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.

Liga MX wrap: Pachuca earns first win, Leon stays unbeaten

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All of Saturday’s action from around Mexico’s top flight…

Pachuca 3-1 Lobos BUAP

A strong first-half push from the hosts was all Pachuca needed on Saturday night to earn their first victory of the 2018 Clausura season. Angel Sagal brought the home side in front after just 10 minutes off of a near-post header, before Pachuca’s lead soon doubled 14 minutes later from the penalty spot when strike Franco Jara converted on the dead-ball attempt.

Just prior to halftime, Pachuca was out to a 3-0 advantage when 20-year-old outside back Erick Aguirre tallied his first goal for the club.

Last-place side Lobos got on the board three minutes into the second stanza via a finish from Heriberto Olvera, however, it wasn’t enough to provide anything more than a consolation for the visiting side.

Necaxa 1-3 Chivas Guadalajara

Mexican international Alan Pulido made it a dream start for the visitors from Guadalajara at the Estadio Victoria, however, that lead was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time after Carlos Gonzalez leveled the match up at 1-1.

The difference proved to be with 25 minutes left to play, when a goalkeeping error by Marcelo Barovero allowed Chivas to regain possession inside the Necaxa penalty area, before Ronaldo Cisneros tapped home the winner.

Then, a third goal came just prior to the end of regulation when Edwin Hernandez killed the game off for Matias Almeyda’s men, who also earned their first victory of the Clausura season.

Rest of Saturday’s Liga MX action

Cruz Azul 0-0 Club Leon
Queretaro 0-0 Tigres UANL
Monterrey 0-0 Club Tijuana

Sunday’s matches

UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.