Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 17th 2017 Contents sports A45
Monday, April 17, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Sevilla stumbles amid doubts over coach future
0-0 at Valencia yesterday as its
bid for an automatic Champi-
ons League berth continued to
fade amid speculation over the
future of coach Jorge Sampaoli.
Sevilla was mounting an outside
challenge for the Spanish title
through the first seven months
of the season, but its goal now is
just to secure a place in Europe's
top competition for next season.
The draw meant fourth-placed
Sevilla fell three points behind
third-placed Atletico Madrid,
which beat Osasuna 3-0 on Sat-
Sevilla has only one win in its
last seven league matches, a slump
that overlapped with its elimina-
tion by Leicester from the Cham-
pions League Round of 16.
The decline has also coincided
with increasing tension in Seville
over whether Sampaoli will hon-
our his contract through the end
of next season.
Earlier this week, Sevilla is-
sued a statement calling it "un-
acceptable" that the president of
the Argentine football federation
said he would meet Sampaoli over
the possibility of him taking over
the national team from the fired
Sampaoli, who tried to quash
speculation this week that he
would take over his country's
team, did so once again after the
"After such a frenetic game in
which I was so emotionally invest-
ed in my team, I don't know what
to say about my future because
nothing has changed," Sampaoli
said. The closest Sevilla went to
scoring at Mestalla Stadium was
when substitute Stevan Jovetic
hit the post in the 17th minute,
shortly after he replaced injured
Victor "Vitolo" Machin.
Valencia likewise mustered very
little beyond a header by Munir El
Haddadi that Sevilla back Mariano
cleared from his goal line before
half an hour was up.
Nani returned to the pitch for
Valencia as a late substitute in his
first match since recovering from
a muscle injury that had sidelined
him for almost two months.
"My task was to avoid relega-
tion, but I don't believe that be-
cause I have achieved that objec-
tive that they have to hire me to
coach next year," Voro said. "I see
the team as engaged and wanting
to compete, and now we can enjoy
playing. That's our goal now."
The top-three finishers in la Liga
go directly to next season's Cham-
pions League, while the fourth-
placed team faces a playoff to join
the group phase.
LEGANES 0, ESPANYOL 1
Substitute Leo Baptistao scored
a stoppage-time goal to keep Es-
panyol in the running for a Europa
The Brazilian forward returned
in the last round after a heel injury
had sidelined him for four months.
Baptistao scored the winner
by starting a counterattack with
Gerard Moreno before chipping
Leganes goalkeeper Iago Herrerin.
Leganes was left clinging to the
last spot above the relegation zone.
REAL BETIS 2, EIBAR 0
Eibar saw its run of three con-
secutive victories ended after
Jonas Martin scored early and
substitute Dani Ceballos sealed
Betis' win in the 90th.
After having lost three straight
matches, Betis rebounded to move
away from the drop.
EPL title race heats up
as Chelsea falls 2-nil
MANCHESTER--- A tactical masterclass
from Jose Mourinho ensured the path to
the English Premier League title will no
longer be a procession for his former club,
Only four points separate Chelsea and sec-
ond-placed Tottenham with six games left af-
ter United's 2-0 win over the lackluster leaders
opened up the title race yesterday. At one stage
four weeks ago after a 2-1 win over Stoke, Chel-
sea held a 13-point lead.
It was a signature win for Mourinho near the
end of his first season at United. He detailed
Ander Herrera and Matteo Darmian to man-
mark Chelsea forwards Eden Hazard and Pedro
Rodriguez, made the bold call to start Marcus
Rashford ahead of top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimov-
ic, and played two youngsters --- Rashford and
winger Jesse Lingard --- up front in a surprise
The decisions paid off brilliantly, with Rash-
ford and Herrera scoring the goals and being the
star performers at Old Trafford. Chelsea didn't
have a shot on target in a league game for the
first time in nearly a decade. Hazard barely had
a meaningful touch.
Chelsea might be starting to wobble. This loss
came 15 days after a 2-1 home defeat to Crys-
tal Palace, while Spurs have won seven straight
league games --- scoring 22 goals in the process.
Chelsea's only tough remaining game appears
to be a trip to Everton on April 30, and it could
hardly ask for four better fixtures to finish the
season: Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion,
Watford and Sunderland.
Still, the pressure is certainly on the leaders
"We have to think that there are six finals
from now until the end," Conte said. "The league
is open and we have a 50 per cent (chance) to
win the league."
United was playing between two games
against Anderlecht in the Europa League quar-
terfinals, with many pundits suggesting Mour-
inho's focus had switched to earning Champi-
ons League qualification through winning the
Dropping Ibrahimovic --- United's top scorer
this season with 28 goals --- was another sign
of that, but Mourinho insisted he wasn't pri-
United moved back into fifth place, four
points behind fourth-placed Manchester City
with a game in hand. The Manchester rivals
meet at City's Etihad Stadium on April 27.
Liverpool, which beat West Bromwich Albion
1-0 away in Sunday's other game, is six points
clear of United in third place but has played two
Here's a closer look at both games:
MANCHESTER UNITED 2, CHELSEA 0
Offering more mobility than Ibrahimovic,
Rashford tormented Chelsea's defense all game
and showed there is a bright future at United if
the Swedish striker decides to end his stay at
Old Trafford after just one year.
Rashford opened the scoring in the seventh
minute when he ran onto Herrera's pass behind
David Luiz and sent a shot bobbling past goal-
keeper Asmir Begovic.
Herrera looked to have handled the ball in the
build-up to that goal but he wasn't penalized.
And the midfielder made Chelsea pay even
further when he drove in a shot that deflected
off Kurt Zouma and span high into the net in
Chelsea was without first-choice goalkeeper
Thibaut Courtois, who was injured, and wing
back Marcos Alonso pulled out of the game dur-
ing the warm-up after suffering from a virus
during the week.
Alonso's absence, in particular, unbalanced
Chelsea, which put in its worst performance
since a 3-0 loss to Arsenal in September that
forced manager Antonio Conte into a sea-
son-defining switch to a 3-4-3 formation.
It was Chelsea's fifth league loss of the sea-
son and first to United in 13 matches dating
to 2012. United's unbeaten run in the league
extended to 22 games, the longest in Europe's
top five leagues.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0,
Roberto Firmino scored Liverpool's winning
goal for the second straight game as his team
climbed back above Manchester City into third
Much of the pre-match buildup focused on
Liverpool's issues in coping with set-pieces ---
a real strength of West Bromwich under Tony
Pulis. There was a sense of irony that West Brom
ended up getting undone in that department,
with James Milner's free kick being flicked on
by Lucas Leiva for Firmino to head home at the
Liverpool dominated but needed goalkeeper
Simon Mignolet to spread himself and block
Matt Phillips's attempted chip in a late chance
for West Brom.
Manchester United's team manager Jose
Mourinho reacts during their English Premier
League match against Chelsea at Old Trafford
stadium in Manchester, yesterday. AP PHOTO Chelsea's team manager Antonio Conte
2. Tottenham Hotspur
4. Manchester City
5. Manchester United
8. West Bromwich Albion 33
11. Stoke City
12. Leicester City
13. West Ham United
15. Crystal Palace
16. AFC Bournemouth
17. Hull City
18. Swansea City
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