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Stoke City v Sunderland - Premier League

Stoke 2-0 Sunderland: Adam and Nzonzi hand Potters victory (video)

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Stoke City won their first home game since August by beating luckless Sunderland 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

The Potters went ahead in the 28th minute after Charlie Adam bagged his second goal in as many games with a cool left-footed finish. Sunderland pushed hard but central defender Wes Brown was inexplicably sent off in the first half for an innocuous challenge on Adam on the halfway line.

Despite being down to 1o-men the Black Cats battled hard but Stoke finally wrapped up the win late on as Steven Nzonzi finished off a terrific pass from Peter Crouch. The victory was Stoke manager Mark Hughes’ 100th victory in the PL as he celebrated a much-needed three points for his side.

With the win Stoke move into 14th spot with 13 points from 12 games, while Sunderland drop to bottom of the table after Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win at Hull City.

The game began tentatively as both teams felt their way into the contest at the Britannia.

After six minutes Sunderland had the first effort on goal as Jack Colback surged forward but his left-footed effort was deflected wide of the Stoke goal.

It was the away side who kept pressing with numerous set-pieces as Stoke failed to get an early footing in the contest.

Charlie Adam nearly curled a long-range free kick into the top corner as he over-hit his cross and the ball nestled onto the roof of the net.

But the Black Cats came surging back as Steven Fletcher had an effort cleared off the line in the 12th minute after the Scotsman was played in expertly by Adam Johnson on the right. For the rest of the opening exchanges the two sides were sloppy in possession but showed plenty of attacking intent by piling forward.

And just before the half hour mark, all of that pressure lead to a Stoke opener as midfielder Nzonzi surged into the box, held the ball up well and found Adam to slot Stoke ahead. It was just the Potters second goal in five home games and sent the Britannia Stadium wild.

Following that strike Sunderland came back into the game but their progress was thrown into jeopardy in the 35th minute as Brown was bizarrely sent off. The central defender slide into a tackle on the halfway line and didn’t even touch Adam but somehow Kevin Friend brandished a red card to leave Sunderland manager Gus Poyet in disbelief as the Black Cats were handed their third red card in their last three games.

Stoke pushed for a second as half time approached but the Potters went in 1-0 up.

In the second half Sunderland switched around their formation with 10-men and despite that numerical disadvantage the Mackems surged forward on numerous occasions and put in some great long-range efforts with Phil Bardsley forcing Asmir Begovic into a smart stop in the 54th minute.

Throughout the second half Sunderland pressed forward to try and grab an unlikely equalizer and as they did so late on, Stoke dealt the hammer blow. Adam was again involved as he found striker Peter Crouch who slotted in French midfielder Nzonzi to score his second goal in 55 PL games and break the Black Cats hearts.

Stoke never looked link relinquishing their 2-0 lead after than and perhaps should have added more as Sunderland’s brave effort ran out of steam.

LINEUPS

Stoke: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth (Wilkinson, 77), Pieters; Walters, Nzonzi, Whelan, Adam (Palacios, 82), Arnautovic; Crouch

Goals: Adam (28), Nzonzi (81)

Sunderland: Mannone, Celustka (Borini, 69), Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Ki, Colback, Larsson, Johnson, Giaccherini (Roberge, 40), Fletcher (Altidore, 85)

Red Card: Brown (35)

City Council approves plans for new Los Angeles soccer venue

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The City Council has approved plans to build a $250 million stadium for Major League Soccer’s expansion Los Angeles Football Club.

[ MORE: Can MLS teams begin to create separation in Week 10? ]

The council voted 12-0 Friday to move forward with a 22,000-seat stadium on the site of the old Sports Arena next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and USC.

The 15-acre complex is also slated to include a conference center, restaurants, 140,000 square feet of plazas and streetscapes, and a soccer museum.

At its center would be the home to the new MLS team when it makes its debut in 2018.

LAFC is owned by Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, American venture capitalist Henry Nguyen and a celebrity-studded list of investors including Magic Johnson, Tony Robbins, Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra.

Barcelona reportedly seeking out Nice winger Hatem Ben Afra

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Lost in the 2015-16 campaign has been Nice attacker Hatem Ben Afra.

[ MORE: Leicester can provide more magic at home vs. Everton ]

While Paris Saint-Germain has stolen the spotlight in France for much of this season, the former Newcastle midfielder has been nothing short of special for Les Aiglons.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s PL picks are in for Week 37 ]

That has left La Liga giant Barcelona contacting the 29-year old Frenchman over his services, according to Nice president Jean Pierre Rivere.

Rivere told France 3 he wouldn’t mind Ben Afra exiting the club:

“I would be very happy for him and for Nice if this move comes off,” Rivère said. “You do not reject Barcelona, but it is up to him to decide. If I was a player and Barcelona was offered to me I would not ask questions, I would go! But it is not yet done according to what I am told.”

In 32 appearances this season for Nice, Ben Afra has notched 17 goals and added five assists. He ranks third in goals, only behind PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon.

Barcelona could very well be the frontrunners to acquire the talented attacker, but several European sides have also expressed interest in Ben Afra. Premier League clubs Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as AC Milan have also been named as potential suitors.

[ MORE: What do other PL teams have to say about Leicester? ]

Ben Afra’s age may be a bit of a concern for the Blaugrana though, in addition to the fact that this current season is the only time in his career that he has tallied double-digit goals. The Lyon academy product could provide solid depth to Barcelona’s attack should a deal get finalized.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Everton

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  • Leicester simply playing for home pride
  • Everton seek top-10 finish

Leicester City host Everton on Saturday from the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) in hopes of providing its fans with a season-capping victory, after winning the Premier League title on Monday.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

By now everyone has seen Christian Fuchs‘ video of the Leicester players in celebration mode, but there are still two games left to play. The match against Everton may be more about pride than anything else, but it can still represent an important feat for the club and serve as a true celebration in front of their home supporters.

Jamie Vardy‘s return will provide the fans with yet another moment to applaud and you’d expect the Leicester forward to want to add to his 22 PL goals.

[ MORE: Norwich in desperate need of three points vs. Manchester United ]

The Foxes will be met by an Everton side that don’t really have anything to play for either. Toffees manager Roberto Martinez will surely be looking for a win with his job on the line, however, it’s left to be seen whether or not he can actually maintain his position. Everton has finished in the PL top 10 each of the last eight seasons, and a finish outside of that mark would be a huge setback for the club.

What they’re saying…

Ranieri on his team competing: “Inside me there are two people. One is a very aggressive, I want to win, I won the Premier League but now I want to win on Saturday.”

Martinez on Leicester not letting up: “I’m sure any sort of celebration could affect you in the long term if you had to face a difficult month. In a 90-minute game where the stadium is going to be an historic environment, I’m sure that can only be positive for the home team.”

Prediction

The title is already theirs but why wouldn’t Leicester win this match? The KP Stadium will be rocking into the night and the Foxes will come away with a convincing 3-0 win against Everton.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Norwich City vs. Manchester United

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  • Norwich sit two points out of 17th place
  • United in battle with West Ham for Europe
  • Canaries are losers of three straight

Norwich City host Manchester United from Carrow Road on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) as the Canaries seek Premier League safety with two weeks remaining.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

With their season on the line, Norwich is facing desperation as they meet Manchester United. The Canaries posted just one win in four matches in April, leaving them 19th in the PL. While neither Newcastle nor Sunderland were able to create separation between themselves and Norwich, a win against United is a necessity with three games left to play.

Goals have come at a minimum this season for the Canaries, leaving Nathan Redmond and Dieumerci Mbokani in need of a big game. Each player has notched five goals this season for the side.

[ MORE: Ranieri’s on-field changes as manager have propelled Leicester ]

Disappointment has surrounded United for much of the 2015-16 season, however, the Red Devils still have important matches to play down the stretch. That starts with Norwich. Sitting four points behind fourth place Manchester City and holding a game in hand, Louis Van Gaal‘s club can close the gap on the Citizens with a strong performance on Saturday.

What they’re saying…

Neil on match’s importance: “Everybody knows the situation, so I don’t think it is going to have massive difference in terms of how we would approach the game or they (relegation rivals) would approach the game. What it does do is apply pressure to their game, but there will be pressure on that anyway. They will recognise and we recognise that all the teams need to win games to stay in the division.”

Van Gaal on injury struggles: “I always talk about facts, not about hypothetical circumstance and activities. I can only say that in the end of November we had first position, after that we had a big decline.”

Prediction

Despite playing in front of a feisty home crowd at Carrow Road and picking up a 2-1 victory early this season against United, the Canaries chances aren’t too optimistic. Norwich hasn’t scored in three straight matches, all of which were losses. With United still playing for something I don’t expect the Red Devils to drop this match. Give United the points on the road, 3-1, leaving Norwich to rely on Aston Villa and Chelsea to pick up wins.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

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