Six-goal win sees Manchester City embarrass West Ham in League Cup

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That Marcos Lopes got to play tells you all you need to know about today’s match in Manchester.

Lopes is an 18-year-old Manchester City academy product. He debuted last year in the FA Cup and added appearance in this year’s League Cup – the entirety of his professional playing career before he was brought on for David Silva in today. Yet up big late against West Ham, Manchester City had the exact scenario they must have envisioned when dressing the young Brazilian-born Portuguese, Lopes able to get 17 minutes in City’s 6-0 League Cup rout of the visiting Hammers.

It was City’s largest win ever over the Hammers, with Manuel Pellegrini’s team outshooting their guests 32-3 over the course of the tie’s first 90 minutes. West Ham managed one shot on goal while the Citizens tested Adrían 11 times, numbers which match the one-sided play evident at the Etihad.

And as embarrassing as Wednesday’s outcome was for Sam Allardyce’s team, they now face the ignominy of playing 90 more minutes before the tie is officially over. Two weeks from now, the teams’ will resume their semifinal at Upton Park, a perfunctory match that will do little to prevent City from appearing at Wembley in March 2’s final.

The teams’ difference in quality was apparent from the opening moments – not unexpected given the teams’ recent form, venue, and the early stages of the 180-minute battle. Still, it took only 12 minutes for City to turn their control into goals, with a long ball from inside his own half by Yaya Touré meeting Álvaro Negredo in the middle of the West Ham area. Not waiting for the ball to drop, the Spanish international nailed a left-footed volley inside Adrían’s left post, giving City an early lead.

Fourteen minutes later, another highlight-worthy goal saw a long pass from right back Pablo Zabaleta flicked on to Edin Dzeko by Negredo, who turned to sprint through the West Ham defense before running onto a through ball from his strike partner. Beating the oncoming keeper to the ball, Negredo finished into the vacated goal to double City’s lead in the 26th minute.

But halftime Touré had added a goal of his own, with Negredo affirming City’s dominance four minutes after half-time be completing his hat trick. Over the match’s final half hour, Dzeko would add two goals of his own, the second coming one minute before full time, completing an unexpectedly easy night for the competition’s favorites.

source: Reuters
West Ham goalkeeper Adriían made five same but still allowed six goals Wednesday in Manchester. (Photo: Reuters.)

It was a matchup unbecoming of a Cup semifinal, let alone one that still has 90 minutes to play. While a City team on pace to set a record for most Premier League goals placed their full talents on display, there was no resistance from a West Ham team whose form continues to regress. Having won only once since Nov. 30, the Hammers are preforming more like a fledgling Championship team than a member of the Premier League, form that will continue to prompt questions about Sam Allardyce’s future at Upton Park.

Throughout the season, West Ham’s lack of healthy strikers has been the excuse, but the problems on display at the Etihad transcend issue at any one position. The 29-shot disparity between City and their guest is something a Premier League team would post against Conference-level opposition. The complete lack of initiative — an unwillingness to fight, even for pride — hints at a squad that’s reached its end mentally. A talented Citizens’ squad certainly deserves some credit for the result, but it’s not too much to expect West Ham to produce better performance in the face of the club’s best chance to win silverware this season.

City’s early goal (and talent) may have created a momentum that cautions against reading too much into one result, but after Wednesday’s embarrassment, West Ham fans may be asking themselves the same questions Spurs fans held in the last days of André Villas-Boas: What has to happen for Allardyce to be replaced?

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

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

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.