Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa: Agbonlahor capitalizes on mistake as wastefulness costs Black Cats

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Lee Cattermole’s horrendous first half saw Aston Villa pounce, and the home side couldn’t find an answer as they drop deeper into relegation darkness.

Sunderland held most of the possession as the visitors played on the break, but with much of the ball they couldn’t find the answer.  Most Sunderland attacking players had at least one good chance, but nobody put it away.

The home side started very brightly, with Emmanuele Giaccherini, Steven Fletcher, and Ki Sung-Yeung all finding themselves with good chances in the first 10 minutes.

Giaccherini dragged inches wide from up front, Fletcher dragged across from a tight angle, and

Ki Dong-Wong also had himself an opportunity but a heavy touch off his chest forced a tighter angle than he would have liked and it went over.

Sunderland held 70% of the possession in the first half, but a mistake on the ball would prove costly.

source: Getty Images
Ki Sung-Yeung had the most opportunities for Sunderland, but nobody could finish as they fell at home.

Lee Cattermole, all alone with the ball at the back, took a heavy touch and Gabriel Agbonlahor pounced and beat the keeper to put Villa shockingly ahead.

The goal leaped the visitors to life, and they broke with a serious cutting edge.  Leandro Bacuna had himself a go after galloping down the wing but dragged wide.

Cattermole nearly gifted Aston Villa a second in the 28th minute, but Leandro Bacuna bailed him out with a quality last-ditch block.

On the other end, Sunderland pressed well at the end of the first half, as Ki came close to scoring on a pair of occasions.

In the second, Sunderland thought they’d gone ahead in the first five minutes but substitute Borini’s goal was ruled out for being a fraction offside. The Italian had come on for the struggling Cattermole at the halftime break.

Villa continued to play on the counter, and it resulted in plenty of Sunderland possession and goal attempts but they couldn’t break through early on.

They nearly had a second on the break though in the 70th minute, as Christian Benteke searched for his first goal since September by beating Valentin Roberge, but a clearance off the line by the head of Phil Bardsley denied him yet again.

A bit of physicality brought the match to a halt as regulation ran out, with Jack Colback retaliating for a foul by Gabriel Agbonlahor with a fierce push. Both received yellows from referee Mike Jones.

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Sunderland had an opportunity to gain ground in the relegation standings, even getting off the bottom of the table, but they fail to do so and remain a point back of West Ham.  Thankfully for Gus Poyet, the Hammers also lost and the Black Cats aren’t far out of reach still.

The win for Villa is an enormous one, bringing them to relative safety for now, up to 23 points in 11th position.

GOALS:

Aston Villa – Agbonlahor 15′

LINEUPS:

Sunderland – Mannone; Celustka, Bardsley, Diakite, Roberge (Johnson 77′); Cattermole (Borini 45′), Ki, Colback, Ji (Altidore 67′), Giaccherini; Fletcher.

Aston Villa – Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar (Albrighton 70′), Baker, Luna, Westwood, Bacuna, Weimann, Delph, Agbonlahor, Benteke.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia