Crystal Palace – 0 Tottenham – 1: Soldado scores on debut as Spurs dictate opener (Video)

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A stubborn Crystal Palace side, backed by a rocking home crowd, performed valiantly against Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park, but had little possession and their counter-attack wasn’t enough as a Soldado penalty proved the difference.

The scoreless first half – while the build-ups were quality for both sides – offered little as far as solid chances on goal go.

The Palace midfield exerted everything they had to maintain possession, but often had to spend long spells trying to quell Spurs buildup play flowing through Mousa Dembele and new signing Paulinho.

However, the visitors found it difficult to get the ball into the box as the Eagles defenders marked the Spurs frontmen solidly, and Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni positioned himself well all match.

The 35th minute saw the opening half’s best chance when a spinning Gylfi Sigurdsson fired a knuckling shot from the top of the box which Speroni brilliantly parried over the bar while leaping high into the air. Mousa Dembele also whipped in a laser beam earlier on in the 12th minute that fizzed just over.

Spurs finally broke through in the 51st minute as Aaron Lennon broke down the right side of the box and sent in a cross, which found the outstretched arm of Eagles defender Dean Moxey, and referee Mark Clattenburg – who had a fantastic match – gave the penalty.  New Spurs striker Roberto Soldado stepped up immediately to take, and he wrong-footed Speroni to net the opener on his debut.

Palace had a counter-attack opportunity 15 minutes later when Palace captain Mile Jedinak dispossessed Paulinho and the loose ball fell to Dwight Gayle, who flashed up the left side, cut back in, and fired a laser just over the bar.

Sigurddson, who had a tough year last season, had a beautiful chance to seal the deal just after when Soldado found him all alone in the middle of the box but he slid and touched it just wide of the left post. The game began to open up as Palace boss Ian Holloway threw on all three substitutes at once. Substitute Marouane Chamakh, recently acquired on loan, nearly released Gayle but the ball was just long.  Lloris was then forced to come out of his box as sub Kevin Phillips latched onto a long ball but Lloris came out to make the tackle.

The home side pushed forward towards the end but couldn’t find the final ball.  Spurs sub Jermain Defoe had the goal gaping with a chance to put it away, but inexplicably went near post when the other side was completely open, and he dragged it wide. Lloris had to make two more last-ditch saves off the feet of former Fulham man Kagisho Dikgaccoi at the death to preserve the lead.

It’s a great start for Spurs as they look to overtake rivals Arsenal this season, after two seasons of falling agonizingly short of Arsenal for the final Champions League spot.

Lineups

Tottenham: Hugo Lloris; Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose (Younis Kaboul, 86′); Aaron Lennon, Mousa Dembele (Etienne Capoue, 57′), Nacer Chadli, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Paulinho; Roberto Soldado (Defoe 83′).

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Joel Ward, Daniel Gabbidon, Damien Delaney, Dean Moxey, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Mile Jedinak, Owen Garvan (Marouane Chamakh, 66′), Stephen Dobbie (Jonathan Williams, 66′), Dwight Gayle, Aaron Wilbraham (Kevin Phillips, 66′).

Blatter: 2026 World Cup should be in Morocco

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has backed Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid as he hit out at the joint-bid between the USA, Mexico and Canada.

The 81-year-old claims that joint bids for a World Cup are to be “rejected” after the 2002 World Cup and with voting for the 2026 hosts to take place on June 13 in an expedited process, it appears Morocco is gaining some traction among FIFA’s 209 member associations as the only alternative to a North American bid.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada bid to host the first-ever expanded 48-team tournament still seems to be the overwhelming favorite, but will comments like this help or hinder Morocco’s bid?

Blatter, the disgraced former long-time leader of world soccer’s governing body, is currently banned from all soccer related activity for six-years after being charged regarding a $2 million payment made between himself and the former UEFA President, Michel Platini.

Here’s the message Blatter sent out via Twitter, as the Swiss official is reportedly launching an appeal against his current ban which came after he announced he would step down as FIFA president in 2015 following several high level officials being charged with corruption by U.S. officials.

It is also worth noting that Blatter is still concerned about being extradited to the USA amid the ongoing FBI investigation into widespread corruption in the organization and doesn’t travel outside of Switzerland or Russia.

Brazil’s Gremio wins Recopa Sudamericana in penalty shootout

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PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s Gremio has won the Recopa Sudamericana, beating Argentina’s Independiente 5-4 in a penalty shootout Wednesday night.

The two-legged final ended 1-1 on aggregate, with no goals scored after 120 minutes in the second.

The winners of last year’s Copa Libertadores overcame the holders of Copa Sudamericana after goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe stopped the last penalty of the series, taken by Independiente’s striker Martin Benitez.

The Recopa is played between the champions of South America’s two most important tournaments.

Independiente played most of the match down to 10 players after defender Fernando Amorebieta was sent off after 38 minutes.

The Brazilians made most of the pressure until the end of extra time, but failed to score.

Gremio also won the Recopa in 1996.

CCL wrap: FC Dallas disappoints; Club America struts (video)

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The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas

Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.

Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.

Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America

Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.

Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET

Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.

West Ham to friendly neighbors Dag & Red: “Will help save our club”

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English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.

Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”

“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.

Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.

It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).