Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Czech Republic 2, Greece 1

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Man of the Match: The Czech Republic did its damage wide, with Petr Jiracek making the biggest mark. Against Russia, he played in central midfield, but head coach Michal Jirek decided to sit Jan Rezek and move Jiracek wide  . The move paid off within three minutes, with Jiracek beating Jose Holebas on a run from the right, getting onto a ball from Thomas Hübschman, and putting the Czechs in front. Throughout the match, Jiracek combined with Theodor Gebre Selasse to terrorize Greece’s left flank, and when the Czechs shifted gears and looked to bleed out the match, Jiracek was one of the teams’ hardest workers.

NBC Sports: Czech Republic beats Greece 2-1

Packaged for takeaway:

  • With two goals in six minutes, the Czechs put the match away early. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time, but we should have suspected. Greece eventually came into the game but never threatened Petr Cech, their goal a gift from the Chelsea `keeper. I would call Greece’s performance disappointing, but that would be both a cliché and an understatement.
  • The second goal highlighted the two major problems Greece at the match’s onset.
    • Problem one: Their bad flank. It was another goal build down Greece’s left, a side that’s been terrible all tournament. Theodor Gebre Selasse beat Jose Holebas, got a ball into the six (barely eluding goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias), allowing Vaclav Pilar to direct a ball into the empty net.
    • Problem two: Early disorganization, uncertainty. Kostas Katsouranis played a major part in the second goal. The veteran Greek destroyer was forced into defense, with both of Greece’s first choice central defenders out (suspension and injury). A more experienced defender probably would have cleared the Gebre Selasse ball with his left foot, but Katsouranis looked uncertain. This allowed Pilar to slide in, put the winner home, notching his second goal of the tournament.
  • Soon after, Chalkias had to come off. It was the second match in a row where injury forced Santos into an early substitution. Having played from behind for most of the tournament, the Greece coach has had his hands tied.
  • Greece left back Jose Holebas has probably been the tournament’s worst player. Can you think of another player who has performed worse? I’ll admit I may not have thought about this enough, but between Poland’s success down Greece’s left and the goals the Czech Republic produces, I can’t think of another player who has done worse.
  • A series of interesting lineup changes by Santos probably hurt. Then again, he didn’t know his team was going to give up two goals early. He moved Giorgios Samaras from left forward to number nine, a chance didn’t work. Samaras couldn’t win the nice long balls Kostas Kastsouranis played forward, losing a number of aerial challenges to Tomas Sivok. When Samaras shifted back to his regular left-sided attacking role, he was one of Greece’s few bright spots.
  • In the preview, I talked about Greek youth needed to step up. Santos gave 19-year-old Kostas Fortounis a chance, putting him in the starting XI. He was not only quiet, he failed to help against Gebre Selasse, the right back giving (what on another day would be) a man of the match performance. Fortounis was eventually brought off.
  • Michal Bilek’s changes, however, worked. The left side of defense that was so leaky versus the Russians was fixed by moving Michal Kadlec in to left-center half while David Limbersky, in at left back, was one of the team’s better players. Inserting Thomas Hübschman allowed Jiracek to move outside, with Hübschman providing a nice assist on the first goal.
  • There was only two areas of concern for the Czechs:
    • Petr Cech had another howler, mishandling a soft Samaras ball sent in from 35 yards, gifting Theofanis Gekas a goal.
    • The team’s also getting nothing from Milan Baros, whose effort was discouraging. In the 60th minute, a small bump in the back from Kyriakos Papadopoulos was enough to stop Baros contending for a long ball. Those type of bumps happen on 94.6 percent of long balls (I made that number up). Minutes later, Bilek took Baros off.
  • Going forward, the Czechs are into the quarters with a win over co-hosts Poland. Greece needs a win over Russia to have a chance. Both matches kick off simultaneously on Saturday.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Brooks yanked after 29 minutes on return from injury

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USMNT defender John Brooks, whose season has been largely ruined by injuries, made his first start since mid-December after finally returning from a knee injury. It didn’t last long – just 29 minutes.

It doesn’t appear to be injury related, however.

After earning a yellow card just 13 minutes in, Brooks was yanked by new Wolfsburg manager Bruno Labbadia in the 29th minute with the club down 1-0 on the road at Borussia Monchengladbach. Brooks was furious as he came off the pitch, and reports from Germany seem to suggest that his substitution was a tactical decision rather than injury-related.

Brooks has made just eight Bundesliga appearances this season, starting the campaign on the shelf with a thigh injury before his knee problem kept him off the field almost four months through the winter and into the spring.

After his withdrawal, Wolfsburg conceded two more goals before halftime as Monchengladbach grabbed a 3-0 lead via goals from Raffael and Christoph Kramer, with Lars Stindl having already given them a lead eight minutes in.

It’s understandable why Labbadia would be cautious with his more aggressive players. Wolfsburg is in danger of the drop, level with Mainz and Freiburg on 30 points with one of them almost assuredly to finish in the relegation playoff position. Still, it’s an unfortunate turn of events for Brooks after finally making his way back to the field, and he was visibly angry as he came off the pitch.

FA Cup semifinal preview: Can Mourinho win Man United another title?

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It’s been a season of highs and lows for Jose Mourinho, but he could put Manchester United on the precipice of another title this Saturday.

The FA Cup semifinals resume this weekend at Wembley Stadium, with Manchester United facing off against Tottenham and Chelsea battling Swansea. It’s a pair of great matchups with plenty of enticing storylines to watch ahead of and during the games.

[MORE: All our coverage of Arsene Wenger’s decision to step down]

Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday

Jose Mourinho lost a lot of the good-will earned after Man United’s win over Manchester City as his side capitulated in a 1-0 defeat to last-place West Bromwich Albion.

Now, with a week to stew on that result, Mourinho is just two games away from raising another piece of silverware for Man United, though it won’t exactly be the trophy the fans were hoping for. At the same time, Tottenham, a team on the up and up, would love to win the FA Cup and take control fully of North London from rivals Arsenal. A trip to the final for Tottenham would be the next step in the club’s climb to greatness.

Chelsea vs. Southampton— 10:00 a.m. ET Sunday

It’s been a disappointing season for both clubs, but on different levels. Chelsea, the defending league champions, has struggled most of the season to consistently score goals and will likely finish outside of Europe – unless they make the final of the FA Cup. So there’s a lot riding on the line for Chelsea heading into Sunday’s match.

For Southampton, with Mark Hughes now in charge, it’s almost a throw-away game. If they win, they could be the first team since Wigan to be relegated and qualify for European football the next season, but it could also be a game in which the beleaguered squad could gain some confidence, beating one of the big clubs in England.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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It is that time of the week again, folks. Prediction time!

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush” ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Man City 3-0 Swansea City – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Arsenal 2-0 West Ham United – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Everton 1-1 Newcastle – (Monday 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Watford 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Stoke City 1-1 Burnley – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

 


West Brom 1-1 Liverpool – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 35 is here with just six games on the schedule due to the FA Cup semifinals.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold 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: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]

Sunday
8:30 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. West Ham United – NBCSN [STREAM]
8:30 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
11:30 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Swansea City – NBCSN [STREAM

Monday
3 p.m. ET: Everton vs. Newcastle United – NBCSN [STREAM