Late Jarvis, Maiga goals see West Ham past Tottenham, into League Cup semifinals


Two goals in six minutes late at White Hart Lane have put West Ham into the League Cup semifinals, with Tottenham’s first match post-André Villas Boas ending with elimination from England’s second cup competition. Despite a 67th minute opener from Emmanuel Adebayor, Spurs were upset by goals from Matthew Jarvis and Modibo Maiga, Tim Sherwood’s debut as Tottenham’s caretaker ending in disappointment.

Though Spurs changed formation and brought the likes of Adebayor back into the team, the performance had many of the hallmarks of their previous troubles. A team that was able to dominate possession with a skill level clear superior to its opposition’s was unable to generate enough chances on goal, putting four attempts on target despite holding 68 percent of the ball. West Ham, however, dominating the final stages of the match, finished with eight hosts on goal, their pressure paying off with a late, comeback victory at the expense of a suspect Spurs defense.

The Hammers join Manchester City, Manchester United, and Sunderland in the League Cup semifinals, with Sam Allardyce’s team set to face the Citizens in the round of four. Spurs, on the other hand, are out of a competition they last won in 2008, their new coach unable to reverse the team’s coach after Monday’s firing of Villas-Boas.

[MORE: Young’s blast, Evra’s insurance see Manchester United into League Cup semifinals]

[MORE: Manchester City advance, Chelsea bounced in League Cup]

The match marked the debut of Sherwood as caretaker manager, who ushered in the post-Villas-Boas era by starting Adebayor and Jermaine Defoe at forward, changing Spurs’ formation to feature two strikers up front. Gylfi Sigurdsson was partnered with Moussa Dembélé in a two-man midfield supported by Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon wide, another choice that would have been unlikely under Tottenham’s recently deposed boss.

The selection produced some lopsided first half statistics but no change on the scoreboard. Spurs held 72 percent of the ball and outshot West Ham 11-2, with Andros Townshend proving particularly effective down the left. But with each side only managing one shot on target, the game began its second half scoreless, Sherwood’s possession-hogging, goalless progress matching his predecessor’s possession-hogging, goalless failings.

source: AP
Modibo Maiga came on in the second half to contribute to West Ham’s equalizer and score the Hammers’ winner, sending the East London side into the League Cup semifinals. (Photo: AP)

By the opening of the second, West Ham was playing a bigger part in the game, yet come the hour, a more contested match still lacked in chances. James Collins’ blast from the edge of the Hammers’ attacking third had doubled his team’s tries on target, but Spurs had yet to re-test second choice keeper Adrían in the visitors’ goal. With the Hammers getting more chances to play balls down the field, there was the increasing threat of the match being stolen from the hosts.

Those fears appeared to be quelled in the 67th minute when Sherwood’s recall of Adebayor paid off. After Defoe had claimed a ball down the left, streaking deep into the Spurs’ attacking third, a bullet cross found an open Adebayor at the far post. Drilling a volley into the right side of goal, the formerly-forgotten striker gave Spurs what seemed a well-deserved lead.

But over the rest of the match’s final half-hour, West Ham proved the better side, that threat of theft coming good on Jarvis’s 80th minute goal. On a long ball from Adrían, Maiga flicked a header on to Matthew Taylor, who swept a pass across the penalty area to Jarvis on the left. The former Wolverhampton winger’s quick shot gave Hugo Lloris little chance to get across goal, the Hammers’ equalizer finishing in the top of Tottenham’s net.

Five minutes later, Sherwood’s debut was ruined, with a cross from the right finding Maiga for a surprisingly simple winner. Playing the ball out wide, West Ham found substitute Mohamed Diamé, who saw no pressure before targeting Maiga just outside of the six-yard box. In between defenders, Maiga had space to head his shot down and inside the left post, putting West Ham into the semifinals.

In a six-minute stretch, all the control Spurs had exerted throughout the match — control that seemed to come good with Adebayor’s opener — faded into insignificance. Though it wasn’t a 6-0 or 5-0 loss, it was a cup-eliminating defeat to a team that’s seen little other success this year. For the second time this season, Tottenham’s fallen to West Ham, with this defeat costing them their spot in the League Cup.

Serie A: Napoli go top for first time in 25 years; Inter a close 2nd

Gonzalo Higuain, SSC Napoli
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A quick roundup of Monday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

Napoli 2-1 Inter Milan

For the first time since the final day of the 1989-90 season, Napoli are top of Serie A all by themselves after a top-of-the-table clash with previous leaders Inter Milan.

Gonzalo Higuain bagged both goals for the Azzurri, the first of which came after just 65 seconds. His tally on 62 minutes held up as the game-winner after Adem Ljajic pulled one back for Roberto Mancini’s side in the 67 minute. The opener (below video) was a powerful finish from inside the penalty area which served as a strong reminder as to why a club like Arsenal is consistently linked to the Argentine striker.

Sassuolo 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina, who had a chance to stake their own claim to the top spot, dropped two points away to seventh-place Sassuolo earlier in the day, opening the door for Napoli to go top with their victory. After shooting out of the gates red hot (6 wins in their first 7 games), the Viola have now drawn back to back games — to Empoli and Sassuolo — and find themselves third, two points behind Napoli.

Borja Valero put Fiorentina ahead after five minutes on Monday, but Sassuolo equalized through Sergio Floccari just before halftime to keep their own dreams of European qualification alive.

Serie A table

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.