EPL

Tottenham 2-0 West Ham: Son back on song as Spurs move into Champions League places

By Sports Desk February 19, 2023

Son Heung-min returned to scoring form to help Tottenham claim a 2-0 victory over West Ham, propelling them into the Premier League's top four.

With Antonio Conte back in Italy recovering from emergency gallbladder surgery earlier this month, stand-in head coach Cristian Stellini was again charged with leading Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Stellini made it two wins from two games in temporary charge as substitute Son sealed the points with his first league goal since January 4 after Emerson nosed Spurs ahead in the 56th minute.

West Ham's defeat leaves them in the bottom three while Spurs, who lost heavily to Leicester City last week then went down to Milan in the Champions League, leapfrogged Newcastle United into fourth place.

There were warning signs for Spurs when Jarrod Bowen blasted wide in the opening minute, though a refereeing decision was the main talking point from a sluggish first half.

Eight days on from Tomas Soucek getting away with a similar incident against Chelsea, team-mate Thilo Kehrer was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty when Richarlison's pass struck his outstretched arm.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Richarlison were denied by Lukasz Fabianski before Cristian Romero headed over, with Spurs keeping up the pressure after the restart when Harry Kane went close.

That pressure told before the hour – Emerson coolly slotting into the bottom left corner after combining with fellow wing-back Ben Davies.

Bowen almost found an immediate response for West Ham but Fraser Forster was equal to his snapshot.

And West Ham's hopes of a comeback were all but dashed when Son, who had lost his place in the starting XI to Richarlison, finished calmly after linking up with Kane.

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  • Shaqiri insists Euro 2024 is not a vacation as fitness doubts dismissed Shaqiri insists Euro 2024 is not a vacation as fitness doubts dismissed

    Xherdan Shaqiri is ready to take centre stage for Switzerland once again as he dismissed doubts about his match fitness ahead of Euro 2024. 

    Shaqiri, who will feature in his seventh major tournament in Germany, will hope to continue his glistening career with his nation as they kickstart their Group A campaign against Hungary on Saturday. 

    The 32-year-old has scored or assisted 46 percent of Switzerland’s goals at major tournaments over the last 10 years, becoming only the fifth player to reach 100 caps for his country two years ago. 

    Despite his experience, coach Murat Yakin has questioned Shaqiri's ability to play back-to-back games in the competition, with the forward insisting he has not travelled to Germany to make up the numbers. 

    "It's almost embarrassing to have to answer this question. Every player who comes into the national team can and wants to play -- over the full distance," Shaqiri said. 

    "No one should only show up for work half the time. I don't see any problems with that. Did (Yakin) really say that?

    "I gave the answer: I'm here with the national team because I want to help the team and play as much as possible. I didn't travel to the European Championships to take a vacation."

    Shaqiri scored three times during qualifying as the Swiss finished five points behind group winners Romania, drawing five of their 10 fixtures in a group that included Israel, Kosovo and Belarus. 

    But Switzerland have proved in recent tournaments they have the ability to compete against the top sides, most notably beating France on penalties at Euro 2020. 

    The former Liverpool midfielder believes the group of players have the quality to succeed in Germany, and is hopeful his national team can lift an international honour in the years to come. 

    "It's my seventh finals, and each one has its story," Shaqiri said. "I love the tension before tournaments, it doesn't exist anywhere else.

    "Since I joined the national team, we have continually improved. The respect of the opponents and the public for us has grown, as has the quality in the national team. Many players have important roles at big clubs.

    "To talk about the best national team of all time, we don't have the big exploit -- three years ago we were very close to the semi-finals. The next generation is in the starting blocks and I hope that at some point Switzerland can lift a trophy."

  • Italy v Albania: Spalletti urges Azzurri to act like defending champions in Euro 2024 opener Italy v Albania: Spalletti urges Azzurri to act like defending champions in Euro 2024 opener

    Luciano Spalletti hopes Italy can use their title of reigning champions to their advantage when they open their Euro 2024 campaign against Albania on Saturday.

    The Azzurri secured Euro 2020 glory by upsetting England on home soil with a 3-2 win on penalties following a 1-1 draw to win their second European title.

    After Roberto Mancini's shock departure last year, Spalletti stepped into his shoes, qualifying for Euro 2024, and he is confident they have what it takes to win the tournament for the second time in a row.

    "It feels like heaven to be in situations like these," Spalletti told UEFA.com. "Matches come and go. These tournaments are really important, and this is why we need to be prepared for everything; as we say in our anthem, 'We are ready to die' for these matches.

    "In my opinion, coming into the tournament as defending champions is an advantage. But we need to understand straight away that we need to behave like defending champions. We will only see whether or not we are up to the task during the matches.

    "In a way, we are facing ourselves, not the outside world. We need to show what we are made of, to show what we have inside."

    Albania, meanwhile, are making just their second appearance at the Euros, and their first since 2016 when they were knocked out in the group stage.

    After topping a qualifying group including the Czech Republic and Poland, the Eagles have now been drawn into the 'group of death', also containing Spain and Croatia, but Sylvinho remains optimistic about their chances.

    "We do all of this together and understand what we're all after," Sylvinho told UEFA.com. "We've achieved things, we've made it to the Euros: that's some feat.

    "We've got this far, we know our size, we're improving. It's set to be a real challenge. However, we'll knuckle down to work.

    "The games will be fantastic but hard, and if we're able to overcome our opponents, we want to keep going. We're doing well, but if we can take another step forward, then even better."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Italy – Nicolo Barella

    Barella registered more assists than any other Italy player during Euro 2024 qualifying (three) and created seven more chances than any other Italian player (15). Barella also assisted two goals during Italy's victorious Euro 2020 campaign. The Azzurri will be hoping he can get fit in time to start the tournament.

    Albania – Jasir Asani

    Asani was Albania's joint-top goalscorer during Euro 2024 qualifying, scoring three times (level with Nedim Bajrami). All three of his strikes were scored from outside the box.

    MATCH PREDICTION: ITALY WIN

    This will be Italy and Albania's first encounter at a major tournament. Italy have won all four of their previous meetings with Albania (seven goals for, one against), which have all taken place since 2014.

    Italy have not conceded more than one goal in a match across their last two Euros participations, in 2016 and 2020: that is a total of six goals conceded across their last 12 matches in the competition.

    Italy's 45 matches at the Euros have produced 1.84 goals on average (52 for, 31 against) – it is the lowest ratio amongst any of the 25 teams to have taken part in 10+ matches in the competition.

    This is just Albania's second appearance at a major international tournament after Euro 2016 – their sole victory in this competition came against Romania in the final group match that year (1-0).

    Indeed, after losing their first Euro 2024 qualifier against Poland, Albania did not lose any of their next seven (W4 D3).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Italy – 66.3%

    Draw – 19.6%

    Albania – 14.2%

  • New York Red Bulls v Nashville SC: Nealis pledges hosts will improve New York Red Bulls v Nashville SC: Nealis pledges hosts will improve

    New York Red Bulls captain Sean Nealis has vowed the team will learn from last week's defeat to the New England Revolution, when they were hamstrung by several absences.

    The Red Bulls were beaten 1-0 in Foxborough following a run of four wins in five matches, with Lewis Morgan and Emil Forsberg among the big names missing due to international duty.

    The result left them fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, six points adrift of Supporters' Shield frontrunners Inter Miami.

    "We separated ourselves from the bottom half of the group and now we're kind of just lying there in the middle," centre-back Nealis said as he reflected on New York's last result.

    "We'll learn from this. We'll get better from it. This is a young group out there. 

    "A lot got their first minutes of the season and I think we'll all learn how to get better and how to understand these environments and then get over the hump."

    Nashville, meanwhile, sit ninth in the East, 10 points adrift of the Red Bulls. 

    They have taken four points from four games (one win, two draws, one defeat) since Rumba Munthali took over as interim head coach following the firing of Gary Smith.

    They were also beaten by the Revs on their last MLS outing before the international break, and Munthali believes keeping players fresh will be key if they are to improve.   

    "It's a quick turnaround, and we have a lot of confidence in the group," Munthali said. 

    "We try to balance that, and we want to make sure guys are available for the whole season, not just game to game.

    "It's about managing and making sure we're not straining guys and breaking them."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    New York Red Bulls – Elias Manoel

    Having seen the likes of Morgan and Forsberg go on international duty, the Red Bulls could be left to rely on Manoel.

    He has three goals and three assists in MLS play this term, despite only making eight starts. Only Morgan (nine) and Forsberg (six) have outscored him for New York.

    Nashville SC – Hany Mukhtar 

    Mukhtar scored Nashville's only goal in their defeat to New England on June 1 from the penalty spot. 

    He has been directly involved in each of Nashville's last four MLS goals (two goals, two assists, with the last Nashville goal without a Mukhtar involvement coming on May 15.

    MATCH PREDICTION – NEW YORK RED BULLS WIN

    Nashville ended a seven-game run without an away victory by beating FC Cincinnati 2-0 on May 29, just their second win in their last 16 away league matches. 

    However, they may struggle on Saturday against a team unbeaten in 10 straight home games (seven wins, three draws), dating back to last year's playoffs.

    The Red Bulls are also unbeaten in their last five meetings with Nashville, winning two and drawing three while only conceding once in that sequence. 

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    New York Red Bulls – 52%

    Nashville SC – 23.5%

    Draw – 24.5% 

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