Friend

Referee Kevin Friend did Aston Villa wrong against Chelsea

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If I were a Villa supporter I’d be standing at the office water cooler right now and telling all the interns about how referee Kevin Friend screwed us last night.

There’s simply no other way to look at it.

Branislav Ivanovic’s 71st minute elbow swipe on Christian Benteke should have been a straight red card. The intent was disgusting and the blow was significant.

If Ivanovic had connected with Benteke’s face like he meant, they’d be chopping down trees for journos to write about the broken bones in ‘Tekers’ face.

The failure to issue Ivanovic his marching orders changed the game and denied Villa a share of the points.

Two minutes after the elbow incident Ivanovic went on to smash a sensational header that, as my astute colleague Adrienne was quick to point out, was quite similar to his goal in the Europa League final.

Of course it would never have happened had Friend simply sent Ivanovic for an early bath.

The irony of the Ivanovic situation is mind-blowing.

Last April, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez infamously bit Ivanovic’s arm during the Reds match at Stamford Bridge. Suarez was spared being sent off because the ref failed to see the incident. The Uruguayan then went on to score in the seventh minute of injury time to secure his side a 2-2 draw.

The referee that day?

None other than our good buddy, Mr. Friend. You can’t make this stuff up.

Back to yesterday’s match.  It wasn’t just that Friend allowed Ivanovic to stay on and claim the winner – it’s that the man in black also failed to whistle the Chelsea defender for being offsides on the goal.

It should never have counted.

Finally, there was the handball by Big Country John Terry. As Robbie Mustoe noted in NBCSN’s post-match analysis, it was “an unnatural position” for the arm to be in and should’ve been a penalty.

A dissenter could argue that the incident was less likely to be called because it was late in the match, but that logic still admits the fact that it was a penalty. A dissenter could also argue that Terry’s arm was only in the high-five position because he was fouled. If that was the case, then Friend should’ve called the foul.

The most troubling thing about the missed hand-ball call is that Friend was literally 10 feet away and looking directly at the play when it happened. That’s a penalty every day of the week and twice on Tuesday.

Kevin Friend screwed Villa. And they deserved better.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

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New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.

Men In Blazers podcast: Romelu Lukaku Pod Special

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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3 – 1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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FA Cup recap: West Brom survives with penalty win over Peterborough

PETERBOROUGH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10:  Darren Fletcher of West Bromwich Albion celebrates with team-mate Saido Berahino after scoring his team's first goal during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round replay match between Peterborough United and West Bromwich Albion at ABAX Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Peterborough, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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West Brom is the last team through to the FA Cup fifth round with a penalty win over Peterborough United after a 1-1 draw in their replay at ABAX Stadium.

Down 1-0 10 minutes after the halftime break, Darren Fletcher scored the equalizer in the 71st minute, and that scoreline lasted through regulation and extra time. Fletcher missed a penalty in the shootout, but Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster saved twice to put West Brom through.

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club ]

Other than the penalty shootout, things were quite even throughout the match. Posh actually lead slightly on possession, and had an 8-5 shots-on-target advantage as well. Jon Taylor was the man to score for Peterborough, putting them 1-0 ahead shortly after halftime. The 23-year-old midfielder also scored in the 2-2 draw at The Hawthornes in the original matchup.

West Brom will now take on Reading in the fifth round, a team that hammered Walsall 4-0 in their fourth round meeting. Reading currently sits 15th in the Championship table

VIDEO: Alejandro Bedoya scores extra-time winner for Nantes in Coupe de France

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Alejandro Bedoya of the United States controls the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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With USMNT World Cup qualifying not far away, Jurgen Klinsmann will certainly look to club performances to find out which of his players are grasping club opportunities by the horns.

One US national teamer in great form is Alejandro Bedoya. The 28-year-old has scored four times across all competitions since January 23rd, and his latest is a massive one. Bedoya sent Nantes to the quarterfinals of the Coupe de France with a 118th-minute winner against Bordeaux.

Bedoya has been a lightning rod for Nantes the past two or three seasons, but something he struggled for occasionally is consistent game time. Not anymore. The American has started five of their last six league matches, and since returning from some time off due to illness, Bedoya has featured in the starting lineup in nine of 11 Ligue 1 matches. What’s more, he’s finished the full 90 minutes in seven of those.

Klinsmann has looked to Bedoya in the past for a combination of electricity and defensive ability on the wing. Now, he may bring both endurance and a goalscoring threat to international competitions, which would go a long way in raising his national team stock.