Houston scores late to draw with New York Red Bulls, 2-2

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HOUSTON – The New York Red Bulls took command early, but then collapsed beneath the weight of a red card and a motivated second half effort from the home team Sunday, drawing with Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium, 2-2.

Houston rallied for two second half goals, including one in stoppage time, erasing a big first half from the visiting Red Bulls, thus sending the teams’ home-and-away series back up to New York tied on totals goals.

Omar Cummings finished a stoppage time scramble in front of New York’s goal for the late equalizer. Dynamo teammates Ricardo Clark had cut New York’s lead in half with a deflected 52nd-minute shot.

The match really turned 13 minutes later when Red Bulls center back Jamison Olave was shown a straight red for a bad tackle on Cummings. Thus, he will miss the return leg Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

(MORE: Man of the Match, New York’s Tim Cahill)

The Red Bulls, who were rolling so mightily, with so much authority and swagger through the final weeks of Major League Soccer’s regular season, appeared ready to do the same in the playoffs. If there was any doubt about whether Mike Petke’s team, the 2013 Supporters Shield winners, would forfeit some of that confidence and form once into the post-season, the visitors had removed all doubt within half an hour.

Tim Cahill’s header off Thierry Henry’s swell assist got things going, and by the time Eric Alexander turned and fired into the near post after 30 minutes, the Red Bulls seemed well in control of the Eastern Conference semifinal first leg.

But things changed in the second half, and especially so after Olave’s 65th minute ejection. Houston had all the momentum from there.

Petke’s team looked quite dangerous from the start, sitting back and not really even trying to play with much possession on Houston’s small field. It worked perfectly as Henry got isolated along the left side. His nifty little turn created enough room for a centering ball, which Cahill turned into his first MLS playoff goal on an unchallenged header.

Yes, an unchallenged header; this year’s Dynamo defense just hasn’t been the classic, tough unit to score against we are so used to seeing from Dominic Kinnear clubs.

The defending was sloppy once again as Alexander got free down the right, the finishing touches of yet another quick thrust from the visitors. He turned on Eric Brunner and beat Houston ‘keeper Tally Hall – who didn’t look good on either New York goal – to the near post.

Houston had just a series of half-chances in the opening half before Will Bruin took Boniek Garcia’s sweet little release into the penalty area, pulled it around one defender to create some shooting space … but then hit his lightly contested shot well over New York goal from about 15 yards just before the break.

Houston was much stronger to start the second half, and Clark needed just six minutes to take advantage for David Carney’s awful clearance. Carney ”cleared” a ball from the wing into the middle of the field, where Clark gathered near the top of the penalty area and then saw his deflected shot beat a stranded Luis Robles. That cut the New York lead to 2-1.

New York had lost the initiative when Olave, so commanding at center back when he can stay on the field, when he is not dealing with injuries or suspensions, left his team a man down for 25 minutes.

The ball was nowhere nearby when Olave launched his dangerous tackle from behind on Cummings. Referee Ricardo Salazar was quickly on scene with red card in hand.

Cummings’ late equalizer came after a corner kick, which the Red Bulls failed to clear initially.

Kinnear, suspended but watching from a suite, used a lineup unchanged from the 11 that made easy work of Montreal in a mid-week elimination match.

Lineups

Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, Eric Brunner, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis; Will Bruin, Giles Barnes.

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles, Markus Holgersson, Ibrahim Sekagya, David Carney, Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, Jonathan Steele, Peguy Luyidula; Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.

Sydney FC clinches first place in A-League

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SYDNEY (AP) After clinching first place in Australia’s A-League without taking the field, Sydney FC enhanced its record achievement with a 3-0 win over the Perth Glory on Sunday.

Sydney FC won the Premiers Plate as regular-season champions after the second-place Melbourne Victory lost 1-0 to Brisbane on Saturday, when Sydney had a night off.

The Brisbane win left Sydney with an unassailable 11-point lead in first place with three rounds to play.

[ MORE: An under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Sydney side also created some history: it became the only team to have remained in outright first position in the standings for an entire season.

In the other match Sunday, the Wellington Phoenix beat Newcastle 5-0 to remain within five points of sixth-place Western Sydney for the final playoff spot.

Walking Dead? Star fittingly sees Exeter’s implausible comeback (video)

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As Rick Grimes, actor Andrew Lincoln regularly battles the undead on his show “The Walking Dead”.

As a friend of Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale, Lincoln was probably pretty happy to watch a team that would not die.

Exeter went down 3-0 when Yeovil Town broke a scoreless drought with a trio of tallies between the 62nd and 78th minutes.

[ MORE: An under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

But Exeter’s David Wheeler scored in the 88th minute, and Troy Brown and Reuben Reid scored a minute apart at the beginning of stoppage time to earn a point for the League Two playoff hopeful.

Couple things on this video, too:

— Check out the shove on the goalkeeper when trying to collect the ball after the first goal of the fight back.

— Watch the man with his baby behind the net after the third goal. Did Mom know how safe her little one was?