West Brom 1-1 Everton: Missed opportunity for Roberto Martinez’s Toffees (video)

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Everton missed its chance to spend a few extra days in that enviable fourth spot of the Premier League table following a 1-1 draw Monday at West Brom, where the Pepe Mel era started with a semi-positive result.

Everton, without much pep but mostly in control, took a 1-0 lead at the Hawthorns on Kevin Mirallas’ goal before the break but gradually yielded initiative to the Baggies. Diego Lugano got the first goal in the Mel era – he took over the Midlands club just last week and was debuting Monday as West Brom manager – with a near post equalizer in the 76th minute.

West Brom will need better at home to stay well north of that relegation red line, but a draw with Everton isn’t a bad way to begin. Roberto Martinez’s side stood to have a week or so enjoying life in 4th place (and all that it implies), looking for an opportunity to leapfrog Liverpool and Tottenham with a good afternoon at the Hawthorns.

That “extra time” is because of an FA Cup weekend is ahead. But instead of seeing themselves in the fourth spot though the upcoming FA Cup spell – that 4th place would mean Champions League soccer for Martinez and Co., a high value target for a smaller club like Everton – they’ll remain in 6th, having lost ground in Round 22 to most of teams ahead in the table.

Despite playing at home, West Brom had little of the ball over the first 45 minutes, only bothering Tim Howard once as Everton’s U.S. international comfortably beat away a drive from 20 yards.

A couple other balls went scooting through Howard’s penalty area – mostly from gaps exposed along the flanks as Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines attempted to scoot forward for Everton – but surely not enough to please the new boss.

Everton held the ball enough but seemed to miss the playmaking of injured midfielder Ross Barkley, who is having such a great year under Martinez.

Newly shorn teammate Romelu Lukaku still can’t snap his troubling goalless stretch (the young Belgian hasn’t put one way for Everton since November) but did figure into the visitor’s goal. He was the target as Everton changed up a bit, going long and direct rather than keeping possession along the ground. Mirallas was rampaging into the penalty area as Lukaku was the target of a ball off Everton’s back line.

Two quality touches later, Mirallas’ goal this year was the first between these teams in more than two hours of soccer this season; they played to a scoreless draw back at Goodison Park early in the campaign.

West Brom increased the pressure gradually through the second half and it was Lugano finding the target. The Uruguayan got just a little bit of working room inside Everton defender Sylvain Distin and headed home James Morrison’s driven cross past Howard at the near post.

West Brom’s Nicolas Anelka – notorious of late for controversial quenelle celebration – was bright with ball at his feet but couldn’t find many chances near goal.

LINEUPS

West Brom: Foster, Reid, Lugano, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Morrison, Yacob, Gera (Mulumbu), Vydra (Anichebe 46), Anelka (Berahino 76).

Goal: Lugano 75

Everton: Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman (Stones 79), Barry, McCarthy, Osman (Naismith 89), Oviedo (Mcgeady 80), Mirallas, Lukaku.

Goal: Mirallas 41

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.