Everton 2-0 Manchester United: Toffees rampant in miserable return for Moyes

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LIVERPOOL — Everton kept their race for a top four spot on track, as the Toffees’ beat Manchester United 2-0 at Goodison Park on Sunday. The victory marked the first-time Everton had beaten United home and away in the league since 1970, as Robert Martinez’s boys continue their excellent campaign.

Former boss David Moyes got a less than hospitable welcome from the home fans on his return to the club he’d managed for over a decade up until last summer. Moyes’ United’ side were sloppy from the get go and found themselves 2-0 at half time. They never recovered.

First Phil Jones inexplicably handled a Romelu Lukaku shot to give away a penalty, which Man United’s summer transfer target Leighton Baines dispatched with ease. Then just before the break an incisive attack down the right hand side — United had a torrid time against Seamus Coleman down that flank all game long — saw Coleman play in Kevin Mirallas to finish superbly across goal.

United offered little going forward with former Evertonian Wayne Rooney cutting a frustrated figure, as Moyes’ men put in yet another tepid display in a season to forget.

With the win Everton keep the heat on Arsenal in fourth place as the Toffees sit one point and one place behind them in fifth on 69 points, while United stay in seventh as any hopes they had of miraculous top four finish are now officially over.

(MORE: Moyes vilified on return to Everton, as Man United nightmare continues)

An even start at Goodison Park saw Everton flying into tackles, as the Blues aimed to go to within one point of Arsenal. The first real chance of the match arrived after eight minutes as Coleman’s right wing cross was only partially cleared by Chris Smalling to the onrushing Ross Barkley, but the Everton youngster skewed his shot horribly over.

Everything that was good about Everton came down their right flank in the early exchanges, as Coleman bombed on to support Mirallas who both ganged up on Alexander Buttner at left back for United. The Red Devils’ narrow midfielders weren’t tracking back, as both Nani and Shinji Kagawa were nonexistent defensively. Soon after, another Everton foray down the right found Steven Naismith in the box who teed up Romelu Lukaku but his powerful shot was blocked square in the face by Phil Jones who didn’t flinch.

source: AP
Mirallas grabbed Everton’s second and was a constant thorn in United’s side down the right flank.

A strong call for a penalty then arrived in the 19th minute, as another Coleman cross found Naismith who steered a volley goalwards but his shot struck Jonny Evans in the arm. Referee Mark Clattenburg waved away shouts from the home crowd, as United seemed to have got away with an early scare. In the 21st minute Naismith was in the thick of things again, as the Scotsman was first to a knockdown from Lukaku but rushed his effort and volleyed way over the bar when he had time to take a touch, then shoot.

(MORE: Martinez revels in Everton’s humbling of Man United)

Moments later Everton were ahead, as another rapid counter-attack saw Naismith set up Lukaku who sent a curling shot towards the bottom corner that Phil Jones clearly handled, after slipping on the greasy Goodison surface. Baines stepped up to send David de Gea the wrong way, as the man Moyes tried to sign over the summer came back to haunt him. United showed little in the first half, as Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa combined masterfully on a few occasions, but Everton’s exuberant defense closed them down before any harm was done. Everton went in 2-0 up at half time thanks to counter-attack down — you guessed it — their right hand side, that saw Coleman play in Mirallas to rifle into the bottom corner.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

At half time Antolin Alcaraz replaced Sylvain Distin at center back and the Paraguayan defender was called into immediate action as Rooney wriggled free of two challenges but Alcaraz made a superb last-ditch tackle to deny the former Everton forward. Moments later Kagawa had a long-range drive comfortably saved by Tim Howard, as United started the second half well.

United tried to prod and probe their way back into the game, with Moyes chucking on Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia with 30 minutes to go try and salvage something from the game. Instead the home side looked dangerous every time they went forward, as Barkley’s marauding runs through the center were causing all kinds of problems with Lukaku having a powerful shot well saved by De Gea.

Late on Naismith should’ve grabbed a third for Everton, as Mirallas’ right wing cross found the Scotsman unmarked on the penalty spot but he lashed his volley over the bar in the 75th minute. Naismith was thwarted again in the 80th minute, as a break from the Toffees saw De Gea tip his shot wide.

Despite late United pressure, which saw Howard save Rooney’s effort from point-blank range, Everton held on to record a memorable victory and heap more misery on Moyes.

LINEUPS

Everton – Howard, Baines, Distin (Alcaraz, 45′), Stones, Coleman, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas (McGeady, 90′), Barkley (Osman, 69′), Naismith, Lukaku.

Goals: Baines (28′), Mirallas (43′)

Manchester United – De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Evans (Hernandez, 61′), Büttner, Carrick, Fletcher, Nani (Valencia, 61′), Kagawa (Welbeck, 74′), Mata, Rooney.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.

Alaves eyes upset of Barcelona in Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The final of the Copa del Rey pits Barcelona’s star power against a tiny Basque Country club whose biggest weapons are its grit and gnawing hunger for a taste of glory.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Win or lose, Alaves is savoring the cup final on Saturday as the perfect finish to its first season back in Spain’s topflight in an decade.

[ MORE: Three key battles ahead of Chelsea-Arsenal FA Cup final ]

But to have a chance of winning the first major trophy in its 96-year history, Alaves’ ragtag collection of journeymen has to be squeezed of every ounce of effort by coach Mauricio Pellegrino to upset the cup-holders led by Lionel Messi.

One statistic illustrates how daunting their task will be: Messi, all by himself, has scored exactly as many goals as the entire Alaves squad this season, with 53 across all competitions.

“We will need to play a very complete match to have a chance, but we are a team that always competes to the maximum,” said Pellegrino, who is completing a noteworthy first season with the club.

The final will be the last competitive match at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium. An exhibition match the next day will be its farewell before demolition.

The final will also be the last match for departing Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who could bow out with a third straight Copa del Rey.

Here are some reasons Alaves can believe in an upset for the ages:

DONE IT BEFORE

Alaves has already toppled Barcelona this season.

A shocking 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Sept. 10 was Alaves’ first win since its return to the first division following 10 years in the second and third tiers.

That surprise victory set it on its way to overachieving all campaign. It reached the Copa del Rey final by defeating the more talented Celta Vigo in the semifinals, and finished the league in a meritorious ninth place.

The bad news is that Barcelona showed no mercy back in Vitoria, where Luis Suarez scored twice in a 6-0 rout.

NO SUAREZ

But Suarez won’t be available for Barcelona on Saturday, when he serves a one-game suspension after being sent off during the semifinals against Atletico Madrid.

Luis Enrique could start Paco Alcacer in his place up front alongside Messi and Neymar.

OLD AND YOUNG

Alaves is not devoid of talent.

The 19-year-old right back Theo Hernandez, who is playing on loan from Atletico, is drawing rave reviews and interest from European powerhouses, including Real Madrid.

Marcos Llorente, a 22-year-old Madrid reserve player also on loan, has impressed as a defensive midfielder.

Captain Manu Garcia, at 31, is the only player who has been with the team through its rise from the third tier in 2013.

“Our coaches are telling us that by working as a team just like we have all year, we have a chance to win,” Garcia said.

OH SO CLOSE

Alaves came ever so close to winning the 2001 UEFA Cup when it defied expectations in its first European campaign by reaching the final against Liverpool.

Jordi Cruyff, son of Dutch great Johann Cruyff, scored late to level the thriller at 4-4 and force extra time, only for Alaves to succumb on an own goal by Delfi Geli.

“I want our fans to enjoy the day,” Garcia said. “I remember (the final in) Dortmund from when I was young. I have many memories of that day and that’s why I ask our fans to be proud of Alaves, and that they make the Calderon into our stadium because that is what we will need it to be.”