This dive? Not Santi Cazorla’s most endearing moment, but don’t forget the ref

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“I don’t speak about players from other clubs,” West Brom manager Steve Clarke said Saturday before going on to speak about a player from another club. “But if one of my players goes down with something similar to [Santi] Cazorla, then we’ll talk about it.”

The Arsenal playmaker, one of the best signings of the summer window, made news for the wrong reason on Saturday, falling in the left of West Brom’s penalty area after Baggie Steven Reid whiffed on a challenge.

The video:

Cazorla’s teammate Mikel Arteta went on to score his first of two spot kicks, Arsenal taking a 2-0 win over West Brom.

Steven Reid talked about the challenge with BBC Radio 5 Live:

“No [I didn’t touch him] and looking back at the replays even more so,” Reid told BBC Radio 5 live.

“You’d like to think that even if there was a graze of a sock that’s still not enough to go to ground. Even if it was that, which it wasn’t, it’s disappointing.”

He added: “I might have had a little chat with Cazorla when I was waving a finger but I’m not sure I can repeat it as it wasn’t too friendly.

“He almost looked a little embarrassed afterwards.

“I said to the referee there was no contact and he pretty much said that the intent was there, which I found a little bit strange.”

More from Clarke, on the call’s effect on the game:

“There was zero contact – it wasn’t even close. I am not sure what the referee saw,” Clarke said. “It was a bad decision for us and obviously changed the shape of the afternoon. It could have been a nervous afternoon for Arsenal. At 0-0 they hadn’t created too much.

“We knew the longer the game went the more pressure would come on Arsenal and then we would have a chance. That decision changed it.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s reaction:

“I am sorry if it was not a penalty, but I have spoken to Santi and he said he was touched, lost his balance. Has he made a bit more of it? I don’t know,” Wenger said. “When he [a player] is touched, he goes down, the referee can give or not give the penalty.”

Asked if he would speak to Cazorla if he felt there had not been contact, he added: “Of course. I will look at it, don’t worry.”

source: ReutersIt’s just a dive, it happens, and it’s as a serious a problem to soccer as an exaggerated charging call in basketball, habitual holding in American football, or the inability to consistently call balls and strikes in baseball. Nothing’s perfect. Everything could be better. As a team, you plan for the unpredictable.

That said, there’s no reason Cazorla can’t be suspended for something like this. The NBA has gone in this direction. Exaggerate fouls (flop), do so habitually, and you’ll eventually miss time. The Premier League and FIFA could do the same (two years ago Juventus winger Milos Krasic was suspended in Italy for diving).

There’s another part of this nobody but Steve Clarke is talking about. Mike Jones messed up. Bad. He called something that didn’t happen and (to repeat a common refrain around these parts) although it’s common for the repeated patterns of the game to present our first impressions with something that isn’t there, referees are tasked, trained, and paid to be better than that.

So if you’re going to suspend players, might as well sanction referees, too. A suspension is probably too much, but calls like these should certainly be part of any evaluation of the official’s ability.

Rapids hire Patel as director; Highest ranking female exec in MLS

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The Colorado Rapids have hired Ena Patel as their new director of player personnel. She becomes Major League Soccer highest ranking female executive, according to the Denver Post.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to the Rapids, she’ll report to club GM Padraig Smith and “oversee player contracts, salary budget, regulatory compliance, and soccer operations protocols.”

The move comes about a month-and-a-half after Sporting KC hired Megan Cameron as an assistant director of player personnel, the first woman hired to an MLS team’s technical staff.

Patel’s resume is outlandishly strong, though this is her first foray into the sports world. Here are some words from Smith, from ColoradoRapids.com:

“Ena’s hiring is the final piece of the puzzle for us on the front office side,” Smith, the Rapids executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement released by the club. “Bringing in a sharp, legal mind who can oversee our contractual processes and complex league mechanisms is a really important part of ensuring that we’re fielding the best possible team. We can’t wait for her to get started.”

Guardiola happy to reach final, knows Man City to be judged by hardware

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Bristol City made its interesting late with a pair of goals, but Manchester City’s League Cup destiny was never in jeopardy in a 3-2 second leg win at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.

[ RECAP: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

That sent the club into the Feb. 25 final with a 5-3 aggregate win, and it’s very difficult not to leap to the story line that is Pep Guardiola‘s chance at a first significant title in his reign at Man City.

The closest City came to hardware last season was being bounced by Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinal. This time, City is the favorite to win at least three of its four entered competitions: the Premier League, the League Cup, and the FA Cup.

But to hear Pep say it, for now the club is just happy to have earned one final berth. From the BBC:

“We are so happy to be there, to reach this final. We played an amazing game until 2-0 and then we lost control, these type of games never end until the end. This is a lesson for next weekend in Cardiff in the FA Cup and especially for the Champions League.

“It’s not for me, it’s for Manchester City, a club who are trying to reach another level. … I know that we will be judged by trophies we win but we are so happy. Nobody can take away what we have done, but Chelsea or Arsenal are strong teams.”

Guardiola was serious about not overlooking the Robins, as he rolled out a very similar lineup to the full-strength bunch that beat Newcastle United 3-1 at the weekend. That may have cost City late, but it had already built a 4-1 aggregate lead with two superior away goals.

Yes, Guardiola is a man who measures himself by the way his club plays but also by winning in that attractive fashion. Expect a determined club to stride into Wembley late next month.

Chelsea and Arsenal square off Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium for the right to match up with Man City, who won the tournament in 2014 and 2016. Even year dominance?

Man City into League Cup final (video)

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  • City outshoots Bristol 28-5
  • Sane, Aguero put MCFC up 2-0
  • Pack, Kent pulls two back for Bristol
  • De Bruyne answers in stoppage
  • City wins 5-3 on aggregate

A pair of late goals put a scare into Man City, but the Premier League leaders scored just before and right after halftime to insure its first leg lead en route to a 3-2 win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.

City wins 5-3 on aggregate in the League Cup semifinal, with Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, and Kevin De Bruyne scoring in the second leg.

Pep Guardiola moves to within 90 minutes of his first significant title as Man City boss, and will face either Chelsea or Arsenal on Feb. 25 at Wembley Stadium.

Marlon Pack and Aden Flint scored for Bristol City.

[ MORE: Full stats, box score ]

Sane scored in the 43rd minute and Sergio Aguero struck less than four minutes after the teams returned from the halftime break.

An errant John Stones clearance helped Bristol to the scoreboard in the 64th minute, with Pack scoring the goal.

Flint then nodded home in stoppage time to give the Robins hope for a miracle win, but new contract hero De Bruyne scored within a minute to burn those hopes to the ground.

Bristol would be in the Football League Championship playoffs if the season ended now, sitting in fifth place.

Midfielder Lassana Diarra joins PSG on short-term deal

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain has made its first signing of the winter transfer window by hiring midfielder Lassana Diarra on a short-term deal until June 2019.

The 32-year-old holding midfielder will once again try to revive his career in the French league after a successful stint at PSG’s bitter rival, Marseille, that ended last year.

The much-traveled Diarra, who was born in Paris, then played for a few months with United Arab Emirates club Al Jazira.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Diarra, a former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid player, won English and Spanish league titles in 2006 and 2012. He has 34 caps for France and featured at the European Championship in 2008.

His strong performances with Marseille earned him a recall from France, but he eventually pulled out of Didier Deschamps’ squad for Euro 2016 because of a left knee injury.

“I am very happy to have signed for my hometown club,” Diarra said. “Paris Saint-Germain represents a lot to me and, with the international dimension the club has taken in recent seasons, it is every player’s dream to play here. I am lucky enough to make this dream come true.”

Diarra joined on a free transfer and his signing won’t affect PSG’s bank accounts, which are under UEFA’s scrutiny.

PSG is under pressure to sell players to balance the books after splashing out 402 million euros ($473 million) on forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last year. That led to Qatari-owned PSG being placed under investigation by UEFA for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.