Mauricio Pochettino hails Southampton, believes “the sky is the limit”

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SOUTHAMPTON — Mauricio Pochettino is working wonders on the South Coast of England, as Southampton continued their impressive start to the Premier League season by dispatching Fulham 2-0 with consummate ease.

With Southampton sitting in third-spot on 18 points after nine games, and just four points behind league-leaders Arsenal, how high can the Saints finish this season?

“I don’t know,” Pochettino said. “I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that the sky’s the limit, we have no limits. The must important thing is that we need to keep learning, keep on playing as a team. The position of the table is not important right now, we just need to keep performing as we’ve been doing already.”

On Saturday night at a packed out St. Mary’s Stadium, Saints’ dominance should of perhaps yielded more goals. But these numbers were pretty impressive. There were 549 completed passes from Southampton compared with 234 by Fulham, the Saints also had 67% possession and out-shot Fulham 20-2.

(MORE: Southampton 2-0 Fulham – Dominant display sends Saints third)

“I think statistics are evil,” Pochettino laughed. “They don’t really show anything. Win you win they’re important, but when you lose there not as important. The most important thing today is how we played and the three points. I think statistics are relative, but I’m very satisfied with how we won today.”

In the resounding win, Saints also kept up their incredible defensive performances by recording their sixth clean sheet in nine games and they’ve now let in just three goals in the PL this season, the best record in the league. Post game, I asked Pochettino what he thought of another sterling defensive display from his settled backline.

source: AP
Rickie Lambert heads home Saints’ opener, the England internationals third PL goal this season.

“I’m very satisfied,” Pochettino said. “I’m very proud, as you say, of another clean sheet. It is something that makes me very happy, to be part of this club and to be part of these people that make up Southampton Football Club. I am very happy and very proud.”

Scorer of Saints’ second goal, and his second PL goal this season, Jay Rodriguez put in a terrific display on the left hand side as he headed home Lambert’s set up in the 43rd minute. Rodriguez believes Saints can achieve anything they want to this season.

“We pressed hard and our fitness is high, we have got an unbelievable team spirit,” Rodriguez said. “The England lads are doing great, Lambert and Lallana are great to play with and we can learn from them. We have the belief and want to keep pushing on, we have no limits and the gaffer has said that, just concentrate on the next game and keep the belief. There’s no limit to what we can achieve.”

(MORE: Martin Jol – We could have gone away with a hammering today)

Rickie Lambert opened the scoring and set up Rodriguez’ second, and the England internationals display proved he’s back to his best. 31-year-old Lambert is just one of a number of Saints players knocking on the door of England manager Roy Hodgson, as Luke Shaw, Rodriguez, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and James Ward-Prowse all performed superbly against Fulham.

“I wish they could all go to Brazil and the World Cup,” Pochettino said. “I’m not the one to make the decision but I wish my players all the best. That’s something that Mr. Hodgson has to worry about, not me. But I just want to congratulate my players. I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that he [Lambert] is amazingly important. He showed that today, how good he is, and hopefully he can keep on putting in performances like today, that will more than likely take him to Brazil.”

Fulham boss Martin Jol, who saw his team ripped apart by Southampton and admitted he was expecting a hiding after the first half, believes Saints can keep their good run going.

“Why not, they’ve got a good team,” Jol said. “Somebody told me that they spent $80 million, so if you spend that money you’re supposed to get good players. And that’s what you see on the pitch, good players. Strong midfielders, and a nice rotation. Even Clyne who is probably the cheapest of the lot is getting better and better.”

That seems to also be the case with Southampton as a team, as their best start to a season for 30 years continues to get better and better.

Lippi leads China over SKorea 1-0 in World Cup qualifier

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Marcello Lippi earned his biggest victory since taking over as coach of China’s national soccer team, leading his squad to a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Thursday in a World Cup qualifier.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

The coach, who led his native Italy to the World Cup title in 2006, was hired by China in October.

Yu Dabao scored the lone goal at Helong Stadium in Changsha with a header in the 34th minute, giving China only its second victory over South Korea in 32 matches.

China spent much of the second half defending with the visitors piling on the pressure. Ki Seung-yeung and Ji Dong-won both went close for South Korea but could not find a way past China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

South Korea has 10 points from six matches in Group A and is still on course to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. China, which last qualified for the World Cup in 2002, has five points.

Only the top two teams from the six-nation group qualify automatically. The third-place team will head to the playoffs.

CONMEBOL wrap: Brazil routs Uruguay, Messi guides Argentina past Chile

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A roundup of Thursday’s action from around CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying…

[ MORE: USMNT looks to build momentum against Honduras in WCQ ]

Paulinho‘s hat-trick helped bring Brazil back from an early deficit as the Selecao topped Uruguay, 4-1. Edinson Cavani put the hosts ahead after nine minutes from the penalty spot, but it was Paulinho that answered 10 minutes later for his first of the night. Neymar also tallied for the Brazilians, who continue to lead CONMEBOL qualifying with 30 points.

Lionel Messi scored in the first half to help lift Argentina over Chile, 1-0. The Barcelona attacker scored after 16 minutes when Angel di Maria was taken down inside the Chilean area by José Fuenzalida. Chile was held to just one shot on target throughout, and the loss leaves the reigning Copa America winners on the outside looking in at the top five.

James Rodriguez rescued Colombia on Thursday as the Real Madrid winger capitalized off of his penalty-kick rebound to give Los Cafeteros a 1-0 win over Bolivia. Goalkeeper Carlos Lampe did his best to preserve a draw for the visitors, recording six saves on the afternoon, however, it wasn’t enough to tame Colombia.

Meanwhile, Paraguay knocked off Ecuador, 2-1, behind goals from Bruno Valdez and Junior Alonso. The visitors pulled a goal back in the 70th minute when Felipe Caicedo converted from the penalty spot, but it wasn’t enough for Ecuador.

Peru battled back with two second-half goals to preserve a 2-2 draw against Venezuela on the road. The hosts got out to a 2-0 advantage before halftime when Mikel Villanueva and Romulu Otero scored for Venezuela, however, the Peruvians struck back in the second stanza to knick a point. Andre Carrillo and Paolo Guerrero scored in the 46th and 64th minutes, respectively, for Peru.


Thursday’s results

Colombia 1-0 Bolivia
Paraguay 2-1 Ecuador
Uruguay 1-4 Brazil
Argentina 1-0 Chile
Venezuela 2-2 Peru


Updated CONMEBOL table

  1. Brazil — 9-3-1 — 30 pts.
  2. Uruguay — 7-2-4 — 23 pts.
  3. Argentina — 6-4-3 — 22 pts.
  4. Colombia — 6-3-4 — 21 pts.
  5. Ecuador — 6-2-4 — 20 pts.
  6. Chile — 6-2-5 — 20 pts.
  7. Paraguay — 5-3-5 — 18 pts.
  8. Peru — 4-3-6 — 15 pts.
  9. Bolivia — 2-1-9 — 7 pts.
  10. Venezuela — 1-3-9 — 6 pts.

Ex-Disney CEO Eisner eyes English soccer club Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH, England (AP) Michael Eisner, the former chief executive of The Walt Disney Co., is in talks to buy English soccer club Portsmouth.

The fourth-tier club says it has entered into a 70-day exclusivity agreement with Eisner for takeover talks to take place.

Eisner wrote on Twitter: “Exciting times! Looking forward to coming over and meeting you all. Good luck against Newport County on Saturday!!”

Portsmouth, which is based on the south coast, spent beyond its means in the pursuit of glory. The team endured financial turmoil in the years following its 2008 FA Cup win, sinking from the Premier League to the fourth tier.

After entering bankruptcy protection, Portsmouth was rescued by the fans through a trust in 2013.

CONCACAF: USMNT, Trinidad & Tobago seek first points of Hexagonal

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Through two rounds of play in the Hexagonal, everything has gone according to plan for Mexico and Costa Rica.

Not so much though for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

While Los Ticos and El Tri currently sit in the top two positions of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the U.S. is left at the bottom and faces a difficult match against Honduras when play resumes on Friday night.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras match ]

Mexico and Costa Rica will face off at the Estadio Azteca in the second of Friday’s three slated qualifiers, and while both nations surely expect to reach the World Cup in Russia, both CONCACAF heavyweights have the opportunity to put their stamp on the group.

For Costa Rica, a victory could potentially open up a five-point gap over El Tri, while a win for Mexico would bring Juan Carlos Osorio’s side the opportunity leap over their Central American foes.

Friday’s action will kick off at 7 p.m. though when third place Panama travels to Trinidad & Tobago, who seeks its first points of the Hex. Trinidad will be led by captain Kenwyne Jones of Atlanta United as well as Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino, with the duo scoring a combined 39 international goals for the Soca Warriors.

Below is the schedule and current table ahead of Friday’s CONCACAF matches as the region turns its attention to Matchday 3 of the Hexagonal.


Trinidad & Tobago vs. Panama — 7 p.m. ET

Mexico vs. Costa Rica — 9:50 p.m. ET

USMNT vs. Honduras — 10:30 p.m. ET (PREVIEW)


1. Costa Rica — 2-0-0 — 6 pts.
2. Mexico — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
3. Panama — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
4. Honduras — 1-0-1 — 3 pts.
5. Trinidad & Tobago — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.
6. USMNT — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.