Everton 0-1 Sunderland: Black Cats hang on after Howard’s red card (video)

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Bottom club Sunderland pulled off a huge shock at Goodison Park on Boxing Day, as the Black Cats handed Everton their first home defeat of 2013.

Gus Poyet’s men had the Toffees to thank for grabbing all three points as USMNT ‘keeper was red carded after bringing down Ki Sung-Yueng in the box after Leon Osman was caught in possession.

Ki stepped up and dispatched the decisive spot kick to give Sunderland a 1-0 lead that they hung on to for dear life.

The Mackems had ‘keeper Vito Mannone to thank for their magnificent away win, as the former Arsenal goalkeeper made a string of fine saves to stop the Toffees who put on a brave showing with 10-men. For most of the second half it was all Everton but Bryan Oviedo, Ross Barkley, Phil Jagielka and Romelu Lukaku were all thwarted by Mannone’s heroics.

With the vital three points, Sunderland still remain bottom but are now just three points off safety. As for Everton, the defeat sees them stay in fifth.

The Toffees started on the front foot as Oviedo struck a fierce effort on goal that Mannone saved. Then the game changing moment arrived…

In the 23rd minute disaster struck as Howard was sent off as he played a short ball to Osman on the edge of his own box from a goal kick. Osman was caught in possession by Sunderland’s Ki, and as the South Korean ran in on goal Howard brought him down and was handed a straight-red card by referee Lee Probert.

Joel Robles then replaced Osman, as the Spanish ‘keepers first act was to face Ki’s penalty but the Sunderland man stroked the ball just past Robles’ outstretched right hand to put the Black Cats up 1-0.

(MORE: Boxing Day Roundup)

Everton had dug themselves a massive whole to get out of, as Sunderland sat back and soaked up the pressure easily for the remainder of the first half.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

After the break, Sunderland should have scored in the 48th minute as a ball from the left was knocked down and Modibo Diakite hit his shot over the bar with the goal beckoning.

To Everton’s credit despite being down a man they kept pressing for an equalizer and created plenty of opportunities from set pieces. Jagielka and Lukaku forced Mannone into a magnificent double stop in the 55th minute, as the Toffees spirit shone through.

Barkley came off the bench and made an impact as his long-range effort was palmed away by Mannone as Everton looked the more likely to score throughout the second half. Sunderland’s goalkeeper Mannone was fast becoming man of the match as he pulled off a terrific sprawling stop from Oviedo’s powerful effort that was arrowing towards the top corner.

After all of Everton’s pressure Fletcher was put clean through but he dallied on the ball and the chance came and went.

However the Everton surge continued as Barkely smashed a free kick towards the top corner that Mannone saved brilliantly, then from the following corner Sunderland cleared off the line and Lukaku hit the post late on.

Somehow Sunderland survived to pick up a crucial victory.

LINEUPS

Everton: Howard, Jagielka, Distin, Oviedo, Coleman, Mirallas (Barkley, 45) , McCarthy, Barry, Osman (Robles, 24), Pienaar (Jelavic, 76), Lukaku

Sunderland: Mannone, Celustka, Bardsley, Diakite, Roberge, Cattermole, Ki, Colback (Giaccherini, 70), Larsson, Borini, Fletcher (Altidore, 87)

Goal: Ki (25)

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday