West Ham 3-3 West Brom: Plenty of excitement in Saturday’s first Premier League match (video)

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With both sides fighting to avoid relegation, this match could’ve easily been a drab, goalless draw. Indeed, neither team walked away with all three points, but the six goals scored sure made it fun for the neutrals.

It was West Ham that took the lead before five minutes were up. After Chris Brunt hit the side netting, the Irons took advantage, sprinting up the pitch with a quick counter-attack. Kevin Nolan got on the end of a headed pass from Carlton Cole, and both Diego Lugano and Jonas Olsson focused their attention on Nolan. Joe Cole was able to slip through unnoticed and slice the ball into the bottom right corner.

But the hosts’ lead was canceled out by the halftime whistle, thanks to two goals from Nicolas Anelka. West Ham were caught out on a rare foray forward, with Brunt easily able to thread a ball through the defense to Anelka. The 34 year old had looked rather sluggish for much of the match, yet he was able to get behind Joey O’Brien to put in the equalizer.

Just five minutes later, just before the halftime whistle blew, Anelka had their second. This time it came courtesy of a corner that the Irons believed should never have been given. Carlton Cole was able to block a header from Olsson, but the ball fell to Anelka’s feet. The Frenchman had no difficulty turning it in from close range.

The second half brought more excitement than the first. Right from the start it was clear the visitors weren’t going to simply sit back and defend their lead, with Anelka forcing Jääskeläinen into a save just a few minutes after the restart. Minutes later, Saido Berahino went just wide with an angled drive.

Yet it was West Ham that got the next goal. Modibo Maiga, on for Carlton Cole at the break, forced Ben Foster into an acrobatic save in the 64th minute. But just a minute later, Foster’s error allowed Maiga to equalize for the Irons. Lugano could do nothing to stop Nolan, who easily breezed past the defender to tap over to Maiga. The forward’s shot seemed rather speculative, but Foster tried to push it away rather than simply blocking, and the ball wiggled through.

Barely two minutes later, the hosts put themselves in front once more. Kevin Nolan sent the ball over the Baggies defense to the far post, where Maiga lept to head down to Nolan. The West Ham captain slotted in from close range, putting his side ahead with his second goal of the season.

But West Ham’s defense were unable to prevent the visitors from scoring once more. After the third goal, Keith Downing changed up his formation by replacing Lugano with an attacker, Morgan Amalfitano. The change worked – just a minute later, the Baggies had their equalizer. Brunt had a hand in this one as well, setting free Berahino. The forward, who’d been excellent for much of the match, easily outstripped Guy Demel to put in West Brom’s third.

With a point helping neither side all that much, both pressed on for another goal. With less than ten minutes left to play, Berahino smacked his shot against the post, wasting an opportunity for West Brom to take all three points. Kevin Nolan very nearly got a second, but headed it over the bar instead.

West Ham United: Jääskeläinen, Raț, McCartney, Tomkins (Demel 10), O’Brien, Diamé , Noble, Jarvis, Nolan, J. Cole (Collison 83), C. Cole (Maiga 45)

Goals: J. Cole 4′; Maiga 64′; Nolan 67′

West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Lugano (Amalfitano 68), Ridgewell; Morrison (Yacob 78), Mulumbu, Brunt; Anelka, Berahino (Sessegnon 85)

Goals: Anelka 40 & 45′; Berahino 69′

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.