Highlights: Houston fails to take their chance(s) against visiting KC

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Houston were presented a wonderful opportunity, hosting a Sporting Kansas City team without three of their most important cogs. True, the international break monster also took a bite out of the Dynamo, but Wednesday’s game at BBVA Compass looked like theirs to lose.

Lose, they did not, unless you count the missed opportunity to distance themselves from the cluster at the bottom of the East’s playoff race. Tonight’s 0-0 result, one in which Houston had the better of the chances, still leaves them within reach.

Will Bruin forced Jimmy Neilsen into a number of early saves, while Brad Davis would have put Houston ahead on the stroke of halftime if it wasn’t for some clever Aurelien Collin positioning on a 20-yard direct kick. An early ball sent across the top of Tally Hall’s six-yard box was Kansas City’s most-threatening moment.

source: APAs the second half played out to its inevitable stalemate, you couldn’t help thinking the game was unfolding like some fallacious expectation of a Dom Kinnear team meeting the league’s most physical site. Though you don’t always see Houston and Kansas City lock each other up, there was little chance the second half was going to produce a winner. It was little more than the 45 minutes that separated halftime from the final whistle.

At that whistle, Kansas City had survived the absences of Graham Zusi (U.S.), Matt Besler (U.S.) and Claudio Bieler (injury). They’d won a point that kept them well within the Supporters’ Shield race, and without a game this weekend, they won’t have to play another game this year without their U.S. internationals.

For Houston, the point still helps, but Montréal can pass them for third with a win next Wednesday. A win by Philadelphia pulls the Union even with Houston’s 48 points, and Chicago and New England also in the picture.

Sure, things are still looking good for the Dynamo, but with a win (one that would have put them seven points ahead of sixth place Chicago), Houston’s playoff future would have been all but assured. That kind of security will have to wait for another day.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.