Newcastle United's Ben Arfa celebrates scoring against Fulham during their English Premier League soccer match at St James' Stadium in Newcastle

Newcastle 1-0 Fulham: Finally, goal to Newcastle (Video)

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It took a long time. Most of the match wasn’t pretty. In fact, Newcastle supporters looked to be in utter agony as they watched their players send in shot after shot, few of which actually came close to goal. But by the end of the 90 minutes, Newcastle not only had recorded their first goal of the season, but also notched their first win, bringing relief to those frustrated fans at St. James’ Park.

The most that can be said for Newcastle during the first half is that they managed to get in eight shots — that’s six more than the Magpies had had in their first two matches. However, only two of those shots were on target. Oh, and we should probably mention the fact that the most promising of those shots, from Fabricio Coloccini, was blocked by his own teammate. As the whistle blew for the break, it was clear that everyone at St. James’ Park was thinking the same thing: were Newcastle ever going to score this season?

But to be fair to Newcastle, Fulham were actually upstaging the home side in the “who can make this game even less interesting?” challenge. The visitors had a mere one shot in the first half, with Darren Bent setting up Brian Ruiz, but the ball went so high that Tim Krul didn’t bother waking up from his nap. Or, at that point, it may have been more properly described as a coma.

In fact, the Newcastle goalkeeper was permitted to sleep until the 68th minute, when Yohan Cabaye fouled Alexander Kacaniklic. Ruiz took the resulting free kick, putting his shot on target to force a save from the sleepy Dutchman. Then Fulham settled down and Krul was permitted to catch up on his rest once again.

The Magpies, however, continued to press for their first goal of the season, peppering David Stockdale’s goal again and again. A header from Yoan Gouffran forced the Fulham keeper into an impressive save. Soon after, Papiss Cissé hit the bar, and with Stockdale’s ears still ringing,  the keeper blocked a shot from Hatem Ben Arfa with his foot.

Ben Arfa found his revenge minutes later. Loïc Remy, on in the 74th minute, sent in the cross, which Ben Arfa neatly chested down before taking on two Fulham defenders. Rather than go through the red and white shirts, Ben Arfa dinked the ball up and over their heads, with Stockdale unable to do anything but watch. It may have taken 86 minutes, but Newcastle finally had their first goal of the season — and their first win to go with it.

Celebrate, Newcastle fans. You’ve earned this one.


Newcastle: Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon; Ben Arfa, Anita (Cabaye 65), Sissoko, Marveaux (Remy 74); Shola Ameobi, Cissé

Subs not used: Gosling, Dummett, Elliot, Ameobi

Fulham: Stockdale; Riether (Briggs 73), Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Kacaniklic, Sidwell (Rodallega 89), Parker, Ruiz; Berbatov, Bent (Taarabt 82)

Subs not used: Duff, Boateng, Karagounis, Etheridge

Reports link Guardiola with Manchester City summer move

Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga
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There are claims out of Spain that Manchester City has a verbal agreement to bring Pep Guardiola to town when his Bayern Munich contract expires in June.

Don’t expect comment from Guardiola, who bristles when discussing his future. In the past he’s hinted he might not be the right man for the Bavarian side, but has lamented any questions about clubs other than Bayern.

Now Mundo Deportivo writer Francesc Aguilar says there’s a secret agreement between Guardiola and Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain to reunite at the Etihad Stadium this summer.

[ MORE: Three big battles between U.S. and Mexico ]

Both Barcelona buffs and former Spanish internationals, Begiristain was Barca’s director of football when Guardiola took over for Frank Rjikaard in 2008.

Manuel Pellegrini signed a contract extension this summer and has led the club to a Premier League title, though the club has struggled in European competition. For what it’s worth, the Manchester Evening News got rumor reaction from Sergio Aguero:

On the latest Guardiola rumour, Kun said: “It has been talked about a lot. I don’t know him, but he’s a great manager and it’s wonderful to have the best managers train you.”

But he also added: “I’m very good with Manuel Pellegrini, we talk a lot. I’m happy in the team and with him, but the club will be the one who chooses who comes in.”

In other words, “I’m really good, and they pay me well enough that I’m prepared to play for any big name that arrives.”

It’s a story to keep up with, even as it intrudes on the seasons of two big, rich European clubs.

MLS to the death: Taking stock of playoff scenarios

Portland Timbers' Diego Valeri, right, challenges Montreal Impact's Laurent Ciman during the first half of a soccer game, Saturday, May 9, 2015 in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Five MLS teams have made the playoffs, but in the world of probability that number is a lot closer to 10.

Red Bulls, DC, L.A., Vancouver and Dallas are in the postseason, while Toronto, Columbus, New England and Sporting KC are on the verge. Seattle is just behind that group.

[ MORE: Three big battles between U.S. and Mexico ]

So how about those final two slots?

Eastern Conference

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – New York 31 16 6 9 55 39 16 11-2-3 5-4-6 54
x – D.C. 32 14 6 12 39 40 -1 10-3-3 4-3-9 48
New England 32 13 8 11 45 45 0 9-6-1 4-2-10 47
Columbus 32 13 8 11 51 53 -2 8-4-4 5-4-7 47
Toronto FC 31 14 4 13 55 53 2 10-1-4 4-3-9 46
Montreal 31 12 6 13 44 43 1 10-2-4 2-4-9 42
Orlando City SC 32 11 8 13 44 54 -10 6-5-5 5-3-8 41
New York City FC 32 10 7 15 47 53 -6 6-4-6 4-3-9 37
Philadelphia 32 9 7 16 40 51 -11 6-3-7 3-4-9 34
Chicago 32 8 6 18 42 52 -10 8-1-7 0-5-11 30

Matches remaning
at Colorado, vs. New England, at Toronto 
vs. NYC, at Philadelphia
New York City: at Orlando, vs. New England

Obviously, the Impact have the wheel here, though a pair of road tests — one across the continent — aren’t easy. If it comes down to a match against their rivals at BMO Field, all bets will be off. NYC can do Montreal a huge favor by getting a result in Orlando, but Jason Kreis’ side need all three points (Well, all six points… and a load of help). No one is playing better than Orlando right now.

Western Conference

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – FC Dallas 31 15 6 10 47 38 9 11-2-2 4-4-8 51
x – Los Angeles 32 14 9 9 53 39 14 12-3-1 2-6-8 51
x – Vancouver 32 15 5 12 42 34 8 8-2-6 7-3-6 50
Sporting KC 31 13 9 9 46 41 5 9-5-1 4-4-8 48
Seattle 32 14 5 13 40 34 6 10-2-4 4-3-9 47
San Jose 32 12 8 12 39 37 2 7-6-3 5-2-9 44
Portland 31 12 8 11 31 36 -5 7-6-3 5-2-8 44
Houston 32 11 8 13 41 45 -4 9-3-4 2-5-9 41
Real Salt Lake 31 11 8 12 37 43 -6 7-6-2 4-2-10 41
Colorado 31 8 10 13 30 38 -8 5-5-6 3-5-7 34

Matches remaning
San Jose:
vs Sporting KC, at Dallas
at RSL, at LA, vs. Colorado
Houston: vs. Seattle, at Vancouver
Real Salt Lake: 
vs. Portland, vs. Dallas, at Seattle

Quite literally anything can happen here in terms of these four. Pressure’s surely on Caleb Porter and the Timbers to finally give their supporters a side worth their passion. RSL is the only other side with three matches left, and the two pair up next. Houston has a harrowing pair of matches, one without Cubo Torres, while San Jose also has two tough efforts.