Spurs stunned by Antwerp, Milan cruise to victory

PARIS: Tottenham Hotspur slumped to a shock 1-0 Europa League defeat at Royal Antwerp on Thursday, while Serie A leaders AC Milan eased to victory over Sparta Prague.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs failed to create a single chance of note in a lifeless display, with Gareth Bale, who rejoined the club on loan from Real Madrid in the close-season, lasting less than an hour before being substituted.

The surprise win takes Antwerp to the top of the early Group J table after their opening 2-1 victory at Ludogorets last week.

The Belgian outfit are playing in the main stage of a European competition for the first time since a UEFA Cup first-round loss to Newcastle United in 1994.

The hosts took the lead just before the half-hour mark, with Dieumerci Mbokani robbing makeshift Spurs center-back Ben Davies before feeding Israeli forward Lior Refaelov to drill a fierce shot into the corner.

Antwerp wasted a golden chance to double the lead in the 54th minute, as Congolese striker Mbokani contrived to fire the ball over an open net when only three yards from goal.

Mourinho threw on Harry Kane and Son Heung-min for Bale and Dele Alli in search of an equaliser, but again it was their opponents who should have scored when Norwegian wing-back Simen Jukleroed ran clean through on goal and blazed wildly over the bar.

Spurs dominated possession but never seriously threatened, and the Antwerp players were able to celebrate a famous triumph in an empty stadium.

Milan made it two wins from two in Group H with a 3-0 success over Sparta, despite Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing a first-half penalty.

Goals from Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao and on-loan Manchester United wing-back Diogo Dalot saw Milan extend their unbeaten run to 24 matches in all competitions.

Stefano Pioli’s side sit two points clear of Lille at the top of the group, after the French outfit fought back from two goals down to grab a 2-2 home draw with Celtic.

Jamie Vardy netted a spot-kick as Leicester City made it back-to-back victories in Group G with a 2-1 win at AEK Athens, while Paco Alcacer scored a late double as Villarreal saw off Qarabag 3-1 in Group I.

Juve need to find a way to win without Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo’s status remains unclear going into this weekend’s Serie A games, which means Juventus may have to finally find a way to win without him.

Ronaldo has yet to be cleared to return after testing positive for the coronavirus more than two weeks ago, and his absence has been keenly felt by a young Juventus side which is going through a transition under new coach Andrea Pirlo.

The nine-time defending Serie A champion has drawn its last two league matches without Ronaldo — against last-place Crotone and Hellas Verona — and was outclassed by Barcelona in a 2-0 loss in the Champions League on Wednesday.

On paper, though, Juventus should still be able to beat newly promoted Spezia on Sunday even if Ronaldo can’t play. But the Bianconeri have only won 55% percent of their matches without Ronaldo since the Portuguese star joined from Real Madrid in 2018, and are in danger of slipping behind in the domestic title race.

The two recent draws has left it four points leader AC Milan, which tries to extend its unbeaten record when it travels to Udinese on Sunday.

Ronaldo is also struggling to watch from the sidelines as he remains in quarantine in his house in Turin.

Source Link: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1755976/sport

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