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.

Championship Playoff Final preview: Huddersfield Town vs. Reading

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These two teams weren’t supposed to be here, at Wembley on Monday at 10:00 a.m. ET playing for a spot in the Premier League.

Everyone talked about how beautiful Fulham played. Everyone talked about how Sheffield kept on winning. Everyone kept talking about the favorites. Everyone wrote off the other guys.

Yet here we are. Reading, owner of a +4 goal differential. Huddersfield Town, owner of a -2 goal differential. Reading, winners over Fulham thanks to a bogus handball. Huddersfield, on to Wembley after a penalty shootout in the rain.

Here we are. The game that will catapult one team to the riches of the Premier League, the game that will send another team back to the depths of the Championship, consigned to progress with the heartbreak of knowing they were so close.

[ MORE: USMNT roster announced for upcoming World Cup qualifiers ]

The Championship playoff final is one of the biggest enigmas in the European soccer landscape. Teams like Reading looking to return to familiar lands of plentiful bounty, others like Huddersfield looking for glory never experienced before.

Huddersfield has not seen top flight action since 1972, and former American international David Wagner has them on the precipice. “There were a lot of statements before the semi-finals about momentum and about form,” Wagner said. “It is another example where we have proven that experience and what has happened in the past is irrelevant. After the 120 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday there were a lot of tired legs, but now after a training camp in Portugal and training on the grass here, everybody is ready to go.”

As far as form goes, Town is struggling. They drew both legs of the Sheffield Wednesday playoff semifinal 0-0, and finished the regular season on a three-match losing streak. They haven’t won a match since April 14th.

Reading, meanwhile, finished the year with wins in seven of their final nine regular season games, and they downed an attacking Fulham side 1-0 at home in the second leg of their semifinal. They’ve been stellar at winning close games all year, winning 18 regular season games by just a single goal, and losing just four, with seven draws. If Jaap Stam can lead his side back to the Premier League, it would mark just a four-year turnaround from their previous relegation from the top flight.

Riches await the winner. The sides couldn’t be more different, and yet on Monday, they both face the same brick wall.

Epic fake injury mars Hungarian league title match

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Sometimes it works out perfectly. Two teams, a title on the line, one match to decide it.

The top two teams in the Hungarian top flight, also known as the NB I, were set to play each other on the final day of the season to decide the title winner.

Budapest Honved hosted Videoton, with the winner set to win the league title. A draw would have given Videoton the victory on goal differential.

With the match 0-0 at halftime, it progressed tensely through the second half. So tense, in fact, that the teams felt they needed to do everything in their power to earn an edge. Even fake injuries. Terribly.

34-year-old Videoton striker Danko Lazovic, a veteran who has been around Europe with Zenit St. Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, and a host of Eredivisie teams,  looked to earn a foul in the attacking half. He put so much effort into selling the foul that, well, he went a little overboard. And by a little overboard, we mean he went berserk on the field, rolling around and flailing on his back.

There are many factors that make this an absolutely epic moment. First, his team had already earned a foul without the dive. The referee had blown the whistle for a shove moments before Lazovic went down. Second, his teammate looks to come over and help him sell the foul a little more realistically, and instead of accept his teammate’s assistance, he shrugs off the help and continues to flail. Third, as karma would have it, Honved would score the title-winning goal six minutes later as they would go on to win 1-0.

Kids, don’t try this at home. It’s not a good look.

MLS Snapshot: Atlanta United 3-1 NYCFC

@DougRobertsonAJC via Twitter
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The game in 100 words (or less): Revenge, at the hands of a 3-1 scoreline. The match started out a little too fast for Atlanta, one of the quickest teams in MLS, but they settled things down and finished ruthlessly. NYCFC, meanwhile, defended miserably and failed to match the intensity of the hosts. First-round draft pick Julian Gressel was an utter menace down the right, and Miguel Almiron was decisive in front of net. NYCFC took advantage of the weekly Atlanta defensive mistake for a lifeline with 20 minutes to go, but it was too little too late.

Three moments that mattered

16′ – A big deflection off a NYCFC midfielder sprung an Atlanta attack, but the hosts took the chance well. Gressel latched onto the ball on the right edge of the box, and he cut the ball back where three Atlanta attackers were waiting unmarked. It came to Almiron, and while his finish was less than ideal, some ugly goalkeeping saw the ball slip under the armpit of a diving Sean Johnson who overshot the effort.

19′ – It came unraveled for NYCFC in a heartbeat. The right side of the defense fell asleep for a split second, allowing Hector Villaba to burst through on a ball by Yamil Asad, and Villaba finished expertly into the far top corner with Maxime Chanot unable to catch up.

23′ – Not even a half-hour gone and the game was already wrapped up, with the third goal sporting the most glaring defensive mistake by the visitors. As Gressel battled with Alexander Callens for a loose ball down the right, Callens appeared to have the edge, but instead of playing the ball, he went down under the slightest contact from Gressel. When the referee let play continue, Gressel was all by himself, and with a 4-on-1 developing, he found Almiron for the easiest of finishes.

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Man of the match: Juilan Gressel.

Goalscorers: Almiron (16′, 23′), Villaba (19′), Harrison (71′).

Serie A roundup: Roma pips Napoli for 2nd, Lazio falls

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Francesco Totti’s legendary career came to a close in fitting fashion as Roma scored a last-minute winner to secure 2nd place in the Serie A table.

On the final day of the season, Napoli’s win at Sampdoria moved them momentarily into second, but Roma snatched the spot back as Diego Perotti scored in the 90th minute to beat Genoa 3-2. Totti had come on as a 54th minute substitute.

[ MORE: Francesco Totti’s career achievements make him an all-time great ]

The win saw Roma end the season on 87 points, one above Napoli’s 86. That puts Roma into the Champions League group stage, while the third-place finish for Napoli places them in next season’s Champions League playoff round. They finish the season with a dominating 4-2 win over Sampdoria that saw four different Napoli goalscorers find the back of the net.

Below the Champions League battle, Atalanta held onto its fabulous fourth-place finish as Lazio fell 3-1 at Crotone. With Lazio already down 2-1 midway through the first half, Angolan defender Bastos received a second yellow card. Down to 10 men, Lazio still controlled the majority of possession but saw themselves outshot, only able to pop off three shots on target. The loss has no significant bearing, as both Atalanta and Lazio qualify for the Europa League group stage, while AC Milan seven points adrift in sixth makes the Europa League third qualifying round.

AC Milan finishes the season a point above rivals Inter despite a 2-1 final-day loss to Cagliari. The game was tied 1-1 down the stretch, but Gabriel Paletta was sent off with 15 minutes remaining, and Fabio Pisacane scored three minutes deep into stoppage time to give Cagliari the win.

Inter, meanwhile, finished the year on a high note as they hammered Udinese 5-2, most notably on a brace from Eder. Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic also scored in the win, while the fifth came on a late own goal. Inter finished the year on 62 points, five less than last season’s 67 which was good enough for fourth place.

Elsewhere, Fiorentina finished a disappointing season with a disappointing 2-2 home draw with last-placed Pescara, while Palermo beat Empoli 2-1 and five goalscorers helped Torino pound Sassuolo 5-2.