Sunderland 2-0 West Bromwich Albion: Black Cats confirm Premier League survival (video)

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Early goals from Jack Colback and Fabio Borini quelled any notion Sunderland’s spring revival would stumble at its final hurdles. The Black Cats’ supporters were so confident after three straight wins that the crowd’s reaction to Borini’s seemingly survival-assuring 31st minute goal was more confident exuberance than relief. It was only after the final whistle that the Stadium of Light’s crowd succumbed to elation, with Sunderland’s faithful celebrating the team’s place in next year’s Premier League after its 2-0 win over West Brom.

With the win, Sunderland — in last place three weeks ago — moves to 15th in the Premier League, leapfrogging West Brom and Hull with its 10th win of the season. Most importantly, the Black Cats are five points ahead of 18th place Norwich, leaving the Canaries with empty hopes West Brom’s huge edge in goal difference (17) can be overturned on the last day of the season.

Sunderland, starting the same team throughout their five-game unbeaten run, went up in the 13th minute after left back Marcos Alonso fired a ball  from near the corner into the six-yard box. Charging in from midfield, Colback was able to cut off Chris Brunt in front of the right side of goal, beating the West Brom left back to redirect home the game’s first goal.

Eighteen minutes later, Sunderland got its early insurance. After Black Cats’ midfielder Sebastian Larsson was allowed to carry the ball to the top of the arc, the Swedish international lobbed the Baggies defense to find Borini. One-timing his volley past an oncoming Ben Foster, Borini finished his sixth of the season, eliminating what doubt remained after Colback’s opener.

In the second half, Sunderland assumed a much more defensive posture, ceding control of the game to its guests.  In the 57th minute, that control almost halved the Black Cats lead when halftime substitute Youssuf Mulumbu was able to feed fellow sub Craig Dawson behind Alonso. Putting a cross toward the far post, Dawson just missed his connection with Victor Anichebe, with the ball sailing out for a goal kick.

After 10 more minutes to West Brom control, Sunderland threatened for a third. Shortly after an offside Jozy Altidore drew grasps from the crowd as his shot want past the right post, Santiago Vergini was given an open chance in the right of West Brom’s area after the Black Cats had moved the ball across the width of the field. The  right back’s shot went well wide of the far post, but for the first time in the half, the home side showed a desire to spend some of the day’s final minutes in the Baggies’ half.

As the match approached full-time and the danger of two West Brom goals grew more remote, Sunderland again receded into its defensive third. This time, a less energetic West Brom were unable to respond. With both sides having accepted their fates, all that separated the match from Lee Mason’s final whistle were a few wistful charges from the momentarily inspired. After four minutes of stoppage time, the game ended as we knew it would after Borini’s goal.

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Mannone, Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso, Cattermole (Giaccherini 88′), Johnson (Bridcutt 61′), Larsson, Colback, Borini, Wickham (Altidore 61′)

Goals: Colback (13′), Borini (31′)

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Reid (Dawson 46′), McAuley, Lugano, Brunt, Berahino (Vydra 78′), Yacob (Mulumbu 46′), Morrison, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Anichebe

Subs: Myhill, Dawson, Sinclair, Vydra, Mulumbu, Olsson, O’Neil

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Chelsea 3-3 Roma – Thrills at the Bridge

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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  • Luiz, Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0
  • Kolarov, Dzeko brace flip lead
  • Hazard nabs equalizer
  • U.S. U-20 mid Scott on bench for Chelsea

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea overcame the sacrifice of a 2-0 lead and the Blues drew AS Roma 3-3 at Stamford Bridge in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday.

David Luiz also scored for Chelsea. Ex-Man City men Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov starred for Roma, with Dzeko scoring twice and Kolarov adding a goal and an assist.

Chelsea has seven points to lead Group C, two more than Roma and five ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The sides will meet again in Rome on Halloween.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Luiz started the scoring with a delightful strike. Call it a second bite at the proverbial apple if you must, but then admit he sunk his teeth into it.

Eden Hazard made a darting run to double Chelsea’s lead, but Kolarov pulled Roma within one with a deflected strike past Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Perotti curled a shot that hardly troubled Courtois in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea keeper just leaving his feet collect it.

Dzeko and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Then the former Man City striker struck again, seeing a long diagonal ball over his shoulder and whizzing a perfect left-footed volley through the flailing arms of Courtois.

Dzeko then made a late move before a Kolarov free kick to lose his mark and nod home a go-ahead goal.

It wasn’t over, as Hazard found his way to space and a cross from Pedro.

The Belgian headed his chance beyond a diving Alisson, and it was 3-3 with 15 minutes to play.

American-English midfielder Kyle Scott did not make his Chelsea bow. The 19-year-old has represented England at the U-16 level and the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester United: Match-winner Rashford injured

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  • No shots on goal for Benfica
  • United puts four on frame
  • Man Utd out-passes Benfica 522-237.

Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal of the match, then limped off injured in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Benfica in UEFA Champions League action at the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday.

United is close to wrapping up a knockout round berth with the win, leading Basel by three points, CSKA Moscow by six, and Benfica by nine.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho got his managerial start at Benfica when he replaced now-Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes in 2000.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Rashford’s free kick from the left fooled young Benfica backstop Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and was caught out of goal.

While retreating toward his end line, his two-handed catch carried him and the ball into the goal despite the efforts of his outstretched paws.

Report: Landon Donovan mulling U.S. Soccer presidential run

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Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has been all over the turmoil at United States Soccer since the men’s national team’s embarrassing World Cup qualifying ouster last week.

The latest is that many interested observers are encouraging American legend Landon Donovan to run against Sunil Gulati in February’s presidential election.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Donovan retired from playing for a second time in 2016. He’s invested in Premier League club Swansea City and tried his hand at broadcasting as well.

According to Wahl, Donovan issued no comment when asked whether he is seriously considering a run for president. Gulati didn’t confirm that he’d run for a fourth term — the maximum tenure — during his post-World Cup failure conference call, but strongly lauded his credentials for another stint.

Wahl had previously reported that lawyer Steve Gans has the required letters of nomination to run against Gulati.

While Gans would challenge Gulati and perhaps make for interesting debate and a bellwether of the appetite for change amongst the constituency, Donovan’s name would likely be enough to swing some voters regardless.

Without making any judgments about the job Donovan would do, think of it as a big entertainment name like Dwayne Johnson amongst Democrats or Donald Trump amongst Republicans who might upturn eyebrows amongst folks thinking, “Maybe we need something different.” The name value isn’t the same but perhaps it’s less polarizing to compare the runs of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, or Jack Kemp and Steve Largent instead.

A Donovan run would likely keep U.S Soccer’s cozy relationship with Major League Soccer while perhaps emboldening those who seek big changes within the youth structure (Donovan was part of the U.S. residency program which was recently canceled in a sort of “We did it” nod to academies). His experience is varied and his network exceptional.

Donovan for President? Maybe!