West Bromwich Albion 3-3 Cardiff City: Incredible late drama in relegation scrap (video)

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West Bromwich Albion drew 3-3 against Cardiff City at the Hawthorns on Saturday as the hosts let a 2-0 lead slip and then a 3-2 lead in the fifth minute of stoppage time, in a incredible relegation battle.

Morgan Almafitano scored a stunning opener, then Graham Dorrans doubled West Brom’s advantage after just nine minutes to leave Cardiff reeling. However, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s men regrouped to launch a stunning comeback, as Jordon Mutch lobbed home before half time, then Steven Caulker headed in an equalizer with just over 15 minutes to go to make it 2-2.

Late on Cardiff pushed hard for a winner, but the Baggies went ahead in stoppage time courtesy of Thievy… But just when West Brom fans thought they’d stolen all three points, Mats Moller Dæhli popped up to smash in a dramatic equalizer with the last kick of the game in front of the delirious Cardiff fans.

Incredible late drama at the Hawthorns, as a tremendous relegation battle saw sensational late drama play out, as both teams are still embroiled in a scrap for survival. With the point, West Brom stay in 17th place, three points and one place ahead of Cardiff in 18th.

Games like this don’t come along that often, this is what the PL is all about.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

West Bromwich Albion got off to a flying start at the Hawthorns, as Almafitano sent a sensational lob over David Marshall and into the top corner to give the Baggies the lead in just the 2nd minute. Cardiff were stunned and within 10 minutes they were 2-0 down, as Dorrans made a superb late run into the box and finished superbly to hand West Brom a commanding lead.

The Bluebirds tried to get things going after a desperately poor start in a massive relegation clash. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer stood shell-shocked on the sidelines, as Baggies boss Pepe Mel was in dreamland with his side stroking the ball around wonderfully well.

In the 18th minute a teasing cross from the left almost saw Cardiff pull a goal back, but Fraizer Campbell couldn’t quite get in on the end of it. For the rest of the first half the Bluebirds pushed hard, and in the 30th minute Mutch pulled out a moment of genius to get them back into the game. Was it genius or luck? Who knows. But the Cardiff midfielder curled a lob, which looked  like a cross, into the top corner and over a lumbering Ben Foster in goal for the Baggies.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup: Chelsea slip up, Man United respond, relegation drama)

West Brom regrouped well and had some decent long-range efforts that Marshall thwarted before the break, but initial euphoria around the Hawthorns had been replaced by nervous tension by the time the half time whistle blew.

James Morrison spurned a glorious chance early on in the second half, as the midfielder blazed over after the ball broke to him in the box and Marshall was blocked out. West Brom started much better, and Stephane Sessegnon also went close as the Baggies took the game to Cardiff. Solksjaer urged his side to attack throughout the second half, as Cardiff’s manager saw his side drop deeper and deeper as the Baggies pushed forward relentlessly.

The pulsating clash saw Cardiff regain momentum, as Campbell ran towards goal and hammered an effort that Foster parried away and the Bluebirds couldn’t capitalize on the rebound. Cardiff went for broke and threw the kitchen sink at West Brom, with Bellamy, Campbell and substitute Wilfried Zaha all running at pace.

All of that pressure finally told for Cardiff, as Caulker rose highest in the 73rd minute to loop a head home to send the traveling fans wild. The Cardiff skipper has now scored five goals from central defense this season, as West Brom blew their 2-0 lead and Cardiff were growing in confidence as the final 10 minutes arrived.

Cardiff substitute Dæhli ran through but hit his shot straight at Foster, as the Bluebirds brought on Kenwyne Jones late in the game to try and seal a sensational winner. But it was West Brom who went ahead in the 92nd minute, as Berahino ran down the right and his deflected cross found Thievy who slotted home to send the home fans wild.

But in the 95th minute Dæhli broke the Baggies hearts and grabbed a point for Cardiff, as the Norwegian pounced on a lose ball and saw his effort clip off the post and in with the last kick of the game.

Stunning finish to a sensational battle.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Reid, McAuley, Dawson, Ridgewell, Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Amalfitano Berahino (72′), Sessegnon, Vydra (Thievy, 78′)

Goals: Amalfitano (2′), Dorrans (9′), (Thievy, 90+2′)

Cardiff City: Marshall; Fabio (Zaha, 36′), Turner, Caulker, Theophile-Catherine, Taylor; Medel, Mutch, Gunnarsson (Dæhli, 45′); Bellamy, Campbell

Goals: Mutch (30′), Caulker (73′), Dæhli (90+5′)

 

Southampton’s days of selling over?

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Southampton are no longer a selling club. At least, not right now.

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Executive Director Les Reed told Sky Sports in the UK that Saints will not be selling Virgil van Dijk or Cedric Soares this summer, despite constant reports linking the duo with a move away from St Mary’s.

Speaking about the “bold” decision to fire Claude Puel and hire Mauricio Pellegrino over the summer, the main decision maker at Southampton said he hoped hiring Argentine coach Pellegrino would bring “stability” to the club which has so often lost star names since returning to the PL in 2012.

Reed further reinforced Saints’ solid stance that no stars will depart this summer, starting with Van Dijk and Soares.

“None of those players are for sale. I can’t make it any plainer than that and that’s the way we mean to go forward,” Reed said. “We built this squad over some time and think we have a strong squad. We will fine-tune it but, other than that, we are looking forward to a very competitive season next year and we plan to go forward on that basis. There may be players that go on the basis it is the right thing for them and the club at that given time, but we don’t expect that to be wholesale and this is simply doing sound business in the transfer window.”

The main thing for teams like Southampton is that selling players will no longer significantly boost their financial power. After finishing in the top eight of the Premier League in each of the past four seasons, plus having long-term deals with Under Armour, Virgin Media and many other sponsors, they’re set up to try and compete with the PL’s elite, as are each team who have benefited from the huge financial deals the PL have enjoyed over the past few years.

Plus, they are still in negotiations with Chinese investors Lander Sports about majority ownership potentially switching from the Liebherr family to give them more funds to invest in their squad. Saints believe they are ready to kick on to the next stage and aren’t willing to give up any more of their gems.

ProSoccerTalk spoke with Saints chairman Ralph Krueger in May and he was pleased to see several of Saints’ current stars locked down to new contract — Van Dijk, Oriol Romeu, Ryan Bertrand, James Ward-Prowse and Fraser Forster all have new long-term deals — and insisted nobody needed to be sold.

After making princely sums for Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Morgan Schneiderlin in the past, plus moving on Nathaniel Clyne, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle who were entering the final year of their contracts for sizable fees, Saints have a reputation as being an easy target for the PL’s top six to buy from.

Yet, with Liverpool forced to apologize after their alleged illegal pursuit of Saints’ star man and captain Van Dijk earlier this month, it appears the South Coast club is getting serious about their best players not being unsettled and remaining at Southampton. Van Dijk’s transfer value is set to be north of $75 million, and it now appears that Southampton will turn down any offer for their classy Dutch center back. That’s a huge shift in club policy, with Saints labeled a selling club for much of their existence as Alan Shearer, Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are just a few of the star names who moved on from Saints in the past.

Whether or not this new policy can help them break through the glass-ceiling of sixth place (where they finished in 2015-16) and challenge regularly for a European spot remains to be seen, but after years of making big profits on their best players Southampton finally seem to be putting a halt to moving on stars consistently and replacing them with plenty of new gems each season.

That model has worked well for them financially, but last season’s regression — despite reaching the EFL Cup Final and having a Europa League campaign to negotiate they still finished eighth in the PL, but totaled 17 fewer points compared to their previous campaign — suggests they’re at a crucial point in their plans to become a regular contender to push into the top six. Delivering Europa League action each season is the aim and Pellegrino will have a tough enough task to achieve that in his first season coaching in England.

That said, his task will be made much easier if Van Dijk, Soares and Co. do stick around as Southampton state they will.

Report: Wesley Sneijder close to LAFC move

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Dutch legend Wesley Sneijder is close to signing for Los Angeles FC.

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A report from ESPN states that Sneijder, 33, will sign a two-year deal with LAFC and become a Designated Player for the team who will enter Major League Soccer in 2018.

Per the report, Sneijder has been offered a deal worth $3.5 million a year to join LAFC and he would link up with the squad in January 2018 ahead of their debut season in MLS.

Having a star of Sneijder’s size will certainly attracted plenty more interest in LAFC, plus he’s still a mainstay for the Dutch national team as he has 131 caps with 31 goals for the Oranje and his quality as a deep-lying playmaker is undisputed.

The former UEFA Champions League winner has enjoyed an illustrious career in Europe, winning trophies at Ajax, Real Madrid, Inter and Galatasaray. He won the UCL with Inter in 2010 as he was a pivotal part of Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning team. Sneijder has spent the past five seasons playing in Turkey for giants Galatasaray.

Sneijder would become LAFC’s first DP signing and although the newly-formed club do not yet have a head coach, who wouldn’t want to work with Sneijder in MLS?

With the Banc of California Stadium set to be ready for the start of the 2018 MLS season, excitement is building in LA.

Sneijder’s arrival would help that grow further as one of the premier playmakers of the past decade will get to strut his stuff in MLS. Whether he turns out to be as influential a DP as the likes of David Villa or Kaka remains to be seen, but LAFC are clearly willing to back up their grand plans with grand signings.

Six charged over Hillsborough disaster

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Six individuals, including four former members of the South Yorkshire Police (SYP), have been charged over the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 which left 96 Liverpool fans dead.

Former SYP Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was the match commander of the FA Cup semifinal which saw 96 fans crushed to death, will face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 of the victims. For legal reasons Duckenfield has not been charged over the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, who died four years after the tragedy.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) must apply to the High Court to lift an order imposed on Duckenfield after he was prosecuted privately in 1999. That must be removed before he can be charged with 95 cases of manslaughter.

Families of the victims gathered in Warrington, England on Wednesday and were told about the charges by the CPS, who later released the following statement.

Other individuals who will be prosecuted include the former Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire police, Sir Norman Bettison, who is facing four charges misconduct in office following the disaster, while former SYP Chief Superintendent Donald Denton and SYP Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster have both been charged with perverting the course of justice.

Former Sheffield Wednesday chief executive and designated safety officer Graham Mackrell has been charged with breaching the terms of the stadium’s safety certificate and failing to take reasonable care under the the Health and Safety at Work act, plus SYP solicitor, Peter Metcalf, has also been charged.

The families of those who perished at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough over 28 years ago have fought for justice ever since with Liverpool Football Club and the wider soccer community supporting the families in their battle.

From 1991 until 2014 they struggled to cope with the cost of a lengthy legal battle, but that all changed as the UK government have funded the legal costs for all the victims families with the total investigation now spanning four-and-a-half years and costing over $128.2 million.

Last April a verdict of “unlawful killing” was reached for the 96 victims after a new inquest was launched into the deaths following the original verdict from 1991 being quashed by the High Court in 2012 after a report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

The new inquest then prompted a new police criminal investigation as Operation Resolve was set up to determine what led up to the deadly crush, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) then investigated what happened after the tragedy and allegations that SYP had perverted the court of justice and tried to cover up their own responsibility.

The defendants, apart from Duckenfield, will appear in Warrington Magistrates Court on Aug. 9.

Giovinco strikes twice to lift Toronto FC to Canadian Championship (video)

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Sebastian Giovinco scored twice including in stoppage time as Toronto FC overcame Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s fantastic strike to win 2-1 in the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field on Tuesday.

TFC held the advantage after a 1-1 first leg in Montreal. The Reds advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Tabla, who just turned 18 in March, is an Ivorian-born Canadian youth international who now has four senior goals for the Impact.

Montreal veteran Patrice Bernier saw red in the 89th minute, putting the Impact’s chances behind the 8-ball.

[ MORE: USMNT Gold Cup questions ]

Toronto FC entered the match with a road goal advantage, which was undone in the quick flash of a left-foot, as Tabla dug a ball from underneath him and past a flying Clint Irwin to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The goal was a double whammy for Toronto, which went to the break knowing it would need to score twice (or win in penalty kicks) to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Yet TFC came back after a horrendous pass from Montreal, as Michael Bradley pinged a gorgeous diagonal ball to Sebastian Giovinco. The Atomic Ant recovered from a tough opening touch to bury his chance. 1-1.

And, oh yeah, watch this man work for his second…