Sunderland 1-0 Stoke City: Johnson goal enough to down 10-man Potters (video)

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An early goal from Adam Johnson combined with Steve N’Zonzi’s second half dismissal saw Sunderland claim their third win in six league games, a run that’s vaulted the Black Cats out of the bottom three for the first time this season. After their 1-0 victory over Stoke City at the Stadium of Light, the team’s first home win in two months, Gus Poyet’s team sit 17th, the team’s fifth win of the season continuing its revival its new boss.

For Stoke, a spirited effort to equalize while reduced to 10 could not overshadow a match where the Potters were largely ineffective. Over the game’s first 30 minutes, Stoke were in danger of being played off the pitch, and while a surge in play around halftime gave the visitors reason for hope, N’Zonzi’s early second half sending off proved too much to overcome.

A dominant start for Sundland paid off in the 16th minute when a shot from Fabio Borini was left in front of goal by Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Unable to do more with a relatively easy shot, Begovic left Johnson an easy finish, with the Black Cats winger taking one touch before tapping the opener in off the inside of the right post.

The score continues a resurgence that’s put Johnson in the discussion for a spot on England’s World Cup squad. What Roy Hodgson has to say about that prospect remains to be heard, but with five goals in his last four appearances, Johnson has become the biggest individual beneficiary of Poyet’s arrival – the hottest winger in the Premier League.

The Black Cats maintained their unfettered control through the half hour mark, though even after Stoke started to muster an attacking threat, the Potters were unable to create their own chances on Vito Mannone. The closest they came to equalizing saw Mannone drop a cross after a collision with teammate John O’Shea, with the Black Cats keeper forced to make a sprawling save when Peter Crouch beat him to the loose ball.

After a brief Stoke surge coming out of the dressing rooms, Sunderland resumed their controlling ways, play that eventually saw Stoke reduced to 10 men. Having picked up a yellow card in the first half, defensive midfielder Steve N’Zonzi was dismissed after bringing down Jozy Altidore. After the Sunderland forward got inside N’Zonzi on a ball played over the Potters defense, the French midfielder elected to take the American down rather than let him go in for a potentially game-sealing goal.

Predictably, 10-man Stoke were no more effective than the 11-man Potters. Within moments of N’Zonzi’s dismissal, Begovic was called on to make a point blank stop on Altidore, with a cross flashed across the face of goal minutes later giving Sunderland another chance to double their lead. Though they remained within striking distance,, Stoke showed little sign of being able to pull back their hosts.

Things changed over the match’s last quarter hour, with Stoke generating a number of half-changes on Mannone. Their closest try came in the 83rd minute when a cross from the right found Ryan Shawcross in the middle of the area. Though the arcing header hit the top of the crossbar, it never had a chance to beat Mannone, who would finish the match with five saves.

The final numbers hint at a close match, with the teams nearly matching each other in shots, shots on goal, and possession. In reality, Sunderland controlled the match throughout the night, and while Stoke made a push to steal a draw late, Begovic’s early error ended up deciding the match.

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Vito Mannone, Phil Bardsley (Ondrej Celustka 45′), Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Marcos Alonso, Ki Sung-Yueng, Jack Colback, Sebastian Larsson, Adam Johnson (Craig Gardner 87′), Fabio Borini, Jozy Altidore (Steven Fletcher 67′)

Goals: Johnson (16′)

Stoke City: Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson, Erik Pieters, Peter Odemwingie (John Guidetti 90′), Steve N’Zonzi, Charlie Adam, Oussama Assaidi (Marko Arnautovic 72′), Peter Crouch (Jon Walters 65′)

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.