Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel miss out for Spurs

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It would be easy to overlook were the game less meaningful, but when Brad Friedel and Clint Dempsey (right) are on the bench for the season’s first North London Derby, you can’t help but see some meaning in it.

Today, as Spurs visited rival Arsenal to start the English Premier League weekend, both men found themselves on André Villas-Boas’s bench with few excuses to be found.

For Friedel, the selection is the latest salvo in a battle he’s destined to lose. After Spurs’ summer purchase of France international Hugo Lloris, Friedel’s days as Tottenham’s No. 1 were numbered. That he didn’t immediately concede the position to the talented keeper is a testament to his enduring quality, but with $12 million committed to his 25-year-old counterpart, the 41-year-old Friedel’s bound to lose his spot.

Whether today marks that turning point remains to be seen. Villas-Boas has gone to and away from Lloris before this season. It could happen again.

Dempsey’s situation is a little more troubling. The U.S. international has not played well since moving to Tottenham. Today, as Villas-Boas moved away from his preferred 4-3-3 formation and tried a 4-4-2, Dempsey was sacrificed.

As is the case with Lloris, Spurs probably want their summer signing in the team. But unlike the French keeper, Dempsey has been given every chance to cement his place at the top of Spurs’ midfield. His inability to distinguish himself led to his exclusion despite the fact he stayed with the team during the recent international break.

Going forward, it seems Dempsey will be fighting for time with forward Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, Spurs’ coach now willing to move away from his preferred formation to get his in-form players on the field.

With Adebayor having picked up an early red card in today’s derby, Dempsey will likely get two chances to reclaim a starting spot: mid-week at Lazio and next Sunday versus West Ham United, with Adebayor set to serve a suspension. Now, with Villas-Boas showing Dempsey’s no lock for for the starting XI, the American’s grace period is over.

MORE: 10-man Tottenham routed at Arsenal

Netherlands manager Danny Blind fired after Bulgaria loss

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The Netherlands are in real trouble, and the manager has paid the price.

The Dutch national team has parted ways with Danny Blind the day after a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria left the Dutch fourth in their World Cup qualification group halfway through.

The move garnering all the headlines from Saturday’s loss was Blind’s decision to start 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt. The Ajax youth product, who has just two Eredivisie starts to his credit, made two crucial errors and yanked at halftime, but the damage had been done. Spas Delev scored twice in the opening 20 minutes for Bulgaria, and that was all the home side needed as the Dutch offered little in front of goal.

Blind was also criticized for not getting Memphis Depay on the field as they chased the game. The Netherlands held 74% possession, but could only manage 3 shots on target. Depay has been in good form since his January move to Lyon, with five goals in his 10 Ligue 1 appearances.

This decision was something Blind saw coming. He told national broadcaster NOS immediately after the Bulgaria loss, “I blame myself. It can’t go on like this. Things have to change.”

“I need to think about [my future]. I do not throw the towel in here. I’m incredibly disappointed, especially since I had a good feeling about this match. It makes sense that I put myself in front of the mirror.”

However, the problems for the Dutch go far deeper than Danny Blind. They missed out on Euro 2016 largely thanks to the failed 2nd tenure for Guus Hiddink. His assistant Blind took over, but the results have been equally as poor. The Netherlands sit fourth in UEFA World Cup qualification Group A, with losses to Bulgaria and France plus a draw with Sweden. It’s not over for them though, as they sit three points back of a second place spot with five matches to go, and three of those five at home.

With the Netherlands still yet to play their friendly against Italy this coming week, former goalkeeper Fred Grim takes over on an interim basis. Grim collected 101 caps for the Netherlands, and has served as the Netherlands U-21 manager for the last two years. Before that, he took charge of his first full managerial job as head man of Dutch 2nd-tier club Almere City.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).