Everton v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace: Toffees’ top four hopes take huge hit

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Everton missed a glorious chance to go back into the top four, as the Toffees suffered a shock 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

The Eagles were the better team for most of the game, as Jason Puncheon scored in the first half then Scott Dann headed home minutes after the break to put Tony Pulis ‘ men 2-0 up. Everton launched a fight back when substitute Steven Naismith pulled one back, but then Cameron Jerome made it 3-1 to Palace with 15 minutes to go.

Kevin Mirallas made it 3-2 in the 86th minute, but the damage was done as Roberto Martinez’s side are now one point behind Arsenal in fourth place, with just four games to go in the race for the final UEFA Champions League spot.

As for Palace they are now 11th on 40 points, just three points behind Stoke City in 10th spot, after their fourth win in a row.

(MORE: Roberto Martinez: Everton “fearful” in defeat to Crystal Palace)

Everton started brightly and could have scored twice in the opening minutes as first Aiden McGeady’s corner was headed just over by Gareth Barry, then Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu combined to see the latter whip the ball across the six-yard box but Mirallas couldn’t quite get on the end of it.

Palace set up their stall and were difficult to break down, plus the likes of Puncheon, Marouane Chamakh and Jerome proved lively going forward as the first half wore on. The Eagles certainly were overawed by facing the Premier League’s form team, as Pulis’ men took the game to the Toffees with Jerome proving a handful for Sylvain Distin and John Stones.

In the 23rd minute red-hot Puncheon scored the opener for Palace as the South London side took an early lead. Yannick Bolasie sped past Leighton Baines before cutting the ball back to Chamakh who teed up Puncheon to curl home a controlled finish. The goal was Puncheon’s fourth in his last three games, as the lifelong Crystal Palace turned on the magic once again.

source: AP
Two of the goalscorers collide as Everton and Palace played out an end-to-end game at Goodison.

Just before the half hour mark Bolasie was in the thick of things again, as this time he burst down the left and whipped in another dangerous cross that young Stones cleared superbly. Then the Congolese winger smashed an effort off the post and Jerome couldn’t finish the follow up as Everton were reeling. Mirallas did rifle an effort just over Julian Speroni’s crossbar but at half time Everton were trailing and the Toffees were being frustrated by a confident Palace.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

After the break the same pattern continued as Joe Ledley stung the palms of  Everton ‘keeper Tim Howard who pushed Ledley’s near post shot out for a corner. From the resulting set piece Palace went 2-0 up as Dann headed home powerfully after getting a clean run on Stones. That goal was his first for the club, as the former Blackburn Rovers defender shocked the home crowd minutes into the second half.

In the 51st minute McGeady saw his powerful low drive flash just past the far post, as the home crowd tried to urge their side back into the game. In the 61st minute substitute Naismith, on a half time in place of  Deulofeu worked his magic once again, as Mirallas’ chipped cross to the back post found Baines who nodded the ball towards goal for Naismith to prod home.

Everton’s double substitution on the hour mark certainly had the desired impact, as both James McCarthy and Leon Osman got on the ball in midfield and wrestled the Toffees back into the game. With 20 minutes to go Osman saw his powerful volley tipped onto the crossbar by Speroni, as Palace were under intense pressure for the first time in the game.

Yet just when you thought Palace were going to crumble, Jerome finished well after Puncheon set him up to make it 3-1 and put the game beyond the home side. They had a glimmer of hope in the 86th minute as Mirallas latched onto a deflect through ball and finished well to make it 3-2, but Palace held on for a crucial win as they put a huge dent in Everton’s Champions League hopes.

LINEUPS

Everton: Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; Barry (Osman, 59′), Mirallas, Barkley, Deulofeu (Naismith, 45′), McGeady (McCarthy, 59′); Lukaku

Goal: Naismith (61′), Mirallas (86′)

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa (Parr, 68′), Delaney, Dann, Ward, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon, Chamakh (Murray, 80′), Jerome (O’Keefe, 76′)

Puncehon (23′), Dann (49′), Jerome (73′)

Manchester City confirm $22.5 million signing of Claudio Bravo

FOXBORO, MA - JUNE 10:  Claudio Bravo #1 of Chile passes the ball during a 2016 Copa America Centenario Group D match between Chile and Bolivia in the first half at Gillette Stadium on June 10, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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It’s done.

Claudio Bravo, 33, has signed a four-year contract at Manchester City as the club announced his $22.5 million transfer from Barcelona on Thursday.

[ MORE: Saints close to Boufal deal ]

Bravo flew in to Manchester earlier this week and Pep Guardiola finally has the goalkeeper he’s been craving as he revealed the Chilean international is someone “he’s admired for a number of years.”

With Joe Hart given the cold shoulder and veteran Willy Caballero handed the starting spot in goal for City’s first two Premier League games of the season, it always seemed likely that a goalkeeper was lined up.

[ MORE: Solo ban about much more ]

Speaking to the club website about his move to City after spending the last two seasons at Barcelona, Bravo is looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“I’m very proud to be joining Manchester City. I know the Club is building something very special and I hope I can be part of many successes in the coming years,” Bravo said. “I have followed City’s progress in recent years and obviously know some of my new team-mates from the Copa America.

“It is not easy to leave a club like Barcelona where I had two fantastic years, but the opportunity to work with Pep Guardiola was too good to refuse. Now I will challenge the other great goalkeepers the Club has and together I hope we can win many trophies.”

So, now the picture is even clearer for Hart as despite Bravo claiming he is at the Etihad Stadium to “challenge the other great goalkeepers” they have, we all know he is the new numero uno. Hart will have to find a move elsewhere if he wants to play regularly but his options are running out with Everton’s manager Ronald Koeman saying they are no interested in signing Hart.

Over the last two seasons Bravo has split time with Marc-Andre ter Stegen at Barca but the man who has already made 100 appearances for Chile and has won back-to-back Copa America titles is now ready to be a bonafide star as he enters the prime of his career.

Comfortable with the ball at his feet and a sublime shot-stopper, Bravo’s acquisition is another key moment in Guardiola’s masterplan at City.

The Spanish coach has now spent $260 million on John Stones, Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito, Marlos Moreno, Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Bravo this summer.

Four games into Pep’s tenure as City’s boss the Citizens are perfect with four wins as they’ve qualified for the UEFA Champions League group stages.

Drinkwater stays at champion Leicester, signs 5-year deal

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Danny Drinkwater of Leicester City is closed down by Bertrand Traore of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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LEICESTER, England (AP) Danny Drinkwater has become the latest Leicester player to commit his future to the English champions.

[ MORE: Solo ban about much more ]

Leicester said Thursday the midfielder has signed a new five-year contract. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have also penned new deals this summer.

Drinkwater, a former Manchester United player, was a regular for Leicester in its run to the Premier League title last season, helping him earn a call-up to the England squad.

Hope Solo’s ban from USWNT about much more than “coward” comments

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 5: Goal keeper Hope Solo #1 celebrates with Julie Johnston #8 of U.S. Women's National Team during the second half of a friendly match against Japan on June 5, 2016 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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On Wednesday the news broke that U.S. Soccer had banned Hope Solo for six months from the USWNT and had terminated her contract as a member of the national team.

In truth, we all saw this coming.

[ MORE: Boufal to Saints close ]

The official reason given by Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer, was that Solo’s comments following the USA’s shock defeat on penalty kicks to Sweden in the quarterfinals at Rio 2016 were “unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players.”

Solo, 35, said that Sweden played like “a bunch of cowards” and argued that “the best team did not win.”

Were the comments out of line? Yes. Were they in the heat of the moment? Yes. Were they worthy of a six-month suspension from the USWNT? No.

Then again, this whole episode is about far more than Solo basically lambasting Sweden for being a long-ball team. This storm has been brewing for some time with multiple incidents of indiscretion leading to this inevitable outcome.

Gulati said as much.

“Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. National Team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action,” Gulati added in the statement.

Solo is currently locked in a legal battle with a half-sister and nephew over alleged domestic violence — Solo continues to claims she is innocent — from 2014, while there was also the incident in 2015 involving Solo and her husband, Jerramy Stevens.

The latter was arrested and charged with a DUI after he and Solo took a team mini-van from the USWNT hotel in California and drove around the streets before being pulled over outside the team hotel by police with Solo reportedly dragged from the scene kicking and screaming. Solo was banned by U.S. Soccer for 30 days on Jan. 31, 2015 for that incident but was recalled by Jill Ellis for the 2015 World Cup and was a star during the USWNT’s World Cup win.

Those two unsavory incidents coupled with the huge wave of negativity from the people of Brazil at Rio 2016 — home fans booed Solo constantly and chanted “Zika” every time she kicked the ball after she posted several pictures on social media showing her preparing for the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil — were enough for U.S. Soccer to act in this manner when Solo gave them yet another reason to investigate her.

USWNT head coach Ellis flew to Seattle with Dan Flynn, U.S. Soccer’s secretary general, to deliver the news of the suspension and although Solo will still be able to play for Seattle Reign FC in the NWSL (U.S. Soccer is reportedly handing her three months severance pay on the contract they terminated which also includes her salary for NWSL play) she will miss two upcoming games for the USWNT in 2016.

Will the USWNT be weaker without Solo? Of course they will. She has been one of the greatest players in women’s soccer history and probably the greatest-ever goalkeeper. Yet, Gulati and U.S. Soccer had to make a firm stance after giving Solo chance after chance to clean up her act.

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 03: Hope Solo #1 of United States looks on during the Women's Group G first round match between the United States and New Zealand during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Mineirao Stadium on August 3, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
(Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)

 

It doesn’t take a master decoder to work out the subliminal message buried in Gulati’s comments in the statement released by U.S. Soccer.

In a nutshell it says: enough is enough. You were on your last chance and you blew it. It is highly likely than since January 2015 Solo has been repeatedly warned that if she steps out of line again there would be severe consequences.

Right now Solo will not be available to play for the U.S. until Feb. 2017 and even then it seems highly unlikely she will return. After a distinguished career on the pitch, Solo’s erratic behavior off it has finally caught up with her.

The lengthy ban for her outspoken rant against Sweden was undoubtedly excessive and there is a big question mark about the notion of free speech here. She spoke her mind vehemently about her distaste towards Sweden’s tactics but it wasn’t like Solo swore or used discriminatory language when speaking about Sweden. She just didn’t agree with their tactics.

Yet, that “coward” rant was likely the final straw in a long line of indiscretions which even Solo, perhaps one day, must admit have painted both herself and U.S. Soccer in a poor light over the past few years.

Enough is enough. The punishment for this specific outburst may seem harsh to many but it likely marks the end of Solo’s glittering, controversy filled, USWNT career.

Southampton agree club-record fee of $28 million for Sofiane Boufal

Sofiane Boufal
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Southampton look set to smash their transfer record as Moroccan international Sofiane Boufal is close to sealing a move to St Mary’s.

ProSoccerTalk understands that Saints have agreed a club-record fee of $28 million with Ligue 1 club Lille for Boufal and the attacker is now discussing personal terms with the side who finished sixth in the Premier League last season.

[ MORE: Solo suspended by USWNT

It is believed there is still some way to go in the deal before Boufal, 22, is unveiled at Saints — it could be early next week ahead of the summer transfer window slamming shut at 7 p.m. ET on Aug. 31. — with the player currently in the latter stages of recovering from a knee injury he suffered at the end of last season.

With Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool all linked with Boufal in the past, this signing would represent a major coup for manager Claude Puel (former manager of Lille from 2002-08) and also boost Southampton’s attacking options following the loss of Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle over the summer.

Boufal could be the latest in a long line of shrewd European pickups from Saints who have benefited greatly over the past three seasons from giving stars of other European leagues a chance in the PL (see: Mane, Sadio.) then selling them on to the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United for huge profits.

The Paris-born attacker shone for Lille in France’s top-flight last season, scoring 11 goals and adding four assists following his move from second-tier Angers where he came through the youth system. Born and raised in France, Boufal chose to represent Morocco at international level and he has already placed twice for the Atlas Lions after making his debut in 2016.

If the deal does get over the line, as expected, then what type of player may Southampton be getting?

Boufal has skill and trickery similar to Riyad Mahrez and the directness of a Yannick Bolasie. He can play out wide or centrally and his creativity is his main trait. That is something Saints need as they’ve scored just once in their opening two games of the season and they look to be lacking a cutting edge in the final third heading into their first-ever appearance in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League.

This could well be another masterful signing from Saints’ now famed analysts in the “black box” room at their Staplewood training ground.