Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa: Berbatov leads Whites to first win in eight (Video)

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Fulham picked up three enormous points, their first win under new first team coach Rene Meulensteen, as they dominate a well-traveled Aston Villa 2-0 from Craven Cottage.

Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov both grabbed first-half goals, with the latter having a hand in both scores and handing in an impressive performance on the heels of a few lazy showings.

The home side started on the front foot, and bashed both of Villa’s flanks in the first ten minutes, but they couldn’t find a good cross into the box.

Brad Guzan in that time was forced into a fantastic save when Dimitar Berbatov put his head to a corner, but the 29-year-old keeper athletically kept the Bulgarian out.

Villa had clearly decided to play on the counter, like they had so many times before successfully on the road.  Christian Benteke found himself a chance in the 13th minute but couldn’t put his header accurately onto a cross from Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Benteke then three minutes later again found space in the box but Maarten Stekelenburg saved well down low to his left.

Things started to get hectic for the Villa defense just before 20 minutes as Ashkan Dejagah received a long ball in the box and was free on net but Cieran Clark made a last-ditch tackle among penalty shouts for Fulham, and Kacaniklic’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Nathan Baker.

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Giorgis Karagounis partnered beautifully with Scott Parker and put in a fantastic midfield shift.

The disorganization of the visitors at the back finally hurt them in the 21st minute.  Giorgis Karagounis won the ball in Villa’s third, and a great touch by Berbatov found Dejagah then Steve Sidwell who cut home from a very tight angle.

It got better for the home side eight minutes later as a beautiful touch by Berbatov on the counter sprung Kacaniklic all alone.  Leandro Bacuna caught up as Kacaniklic settled and broke, but the Swede stuck his body between ball and defender, and Bacuna brought him down.  What looked to be a soft penalty was shown to be the correct decision on replay.

Berbatov then took the penalty and, in his usual cool self, calmly finished past Guzan for a 2-0 lead.

The second half was more of the same, with Guzan needing to sprawl to his left to save a Philippe Senderos header within the first five minutes after the break.

Fulham didn’t find as many chances as in the first half, but they controlled possession and midfield, and Aston Villa wasted chance after chance with poor set pieces and sloppy passing on the counter.

John Arne Riise on 65 minutes just missed wide with a header after Dejagah found him with a long cross, and the Iranian himself had a shot saved by Guzan minutes later with space and the goal gaping.

It was all Fulham from that point on, with Riise failing to get past Guzan on two other occasions, and chances also falling for Berbatov and Dejagah.

The only real chance for Aston Villa came as Abgonlahor was possibly fouled in the edge of the box by Aaron Hughes on 84 mintues.  There was slight contact on Agbonlahor’s foot, but the striker didn’t help himself by going down theatrically. Mike Dean waved it off.

The win for Fulham is massive, as they move above Crystal Palace into 17th and look bright for the second straight match. Villa also halts a streak, one of five straight unbeaten marked by just their second away loss of the season.

Christian Benteke remains goalless for nine straight matches now.

GOALS:

Fulham – Sidwell 21′, Berbatov (pen) 30′

LINEUPS:

Fulham – Stekelenburg; Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise; Parker, Karagounis (Kasami, 75′), Sidwell; Kacaniklic (Duff, 76′), Dejagah; Berbatov.

Aston Villa – Guzan; Bacuna, Clark, Baker, Herd (Lowton, 81′); El Ahmadi (Tonev, 45′), Westwood Delph; Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann (Albrighton, 81′).

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET