Aston Villa’s Andy Dufresne moment: Alex McLeish finally gone

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One of the most cataclysmically moronic managerial decisions ever has been corrected. Finally. Less than one year after Randy Lerner looked at the relegation of Aston Villa’s arch rival and decided to pay for their manager, Alex McLeish is out at Villa Park.

No word of an official apology from the owner’s office, which is fine. AVFC’s supporters deserve much more, though it’s difficult to figure out exactly how much.

At the risk of going over old ground, it bares reminding how idiotic this move was. Birmingham City won the League Cup, but they also played the most soul-crushing brand of soccer in the Premier League. The style McLeish infused in the Blues embodied every trite cliché soccer haters spew while extolling the virtues of some of our indefensibly mind-numbing pastimes. It was 11 players trying to collide with the other guy’s 11, and if one of his team’s fear-driven long balls happened to generate a goal, so be it.

Imagine being an Aston Villa fan and having to get with that dross. Whereas at one time Martin O’Neill had Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor exploding into counter attacks, McLeish was using Emile Heskey as a midfielder. The results:

  • 37 goals, fewest in the Premier League;
  • 17 draws, five more than any other club;
  • a -16 goal difference;
  • 16th place;
  • a 10-match winless streak to close the season, with only one win in Villa’s last 17 games;
  • Villa’s worst league finish in six years;
  • the club’s lowest point total in 42 years;
  • an intimate relationship with eternal ennui.

The collateral damage: Premier League fans were treated to 38 more games of horrible, horrible soccer.

Randy Lerner and Villa’s board got what they bought. Unfortunately, they had to bring their supporters into their self-induced nightmare. I can’t remember a fan base as morose as this year’s Villans, and who can blame them? It’s as if Dad came, told you he’s marrying the teacher that clearly hates you, and oh by the way, they already had a new baby that they love so much more than you.

Thankfully, bad Mom is gone, and she that crying brat with her. Villa fans may have had to crawl through 500 yards of foulness we can’t even imagine, but today, they got their Andy Dufresne moment:

(warning, one S-bomb in the following video, so it’s debatably NSFW-y)


Watch Live: Three Premier League games, 11am ET

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Three Premier League games are coming your way at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Huddersfield host Crystal Palace, West Brom head to Bournemouth and Stoke welcome Everton to the Potteries.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 11 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for the three games at 11 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.

11 a.m. ET: Huddersfield vs. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM

Tottenham beat Swansea to reach FA Cup semis

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Tottenham Hotspur beat Swansea City 3-0 at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday to book their spot in the FA Cup semifinal for the second time in as many seasons.

With Harry Kane out injured, plus the likes of Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele on the bench, Christian Eriksen was the star of the show as he scored twice, while Erik Lamela added another in a game Mauricio Pochettino‘s men dominated from start to finish as their final chance of silverware this season remains intact.

The semifinals of the FA Cup being held at Wembley Stadium on April 21-22 also give Spurs a big advantage as Wembley has been their temporary home ground for the 2017-18 season.

Swansea will now focus on staying in the Premier League as Carlos Carvalhal‘s men are battling against relegation.

[ MORE: Follow all the FA Cup scores ] 

Early on Nathan Dyer burst through and although it looked like he could’ve won a penalty kick as Michel Vorm raced out, neither the referee or VAR awarded the Swans a penalty kick.

Spurs then took the lead with a moment of magic as Eriksen ran towards goal and curled home a superb effort into the far corner to give his side the lead. That was his seventh goal in 10 games against the Swans.

Tottenham then dominated much of the game after going ahead as Eriksen’s perfect ball over the top found Heung-Min Son and he finished magnificently off the crossbar but the South Korean star was flagged offside and VAR decided that was the correct call. Another moment of controversy surrounding VAR…

Chances kept coming for Spurs. A cross from the left almost found Lucas Moura at the near post but he couldn’t quite get on the end of it, then Eriksen had a curling effort tipped onto the bar by Nordfeldt and Eric Dier nodded just over as Tottenham totally dominated the first half.

Lamela made it 2-0 right on half time as he ran towards goal and curled home a low shot past the unsighted Nordfeldt.

At half time Luciano Narsingh came on for the Swans as they tried to get back into the game.

Martin Olsson had a rasper pushed away by Vorm and the former Swansea goalkeeper then denied Tammy Abraham with a fine double stop. At the other end Dier’s long-range shot was tipped wide by Nordfeldt brilliantly as the game opened up.

Eriksen then finished the game off as Moura found him on the edge of the box and his low shot crept past several Swansea defenders and in. Game. Set. Match.

Tottenham could’ve added more goals late on but they settled for three goals as Swansea were in full damage limitation mode.

FIFA budgets $6.56BN income for 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA expects to earn $6.56 billion in a four-year financial cycle to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite a drop in ticket and corporate hospitality sales.

FIFA’s 2019-2022 budget projects rises of more than $400 million each in broadcasting and marketing income over the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Still, FIFA says “smaller stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup” should mean ticket and hospitality sales of $500 million will be $75 million less than in 2015-18.

More than half of FIFA’s revenue will come from broadcasting rights, “86 percent of which is already contracted.”

FIFA plans to spend $6.46 billion from 2019-2022, including a $250,000 annual raise for member associations. Each will get $1.5 million annually.

FIFA expects to end the 2022 World Cup with reserves of $1.9 billion.

VIDEO: Eriksen curls home screamer for Spurs

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Christian Eriksen, take a bow.

Tottenham’s Danish magician waltzed towards Swansea’s goal early in their FA Cup quarterfinal on Saturday and curled home a stunning effort into the far corner to give his side the lead.

Eriksen stepped up to the plate with Harry Kane out injured, plus Dele Alli and Fernando Llorente on the bench, as the playmaker has now scored seven goals in 10 appearances against Swansea.

Check out the video below to see Eriksen at his very best.