Cardiff City 1-0 Swansea City: Home side takes first-ever top-flight South Wales derby (video)

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A historic matchup began cagey but ended furiously as Steven Caulker’s bullet header earned Cardiff City the victory in the first-ever South Wales derby in the top flight.

Swansea begun on top at Cardiff City, but like Spurs could not muster a serious amount of definitive strikes on goal.

It took Cardiff a while to finally make their way into the Swansea half, but once they finally did, they slowly gained a stronger grip on possession.  Gary Medel was a key cog in the Cardiff buildup, and the midfield work by the Bluebirds finally forced Swansea to do some defending by the 25th minute.

Angel Rangel, who made some disparaging prematch comments on Cardiff’s signing of Medel, was key in the Swansea defense as Cardiff pushed further forward.

With both teams appearing to be playing timidly, the snoozer of a first half came to an end with nothing much to show for it.

Things opened up a bit in the second half as rain slowly increased.  The first real chance fell to the home side in the 54th minute, with a great ball sent into the box for Craig Bellamy, who headed back to the center of the 6-yard box where Don Cowie was waiting, but Cowie just missed the header.

Finally, seemingly out of nowhere, the deadlock was broken in the 62nd minute.  Cardiff won a corner, and former Swan Steven Caulker rose high above Chico Flores for a towering header and directed it past both Michel Vorm and Jonjo Shelvey into the net.

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Craig Bellamy and Cardiff put everything they had to keep Swansea out.

The goal erupted Cardiff City Stadium to life, and brought new life to the dull match on both ends.

Swansea were dealt a blow just after the goal as Michu was forced off with an ankle injury.  He had been off on the sidelines for some time adjusting his boots before returning, only to be substituted off after the goal, and he headed straight for the tunnel.

Swansea looked their brightest while fighting back from a goal down, but Cardiff continued to exert their full energy to keep the lead. Substitute Frazier Campbell had a great opportunity from close range in the 81st minute.  His first attempt was blocked by Chico, and although Campbell worked hard for a follow-up, it came from a tight angle and Vorm saved comfortably.

The visitors continued to push in the rain, with Jonathan de Guzman putting a good header on goal in the 87th minute, but David Marshall saved well.  Numbers continued to fly forward from the Swans, with Pozuelo testing Marshall just before added time.

But the biggest blow to Swansea would come in stoppage time. A long ball found Frazier Campbell, and Michel Vorm came out of the 18-yard box to challenge, with all numbers forward and no defenders back. Vorm stuck his foot high to challenge and Campbell went down, earning the Swansea goalkeeper a straight red card.

With all substitutes used, defender Angel Rangel went into goal and was immediately tested from the free kick, turning the ball over the bar well, impressively even for a defender.

That was the end of Swansea though, and Cardiff saw the game out.  The three points for Malky Mackay and Cardiff are massive, taking them from 17th to 12th in the table and jumping Swansea in the process.

GOALS:

Cardiff City – Caulker 63′

LINEUPS:

Cardiff City – Marshall; Taylor, Caulker, Turner, Whittingham; Medel (Kim, 88′), Mutch, Cowie, Theophile-Catherine; Bellamy, Odemwingie (Campbell, 75′).

Swansea City – Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Chico Flores, Taylor; Britton (Pozuelo, 71′), Shelvey, De Guzman, Routledge (Vasquez, 81′), Dyer; Michu (Bony, 65′).

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.

TFC on CCL loss: “Feels the heart has been ripped from the chest”

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Michael Bradley went 90 minutes at center back, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco scored, and Toronto FC nearly, oh-so-nearly, became the first Major League Soccer side to win a continental title in the CONCACAF Champions League era.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

“We wanted to be the first (MLS side) to lift the CONCACAF Champions League trophy,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono, according to MLSSoccer.com. “We failed in that goal; that’s massively disappointing. … This is the way the game goes, it’s unjust; it feels the heart has been ripped from the chest sometimes.”

Bono made some big saves in regulation as TFC flipped its 2-1 first leg loss on its ear over 90 minutes, but Chivas Guadalajara scored all four of their penalty kick attempts as Jonathan Osorio hit the bar and Bradley set his effort on a path to the moon.

That part was possibly academic, as Chivas could’ve sealed it with their fifth penalty, but Marky Delgado’s miss of a perfect Sebastian Giovinco stoppage time cross is what sent the match into kicks.

Here’s how The Toronto Sun’s Kurt Larson framed his post-match interview with Delgado, described as one of the few players not to walk past the media after the loss:

“That’s football sometimes,” Delgado searched for words. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it goes in. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s heartbreaking.”

It felt cruel to keep him standing there any longer.

“Wherever we are, we want to win,” the soft-spoken American said. “Unfortunately today we didn’t, but we know we dominated the game.”

And Bradley, in the season after Toronto won a trouble but also 18 months removed from missing a PK in the MLS Cup Final — not to mention marshaling the USMNT midfield in its monumental failure to qualify for the World Cup was mostly good in playing out-of-position.

“In the biggest moments, we threw caution to the wind and played with balls, bravery, and pride in ourselves, in each other, in our club and our city,” Bradley said on Canadian television outlet TSN.

They did, and now they must hope to win the Canadian Championship, MLS Supporters’ Shield, or MLS Cup to get another shot at qualifying for the Club World Cup.

Toronto loses CONCACAF Champions League in PKs

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Chivas Guadalajara scored on all of its penalty kicks to clinch a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Final, breaking the hearts of Toronto FC in Mexico on Wednesday and earning a berth in the 2018 Club World Cup.

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore scored in regulation as Toronto FC picked up a 2-1 win to reverse their first leg loss and push it to kicks.

Orbelin Pineda scored Chivas’ goal.

Hometown kid Jonathan Osorio hit the cross bar on Toronto’s second PK and Michael Bradley sent the fifth offering into outer space.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Toronto flew out of the gates, and Rodolfo Cota came flying off his line to deny Altidore a 10th minute chance.

Alex Bono collected a header off a Chivas corner kick earned by a counterattack.

Pineda then made Toronto’s task even harder with a 19th minute goal, cooking Auro’s mark to reach a through ball and dancing around Bono for 1-0.

But Altidore was somehow unmarked for Nic Hasler’s pass despite five Chivas defenders and Cota inside the six-yard box, and TFC leveled the second leg at 1.

And TFC got the next goal through Giovinco, slipped through by Marky Delgado and taking advantage of a yard of space and a second to shoot with his fourth goal of the CCL knockout rounds.

The Reds kept coming in the second half, with Delgado winning a big 50-50 ball deep in Chivas territory and Victor Vasquez ripping a shot that Cota dove to smother.

Chivas found its footing in 58th minute, sending a shot over the bar before Jesus Godinez hit the post in the 61st (though his dive seemingly had the near post covered). Bono the next knocked a free kick over the bar from a similar position as the ball that beat him in the first leg.

Javier Lopez curled a vicious attempt just over the goal in the 72nd. He’d have the next best chances moments after Altidore subbed off with an apparent hamstring injury, but dribbled onto Bono’s lap and fired off the keeper.

Giovinco worked a 1-2 with Osorio and cruised a shot just wide of the far post in the 87th minute. Delgado then mailed a sitter over the bar in the first minute of stoppage time.