Everton goalkeeper Howard reacts after blocking a shot to win the game following a penalty shoot-out during their Guinness International Champions Cup soccer match against Juventus in San Francisco

Tim Howard the hero as Everton beat Juventus in San Francisco


It’s only preseason. But anytime you beat reigning Italian champions Juventus, it must feel pretty good.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez will be pleased as his side sealed a 6-5 win on penalties against Juve following a 1-1 tie in regulation.

Martinez continues his overhaul of the Toffees during their preseason tour of the US, as they compete in the International Champions Cup.

US national team goalkeeper Tim Howard read the script and played the hero at AT&T Park, diving to his left to save Federico Peluso’s penalty kick and hand Everton a match against LA Galaxy or Real Madrid who play in Phoenix this evening.

Back to Everton vs. Juventus, and youngster John Stones was a cheeky chap in the penalty shootout as he coolly completed a ‘Panenka’ penalty made famous by Juventus captain Andrea Pirlo… just after Pirlo had missed his spot kick.

But chipped penalties and Howard’s heroics aside, this was the first real opportunity to see how Martinez could set up Everton this season. And it looks as though a new formation will reign supreme at Goodison Park.

Ladies and gentleman, please welcome, the 3-4-3.

Everton’s new identity and attacking philosophy under Martinez should be in stark contrast to the rigid formations used by David Moyes for much of his time in charge. Martinez often prefers having three at the back and mixes up variations of the 3-5-2 and 3-4-3.

(MORE: Chelsea, Everton, Juventus, Real Madrid and other bring ICC Stateside)

Last night, Everton lined up with Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and youngster John Stones as the three central defenders. Leighton Baines played on the left of midfield, while Seamus Coleman played on the right. In midfield Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini were the central duo with Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar out wide to support Victor Anichebe as the lone front man.

This system is flexible and allows plenty of Everton’s best players to interchange and adopt different roles. For example if Fellaini wants to shift forward and support Anichebe, then either Baines or Coleman can slot into the middle and Pienaar or Mirallas can slot back into a midfield position.

Wigan played creative, exciting and open soccer under Martinez and it seems as though he will continue that mantra in his new job at Everton.

Okay, last night was only a friendly. But we gained plenty of knowledge on how Everton will set up to play in the Premier League this season.

Exciting times and exciting soccer are on the horizon for the Everton faithful.

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

[ MORE: Klinsmann sends Johnson home ]

Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT future ]

Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?