EFL

Championship Review: Ten-man Baggies pegged back, Preston win thriller

By Sports Desk October 26, 2019

West Brom had a men sent off and were dramatically held to a 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic after Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday missed the chance to apply pressure to the Championship leaders.

Slaven Bilic's side remain two points clear at the top after the Yorkshire rivals played out a 0-0 draw at Hillsborough.

Preston North End are up to second, above Leeds on goal difference, after coming from 2-0 down to claim a stunning 3-2 win over Blackburn Rovers in the all-Lancashire clash at Deepdale.

Huddersfield Town extended their unbeaten run to six matches and climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-1 win over Barnsley that left their opponents bottom of the pile.

 

Cullen holds his nerve after Ferguson sees red

West Brom had to settle for a second consecutive 2-2 draw despite Matt Phillips finishing emphatically at the end of Matheus Pereira's 10th-minute run.

Macauley Bonne marked his birthday by heading the initial equaliser before highly rated West Brom defender Nathan Ferguson was eventually sent off for a reckless challenge on Chris Solly – referee Matt Donohue having initially dismissed Grady Diangana in a case of mistaken identity.

Hal Robson-Kanu restored Albion's lead despite their reduced numbers, but Josh Cullen dispatched a stoppage-time penalty after Semi Ajayi was adjudged to have fouled Naby Sarr as the pair collided.

Neither Leeds nor Wednesday were able to find a breakthrough but Preston found themselves in an all-action contest.

Sam Gallagher's header forced an own goal from North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd inside the first 30 seconds and the Blackburn striker soon made it 2-0 to the visitors.

Tom Barkhuizen reduced the arrears before the interval and would prove the match-winner – firing into the top corner eight minutes from time after Daniel Johnson scored his eighth of the season from the penalty spot.

 

Terriers' Cowley revival continues

Danny Cowley continued to work his magic at Huddersfield, with Karlan Grant netting his eighth of the campaign having created Christopher Schindler's opener.

Jacob Brown pulled a goal back for Barnsley, who are joined in the bottom three by Middlesbrough – Jonathan Woodgate's men held to a 0-0 draw by Fulham at the Riverside Stadium despite their visitors having goalkeeper Marek Rodak sent off for handling outside the area in the 17th minute.

Beleaguered Stoke City are level on eight points with Barnsley after they were beaten 2-0 by former boss Gary Rowett on his first outing as Millwall manager. Jed Wallace converted a penalty 15 minutes from time after teeing up Ben Thompson for the opener.

Bowen at the double, waterlogged Forest

Jarrod Bowen scored twice in the space of six minutes during the closing stages as Hull City saw off Derby County 2-0 to claim back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.

Lukas Jutkiewicz was Birmingham City's matchwinner in a 2-1 triumph over Luton Town, while torrential rain saw the match between Nottingham Forest and Reading postponed.

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  • Ter Stegen confirms he will miss Germany's Euro 2020 campaign Ter Stegen confirms he will miss Germany's Euro 2020 campaign

    Marc-Andre ter Stegen has confirmed he will miss Germany's Euro 2020 campaign after opting to undergo a "therapeutic procedure" on his knee.

    Sunday's LaLiga results – including Celta Vigo's shock win at Camp Nou – mean Barcelona can no longer win the title, with the club and Ter Stegen subsequently deciding to cut his season short.

    A brief statement released by the club revealed Ter Stegen will "undergo a therapeutic procedure on the patellar tendon in his right knee on Thursday May 20 in Malmo by Dr Hakan Alfredson and under the supervision of the club's medial services".

    While Barca did not outline a return date, Ter Stegen provided an update on his official Instagram account on Monday, confirming it means he will play no part at the delayed Euro 2020.

    "I'm disappointed about yesterday's defeat and that now we can no longer win La Liga," he wrote.

    "After a complicated start to the season, we showed good character going 19 matches unbeaten – but we weren't able to keep this form.

    "I have decided together with the medical team of the club that I will do a complementary intervention on my knee.

    "I'm sad that I will miss Euro 2020 this summer with Germany. For the first time in many years I will be a fan at home supporting my country, I hope we win it!

    "After the summer break, when we are back on the pitch I hope to be able to play with fans [in attendance] once again, I miss it!

    "Thank you for your support throughout a difficult season and stay healthy!"

    Ter Stegen has featured 31 times in the league in 2020-21 for Barcelona, but his overall performance for the season has not been quite up to the high standards he has set previously.

    He has conceded 32 goals from shots on target worth 29.07 expected goals on target (xGOT), meaning he has let in nearly three goals more than expected. Celta's first goal on Sunday came from a speculative Santi Mina shot worth just 0.04 xGOT.

    Ter Stegen's xGOT differential of -2.93 this term is by far his worst across a single season at the club. In 2015-16, it was -1.44, though he only played seven LaLiga matches, while his next worst was -0.16 in 2019-20, a narrow margin which essentially meant he conceded as many goals as would be expected given the quality of the shots on target he faced.

    But for this procedure the ex-Borussia Monchengladbach man certainly would have been a part of the Germany squad next month, though he would have been playing back-up to Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer.

     

    While Ter Stegen has let in more goals than he should have this season, Neuer has conceded 40 times in the Bundesliga from an xGOT value of 42.09, therefore preventing two goals in 2020-21.

    The Neuer or Ter Stegen debate has been a hot topic for Germany for a while now, though the data suggests that, at least this season, the Bayern star remains the safer option between the posts.

  • Solskjaer says fan protests have affected Man United players Solskjaer says fan protests have affected Man United players

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United's recent loss of form could be partly due to off-field issues but is hoping supporters can give his side a lift against Fulham on Tuesday.

    The Red Devils lost back-to-back Premier League home games against Leicester City and Liverpool last week in a little over 48 hours amid a backdrop of fan protests against the club's ownership.

    Supporters forced the initial clash with Liverpool two weeks ago to be postponed late on after demonstrating inside and outside Old Trafford.

    United had to alter their pre-match plans for both the rearranged clash with Liverpool and the loss to Leicester to ensure their players were in the stadium well ahead of kick-off.

    Solskjaer admits the disruption affected his squad and, ahead of United welcoming fans to Old Trafford for the first time in 14 months, the Norwegian has called for unity.

    "I didn't want to use it as an excuse because we lost two games but surely it's a reason behind the performances," Solskjaer said at a news conference on Monday.

    "I'm not saying it didn't affect them, but I was impressed with how professional they were and how they went about it.

    "I think the mood in any club and the relationship between the team and the fans is vital to what happens on the pitch.

    "The players are all human beings, we're all human beings, and we will react to getting our supporters back in a positive way.

    "They have always given us extra energy and hopefully the players will give the fans a reason to cheer and that's what we have to focus on. It's a big game for us in that respect."

    Tuesday's visit of Fulham will see up to 10,000 in attendance for United's final home game of the season as coronavirus restrictions continue to be eased in the United Kingdom.

    Victory for United would guarantee a second-place finish in the Premier League for just the second time since Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012-13 season.

    Jose Mourinho was in charge for that previous occasion and described it as one of his best achievements in management, but ​Solskjaer will not celebrate finishing so far behind Manchester City.

    "The competition is a lot harder now than when I was a player," he said. "Of course, you have three, four, maybe five teams that challenge for the top two positions.

    "The top two positions have been taken by two teams in the past few years and for us to move into them and divide them is a good performance, but it's not an achievement.

    "You can't say it's an achievement. We've taken steps as a team, we're not where we want to be. We know we have some deficiencies as a group.

    "There are parts of the game we need to improve on but I've felt we’ve made strides in most places.

    "I've been very pleased with the players this season, I've got to say. I've been impressed by them, but we want to take the next step as well."

    United have won 18 of their past 22 Premier League meetings with Fulham and are unbeaten in their last 12 against them in the competition, winning 10 of those.

    Solskjaer's side follow up Tuesday's fixture with a trip to Wolves on the final day, before turning their focus to the Europa League final with Villarreal on May 26.

    That game in Gdansk offers Solskjaer a chance to win his first piece of silverware as United boss, but he is not thinking about that game with two Premier League matches still to go.

    "You know whatever team I pick against Fulham, it has to be a team that gives everything," he said.

    "If you go into a game tentative, if you have something else in your mind, you don't fly into the tackles as you should, you don't sprint as normal, you don't maybe focus as much.

    "There's more of a danger of getting hurt in that kind of position. We want to build momentum, we want to build confidence because of course we've lost the last two at Old Trafford.

    "We don't want to go into an important game with bad momentum or a bad feeling, so we use these two games to get results but also to get confidence."

    United have lost their final home league game of the season in just one of the previous 13 campaigns, doing so against Cardiff City in 2018-19.

    The Red Devils have Daniel James and Anthony Martial back, but Harry Maguire and fellow centre-back Phil Jones are both out.

  • Martinez: Hazard's condition 'best he's had for a long time' Martinez: Hazard's condition 'best he's had for a long time'

    Roberto Martinez said Eden Hazard's condition is the best he's had for a long time after picking the Real Madrid forward in his 26-man squad for Euro 2020.

    Hazard features in the squad despite the former Chelsea star continuing to endure a difficult spell with Madrid.

    He has once again battled several injuries during the 2020-21 campaign, limiting him to just seven starts in 14 LaLiga appearances.

    Those appearances have resulted in three goals and a pair of assists, with Hazard creating six chances for his team-mates in the league.

    But Martinez is now satisfied with his fitness levels, with the focus for Hazard now on finishing the season strong for Madrid, who host Villarreal on Saturday knowing they must better Atletico Madrid's result at Real Valladolid to win LaLiga.

    Hazard played just 13 minutes in Sunday's 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao, touching the ball 18 times and without creating a single chance or having a shot at goal.

     

    But Martinez told a media conference: "The situation with him is we know exactly where he is, his condition is the best he's had for a long time.

    "The level of fitness is really satisfactory, we look also at how important he is for the national team. [It's] important he finishes the season strongly for Real Madrid." 

    There are few surprises in the Belgium squad, with Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, FA Cup final hero Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens all selected.

    Divock Origi misses out after a season in which he has been involved in only nine Premier League games for Liverpool.

    De Bruyne's involvement in the Champions League final on May 29 will have no impact on their preparations for the rescheduled tournament, Martinez stressed.

    "The date we'll meet is the 31st May and we'll be preparing [for] two friendlies," he added. 

    "De Bruyne is [our] only player in the final and will be joining the squad on 7th June. Each player's individual needs are being catered for.

    "Each player will have the same break and perfect preparation for the tournament."

    Belgium begin their Euro 2020 campaign on June 12 against Russia in St Petersburg.
     

    Belgium squad in full:

    Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels.

    Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Jason Denayer, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen.

    Wing-backs: Yannick Carrasco, Timothy Castagne, Nacer Chadli, Thorgan Hazard, Thomas Meunier.

    Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne, Leander Dendoncker, Dennis Praet, Youri Tielemans, Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel.

    Forwards: Jeremy Doku, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Leandro Trossard.

    Strikers: Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku.

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