Late Van Persie goal salvages Manchester United result at West Ham United

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Twice West Ham United took the lead. Twice the eventual Premier League champions pulled it back, Manchester United eventually using a 77th minute goal from Robin van Persie to draw the Hammers, 2-2 at Upton Park.

As with most Red Devil performances, today’s left it uncertain whether the result was deserved, fortunate, or predictable. Despite 11 places and 42 points separating the sides before today’s game, the gap on the pitch was more related to circumstance than performance. Manchester United did dominate possession (66 percent) and changes (six shots on goal to two), but their biggest advantages came while they chased the match. Always unlikely to dictate play under normal circumstances, the Hammers were even more inclined to sacrifice ambition for conservation when they went in front. Twice.

If it wasn’t for Shinji Kagawa, West Ham would have spent even more time in front. Instead, the Japanese international, Man United’s best player on the day, was the key part in each equalizer.

In the first half, 15 minutes after Ricardo Vaz Te put the hosts in front, Kagawa dribbled through the right side of the Hammer defense before playing a ball from the byline through the six. Antonio Valencia was left with what was surely one of the easiest goals of his career.

Twenty-two minutes after West Ham’s second — a brilliant left-footed strike from Mohamed Diame — a deft turn in the top of the Hammers’ area allowed Kagawa to put a shot off Jussi Jaaskelainen’s right post. The rebound went back across goal to Van Persie who, despite being in an offside position, was allowed to guide home the game’s final, controversial goal. (More on RVP and the offside goal later.)

Curiously, Kagawa was off a minute later, Alex Ferguson sacrificing him to bring on Javier Hernández. Without the man who’d created both his team’s goals, Ferguson was practically conceded a draw, even if his substitution wasn’t a defensive one.

Kagawa’s performance may have cost West Ham two points, but against an opponent who’d only dropped points six times in 32 games, Sam Allardyce should see Wednesday’s result as a point won. Up to 11th place with 39 points, whatever razor-thin fears Hammers fans had of being drawn into a relegation scram can be crumpled up and tossed. As we suspected from day one this season, West Ham’s staying up.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.