Cardiff City 0-0 Everton: Bluebirds thwart Toffees in entertaining draw (Video)

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Cardiff City and Everton played out an entertaining 0-0 stalemate at the Cardiff City Stadium, as the home side defended resolutely and the Toffees pushed hard for the winner late on.

However Roberto Martinez’ side made it three-straight draws to start off the season as they were left frustrated for the third weekend in a row.

A bright start to each half saw Cardiff force the issue but Malky Mackay’s men were good value for their point as they held on for the shutout.

Craig Bellamy had their best chance in the second half but his touch was far too heavy as he rounded USMNT ‘keeper Tim Howard in the 60th minute and the chance evaporated. As for Everton, they came close on several occasions in the first half with Ross Barkley, Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas all working Cardiff’s ‘keeper David Marshall.

In the first half Cardiff came flying out of the traps and piled the pressure on the visitors. But in the 9th minute there was some great build up play from Everton’s Pienaar, who cut inside from the left and found Barkley who made a mazy run before his shot was deflected shot wide. From the ensuing corner a goalmouth scramble took place as Marouane Fellaini came close to scoring.

The Bluebirds looked composed early on in the beautiful conditions in the Welsh capital and caused Howard plenty of problems with Bellamy’s vicious inswinging corners after 15 minutes as the Bluebirds pushed forward.

source: Reuters
A midfield battle ensued for most of the game

In the 24th minute Mirallas headed over from a free kick when he really should have done better and tested Marshall in goal. And moments later in the 28th minute, the Belgian international had another opportunity to score with his head following great work from Croatian international Nikica Jelavic.

The lanky frontman found himself by the left corner flag and curled in a delightful ball that found Mirallas unmarked but once again the Belgian fluffed his lines as Cardiff’s fans breathed a sigh of relief down by the River Taff.

And wave after wave of Everton attack continued to reign down on Cardiff’s goal as the Toffees made all the moves in the first half, with Cardiff pinned back onto the edge of their own box.

In the 41st minute, Leighton Baines made a slaloming run down the left and was taken down by Cardiff’s Chilean midfielder Gary Medel in the box. No penalty was given and Roberto Martinez was not happy with the decision by the referee.

And in first half stoppage time, Seamus Coleman clipped in a great ball to the near post and Jelavic’s header was deflected towards goal and looked to be heading in but Marshall somehow sprung to the his left to make the stop. On second viewing, the header hit defender Ben Turner’s arm and another shout for a penalty went by the wayside.

In the second half Cardiff again started brightly, as a corner found right back Matt Connolly but his shot went wide as the home fans had something to shout about at last.

Everton continued to press but Cardiff had the best chance of the second half on the hour mark, as Craig Bellamy burst through on goal. However the Welshman’s touch around advancing Everton ‘keeper Howard was too heavy and the Toffees were let off the hook.

The Merseyside outfit continued to push forward as the game wore on and substitute Arouna Kone was thwarted by Marshall in Cardiff’s goal, however the Ivorian had strayed offside but his shot was saved from point blank range anyway.

Tempers flared up in the second half on a few occasion as the game got scrappy and both teams were desperate to take away at least a point. And it ended 0-0, despite Everton’s best efforts with Fellaini and Kone tried to break through late on.

No doubt that Cardiff City will be the happier of the two sides as they ground out a valuable point at home whilst Everton are still searching for their first win of the season. It will feel like another opportunity missed for Martinez and his players but they are still unbeaten after three consecutive draws.

The Toffees are in 14th spot, while Cardiff occupy 10th with four points from three games in the Premier League.

LINEUPS

Cardiff City: Marshall, Connolly, Caulker, Turner, Taylor, Whittingham, Medel (Mutch 89), Kim (Maynard 82), Gunnarsson, Bellamy (Cowie 79), Campbell. Subs not used: Lewis; Hudson, Gestede, Noone.

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Mirallas (Deulofeu 86), Pienaar, Osman, Barkley, Fellaini, Jelavic (Kone 68). Subs not used: Robles, Heitinga, Oviedo,Naismith, Stones.

Sessegnon scores 15th as Fulham equals Man City unbeaten mark

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Fulham equalled the longest unbeaten run in the English top four tiers this season as it defeated sixth-placed Millwall 3-0 on the road to increase its streak to 22 games without a loss and moving the club into position for automatic promotion.

The Whites have not lost since December 16th when they fell 1-0 to relegation-threatened Sunderland. The unbeaten streak matches Manchester City’s run of 22 games to start the Premier League campaign before a 4-3 loss to Liverpool in mid-January broke the spell.

Highlighting the match was the game’s opening goal from 17-year-old Ryan Sessegnon, the young defender’s 15th goal of the Championship season. Just a week ago, Sessegnon was named a finalist for PFA Player of the Year alongside Harry Kane, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling. Also scoring in the win was Newcastle loanee Aleksandar Mitrovic who has bagged 11 goals in 15 matches since moving to Craven Cottage on Deadline Day of the winter transfer window, sparking talk of a possible permanent move should the Whites find themselves promoted at the end of the season. Fulham has not trailed a single second since he stepped on the field for his club debut.

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic has the team firing on all cylinders, outscoring opponents 49-14 during the unbeaten streak and racking up 56 out of a possible 66 points, with just five draws blemishing an otherwise perfect record. The club has scored first in 15 straight matches, and has not trailed since drawing level in the closing minutes of a 2-2 draw with Hull City on December 30th.

USMNT defender Tim Ream has been arguably the club’s most valuable player during the streak, locking down a defense that has picked up 11 clean sheets during the unbeaten run. Ream has played in all but two league matches this season, completing the full 90 minutes in all 41 of his appearances thus far. He has been voted Man of the Match five times this season by the fans on the team’s official website, most recently in a 1-0 victory over Reading on April 10th. He also grabbed the award in a 2-0 win over Championship title winners Wolves on February 24th, a game that saw the Whites out-possess and out-shoot the league champions.

Fulham still has work to do in the Premier League promotion picture, despite the spectacular form. They sit in 2nd position as it stands, leading Cardiff City by two points, but Cardiff has yet to play this weekend, giving them a massive two games in hand. Fulham could ultimately be done in by a slow start to the season that saw them win just twice in the first nine matches of the season as the squad adjusted to a host of new additions. In addition, Fulham suffered a disappointing draw last time out against Brentford as the Bees scored in the 94th minute to deny Fulham all three points, a massive blow to their automatic promotion hopes. Still, Fulham would be considered favorites in any potential playoff run, with Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, and Millwall currently the other teams in playoff positions.

There’s plenty on the line for the club over the next few weeks. Should Fulham fail to gain promotion, it could be a massive blow to the club as Sessegnon could be lured away from Craven Cottage, with Jokanovic and playmaker Tom Cairney also likely to garner speculation of a departure over the summer if the club was to remain in the Championship.

Espanyol fires former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Espanyol says it has fired manager Quique Sanchez Flores with the club slumping in the Spanish league and in danger of facing a relegation fight to end the season.

Espanyol announced the decision on Friday, adding sports director Jordi Lardin has also been let go.

Sanchez Flores, a former manager of Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Watford, among other clubs, coached the Barcelona-based club for the past two seasons.

Reserve team coach David Gallego will take over for the remaining five rounds of the season, starting with a visit to Girona on Sunday.

Espanyol hasn’t scored a goal in five matches, and has only two wins in the last 15 rounds. It is in 16th place, nine points from the drop.

Brooks yanked after 29 minutes on return from injury

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USMNT defender John Brooks, whose season has been largely ruined by injuries, made his first start since mid-December after finally returning from a knee injury. It didn’t last long – just 29 minutes.

It doesn’t appear to be injury related, however.

After earning a yellow card just 13 minutes in, Brooks was yanked by new Wolfsburg manager Bruno Labbadia in the 29th minute with the club down 1-0 on the road at Borussia Monchengladbach. Brooks was furious as he came off the pitch, and reports from Germany seem to suggest that his substitution was a tactical decision rather than injury-related.

Brooks has made just eight Bundesliga appearances this season, starting the campaign on the shelf with a thigh injury before his knee problem kept him off the field almost four months through the winter and into the spring.

After his withdrawal, Wolfsburg conceded two more goals before halftime as Monchengladbach grabbed a 3-0 lead via goals from Raffael and Christoph Kramer, with Lars Stindl having already given them a lead eight minutes in.

It’s understandable why Labbadia would be cautious with his more aggressive players. Wolfsburg is in danger of the drop, level with Mainz and Freiburg on 30 points with one of them almost assuredly to finish in the relegation playoff position. Still, it’s an unfortunate turn of events for Brooks after finally making his way back to the field, and he was visibly angry as he came off the pitch.

FA Cup semifinal preview: Can Mourinho win Man United another title?

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It’s been a season of highs and lows for Jose Mourinho, but he could put Manchester United on the precipice of another title this Saturday.

The FA Cup semifinals resume this weekend at Wembley Stadium, with Manchester United facing off against Tottenham and Chelsea battling Swansea. It’s a pair of great matchups with plenty of enticing storylines to watch ahead of and during the games.

[MORE: All our coverage of Arsene Wenger’s decision to step down]

Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday

Jose Mourinho lost a lot of the good-will earned after Man United’s win over Manchester City as his side capitulated in a 1-0 defeat to last-place West Bromwich Albion.

Now, with a week to stew on that result, Mourinho is just two games away from raising another piece of silverware for Man United, though it won’t exactly be the trophy the fans were hoping for. At the same time, Tottenham, a team on the up and up, would love to win the FA Cup and take control fully of North London from rivals Arsenal. A trip to the final for Tottenham would be the next step in the club’s climb to greatness.

Chelsea vs. Southampton— 10:00 a.m. ET Sunday

It’s been a disappointing season for both clubs, but on different levels. Chelsea, the defending league champions, has struggled most of the season to consistently score goals and will likely finish outside of Europe – unless they make the final of the FA Cup. So there’s a lot riding on the line for Chelsea heading into Sunday’s match.

For Southampton, with Mark Hughes now in charge, it’s almost a throw-away game. If they win, they could be the first team since Wigan to be relegated and qualify for European football the next season, but it could also be a game in which the beleaguered squad could gain some confidence, beating one of the big clubs in England.