Tim Howard puts incredible PK save down to one thing… his beard

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Okay, this is awesome.

Following his penalty save against Aston Villa at the weekend, watch above, Tim Howard has openly admitted his PK saved didn’t come from any powers of goalkeeping… but instead it was his bushy beard that made all the difference.

As Christian Benteke strode up confidently to the spot kick Howard guessed the right way but dove down too low. Benteke lifted the ball off the ground, and as the ball looked to be speeding past Howard, the U.S. national team star flicked his hand out to knock it over the bar and celebrate with gusto and bravado.

Speaking to Everton FC’s website afterward, Howard hailed his furry companion.

“I think I’ve gained most of my strength from it [the beard],” Howard laughed.

There you have it folks, looks like that beard will be sticking around for quite some time, and Howard was sporting his fine beard for NBC Sports whilst calling Chelsea vs. Manchester City on Sunday at Stamford Bridge. It looks good in a suit and a soccer jersey. Versatile.

Now, as often seems to be the case these days, things have gotten a little out of hand and there’s been a Twitter handle devoted to Howard’s luscious locks on the end of his chin since just before the USMNT beat Mexico last month. Plenty of banter has been flying around about the USMNT ‘keepers affection for his facial hair, and it seems like the small forest growing on the end of Howard’s face may well become folklore. Expect to see plenty of young ‘keepers desperately applying rogain to their chin in the neext few weeks as they aim to get ‘the Howard effect.’

But Howard did have some serious words to say about his tremendous PK save.

“Benteke is a strong boy and very powerful so I thought he might go to the right. For a right-footer, that’s his power side,” Howard said. “To be honest, I didn’t get it quite right as he went high but I got a little bit of luck, reacted and kept it out.”

Bravo Tim… and you know, the beard.

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.