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Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham: A vital three points could help Cottagers reach safety (video)

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Fulham aren’t in the clear yet, but their win over Aston Villa provided a lifeline to the Cottagers. They’re now in 18th, five points from safety.

With Aston Villa missing three quality attackers in Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph, and Fulham being, well, Fulham, it came as little surprise that the first half brought little action.

The hosts’ best chance came just after the half-hour mark. A beautiful pass from Marc Albrighton, possibly Villa’s best player on the day, found Leandro Bacuna as he wiggled free of two Fulham defenders. David Stockdale was on hand, however, with a diving save to keep Villa from taking the lead.

With ten minutes left to play in the first half, the visitors started to make their presence felt, forcing Brad Guzan into two great saves. For the first, the American denied young Cauley Woodrow from point-blank range, and for the second, Guzan was able to keep the scoreline scoreless at the break by denying Holtby just before the whistle.

Felix Magath made a double change to start the second half, taking off Cauley Woodrow and Pajtim Kasami for Hugo Rodellega and Ashkan Dejagah, but it was the hosts that looked the more lively after the restart. Leandro Bacuna very nearly put Villa ahead after collecting Grant Holt’s layoff, but Stockdale got a hand to it and the shot only collided with the post.

Of course, for Villa looking bright often means they’re on the verge of conceding. Sure enough, it was Fulham that opened the scoring. Kieran Richardson got on the end of a ball from substitute Dejagah, and, firing from over 20 yards out, managed to beat Guzan to send the ball into the top corner of the net.

But this is Fulham, who, prior to the match, had already conceded 73 goals this season. So it caused little surprise when Grant Holt managed to find his first goal for Aston Villa, in the 70th minute. Fulham left the forward unmarked on the far post, enabling him to easily get on the end of a corner from Albrighton to nod past Stockdale.

The equalizer brought a frentic final twenty minutes to the match. Goal-line technology was called into action after Lewis Holtby rounded Guzan, prompting Matt Lowton to slide in, making a fantastic clearance. The Villa defender nicked it just in time, with the ball staying out by the thinnest of margins.

But no one was there to rescue the Villa in the 86th minute, when Fulham took the lead once more. Again, it was a substitute making the difference, with Rodellaga on hand to flick Holtby’s cross in past Guzan. Possibly a pivotal goal for the Cottagers – could this be the moment that saves their season?

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Westwood, Bennett (Tonev 66), Bacuna, Albrighton (Bowery 90), Weimann, Holt

Goals: Holt 70′

Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hangeland, Heitinga (Riise 83), Amorebieta; Diarra, Sidwell; Kasami (Dejagah 46), Holtby, Richardson; Woodrow (Rodallega 46)

Goals: Richardson 61′; Rodallega 86′

Lampard urges Chelsea to sign Terry; If not, would buy his plane ticket to MLS

during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on January 31, 2015 in London, England.
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John Terry is the last of the old guard at Chelsea, and club legend Frank Lampard thinks he deserves to stay at Stamford Bridge.

Speaking with the web site ShortList.com, Lampard also said he’d welcome the defender to Major League Soccer with open arms, and checkbook.

[ MORE: Premier League’s Top Five story lines for Week 26 ]

Saying he’d “I’ll get his plane ticket and get him over here,” the New York City FC midfielder called Terry “quite comfortably” the best defender he’d ever played with during his career.

From Shortlist.com:

“What John offers is a link with the fans and an appreciation of the young players who he would want to help come through. He’s Mr Chelsea. Those are the sorts of players you need at the club. Without telling the club what to do, I think Chelsea are looking to change the old nucleus we had, what with myself, Ashley [Cole], Didier [Drogba] and Petr [Cech] gone, John’s almost the last one standing. But I don’t think he’s going to be an issue with that – he’ll even help the transition with helping the younger players.”

Even given Terry’s dicey at times off-field reputation, there’s merit to that story (After all, you can’t be okay with Ryan Giggs guiding the youth of Manchester and opposed to Terry leading at the Bridge).

As for MLS, plenty of England’s old guard is here already. From the 2010 World Cup roster alone, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard are in L.A., Lampard’s in New York City, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is with RBNY. That’s already half the number of U.S. players in MLS who played in the 2010 tournament.

Former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke hit with 12-year ban

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 24:  FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke listens to questions during the Post-meeting of Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup press conference ahead of the preliminary draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at Konstantin Palace on July 24, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Another member of FIFA’s embattled corps has learned his punishment for egregious ethics violations.

Jerome Valcke, the longtime secretary general of football’s governing body, is going to be away from the game for 12 years, banned from the sport by FIFA’s independent ethics committee.

[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]

The 12 years are less than a lifetime but more than the recommended nine years. Valcke was dismissed from his post in January.

From the BBC:

The decision has been made by Fifa’s independent ethics committee following allegations of potential misconduct related to sales of World Cup tickets.

During the investigations, several other acts of potential misconduct arose, including travel expenses policies and regulations.

Valcke’s ban is four years longer than the ones issued to Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini.

Allardyce on using USMNT’s inexperienced Yedlin at RB: “It’s a massive ask”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield on February 6, 2016 in Liverpool, England.
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Sam Allardyce knows a relegation battle when he sees one, and even an injury crisis has him nervous about using inexperienced USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin.

The speedy American wingback is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, and Sunderland’s table position has its manager wondering if he can afford to use the 22-year-old.

[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]

Billy Jones is injured, and the Black Cats did not firm up their right back depth in the transfer window. Ex-Celtic back Adam Matthews is among the other options, and played 150 times for the Bhoys.

And Yedlin had just 56 professional appearances and was less than three years removed from two years at Akron when he moved to London.

From the Sunderland Echo:

“We’ve got Billy who has a lot of experience, and obviously we’ve got DeAndre, who has very little experience at this level.

“DeAndre has a lot of qualities, but without that experience, it’s a massive ask to perform at the consistent level that you need to at this stage of the season, particularly with the pressure we’re all under.”

You have to love that following his train of thought would continue with, “but we don’t have any better options, so let’s see what happens!” It’s not quite Guus Hiddink saying of Chelsea youth like Matt Miazga, “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in“, but Allardyce is right in saying the relegation plight is a different pressure than Chelsea’s much safer spot.

This is a big chance — and a big ask — for Yedlin, who replaced Jones in last week’s comeback draw with Liverpool and has only seen Spurs improve since he went on loan. How has Yedlin fared this season? In terms of overall stats, he hasn’t been very good at all, though advanced stats site Squawka says he is slightly better than Jones.

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But in terms of straight-up defending, the USMNT man has done the job a lot better.

Sunderland Yedlin

It would be classic Big Sam to improve his lot in the Premier League safety race because injury forced him to remove Jones.

Go get ’em, kid.

Hiddink on Zouma absence: “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in”

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Chelsea hosts Newcastle United this weekend, its first game since the season-ending injury to young defender Kurt Zouma.

The 21-year-old Frenchman has arguably been Chelsea’s best center back when it comes to marking and defending this season, and manager Guus Hiddink has to find an alternative for the big man.

[ MORE: Klopp updates Sturridge, Coutinho fitness; Backs owners ]

While Gary Cahill and John Terry have the familiar names of the bunch, Hiddink won’t limit himself to veteran replacements. Certainly he could slide Cesar Azpilicueta inside, though that would sacrifice about a half-foot, and Newcastle likes to use big striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

He also has 20-year-old USMNT back Matt Miazga — who’s been given squad No. 20 — and said the following in Friday’s pre-match press conference:

“We have no fear of bringing youngsters in.”

Could we see Miazga in the fold on Saturday? Hiddink’s comments sure sound like he’d rather not, but all it takes is an injury or an inkling.

Miazga gave an interview to Chelsea’s web site last weekend where he described his play.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“I really like it, it is a higher level, the ball moves much faster but yeah, it is good. All the guys are very welcoming and I am really enjoying it.

“My game is definitely built on winning aerial challenges and tackles. As a centre-back you have to have an aerial presence and win a lot of headers, and my job is to win duels and not let opponents score, so every time I try to get a good tackle in and make my opponent know that I am there and it is not going to be an easy time trying to go by me.”

The ball moves much faster, and we’re hoping to see Miazga move with it sooner rather than later. Will it be this weekend.