Can the Saints continue their dramatic climb from the third-tier to deliver European soccer?

Southampton 1-1 Sunderland: Fonte snatches late point for Saints (Video)

2 Comments

Southampton snatched a dramatic late draw at St. Mary’s, denying Sunderland their first win of the Premier League season in the process.

The Saints looked to be heading to their first defeat of the campaign, until defender Jose Fonte popped up in the 88th minute to head home James Ward-Prowse’s delightful free kick.

Paolo Di Canio was incensed with this teams late defensive mishap, but over the course of the 90 minutes a draw was the least Southampton deserved after having 67 percent of the possession.

Emanuele Giaccherini scored the opener with an opportunistic header after just two minutes at St. Mary’s Stadium to grab the lead for Sunderland.

But after that the Black Cats sat back and allowed the home side to put them under pressure. The Saints came close on several occasions but is seemed as though it was going to be one of those days.

Until Portuguese defender Fonte popped up late on to grab a draw.

For much of the game the Black Cats were under the cosh, as the home side pressed for an equalizer. But it was a dream start for Di Canio on the South Coast.

Just two minutes had been played when Sebastian Larsson‘s corner had been whipped into the box and diminutive Italian international Giaccherini rose highest to head home. Giaccherini is only 5 foot 6, so how he managed to head home will certainly upset Southampton.

It was also the 28-year-old Italian internationals first goal since joining this summer from Juventus and Di Canio’s team protected their 1-0 lead with their life.

However after just five minutes, Southampton thought they had equalized when Rickie Lambert slotted in Rodriguez who coolly finished to send St. Mary’s wild.

But the linesman had his flag up and Saints were denied an equalizer, it was certainly a tight decision but the assistant referee may have just got the call correct.

Then a flurry of chances came for the Saints as Ward-Prowse whipped in a great ball that Lambert headed towards the bottom corner but Keiren Westwood saved well down to this right.

source: AP
Jose Fonte celebrates his late equalizer.

Rodriguez and Lallana continued to play direct soccer but Sunderland weren’t in too much trouble. However they could have been on 35 minutes when Fonte appeared to be brought down by Sunderland captain John O’Shea in the box.

Ward-Prowse’s free kick found Fonte and O’Shea was lucky that a penalty wasn’t awarded as he jumped all over Saints’ Portuguese defender. USMNT forward Jozy Alitdore cut a forlorn figure up front for most of the game, as their was a severe lack of creativity from Sunderland.

But they just sat back and let Southampton attack them after scoring so early.

Just before half time O’Shea again was lucky to not conceded a penalty as he brought down Lallana in the box when he was about to get a strike in on goal, the Sunderland skipper was living a charmed life.

At the break Sunderland went in ahead but they’d hardly had a shot apart from Giaccherini‘s early goal. Pochettino brought on new signing Pablo Osvaldo and defender Nathaniel Clyne at half time, replacing Luke Shaw and Morgan Schneiderlin.

Southampton again spurned more chances, but looked livelier after Osvaldo arrived and in the 56th minute he set up Rodriguez perfectly with a chipped cross, but the Englishman headed straight at Westwood.

And less than a minute later, Altidore had his best chance of the game to score his first Premier League goal of the season.

The 23-year-old striker US national team forward was put clean through but Southampton ‘keeper Artur Boruc came off his line to smother Altidore’s shot at close range.

Southampton piled on the pressure as the final minutes ticked and Fonte’s header sent the sellout crowd wild at St. Mary’s Stadium.

The Saints are unbeaten after two games, sitting in third spot with four points. While Sunderland will take heart from a dogged defensive display but they have just one point from their first two games, leaving the Mackems in 15th place.

It’s early days for both of these teams.

Lineups

Southampton: Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw (Clyne 45), Wanyama, Schneiderlin (Osvaldo 45), Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Ramírez 69), Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs not used: K. Davis,S. Davis, Cork, Hooiveld.

Sunderland: Westwood, Celustka, O’Shea, Diakite, Colback (Vaughan 54), Johnson, Larsson, Gardner, Giaccherini (Wickham 82), Sessegnon (Ji 46), Altidore. Subs not used: Mannone, Cabral,  Moberg Karlsson, Roberge

Goals: Giaccherini, 2 (Sunderland), Fonte, 88 (Southampton)

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)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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)
Getty Images
1 Comment

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)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.