The Bundesliga weekend so far: Dortmund, Bayern and Bayer all win

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The Bundesliga is always good for a few goals, and with two matches left to play this weekend, we’ve already seen 26 find the back of the net. The biggest culprits? Dortmund, who were clearly preparing for their midweek Champions League fixture by putting five past relegation-ready Freiburg. Bayern, meanwhile, took it easy, gently playing their way to a 1-0 win over Wolfsburg. Bayer Leverkusen are still lurking close behind, their 2-0 win over Hannover keeping them within a point of the league leaders.

Friday

Augsburg 2-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach

It seemed as though Gladbach were going to come from behind and take all three points on Friday evening. André Hahn had put the hosts ahead in the 27th minute, but Gladbach equalized just five minutes later, off a goal from Max Kruse, his fourth of the season. Branimir Hrgota, on for just three minutes, put the visitors ahead in the 71st minute. But Augsburg came back with their own game-changing substitution, and Arkadiusz Milik grabbed the equalizer in the 88th minute. That leaves both sides even on points, although Gladbach have a better goal difference.

Saturday

Hoffenheim 3-3 Schalke

Schalke are clearly stretched thin, with the squad unable to cope with the demands of the Bundesliga, Champions League and Cup play. They currently sit 13th in the table, while Sunday’s results could push them even lower. But their missteps certainly lead to fun games. Schalke led 3-1 at the break, thanks to goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng, Joel Matip and Marco Höger. Hoffeinheim added to Anthony Modeste’s first half goal with a penalty conversion by Roberto Firmino, and further componded Schalke’s woes with a goal from David Abraham around the hour mark. The visitors seemed too stung to fight back, although Jens Keller’s late substitutions prompted a flurry of attempts in the dying minutes of the match.

Bayern Munich 1-0 Wolfsburg

You’d think, when one of the top sides in the league comes out to play, you might see an exciting, interesting or intriguing match. Not so much here, as Bayern kept the majority of the possession but rarely made any real threats. Their single goal came courtesy of Thomas Müller in the 63rd minute. Perhaps Pep Guardiola simply told his boys to set the cruise control and ride it out, with an eye ahead to the midweek match against Manchester City.

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Hannover 

Leverkusen had their win before they’d reached the 40th minute, thanks to goals from Simon Rolfes and Sidney Sam. Hannover may be in third but they’re six points behind Bayer, and this match showed the gap in quality. Apart from a flurry of shots just before the halftime break, it was Bayer that controlled the match, continuing to press for a third even after it was clear they’d collect all three points. The win keeps Bayer just a point below league leaders Dortmund and Bayern.

Hertha Berlin 3-1 Mainz

It’s not often you see a freshly promoted side challenging for Europe — at least, not after the first couple weeks — but after seven rounds, Hertha Berlin are in fifth, a mere point behind Hannover. It was actually Mainz that took the lead, through Nicolai Müller (who, impressively, found himself carded for a foul on Hajime Hosogai before the first minute was up), but a second half brace from Sami Allagui put Hertha in front. Allagui’s second was followed immediately by a goal from Änis Ben-Hatira, after which the hosts settled down, content with three goals and three points.

Borussia Dortmund 5-0 Freiburg

Champions League match? What Champions League match? Jurgen Klopp’s side looked absolutely unafraid of wearing themselves out before the midweek clash with Marseille. It helped, of course, that poor Freiburg were down to ten men by the time the halftime whistle blew, with Fallou Diagne sent off for a foul on Robert Lewandowski. Marco Reus took the resulting penalty, giving himself a brace in the first half.  Lewandowski put himself on the board with his own brace in the second half, and Jakub Blaszczykowski added the final goal with ten minutes to spare. Freiburg are left languishing in the relegation zone, with just three points thus far.

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-2 Hamburg

Hamburg pulled off a late draw against Eintracht, earning themselves a massive point in the process, a point that lifts them out of the drop zone — barring, of course, a shock victory by Nurnberg against Werder Bremen on Sunday.  Johannes Flum gave the hosts the lead, but Pierre-Michel Lasogga equalized for Hamburg just before the interval. Marco Russ reinstated Eintracht’s lead before the hour was up, and the hosts must’ve thought they were cruising to all three points until Marcell Jansen scored with five minutes left to play.

Still to come

Werder Bremen vs. Nurnberg

Braunschweig vs. Stuttgart

Everton agree deal to buy land for new stadium

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Everton have moved a step closer to a new home on Liverpool’s waterfront.

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The Guardian is reporting that the Premier League have “agreed a deal to purchase land at Bramley Moore dock” which is where a new stadium is proposed for the Toffees.

Per the report, a deal has been agreed in principle with the landowners Peel Holdings and now Everton, led by new billionaire majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, will try to kick their new stadium project on. It is widely expected that the club will announce more details later on Thursday, with Liverpool City Council set to be heavily involved in the huge regeneration project.

Moshiri now has to acquire funding for the stadium and also get planning permissions from the council but things appear to be moving in the right direction.

Back in November 2016, Moshiri said having a stadium which “rewards the fans” was his “key aim” at Everton.

Everton’s search to find a new home after 125 years at Goodison Park has been exhaustive and frustrating. They’ve had three separate sites turned down since 2000 but with Moshiri’s arrival last February there is renewed optimism that building a new luxurious home in Liverpool’s docks is possible.

With Manchester City expanding the Etihad Stadium in recent seasons, Liverpool drastically improving Anfield, West Ham moving into the London Stadium, Chelsea closing in on securing a deal for a $600 million revamp of Stamford Bridge, plus Tottenham Hotspur moving into a new 61,000 home for the 2018-19 season, the rest of the Premier League is kicking on in terms of stadium expansion.

Moshiri has lofty heights for Everton and with Ronald Koeman as manager and plenty of funds promised to improve their exciting squad, the final major hurdle to overcome is the construction of a new home.

VOTE: Select Premier League Goal of the Month – March

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The 2 Robbies have selected their contenders for the Premier League Goal of the Month for March.

[ VOTE: Select your GOTM here ]

Now it’s your job to select the winner by clicking on the link above.

Watch the contenders in the video above and then vote for your favorite.

Enjoy.

At 0-2, Americans understand stakes in World Cup qualifying

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Michael Bradley sees no reason to keep harping on that 4-0 loss at Costa Rica four months ago.

Yes, it’s still fresh in the Americans’ minds, a night every mistake snowballed into another.

“There is zero point in continuing to look back on that at the moment,” Bradley said. “We are where we are. Now it’s about on Friday night beginning this process of moving ourselves back up the table and stepping on the field from the first minute and playing a really aggressive way that ultimately leaves no doubt as to who’s stepping off the field, win or lose.”

Bruce Arena’s U.S. squad gets a fresh start in World Cup qualifying Friday against Honduras, and the pressure is on following the home country’s first 0-2 start in the North and Central American and Caribbean region’s final round.

“We understand the position we’re in,” Bradley said. “There’s no need for anybody on the outside to put any more pressure on us than we’ve already put on ourselves, because we didn’t start the hex in the right way. We put ourselves behind the eight ball. We’re honest and real enough with ourselves to understand that. Friday night is the beginning of our chance to put things right and get ourselves back in a good position. … We need guys to step on the field and understand the moment, not be fazed by it, go for it in a fearless way and have a big group of guys play really well.”

Forward Jordan Morris’ status for Friday appears in question after he missed a third straight day of practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury sustained Sunday with the Seattle Sounders. Morris rehabbed in the gym, the U.S. Soccer Federation said.

“Have you followed our team at all the last month? You think that’s going to be something that’s going to bother me?” Arena said at the start of the week when asked about health concerns. “We’re fine. We’re going to have 11 good players on the field on Friday.”

For those who do play, Bradley said it is paramount everybody brings his best game. Same goes for the Americans’ next match in Panama on Tuesday.

While the man in charge has changed – Arena replaced the fired Jurgen Klinsmann in November for a second stint as U.S. coach – and more Major League Soccer players were called upon this time than in November, Bradley insists the approach remains simple: Find a way to win.

“We stepped on the field in Costa Rica wanting to win. That desire to win is obviously still there, so in terms of the basic idea of stepping on the field and trying to play well and go for it in the right way and come away with a positive result, that part’s still the same obviously,” the longtime captain said. “There’s no two ways about it, we let ourselves down in Costa Rica. We didn’t play well enough. Mistakes turned into bigger mistakes, which turned into bigger mistakes, and so it all comes together in a way that you can lose a game in a bad way.”

And, there are many faces who have been on the big stage – Bradley, included.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard started the past two World Cups. Howard, four-time World Cup participant defender DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey played for Arena leading into the coach’s last World Cup qualifying, in 2005. Jozy Altidore brings experience up front.

“It’s a huge game for us,” Howard said. “It’s helpful that we have guys who have been through the hex before, who understand what that takes and the pressures that are on us. Yeah, it’s a big game.”

Bradley isn’t getting fancy when it comes to what the U.S. group must do.

“Winning. Three points,” Bradley said. “That’s it.”

“For us the reality is simple: We let ourselves down in the first two games,” he said. “It means that our margin for error is very, very small, but nothing’s changed in that we still feel good about the team that we have, the group that we are. I think that Bruce has come in and done an excellent job in terms of re-establishing certain things, getting at a few things. The mentality, the spirit in training and around the group both in January and now this week has been excellent, so we’re getting a little excited about the chance to step on the field in a big-time qualifier.”

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

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As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.