Jay Rodriguez scores Southampton's third goal against Norwich City

Southampton 4-2 Norwich City: Saints arrest Canary comeback (video)

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This match almost had it all: a battle against relegation, a triple substitution, plenty of goals, and almost, almost a fairy-tale comeback from the underdogs. But in the end the hosts took all three points, leaving Norwich just four points above the drop.

Right from the start Southampton were on top, with James Ward-Prowse very nearly opening the scoring after just two minutes. His header went wide, but it mattered little, as Saints were in front by the fifth minute.

The Norwich defense were cut apart, with neither of the Canaries’ defensive midfielders picking up on the run of Gastón Ramírez. Jay Rodriguez laid off the ball for Morgan Schneiderlin, whose neatly clipped shot sailed over John Ruddy to land in the back of the net.

The hosts weren’t about to slow down, however, continuing to pile pressure on Norwich. Ramírez put in a lovely ball that Rodriguez just missed. Steven Davis was able to latch on, but his shot went just wide. Moments later, Ramírez was having a go himself, from 20 yards, but his curling shot went wide as well. It’s tough to believe he hadn’t started since the first day of 2014.

After about the half-hour mark, Norwich started to ease their way into the game. The visitors’ first chance came when Robert Snodgrass played in Gary Hooper, but the front man’s shot went wide. Anthony Pilkington put in a decent sharp drive, but it was blocked before threatening Artur Boruc’s goal.

It was Southampton that came back roaring after the restart, however. José Fonte slid a long ball through to Ramírez, but Ryan Bennett got in the way. The Norwich defender flicked on to Rickie Lambert, who’d been on for just a minute. The forward slipped past Jos Hooiveld to double his side’s lead.

It was then that Chris Hughton decided to make a change…or three. Off came Pilkington, Hooper and Bradley Johnson; on came Nathan Redmond, Johan Elmander and Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

Jay Rodriguez put in Southampton’s third goal. John Ruddy had managed to save Guly Do Prado’s original shot, but the rebound fell to Rodriguez, who had no trouble putting it away. 3-0, and it looked as though the Saints were coasting to victory.

Hughton’s triple substitution, however, proved to be quite effective. Fonte made a hash of a pass to Boruc, which Elmander was able to intercept, slotting past the goalkeeper. Then, less than two minutes later, van Wolfswinkel’s shot was deflected into the path of Snodgrass, and the Canaries were within a goal of snatching a point.

Alas, the fairy-tale comeback fell short. Instead it was Southampton that grabbed the final goal, almost with the last move of the match. Alexander Tettey’s slip allowed Sam Gallagher – again, on just minutes before – the chance to latch on to a through ball and put in the Saints fourth and final goal.

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Lambert 55), Ramírez (Guly 61), Rodriguez (Gallagher 93)

Goals: Schneiderlin 5′, Lambert 57′, Rodriguez 72, Gallagher 97′

Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Yobo, R Bennett, Olsson; Tettey, Johnson (van Wolfswinkel 65), Howson; Snodgrass, Pilkington (Redmond 65), Hooper (Elmander 65)

Goals: Elmander 85′, Snodgrass 86′,

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.

Emre Can back in the Liverpool side ahead of Europa clash vs. Villarreal

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Emre Can of Liverpool battles for the ball with Idrissa Gana of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Emre Can has recovered from an ankle injury and will be in Liverpool’s squad for their Europa League semifinal against Villarreal on Thursday night.

The German international has not played since April 14 when he was forced off in the Reds’ wild 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool prepping for Villarreal ]

Giving his team update on Wednesday, manager Jurgen Klopp said Can is back in the team, although captain Jordan Henderson is still out. The Reds enter the second leg trailing 1-0 on aggregate.

Another positive note out of Melwood was the return of Danny Ings to first-team training. The 23-year-old striker signed with Liverpool last summer, but managed just eight appearances before having his season end to a torn ACL in October. Ings is still far away from his full return, but it was a good sight to see him back on the pitch and making progress in his recovery.

Disappointed Pellegrini rues lack of offense in Man City’s loss to Real

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images )
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Manchester City put in an uninspired performance against Real Madrid on Wednesday, losing the match 1-0 and falling out of the UEFA Champions League.

[ RECAP: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City ]

The match was decided by just one goal, but the scoreline was flattering to City as they failed to create any kind of real chances at the Bernabeu. Over the two legs, City managed just two shots on target.

While City were wildly disappointing in the second leg, manager Manuel Pellegrini did not think the match was that one-sided, saying both teams struggled on the attack.

I am disappointed because I think that was a very close game with two teams who did not create many chances. The two teams were working with no-one making a difference.

It is not the best thing changing a defender very early but I don’t think we had any problems in defence, we had problems creating, same as Real Madrid. They did not create many chances.

Real Madrid was not in top form, but they still could have scored three or four goals on Wednesday. Joe Hart had to come up with some big saves to keep things close, as the England goalkeeper was by far City’s most valuable player throughout the tie.

[ MORE: Liverpool preparing for Europa League match vs. Villarreal ]

The absence of David Silva through injury certainly hurt City’s attack, but there was very little service moving forward from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. The poor play in the midfield left Sergio Aguero stranded alone up top, nearly invisible in the second leg.

Without service, Aguero was forced to track back to try and find the ball himself, leaving City no options to hit on the counter. For a tie between two of the most expensive teams in the world, neither side was truly impressive, but City surely disappointing.