Belgium v United States

Goals galore: United States rebounds, defeats Germany 4-3 in Centennial match

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In a result that was unforeseeable in the wake of a Wednesday dismantling at the hands of Belgium, the United States produced one of the more memorable wins of the Jurgen Klinsmann era, though not without some drama. At one point leading by three goals, the U.S. were left to sweat out the last few minutes against visiting Germany, eventually downing the world’s second-ranked team 4-3 in front of 47,359 at RFK Stadium.

The match was part of U.S. Soccer’s 100th anniversary celebration, the first of a doubleheader that concludes with the U.S. Women’s National Team’s visit to Toronto to face Canada. The game also marked Klinsmann’s first meeting against his former team, the Nationalmannschaft’s former star player and boss producing a confidence-boosting result against a world power.

The highly-touted Germans were short-handed, with many of the team’s stars left in Europe. But coming off a lopsided win over Ecuador on Wednesday, Joachim Löw’s side had proven themselves dangerous, with most considering the visitors the likely winners ahead of kickoff in Washington, D.C.

But over the first 75 minutes, that danger rarely bore out, with the U.S. carrying a three-goal lead into the match’s final act on the back of tallies by Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey (two) and German `keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, who was at fault on an early own goal.

(MORE: United States Man of the Match, Jozy Altidore)

Late scores from Max Kruse and Julian Draxler built on Heiko Westermann’s early second half header, saving the Germans from what would have been an embarrassing result. When the final whistle blew, however, Germany had suffered their first defeat since losing to Argentina in August.

The two teams came into the day’s match off drastically different mid-week results. Germany scored four goals in the first 24 minutes against Ecuador in Boca Raton ahead of a 4-2 win on Wednesday. That night, the United States gave up three second half goals en route to a 4-2 loss to Belgium in Cleveland.

Coming off the defeat, Jurgen Klinsmann made a number of changes to his starting XI, welcoming Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and, at left midfield, Fabian Johnson back into the team. The U.S. head coach also made two changes to a defense that struggled mid-week, starting Matt Besler over Clarence Goodson in central defense along with Brad Evans over Geoff Cameron at right back.

They were part of the team that faced a largely second-choice German squad, no players from Bayern Munich in attendance, all but one of Borussia Dortmund’s stars out, and neither of Real Madrid’s Mesüt Ozil or Sami Khedira in Joachim Löw’s starting XI.

The U.S. changes brought immediate improvement over Wednesday’s match, with confident play from Jozy Altidore helping the U.S. establish early possession in their attacking third. Combined with a defensive intensity that was absent against Belgium, the U.S. were the better side from the opening kickoff.

But the Germans nearly offset that in the 11th minute, with Per Mertesacker given a chance to open the scoring from nine yards out. As Tim Howard challenged, the Arsenal defender pulled his shot wide left, giving the U.S. and early reprieve.

The States took advantage. Two minutes later, a ball out of the U.S. end for Altidore near the center line was laid off for Clint Dempsey, the U.S. captain carrying the ball on the counter from inside his own half to the edge of the German area. Dempsey then played the ball wide right, with Graham Zusi crossing for Altidore at the penalty spot. Having peeled off Mertesacker, Altidore created enough room to put a right-footed volley into Ter Stegen’s side netting, the German keeper with no chance to prevent the U.S.’s opener.

The goal marked the end of a prolonged drought for Altidore. The 23-year-old forward, who has scored 51 goals over the last two seasons with AZ in the Netherlands, had yet to score an open play goal under Klinsmann. The only other time Altidore had scored since his head coach took over in July 2011 was a spot kick against Slovenia in November 2011. His last open play goal for the U.S. came under Bob Bradley, against Guadalope in June 2011 at the last CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Three minutes after Altidore ended that slump, the U.S. doubled their lead. Or, more accurately, the Germans doubled the States’ lead, with a bad response to pressure off a goal kick ending with Ter Stegen’s poor handling of a Benedickt Howedes back pass – an innocuous ball from just outside the penalty area rolling into the German goal, giving the U.S. a 2-0 lead.

Andre Schurrle nearly pulled the gift back in the 19th minute, a move from the right that went through Demarcus Beasley and around Matt Besler leading to a shot from 15 yards out. The Chelsea target pushed his shot just wide of Howard’s left post, leaving the U.S. up two.

Before halftime, Altidore would generate a 20th minute chance for Dempsey and German striker Miroslav Klose would see a goal waved off for offside. As the clock approached the 45th minute, the pace slowed amid the late spring Washington D.C. heat, the teams fading into halftime with the score 2-0.

The U.S. made one change at halftime, a forced substitution as Fabian Johnson came off with a hamstring injury. Brad Davis, who started Wednesday against Belgium, came in to what began as a very different half.

Whereas the U.S. were the aggressors at the opening kickoff, the 46th minute started with the Germans in control. Pressing for the quick score that would halve the States’ lead, Löw’s side converted a 52nd minute corner, Heiko Westermann getting space on Omar Gonzalez at nine yards out to head the Germans within one.

Though Germany initially continued their control after the goal, Westermann’s score evolved into a wakeup call, with the U.S. able to quell  German momentum after a set of 56th minute substitutions: Eddie Johnson coming on for Zusi; Edgar Castillo replacing  Beasley. With Johnson proving valuable for a team forced to rely on their transition game, the States were able to restore their two-goal lead at the hour mark.

In the 69th minute, a long ball from Jermaine Jones found Altidore isolated against Philipp Wollscheid. Able to bring the ball down and work his way to the byline, Altidore eventually played a pass back across the German area to Dempsey, whose right-footed shot from just inside the penalty area beat Ter Stegen into the left of goal, giving the U.S. a 3-1 lead.

The score pulled Dempsey even with Eric Wynalda for second on the U.S.’s all-time goal scoring list, a status that would last four minutes. In the 64th minute, Dempsey was given too much time on a left-footed shot from 24 yards out, curling his 35th international goal around Ter Stegen to give the U.S. a shocking 4-1 lead.

In the 79th minute, well after what seemed to be the match’s denouement, Werder Bremen attacker Max Kruse broke through with his first international goal. Allowed to cut across the defense from the left at the top of the penalty area, Kruse was given little resistance before letting go of a 19-yard shot that beat Howard into the left of the U.S.’s goal, cutting the States’ lead to two.

Less than two minutes later, Sidney Sam was allowed to make a similar move to Kruse’s, cutting in from the right side ahead of a left-footed shot from just outside the U.S. area. Howard’s push save left the ball at the edge of the six-yard box, allowing Draxler to make it 4-3.

Like Westermann’s early second half tally, the Germans’ late onslaught seemed to awaken the U.S., who eventually generated a chance for Eddie Johnson as they sought to reestablish a hold on the match. Yet over the the game’s final 10 minutes, fans were left gasping as speculative shots gave Germany faint hope of pulling off the huge comeback.

Shortly after the 92nd minute, however, after Howard had played a final, relief-granting ball out of the back, the U.S. heard the final whistle and were able to claim a huge, bounce back victory, capping their centennial celebration.

Beyond getting a much needed victory, the U.S. can look at the play of Altidore, the match’s best player, as a much-needed awakening. The AZ star had struggled under Jurgen Klinsmann, at one point left out of a squad last fall as he struggled to be productive in his new coach’s scheme. Even after reclaiming a regular place in the national team, the 23-year-old had struggled to make an impact.

With today’s performance, however, Altidore hinted his club influence may start to translate onto the international stage. Active as a outlet  and productive both producing and providing for goals, Altidore had his best performance in two years. It was  one of the best performances of his career.

For a U.S. team that has struggled to produce goals, it is difficult to imagine a more positive development coming out of Sunday’s friendly. Ahead of Friday’s World Cup Qualifier in Kingston, an Altidore awakening couldn’t have come at a better time.

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.

Afobe says he scored 15 goals a game with Harry Kane at the Arsenal academy

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on February 2, 2016 in London, England.
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Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.

Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]

While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.

Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.

I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.

He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.

But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.

I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…

[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]

Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.

Gary Neville under pressure as Valencia without a win in nine

EIBAR, SPAIN - DECEMBER 13:  Head coach Gary Neville of Valencia CF reacts during the La Liga match between SD Eibar and Valencia CF at Ipurua Municipal Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Eibar, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
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Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.

After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.

However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.

I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.

There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.

Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.

Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.

Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United ]

Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.

PSG down Marseille 2-1 for ninth-straight Le Classique win

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 21:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic #10 of Paris Saint-Germain is congratulated by teamamte Maxwell #17 after Ibrahimovic scored a goal in the second half against AFC Fiorentina during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 21, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.Paris Saint-Germain defeated ACF Fiorentina 4-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.

Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.

[ MORE: Juve win 14th straight ]

PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.

On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

[ RELATED: Lewandowski’s agent confirms contract talks with Bayern Munich ]

However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.

Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.