Referee Fotis Bazakos was surely doing the best he could, but the man in the middle today in Montreal was wrong about two or three different ways.
Bazakos adjudged that Chicago Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz denied a clear goal scoring opportunity by tripping Andrea Pisanu in the 63rd minute. It was a huge decision because the Fire already trailed by a goal on the road. Forcing the visitors to play the last half hour a man down more or less finished this one off. Montreal hit one more and prevailed, 2-0.
And Chicago, off to such a wobbly start in 2013, cannot afford many calls that put the men of Toyota Park further behind the 8 ball.
Not that Bazakos should have considered any of that as he made the big choice. But it just didn’t look like a good choice.
There were two defenders closing in on Pisanu, plausibly near enough to stick a foot in or at least issue a challenge as the Montreal attacker closed on a through ball near the top of Chicago’s 18. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was also closing in, which looks like another reason to give the defense some benefit of the doubt here.
Finally, Larentowicz appeared to be attempting to avoid the contact. A trip is a trip, and intent may not matter in calling fouls, per se. But past giving a free kick (which was the correct decision) a referee can use some discretion in dealing with certain situations.
NBC Sports Network analyst Kyle Martino said it perfectly when he noted: “It’s safe to give a yellow card there and everybody is happy.”
Here is the moment in question:
- Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
- Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
- Red Devils unbeaten in 16
- Stoke winners of two-straight
After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.
Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.
Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.
What they’re saying
Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United: “There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”
Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia: “I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”
United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.
Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.
[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]
Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo
A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.
DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.
Morocco 3-1 Togo
Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.
Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET
- Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
- Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
- Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches
One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.
Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).
What they’re saying
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match: “We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”
Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool: “They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”
Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.
West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.
EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.
[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]
Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.
It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.
Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.