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ProSoccerTalk’s Top 5 Goals – English Premier League (Matchweek 31)

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It was yet another mind-blowing weekend for goals in the Premier League.

While some clubs fought for spots in Europe, others challenged to get themselves in the Top 10 while others battled to avoid the dreaded relegation zone. Regardless of the motive, there’s little doubt that the final-stretch intensity has set in across the Premier League. The result was goals, goals and more goals – many so fantastic in nature that to do them justice we’re reviewing the Top 5 of Matchweek 31.

The list is so good that it’s worth mentioning who didn’t make it. You won’t see Jan Vertonghen’s silky finish against Swansea, or Jay Rodriguez’ clinical opener that turned the Chelsea defense inside out. You won’t see Jordan Henderson’s relaxed poke against Aston Villa or Hal Robson Kanu’s suicidal diving header against Arsenal. You won’t see Gary O’Neill’s incredible swerving game-winner against West Brom or Christian Benteke’s first-time rip that cut open the Liverpool defense like a Ginsu. And you won’t see Michu’s snap header to the far post or Yaya Toure’s bust-through the box and near-post finish from next to no angle.

All of those were fantastic goals – but these are the best.

5. ANDY CARROLL – WEST HAM UNITED

Welcome back, Andy Carroll! The West Ham striker was an absolute beast in his club’s 3-1 destruction of West Brom on Saturday, hitting a sensational brace for the first time in nearly two years. He opened the scoring in the 20th minute when he slipped his defender and pounded a frightening header past Ben Foster. He outdid himself in the 80th minute when James Collins lofted a free-kick from half field into the box. Carroll took his run from the top of the 18 yard box to the right side of goal, let the ball float over his right shoulder and slammed a first-time volley into the far corner to seal the Hammers’ victory.

4. GARETH BALE – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 

Gareth Bale’s been getting so much press lately that I tried to avoid putting the Spurs dynamo into this list, keep the boy’s ego in check a bit. But to do so would be an injustice to football and an unreasonable denial of the truth – that Gareth Bale is a truly remarkable footballer capable of truly remarkable feats. On Saturday his 17th goal of the season was not only another game-winner but it marked his seventh Premier League goal scored from outside the 18 yard box. Seven? That’s just plain silly. The strike was unlike any goal I’d witnessed in a long time. After receiving Jan Vertonghen’s pass with his right foot, the Welshman rabbit-hopped into an outside of the left foot shot that corkscrewed into the top corner, leaving Swansea keeper Michel Vorm helpless and fans breathless.

3. RICKIE LAMBERT – SOUTHAMPTON 

If you’ve watched Rickie Lambert play then you already know why so many people (myself included) are busting vocal chords over Roy Hodgson’s repeated refusal to call him into the England squad. The 6’1″ striker is not only lethal in the air and in front of goal but he’s making quite a name for himself from 25 yard spot kicks. One match removed from his strike that found the back of the net against Liverpool, Lambert was at it again on Saturday. Merely two minutes after John Terry leveled the match for Chelsea, Lambert stepped to the free-kick and unleashed a calculated pill that dipped over the Blues wall and bulged the net. The goal handed Southampton a crucial 2-1 victory and confirmed Lambert’s status atop the charts for English goal-scorers with 14.

2. AROUNA KONE – WIGAN ATHELTIC

The Ivorian was mentioned in the Narratives leading up to Matchweek 31 and he didn’t disappoint. With the match locked in a 0-0 stalemate in the 80th minute, Kone burst past his marker and latched on to Jordi Gomez’ through-ball to smash home the game-winner from the top of the box. With the goal Wigan grabbed all three points and wiggled itself out of the relegation zone.

1. KEVIN MIRALLAS – EVERTON 

Ask any Evertonian and he will tell you the same thing – Kevin Mirallas is the next great footballer at Everton. With Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini out for the Stoke clash, it was up to Mirallas to bring home the points and the Belgian did so in fantastic fashion. Stoke’s Marc Wilson lofted in a free-kick in the 28th minute that Everton keeper Tim Howard punched out to Mirallas, standing about 20 yards outside the box. The winger collected the ball, fought off Steven N’Zonzi, and torched Stoke’s defense with eight touches across 70 yards before slotting the ball home with aplumb.

USC wins NCAA women’s soccer national championship

Southern California's Morgan Andrews celebrates after scoring a goal against West Virginia during the first half in the NCAA Women's College Cup soccer final, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Katie Johnson broke a tie in the 75th minute and Southern California won the NCAA women’s soccer title Sunday, beating top-ranked West Virginia 3-1 at Avaya Stadium on Sunday.

The second-seeded Trojans (19-4-2) also won the College Cup in 2007.

The Mountaineers (23-2-2) lost for the first time since a 1-0 setback to Georgetown on Sept. 18. West Virginia had a 17-game unbeaten streak snapped, and allowed three goals for the first all season.

Johnson, who also had the winning goal in USC’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Georgetown on Friday, was wide open in front of the net when Leah Pruitt took a pass up the left sideline, beat defender Easther Mayi Kith, and delivered a perfect cross. Johnson simply rolled the ball into the goal to the right of goalkeeper Rylee Foster.

Johnson scored again off an assist from Nicole Molen in the 87th minute.

The Trojans got on the board just 1:22 into play after Julia Bingham directed a corner kick to the top of the penalty box, where Savannah Levin headed the ball forward to Morgan Andrews, whose header from 5 yards eluded Foster.

West Virginia’s Ashley Lawrence, a member of the 2016 Canadian Olympic team, tied it in the 66th minute when she ripped a shot from the top left corner of the penalty box just inside the near post.

After USC took the 2-1 lead, the Mountaineers nearly drew even in the 81st minute on a shot by Heather Kaleiohi that was stopped on a diving save by goalkeeper Sammy Prudhomme.

The Mountaineers outshot USC 21-8 and held a 9-1 edge in corner kicks.

The Trojans joined North Carolina (21 titles), Notre Dame (3) and Portland (3) as the only multiple winners of the College Cup.

USC won its 126th national team title on the same day its men’s water polo team lost 10-8 to Cal in the NCAA final just 45 miles away in Berkeley.

West Virginia, in its first College Cup final, was hoping to claim its first NCAA title in any sport besides its co-ed rifle team, which has won 18 national titles.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN