West Bromwich Albion 1-0 West Ham United: Berahino hands Baggies big win (video)

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West Bromwich Albion sealed a crucial 1-0 win over West Ham United at the Hawthorns on Saturday, as Baggies boss Pepe Mel sealed his first home win since arriving in January.

The Baggies scored after 11 minutes, as Saido Berahino’s finish from close range proved to be enough to see off the Hammers. Andy Carroll had plenty of chances for the visitors but he came up against an inspired Ben Foster in goal for West Brom as the England international made two stunning saves in the first half to deny Carroll.

A nervy ending played out, as the home side hung on despite relentless pressure from West Ham.

With the win West Brom now give themselves a five-point cushion above the relegation zone, while West Ham are only six points above the drop zone after losing their fourth-straight game.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

Early on it was all West Ham, as Ben Foster denied Andy Carroll at the near post from close range after Kevin Nolan laid the ball back to Carroll inside the area. A driving run from Stephane Sessegnon set up Morgan Amaliftano who whipped the ball across the goal and Berahino scored his first goal in 15 games by crashing the ball home into the roof of the net.

Despite going ahead West Brom were living life dangerously, as Carroll then turned provider for Nolan but just as the West Ham skipper was about to finish the ball was cleared away for a corner. Carroll was then denied after a superb stop from Foster, with Guy Demel’s cross finding the England international at the back post but his diving header was clawed away to safety. Both teams continued to pour forward in the rain as Demel saw his effort saved by Foster at the near post, then Berahino broke free as the Baggies countered and the ball fell to Graham Dorrans but he smashed his effort just wide.

After the break the Hammers tried to get back into the game as they controlled most of the possession at a slightly nervy Hawthorns. The sun was out, at last, as West Ham piled on the pressure by launching plenty of balls into the box which kept Foster on his feet. Sessegnon was causing problems on the right win, as the Frenchman cut inside and slammed an effort into the side netting as West Brom broke free. Carroll continued his personal duel with Foster, as the powerful forward headed wide of the near post with West Ham going for it.

In the 61st minute Berahino should’ve had his second of the game as he was set up by Sessegnon six yards out but tamely stuck his effort straight at Adrian as the Baggies pushed to go 2-0 up. West Brom were by far the better side as the second half wore on but they couldn’t extend their lead. In comparison West Ham were lackluster in attack, as a banner reading “Fat Sam Out” was unfurled by the away fans.

West Brom did hang on to seal a massive three points, as the Baggies inch closer to securing their place in the PL next season.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Reid (Morrison, 47′), Dawson, Olsson, Jones, Amalfitano, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Brunt, Sessegnon (Anichebe, 81′), Berahino (Yacob, 91′)

Goal: Berahino (11′)

West Ham United: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins (Collins, 33′), Reid, McCartney, Nolan, Noble, Diame, Jarvis (C. Cole, 79′), Carroll, Downing (J. Cole, 67′)

FIFA subjects 2026 Morocco World Cup bid to fresh scrutiny

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Morocco’s World Cup bid is facing fresh scrutiny this week with the arrival of another delegation from FIFA after an initial task force found deficiencies in the proposals for the 2026 tournament.

In a downbeat conclusion to the visit by the FIFA inspectors last week, Morocco’s bid leader acknowledged it had to improve the quality of the submission made to FIFA in March because inadequacies were identified by football’s governing body.

[ MORE: UCL semifinals predictions ]

The previously unplanned second inspection of Morocco is an indication of the more rigorous process introduced by FIFA following criticism in 2010 that World Cups were awarded to the riskiest nations in 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar).

There will also be closer scrutiny of human rights of the bidders before the vote on June 13 when Morocco is currently due to be taking on a joint challenge from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The Associated Press revealed last week Morocco did not declare its anti-LGBT law to FIFA in the human rights risk assessment included in the bid book. The documents – along with the North American submission – will now be scrutinized for any gaps by human rights experts.

“That process involves an expert third-party assessment of the robustness of the human rights content of both bids that will directly inform the administration’s own evaluation,” Rachel Davis, who sits on FIFA’s human rights advisory board, told the AP.

“We are confident that the process will result in a fair assessment of the human rights situation in all four countries involved in the bids, and a roadmap for how to deal with any deficiencies that FIFA will then require the successful bidder to commit to.”

Davis, who is managing director of the Shift human rights organization, said an evaluation of the human rights in the bidding nations will be included in a report to the FIFA Council, which will also assess the verdict of the evaluation task force. A bid with low scores can be blocked by the council from advancing to a vote of up to 207 football nations at the FIFA Congress on June 13.

While Morocco has said it needs to spend almost $16 billion on infrastructure for the 48-team World Cup, including building or renovating all 14 stadiums, North American does not require any tournament-specific building work. Morocco bid president Moulay Hafid Elalamy said at the end of the FIFA inspection that officials “made some remarks on the conditions of some of the stadiums.”

The new batch of technical staff being deployed from FIFA HQ to Morocco did not make a similar follow-up visit to North America after the task force inspected the rival bid’s facilities this month.

“Following the visit of the 2026 bid evaluation task force to Morocco last week, it was decided to have an additional working visit this week to complement the initial analysis of the task force and clarify some aspects of the bid,” FIFA told the AP.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Watch Live: Everton v. Newcastle

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Everton host Newcastle United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Toffees and Magpies both sitting pretty in midtable.

[ LIVE: Stream Everton-Newcastle ]

Sam Allardyce and Rafael Benitez have both been around the block a few times but at the moment Allardyce is under pressure and Benitez is working miracles with four wins on the spin as the newly-promoted Magpies have stayed solid defensively all season.

In team news Everton start Tosun, Walcott and Bolasie in attack with Wayne Rooney in midfield.

Newcastle make one change with Islam Slimani making his first start for the Magpies as he comes in for Dwight Gayle.

LINEUPS

Everton

Newcastle United

UEFA Champions League semifinal predictions

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With the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League to kick off over the next few days, let’s take a look at both games and predict which teams will make it to the final in Kiev on May 26.

[ MORE: Champions League scores

Liverpool or Roma? Real Madrid or Bayern Munich?

Here’s the lowdown as two eagerly anticipated games take center stage across Europe.


Liverpool vs. AS Roma
First leg: Apr. 24, 2:45 p.m. ET at Anfield
Second leg: May 2, 2:45 p.m. ET at Stadio Olimpico

This should be one heck of a tie with defending optional for both teams but both have very different ways of playing. Jurgen Klopp will unleash the fluid trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on an often brittle Roma defense but the Italian giants have a giant in their own up top in the shape of Edin Dzeko. How Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s defense deal with the threat of Dzeko will likely decide the outcome of this game. Liverpool will look to feed off the famous Anfield atmosphere to wrack up a big first leg lead before they head to Roma for Leg 2, and I fancy Salah to blow his old team away in the first leg. Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
First leg: Apr. 25, 2:45 p.m. ET at Allianz Arena
Second leg: May 1, 2:45 p.m. ET at Santiago Bernabeu

A proper heavyweight clash as Bayern and Real do battle knowing that whoever wins will be the favorites in the final. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life (again) after a slow start to this season and Zinedine Zidane’s side made hard work of it against Juventus in the last round but are on course for a third-straight UCL trophy. As for Bayern, they have been in imperious form and you feel like Robert Lewandowski can get the better of Real’s center backs. Expect this to be a tight game with extremely high quality from both teams. Real being at home in the second leg is a big advantage. Real Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate. 

Cologne’s Hector extends contract despite likely relegation

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.

Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”

Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”