Gareth Bale double lifts Tottenham over Newcastle

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Newcastle can bring in all the French stars they want, but they’re not going to find an answer to Gareth Bale in Ligue 1. In fairness, the Premier League doesn’t appear to have an antidote for the Tottenham winger, either, with the Welsh international’s two goals taking his season total to 13 as Spurs  downed Newcastle, 2-1.

Tottenham is now undefeated in league since Dec. 9, a span of 10 games. Newcastle’s loss ends a two-match winning streak highlighted by last week’s comeback victory over Chelsea.

Bale’s first was a nearly unstoppable free kick from just outside the penalty area, his dipping ball from even with Tim Krul’s left post getting up and over a late-reacting wall, leaving the Magpies’ goalkeeper no chance to prevent the opening goal. A Yoann Gouffan response equalized  in the 24th minute, but 12 minutes before time, Bale stole full points for the home side.

(MORE: Dempsey versatility on display for Spurs.)

Having switched from his customary left wing to the right, Bale cut in to claim a second ball off a long pass toward Emmanuel Adebayor. A moment of indecision between Newcastle center backs Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini allowed Bale to poke a bouncing ball behind the defense, the Spurs’ winger able to use his speed to race clear of right back Mathieu Debuchy. Going in on Krul to the left of goal, Bale slid a winner just inside the near post as the keeper came out to close the angle.

The goals were two moments of elite quality in an otherwise evenly played match. Even Newcastle’s goal was more fortune than something differentiating, Gouffran’s shot from 17 yards going off Michael Dawson’s back and in.

(MORE: Chelsea back in win column.)

Though only one goal separated the sides in the scoresheet, the real difference was Bale. Were it not for a strong-handed save from Krul in the 87th minute, Bale would have blasted home a hat trick from 19 yards. A bouncing ball gave Bale a chance at an open goal in the 94th minute, but falling to his weaker right foot, he put it over the bar. A 98th minute shot from 20 yards was palmed wide.

Last week, after another star’s two-goal game, we considered which player has been the league’s best this season. Marouane Fellaini still has the most compelling argument, but like Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale has a large place in the conversation. While the two forwards have scored more often than Bale, the Spurs attacker has done so from a wider, more withdrawn position.

(MORE: Arsenal holds on at Stadium of Light.)

He may not be the league’s most prolific attacker, but at his best, he is the league’s most dangerous. And as Bale matures, we’re starting seeing his best on a regular basis.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.