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?

Ajax reunion at Palace as De Boer signs center back

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Crystal Palace has added much needed depth and youth to its corps of center backs with 20-year-old Ajax man Jairo Riedewald.

The left back in Ajax’s UEFA Europa League loss to Manchester United, Riedewald completed better than 92 percent of his passes in Eredivisie play. He also nabbed 2.2 interceptions per match.

[ MORE: Russia’s straw stadium ]

Fellow Palace center backs James Tompkins, Scott Dann, and Damien Delaney average age is 31.3.

Riedewald played for Palace boss Frank De Boer at Ajax. From Palace’s official site:

“He will be an excellent addition to our squad, Jairo is a young player but already has a lot of experience. I know he is looking forward to playing in the Premier League.”

Riedewald played the majority of his Eredivisie matches at center back, but has 18 appearances as a defensive midfielder and another 12 at left back.

He’s Palace’s second addition of this summer, the other being a loan of Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea.

Russian farmer’s straw stadium pokes fun at World Cup costs

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KRASNOYE, Russia (AP) Russia is desperate to control its spending on the 2018 World Cup, and a farmer might just have the answer – straw.

In a project straight out of the “Three Little Pigs” fairytale, Roman Ponomaryov has built a straw replica of the 43 billion ruble ($700 million) stadium in St. Petersburg which will host World Cup semifinals.

His arena made of 4,500 straw bales comes with tiered seating for 300 and flagpoles. It hosted its first tournament – for local teams only – last weekend using modified soccer rules.

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“It’s good to get people excited and create a sports atmosphere ahead of the World Cup,” Ponomaryov said in a recent interview.

The real St. Petersburg Stadium has drawn ire for its cost, corruption scandals, delays, and workers’ deaths.

Ponomaryov is a fan of the Zenit St. Petersburg club and says he modeled his straw stadium on Zenit’s new home in a gentle dig at the problems around the construction.

“It seemed pretty strange … how the cost of the stadium and its construction timeframe were increasing,” he said. Russia’s total World Cup budget is around $10.7 billion.

Zenit has accepted the straw stadium with good humor, offering Ponomaryov a ticket to a game at the real thing.

The harvest will keep him on the farm for the next few weeks, though, and he has in mind another project – organizing a Straw World Cup.

Spain’s sports court opens disciplinary procedure vs. Villar

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Spain’s administrative court for sport has initiated disciplinary procedures against Spanish Football Federation president Angel Maria Villar after he was arrested and jailed in a corruption probe.

The opening of the disciplinary procedure on Monday clears the way for Spain’s sports authority, the Higher Council of Sport, to rule whether it will temporarily suspend Villar when they meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT).

The court’s decision had been expected since Thursday, when the Higher Council of Sport asked the court to act against Villar following his arrest.

Villar, his son Gorka, federation vice president Juan Padron, and Ramon Hernandez, the secretary of the regional football federation of Tenerife, were arrested last Tuesday when police raided the national federation’s headquarters and other properties.

The four were arrested on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

National Court judge Santiago Pedraz ordered last week that the Villars and Padron remain in jail without bail after questioning them. Hernandez’s bail was set at 100,000 euros ($116,000).

The elder Villar is FIFA’s senior vice president and also a vice president of UEFA. He’s been president of the Spanish federation since 1988.

Judge Pedraz said the 67-year-old Villar is suspected of misappropriating private and public funds received by the federation “at least since 2009.”

MLS rejected $4 billion deal which wanted promotion/relegation

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Major League Soccer has confirmed it brushed aside a $4 billion TV deal which insisted on promotion and relegation coming into place in North America’s top-flight.

A report from the Sports Business Journal stated that the owner of NASL side Miami FC Riccardo Silva gave a presentation to the league and owners on June 26, offering a 10-year deal for the domestic and international TV rights from 2023 with one clause: promotion and relegation had to become commonplace in MLS.

Of course, Silva, who founded the media company MP & Silva who put in the bid, would love for there to be promotion and relegation in MLS as his team cannot currently rise above the second-tier NASL.

Jeff Carlisle from ESPN has the following statement from Dan Courtemanche, MLS executive vice president of communications.

“As was stated to Mr. Silva both in person and in a subsequent letter, Major League Soccer is prohibited contractually from engaging in discussions about our media rights with other distributors. We are not in a position, nor are we interested, in engaging with Mr. Silva on his proposal.”

“It is also important to note that since its inception, MLS, like the other North American leagues, has dealt directly with its domestic broadcast partners, rather than through agents and brokers. This ensures that the league and its partners can structure an agreement that addresses all elements, such as scheduling, marketing and digital distribution, that are required for a successful partnership.”

This deal would quadruple the current annual TV deal MLS has with Fox, ESPN and Univision, but it has been stated that no new deal can be discussed until at least 2021.

With cities across the U.S. and Canada lining up to pay the $150 million MLS expansion fee, league commission Don Garber has stated multiple times that promotion and relegation is not needed in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

With USL and NASL now both second-tier, the only way they can become a top-tier franchise is by buying into MLS with two markets set to be selected later this year from 12 current expansion bids, plus David Beckham’s franchise in Miami still pushing ahead with plans to join the league.