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England’s long-ball tactics against Ukraine – fair or foul?

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Is it acceptable for a national team to play long-ball?

That’s the question facing Roy Hodgson following England’s display in Tuesday’s 0-0 World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.

Following the result, the England boss faced a wave of criticism from former England international, Gary Lineker, who called the Three Lions display “woeful” and “awful.”

Over Twitter, Lineker asked followers: “What happens to some of these players when they pull on an England shirt? When you see England pass it like they’ve never been introduced to each other, it does make you wonder why [Michael] Carrick doesn’t feature.”

Later Lineker took a tongue-and-cheek approach, writing: “We’re seeing a lot of one-touch football. England have a touch. Ukraine have a touch. England have a touch….” The banter continued when Linker fired a warning shot the world’s best, “Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina et al, you’re in big trouble!”

When informed of the criticism Hodgson explained he thought it was a “very high-quality” performance and that he was happy.

“I cannot comment on what people think at home, but I don’t think that is a fair comment on our performance,” Hodgson said. “If the expectations upon us are now so great we come to places like Ukraine and are expected to roll teams over, it will be difficult for us ever to get a good result.”

Let’s consider the circumstances.

Heading into the match England were top of the group, one point ahead of Ukraine and even on points with Montenegro, who was idle. With home matches against Poland and Montenegro still to come, England could not afford to drop points to Ukraine. Mykhalo Fomenko’s side had already shown their quality in last year’s 1-1 draw at Wembley and with the Olympic Stadium filled with 70,000 screaming Ukrainians, a potential buzz-saw awaited the Three Lions.

So Hodgson gave his men their orders.

“Did we play longer balls forward early?” the England boss asked. “Yes, we did. We didn’t want to play out from the back and invite pressure.” With regards to Lineker’s comments Hodgson claimed he was “surprised anyone who has played for England, captained England and played in games of this nature can be that critical.”

He shouldn’t be. Hodgson employed a Route 1 approach and it was anything but a “very high-quality” performance .

But it worked. It was a tactic, a means to an end and a move that one could argue was not so different than Jose Mourinho’s decision two weeks ago to have Chelsea sit back and play for the draw against Manchester United.

Style of play is important and most would agree that England’s is in need of an overhaul. At the end of the day, however, the game remains a results based business.

STREAM: Every 10am game; Premier League “Goal Rush”

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With four games coming your way on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET you have plenty of options as to how you watch them.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

First up, you can stream every game live online via the links below as Arsenal host Stoke City, Swansea and Sunderland clash in a relegation battle, Burnley welcome Bournemouth and Hull host Crystal Palace at 10 a.m. ET.

All the action will also be available via “Premier League Goal Rush” in a RedZone-like format which you can watch on the NBC Sports App, on NBCSports.com and on a dedicated Premier League Extratime channel as goals from all four matches in the 10 a.m. ET window will be shown simultaneously as live look-ins occur around all the grounds in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being very similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window.

The feature game this weekend on “Goal Rush” will be Arsenal vs. Stoke City and as goals and incidents occur around the league, you will be transported to the action as it happens.

More info is available here, plus the schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below. You can stream each game live by clicking on the links below or above.


10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Stoke City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Sunderland – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Bournemouth – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Crystal Palace – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]

Watford 3-2 Everton: Hornets win pulsating clash

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  • Four-straight PL away defeats for Everton
  • First Watford win vs. Everton since March 1987
  • Okaka scores first two PL goals
  • Watford move on to 21 points

Watford fought back from 1-0 down to secure a well-deserved 3-2 win over Everton at Vicarage Road on Saturday, as Ronald Koeman continues to struggle with the Toffees winning just one of their last 10 Premier League games.

Romelu Lukaku put Everton ahead with a calm finish but Watford came roaring back and Stefano Okaka made it 1-1 at the break thanks to his fine back heel finish. In the second half Walter Mazzarri‘s side cranked up the pressure and made the most of some poor Everton defending from set pieces as Sebastian Prodl and then Okaka scored from headers to make it 3-1.

Lukaku headed home with five minutes to go to make it 3-2 and set up a nervy finish but the Hornets held on for a big win.

The victory moves Watford onto 21 points for the season and momentarily up to seventh, while Everton remain on 20 points and have now lost three of their last five games.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Early on Everton looked lively and they almost went ahead as a corner from the right was played short to Gerard Deulofeu and his dipping cross almost caught out Heurelho Gomes at the near post but the Watford goalkeeper hooked the ball off the line.

Watford began to come into the game with Etienne Capoue causing problems but soon Everton were ahead. A clipped ball over the top from Gareth Barry caught out Watford’s entire backline and Lukaku latched onto the loose ball and slotted home his first goal in five games and his eighth in the Premier League this season. 1-0 to the Toffees.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Soon after Troy Deeney was found in the box by Nordin Amrabat but a heavy touch saw the chance for him come and go. Watford huffed and puffed and eventually they were level through a wonderful finish from Okaka.

Amrabat’s cross from the right was met by the Italian striker at the near post and he sent in a beautiful back heel effort to score his first goal for Watford. 1-1. Before half time the Hornets had a great chance but Deeney didn’t anticipate Seamus Coleman missing the ball at the back post and the teams went in level.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half Everton started the better of the two teams and at the other end Prodl headed over from a good position inside the box but soon he would make up for that miss. Jose Holebas’ free kick from the left was nodded home by Prodl as he made it 2-1 and was completely unchallenged.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Watford were flying as Miguel Britos then forced Maarten Stekelenburg into a magnificent save as his header at the back post was tipped over and from the resulting corner the Hornets went further ahead.

Okaka sent a flicked header at the near post towards the back post and the ball crossed the line with Leighton Baines trying to clear it. 3-1.

Everton brought on Ross Barkley, Enner Valencia and Aaron Lennon with the latter crossing for Lukaku who headed home to make it 3-2 and then Gomes spilled a cross but no Everton player reacted with the clock ticking down.

The Hornets held on, and put back-to-back defeats behind them with an important three points.

Atletico Nacional to honor Chapecoense at Club World Cup

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 30: A detailed view of the Chapecoense badge during a minutes silence ahead of the EFL Cup quarter final match between Arsenal and Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on November 30, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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OSAKA, Japan (AP) Colombia’s Atletico Nacional arrived in Japan for the Club World Cup on Saturday still dealing with the trauma of the recent airplane crash that caused the cancellation of the Copa Sudamericana final.

[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]

Atletico was to play Brazilian club Chapecoense in the final but the plane carrying the Brazilian team to the game crashed, killing almost all on board.

Nacional qualified for the Club World Cup by winning the Copa Liberdatores in July and vowed to honor the memory of their rivals when they face either South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns or Japanese champions Kashima Antlers on Wednesday.

The directors of Atletico asked the governing body of South American football to award Chapecoense the Copa Sudamericana championship.

Atletico is hoping to advance to a final against Spanish giants Real Madrid on Dec. 18.

VIDEO: Stefano Okaka scores stunning flicked back heel goal

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Stefano Okaka of Watford (33) scores their first and equalising goal during the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
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Stefano Okaka has arrived in the Premier League.

The Watford striker, 27, scored his first goal for the club and in England with a majestic back heel flick to draw the Hornets level against Everton at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports

Okaka started the play as he put the ball out wide to Nordin Amrabat and then got himself in the box as he converted the cross with a delightful back heel finish on the turn.

Watch the video below to see Okaka get off the mark in the Premier League.

Not a bad way to do it, Stefano…