Aston Villa 1-2 Newcastle: Defensive errors cost Villa once again (video)

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Two seasons ago, Aston Villa played their second match of the season at St. James Park, and were comprehensively thrashed 6-0. While Saturday’s match, Villa’s fourth of the Premier League season, wasn’t quite as bad as that, but that won’t bring the home side much comfort. Paul Lambert’s men might have found comfort in picking up three points from three difficult matches, against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, but the Villa manager will have to face some tough questions after failing to win at home against Newcastle.

One of those questions might be why the side failed to invest in a quality defender near the end of the transfer window, particularly after the early matches showed that the Villa still exhibited plenty of weaknesses in their defense. Instead, sticking by Lambert’s plan of “put on ten attackers and the defense won’t matter,” the club signed Lazio benchman Libor Kozak to complete their summer dealings.

And so it was little surprise that Newcastle was able to exploit the Villa defense and get in the first goal of the match. Loic Remy quickly learned how to slip past Matthew Lowton, and the visitors funneled their attacks down the left. A ball from Remy bounced off Papiss Cisse to land at the feet of Hatem Ben Arfa, who fired past Brad Guzan into the center of the net.

Unfortunately for the Villa Park faithful, the idea of being able to score just one more than their opponents didn’t quite work out as planned. Just before the end of the first half, Andreas Weimann had a fantastic opportunity to make the score 1-1. But despite his close range effort, the Austrian put the ball just wide. Just before the hour mark, Gabby Agbonlahor wasted a golden opportunity,

Villa thought they were saved when Christian Benteke stepped up to score his fifth goal in five appearances. Taking advantage of both the confusion surrounding the introduction of new Villa forward Libor Kozak, as well as a bit of a muddle from Tim Krul, who couldn’t figure out how to get around Agbonlahor, Benteke got on the end of a corner from Ashley Westwood and headed in the equalizer.

The visitors weren’t contend to settle for just a point, however, and it took only five minutes for Newcastle to take the lead once more. Again Cisse and Arfa cut through the Villa defense, only this time, Guzan was there to stop the shot from Arfa. However, the Villa keeper could only push the ball to the feet of Yoan Gouffran, who had no trouble putting the ball over Guzan’s head and into the top left corner of the net.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Okore (Clark 30), Vlaar, Luna; El Ahmadi (Kozak 67), Westwood, Delph; Weimann (Tonev 88), Benteke, Agbonlahor

Subs not used: Steer, Bacuna, Helenius, Sylla

Newcastle: Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon; Anita (Tioté 74), Sissoko, Cabaye (Ameobi 88); Remy (Gouffran 63), Cisse, Ben Arfa

Subs not used: Dummett, Elliot, Taylor, Marveaux

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia