Nicklas Bendtner

Premier League Roundup: Moyes defeated in Everton reunion; top five snag wins

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The Premier League’s top five remains unchanged after Wednesday’s action, but attention is sure to gravitate to that fifth place team, with Everton’s win at Old Trafford serving as an early measuring stick for where the Red Devils and  Toffees sit after David Moyes’ spring move to Manchester United. The Blues’ late win over Moyes’ new team is sure to enliven debate as to which club ended up with the better boss, with for Everton fans regretting where their revamped squad sits after 14 games.

Elsewhere, Arsenal cruised to another win, maintaining their four-point lead at the top after Chelsea won a shootout in Sunderland. Manchester City started to exorcise their road demons, while Luis Suárez made another thunderous claim to being the league’s best player with dominant display at Anfield.

We start at the top and make our way down the table. Here’s your Premier League roundup:

(Highlights for all games are on their way.)

Arsenal 2-0 Hull City

Nicklas Bendtner is not only alive. As of the second minute of today’s visit from Hull City, he’s kicking. The enigmatic Dane scored his first Arsenal goal in over 1000 days to give the league-leading Gunners and early lead, and when Mesut Özil doubled the hosts’ lead two minutes into the second half, Arsenal were on their way to what’s becoming a characteristically controlling victory.

Sunderland 3-4 Chelsea

Jozy Altidore’s first goal since returning to the Premier League gave the Black Cats an early lead, one that reversed when Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard gave Chelsea a one-goal advantage going into halftime. After John O’Shea pulled Sunderland even five minutes into the second, Hazard restored Chelsea’s lead, one which grew to two after a late Phil Bardsley own goal. The Sunderland defender would make up for it with a goal in the 86th, but the Blues were able to hold on to stay within four of Arsenal.

West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Manchester City

Two goals from Yaya Touré and an opener from Sergio Agüero had City up 3-0 after 74 minutes. An own goal from Costel Pantilimon and Victor Anichebe’s 94th minute score brought the Baggies within two, but with come the final whistle, West Brom was unable to offset what had been a dominant display by the visitors.

Liverpool 5-1 Norwich City

Luis Suaréz came into the day tied for second in the Premier League in goals, but with four on Wednesday, the Liverpool sniper passed Sergio Agüero to go two clear atop the league’s scoring charts. Goals in the 15th, 20th, 35th and 74th minute moved Suárez to 13 on the year and spearheaded an overwhelming performance from Liverpool, who amassed 28 shots en route to their first five-goal day of the season.

Manchester United 0-1 Everton

In a match that’s sure to spur as many Red Devil questions as Toffees plaudits, it’s Everton that got the better for their former manager, an 86th minute goal from Bryan Oviedo proving the difference in the first meeting between David Moyes and the club he left last spring. Putting home a late Romelu Lukaku ball across the box, the replacement left back handed United their second home loss of the season, showing Moyes’s former team may be better than the one he’s taken over. Regardless, the biggest victory of the Roberto Martínez era has Everton fifth, even on points with Liverpool for the league’s final Champions League spot.

Fulham 1-2 Tottenham

One of Fulham’s strongest performances of the season still left the team emptied handed and in the drop zone, Spurs having fought back from a one-goal deficit to claim a much-needed win. Thanks to second half goals from Vlad Chiriches and Lewis Holtby, Tottenham claim their first league win since Oct. 27, going seventh in the process. Fulham, however, showed more life than they have at any time this season, putting six shots on target despite falling for the 10th time this campaign.

Swansea City 3-0 Newcastle United

Swans’ second win in three ends the Magpies’ four-match winning streak, with goals from Nathan Dyer and Jonjo Shelvey augmented by an own goal from Mathieu Debuchy. Dominating possession throughout, Swansea appeared to be playing into Newcastle’s hands before Dyer broke through in first half stoppage time. Debuchy’s help in the 66th minute gave Michael Laudrup’s team the room they needed to move up two spots to 11th place.

Southampton 2-3 Aston Villa

With a counter attack reminiscent of their season-opening win at Arsenal, Aston Villa pushed Southampton’s losing streak to three, with goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor, Libor Kozák, and Fabian Delph seeing Villa into the table’s top half. Twice, through Jay Rodriguez and Pablo Osvaldo, Southampton came back, but on a day in which they held 77 percent possession and put nine shots on target, the Saints couldn’t force the third past Brad Guzan, leaving Mauricio Pochettino’s team to suffer their first home loss of the season.

Stoke City 0-0 Cardiff City

Two sides lacking the nous to carve through the others’ defense were left with a possibly predictable draw, the sides’ combined 31 shots only translating into five tries on target. The day’s best chance came in the 40th minute when Jordan Mutch forced a diving save from Stoke’s Asmir Begovic, but with the Peter Crouch on the losing end of too many battles with Cardiff’s defense, the home side was never able to break through.

Crystal Palace 1-0 West Ham United (Tuesday)

Marouane Chamakh got revenge for his failed time at West Ham with a header just before halftime, the former French international’s opener holding up come the final whistle. With the first victory of the Tony Pulis era, the Eagles are out of the Premier League cellar, their third win of the year pushing Palace above Sunderland.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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