Cardiff City 0-0 Aston Villa: Villans denied by battling Bluebirds (video)

Leave a comment

.

Cardiff City grabbed a crucial point at home on Tuesday against Aston Villa, as the away side dominated for large periods but came up against a stubborn Bluebirds defense in the 0-0 draw.

Fabian Delph, Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor all came close to scoring but Cardiff ‘keeper David Marshall was in inspired form to keep Villa’s attackers at bay with a last gasp stop salvaging a draw for the home side.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Bluebirds struck the woodwork twice in quick succession in the first half, as Fraizer Campbell and Craig Noone were both denied an opener, but in truth the Welsh outfit will be pleased to take a point home from this one.

With the draw Cardiff stay in 19th but are just two points from safety on 22. While Villa are 11th on 28 points.

(Latest Premier League Standings)

Villa started the better of the two sides, as the Villans young squad looked pacey on the break and caused Cardiff plenty of early problems.

But the home side settled down well and in the 12th minute they came agonizingly close to opening the scoring, as Campbell dinked his effort over Brad Guzan but the USMNT ‘keeper got a touch as the ball clipped off the post and away. Then Villa failed to clear and the ball came back to Noone moments later, but the the winger saw his shot deflect onto the crossbar and over.

Cardiff were unlucky not to get a penalty soon after, as Nathan Baker grabbed hold of Kenwyne Jones but appeals were waved away, then moments later Villa fought back as Christian Benteke headed goalwards but failed to work Cardiff ‘keeper David Marshall.

After 30 minutes Cardiff were forced into a change as Magnus Wolff Eikrem replaced the injured Jordon Mutch in midfield. Minutes later a corner was met by Ben Turner and Manchester United loanee Wilfried Zaha controlled and finished superbly… but the goal was chalked off as Zaha was in an offside position.

The rest of the first half played out evenly, in a tense affair between two teams battling for their lives at the wrong end of the table.

At the start of the second half Villa tried to pin Cardiff back, but Campbell was lively up front for the Bluebirds and created a chance for himself by turning Villa’s defense inside out but then dragged his shot wide after 52 minutes. However Villa were beginning to take a stranglehold on the game as Marc Albrighton and Leandro Bacuna saw plenty of the ball out wide as the Bluebirds dropped deeper and deeper.

Villa should have been 1-0 up just after the hour mark, as a lovely one-two saw Bacuna raced clear but instead of slotting the ball across to a wide-open Christian Benteke, the Villa midfielder dragged his shot wide. Up the other end a brief foray forward saw Jones head a great cross from the right goalwards, but Guzan saved comfortably.

In the 77th minute it was Marshall’s turn to make a save, and it was a spectacular stop as Delph’s effort was deflected by Steven Caulker and Cardiff’s ‘keeper reacted superbly to push the ball wide of the post. In the 80th minute Gabriel Agbonlahor was the latest Villa player to spurn a good chance, as he dawdled on the ball and Cardiff were able to clear.

The best of Marshall’s saves came in stoppage time, as the ball found itself to Weimann at the back post and a deflection looked to have the ball going past Marshall, but somehow the Cardiff ‘keeper sprung to his right to tip the ball over and grab his team a vital point.

LINEUPS

Cardiff City: Marshall; Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, John; Zaha (Daehli, 61), Mutch (Wolff Eikrem, 32), Medel, Noone; Campbell, Jones

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett (Weimann, 70), Bertrand, Westwood, Albrighton, Delph, Benteke, Agbonlahor

Aguero left off Argentina starting XI to face Bolivia

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sao Paolo striker Lucas Pratto will receive a fantastic opportunity on Tuesday when Argentina faces Bolivia in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT travels to Panama in CONCACAF WCQ ]

It just so happens that Pratto’s gain is a major letdown for one of the Premier League’s top strikers. The 28-year-old is tied for second this qualifying campaign for Argentina with two goals.

La Albiceleste have announced their starting lineup ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Bolivia, which features mainstays Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Meanwhile, Aguero — who started in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday — is the lone change from manager Edgardo Bauza.

The Copa America runners’ up are currently depleted with a combination of injuries and suspensions. Four players will miss Tuesday’s meeting in La Paz due to suspension, including Gonzalo Higuain, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia.

Elsewhere, Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas will each miss the match after sustaining respective hamstring and knee injuries.

Argentina currently sits third in the CONMEBOL table while Bolivia is in danger of elimination with a loss on Tuesday. La Verde have managed just seven points in the first 13 rounds of World Cup qualifying.

Three keys for USMNT against Panama

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Coming off of Friday night’s dominating effort against Honduras, the U.S. Men’s National Team looks for their second win in five nights when Bruce Arena and co. head to Panama.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT goes for second win in Hex on Tuesday ]

Strong performances from players like Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic have USMNT fans buzzing ahead of Tuesday’s clash in Panama City, but there are several questions that lie ahead for Arena as the U.S. goes for its second win in the Hexagonal.

How does Arena cope with injuries?

The only downside of the team’s 6-0 win over Panama on Friday was the aftereffects if the match. John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Michael Orozco and Jordan Morris are no longer with the USMNT after sustaining injuries/illnesses, leaving Arena shorthanded as the Stars and Stripes head into the Estadio Rommel Fernández.

While Clint Dempsey’s emphatic national team return will provide Arena with some assurances up front, along with the emergence of Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic, there are some questions in the midfield and defense for the U.S.

Jermaine Jones is available to return from his one-match suspension and could potentially fill the void left by Sebastian Lletget after his injury on Friday. While, Alejandro Bedoya — who replaced Lletget in the Honduras match — will also be in line for a starting spot.

Defensively is where it gets a bit tricky though, as Arena has to make up for an already-depleted backline. There was no DeAndre Yedlin or Fabian Johnson coming into this round of qualifiers, and John Brooks’ release from camp leaves the defense even thinner. Tim Ream appears to be Arena’s next choice to start at centerback with Brooks unavailable, but will he stick with Omar Gonzalez in the center or slide Geoff Cameron back into the middle?

It seems like the latter choice, especially given Cameron’s experience in the central defense, but that would mean Arena has to slot somebody else into the right back position. Graham Zusi has had slight experience in that role as of late, but it could be a bit of a gamble for Arena in another high-stakes match.

Bradley must control the middle once again

Forget Michael Bradley’s superb goal, which lifted the U.S. lead to 2-0 on Friday, it was the captain’s overall performance that is exactly what should be expected from the center midfielder.

Bradley completions/MLSSoccer

In 90 minutes of play against Los Catrachos, Bradley only missed on six passes while also making several successful tackles and recoveries to limit the Honduras attack.

The loss of Lletget is definitely a significant one for the Americans, given his lively movement going both ways. However, LA Galaxy teammate will likely be in line to replace the vibrant midfielder on Tuesday as he returns from a one-match suspension.

In regards to Bradley though, the U.S. veteran is at his best when he is able to move freely throughout the midfield, but Jones’ inclusion could present more of a burden for the Toronto FC player.

Jones is still a very capable midfielder, but he simply doesn’t have the pace to match that of a Lletget, which leaves Bradley more liable for covering ground defensively in front of the backline.

On top of that, the back four will see more changes on Tuesday after Brooks’ exit from the USMNT, making Bradley’s role all the more critical when facing players like Luis Tejada and Gabriel Torres.

[ MORE: CONCACAF qualifiers resume Tuesday afternoon ]

Dempsey/Pulisic bond continues to evolve

It couldn’t have gone much better for the pair on Friday night as Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic were directly involved in five of the game’s six goals.

The budding relationship between the two key attackers though is an intriguing one, and will likely determine just how successful this USMNT can be down the road. At 34, Dempsey is certainly on the back end of his career, however, his effort against Honduras shows just how dangerous the Seattle Sounders man can be, even after missing significant time due to a heart problem.

Meanwhile, Pulisic continues to shine in European with giants Dortmund, appearing both in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. The two likely won’t be together on the international scene for long, perhaps only until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the partnership is something to monitor over the next year-plus.

Not only does the duo represent a dangerous one-two punch in the attack but also a changing of the guard. Dempsey has been one of the most talented USMNT players in the nation’s history, and many believe Pulisic has the talent to match or even surpass that of the 55-time goalscorer.

We’ve seen it before when Landon Donovan was phased out of the U.S. squad and Dempsey was essentially handed the reigns of the attack, and this time Pulisic will be doing so with much more time to make an impact. The 18-year-old already has four international goals in 12 appearances, and if he improves on that goalscoring pace the U.S. will be enjoying his presence for many years to come.

At long last, Butland returns to full training with Stoke

Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Stoke City’s long-coming goalkeeping dilemma will come to a head soon, as Jack Butland is back in training.

A year ago today, the Potters confirmed that star backstop Butland would miss EURO 2016 with a broken ankle. He’d need multiple surgeries as recovery dragged on and on.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

That was more palatable thanks to the play of Lee Grant, who arrived on loan from Derby County but became a permanent Potter in January. Grant has been a key part of Stoke’s season.

Butland is contracted to Stoke through 2021, and he’ll ascend to the starting gig sooner rather than later. But Grant is in the catbird seat for now, and at least will have made himself attractive to other clubs seeking a keeper.

Report: Everton linked with $4 million swoop for Canada’s Larin

Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Sun only hits on a few of the many transfer rumors it tosses around, but this one bears a second look for fans of Everton, MLS, and Canada.

Everton is already eyeing replacements for Romelu Lukaku, according to the report, and is hunting for a bargain in Canadian national teamer Cyle Larin.

Larin, 21, was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC after an electric career at UConn.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He’s since scored 35 goals in 63 matches for the Lions, picking up three in his first two matches of the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native has five goals for Canada in 19 caps.

The Sun says Larin would cost close to $4 million, a fraction of what the Toffees will get if they sell Lukaku.