Friday, December 1, 2023

Premier League in Europe

Anger and disappointment were the prevailing emotions for Newcastle after PSG was awarded a penalty kick in the 98th minute on Tuesday, depriving the Magpies of a much-needed win in Paris. The club was trying to hang on to a lead provided by Alexander Isak’s first half goal as the Champions League tilt neared conclusion. The debatable handball call on Newcastle’s Tino Livramento was prompted by VAR review after the referee initially found no issue with the ball glancing off Livramento’s chest and touching his arm. So sketchy was the ultimate reversed call that the VAR official was pulled from another scheduled match the next day while UEFA immediately announced they will review their guidance on handballs. The frequency of such calls has been much higher in UEFA cup play than the domestic European leagues. That’s of no immediate help to Newcastle, of course, which now faces a difficult road to advance to the tournament’s next round. The Magpies must beat Milan in their final group match and hope that PSG drops points in its finale with group leader Borussia Dortmund.

Manchester United experienced disappointment the following day in a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray. The Red Devils jumped to an early two goal lead. Alejandro Garnacho followed up on last weekend’s Premier League golazo with an 11th minute goal which was followed up seven minutes later with a goal by Bruno Fernandes. Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana, however, would swing the match with poor attempts on two goal scoring free kicks from former Chelsea player Hakim Ziyech. Scott McTominay restored the United two goal margin after Ziyech’s first goal only for Onana’s second gift to Ziyech to narrow the Red Devil lead once again. The door was open for Galatasaray’s Kerem Akturkoglu to salvage a point for the Turkish side with his 71st minute strike. The only road for Manchester United to qualify for the next round is now by beating Bayern Munich in its final group match while Galatasaray and Copenhagen play to a draw.

Manchester City spotted Bundesliga side RB Leipzig a two-goal lead in the first half of their match on Tuesday. The defending Premier League champions quickly awakened in the second half. Erling Haaland scored the first goal of the comeback in historic fashion. The Norwegian’s 51st minute strike was his 40th Champions League goal in just 35 matches, the quickest anyone has reached the 40-goal mark. Phil Foden would hit the equalizer and Julian Alvarez would strike the match winner as the Citizens remained perfect and clinched the top spot in their group.

Arsenal is also a group winner after smashing Lens 6-0 on Wednesday. Six different players scored as the Gunners avenged an earlier group loss to the French side. Liverpool sealed first place in its Europa League group with a 4-0 win over LASk on Thursday. Cody Gakpo scored a brace for the Reds, an encouraging development as Gakpo may be needed to step up in Premier League play with the injury to Diogo Jota.

West Ham ensured qualification with a chance to still win its group as the Hammers took down Backa Topola 1-0 on a goal by Tomas Soucek. Brighton was fortunate that its Greek opponent was bearing gifts in a 1-0 win at AEK Athens. A 55th minute penalty converted by Brighton’s Joao Pedro and a 65th minute AEK red card enabled Brighton to prevail in a match where the Seagulls managed only two shots on target.

Aston Villa qualified for the next round of the Europa Conference League with a 2-1 win over Legia Warazawa. Alex Moreno had the winner for Manager Unai Emery’s side in his first appearance since being sidelined by a hamstring injury last May. Ugly scenes preceded the match when unruly Polish supporters clashed with police. 

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