Andy Carroll, West Ham

Cardiff City 0-2 West Ham: Victory lifts Irons out of the drop zone (video)

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West Ham’s win at Cardiff may very well have saved Sam Allardyce’s job, at least for the moment. The three points lift the Irons even with today’s opponents, but, by virtue of goal difference, push Cardiff down into the relegation zone. Now it’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who’ll be feeling the pressure, with the new Cardiff manager expected to turn the side around.

The match may have been a relegation six-pointer, but West Ham, three points from safety, were even more in need of a win, and it was evident from the start. With five minutes gone, the visitors had an opportunity of sorts, when Stewart Downing’s cross sailed past his teammates yet connected with the post. James Tomkins tried to get ahold of the rebound, but David Marshall came out to rescue Cardiff.

Shortly thereafter, Guy Demel collided with teammate Roger Johnson, crashing to the ground and lying still. After a lengthy delay, Demel was stretchered off. Reports from West Ham are that he has been admitted to hospital for tests, with more information provided when available.

It was the hosts that looked to be on top for the majority of the first half, yet West Ham went into the break leading thanks to a goal from Carlton Cole. Matt Taylor put the ball out wide, giving Matt Jarvis the chance to send it across the face of goal. Carlton Cole pushed past the Cardiff defense to send the ball into the roof of the net.

Cardiff, out of ideas, were forced to resort to appealing for a penalty during the first half’s injury time, when Craig Noone went down under a challenge from James Tomkins. The referee waved play on, and the hosts went into the break trailing 1-0.

Solskjaer brought on Craig Bellamy to start the second half, hoping the forward’s first appearance in two months might buoy his squad. Cardiff did look lively, pressing for the equalizer throughout the second half. Mark Hudson nearly put in a Bellamy free kick, but his header was high.

Cardiff again appealed for a penalty when George McCartney appeared to handle the ball inside the area, but again they got no sympathy. Lee Mason again waved away appeals when McCartney pawed at Frazier Campbell inside the area.

Campbell must’ve thought he’d gotten his own back when he lashed out a great strike. But Adrian performed an amazing save, managing to tip the ball over the bar to preserve West Ham’s lead.

The hosts finally had a decision go their way when James Tomkins was sent off, earning a second yellow for a high boot. With almost 20 minutes remaining, the Bluebirds’ play made it seem like it’d be just a matter of time before an equalizer.

Instead it was West Ham that grabbed the second goal. Andy Carroll, on for Carlton Cole in the 72nd minute, slipped a neat ball in to Mark Noble. Noble’s low shot nestled into the far corner, securing all three points for the Irons.

Cardiff City: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Hudson (Cornelius 78) Caulker, John, Whittingham, Medel (Eikrem 65), Kim, Noone, Campbell, Odemwingie (Bellamy 45)

West Ham: Adrian, Tomkins, Jarvis, Rat, Collison (Diarra 75), Taylor, Noble, Demel (McCartney 17), Downing, C Cole (Carroll 72), Johnson

Goals: Carlton Cole 42′; Noble 93′

EFL Cup Final preview: Saints aim to deny Manchester United, Mourinho

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28:  Vincent Kompany of Manchester City and team mate Pablo Zabaleta celebrate victory with the trophy after the Capital One Cup Final match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 28, 2016 in London, England. Manchester City win 3-1 on penalties.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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With the Community Shield in tow, Jose Mourinho aims for his first full tournament trophy as Manchester United boss when his Red Devils meet Southampton at 11:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.

Wembley Stadium is the venue for the EFL Cup Final, a trophy United has claimed four times. The last one came in 2010, as the Red Devils clinched their third League Cup in five seasons.

[ JPW: Southampton comes full circle ]

Sunday marks Southampton’s first final since 1979, when Saints fell 3-2 to Nottingham Forest.

Saints continue to make due without Virgil Van Dijk and Charlie Austin, but newcomers Manolo Gabbiadini, Sofiane Boufal, and Martin Caceres could all feature on Friday.

Gabbiadini almost certainly will, and he’s been a difference maker for Saints since arriving from Napoli. The 25-year-old has three goals in two Premier League matches.

[ MORE: Projected lineups for EFL Cup final ] 

United will not have Henrikh Mkhitaryan back after the Armenian midfielder limped off the pitch midweek, but fellow walking wounded star Michael Carrick will be back for the Red Devils. Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera, and Eric Bailly will be available.

The Red Devils won the FA Cup last season and the league in 2012-13. Mourinho has three League Cups from his time at Chelsea.

But Antonio Valencia says that United has to act like this is a chance for a new era. From ManUtd.com:

“We have to forget about the fact that we might have won there three, four or five times,” he added. “We have to put that to one side. This is another final, and a totally different story. We cannot afford to make one single mistake, this is a final and we cannot lose our concentration for even one minute.”

Saints will be underdogs for this one, but this trophy isn’t alien to avoiding the hands of the big boys as we’ve seen with Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, and Swansea City since the turn of the century.

Claudio Ranieri issues classy goodbye to Leicester City

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Claudio Ranieri has issued a statement on his somewhat surprising firing from Leicester City, less than 10 months after winning the Premier League title.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Swans preview ]

The Italian manager with a knack of word play pulls on the heart-strings in discussing his exit from Leicester, a club he did not plan to leave any time soon.

From the Leicester Mercury:

Yesterday my dream died.

After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions all I dreamed of was staying with Leicester city, the club I love, for always.

Sadly, this was not to be.

He went on to thank his family, Leicester City, saving the kindest words for the Foxes’ supporters.

No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.

It has been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.

No surprise to read class from Claudio. Read the full statement here.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 11:  Chelsea manager Antonio Conte battles to get the ball back with Cesar Apilicueta (r) from Swansea forward Modou Barrow during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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  • Chelsea leads all-time 14W-11D-7L
  • Sides drew 2-2 in September
  • Swans unbeaten vs Blues since Jan ’15

Premier League leaders Chelsea face a resurgent Swansea City side which has given it fits (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues have dropped points in two of their last three Premier League matches, and also have two draws and a loss to Swans in the past three match-ups.

Swansea has won three of four in Premier League play, the lone setback a 2-1 loss to Manchester City. New manager Paul Clement has led Swans from deep in the relegation zone to four points clear of the drop zone.

To succeed, Swans will have to avoid conceding often and early. According to Chelsea’s club statistician:

Conte’s players have scored the opening goal more times than any other Premier League team this season (19) and have yet to lose (16 wins, three draws).

What they’re saying

Antonio Conte on former Chelsea assistant Clement“He has had a great impact on the team. Also, with the transfer window, they reinforced the team, and we must pay great attention. If you watch their games against Liverpool, against Man City, you understand the difficulty of the game. I am sure my players understand this. They have worked very well to face them in the right way.”

Clement on staring down Chelsea“I have said to the players that yes we have put ourselves in a good position, but how hard are we willing to work to make sure we continue to improve? How much do we want to avoid suffering at the end of the season? Because unless we keep winning games and progressing up the table, we are going to find ourselves in a position where we need, say, four points from the last two games of the season.”

Prediction

Stamford Bridge will be the difference here, as Chelsea keeps it tight against Swans. 2-0.

PREVIEW: Tottenham Hotspur’s “To Dare Is To Do”

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The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.

With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]

Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.