Egypt faces biggest challenge of World Cup qualification yet in Ghana

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Fate threw one final piece of adversity at Egypt and head coach Bob Bradley during the draw for the African World Cup qualification playoffs when it matched the Pharaohs against Ghana. Bradley’s bogey team from his time as the United States coach stands in his way once again, at the end of a qualification campaign fraught with stumbling blocks.

From revolutions to riots to massacres, Egypt’s road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been probably the most difficult in the world. If Bradley can carry his team that one final step, his status as national hero would climb again, nearly to the point of erecting another pyramid in his honor.

“In Egypt, everyone speaks about their World Cup dream, regardless of their political background,” Bradley said in a press conference on Thursday (via KingFut). “Qualification could indicate that the country is moving forward.”

The Pharaohs’ perfect record in the final round of qualification will be severely tested in the first leg in Kumasi, Ghana, on Tuesday (noon ET, beIN Sport). In 18 matches between the countries, Ghana has won eight, while the teams have drawn five times. The most recent matchup was a 3-0 friendly win for the Black Stars on Jan. 10.

However, the record in competitive fixtures has been much closer, with each team taking a win and drawing once in three Africa Cup of Nations games spanning from 1970 to 2010. In the 2010 final, Egypt took the trophy after a narrow 1-0 win, delivered in the 85th minute on Gedo’s boot.

“We studied Ghana well,” Bradley said. “We respect them, but not too much. We are a good team. … We must be smart in Kumasi. We need to play with the right mentality — intellectually, but with confidence.”

Logically, confidence should be in short supply, with Egypt having failed to qualify for a World Cup since 1990, while Ghana has been to the last two, reaching the quarterfinals in 2010. However, Egypt doesn’t seem to care much for the odds this World Cup cycle, running the table in six matches against Guinea, Mozambique and Zimbabwe before meeting Ghana.

The Black Stars will be without star midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng for at least the first leg, as he suffered a knee injury in club duty for Schalke. Meanwhile, CAF qualification leading scorers Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Aboutrika are set to start for Egypt.

Leading scorer Asamoah Gyan should also get the nod for Ghana. American fans will remember him as the player who knocked the U.S. out of the 2010 World Cup with an extra-time volley in the Round of 16.

While Ghana’s attack is what Bradley will remember, the other end of the field has been the Black Stars’ best asset in qualification, conceding just three goals in six group games. However, Jonathan Mensah and John Boye are both injured after starting the last four games together in defense. Boye started all six group games for Ghana.

After everything Egypt has overcome so far, the final hurdle should provide the most difficult on-field test in reaching Brazil. Considering the context, it seems the stars have aligned for a last piece of odds-defying Pharaoh magic that could unite the country in some of its most difficult days.

Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal: Jese leads Potters to win

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  • New boy Jese scores
  • Arsenal has goal chalked off
  • First Arsenal loss to Stoke since Dec. 2014

Jese Rodriguez’s second half goal lifted Stoke City to a 1-0 win over Arsenal at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

Alexandre Lacazette had a late goal controversially ruled offside — it didn’t appear to be — as Arsenal fell ahead of an Aug. 27 trip to Liverpool.

Arsenal also had two sincere calls for penalties go unheeded.

Stoke heads to 2-0 West Brom on the same day.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Signed on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, Jese had a good early chance when he dribbled into the 18 and hit a left-footed offering that Petr Cech raced to close down.

Arsenal soon settled into expected control of possession, though the first real bit of danger saw Jack Butland stopping a Danny Welbeck effort in the 20th minute. Bellerin drew shouts for a penalty kick moments later.

Stoke had a chance against the run of play when Jese, now on the right, found Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting for a tame chance at Cech.

Butland denied Aaron Ramsey‘s attempt off an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain free kick in the 28th minute.

Choupo-Moting found Shawcross from a dangerous header in the 32nd minute, but the English center back couldn’t get the required mustard nor direction on his attempt.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Saido Berahino played provider on the 48th minute opener, holding the ball for Jese to race past Nacho Monreal and shoot past Cech.

Butland conceded a corner off a pair of Arsenal chances in the 58th minute, but the Gunners couldn’t do anything with the opportunity.

Berahino came close to making it 2-0 on a break, but Arsenal forced a corner kick.

The Gunners stayed in the match, and a lively Welbeck forced Butland to concede a corner off a good lay-off from substitute Olivier Giroud.

Jese subbed out to solid applause in the 71st minute.

Soon after, a nice bit of combination play resulted in a wrongly ruled-out Lacazette goal. He looked to be onside, but the linesman didn’t see it that way.

Giroud flashed a stoppage time header across the goal but wide in what was Arsenal’s last true chance of the match.

Lyon’s Fekir scores amazing goal from halfway line – Video

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It is quite possible the goal of the season has already been scored. Eat your heart out, David Beckham.

[ MORE: Ligue 1 score, schedule

Lyon’s captain Nabil Fekir drilled home a sensational goal to open the scoring at home against Bordeaux on Saturday, in what would turn out to be an enthralling 3-3 in the Ligue 1 clash.

Fekir, 24, picked the ball up 20 yards into his own half and without hesitation sent a rasping, rising effort from inside his own half which flew into the back of the net.

It was also with his weaker right foot…

Take a look at the incredible strike below from the French international attacking midfielder.


Klopp reveals love for Anfield, Liverpool’s goal in victory

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With the Phillipe Coutinho situation compounded by shaky defensive displays, it hasn’t been too much fun for Liverpool fans recently.

Jurgen Klopp thanked Liverpool’s supporters for delivering a fine atmosphere at Anfield to get a much-changed Liverpool side over the line against Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Mourinho – “Let horses run freely” ]

With a UEFA Champions League playoff second leg against Hoffenheim on Wednesday coming up, also at Anfield, Klopp rested five players for the game against Palace.

Frank De Boer‘s side had won on their last three visits to Anfield in the Premier League and although former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke missed a glorious chance went it was 0-0, Sadio Mane score the game-winner in a dogged Liverpool display.

There was no doubt who was the hero for Klopp: “Anfield helps a lot I think today it was the difference.”

Getting into more depth about his teams display, Klopp was pleased with the defensive display and Liverpool’s patience as well as lauding the scrappy nature of their game-winner as substitute Dominic Solanke made an impact and Mane pounced.

“It was a hard job to do,” Klopp admitted. “I have no idea how much we had the ball but it was a lot. We need to be creative and we had our moments in the first half and we knew we had to be a little more patient and we have to switch the sides again because they were quite deep and defended well but we had the moment and didn’t score, but didn’t give a lot of counter attacks away. Second half we adjusted a little bit and did it better.

“The first part of the second half was really good but how it is, we’ve had games like this, against Crystal Palace already, where one counter attack kills you. We were really awake, concentrated in these situations and defender well. Then you have to… I loved the goal, to be honest. We could have scored more but I love the goal because it wasn’t a clear situation, it was a counter-pressing situation. Dom [Solanke] is awake to get his foot in so Sadio can score the easy goal in the end. We had other chances where we could have scored more often. It was difficult but I am completely happy with how the boys did the job today.”

Sadio Mane popped up when Liverpool needed him and with the Coutinho saga rumbling on — Liverpool turned down a $145 million bid from Barcelona on Friday — Liverpool proved they can not only continue to create chances in attack without Coutinho but also proved they can defend better than they have been with defenders Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold all rested on Saturday.

Liverpool’s coach reserved special praise for Andrew Robertson, making his Liverpool debut, at left back and Joe Gomez at right back who has missed a huge chunk of time out injured. Robertson was particularly dangerous in attack but it will b Liverpool’s solid defensive display which will have impressed Klopp the most.

Klopp will need another balanced display this week to get Liverpool past Hoffenheim and into the UCL group stage, and he will need another lively atmosphere from the Anfield faithful to help get his team over the line.

Brace-bagging Chicharito soured by officiating at St. Mary’s

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West Ham United nearly pulled off a stunning comeback with 10 men, a late concession making Javier Hernandez’s two-goal day a little less sunny.

The ex-Manchester United man scored in both halves for his first scoring match day in the Premier League since 2014.

[ RECAP: Saints 3-2 West Ham ]

The first came after teammate Marko Arnautovic was sent off for an elbow, while Chicharito’s second marker was followed by Southampton earning its second penalty kick of the match when Pablo Zabaleta interfered with Maya Yoshida‘s attempted header in the box.

Hernandez was not pleased that the Hammers’ game effort down a man went for nothing on the table. From the BBC:

“When you are running most of the game with 10 men, the penalty decision is harsh. We spoke about Marko Arnautovic’s sending off, it is not completely a red card.

“It shows the character of this team that we do not give up. You have to look at the positives and to look forward. It is hard with 11 men but with 10 men it is even harder. I gained motivation and confidence and happy I scored two but the result is what stays in your head.”

Both goals were classic Chicharito, as the relentless Mexican striker was on the scene to beat his marker to two rebounds. West Ham now sits bottom of the Premier League table through two matches.