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′)

 

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

[ MORE: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.