Swansea City 3-3 Stoke City: See-saw match ends in draw after Swansea comeback

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Swansea City found themselves 2-0 down in less than a half-hour, and battled back to deservedly go up 3-2 until referee Robert Madley awarded a 96th minute penalty to Stoke City which the visitors converted for a share of points at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

Despite owning the majority of possession and pressure, the Swans were undone early on the break as Stoke were on target with their early chances.  Peter Crouch assisted both goals with great touches, but things would change.

Swansea threw immense pressure at the Stoke back four, and they were unable to deal with the pace and incision as the game grew, and they battled for three goals to take a lead with five minutes to go.

But a shot off a corner may or may not have struck Wayne Routledge’s arm on its way through the box, and the referee allowed Charlie Adam to convert from the penalty spot and salvage a point for the visiting side.

It was Stoke on the break which gave them the early advantage. With Ashley Williams on the sidelines after an injury knock in the eighth minute, Jonathan Walters took advantage.  A long ball from the back found the towering Peter Crouch who flicked on with his head to the Irish midfielder who powered through the remaining back line and finished off the post and in.

Swansea didn’t capitulate following the goal, instead dominating possession and taking control in front of the home crowd.  Wilfried Bony finally unlocked the Stoke defense in the 24th minute, but couldn’t make them pay, rushing the volley and firing over off balance.

They would rue that chance, as Stoke came down the other way and again scored a second on some lovely passing.  Leon Britton lost the ball in the midfield, and it fell to Walters on the wing.  His pinpoint cross found Crouch in the box, whose brilliant one-time touch sprung Stephen Ireland free and he made no mistakes past Gerhard Tremmel.

Crouch’s two assists were both outstanding, and the imposing figure at front of Stoke’s attack was causing the home side all kinds of problems.Swansea reasserted their possession dominance again but again were wasteful in front of goal.  Wilfried Bony found himself gifted a free chance on goal when Stoke defender Erik Pieters made a massive mistake in the 40th minute passing it back to Bony, but Asmir Begovic did well to dispossess Bony before he could get a shot off.

Swansea began the second half in control as well, and this time they wouldn’t prove wasteful.  Bony got his goal when a corner in the 56th minute went long, and the Swans brought it back out to Jonathan de Guzman who sent in a perfect cross and Bony unleashed a powerful header past a hapless Begovic.

The goal sprung Swansea to dangerous heights, and the combination of Wayne Routledge and substitute Nathan Dyer used their pace to created chance after chance for Bony.

source: Getty Images
Substitute Charlie Adam converted the controversial penalty to end a wild match in Swansea.

Swansea continued to pour forward and got their deserved equalizer in the 74th minute.  Routledge on the left wing worked well to find space and crossed into the crowded box, and the cross was cleared by Robert Huth but only to Dyer.  The 25-year-old rifled a viciious attempt that took a deflection and skidded past Begovic to level the score.

Following the equalizer Swansea didn’t take their foot off the gas, and the game because very chippy. Angel Rangel earned himself a yellow card in a scuffle where he shoved Crouch to the ground.

Swansea nearly had another chance in the 83rd where Rangel and Bony broke with numbers, but some poor touches saw the build-up break down.  They wouldn’t misfire on the next chance.

Jonjo Shelvey worked hard on the wing to give him room to feed Bony in the middle, and the Dutch sensation shot the ball to the far post with one touch for the lead.

The drama wasn’t over though.  With Swansea feeling like they’d snatched victory, the chippiness earlier led to six minutes of added time, and the penalty was awarded when a header came swerving through the crowded box and possibly struck the arm of Wayne Routledge right in front of goal.

It was a soft call if anything, but Bobby Madley awarded the penalty to the shock of the Swansea players.  Michael Laudrup rued after the match that not a single Stoke player aside from Asmir Begovic up for the late corner appealed for the penalty call.  Routledge appears to have maybe stuck his elbow out a bit, but nobody expected the call to come in.

The point for both sides is enough to bump them up a place or two. Swansea are now up to 13th level with new boys Cardiff City, and Stoke City move out of the relegation zone on goal differential, dropping Fulham below the dreaded line.

GOALS:

Swansea City – Bony 56′ 85′, Dyer 74′
Stoke City – Walters 8′, Ireland 25′, Adam 96′

LINEUPS:

Swansea City – Tremmel; Rangel, Chico Flores, Williams, Davies; Britton, De Guzman (Shelvey, 71′), Pozuelo (Canas, 90′), Lamah (Dyer, 55′), Routledge; Bony.

Stoke City – Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters; Walters, Nzonzi, Ireland (Wilson, 72′), Palacios (Adam, 72′), Arnautovic (Etherington, 54′); Crouch.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.

 

Serie A: Napoli’s perfect season ends after draw with Inter

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MILAN (AP) Napoli’s perfect start to Serie A finally came to an end on Saturday in an enthralling 0-0 home draw with Inter Milan, the only other unbeaten side in the Italian top flight.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

There were plenty of chances at the San Paolo, and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was kept busier than his Napoli counterpart Pepe Reina.

It was the first time since April and a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo that Napoli has failed to win in Serie A.

Napoli remained top of the standings, two points above Inter and six above Juventus and Lazio, which face Udinese and Cagliari respectively on Sunday.

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

Napoli was looking for a ninth successive league win. It was boosted by Lorenzo Insigne passing fit to start after injuring a thigh on Tuesday in the Champions League defeat at Manchester City.

Inter was full of confidence after Mauro Icardi’s hat trick helped it win last week’s derby against AC Milan, but it hadn’t won in Naples in 20 years.

Napoli almost went in front but Handanovic pulled off a stunning double save to deny first Jose Callejon and then keep out Dries Mertens’ rebound attempt from point-blank range.

Handanovic then kept out an effort from Insigne following a great ball over the top from Marek Hamsik.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

Inter went close shortly before halftime but Reina did well to fingertip Borja Valero’s close-range attempt over the bar.

Insigne had more chances after the break, going closest with a curling effort just past the right post.

Hamsik also fired narrowly wide, and Handanovic parried a powerful shot from substitute Piotr Zielinski.

Mertens should have won the match for Napoli in the final minute but Handanovic was again on hand to keep out his close-range volley.

Tactics Session: Inside the mind of Kevin De Bruyne

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If not for Harry Kane‘s prolific scoring of goals during the early days of this season, Kevin De Bruyne would almost certainly be the early runaway favorite for 2017-18 Premier League Player of the Season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

Alas, Kane, the one-season wonder that he is, seems hellbent on cracking the century mark in the PL this season, rather than waiting until 2018-19. This sets up what should be a thoroughly exhilarating seven-month battle between two polar opposite players — Kane, the goalscorer; and De Bruyne, the assist machine.

On Saturday, NBC Sports’ Robbie Earle delved into the mind of De Bruyne (above video) in light of last weekend’s 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City, during which De Bruyne notched another pair of assists to take season tally to five through eight games. Later on Saturday, De Bruyne added another in Man City’s 3-0 victory over Burnley.

[ MORE: Matchday experience — behind the scenes at Southampton ]

The first thing pointed out by Earle is the recovery — though deployed as more of a central midfielder on the day, De Bruyne sits wide with City in possession high up the field, just waiting for the opportune moment to surge forward and join the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero (now that he’s back from injury). When Jesus’ ball is too lightly weighted, De Bruyne reacts quickest to make the recovery.

From there, his head is up and scanning the entire field. One touch forward, and he’s already accounted for the positioning of each of his teammates, as well as the Stoke defenders, and every pocket of space into which he’ll either carry or play the ball. He knows the precise spot on the field he must get to in order to pull the defense to him, thus opening the necessary space (and time) for the final man — Sane, in this instance — to make his run in behind.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

This is the part of De Bruyne’s game which he does better than anyone else in the world right now; no one can hold a candle KDB’s timing and vision — not Henrikh Mkhitaryan, not Isco, not Mesut Ozil, not even his brilliant teammate (and fellow six-assist man) David Silva. He’s almost operating at peak-Andres Iniesta level right now, which makes KDB and Co. appointment viewing every weekend.

Even now, after creating the passing lane and providing Sane the extra half-second to get level with his man before accelerating past in the blink of an eye. Even then, having seen the pass he has to play, there’s still the (major) matter of threading the needle through and around four defenders. On this occasion, the perfect pass is nearly 15 yards in front of Sane, and far less than that distance in front of the goalkeeper. An inch or two too short, it’s cleared by the right back; and inch or two too long, and the goalkeeper collects it easily.

As usual, no player in the world comes close to matching De Bruyne’s genius.