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Champions League: Jorginho’s Penalty Saves Chelsea From Krasnodar Shock

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Jorginho spared Chelsea’s blushes as his penalty rescued a 1-1 draw against Krasnodar in the last Champions League Group E round on Tuesday.

Frank Lampard’s side had already qualified for the last 16 as group winners after beating Sevilla 4-0 last week.

Even so, they would not have wanted to lose to the Russian minnows and that was the prospect they faced after Remy Cabella put Krasnodar ahead in the first half at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard had made 10 changes from the win over Leeds in the Premier League last weekend.

READ ALSO: Man United Crash Out Of Champions League After Falling To Leipzig

Jorginho ensured the under-strength Chelsea line-up were saved from embarrassment when he stroked in a penalty moments after Krasnodar’s shock opener.

Chelsea are unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions as they look to mount a Premier League title challenge and win the Champions League for a second time.

Krasnodar finish third in the group and will move on to the Europa League.

Billy Gilmour made his first start for Chelsea since recovering from knee surgery and the Scottish midfielder let fly with an early effort that deflected wide.

But Chelsea’s rhythm had clearly been disrupted by all the changes and Krasnodar threatened when Tonny Vilhena’s powerful strike whistled just over.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had been given his first appearance since October after losing his place to Edouard Mendy.

Spain international Kepa has endured a torrid time with a series of costly mistakes since signing from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 for £71 million, a world record for a keeper.

Although he wasn’t at fault this time, Kepa was unable to prevent his side falling behind in the 24th minute.

A neat exchange of passes opened up the flat-footed Blues defence and Viktor Claesson teed up the unmarked Cabella for a low shot that flashed past Kepa from 12 yards.

That was a wake-up call for Chelsea as they hit back to equalise four minutes later.

Tammy Abraham’s nimble turn drew a clear tug from Krasnodar defender Kaio, earning a penalty that Jorginho stepped up to take.

Jorginho had missed two spot-kicks earlier this season, including one in the 4-0 win at Krasnodar, but the Italy midfielder made amends as he slotted home.

Abraham was at the heart of Chelsea’s best moments. The striker almost put his team in front when his first-time shot from Kai Havertz’s pass went just wide.

Chelsea’s 19-year-old English forward Tino Anjorin made his maiden start after two substitute appearances last season.

He  offered a few glimpses of his potential and  his audacious effort curled narrowly wide in the second half.

Abraham couldn’t get a strong enough connection with his header from Jorginho’s cross, but should have won the game in the closing stages.

Surging through on goal, Abraham’s shot was too close to Evgeni Gorodov, who made a good save with his outstretched leg.

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La Liga: Dembele’s Late Winner Pushes Barca Closer To Atletico

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Ousmane Dembele volleyed in a 90th-minute winner against Real Valladolid on Monday to fire Barcelona to within a point of Atletico Madrid ahead of next weekend’s Clasico in La Liga.

Barca looked set for a damaging stalemate at Camp Nou after Atletico’s defeat by Sevilla on Saturday but Valladolid had Oscar Plano harshly sent off with 12 minutes left and Dembele snatched a 1-0 victory.

His strike could prove a crucial moment in the Spanish title race, with Barca now breathing down Atletico’s necks ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Real Madrid, who are three points off the top.

If Ronald Koeman’s men win at Valdebebas, they will claim first place for 24 hours at least, before a depleted and deflated Atletico play away at Real Betis on Sunday.

They will have to play better after being frustrated by a determined Valladolid side, with Lionel Messi delivering some firm words to his team-mates in the tunnel at half-time.

READ ALSO: Operatives Prevented Gunmen From Looting Imo Command Armoury – Police

“We have to step it up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm,” Messi said. “If not it’s going to get complicated for us.”

It might have been more complicated had Plano not been shown a red card in the 78th minute, his hack on Dembele from behind giving Barca a crucial advantage for the final stages.

Victory makes it six in a row for them in La Liga, another win – particularly after an unconvincing performance – enhancing the sense that momentum now lies with Atletico’s rivals.

Defeat also compounded what Valladolid coach Sergio admitted on Sunday had already been a “sh**ty week” after five of his players tested positive for Covid-19, leaving him without 12 players, with six others injured and one more suspended.

To mark Messi breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record for the club, he was presented with a framed shirt before kick-off, which he accepted with his family on the pitch. Messi passed Xavi’s previous record of 767 appearances last month, with this his 769th.

Valladolid were not just able to compete in the first half, they were probably the better side and could have led when Kenan Kodro’s early header struck the bar.

Dembele broke through and dragged back for Messi, whose shot was blocked, while Pedri’s long-range effort fizzed through and came back off the post.

But Barcelona were flat, their passing predictable and there was concern in Messi’s voice when he told his teammates to find a different gear in the second half.

Valladolid were almost undone by a Messi through ball for Dembele, who held his run but could not finish before the leaping Antoine Griezmann headed the rebound wide.

Barcelona looked more dangerous on the break than in possession and they were lucky to escape a penalty when Oscar Plano poked the ball onto the outstretched hand of Jordi Alba.

Koeman made three changes shortly after, Martin Braithwaite, Francisco Trincao and Ronald Araujo replacing Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Oscar Mingueza.

But Barca’s biggest boost came 12 minutes from the end, when Plano was sent off for chasing Dembele back and tripping the Frenchman from behind. A yellow card seemed the more obvious decision.

Trincao went close and the winner came in the last minute as Frenkie de Jong’s cross was flicked to the back post by Ronald Aruajo. Dembele was free and lashed into the corner.

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Osimhen Returns To Naples After Nasty Head Knock

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Victor Osimhen is expected back in Naples on Monday evening despite the Napoli forward having to be hospitalised after banging his head on the ground during his side’s Serie A defeat at Atalanta.

Nigeria striker Osimhen was stretchered off the pitch unconscious towards the end of Sunday’s 4-2 loss in Bergamo after hitting his head following a clash with Cristian Romero.

The 22-year-old came round as he was transported to a hospital in the northern Italian city where tests revealed head trauma, and Napoli said in a statement that he would be returning south.

“Victor Osimhen is due to return to Naples on Monday evening after staying in Bergamo overnight as a precaution… The player will undergo further assessment on Tuesday.”

Osimhen joined Napoli for a club-record fee from Lille last summer, and returned to action last month after being sidelined for over two months with a shoulder injury and coronavirus.

Despite a promising start to the season he has scored just two goals for the club.

Napoli fell to their third defeat in five league games as Atalanta warmed-up for their Champions League clash with Real Madrid to move fourth in Serie A.

Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli are seventh, three points off the Champions League places, with pressure on the coach after his team lost the first leg of their Europa League tie with Granada 2-0 last week.

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Arsenal Boss Arteta Hails Man City As ‘Best In Europe’

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Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal team will be facing the best side in Europe when they take on Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

City have won a club-record 17 successive games across all competitions and are 10 points ahead of local rivals Manchester United at the summit of the English top-flight heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Arteta knows City well after working under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester for three years before returning to manage Arsenal, having previously played for the Gunners.

“I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment,” Arteta said of City. “The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that it and it makes them the best team.

“So we have a big but, as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”

City made an uncertain start to the season but are now hot favourites to win a third Premier League title in four years

Arteta said he was impressed by how they had regained their form.

“What they have done is react to a difficult moment,” the Spanish boss explained. “They reacted in a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best — being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.”

The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder added: “They have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think first of all defensively they have been really, really strong.”

Arsenal head into the match after a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in Rome on Thursday.

Next week’s second leg, being played in Athens because of coronavirus restrictions, is followed by a daunting run of fixtures that includes matches against Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool, all above Arsenal in the Premier League.

“We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months, so we need to kick on,” he said.

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