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.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.