Stylish Spurs dent Arsenal’s Champions League chances
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger said qualifying for next season’s Champions League via a Premier League top-four finish remained his priority after Arsenal slipped to a third league defeat in five games at Tottenham Hotspur yesterday.
Harry Kane’s second-half header gave Tottenham a 1-0 victory over their neighbours that left Arsenal five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea having played a game more.
Manchester United secured a return to the Champions League by winning last year’s Europa League and Arsenal are through to the last 32 of Europe’s second-tier club competition.
“The priority remains being in the Champions League (qualification places) through the Premier League,” Wenger said. “I am not a great fan of the Europa League winner qualifying for the Champions League – I think it is not right. If it is an opportunity we have to try to take it as well, but the priority remains the Premier League.”
Arsenal struggled to create real openings against Spurs at Wembley, mustering one shot on target all match, and Wenger pointed to their poor record of 15 goals on the road this season as an area of concern.
“Today was a game we couldn’t afford to lose,” Wenger added. “It makes it much more difficult now (finishing in top four), but we have to fight. There was more at stake in this game than just the derby, that’s why it is so disappointing.
“(Our away record) is very poor. Football is about scoring goals, and if you look at the numbers, compared to the top six, we do not score enough goals away from home.”
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Oumar Niasse and Tom Davies were on target as Everton eased past Crystal Palace 3-1 to climb to ninth on the table.
After a committed but low-quality first half ended goalless, Everton struck twice within six minutes after the break as Sigurdsson beat Wayne Hennessey with a deflected shot before Niasse’s header doubled the advantage.
Midfielder Davies all but sealed the victory with a low finish in the 75th minute against a Palace side who showed little threat until Luka Milivojevic converted a late penalty after Ashley Williams handled the ball.
Everton leapfrogged Bournemouth to climb to ninth on 34 points from 27 games. Palace are 14th with 27 points.
Charlie Adam’s missed penalty in stoppage time means Stoke City remain in the bottom three with hopes of Premier League survival looking bleak.
The Scottish midfielder had a chance to give the Potters all three points but couldn’t make it count.
Brighton had the better of the chances in the game at the Bet365 Stadium, and made their opponents pay with a great move to open the scoring.
Jose Izquierdo picked up the ball from deep and after exchanging passes in a slick rhythm with two team mates put it past Jack Butland.
Then the drama began as Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal made it 1-1, the Swiss midfielder picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curling a delightful low strike into the far corner.
In the final minutes Stoke were awarded a penalty for a foul on Jese, substitute Adam stepped up and his effort was saved by Mat Ryan and then cleared by Lewis Dunk.
West Ham overcame Watford 2-0 in a game with plenty of chances at the London Stadium, putting the Hammers level on points with their opponents in the middle of the Premier League table.
The home side’s Mexican striker Javier Hernandez broke the deadlock in the 38th minute, heading in at the far post after winger Michail Antonio wove through the Watford defence to send in a long cross from the left.
West Ham’s Austrian midfielder Marko Arnautovic, back in the side after a hamstring injury, scored from close range in the 78th minute to make it 2-0.
The win leaves the two sides level on 30 points apiece in the middle of the table, though still just six points above the relegation zone.
Swansea City edged further away from the relegation zone as Ki Sung-yueng scored a late goal to beat Burnley 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea enjoyed more than two-thirds of possession but both teams struggled to create clear-cut opportunities in the first half.
It changed after the interval when visitors Burnley threatened to score with a stinging half-volley from winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson but he was denied with a stunning fingertip save by Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal introduced January signing Andre Ayew to boost to the attacking line and was rewarded with a string of chances before Ki’s drilled effort from the edge of the area clinched victory with less than 10 minutes left.
The victory moved Swansea up to 15th in the table, two points clear of the bottom three, and extended their unbeaten run to five matches. – Reuters
COMING OUT ON TOP: Harry Kane (centre), who scored for Tottenham yesterday, lends a hand in a defensive wall.