Drilling down on: Columbus 2, at Seattle 0

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Man of the Match: You can go two ways on this one, and just so I don’t cop-out (again), I’ll let you know which way I leaned. Andy Greunebaum came up with big saves when Columbus needed them, stifling two very good Seattle chances early in the second half. You can go with him, or you can be an arrogant, elitist snob like me and argue the number of times Sebastian Miranda was tested and passed in the first half deserves the recognition. Miranda, in truth, wasn’t exceptional, but the pure number of times he deterred Seattle gets my nod.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Individual breakdowns. Sigi Schmid harped on individual breakdowns after the match, and he had every right to. Whether we’re talking about the two goals or the open chance Alvaro Fernandez missed right before half time, Seattle’s players didn’t step up when given the chance to do so.
  • But take nothing away form Columbus. Every time they get a surprise result, people moan about their perceived quality and claim the other team played down to the Crew’s level. Guess what? Columbus is now 4-4-3. Columbus is now fifth in the East. Columbus is now a decent team.
  • And that decent team executed. On the first goal, Dilly Duka played a left-footed cross in from the right flank to hit Justin Meram, who got a surprise start at left wing. Low and behold the matchup of a forward against a full back on a cross went the way of the bigger man.
  • And on the second goal, yes, Bryan Meredith was off his line, but Emilio Renteria also had to hit a 24-yard ball that got over him but under the bar. Blame where blame’s due, but credit where credit’s due, too.
  • It really is interesting to see how much of Seattle build up goes through Osvaldo Alonso in the first two-thirds.
  • Eddie Johnson had another mixed night. He always seemed to find a way to get on the ball, but he never did anything with it.
  • Watch David Estrada work. He tracks back much deeper than his opposite winger, and as Alonso and Brad Evans go forward (or, in Evans’ case, wide), he’s more than willing to sit in the middle of the park. There may be no harder working wide player in the league, right now. The question, though, is whether it’s good for him to have to jump into so many holes.
  • Renteria had a goal, and he was also credited with one of those fun MLS second assists, but the moment that jumped out to me was the counter attack he slowed down late in the first half. Columbus often plays nine of their 10 out-field players behind the midfield’s last man, leaving their forward all alone. Renteria doesn’t have the speed to get the Crew into counterattacks, a tactic they need to utilize if they’re going to play so deep. Then again, what do I know? Dude had a goal and an assist.
  • One other note on Columbus’s deployment. Eddie Gaven and Dilly Duka played very close to each other, and when Danny O’Rourke (before he left with an ankle injury) or Cole Grossman jumped into the play, it created a quick bursts of short passes in an overloaded area. For a brief spell in the first half, the Crew opened a number of eyes by playing some very un-Crew soccer.

Neymar makes history in PSG’s 8-0 thrashing of Dijon

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A pair of statements which are both true, and not at all mutually exclusive, if you allow logic and balance to prevail: 1) Neymar and his friends at Paris Saint-Germain are quite good at the soccer; 2) they aren’t challenged enough in Ligue 1.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Of course, they’ll be challenged plenty during the latter stages of the Champions League (they drew Real Madrid in the round of 16), but on a weekly basis, the level of competition in their domestic league isn’t of a high standard to indicate just how good they are. That’s the new debate with regard to PSG — it’s no longer, “Are they good? Maybe they’re just a big fish in a small pond.”

On Wednesday, led by Neymar, the most expensive transfer signing of all-time, Unai Emery’s side thrashed 10th-place Dijon to the tune of 8-0. As mentioned, Neymar did slightly more than just pull his own weight — four goals to go with a pair of assists; he lent a direct hand in six of the eight goals.

[ MORE: Chelsea survive Norwich in PKs, reach FA Cup 4th round ]

Even the statistical whizzes at Opta appear somewhat stumped by such an abundance of goals.

Anytime the keepers of stats toss out a “since we started collecting data,” be proud of your achievement. Be very, very proud.

FA Cup: Chelsea, Swansea into 4th rd; B’mouth ousted by Wigan

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Two more Premier League sides booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup, courtesy of third-round replays, on Wednesday, bringing the PL’s total representation to 14 clubs…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea 1-1 (5-3 PKs) Norwich City

Chelsea’s scoreless streak — for both themselves and opponents (three straight 0-0 draws across all competitions) — came to a merciful end on Wednesday, but not before surpassing the 300-minute mark. Michy Batshuayi — who, it must be said, struggled mightily in making just his third start (all in cup competitions) since mid-October — broke yet another scoreless deadlock in the 55th minute, ending the Blues’ scoreless run at 331 minutes.

With barely 30 seconds remaining in second-half stoppage time, 19-year-old left back Jamal Lewis brought the Canaries level with a thunderous header off the post.

Extra-time saw Chelsea reduced to 10, and then nine, men. Pedro was booked for diving just after the hour mark, and the Spaniard earned a second yellow card for a wild challenge in the 117th minute. Four minutes later, in second-half extra-time stoppage time, Alvaro Morata was booked for diving and proceeded to shout and gesticulate in the referee’s face. A second yellow was shown immediately.

Willy Caballero denied Nelson Oliveira on Norwich’s first attempt of the ensuing penalty shootout, giving the Blues the only cushion they’d need as Willian, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard all converted.

Chelsea will host Newcastle United in the fourth round on Sunday, Jan. 28.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Swansea City 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Swansea faced the greatest threat of a Cupset on Wednesday but managed to come out on top, knocking off runaway Championship leaders and champions-elect Wolves. The Swans went ahead through Jordan Ayew in the 11th minute before the prolific Diogo Jota, who’ll be in the PL one way or another next season, brought Wolves back to 1-1 in the 66th. Three minutes later, Wilfried Bony bagged the winner to see Carlos Carvalhal’s side through to the next round.

Swansea will visit League Two side Notts County, who knocked off Championship playoff hopefuls Brentford in the third round, on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Wigan Athletic 3-0 Bournemouth

Bournemouth sat 32 places above Wigan in the English football pyramid when Wednesday’s replay kicked off, and it matter not a single iota, as Paul Cook’s side hammered the Cherries at the DW Stadium. Sam Morsy, Dan Burn and Callum Elder bagged the goals for the League One leaders (three points clear after 26 of 46 rounds played). Wigan have alternated each of the last four seasons, finishing 23rd in the Championship and leading/winning League One. It’s been five years since the Latics were relegated from the PL, in the 2012-13 season.

Wigan will host West Ham United in the fourth round on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Sir Alex’s son in trouble for saying he’d “shoot” refs

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LONDON (AP) It clearly runs in the family.

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was known for having an explosive temper during his nearly 27 years at Old Trafford, and it seems he has passed it down to his son.

Darren Ferguson, who is the manager of third-tier English team Doncaster, is in trouble for saying he would “shoot” referees because of what he perceived as their poor standards.

Ferguson was charged by the English Football Association on Wednesday for remarks that “were improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

The 45-year-old coach has already apologized, saying it was a “tongue-in-cheek comment” and that “I do not advocate violence against officials.”

Ferguson was unhappy his team was denied a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Plymouth on Saturday.

“The referees are part-time and the standard is appalling, their fitness levels are a disgrace, I’ve had enough of it,” Ferguson said after the match.

“What can I do? Shoot them, it would be a good idea.”

Follow Live: Chelsea, Swans, Cherries in FA Cup replays

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Chelsea, Swansea City, and Bournemouth look to avoid upsets in replays of their third round FA Cup matches.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

All three matches kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET

The Blues tangle with former Premier League peers Norwich City, this time at Stamford Bridge, in a bid to host a fourth round match with Newcastle United.

Antonio Conte‘s not messing around (too much) with the XI.

Swansea City and Wolves, meanwhile, are arguably battling for a bid in the fourth round, as a trip to Notts County is on the docket for the winner of Wednesday’s replay at the Liberty Stadium.

Bournemouth is at Wigan Athletic for a replay with the third-tier Latics, with the victor hosting West Ham United on Jan. 27.