Southampton 2-0 Swansea City: Saints with another clean sheet to move into top 4 (Video)

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Clinical finishes and solid defending have handed Southampton their fourth win of the season at St. Mary’s as they continue to impress, moving into fourth place in the Premier League table.

Southampton have allowed just two goals all season, as their defense has been a major story of this Premier League season.  On the other end, Adam Lallana and substitute Jay Rodriguez bore the attacking fruit to secure the points.

Both sides pressed early on trying to find their feet, but Southampton were no doubt the more organized side from the get go.  The visitors found it difficult to build from the midfield, with a combination of sloppy passing and precise Saints tackles being their undoing.

The home side bagged their deserved opener in the 19th minute, moving the ball around all over the attacking third, twisting and contorting the Swans defensive shape until it broke.

The ball found the feet of 20-year-old Ben Davies, who expertly slotted through a streaking Adam Lallana who settled with his first touch, and fired a laser beam into the top corner with his second.

The goal seemed to put an extra spring in the Saints’ step, but in a few minutes Swansea began to build a serious response.

The Southampton defense, which has conceded just two goals this season, did its first real work in the 26th minute, with Boruc saving twice, first on a low Shelvey shot, then parrying a header from Bony a few minutes later.  The Ivorian tested Boruc again the 31st minute, forcing another full-stretch save with a low shot from distance.

The Swans came as close as you possibly can to an equalizer in the 36th minute. Bony backheeled to Nathan Dyer on the wing, which sprung him to make a run into the box. He blasted a shot which hit the inside of the goal post’s top corner and caromed away.  For the home side they will feel lucky to have not conceded, but for sure the visitors they will feel it was deserving of a goal.

Swansea picked up where they left off in the second half, but continued to be baffled by the Saints organized defense and could not get a result.  The game remained a hard-fought battle on the edges of each box.

Victor Wanyama nearly put the game out of reach with his first Premier League goal on a corner in the 76th minute, but referee Mike Dean called play back for a foul in the buildup.

His counterpart, however, would pick up the team’s second.  Substitute Jay Rodriguez grabbed his first of the season when he beat both Chico Flores and Jordi Amat to a long ball and slotted past Vorm to the delight of the home crowd.

That was all she wrote for Swansea, who could not muster anything else on the attacking end.  The Swans will feel hard done by the result, as they were not poor enough to be two-goal losers, but in the end they could not produce the final ball against the sharp Saints defense.

GOALS:

Southampton – Lallana 13′, Rodriguez 83′

LINEUPS:

Southampton – Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Lovern, Fox; Schneiderlin, Wanyama, S. Davis (Prado, 69′); Lallana, Lambert (Rodriguez, 68′); Osvaldo (Ward-Prowse, 58′).

Swansea City – Vorm; Rangel, Amat, Flores, Davis; Canas, Shelvey; Michu, Dyer, Routledge (Pozuelo, 67′); Bony.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

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

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.