Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Fulham: Whites’ hope fading fast (video)

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Fulham remain two points from safety – and that’s before Norwich and West Brom have taken to the pitch. By the time the weekend is out, the Whites’ hopes may be very bleak indeed. Tottenham, meanwhile, move to within four points of fourth, but that faint dream hinges on whether Arsenal can beat Hull City on Sunday.

For the first ten minutes or so, it looked like Fulham might actually pull off a win, lifting themselves out of danger – at least, temporarily. Not two minutes had passed before Alex Kačaniklić barreled down the right and got himself behind the Spurs defense, but he put his strike just wide. Less than a minute later, Hugo Rodallega also had no trouble getting behind the hosts’ back line, but couldn’t get a decent shot in.

(Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win)

Tottenham began working their way into the match, but had difficulty putting their shots on target. Harry Kane’s headed pass found Younes Kaboul free just in front of goal, but the defender’s header hit the top of the net. Soon after, Spurs very nearly took the lead after David Stockdale pushed away Christian Erikson’s cross. Aaron Lennon took advantage, volleying in the rebound, but Stockdale pushed the shot into the post and allowed his defense to mop up the danger.

The breakthrough finally came in the 35th minute. A lovely free kick from Erikson floated invitingly over to the far post, where Paulinho was waiting. With no Fulham players nearby, the Brazilian had no difficulty sidefooting it in from about three feet out.

Fulham, conscious of their need for all three points, responded quickly. Steve Sidwell, running through the heart of the Spurs’ defense, attepted a little 1-2 with Kačaniklić. Instead it was Tottenham defender Zeki Freyers that helped him out, providing the ball that Sidwell knocked in for the equalizer – just 90 seconds after the hosts had taken the lead.

Spurs re-took the lead just minutes after the restart. Lennon had no trouble getting past a host of white shirts to send his cross into the area. Kane slipped past Jonny Heitinga, getting his head to the ball to flick it past Stockdale and into the back of the net. That made three goals in three starts for the young forward.

History almost repeated itself two minutes later, with Rodallega going dangerously close with a header. Hugo Lloris got a hand to it, however, tipping over the bar to preserve the Tottenham lead.

In a great show of self-awareness, Tottenham decided to pad their lead just a bit, taking a 3-1 advantage in the 62nd minute. Again the impetus came from an Eriksen free kick. The Dane whipped in a fast one, Kaboul got away from his marker, and the ball came off the defenders knee to land in the back of the net.

With fifteen minutes left to go, it looked as though that extra goal would be vital. Eriksen stuck out a hand to stop Rodallega from flicking the ball forward, providing Fulham with a penalty. Sidwell, looking for his ninth Premier League goal of the season, demanded to take it. The midfielder sent in a powerful shot, but it was straight at Lloris, who had no trouble saving.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Chadli (Dembele 67), Paulinho, Eriksen (Townsend 84); Adebayor, Kane (Soldado 79)

Goals: Paulinho 35′; Kane 48′; Kaboul 62

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga (Zverotić 66), Amorebieta, Hangeland, Riise; Kvist, Sidwell, Parker (Karagounis 56); Dejagah, Rodallega, Kačaniklić

Goals: Sidwell 37′

Liga MX wrap: Pachuca earns first win, Leon stays unbeaten

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All of Saturday’s action from around Mexico’s top flight…

Pachuca 3-1 Lobos BUAP

A strong first-half push from the hosts was all Pachuca needed on Saturday night to earn their first victory of the 2018 Clausura season. Angel Sagal brought the home side in front after just 10 minutes off of a near-post header, before Pachuca’s lead soon doubled 14 minutes later from the penalty spot when strike Franco Jara converted on the dead-ball attempt.

Just prior to halftime, Pachuca was out to a 3-0 advantage when 20-year-old outside back Erick Aguirre tallied his first goal for the club.

Last-place side Lobos got on the board three minutes into the second stanza via a finish from Heriberto Olvera, however, it wasn’t enough to provide anything more than a consolation for the visiting side.

Necaxa 1-3 Chivas Guadalajara

Mexican international Alan Pulido made it a dream start for the visitors from Guadalajara at the Estadio Victoria, however, that lead was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time after Carlos Gonzalez leveled the match up at 1-1.

The difference proved to be with 25 minutes left to play, when a goalkeeping error by Marcelo Barovero allowed Chivas to regain possession inside the Necaxa penalty area, before Ronaldo Cisneros tapped home the winner.

Then, a third goal came just prior to the end of regulation when Edwin Hernandez killed the game off for Matias Almeyda’s men, who also earned their first victory of the Clausura season.

Rest of Saturday’s Liga MX action

Cruz Azul 0-0 Club Leon
Queretaro 0-0 Tigres UANL
Monterrey 0-0 Club Tijuana

Sunday’s matches

UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.