed the Premier League what it will be missing when Jurgen Klopp walks away at the end of the season.

Anfield played host to a typically full-blooded, high octane clash of titans in the last English top-flight encounter between Klopp and Pep Guardiola before the Liverpool manager stands down.

No wonder Guardiola says he will sleep easier when his long-time rival is no longer standing in his way.

He likened Liverpool to a “tsunami” as the defending champions had to dig deep to survive long periods of pressure in the second half.

“Oh my God, they come from everywhere,” Guardiola said after a 1-1 draw on Sunday that kept second-place Liverpool one point ahead of City in third.

Arsenal ended the weekend top of the standings on goal difference, but the Londoners’ 2-1 win at Brentford on Saturday felt like a sub plot in comparison to the latest and possibly last clash between Klopp and Guardiola.

John Stones gave City a first-half lead and Alexis Mac Allister leveled from the penalty spot after the break.

That only told part of the story of a thrilling encounter, which saw Luis Diaz miss a big chance to fire Liverpool ahead and Phil Foden and Jeremy Doku hit the woodwork for City. In stoppage time, Klopp thought Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty for Doku’s chest-high challenge on Mac Allister, only for VAR to dismiss appeals.

“Why would the guy in the VAR studio think that is not clear and obvious? What must you have for lunch if you think that is not clear and obvious?” Klopp said.

Perhaps Klopp is mellowing as he counts down his final days at Liverpool, but he preferred to focus on the performance of his rebuilt and injury-stricken team.

“For us, besides the result, the most important information is we are right there, we go the distance. Let’s see what we get for it, but the boys fought so hard through everything to be there,” he said. “Today I saw the best 53 minutes we had against Manchester City. It was exceptional and important as well that we learned that about ourselves.”

It would be fascinating to see how this team could develop under Klopp, who has so quickly remolded Liverpool following the departure of key players like Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino.

Few expected him to mount a title challenge so soon, let alone compete on four fronts this season, with the League Cup already secured. Against the odds, his team is also still in contention for the Europa League and FA Cup.

A second league title of his reign is the priority and Liverpool showed they can go head-to-head with a City team that is defending last season’s treble of trophies — the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

Liverpool’s 2020 title is the only thing that stopped City from completing a clean sweep of six straight triumphs under Guardiola from 2018.

Guardiola has repeatedly described Klopp’s Liverpool as the biggest challenge of his coaching career and has edged him to the title by a single point on two occasions.

“He made us a better team, he made me a better manager. I wish he will be back soon, because football needs personalities like him,” Guardiola said.

It is shaping up to be another fiercely contested title race and time will tell how important a point at Anfield was.

The added factor this year is a third contender in Arsenal and Guardiola is equally aware of the threat coming from Mikel Arteta as from Klopp.

“Arsenal last year came back and will stay for a long time because they are a young team with an exceptional manager,” he said. “Still, there are 10 games to go, 30 points to play for. One point difference. The important thing is still we are there after where we came from in previous seasons, still we are there.”

SON STARS

Once it was Harry Kane who Tottenham fans pinned their hopes to. Now it is Son Heung-min.

The South Korea forward has helped fill the void left by Kane’s departure to Bayern Munich in the offseason and on Sunday he inspired Spurs to a 4-0 rout against top four rival Aston Villa with one goal and two assists.

Fifth-place Spurs are two points behind Villa in fourth with a game in hand.

Son provided assists for Brennan Johnson and Timo Werner either side of scoring his 14th goal of the season in all competitions.

James Maddison had opened the scoring in a game that also saw Villa’s John McGinn sent off in the second half.

FOREST BLOW

Nottingham Forest’s survival hopes were dealt a blow after Andrew Omobamidele’s own-goal consigned the relegation-fighting team to a 1-0 loss at Brighton.

Forest, in 17th, are just three points above the drop zone and 18th-place Luton, who have a game in hand.

Luton drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace on Saturday thanks to Cauley Woodrow’s equalizer in the sixth minute of stoppage time, which could be crucial in the battle to stay up.

BURNLEY HELD

Danny Ings scored in the first minute of stoppage time to deny Burnley a vital win and secure a 2-2 draw at the London Stadium.

Burnley had led 2-0 through David Datro Fofana and an own-goal by Konstantinos Mavropanos.

But thoughts of a first win since Dec. 23 were ended by a second-half fightback from West Ham with Lucas Paqueta scoring just after the break and Ings leveling.

Burnley at least moved off the foot of the table and above Sheffield United on goal difference.

Sheffield United had led 2-0 at Bournemouth on Saturday, but had to settle for a point after Enes Unal’s stoppage time equalizer.


Dominant Spain brush past Italy to reach Euro 2024 knockouts

Updated 11 sec ago
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Dominant Spain brush past Italy to reach Euro 2024 knockouts

  • For Italy Thursday’s deserved defeat was a reality check as vibrant Spain peppered the brilliant Gianliugi Donnarumma’s goal throughout the match while the Azzurri failed to have a single attempt on target

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: Spain qualified for the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a match to spare on Thursday after beating Italy 1-0 in a dominant display which ensured that La Roja would go through as Group B winners.
Riccardo Calafiori’s own goal nine minutes after half-time was the difference between the two sides at Gelsenkirchen in the biggest match to date at the tournament in Germany.
But the slender margin of victory didn’t reflect a statement performance from Spain who completely nullified Italy and should have had the game won by half-time, as they did in their opening round thumping of Croatia.
Nico Williams was the star for Spain as he ran Napoli right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo ragged and supplied the cross from which the unfortunate Calafiori poked the winning goal into his own net.
Luis de la Fuente’s team have a perfect six points at the top of the group and take on Albania on Monday knowing that they are already in the knockout rounds and playing like potential champions.
For Italy Thursday’s deserved defeat was a reality check as vibrant Spain peppered the brilliant Gianliugi Donnarumma’s goal throughout the match while the Azzurri failed to have a single attempt on target.
It was a performance reminiscent of the Euro 2012 final between the two teams when Spain crushed Italy 4-0 in the last international hurrah for tiki-taka football.
However all is not lost for Luciano Spalletti’s team, who are second on three points, as a draw with Croatia on Monday will be enough to guarantee qualification behind Spain.
Spain could have been ahead twice in the first 10 minutes but squandered two great headed chances.
Less than two minutes were on the clock when an unmarked Pedri nodded Williams’ pinpoint cross straight at Donnarumma.
And then Williams, who had a field day against Di Lorenzo, was the guilty party by somehow heading wide Alvaro Morata’s superbly delivered, inswinging ball from the left flank.
Spain were clearly on top as Italy struggled to get out of their half, Gianluca Scamacca toiling on his own up front with little support and wasting possession when it did come his way.
Donnarumma had to be at his best twice within a matter of seconds when he first stuck out a foot to deny Morata and then pulled off a superb fingertip save which kept out Fabian Ruiz’s powerful drive from distance.
Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon was a virtual spectator as Italy’s sole shot in the first half came just before the break when Federico Chiesa blazed a poor effort over from a difficult position.
The same pattern of Spanish possession and Italian defending continued after half-time and Pedri again wasted a great chance in the 51st minute, slamming wide after Marc Cucurella pulled back a perfect low cross.
But Spain got the breakthrough soon after and it came through more sensational play from Williams on the left, who made mincemeat of Di Lorenzo before fizzing across a ball which Calafiori couldn’t help but divert into his own goal.
La Roja went close to doubling their lead with two distance strikes from Morata and teen sensation Lamine Yamal, before the superb Williams smashed an effort past Donnarumma which came crashing out off the crossbar in the 71st minute.
Italy pushed forward in hope of an equalizer after Mattia Zaccagni and Mateo Retegui replaced the ineffective Chiesa and Scamacca.
But in the dying moments Donnarumma again made two superb saves to twice stop Ayoze Perez making the scoreline better reflect a one-sided contest.


Lacklustre England held by Denmark at Euro 2024

Updated 20 June 2024
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Lacklustre England held by Denmark at Euro 2024

  • Harry Kane had given the Three Lions an early lead as England pounced on a Danish defensive error
  • Hjulmand’s rocket from outside the box levelled before half-time and Denmark were left to rue missing late chances to secure a famous victory

FRANKFURT: England failed to guarantee their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2024 after Morten Hjulmand’s spectacular strike earned Denmark a 1-1 draw on Thursday.
A point was the least the Danes deserved as England again flattered to deceive in Frankfurt after an underwhelming 1-0 win over Serbia to open their tournament.
Harry Kane had given the Three Lions an early lead as England pounced on a Danish defensive error.
Hjulmand’s rocket from outside the box levelled before half-time and Denmark were left to rue missing late chances to secure a famous victory.
England remain on top of Group C, two points clear of Slovenia, who they face in Cologne on Tuesday, and Denmark.
Serbia’s late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Slovenia earlier on Thursday also keeps their destiny in their own hands.
England boss Gareth Southgate said on Wednesday that he avoids media coverage during tournaments to escape negative stories.
But will be braced for more criticism after another flat display from one of the pre-tournament favorites.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel claimed on the eve of the game they would not be fueled by revenge for their Euro 2020 semifinal heartbreak to England three years ago.
However, the Danes were a different beast from the side that disappointed at the 2022 World Cup and in drawing against Slovenia to open their tournament in Germany.
Denmark had made the brighter start as both sides struggled to cope with a bobbly pitch in Frankfurt that cut up badly in just its second game of five at Euro 2024.
Yet, England capitalized on a howler from Hjulmand’s men to take the lead on 18 minutes.
Victor Kristiansen was caught unaware of Kyle Walker’s run down the right and his deflected low cross fell perfectly for Kane to roll in his 13th goal at major tournaments.
Failing to build on early 1-0 leads has been a consistent criticism of England under Southgate.
In the 2018 World Cup semifinal and final of Euro 2020, Croatia and Italy were able to wrestle away momentum from the Three Lions.
This time Denmark were not deterred by conceding, although it took a spectacular strike to bring them level.
Hjulmand was given far too much room by the England midfield to take aim but he took full advantage form long range with a blistering shot that clipped the inside of the post on its way in.
Southgate made no changes at the break, but the future of his experiment of playing Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in a midfield role is in doubt after he was hooked for Conor Gallagher on 55 minutes.
Phil Foden’s form for England had been a source of much debate after he again failed to shine at international level against Serbia.
The Manchester City playmaker looked much more like the man that won Premier League player of the year awards this season and was inches away from restoring England’s lead with a low drive that came crashing back off the post.
Southgate’s caution has been criticized in the past, but he was bold with his changes in the search for a winner as Kane, Foden and Bukayo Saka were sacrificed for Eberechi Eze, Ollie Watkins and Jarrod Bowen.
Watkins nearly made an immediate impact as he was denied by Schmeichel after a brilliant through ball from Jude Bellingham.
Yet, it was Denmark who had the better chances to take all three points in the closing stages.
Andreas Christensen spooned over when unmarked from a corner before Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg curled inches wide.


Ukraine seek to bounce back against Slovakia after surprise opening loss

Updated 20 June 2024
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Ukraine seek to bounce back against Slovakia after surprise opening loss

  • Ukraine had a shock 3-0 loss to Romania that included costly errors from Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin
  • Another loss could mean elimination for Ukraine, which were a quarterfinalist in 2021

DUESSELDORF, Germany: Slovakia face Ukraine on Friday in Duesseldorf in their second Group E match at the European Championship.

Slovakia are second to Romania on goal difference, and Ukraine are last. Romania and Belgium play on Saturday.
Ukraine had a shock 3-0 loss to Romania that included costly errors from Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin. Another loss could mean elimination for Ukraine, which were a quarterfinalist in 2021.
Ukrainian players apologized to their fans for the Romania loss, and held a team meeting in the locker room after that game without coach Serhiy Rebrov present to work out what went wrong. That was “absolutely normal,” the coach said Thursday.
Slovakia are riding high after surprising Belgium 1-0 but needed two video reviews to overturn Belgium goals. One was deemed offside and a sensor in the ball detected a handball on the second.
The Slovakians know not to get too excited by an opening win. At the last European Championship they beat Poland but then lost to Sweden and Spain and didn’t advance. That meant there was only “a bit of euphoria for a few short hours” when Slovakia beat Belgium this time, coach Francesco Calzona said.
Ukraine coach Rebrov indicated he will make changes to the lineup which lost to Romania and said some unnamed players were carrying “micro-injuries.”
Defender Vitaliy Mykolenko sustained severe bruising in a pre-tournament friendly with Moldova and was an unused substitute against Romania but was expected to train with the team Thursday evening, Rebrov said.
One option for Rebrov could be to replace 34-year-old captain Taras Stepanenko with the 22-year-old Volodymyr Brazhko in defensive midfield. Brazhko debuted for the team only in March as Ukraine qualified for Euro 2024 through the playoffs.
Slovakia coach Calzona says his players are all available but he has yet to decide on his starting lineup.
The average age of Slovakia’s starting lineup in the win over Belgium was over 30 as the team relied on the experience of two 37-year-olds, defender Peter Pekarik and Juraj Kucka, and the 35-year-old goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. Ukraine’s players against Romania were on average four and a half years younger.
The teams have a fairly even record, with three wins for Slovakia, two for Ukraine and three draws. Slovakia won their last game 4-1 in 2018.
A second win would make history for Slovakia, which have never won more than one game in any tournament they’ve played as an independent nation. As part of Czechoslovakia, they did win the 1976 European Championship, though.
“We want to turn the page and concentrate 100 percent on the Slovakia game... (The Romania game) is a very painful result for us but we need to learn the lessons and get ready for tomorrow’s game,” said Ukraine left back Oleksandr Zinchenko.
“I think our greatest quality is humility. We know that we always need to give 110 percent because we’re a small nation and we always want to put a big smile on the faces of our fans and our people,” said Calzona.
Slovak defender David Hancko said: “Ukraine has wonderful, young, talented players. They have a good system, they’re strong on the ball. ... We must play to the best of our abilities to be able to beat them.”


France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024

Updated 20 June 2024
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France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024

  • “He was able to take part in some light exercises yesterday,″ Deschamps said

LEIPZIG, Germany: France coach Didier Deschamps says his team are doing all “to ensure” Kylian Mbappé is available for the Euro 2024 clash against the Netherlands on Friday.
“Everything is going well, after the shock we had. He was able to take part in some light exercises yesterday and that will be the same this evening″ Deschamps said Thursday. “We’ll do all we can to ensure that he’ll be available tomorrow.”
Mbappé broke his nose in France’s opening 1-0 win over Austria on Monday when his face collided with Austria defender Kevin Danso’s shoulder. Blood stained his white France jersey. If he plays, he’ll need to wear a mask. But it remains uncertain.
Mbappé returned to light training on Wednesday and was expected to continue preparations on Thursday.


Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win

Updated 20 June 2024
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Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win

  • Žan Karničnik’s 69th-minute goal put Slovenia on the brink of a historic win until substitute Luka Jović levelled deep in stoppage time
  • The goal sent the Serbia fans into raucous joy but also saw them throw flares and other objects onto the field

MUNICH: A late strike denied Slovenia a first ever win in a European Championship as Serbia snatched a 1-1 draw on Thursday.
Žan Karničnik’s 69th-minute goal put Slovenia on the brink of a historic win until substitute Luka Jović levelled deep in stoppage time.
The goal sent the Serbia fans into raucous joy but also saw them throw flares and other objects onto the field.
The equalizer was virtually the last action as the referee blew fulltime immediately after the players restarted. The Slovenia players collapsed to the ground in disappointment.
It also would have been their first win in a major tournament since victory over Algeria in the 2010 World Cup.
Slovenia play England in their final group match on Tuesday, when Serbia face Denmark. Serbia lost to England in their opener.
With both teams needing a win to boost their chances of progressing, the match started at a fast pace and Serbia goalkeeper Predrag Rajković had to make two early saves.
Those two shots on target in the first eight minutes were as many as Slovenia had in total in their draw with Denmark.
Serbia withstood the waves of Slovenia attacks and had their first chance in the 27th minute but Dušan Vlahović’s header was straight at goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Serbia went even closer moments later when Dušan Tadić whipped in a fabulous corner to the far post but Aleksandar Mitrović — who scored in his previous two matches against Slovenia — couldn’t get a proper touch.
The best chance of the half fell to Slovenia in somewhat fortunate circumstances. Timi Elšnik tried to pass to a teammate, but the ball came off a Serbia defender and fell kindly back to him for a thunderous effort which crashed off the right post. Benjamin Šeško fired the rebound woefully over.
Serbia started the second half with three great chances to break the deadlock inside the first five minutes, including Slovenia defender Jake Bijol almost scoring an own goal.
This tournament has seen plenty of stunning long-range goals and there was almost another in the 58th but Rajković did well to push Šeško’s strike over the bar.
Slovenia eventually broke the deadlock with a move started and finished by Žan Karničnik. The defender won the ball deep inside his own half and ran some 40 yards before picking out Elšnik on the left and racing into the box to collect the cross and tap home at the back post.
Serbia almost levelled immediately but Elšnik hit the crossbar.
Serbia threw everything at Slovenia in the final stages. Even Rajković came up for the final corner but it was Jović who leapt highest to head it past Oblak in the fifth minute of added time.