USA beat Cuba 4-1 to make Gold Cup quarterfinals

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The US national team overturned a first half deficit to defeat Cuba 4-1 on Saturday night in Utah.

A lively crowd gathered to cheer on the USA, but they were left reeling after a spirited effort from Cuba in the first half.

However the Yanks got their act together in the second period as the comeback victory was sealed by two goals from substitute Chris Wondolowski and strikes from Joe Corona and Landon Donovan. The win was also the USA’s seventh victory in a row, tying their all-time record.

And Jurgen Klinsmann’s side are now through to the quarterfinal stages of the Gold Cup for the 13th consecutive time.

In what was a largely sluggish first half display from the Nats in sunny Utah, the Cubans grew in stature as they continued to thwart the USA with solid defense.

And after 36 minutes Cuba got their reward for being patient.

Left back Edgar Castillo was left flat footed by Cuba’s speedy attacker Ariel Martinez and captain Oguchi Onyewu was caught napping to allow Jose Alfonso to score and give Cuba a shock 1-0 lead. Cuba had their tails up after their opening goal as they searched for just their second win in Gold Cup history.

There were a few half chances for the USA from set pieces, but Klinsmann’s men really didn’t get going at all in the first half.

Donovan missed a clear header at the back post in the 42nd minute and in the 43rd minute the US thought they were back level, as Donovan slotted home Herculez Gomez’ knockdown from close range. But the assistant raised his flag as the LA Galaxy forward strayed offside by about a yard.

(MORE: Three things we learned from U.S. victory over Cuba)

That could have changed the whole outlook of the game. But luckily the turning point arrived soon after.

Right on half time a surging run from Brek Shea created the opening as Castillo played a one-two with Donovan and the Club Tijuana man was brought down in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Donovan stepped up to score his 53rd goal for the US to make it 1-1.

Brek Shea got injured at the end of the half and was replaced by Jose Torres at the break. Shea did well in stages but certainly struggled to emulate the form he found whilst at FC Dallas.

Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina was in fine form to stop the US from taking the lead early in the second half, saving Michael Orozco’s header in the 49th minute.

The US kept pushing hard and finally went ahead in the 57th minute when Joe Corona blasted home from the edge of the box. The goal was his first international goal and a sweet strike from the Club Tijuana attacker.

But less than a minute after Corona put the U.S. ahead, Onyewu looked to have given away a penalty after a clumsy tackle on Alfonso. Onyewu’s lunge inside the box was waved away and replays showed that he did get his foot to the ball, just. Nevertheless, the Cuban players were incensed with the referees decision.

Chris Wondolowski jumped off the bench to put the USA up 3-1, continuing his terrific form for the national team. The San Jose Earthquakes striker pounced to prod home Kyle Beckerman’s teasing ball in the 65th minute.

(MORE: Wondolowski revealed hidden “W” on jersey, as misspelling does the trick again)

Despite the USA dominating for large spells as they game closed out, Cuba were still dangerous on the break as Nick Rimando was forced into a good smothering save in the 80th minute.

But the predatory instincts of Wondolowski showed up once more as he scored his sixth goal in three games for the USA, after being slotted in beautifully by Castillo in the 85th minute.

Klinsmann’s men saw off the game with relative ease after an early scare, as the US comfortably sealed their passage into the Gold Cup knockout stages.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.

Netherlands manager Danny Blind fired after Bulgaria loss

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The Netherlands are in real trouble, and the manager has paid the price.

The Dutch national team has parted ways with Danny Blind the day after a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria left the Dutch fourth in their World Cup qualification group halfway through.

The move garnering all the headlines from Saturday’s loss was Blind’s decision to start 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt. The Ajax youth product, who has just two Eredivisie starts to his credit, made two crucial errors and yanked at halftime, but the damage had been done. Spas Delev scored twice in the opening 20 minutes for Bulgaria, and that was all the home side needed as the Dutch offered little in front of goal.

Blind was also criticized for not getting Memphis Depay on the field as they chased the game. The Netherlands held 74% possession, but could only manage 3 shots on target. Depay has been in good form since his January move to Lyon, with five goals in his 10 Ligue 1 appearances.

This decision was something Blind saw coming. He told national broadcaster NOS immediately after the Bulgaria loss, “I blame myself. It can’t go on like this. Things have to change.”

“I need to think about [my future]. I do not throw the towel in here. I’m incredibly disappointed, especially since I had a good feeling about this match. It makes sense that I put myself in front of the mirror.”

However, the problems for the Dutch go far deeper than Danny Blind. They missed out on Euro 2016 largely thanks to the failed 2nd tenure for Guus Hiddink. His assistant Blind took over, but the results have been equally as poor. The Netherlands sit fourth in UEFA World Cup qualification Group A, with losses to Bulgaria and France plus a draw with Sweden. It’s not over for them though, as they sit three points back of a second place spot with five matches to go, and three of those five at home.

With the Netherlands still yet to play their friendly against Italy this coming week, former goalkeeper Fred Grim takes over on an interim basis. Grim collected 101 caps for the Netherlands, and has served as the Netherlands U-21 manager for the last two years. Before that, he took charge of his first full managerial job as head man of Dutch 2nd-tier club Almere City.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.