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Holders Arsenal knocked out, Man City survive Cheltenham scare

SOUTHAMPTON (Reuters) – Holders Arsenal bowed out of the FA Cup in the fourth round in disappointing fashion as Gabriel's first-half own goal condemned them to a 1-0 defeat by Southampton on Saturday.

Manchester City also looked to be on the brink of defeat at fourth-tier Cheltenham Town but they scored three times in the last 10 minutes to avoid one of the competition's great shocks.

Southampton and City were joined in the last 16 by top-flight rivals West Ham United who crushed third-tier Doncaster Rovers 4-0, Brighton & Hove Albion who beat Blackpool 2-1 and Sheffield United who edged Plymouth Argyle 2-1.

Arsenal claimed a record-extending 14th FA Cup title by beating Chelsea in August but Mikel Arteta's side's defence of the trophy ended with a whimper.

Southampton deservedly took the lead in the 24th minute when Kyle Walker-Peters drilled a low cross into the area and Gabriel inadvertently touched it past keeper Bernd Leno.

Arsenal could have fallen further behind with home striker Danny Ings going close for the hosts on several occasions.

The visitors, who made a raft of changes for the tie on the south coast, did apply some second-half pressure with Rob Holding wasting their best chance but Southampton held on to set up a fifth-round clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It was their first FA Cup win over Arsenal.

"We had in the first half more punch and more power," Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said.

"In the second half it's normal they have a lift. We must make the second goal. We made one or two chances — Shane Long should have got a penalty.

"It was a good team performance today."

Arsenal's first defeat in seven matches was a bitter pill for Arteta to swallow.

"Really sad to be out of the competition. Disappointed to be out and the way we conceded," the Spaniard said.

For FA Cup romantics, Cheltenham almost provided a classic addition to the competition's rich history.

When Cheltenham skipper Ben Tozer launched yet another humongous throw-in into the City area just before the hour and in the resulting scramble Alfie May prodded home, raising the prospect of sending Pep Guardiola's side packing.

They held on until the 81st minute when Phil Foden volleyed in an equaliser. When Gabriel Jesus scored again three minutes later, City could breathe easy. Ferran Torres added a late third.

Guardiola will not forget the tie in a hurry though.

"They used their quality in the box, they are taller and better than us there and we showed clips on how to solve it. It is difficult to control that," he said after his side's 10th successive victory in all competitions.

For Cheltenham manager Michael Duff it was a case of what might have been.

"I'm incredibly proud. The players they brought on from the bench and the way they celebrated the goals tells you something. They know they've been in a game. They've done that to better teams than us," he said.

City will face Championship high-flyers Swansea City in the fifth round after the Welsh club crushed Nottingham Forest 5-1.

Norwich City lost 1-0 at Barnsley while Bristol City were 3-0 winners away to Millwall.

In Sunday's big tie, Manchester United host Liverpool while struggling Chelsea face Luton Town.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)

Reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as the United States, China, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Germany. Love to Travel and report daily on destinations reopening with a focus on Domestic travel within Europe, North America and the Caribbean. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu. Love to follow the English Premier League , the German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga.

Football

Wolves sign Brazil striker Jose on loan from Real Sociedad

(Reuters) – Wolverhampton Wanderers have signed Brazilian striker Willian Jose on loan from Spain's Real Sociedad until the end of this season, the Premier League club said on Saturday.

Wolves said they have the option of a permanent deal for the 29-year-old, who has scored 62 goals in 170 appearances for the La Liga side. Jose scored two goals in Wednesday's 2-0 Copa Del Rey victory over Cordoba.

A former Under-20 World Cup winner with Brazil, Jose has had loan spells with Santos, Gremio, Real Madrid and Real Zaragoza, among other teams, before joining Sociedad in 2016.

He will bolster the attack of Nuno Espirito Santo's side, who are without Raul Jimenez after the Mexico striker underwent surgery on a fractured skull he sustained in a clash of heads with Arsenal's David Luiz in November.

Jose, who will wear the number 12 shirt, will not feature in Wednesday's Premier League clash at eighth-placed Chelsea.

Wolves are 14th in the table with 22 points from 19 games.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)

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Football

Man City escape shock Cup exit with late goals at Cheltenham

CHELTENHAM, England (Reuters) – Fourth-tier Cheltenham Town came within minutes of one of the great FA Cup shocks before Manchester City scored three late goals to win an absorbing fourth-round tie 3-1 on Saturday.

Alfie May looked poised to write his name into the competition's folklore when he pounced to put his side ahead in the 59th minute at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.

Cheltenham, 72 places lower than City in the standings, were holding on and edging towards a fairytale win but reality returned when Phil Foden equalised in the 81st minute.

Three minutes later Gabriel Jesus put City in front and Ferran Torres added a cruel third with the last kick.

Some say the romance of the world's oldest knockout competition has been diluted in recent times.

But this tie had everything apart from, sadly, a baying crowd because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were incredible goalline clearances, near misses, throw-ins launched like grenades and even a five-minute delay in the first half as fireworks exploded above the stadium.

In the end it was a relieved Pep Guardiola whose side's 10th successive win in all competitions set up a last-16 tie away to Championship high-flyers Swansea City.

"We came here with humility and had the quality to make the difference," Guardiola said.

"They used their quality in the box, they are taller and better than us there and we showed clips on how to solve it. It is difficult to control that."

For Cheltenham manager Michael Duff it was a case of what might have been.

"I'm incredibly proud. The players they brought on from the bench and the way they celebrated the goals tells you something. They know they've been in a game. They've done that to better teams than us," he said.

Guardiola made 10 changes to the side that beat Aston Villa in City's last Premier League game but his starting side still looked fearsome with the likes of Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho all included.

Jesus almost gave City the lead inside the opening minute when he tried to dink a shot over home keeper Josh Griffiths.

But Cheltenham were far from overwhelmed and posed plenty of problems at the other end with their direct style.

Home skipper Ben Tozer produced an incredible goalline clearance to somehow keep out Mendy's thunderbolt while at the other end May forced a near-post save from City's American reserve keeper Zack Steffen.

Foden wasted a good chance and Griffiths made good saves from Torres and Mahrez.

Tozer's enormous throw-ins had unsettled City all night and when he launched another one into the mixer just before the hour mark it caused chaos and the ball squirmed through to May who prodded the ball high into the net.

It was the first goal City had conceded in around 500 minutes.

Foden, City's outstanding player, rescued them with a controlled volley from substitute Joao Cancelo's deep cross for his ninth goal of the season.

When Jesus finished from close range from Fernandinho's delivery, Cheltenham's gallant attempt was over.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)

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Football

Conte sees red as Inter Milan are held to Udinese stalemate

(Reuters) – Inter Milan missed out on the chance to go top in Serie A as coach Antonio Conte was sent off for dissent in a 0-0 draw at strugglers Udinese on Saturday.

The visitors travelled to Udine on a high after beating title rivals Juventus 2-0 last weekend but they couldn’t break down the determined hosts, who became the first team to keep a clean sheet against Inter in Serie A this season.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez came closest when his first half shot drew a spectacular one-handed save from Juan Musso, but the visitors' frustration showed when Conte was dismissed for dissent in stoppage time.

"We didn't agree about the amount of stoppage time," Conte told Sky Sports.

"The referee has to take his decisions and we have to accept them, even if we don’t agree."

Conte's side remain second on 41 points, two behind AC Milan at the halfway stage of the season, while Udinese are 14th on 18 points but without a win in nine games.

The Inter coach stuck with the same team that defeated Juve, but his side were flat and failed to find the net for the first time in 21 Serie A matches, a streak stretching back to a 0-0 draw against Fiorentina in July 2020.

It was a missed opportunity as a win would have moved Inter ahead of leaders AC Milan on goal difference and be named winter champions after their rivals lost 3-0 to Atalanta.

"We need to look at ourselves, we can’t think about Milan and the fact that they lost," Conte said.

"There is room for improvement, today we could’ve been more precise. Above all we were lacking quality in the final ball, which is fundamental.

"We can and must improve from this point of view if we want to have ambitions of fighting to the end for something important."

Martinez looked certain to score when he pounced on a loose pass and fired a shot at goal, but Musso somehow kept it out with a one-handed save.

Nicolo Barella sent a dipping volley over the bar, while the hosts also couldn’t find their range as Roberto Pereyra blasted over and Rodrigo De Paul shot narrowly wide.

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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Hazard ends drought, Benzema scores twice as Real rout Alaves

VITORIA-GASTEIZ, Spain (Reuters) – Eden Hazard scored his first goal in almost three months while Karim Benzema bagged a brace as Real Madrid eased to a 4-1 win away to Alaves in La Liga on Saturday in the absence of coach Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane tested positive for COVID-19 the day before the game so assistant David Bettoni took charge of the team instead and his side got off to a strong start when Casemiro headed in a Toni Kroos cross in the 15th minute.

Benzema curled into the top corner in the 41st after a neat backheel lay off from Hazard, who then scored his second goal of the season and his first since netting against Huesca on Oct. 31 to further stretch Real's advantage just before the break.

Former Real youth player Joselu pulled a goal back for Alaves in the 59th minute, powering in a header from a free kick, but Benzema rounded off the victory for second-placed Real with an exquisite solo run and goal in the 70th minute.

The victory eased the pain of Wednesday's shock 2-1 defeat to third division Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey as well as their Spanish Super Cup loss to Athletic Bilbao and took Real on to 40 points, closing the gap with leaders Atletico Madrid to four.

Diego Simeone's side have two games in hand, however, and can restore their advantage at the top to seven points when they play Valencia on Sunday.

"This was a great performance from us and will lift our confidence," said Benzema after his side earned only their second victory from their last six games in all competitions.

"We know every game is difficult, we always try to put in our best performance but sometimes it's hard when teams defend deep. But today the goals kept flowing and that's good for everyone, especially after the week we've had."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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# Club M W D L Pt
1
Bangkok Glass
14 12 2 0 38
2
Port FC
14 11 2 1 35
3
Chiangrai United
14 8 2 4 26
4
Ratchaburi
14 8 2 4 26
5
True Bangkok United
14 6 2 6 20
6
Buriram United
14 6 2 6 20
7
Sukhothai FC
14 6 2 6 20
8
Chonburi FC
14 6 1 7 19
9
Pattaya United
14 5 4 5 19
10
Muangthong United
14 5 3 6 18
11
Police Tero
14 4 5 5 17
12
Suphanburi
14 5 2 7 17
13
Prachuap
14 3 5 6 14
14
Nakhon Ratchasima FC
14 3 4 7 13
15
Rayong FC
14 2 1 11 7
16
Trat FC
14 2 1 11 7

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