Everton

Everton 3-0 Arsenal: Everton’s Champions League dreams in sight with big win (video)

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From the opening kick to the final whistle, Everton were the better side and it showed as they downed Arsenal 3-0 at Goodison Park.

Their biggest win over Arsenal in 25 years puts Everton just a point behind the Gunners for the fourth position with a game in hand, meaning Everton will be dancing in the Champions League should they win out.

Arsenal’s loss continues a late-season collapse that sees the Gunners in danger of missing out on Champions League play for the first time in 18 years. They’ve now failed to win in four straight matches, and have just five points from their last five matches.

Everton, meanwhile, have now won six matches in a row, a blistering run of form that has seen the Toffees outscore their opponents 15-4 and score at least three goals in three straight matches.

The home side began the match the brighter of the two at the start, with a number of crosses and shots pumped in early with Arsenal on their heels.

Unfortunately, Leon Osman was forced off after just nine minutes with a cut on his forehead after punishing Bacary Sagna with a yellow-card challenge, and Ross Barkley came on earlier than Roberto Martinez had planned.

After the initial Toffees spell, Arsenal put together their first chance on 10 minutes as Mathieu Flamini flew just wide of the mark.

But it would be the home side on the scoresheet first, as Baines put through a beautiful ball up front for Romelu Lukaku, and while the Belgian’s shot was saved, the rebound came right to Steven Naismith who buried the second chance.

source:
Romelu Lukaku scored the second and had a big hand in Everton’s domination of Arsenal.

The initial ball from the Everton left-back was utterly brilliant, threading a seemingly non-existent needle to find Lukaku behind the Arsenal back line.

The home side nearly doubled up on another spell of pressure, but Naismith’s redirect was directly at Wojciech Szezesny.  But Arsenal could do nothing to prevent an eventual second, as Lukaku was the man to put the Toffees in control.

A bouncing ball in the midfield on 34 minutes fell to Kevin Mirallas who cut across the pitch for a wide-open Lukaku on the right side. The Belgian youngster took Nacho Monreal on with ease, entering the box and cutting back to the center before firing low past Szczesny.

Arsenal looked to pull one back before halftime, and Lukas Podolski saw his dipping effort from distance saved well by Tim Howard five minutes from halftime.

The second half was more of the same – Arsenal possession with little on the back end, and another dangerous counter gave Everton a third.

Technically down as a Mikel Arteta own goal, Mirallas won the ball in Everton’s half and charged down the center, feeding Naismith in the box.  The striker was unable to get a shot off under a tackle by Szczesny, but the ball popped back to Mirallas who hit towards goal and Arteta’s tackle saw the ball into the net.

Everton’s third finally forced Arsene Wenger to make a change in the 66th minute, bringing on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey, but it was far too late.  The hosts easily took the air out of the ball and saw the match out, the only threat a chance by the Ox four minutes from full time as he burst across the top of the box and banged the crossbar.

The race for fourth place is by no means over, with the Toffees still required to play both Manchester clubs, but the Champions League is within their sights. The Gunners, meanwhile, have a much easier stretch run, but still must pick up the pieces if they are to avoid any disappointing end-of-season upsets.

LINEUPS:

Everton – Howard; Baines, Distin, Stones, Coleman; McCarthy, Barry, Osman (Barkley 10′), Naismith (McGeady 81′); Mirallas, Lukaku (Deulofeu 86′).

Goals: Naismith 14′, Lukaku 34′, Arteta 62′ (og)

Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Arteta, Flamini (Ramsey 66′), Rosicky, Cazorla; Podolski (Oxlade-Chamberlain 66′), Giroud (Sanogo 71′).

Leicester fan will win $50,000 from $10 bet if Foxes win Premier League

Leicester’s Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring against Manchester United, his eleventh consecutive goal in the Premier League, during the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Manchester United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. Vardy becomes the first man to score in 11 consecutive English Premier League soccer matches after finding the back of the net against Manchester United today.(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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As their odds of winning the Premier League title continue to be slashed, tales of Leicester City fans set to win an incredible amount of cash continue.

The latest story is a beauty.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired” ]

On the eve of the 2015-16 Premier League season one Leicester City fan, Chloe Cope, decided to put $10 on her side to win the title. The odds were 5,000 -1. So, with the Foxes five points clear at the top of the table with just 13 games to go, the first league title in Leicester’s 132 year history would not only bring unbeliavable amounts of jubilation to the East Midlands city but also plenty of cash for its fans. $50,000 for this Miss Cope, in fact.

The story gets even better. Check this out.

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Miss Cope’s flutter on her beloved Foxes was actually her first-ever bet. She opened up an online betting account last summer in the UK with Sky Bet and was rewarded a free $30 bet which she used to make a bet that Leicester would finish in the top six this season. That’s virtually assured so she will win another $637.

The two bets she made back on August 7 2015 are shown in the Tweet below via Jacqui Oatley.

A few other Leicester fans are also in line to win plenty of cash, but this one seems to have the most riding on it.

Will big changes in Europe threaten UEFA Champions League’s future?

FC Barcelona, 2014-15 UEFA Champions League winners
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With talk of the UEFA Champions League being threatened by a “super league” of some sort, that notion has been undermined by some of Europe’s top teams.

For now.

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On Wednesday in Paris the European Clubs’ Association (ECA) met at its 16th annual congress and confirmed it will seek to change the way the UEFA Champions League and Europa League is run when the current term of agreement cycle expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

With over 200 member clubs the ECA represents many of the biggest teams on the planet with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Chelsea all included.

In the past there has been a growing notion for a European “super league” to replace the Champions League and that perennial European giants should not have to rely on qualifying for Europe via their domestic competitions.

That is one of the factors currently being discussed by the ECA, as they released the following statement after the congress in France this week.

“In light of the upcoming 2018-21 UEFA Club Competition Cycle, the clubs are currently discussing the future of UEFA’s main club competitions, namely the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. As in the past, the clubs are in constant dialogue with UEFA to further develop and improve both competitions. All ECA Member Clubs have gathered in informal working groups to exchange initial thoughts and ideas.”

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The current ECA chairman and chairman of Bayern Munich, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, also spoke about the need to revamp both club competitions.

“I believe both ECA and UEFA are interested in an evolution of the competitions. Stagnation means regression,” Rummenigge said. “We have always jointly looked into ways to further develop and improve the competitions. It is important to find a good and balanced solution for everyone involved.”

So, overall, it seems that for now both ECA and UEFA is willing to work together to improve the current format of the UCL rather than go their separate ways and the ECA member clubs beginning their own competition, as had been mooted by Rummenigge and other high-ranking officials in the past.

What changes could be discussed for the 2018-21 UEFA Club Competition Cycle?

For me, it seems like it would be a good idea to somehow reduce the number of UCL teams who enter the group stage. That would help it preserve its elite status and potential shave two matchdays off the schedule to lessen the pressure on teams. Currently 32 teams qualify in eight groups of four teams and a total of 78 teams from across UEFA’s 54 member nations qualify for the UCL each season. 46 fall by the wayside in the qualifying rounds and many of those teams are too small to ever dream about getting anywhere near the group stages.

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Perhaps just having one playoff round to make the UCL and limiting the number of spots for nations with lower UEFA coefficients is the way to go. That way those nations would back their teams competing in the Europa League and that competition will gain more prestige as a direct correlation between teams performing well in the Europa League will lead to certain nations being granted places in the UEFA Champions League. That’s the case now, but adding extra emphasis to the Europa League should be a big part of the next cycle.

The biggest situation the ECA seem to want to sort out here is how some of Europe’s biggest teams did not qualify for the UCL. The overriding notion seems to be that the ECA wants them to qualify each year. Even though the likes of past UCL winners Liverpool, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund weren’t involved in Europe’s elite competition this season, did the tournament really suffer because of it? In terms of gate revenue, perhaps, but it seems that the ECA is conflicted about the best way to get as many of its member teams involved in the elite competition as possible.

Another idea I’m just throwing out there could be to hand teams a spot in the UCL based on their current coefficient which takes into account their previous performances in UEFA Club Competitions. Perhaps four spots per season could be reserved for teams who don’t qualify for the UCL domestically, but have the highest coefficient of the non qualifiers. Just a thought.

There’s clearly plenty to sort out but it seems like — for now, at least — we haven’t seen the end of the UEFA Champions League. But tweaks will need to be made to stop it regressing.

VIDEO: Will Ferrell is feeling guilty – “I got Jose Mourinho fired”

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Sometimes there’s just something you have to admit.

[ MORE: Mourinho to United “done deal”

It sounds better if you say it out loud and get it off your chest. This is one of those moments for comedian, actor and now part-owner of a Major League Soccer franchise, Los Angeles FC, Will Ferrell.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Joining the Men In Blazers this week the self-proclaimed soccer nut joked that he was the one who actually got Jose Mourinho fired by Chelsea.

For real. Watch the video above to see Ferrell’s admission as he explains exactly what happened.

[ MORE: Arsenal, Spurs to fight for the PL title? ]

Just seven months after leading Chelsea to the Premier League title, Mourinho was dismissed by the west London club in December.

NOTE: Severe tongue-in-cheek mode activated.

WATCH: NBC to stream USWNT, every CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying game

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The CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championships kick off on Wednesday and NBC Sports will be streaming all 15 games of the tournament over the next 11 days.

Every single game will be streamed live online or on the app via NBC Sports Live Extra, in addition to up to four matches airing on NBCSN with the U.S women’s national team — aiming for a fourth-straight Olympic gold — featuring heavily in live broadcasts.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The eight-team tournament takes place from Feb. 10-21 in Houston and Frisco, Texas, with the top two teams advancing to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Below is a full schedule of the games.

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Puerto Rico vs. Mexico                                   5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Costa Rica                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN