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.


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

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.