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Runs end, positions swap as Everton beats Tottenham

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As Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard recently noted in an interview with FOX Soccer’s Leander Schaerlaekens, just because the Toffees weren’t putting up the same results as they had at the beginning of the season didn’t mean the team was playing poorly. For whatever reason, Everton had only posted one win in nine games ahead of today’s meeting with Tottenham Hotspur (1-1-7), and while they certainly weren’t playing up to the standards that dealt Manchester United a loss to open the season, David Moyes’ team wasn’t falling apart.

Today, Everton proved Howard’s point, although it took some late theatrics to do it. With Howard’s countryman Clint Dempsey having pushed Spurs in front in the 76th minute, Everton approached stoppage time set to extend their winless run to five. Instead, Stephen Piennar headed the Toffees even on 90 minutes before Nikica Jelavic’s sixth goal of the season pulled off the miraculous. When Everton won 2-1, it was the third time this season they’ve come back to win after conceding the opening goal.

For Spurs, the result recalls problems Tottenham had holding leads at the start of the season, but on the road against a team that will contend for top four, it wasn’t a bad result. It snapped a four-match unbeaten run, but they aren’t the first team to have to reset after a visit to the blue half of Liverpool.

At the same time, it was points dropped against a direct competitor for a place in next year’s Champion League. Should Spurs finish one or two points behind Everton, this game should jump back to the forefront of Tottenham memories.

The result vaults Everton to the top of a three-team tie for fourth, goal difference slotting them above Tottenham and West Brom. Arsenal, two points back, will have a voice in the race, too, though after today’s comeback at Goodison, doubts about Everton’s staying power should begin to fade. After games against Spurs, United, Arsenal, and Manchester City, the Toffees have yet to lose to the teams expected to compete at the top of the table (2-0-2). With Stoke, West Ham, and Wigan on tap before a meeting with Chelsea on Dec. 30, Everton has a chance on consolidate their place among the league’s elite.

It may not have been pretty, but Everton found a way to get three points. Now four months into the season, we can start to believe this Everton team is for real, ready for their first run at Champions League since 2004-05.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.