World Sports News in Brief

Pepe redeems himself as Arsenal ease to win at Molde

Friday, 2020-11-27 07:57:51
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Soccer Football - Europa League - Group B - Molde v Arsenal - Molde Stadium, Molde, Norway - November 26, 2020 Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe celebrates scoring their first goal with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and teammates. (Photo: NTB via Reuters)
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Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe put himself back in manager Mikel Arteta’s good books with the opening goal in a 3-0 win at Molde on Thursday (Nov 26) that sealed his side’s place in the Europa League knockout stages with two games to spare.

Arteta's side might be struggling in the Premier League but they are 100per cent in Group B of the Europa League, making them one of only two teams to have won their opening four games. The other is Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim who beat Slovan Liberec 2-0 away to qualify from Group L.

* Leicester City also qualified for the last 32 after an enthralling 3-3 draw away to Sporting Braga in Portugal. AS Roma also sealed a place in the knockout round after a 2-0 win away to Romanian side CFR Cluj kept them top of Group A.

* Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur boosted their hopes of reaching the knockout phase as two goals by Carlos Vinicius, his first strikes for the club, helped them to a 4-0 win over Bulgarian side Ludogorets in Group J. Royal Antwerp beat LASK 2-0 to stay top although they and Spurs both have nine points.

* In Group C Bayer Leverkusen look poised to reach the last 32 after a 4-1 win over Hapoel Beer-Sheva left them on nine points, alongside Slavia Prague who beat Nice. Rangers and Benfica both have eight points and are on course to qualify.

* Spanish club Granada remain in control of Group E after Alberto Soro scored the winner in a 2-1 triumph over Omonoia while fellow La Liga outfit Villarreal head Group I after a 1-1 draw with Maccabi Tel-Aviv who are second.

* A surprise international comeback for Zlatan Ibrahimovic moved a step closer on Thursday as the country's FA confirmed that boss Janne Andersson had met with the striker in Milan to discuss a possible return. The talismanic 39-year-old, who was crowned his nation's best player for the 12th time this week, said in a recent interview that he missed the national team and would be open to a return, which prompted Andersson to fly to Milan to meet him.

* Serie A leaders AC Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by Lille in the Europa League on Thursday after a well-worked Jonathan Bamba goal cancelled out Samu Castillejo's effort for the Italian side. The result leaves Lille on eight points at the top of Group H, a point ahead of Milan with two more games to play with qualification to the knockout stages still not assured after Sparta Prague moved up to six points with victory over Celtic.

* Brazilian striker Carlos Vinicius opened his account for Tottenham Hotspur with two first-half goals and Harry Winks scored a spectacular long-range effort in a 4-0 win over Ludogorets in Group J of the Europa League on Thursday. Victory put Tottenham into second place in the standings with two games remaining, level on points with Royal Antwerp who won 2-0 away at Austrian side LASK.

* Napoli overcame Croatian side Rijeka 2-0 on Thursday in their first match since the death of Diego Maradona, the Italian club's greatest and most popular player. On an emotionally-charged evening, the Napoli team took the field for the Europa League game wearing number 10 shirts with Maradona's name emblazoned on the back, while a photograph of the Argentine idol stared down from the electronic scoreboard.

* Fans of Premier League clubs in London and Liverpool can attend games when a month-long national lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 is lifted on Dec. 2, after the two cities were among those classified on Thursday as falling into high alert regions. Up to 4,000 spectators will be allowed to attend outdoor elite sports events in the lowest-risk medium alert areas of England, the British government said on Monday.

* UEFA has banned a former official of Azerbaijani side Qarabag for life for incidents of a non-sporting nature and racist behaviour on social media, European soccer's governing body said on Thursday. UEFA said in a statement that its Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body had decided to ban Nurlan Ibrahimov, who was the club's press officer, from exercising any football-related activity for life.