Naismith

Fulham 1-3 Everton: Subs the story as Everton outclasses spirited Fulham (video)

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Despite a spirited battle by relegation-threatened Fulham, a pair of Roberto Martinez substitutes bagged goals as the Toffees showed too much quality for the Whites who despite their strong effort were less than solid in front of goal.

Steven Naismith, on for an injured Ross Barkley, put the shot on net that resulted in Everton’s first, and Kevin Mirallas hit the winner with under 15 minutes to go on a feed from Aidan McGeady – both substitutes.

Naismith then sealed the winner to ensure his name would appear on the scoresheet.

Ashkan Dejagah, also a replacement for the Whites, hit Fulham’s equalizer that gave them hope but ultimately it wasn’t enough.

The goalkeepers both starred as well, with Tim Howard putting on a highlight-reel performance, and Stockdale’s own goal the only blight on his otherwise stellar tally for the day.

Fulham were by far the brighter side in the first half, but could not muster a goal.  Young Moussa Dembele, just 17 years old, was a breath of fresh air at the front of the hosts’s attack, finding teammates with ease in the final third.

The best pass from Dembele came in the 23rd minute, when the Frenchman laid off to a streaking Kieran Richardson, but his low, powerful shot was stopped expertly by a foot save from Howard.

However, the youngster also bungled a few chances of his own, firing well over with space at the top of the box, and also finding himself a free header at the end of a long ball from Lewis Holtby but he put the ball directly at Howard.

Dembele wasn’t alone in his shooting misfortunes, and despite the home side clearly the more incisive in the first half, they were dismal in front of net. Holtby came closest, with a header of his own also producing a wonderful save from Howard to palm over on 27 minutes.

Pacey winger Pajtim Kasami found himself in a great position to find a waiting Dembele but instead tried to take it himself and was dispossessed.  The first half also saw John Arne Riise launch one over, as did

Despite their failure to put the ball in the back of the net, Fulham dominated Everton on the ball in the first half with pinpoint tackling and good runs. The home side completed 17 of 23 tackles in the first 45 minutes, and completed 4 of 11 crosses.

However, with the Whites failing to score in the first half despite their positivity, the writing may have been on the wall.  Everton made them pay for their wastefulness just six minutes after the break, when a corner fell to the feet of Steven Naismith.  His shot wasn’t convincing, but with goalkeeper David Stockdale on the ground the ball took a deflection off William Kvist and then clamored off Stockdale’s foot into the back of the net.

But Fulham were not deterred. The game maintained a back-and-forth nature with both managers making quality changes. Naismith came on for an injured Ross Barkley at halftime and had his obvious immediate impact, and Felix Magath after the goal made a double attacking change akin to their dire table situation.

Magath’s substitutions paid off almost immediately, as Dejagah cut back inside from the left flank, leaving poor Sylvain Distin in pieces on the pitch before striking a worldly into the top corner just seven minutes after coming on.

But the hope instilled from Dejagah’s goal wouldn’t last long.  Everton pushed hard to restore their lead, and with a new organization about the side and their quality restored, it was too much for Fulham to hold out.

A break from substitute Aidan McGeady slotted through fellow sub Kevin Mirallas who put the ball into the back of the net 13 minutes from full time, and a controversial third from Naismith in the final minutes left Everton well ahead.

The win for the Toffees moves them within four of Arsenal in the final Champions League position, and the two clubs will meet in a massive showdown next weekend.  Meanwhile, Fulham again are left with nothing, and with Crystal Palace beating Chelsea earlier in the week, things look exceptionally bleak at the bottom.

LINEUPS:

Fulham – Stockdale; Riether, Heitinga, Hangeland, Riise; Holtby, Kvist (Woodrow 64′), Sidwell, Richardson (Dejagah 64′); Kasami, Dembèlè (Roberts 81′).

Goals – Dejagah 71′

Everton – Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Deulofeu (Mirallas 68′), Barkley (Naismith 45′), Osman (McGeady 77′); Lukaku.

Goals – Stockdale (og) 51′, Mirallas 79′, Naismith 87′

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.