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.

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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.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

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“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

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Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.