International afternoon friendly roundup: Italy draws with Luxembourg

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Five World Cup teams were in action this afternoon with the 1-1 draw between Italy and Luxembourg headlining the results followed closely behind by the 2-2 draw between England and Ecuador. Elsewhere, Algeria showed some nice grit in a 2-1 win over Romania while the Netherlands dumped out a Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale-less Wales side 2-0.

The matches served as a pre-cursor to tonight’s fixtures when Argentina takes on Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay plays Slovenia, Chile faces off against Northern Ireland and Ivory Coast meets El Salvador.

Here’s an expanded rundown of this afternoon’s results.

Italy 1 Luxembourg 1: Maxine Chanot denied Italy their first win in seven matches when the Luxembourg defender headed the equalizer past Gianluigi Buffon with five minutes to play. The Azzurri jumped out to an early lead through Claudio Marchisio’s 9th minute goal but were unable to capitalize in the 2nd half, twice striking the woodwork. It was a worrying performance for Cesare Prandelli’s side, made up largely of first-team players including Mario Balotelli, who couldn’t find the back of the net despite his five shots.

England 2-2 Ecuador: In an open and entertaining match, a searing shot by Ecuador forward Michael Antonio Arroyo Mina in the 70th minute ensured a share of the spoils on a muggy day in Miami. La Tri opened the scoring just eight minutes into the match when Enner Valencia headed Ecuador in front after some poor defending by Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw. A scuffle in the box then saw Wayne Rooney level for England in the 29th minute before a sensational 51st minute strike by Rickie Lambert was cancelled out by Mina’s howitzer from the top of the box. Antonio Valenica and Raheem Sterling were sent off with 11 minutes to play when the latter came through the United winger, who reacted angrily by strangling the English youngster.

Algeria 2-1 Romania: Algeria and Tottenham midfielder Nabil Bentaleb and Romania’s Alexandru Chipciu exchanged early goals before the two sides were removed from the pitch in the 43rd minute following fans throwing lit flares and bottles. After a 15 minute break the two squads returned to the pitch and in the 66th minute Algeria forward El Arabi Soudani nailed the winner that triggered 15 fans to run on the pitch at Switzerland’s Stade de Geneve.

Netherlands 2-0 Wales: It was a comfortable win for the Netherlands, who received a goal from Arjen Robben and Jeremain Lens in each half of play. The real story, however, was Dutch striker Robin van Persie, fresh off recovering from a knee injury that kept him sidelined for six weeks, sparked injury concerns when he was withdrawn at halftime after struggling with fitness.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

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By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.