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Sunderland 2-2 Southampton: Black Cats fight back to grab draw (video)

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A pulsating clash at the Stadium of Light saw both teams leave with a point, as Southampton squandered an early 2-0 lead following a courageous comeback from Sunderland.

Jay Rodriguez put Saints 1-0 up after just three minutes with a rasping drive from outside the box, and the away side doubled their lead when Dejan Lovren hooked home impressively from a corner in the 31st minute. But just one minute later Fabio Borini pulled a goal back for a below par Sunderland, as the home side finished the first half on top after Southampton had dominated.

In the second half the game was much more even as Gus Poyet’s substitute’s brought an added punch to their attack and in the 71st minute Adam Johnson bagged his fourth goal in two games to seal a 2-2 draw.

Southampton stay in ninth with 31 points, while Sunderland occupy 18th and have 18 points.

Southampton started brightly after a turbulent week off the field, and kept the ball comfortably for the the first few minutes as Sunderland were chasing the game from the start.

The Saints made all of that early play count, as after just three minutes Rodriguez brought the ball down on the edge of the box, took one touch to tee himself up andthen  smashed a low pile driver into the bottom corner to send the traveling fans wild and put Southampton 1-0 up. The sublime effort was Rodriguez’ ninth PL goal of the season, as Saints’ leading goalscorer put all the teams off-field worries to bed within the first five minutes.

After that early goal the home side seemed a little shocked, as Southampton controlled possession and looked extremely comfortable. Wave after wave of Saints attack arrived as Rodriguez had an effort blocked after a sweeping move down the visitors right saw the England international go close, then left back Luke Shaw saw his deflected effort hit the post in the 17th minute.

Sunderland were lucky to only be 1-0 down, as Rickie Lambert and Morgan Schneiderlin played a terrific one-two that saw the former drag his shot just wide in the 21st minute as the England forward should have put Saints 2-0 up. Relentless pressure kept coming forward, as Rodriguez had a great chance to score his second in the 28th minute when Lambert played him through but the forward fluffed his lined and hot the shot straight at Vito Mannone.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

Finally Saints did grab a second as Croatian international Lovren acrobatically hooked home from a Lallana corner after 30 minutes, as the away side led 2-0 after their complete domination. But just over 60 seconds later Sunderland were back in the game after their first effort on goal resulted in Borini stabbing home from Adam Johnson’s inviting cross to make it 2-1.

The Stadium of Light came to life, as the half time whistle signified plenty of hope for the home fans.

At the start of the second half Sunderland were visibly buoyed by only being one goal behind as some pressure from set-pieces saw them try to get back into the game. However Saints stepped it up once again, as Rodriguez went close on two more occasions as the away side looked to put the game away.

In the 64th minute Borini thought he’d grabbed his and Sunderland’s second goal of the game and pulled the Black Cats level, but as he raced through on goal the referee’s assistant raised his flag for a marginally correct offside call. The Mackems were much better in the second and half and really dug in to try and get back in the game.

They did just that in the 71st minute as Johnson was found on the right hand side of the box and his powerful near post shot somehow squirmed past Artur Boruc and into the top corner to make it 2-2. Sunderland were in the ascendancy as the game came reached its climax.

Worrying injuries for Gaston Ramirez and Lovren saw the game stopped for a large spell wit both players leaving the field on stretchers, as seven minutes of injury-time didn’t yield a win for either side in an hugely entertaining game.

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Alonso, Ki, Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole (Gardner, 62), Larsson (Colback, 63), Johnson, Borini, Altidore (Fletcher, 72)

Goals: Borini (31), Johnson (71)

Southampton: Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren (Yoshida, 88), Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Lallana (Ramirez 74 – Ward Prowse, 88) , Rodriguez, Lambert

Goals: Rodriguez (3), Lovren (30)

Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must

Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC
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Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is used to big matches, whether at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgian national team or during his loan to Atletico Madrid.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Courtois “standing tall” at Chelsea ]

If he doesn’t get one or two of those contests by the end of this season, a bad season will become an utter failure.

Courtois says it’s a long way to the Top Four, but Chelsea hasn’t given up on that hope. Regardless, he’s targeting wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, respectively.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“After that we play in the Champions League and FA Cup against two great sides and we have to try to win those games because the only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them.”

Chelsea’s star has fallen this year, but this is still largely the team that won the Premier League last season. Courtois’ goals are not unreasonable.

LIVE – West Ham vs. Liverpool in FA Cup 4th round replay

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool is watched by Dimitri Payet of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on January 30, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Two Premier League teams clash in the FA Cup on Tuesday with a place in the last 16 on the line.

West Ham United welcome Liverpool to Upton Park (Follow live, 2:45 p.m. ET) following the 0-0 draw between the teams at Anfield 10 days ago.

[ LIVE: Follow West Ham-Liverpool here

Slaven Bilic‘s side will fancy their chances of getting past an injury-hit Liverpool squad and creating another famous FA Cup memory in their final season at the Boleyn Ground. With Dimitri Payet in contract negotiations about extending his stay at the Hammers, can the French playmaker lead them to a big win?

After missing Liverpool’s late collapse on Saturday during the 2-2 draw with Sunderland due to a bout of suspected appendicitis, manager Jurgen Klopp will return to the dugout. The German coach has already guided the Reds to one Wembley final during his debut season in charge as they face Manchester City in the League Cup final in less than three weeks time.

The winner of this clash will travel to second-tier Blackburn Rovers and they’ll be heavy favorites to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Click on the link above to follow the game live, plus we will have a recap, reaction and analysis following the encounter in east London.

State of the USMNT: What is Klinsmann’s best XI for World Cup qualifiers?

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With the U.S. men’s national team ending their January camp with two narrow friendly wins over Iceland and Canada, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff will now be sitting back and thinking: “What did we learn? Who impressed? Who struggled?”

Or something like that.

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Each year the January camp provides domestic based players — mostly from Major League Soccer but a sprinkling of other guys too — with the chance to impress Klinsmann and his staff in close quarters for multiple weeks in California. Many current U.S. regulars earned their stripes in January’s gone by and have established themselves ever since.

This January was no different as the experienced core of players — Michael Bradley, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore among them — showed their class and several promising players worked hard to get minutes in the friendlies.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

However, despite some glimmers of hope from youngsters such as Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter, what we learned about the USMNT heading into the two CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March is that the established players remain the best hope for success. Sure, the likes of John Brooks is impressing in the Bundesliga, Matt Miazga sealed a move to Chelsea and Lee Nguyen took his chance in January camp, but the old guard should remain in place through this next batch of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala home and away on Mar. 25 and 29 and the Copa America Centenario this summer.

Question marks remain regarding some veterans, which could keep the situation a little more fluid than it should be.

One of those is Tim Howard with speculation of him moving away from Everton mounting plus a straight-up battle between Howard and Brad Guzan for the starting spot, while Clint Dempsey‘s status with the national team still seems to be somewhat clouded. Overall, though, the settled core of players who played together at the World Cup — plus or minus a few who have performed consistently over the last 18 months — should be kept together by Klinsmann. During last summer’s Gold Cup disappointment there was plenty of experimenting, especially in defense, but now is the time to settle things down and realize the following guys are the players you should count on going forward.

Below is my selection — feel free to select your own in the comments section — for the best XI available to Klinsmann, plus seven subs, assuming everyone is fit and available.

USMNT’s Best XI as of Feb. 9, 2016

—– Howard —–

— F. Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Ream —

—- Bradley —- Williams —-

—- Bedoya —- Dempsey —- Zardes —-

—– Altidore —–

Subs: Guzan, Brooks, Jones, Yedlin, Nagbe, Morris, Johannsson

Ahead of huge title clash, influential Leicester scout transfers to Arsenal

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Ben Wrigglesworth might not be a man you’ve heard a lot about, but he has been influential in helping Leicester City’s unlikely charge to the top of the Premier League.

Now, he’s been poached by Leicester’s main title rivals: Arsenal.

[ MORE: Spurs, Arsenal to battle for title?

Ahead of the monster clash between the Foxes and Gunners at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the man who unearthed the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante has transferred to Arsenal and is now their First Team Video Scout.

Wrigglesworth, Leicester’s former Head of Technical Scouting, announced he would be leaving the Foxes via his Twitter page (see below) and he has now accepted a new role as part of Steve Rowley’s team at Arsenal.

It is believed he will not only help with the scouting of players but will also analyze Arsenal’s first team and the opposition.

[ MORE: Recapping Week 25 in the PL ]

Arsenal will unveil a new player performance center at their training HQ this summer and have recently purchased a soccer data company based in America, statDNA, to help them with scouting and player analysis.

With several Premier League teams now having huge player databases monitored by a team of talented individuals — often, like Wrigglesworth, with no pro playing experience — scouring the globe for the next bargain, the Moneyball vibe is strong.