On Saturday Cardiff City dug in deep to grab a vital three points away at Southampton, as they put a week marred with turmoil behind them.
For most of the this week, owner Vincent Tan has been busy disciplining his own staff for allegedly leaking team tactics to Crystal Palace in the Bluebirds’ 3-0 defeat last weekend. At St. Mary’s Cardiff were second best for much of the game but they hung on and Juan Cala came up with the game-winner midway through the second half to bag three crucial points.
(MORE: Saints 0-1 Cardiff – Cala’s the man as Bluebirds bag huge win)
Now just three points from safety with four games to go, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side have given themselves a real chance of beating the drop. With Fulham beating Norwich and West Brom throwing away another 3-0 lead, the gap between the bottom three and those outside has shrunk considerably.
Speaking to the BBC after the game, Solksjaer believes the events earlier in the week has helped his side and his hopeful his team can build on just their second away win of the season.
“Sometimes when things happen in football it galvanizes everyone. The team spirit has been fantastic. We were really hurt by performance last week against Crystal Palace. We’ve come here and held our own and towards the end we could have had a couple more goals. I was proud of the effort everyone put in. Today, no matter what would have happened in the last five minutes I would have been proud. Another few clean sheets and we are right in it. We won’t give in until it is over. We don’t expect to win all of our games but we can win a few of them.”
What Cardiff’s Norwegian boss is alluding to at the start of his comments is perhaps the most telling, as the team spirit at Cardiff hasn’t faltered despite testing times on and off the field. That kind of belief and togetherness is vital in the relegation scrap and Cardiff seem to have it in abundance.
You could see that with the way they knuckled down and beat Saints on Saturday.
Now the South Wales side have four games to save themselves. The next three are crucial as they play Stoke City at home, then travel to Sunderland and Newcastle. The Bluebirds then finish the season by hosting Chelsea and they will be hoping that by the time Jose Mourinho’s men roll into town, Cardiff will still be battling to survive in their rookie PL campaign.
It ain’t over until it’s over.
Manolo Gabbiadini performed brilliantly in Sunday’s EFL Cup final, but was the Southampton striker unfairly gipped of a hat-trick?
[ MORE: Lucky Man United, Mourinho begin trophy haul ]
Saints manager Claude Puel certainly believes so.
[ MORE: Three things from Man United’s win vs. Southampton ]
While the back-and-forth final between Southampton and Manchester United presented a tremendous matchup, the Saints had every right to be furious with the officiating in the early going after Gabbiadini’s 11th minute finish was called off for offsides.
“I would like, of course, video in the future for these situations,” said Puel. “It’s very hard when we see this game to lose. It was cruel.”
Gabbiadini went on to score a pair of goals at the tail end of the first half and early in the second stanza, but Puel was pleased with his side’s resilience after going down 2-0 inside the opening 38 minutes.
“We kept the good attitude and spirit to stay in the game after going 2-0 down,” said the Southampton boss. “We played since the beginning of the season every two or three days. We played to a strong and fantastic level. It’s important now to continue this work, to put away this disappointment and come back in the Premier League with this strength and this quality.”
Video replay has been a common discussion for some time now, but more leagues are beginning to examine the possibility. FIFA is prepared to introduce new experimental trials over the coming months and could present a form of replay at next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…
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Villareal 2-3 Real Madrid
The Yellow Submarine did everything right to open the second half but Real Madrid proved resilient once again to earn a victory at El Madrigal. Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata each netted after the hour mark to help Los Blancos pick up three points and remain leap over Barcelona at the top of the table. Manu Trigueros and Cédric Bakambu scored within six minutes of one another to give Villareal a 2-0 early in the second half but Real began to press harder after the setback.
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona
It surely wasn’t the most attractive match at times, particularly for the visitors, but Lionel Messi was up to his old tricks once again and helped lift Barcelona into the top spot in La Liga. The Argentine attacker was persistent inside the Atletico box with the match nearing the end and Messi managed to break the deadlock in the 86th minute. Both sides traded goals earlier in the second stanza, with Rafinha getting Barca on the board before Diego Godin equalized six minutes later.
Elsewhere in La Liga
Espanyol 3-0 Osasuna
Sporting Gijon 1-1 Celta Vigo
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Granada
Inter Milan 1-3 Roma
Mauro Icardi gave Inter a brief glimmer of hope, but Roma continued its fine form on Sunday against the Milan side. Radja Nainggolan’s incredible double helped provide the Giallorossi with a two-goal advantage in the second half before substitute Diego Perotti sealed Roma’s victory from the penalty spot.
Sassuolo 0-1 AC Milan
Controversy struck at the Mapei Stadium but it didn’t benefit the hosts. Carlos Bacca netted the game’s lone finish just 22 minutes in from the penalty spot but it was the Colombian that came into question for his attempt. Bacca slipped while taking his spot kick and appeared to hit the ball with both feet before it crossed the goal line, leaving Sassuolo players furious. Milan now sits in seventh place in Serie A, just four points outside of the top four.
Elsewhere in Serie A
Palermo 1-1 Sampdoria
Chievo 2-0 Pescara
Crotone 1-2 Cagliari
Genoa 1-1 Bologna
Lazio 1-0 Udinese
Plenty of changes were made to the LA Galaxy this offseason, and now injuries are also plaguing the five-time MLS Cup winners.
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New Galaxy manager Curt Onolfo this week that defender Ashley Cole suffered a calf injury in the team’s preseason friendly against Real Salt Lake on Tuesday.
[ MORE: Whitecaps acquire Brek Shea in deal with Orlando City ]
The Los Angeles Times in reporting that Cole’s injury could keep him out for around a month, which would leave him absent of the Galaxy’s first three matches against FC Dallas, the Portland Timbers and RSL.
The 36-year-old Cole joined the Western Conference side in 2016 after a lengthy and successful European career. In his debut season, Cole made 26 starts for the Galaxy and scored a goal in that span.
In addition to Cole’s injury, the Galaxy are currently without outside back Robbie Rogers and USMNT attacker Gyasi Zardes, who have both undergone surgeries in the past two months.
BERLIN (AP) Berlin police made almost 100 arrests on Saturday when Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt supporters clashed violently before their Bundesliga game.
[ MORE: Lucky Man United, Mourinho begin trophy haul ]
Police say masked fans fought with batons, bottles, beer crates, chairs and flares on a busy street corner in the neighborhood of Moabit. The first officers on the scene faced “a group of around 60 rioters” who turned on the police.
Two police vehicles were damaged with stones and bottles before 96 arrests were made – with 73 of those arrested from the state of Hessen, which has Frankfurt as its largest city.
Six supporters were hospitalized. Police say only one fan is still in the hospital and in a “stable” condition.
Police say they are investigating whether the clash was pre-arranged.