Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United: Adnan Januzaj comes to the rescue (video)


Sunderland’s hopes were dashed once again as Manchester United came from behind to claim all three points. The loss keeps the Black Cats in last place, with just one point from seven matches this season. For United, the win brings much needed relief, pulling the side up to tenth in the table and easing some of the tension etched on David Moyes’ face.

The match got off to a dream start for Sunderland when the hosts took the lead in the fifth minute. Nemanja Vidic, who didn’t exactly have the best match against Shakhtar Donetsk midweek, set Craig Gardner up perfectly. Emanuele Giaccherini, racing up the right, sent a low ball into the United box. Phil Jones attempted to clear, instead sending the ball to Vidic. It bounced off the captain’s standing leg to fall for Gardner, who wasted no time in putting it in the back of David De Gea’s net.

The visitors were put in the uncomfortable position of chasing the game practically from the kickoff. United looked fine going forward, although the goal continued to elude. In the 20th minute, Nani, playing remarkably well, set up Robin van Persie, who managed to put his header wide. Then in the 41st, Nani himself had a go, getting on the end of a ball from Rafael and forcing a fantastic save from Keiren Westwood.

But United continued to look susceptible in defense, and Sunderland very nearly made them pay once more. In the 34th minute, Giaccherini got himself into a dangerous position once more, getting his head on the end of a cross from Adam Johnson, but De Gea pulled off a fine save to keep Sunderland to just one. Just before the halftime whistle, Giaccherini had another chance, again set up by Johnson. The winger cut in from the left and sliced the ball through three United defenders, but Giaccherini’s shot went well high.

The match was turned on its head in the second half, and the source came in the form of unlikely hero Adnan Januzaj. The youngster, just 18 years old, was handed his first start by Moyes, and Januzaj certainly repaid his manager’s faith. He put in the equalizer in the 54th minute, a lovely finish off a ball from Patrice Evra. The onrushing Januzaj used his right foot to sidefoot his shot past Westwood and into the top left corner.

But why stop a dream start with just one goal? Less than ten minutes later, Januzaj bagged himself a brace, sending in the go-ahead goal. This one was nearly a mirror image of the first. This time the ball came from a poor headed clearance on the part of Sunderland, but once again, Januzaj was ready. He used his left foot this time, catching it on the volley, twisting his body and putting this one into the right side of the net.

Sunderland did absolutely everything they could to rescue a point from the match, including bringing Keiren Westwood up for the final two corners of the match. That scenario brought about a fantastic foot race between Tom Cleverly and the Sunderland keeper, but in the end the ball was cut out by Giaccherini. A dramatic finish to a surprisingly dramatic match.

Sunderland Starting XI: Westwood, Celustka, Colback, O’Shea, Roberge, Cattermole, Ki, Gardner, Johnson (Ji 62), Giaccherini, Altidore.

Substitutes: Cabral, Larsson, Wickham, Cuellar, Borini, Mannone

Manchester United Starting XI: De Gea, Rafael, Evra, Vidic, Jones, Carrick, Cleverley, Januzaj (Welbeck 77), Nani (Valencia 77), Rooney, van Persie

Substitutes: Lindegaard, Smalling, Giggs, Kagawa, Hernandez.

Griezmann sets pre-World Cup deadline for transfer future

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French striker Antoine Griezmann is no stranger to seeing his name in the transfer rumor mill, but that familiarity doesn’t make it any more enjoyable for the Atletico Madrid attacker (who celebrates his 27th birthday on Wednesday).

Long-tipped for a move to either Barcelona or Manchester United, Griezmann knows one thing: He wants his future sorted before the World Cup.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“I want to travel to Russia without this concern,” he told L’Equipe. “It’s not about knowing where I’ll play, but about having the peace of mind if I’m still in one place or another.

“It may be boring, but I have told my sister that, whether I stay or not, this will have to be resolved beforehand. What bothers me the most is that everyone asks me about this issue.”

That’s both honest and reasonable, and we can imagine it’s not a blast to answer questions on your future every day. He also has a contract through 2021-22, which won’t make any transfer a simple one.

Griezmann has 23 goals and 13 assists in all competitions for Atleti this season, as La Liga’s second place side remains alive in the UEFA Europa League. He’s scored 106 goals for Atleti since arriving from Real Sociedad.

NYCFC signs second Homegrown Player in history

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Four years, two Homegrowns.

That’s the decent track record for New York City FC, which has spotted a second youngster from amongst its ranks in 15-year-old Joe Scally.

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Scally joins United States youth international James Sands as Homegrown Players from NYCFC. Here’s USMNT legend and NYCFC technical director Claudio Reyna:

“Joe has been one of the top performers in the Academy for the past few seasons and represented US Soccer at U-15 and U-17 level.”

“He has all of the attributes we look for in a right-back: he’s strong in defense and can support in attack to help create chances from wide areas.”

Sands was signed last summer, and played 23 minutes for NYCFC against Colorado in his lone senior appearance.

Allow England defender Alfie Mawson to charm you

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Swansea City’s Alfie Mawson is at England national team camp, and the young man is conducting himself in downright adorable fashion.

It seems the 24-year-old London defender cannot quite believe Gareth Southgate called his name for the Three Lions.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“A lot of people wouldn’t have even heard my name until this call up,” Mawson told the BBC. “You know it’s down to performing well at certain times, it’s down to doing the right things and sometimes it’s down to being a nice person.”

Mawson has played every minute for Swans this season, picking up two goals and an assist. More importantly, he’s won 3.3 aerial battles per game and 6.3 clearances.

While this won’t necessarily serve him well against the Netherlands and Italy in this week’s friendlies — they don’t put a lot of hopeful balls into aerial or clearing positions — it’s kept Mawson on the England radar for this summer’s World Cup.

Mawson is two seasons removed from playing in the Championship, and was loaned to lower league clubs like Maidenhead United and Welling United. At the time, he was going to “car boot sales with my girlfriend” which from my limited Googling seems the English equivalent of a yard sale and flea market combined.

“We are in a good position now where we don’t really have to do the car boots unless she wants a bit of excitement on a Sunday morning.”

Pretty good position, yeah.

FIFA urges Russia to hasten work on delayed World Cup arena

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SAMARA, Russia (AP) FIFA has urged Russia to speed up World Cup preparations at a stadium which needs “a huge amount of work” to be ready on time.

With less than three months to go until the World Cup, the 45,000-seat Samara Arena is the only one of 12 stadiums which doesn’t yet have a pitch installed.

The stadium in the Volga River city of Samara was already badly delayed due to a complex roof design, but now cold weather in the Russian spring is causing further problems. The pitch can’t be installed until the weather warms up.

“Obviously we would expect further progress than this,” FIFA’s chief competitions official Colin Smith said on a visit to the arena Wednesday. “We don’t yet have a pitch, and obviously we need to wait for some warmer weather conditions in order to get this pitch installed.”

As of Tuesday, instead of a field, there was an area covered with tarpaulins and snow. Temperatures are forecast to stay slightly below freezing for the rest of the week.

“There’s a huge amount of work still to be done,” Smith added. “From the information we’ve received there’s nothing stopping all these areas being completed on time. It just requires commitment and more manpower to get it done on time, and when we talk about on time, we’re talking about the commissioning date of the end of April.”

If that date passes, it could restrict FIFA’s ability to test the stadium with Russian league games and install World Cup equipment. Outside the arena, deep snowdrifts cover much of an area that is due to be landscaped for the tournament and will host some facilities for fans.

Alexander Fetisov, deputy governor of the Samara region, said the stadium will be ready.

“I’d like to avoid unnecessary dramatization of the situation,” he said. “Everything is being done so that the stadium is commissioned in the time required.”

Samara isn’t the only World Cup field which has drawn attention in recent weeks. The stadium in Kazan has been widely criticized by Russian fans after a brown, muddy surface was used for league games after the winter break.

Smith said FIFA was offering Russia help to get its fields ready, adding, “We’re doing everything possible and we’re convinced that we’re going to have a very, very high standard of pitches at this tournament.”