Arsenal fight back to hold Spurs in thrilling North London Derby

Arsenal strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette inspired a stirring comeback against rivals Tottenham Hotspur to salvage a 2-2 draw in a thrilling north London Premier League derby on Sunday.

Spurs were looking to bounce back from a shock 1-0 home loss to Newcastle United and went ahead through Christian Eriksen and a Harry Kane penalty before Lacazette struck before the break and Aubameyang got a 71st minute equaliser.

Arsenal, who were beaten 3-1 at Liverpool last week, are in fifth place with seven points while Spurs are ninth on five after four games. The visitors took a 10th minute lead when Eriksen nudged the ball into an empty net on the rebound after a superb piece of hold up play from Son Heung-Min allowed Erik Lamela to fire at goalkeeper Bernd Leno.

Arsenal had most of the ball on a sun-soaked afternoon at the Emirates Stadium but Tottenham were far more threatening on the break and Leno was forced to keep out stinging efforts from Kane and Eriksen in the first half.

“We played with our heart sometimes more than our head, we needed more balance, we needed to have clearer heads,” said Arsenal coach Unai Emery of his side’s first-half mistakes.

Tottenham were then awarded a penalty for a clumsy foul by Granit Xhaka on Son and Kane converted in the 40th minute to put Spurs on track for a first league win on enemy territory in nine years. However, Arsenal’s France striker Lacazette halved the deficit right before half-time with an emphatic strike after controlling an exquisite pass from the club’s record signing Nicolas Pepe.

Kane came close to sealing the points for Tottenham when he struck the post but Arsenal became galvanised when Spanish midfielder Dani Ceballos came off the bench and hit a shot which keeper Hugo Lloris did well to tip over.

An equaliser looked ever likelier and duly arrived when Gabon striker Aubameyang prodded a lofted pass from Matteo Guendouzi into the net in the 71st minute, scoring a third goal in four Premier League games this season.

“It was an amazing match. We are proud of our work and our supporters,” added Emery.

“The key was the first goal to give us confidence and give us more chances in the second half. We deserved it.”

Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino also felt Lacazette’s timely goal was pivotal.

“Conceding with the last action of the first half gave relief to Arsenal and was an emotional hit to us, we were very down, before our emotions were very high and football is all about emotion,” he said.

Arsenal’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos later had a goal ruled out for offside while Tottenham’s Moussa Sissoko spurned a last-gasp chance in a thrilling finale by blasting over the bar after Kane was denied a penalty when he tangled with Sokratis.

Tottenham striker Kane said his side were disappointed to have let their lead slip.

“I feel like we’re coming off disappointed, we expected to see the game out,” he told reporters.

“The [Lacazette] goal hurt us with momentum just before the break. It was an end-to-end game, especially the last 10-15 minutes, but the players left everything on the pitch.”

The England international also felt he should have been awarded a second penalty.

“As a striker, if it is on halfway [line] it is a definite foul. In the box you don’t always get them,” he added.

Aubameyang, meanwhile, said Arsenal should have come away with more than a point.

“I think in the first half we deserved to score two goals,” he said. “It was a tough game and I think we deserved more.”

Source: ESPNFC

Bale scores twice, sent off in Real Madrid draw

Gareth Bale twice came to Real Madrid‘s rescue to salvage a 2-2 draw at Villarreal in La Liga on Sunday but the Wales forward ended the night in despair as he was sent off in added time for receiving two yellow cards.

Real were severely weakened by six injuries to attacking players and fell behind in the 11th minute when captain Sergio Ramos lost the ball in his own half and Villarreal broke quickly, with Gerard Moreno scoring on the rebound. Bale equalised in stoppage time of the first half by tapping in a cross from Dani Carvajal from close range but Villarreal restored their lead in the 74th minute through Moi Gomez, after Karim Benzema had a goal ruled out for offside.

Bale again pulled Madrid out of trouble with a powerful low strike in the 88th minute but somehow contrived to get himself sent off by earning two yellow cards for fouls in stoppage time. Madrid have picked up five points from their opening three games, one more than champions Barcelona, but Zinedine Zidane’s side are four points behind early leaders Atletico Madrid, who have won all three matches. Zidane criticised his side for their lacklustre start but was pleased with how they reacted to going behind.

“We began the game without any intensity, we were barely in the game for the first 15 minutes, it’s always important to make a strong start,” he told a news conference.

“But we reacted well and we deserved to score more goals. We were up against a good opponent and we have to improve in defence because we know what we are capable of in attack.

“But I’m focusing on the positive things we did today, above all our reaction, because it was very important that we didn’t lose today.”

Source: ESPNFC

Messi suspended for three months by CONMEBOL

Argentina’s Lionel Messi was banned for three months from international matches and fined $50,000 on Friday after accusing South America’s governing body for football of “corruption” during the Copa America.

Messi criticised the officiating and members of CONMEBOL last month following Argentina’s semifinal loss to Brazil and after the third-place match against Chile, but later apologised for his statements.

CONMEBOL has given Messi and the Argentine Football Association seven days to appeal the sanctions. Argentina are due to face Chile in a friendly match in Los Angeles on Sept. 5, followed by another friendly with Mexico in San Antonio five days later.

Messi, who is due to return Nov. 3, will also miss the friendly against host Germany on Oct. 9 in Dortmund. Messi is already suspended from the first match of the South American World Cup qualifiers in March because of the red card he received against Chile in an incident with Gary Medel.

Neither Messi nor Argentina’s soccer association have made comments about CONMEBOL’s decisions. Messi avoided the Copa America medal ceremony in protest and later said Argentina “shouldn’t take part in this corruption.”

The 32-year-old also said the tournament was set up for hosts Brazil to win and had complained about Copa America refereeing after Argentina’s 2-0 loss to Brazil in the semifinals. When asked if he feared being suspended for his comments, he said “the truth needed to be told.”

Source: ESPNFC

Man United agree record £80m Maguire fee

Manchester United are set to sign Harry Maguire after reaching a breakthrough with Leicester on Friday morning.

According to the sources, United have agreed to a world-record fee for a defender — around £80 million plus add-ons — to pry Maguire away from the King Power Stadium.

The 26-year-old is set to undergo a medical on Saturday before signing a five-year contract in the next few days. He will be eligible to make his United debut against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Aug. 11.

Leicester were holding out for a bid of £95 million for Maguire before agreeing to a compromise. The record fee for a defender eclipses the £75 million Liverpool paid Southampton for Virgil van Dijk in 2018.

It brings to an end more than two months of negotiations and secures Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s top defensive target. Maguire had feared Leicester were pricing him out of a dream move to Old Trafford, but after making it clear to the club and manager Brendan Rodgers that he wanted to leave, United have been able to seal a deal.

Manchester City were also interested but pulled out after being told Leicester’s demands. Maguire was subject to interest from United last summer but agreed to stay at Leicester and signed a new long-term contract in September. He played 76 games in two seasons at Leicester after arriving for £17 million from Hull City in 2017.

The big-money move for Maguire is the latest in United’s planned £200 million spend this summer. Meanwhile, United are still waiting to hear whether Paulo Dybala is open to a move as part of a deal that would see striker Romelu Lukaku join Juventus.

Talks between the two clubs in London have progressed well, but sources have told that Dybala has reservations about moving to Manchester and swapping Champions League football for at least one season in the Europa League. The Argentina forward has returned to Turin to make a decision about his future.

Source: ESPNFC

Arsenal complete club-record signing of Pepe from Lille

Arsenal have completed the signing of Lille winger Nicolas Pepe after paying a team-record transfer fee, despite facing competition from Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid.

Arsenal’s bid of €80 million to be paid out over five years, which Lille accepted, was matched by the four other clubs.

“Nicolas is a highly rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe,” Arsenal manager Unai Emery said in a statement.

“Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I’m delighted he’s joining. He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team.”

Napoli were believed to have been Arsenal’s main challengers in pursuit of Pepe, 24, but the Ivory Coast international preferred a move to North London. After Arsenal’s bid was accepted, Pepe underwent his medical in London before completing the move.

“Being here is very emotional because it has not been easy for me,” said Pepe. “I have come a long way and struggled a lot and so signing for this great club is a big reward.”

Arsenal had been linked with a move for Pepe’s Ivory Coast teammate Wilfried Zaha, but the club were unable to agree to a deal with Crystal Palace, who wanted £70m.

Pepe joined Lille from Angers in 2017 and his first campaign with the Ligue 1 side was an impressive one as he hit 13 goals, despite battling relegation for much of the season. He then exploded into life in his second term as his 22 league goals helped Lille to finish runners-up to PSG.

Source: ESPNFC

Arsenal complete Ceballos and Saliba deals

Arsenal have signed Dani Ceballos on a season-long loan from Real Madrid.

Ceballos, 22, was also subject to an approach by North London rivals Spurs and becomes Arsenal’s first big-name signing of the summer, with the club having failed thus far to land Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha and Celtic’s Kieran Tierney.

“We’re excited to see Dani join us,” Arsenal boss Unai Emery said. “He is a talented player with big technical ability, creativity and precision.”

Emery had been decisive in Ceballos accepting Arsenal’s proposal even though they won’t participate in the Champions League this season.

Ceballos impressed for Spain in the European Under-21 Championship in July, scoring two goals as well as being named in the Team of the Tournament. The midfielder, who will wear the No. 8 shirt, made 23 league appearances in Real Madrid’s tough La Liga campaign last season, scoring three goals. He also made three Champions League appearances.

Emery said on Sunday that he was happy for the Gunners to wait in the transfer market until the right players comes available after saying last week that he was after “very big, very expensive” signings. Even with the signing of Ceballos, Arsenal are yet to spend big money this window — Brazilian teenager Gabriel Martinelli is their only other signing this window — as the club battle growing fan unrest at the lack of financial investment from owner Stan Kroenke, which culminated in an angry two-page letter being sent from Arsenal supporters’ groups to the club board.

Later on Thursday, Arsenal completed another deal with the signing of William Saliba in a deal worth €30 million before being loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the upcoming season.

“We’re delighted William is joining us,” Emery said in a statement. “Many teams wanted him, but he decided he wanted to come to us and be part of our future.

“He will stay in France next season for more experience and then we look forward to him joining our group.”

Saliba, who signed his first contract at the age of 17, made his professional debut with Saint-Etienne against Toulouse last September and finished the campaign with 14 league starts under his belt.

“This is the biggest club in England for me, so it was an easy decision,” Saliba said. “I didn’t think twice about signing here, so I’m really happy.

“This is a big club, and when you come here, you need to be ready. So I’m going to try to have a great season with the club that developed me in order to be ready for Arsenal.”

Source: ESPNFC

Barcelona set to open Messi contract talks

Barcelona are set to open talks with Lionel Messi to extend the forward’s contract.

Messi, 32, is in the final two years of his deal, and Barca are keen to get him to commit to Camp Nou beyond 2021. It would be the 10th contract he has signed with the Catalans since his first professional deal in 2004.

Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu will lead the negotiations with Messi’s father, Jorge, who also acts as his agent. There’s a clause in Messi’s contract to extend the terms by an additional 12 months until 2022, but Bartomeu is keen to reach a completely new agreement to tie him to the club for four more years, when he will be 36. Bartomeu is aware that Messi’s main interests are not only financial and hopes to offer him the best squad possible as Barca continue to seek their first Champions League trophy since 2015.

The Barca president told in an interview in April he planned to offer Messi a lifetime contract at some stage even though his mandate ends in 2021. Messi last renewed in 2017, although for a while there was some uncertainty about his future as he was allowed to move into the final 12 months of his contract.

The club announced the deal in June, with Messi’s father penning the terms of the agreement before Neymar’s world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain, but it wasn’t until November that Messi eventually signed the contract.

That was the ninth professional deal and the eighth contract renewal Messi signed with the club, lifting his release clause to €700 million. Messi signed his first professional deal in 2004, extending twice in 2005 and again in 2007, penning terms until 2014 with a €150m release clause.

A year later, after the departure of Ronaldinho, he signed another new deal and, in 2009, after helping Pep Guardiola’s Barca win the treble, he signed a seven-year deal with a €250m buyout.

Despite having a contract until 2016, at the beginning of 2013, Messi signed another new deal and then extended again in 2014, just before the World Cup, before signing his most recent deal in 2017. Messi has maintained that he would like to end his career “at home” in Barcelona.

Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets both signed extended terms last season, leaving Rafinha as the only player in the squad who is out of contract next summer. Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez’s deals all expire in 2021, like Messi’s.

Source: ESPNFC

Man Utd drop to 6th on Forbes list, down $300m

Manchester United have slipped from second to sixth in the Forbes list of the world’s most valuable sports clubs released on Tuesday.

United saw their value drop from $4.12 billion to $3.81bn and fell behind La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona who retained their respective positions of third and fourth from last year.

The Old Trafford club endured a miserable 2018-19 campaign, finishing sixth in the Premier League and missing out on a place in the Champions League for 2019-20.

NFL team Dallas Cowboys topped the list of 50 clubs for a fourth consecutive year, with MLB side New York Yankees, Madrid, Barca and NBA giants New York Knicks completing the top five.

Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool were the only other football clubs who made the top 50. Champions League winners Liverpool made the list after missing out last year while Premier League champions City climbed five places to 25th with a value of $2.69bn.

Chelsea jumped 14 places to 32nd on the list after winning the Europa League and Arsenal slipped down three places to 42nd after missing out on Champions League football for a third consecutive season.

The 10 most valuable clubs:

1. Dallas Cowboys ($5bn)

2. New York Yankees ($4.6bn)

3. Real Madrid ($4.24bn)

4. Barcelona ($4.02bn)

5. New York Knicks ($4bn)

6. Manchester United ($3.81bn)

7. New England Patriots ($3.8bn)

8. Los Angeles Lakers ($3.7bn)

9. Golden State Warriors ($3.5bn)

10. Los Angeles Dodgers/New York Giants ($3.3bn)

Source: ESPNFC

Zidane blames ‘suspect Spanish’ in Gareth Bale saga

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said on Monday he had not “disrespected” Gareth Bale and it was the club who wanted to sell the Wales forward, not him personally.

Bale did not play for Real in their 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup on Saturday, with Zidane having said his absence was due to the club “working on his departure.”

Bale’s agent labelled Zidane a “disgrace” following the comments but the Frenchman defended his conduct ahead of Real Madrid’s preseason clash with Arsenal in Washington, D.C.

“At times my Spanish is very suspect,” Zidane told reporters. “I want to be very clear about this. Firstly, I have not disrespected anybody and least of all the player.

“I have always said the same, the players are the most important and every time I am with a player here I will be with them always.

“Second thing, I said the club is trying to sell him. Third point, I think it is very important and crucial to say that the other day Gareth did not [play] because he did not want to.

“He will train with us today. He will train with the squad today but tomorrow is tomorrow.

“Gareth is a Real Madrid player. That is the most important thing, he is a player for the squad.”

While Zidane said Bale’s absence against Bayern was at the player’s request, Barnett told ESPN FC this was not the case. Bale, 30, has won four Champions League titles since joining Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for a then world record €100 million (£89.77 million) but he struggled to hold down his place in the starting side last season.

Source: ESPNFC

Arsenal fans unite to demand Kroenke changes

Stan Kroenke has been criticised by Arsenal supporters’ groups in a letter that labels the American billionaire “passive” and “absent” and using the club as an “investment vehicle.”

A two-page letter, signed by several major supporters’ groups and bloggers, claims that “Arsenal is at a crossroads. Things need to change” as well as describing Emirates Stadium as a “soulless place” on matchdays.

It reads: “As Arsenal fans we have watched with frustration as the team’s football performances have declined over the past decade. When Stan Kroenke began buying Arsenal shares the club had just competed in a first Champions League final. Twelve years on Arsenal are about to play in the Europa League for the third year running.

“Off the pitch fans have never felt more marginalised, less listened to or valued. This was sadly illustrated when Stan Kroenke forcibly bought out the last remaining supporter-shareholders without even a word of appreciation for their custodianship role in the club.

“It feels as though Arsenal is at a crossroads. Things need to change. What all of us as signatories to this statement want to see is meaningful action by Stan Kroenke to reinvigorate our football club.”

Kroenke first invested in Arsenal in 2007 and went on to become majority shareholder in 2011. Arsenal have not won the Premier League since 2004 and the 2019-20 season will be their third in a row without Champions League football. Their only signing so far this summer is Brazilian teenager Gabriel Martinelli, while Aaron Ramsey has left for Juventus and captain Laurent Koscielny is on strike.

The letter continues: “Arsenal have invested money in recent years but their approach to both buying players and paying wages looks uncoordinated and appears to lack strategy.

“There has also been a lot of turnover in the senior football personnel. A strong board would be proactively managing this.

“On a matchday the Emirates Stadium can be a soulless place. The atmosphere is poor and there are thousands of empty seats blighting almost every game.

“If Arsenal really cared they would make sure seats weren’t left empty by investing in an improved ticketing system and actively supporting initiatives like safe standing. The club uses the strapline ‘Always ahead of the game’. It would be good to see action to demonstrate this.”

It also urges Arsenal to make public their position on proposals of a European Super League that they say is “driven by greed.”

Source: ESPNFC