NWSL Championship - Portland Thorns FC v Western New York Flash

Portland Thorns FC win NWSL title: Moments to remember from league’s first championship game

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At the onset of the NWSL season, the Portland Thorns were widely picked to take home the new women’s league’s first title. Somewhere along the way, that favorite’s status waned, with the team finishing the season in third place despite talents like Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair, and Tobin Heath.

But on Saturday in Rochester, that talent — along with inspired play from the team’s defense — won out. Heath’s first half bomb from 30-plus yards gave Portland a lead at regular season champion Western New York. In second half stoppage time, their team playing with 10, Portland saw Sinclair ice the club’s improbable title run, a 2-0 win rendering a season of promise and frustration a distant memory.

Portland stayed near the league lead most of the season, but by mid-August, their hopes of winning the regular season title had faded. Ultimately, they’d have to claim their crown on the road, with matches at FC Kansas City and Western New York — thought to be the league’s two best teams — seemingly setting the team up for a disappointing finish.

But forgetting regular season disappointment to find the type of unity that’s eluded them all season, Portland proved the best team over the two weeks that mattered. They overcame injuries (to Heath and Morgan), two excellent teams, and ultimately, doubt. As a result, the team most picked to claim the first NWSL title fulfilled their destiny, shutting out the regular season champions to do so.

Here are the moments to remember from today’s 2-0 result at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, NY:

source: Getty Images1. Goalkeepers come up big, early

Karina LeBlanc (right) and Adrianna Franch were tested high all day, the first major chance coming in the 12th minute. When Abby Wambach went left and lobbed a ball far post, right wing Samantha Kerr had her way with Nikki Marshall, out-jumping the Portland left back to head what could have been a goal. But LeBlanc reacted quickly, pushed the shot onto the bar, and managed to grab a rebound that nearly went in off her back in. The Portland keeper kept it 0-0.

Ten minutes later, it was Franch’s turn. Portland right back Marian Dougherty was given all the room she wanted to fire a cross in from the right. Sinclair, streaking across the face of Western New York’s central defense, redirected a ball toward the top of Franch’s goal. But the rookie for Oklahoma State, called on to make a pure reflex save, pushed it over, matching LeBlanc save-for-save early on.

2. Abby Wambach gets Kathryn Williamson sent off

Pity the rookie her opponent — the first year defender from Florida matching-up up against a former Gator who just happens to be the world’s best player — but Kathryn Williamson knew what she was getting into. In two games against Abby Wambach in the regular season, the Thorns central defender had held her own. On Saturday, Wambach targeted her in the second half, eventually drawing two yellow cards.

The first came in the 49th minute, when Williamson was lucky to avoid a straight red after a ball over the top looked set to send Wambach in on goal. Four minutes later, Williamson deservds a second yellow for a nasty challenge on hte Flash number nine, but the official had pity. In the 56th minute, however, that pity ran out, with Portland defender taking down Wambach at the edge of the area, drawing a second yellow card.

Portland would play the final 34 minutes with 10, eventually bringing on former U.S. international Tina Ellertson to partner Rachel Buehler in central defense. Remarkably, the teams was still able to keep the league’s best attack off the board, maintaining their clean sheer despite Wambach getting Williamson sent off.

source: Getty Images3. Carli Lloyd shoots. Again. And again.

Counting her double in the semifinals, Carli Lloyd scored 10 goals this season, one of four players to reach double-digits this year. In Saturday’s first half, she had numerous opportunities to add her 11th, including a 25th minute chance set up by Adriana Martin that saw her push her shot wide right despite being one-on-one with LeBlanc.

As the game went on, Lloyd seemed to single-mindedly look for that 11th goal. A try from the edge of the area set up by Wambach. Dead balls from distance around the Portland area. Predatory runs into the box. Lloyd was an attacking midfielder with a sniper’s mentality, racking up eight shots by the final whistle.

Every time she let loose, there was a chance she would equalize. It was worth a gasp. She has that kind of talent. And as her Olympics performances have shown, Lloyd also has that kind of timing.

Tonight, however, it never happened. Ultimately, Lloyd’s most important goal of the season was the one that never came.

source: Getty Images4. Tobin Heath wins the title for the Thorns

Watch her in warm ups and you’ll see the power in Heath’s shot. Released quickly with a slightly more topspin than a normal player’s, Heath can be a special kind of trouble when given too much room within 24 yards.

In the 40th minute, she was far beyond 24 yards. After a Western New York foul just inside Portland’s attacking third, Heath was closer to 32 yards from Franch’s goal, but with one of the most spectacular strikes of her career, Heath paved Portland’s title path.

Opting for power over precision, Heath straight-on approach launched the ball above the Flash wall with that typical top spin, her heavy strike dipping below Franch’s cross bar as the rookie goalkeeper leapt under the ball. Having set herself up to defend the left side of goal, Franch had no chance, eventually clattering against the opposite post as Heath’s shot bend the net and recoiled out. The most important goal of the season was also the best.

Heath was scoreless in seven regular season games after joining the Thorns from mid-season Paris Saint-Germain. In two playoff games, she scored twice, each time overcoming an injured right foot to help push Portland to their title.

5. Christine Sinclair seals it

As full time approached, there was something about Portland that made you believe they were going to close this out. Despite being down a player; despite the presence of Wambach and Lloyd; despite being on the road; and despite the occasional lapses of their defense this season, it was hard to imagine the Flash finding and equalizer. In the last game of a tumultuous season, Portland had finally looked the part. They finally looked like a team that would pull away from the pack.

One minute into stoppage time they sealed it. Sinclair — a Portland resident and a University of Portland alum — was put in alone on goal after a long throw in deep in Western New York’s half. The huge gap between right back Katherine Reynolds and the next defender was a complete breakdown by a team pressing for the equalizer, one that left Franch with no chance to stop Sinclair as the former Flash forward pulled up from 15 yards.

With the shot headed far post, Western New York’s only hope was for “Sinc’s” shot to catch the post. No chance. The insurance goal nestled against the left side netting as the 30-year-old Canadian ran for the sideboards, celebrating in front of fans silenced by her title-clinching goal.

It was her ninth of the season, and certainly her most memorable. Seeing her team come together after an inconsistent, often frustrating season, Sinclair had captained her hometown club to the NWSL’s first title, the Thorns’ 2-0 win Saturday in Rochester allowing the preseason favorites to finish an improbable if expected championship run.

What do other Premier League clubs think about Leicester’s title win?

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It is the most incredible title win in Premier League history.

Leicester City came out of nowhere to win the 2015-16 title in one of the greatest sporting upsets of all time.

[ MORE: Leicester news after PL win ]

With that news still sinking in, how did managers and players of other clubs feel about the Foxes being the unexpected champs?

Overall, pretty much everyone is happy.

[ MORE: Ranieri the mastermind ]

Below is a look at what a leading figure from each club in the PL had to say about Leicester’s title win.


Arsenal – Manager, Arsene Wenger

“Congratulations to Ranieri and all the players. It’s a remarkable achievement and it has also been done in an unusual way which gives us food for thoug,” Wenger said. “Their success is based on team spirit. They had low possession and that is very unusual. But they were strong in what they did. They defended very well, they were very clinical and they were very efficient defensively. That was unexpected. Is that a trend in the coming season? I don’t know. If you look at their results they lost only three games and that’s remarkable looking at thequality of their competitors.”

Aston Villa – Former manager, Remi Garde

“When you see Leicester now, it’s crazy and unbelievable, nobody could have seen that 12 months ago,” Garde said. “We should be inspired by that.”

Bournemouth – Manager Eddie Howe

“I think there is only going to be one Leicester. Who knows what the future holds, but I think it would be difficult for anyone to do that again,” Howe said. “That’s why the odds were what they were at the start of the season. I know you have to dream and have that vision and hope, but I do think it was a one-off.”

Chelsea – Captain, John Terry

“Congratulations to Leicester because they have been superb this year. It still hurts us losing the league after winning it last year. It hurts us conceding it to Leicester but we’ll be back next year.”

Crystal Palace – Manager, Alan Pardew

“Leicester won the league after 36 games and for 10 games last season they were the best team in the league,” Pardew said. “So for the best part of 50 games they’ve been the best team in the country. All this about things falling their way is not quite correct. So they deserve all the plaudits they get. I’m glad they’ve done it early because they can enjoy it now. I think Leicester’s title win is already impacting on other managers,” said Pardew. “You can only name about five or six managers not under pressure in the Premier League. At the top clubs it’s had an impact definitely. Leicester have shattered the glass ceiling that I for one thought would probably be impossible to break. They’ve gone and done it and it’s amazing. We all know it’s unique. It puts more pressure on those of us lucky enough to be managing in the Premier League, so we’ll look forward to that. Football isn’t all logic. It’s almost like some stardust has fallen on Leicester.”

Everton – Manager, Roberto Martinez

“They have been a real inspiration in terms of a winning team, and not just in football, throughout sport. To have that intensity and that drive and, against all odds, it has been the real fairy tale of football and sport in general in the modern game.

Liverpool – Manager, Jurgen Klopp

“It is the best story ever.”

Manchester City – Captain, Vincent Kompany

Manchester United – Manager, Louis Van Gaal

“I have great respect for the champions Leicester City who deserved their league win,” Van Gaal said.” You cannot say that if we didn’t have our injuries then we would have been first. No, this would be disrespectful to the champions who totally deserve it in my eyes.”

Newcastle United – Winger, Andros Townsend

Norwich City – Midfielder, Gary O'Neil

Southampton – Manager, Ronald Koeman

“What you see in the Premier league now is that there is not a big difference… that gap is not so big and that gap is showed by Leicester, by West Ham and by Southampton last season and this season. The achievement of Leicester is great for football.”

Stoke City – Manager, Mark Hughes

“Whether or not it is unprecedented, are we going to see more so-called unfashionable clubs getting to the top of the pile, who knows? But it’s a great effort that Leicester have been able to do it with a couple of games to spare. They deserve great credit for that.”

Sunderland

Swansea City – Manager, Francesco Guidolin

“In the future the money in the Premier League goes to all teams, so a good squad, good manager and club can make a difference,” said Swansea head coach Guidolin. It is possible to have a project and play for important targets. But it is not easy in the Premier League, you can do it one time (like Leicester) after 20 years. I won’t call it a miracle because it is a true story for Leicester. A team can play for third, fourth or fifth, but to win it is very difficult.”

Tottenham Hotspur – Striker, Harry Kane

Watford – Midfielder, Adlene Guedioura

“I think this story will inspire not only footballers but everyone because it is something unbelievable they did. Knowing Riyad Mahrez and talking to him they were not thinking about being in the top three or top ten this season. When they finished at the top it was something unbelievable. It’s a great story but especially it’s a good example that everything is reachable if you have a lot of motivation, a good spirit in the team and a manager that brings people to the top.”

West Ham United – Manager, Slaven Bilic

“They give hope to not only every football but every sporting club in the world.”

West Bromwich Albion – Manager, Tony Pulis

“You have to give credit for Leicester for getting those players. Everybody is looking for those type of players but Leicester have gone and got them. The great thing about Leicester is they’ve played like a team and once they built up momentum everybody at that football club bought into it.”

Tottenham’s Dembele banned for six games

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14: Mousa Dembele of Tottenham Hotspur clears with Sergio Aguero of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at Etihad Stadium on February 14, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Mousa Dembele has been handed a lengthy ban by the English Football Association.

Dembele, 28, was not seen by officials but was spotted by cameras gouging Diego Costa in the eye during Tottenham’s heated 2-2 draw at Chelsea on Monday which ended Spurs’ title hopes.

[ MORE: Leicester news after PL win ] 

The Belgian international will now miss the remaining two games of the 2015-16 Premier League season as well as the opening four games of next season.

The maximum ban for his charge of violent conduct is seven games but Dembele has decided to contest the length of the ban.

Below is a statement in full from the FA:

Mousa Dembélé will serve a six-match suspension with immediate effect after he committed an act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.

The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder accepted the charge but denied The FA’s claim that the standard punishment of three matches which would otherwise apply to this offence was clearly insufficient.

An Independent Regulatory Commission upheld The FA’s claim at a hearing today [Friday 6 May 2016] and ordered that an additional three-match suspension was appropriate.

The player was involved in an incident with Chelsea’s Diego Costa in or around the 45th minute of the fixture at Stamford Bridge on Monday [2 May 2016].

VIDEO: Previews of every Premier League game – Week 37

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The penultimate week of the 2015-16 Premier League season is here.

[ WATCH: Stream every PL game ]

Below you will find previews on all 10 games this weekend, as the relegation battle and hunt for European spots continues.

[ MORE: Leicester news after PL win ] 

Here’s what you need to know in each encounter.


Tottenham vs. Southampton

Leicester City vs. Everton

Manchester City vs. Arsenal

Norwich City vs. Manchester United

Sunderland vs. Chelsea

Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United

West Ham vs. Swansea City

Liverpool vs. Watford

Bournemouth vs. West Brom

Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City

What if the Premier League trophy could talk?

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Hello, it’s me. Not, this is not an Adele song. You’ve probably seen me before, usually glittering in the sunshine around May time.

Yes, that’s right, I’m the Premier League trophy.

For years I’ve been held aloft by some of the biggest stars in the game. Now, though, I’m ready for a change.

[ MORE: Leicester news after PL win ] 

Once again, just like last season, I’m all dressed up in blue ribbons. As we speak I’m on my way to my new home for the next year. I’ve never been here before and I never thought I’d be living here.

But hey, that’s the life I live. Gone are the days of hanging out at Old Trafford for nearly a decade… Now I live a much more uncertain life. Wait. What’s that? They are joking about me spending the next 12 months with actual Foxes, right?

Leicester is my new home and I can honestly say that the excitement surrounding my unexpected arrival surpasses any of my previous jubilant hoists into the air.

I’m ready for Wes Mogran to thrust me into the Leicestershire sky and see all the happy faces of the fans, players and staff as Leicester became just the sixth team to win me.

[ MORE: Ranieri’s subtle transformation

Bit of background on me: my other homes have been at Manchester United, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal and Chelsea. I’m made of sterling sliver and silver gilt mostly, plus have a golden crown and a plinth made of malachite. I was created by the Royal Jewelers of Asprey in London (hence my very proper accent) and I usually don’t tell people this but I weigh 55 lbs and I’m 30 inches tall.

I do have a replica but they are very shy and only come out in extreme circumstances such as two teams both going into the final day of the season with a chance of winning me. Tottenham’s recent results have put an end to that for this season so you’re just stuck with me, the original. Hi!

I’ve spent 13 years of my life with United, two at Man City, four at Chelsea, three at Arsenal and a single year back from May 1995 in Blackburn.

Since my days at Ewood Park over two decades ago, I didn’t think I’d be passed on to one of the so-called smaller clubs in England anymore. The days of being held up at Anfield by Tim Sherwood and Alan Shearer seemed so long ago but now Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Mr. Claudio Ranieri will be holding me at the King Power this weekend.

Plus, the ways things are going in the league, I could have plenty of new homes in the coming years. This Leicester team has really shaken things up.

I used to be fond of bobbing up and down in front of the North Bank at Highbury, been worn on Didier Drogba‘s head at Stamford Bridge and Sir Alex Ferguson parading me around, once again, as the children of United’s players (Kasper Schmeichel, looking forward to catching up again!) celebrated on the Old Trafford pitch.

Now, though, this is a new era.

A league and a life full of uncertainties. West Ham? Stoke? Southampton? Crystal Palace? Will I end up here next… Nobody knows and for the first time in a long time I really won’t be making any long-term plans for my living arrangements.

The status quo has well and truly been disrupted but with Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola arriving next season, maybe I’ll see old friends in the cabinet at City and Chelsea this time next year?

For now, I’m all dressed in blue and ready for a day of celebrations. Before I’m handed over to Morgan there will be a sing-song from Andrea Bocelli on the pitch, free beer, pizza and crisps on behalf of Leicester and it will be a day filled with delight. Then I arrive to cap it all off. Oh, it’s a glamorous life being the jewel in the crown of the world’s most recognized and watched league.

To sum up the life of the trophy, as I mentioned,  it’s very glamorous these days. Gone are the days when I’ve been sat in a dusty trophy cabinet all season. Now, I appear on TV shows as a centerpiece, get toured around the world by past legends who’ve won me and I’m handled with care by schoolchildren who get to see me as party of the trophy tour. I’m very busy.

Before I forget, one important reminder for tomorrow: if Vardy’s party into the wee hours does get a little out of hand, can somebody remind them to put me down for a bit of a rest? It will be a long, and very exciting, day.

Leicester, can’t wait to call you home for the next 12 months. See you soon.

Much love, PLT (Premier League Trophy)