Italy's Marco Verratti, right, is challenged by England's Raheem Sterling, left, and Jordan Henderson, center, during the group D World Cup soccer match between England and Italy at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Saturday, June 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

At halftime: Marchisio, Sturridge leave Italy, England even – FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half:  Italy’s dominance of the ball doesn’t translate onto the scoresheet, with each team producing a goal in the half’s final 10 minutes. Whereas the Azzurri have had success building through the middle before playing wide right, England’s speed has proved as problematic as predicted, with two of the team’s three good first half chances resulting from Italy’s inability to keep up with the Three Lions’ attackers.

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Goals:

35′ – Claudio Marchisio – After having success all half going down their right, Italy finally earns their first corner. A restart played short eventually makes its way to the top of the penalty area, where Marchisio rifles a low liner inside Joe Hart’s right post. Italy, 1-0.

37′ – Daniel Sturridge – Rooney turns the tables, getting behind right back Matteo Darmian and onto a long through ball from Raheem Sterling.  Perfectly floating a ball to the far post, the Manchester United star dropped his cross into Sturridge’s right foot, finding the Liverpool striker in stride for England’s opening goal. Tied, 1-1.

Other key moments:

5′ – Liverpool kicks playing their part – After a pass from the right found Raheem Sterling just outside the Italy penalty area, the Gabriel Paletta deflected a ball back to Jordan Henderson, who ran onto a one-timer that drew a dive from Salvatore Sirigu. The moment, however, was less about the quality of the chance than the people involved. After giving the crowd reason to gasp on a long shot minutes earlier, Sterling was again drawing the defense’s attention, while his Liverpool teammate had seized a chance to get forward.

12′ – England pinned – For the first time in the match, Italy is able to sustain possession in the final third. Most of the Azzurri’s attacks had seen them turn on the ball and toward goal, but this time, with Andrea Pirlo switching play 32 yards out, England set up behind the ball: four defenders; four midfielders; and Raheem Sterling above the arc.

There’s no pressure. No chances are being taken. They just wait for Italy to make their move – a benign play that concedes a goal kick. When Italy’s in control, this is how the match will play out.

22′ – An empty appeal – Play switched from England’s right finds Sterling on the opposite flank, with a perfectly trapped ball allowing the 19-year-old to put his next touch beyond Marco Verratti and toward the byline. Driving a ball into the six, Sterling nearly connects with Danny Welbeck, who is left appealing for a penalty as his move toward the ball finds the left shoulder of Paletta.

23′ – Barzagli saves Azzurri  Welbeck nearly has his revenge with England’s next movement, beating Paletta to go alone into the right of the box. His pass into the six was destined for Sturridge before a lunge for Andrea Barzagli saved Italy, with the ball eventually going out for a corner. It’s the first sign that England’s will give Italy problems.

33′ – Italy finds Balotelli – The Italians continue to find success down their right – behind Wayne Rooney, who’s been pushed wide by Sterling’s inclusion. This time, Darmian is able to find Mario Balotelli making a near-post run, only to see the Milan forward fail to get his try on goal. Moments later, down that same right side, Italy produced the corner that gave them their lead.

45+2′ – Jagielka prevents amazing – A through ball into the left of the area draws Joe Hart off his line, but Balotelli beats him to the ball, leaving the Manchester City goalkeeper helpless as the Italian midfield races into the box. Before they arrive, Balotelli defies his sharp angle and lofts a ball toward goal. If it wasn’t for Phil Jagielka collapsing back to his line, Italy would have gone into half-time up 2-1. Seconds later, as Antonio Candreva nailed Hart’s right upright, England was in survival mode.

Key players:

  • Salvatore Sirigu, Italy – The Paris-Saint Germain number one is making his first start for Italy since 2010. If England’s speed continues to prove problematic, he may need to stay perfect to preserve a result.
  • Andrea Pirlo, Italy – Of course. Everything is still flowing through him.
  • Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney, England – At some point, Italy has to meet some resistance going down their right. What England’s speed is to Italy’s defense, Candreva and Darmian have been to England’s.
  • Cesare Prandelli, Italy (manager) – Is there a point where the Italy boss sacrifices Marco Verratti to get another attacker in the box? Verratti has been fine, but his inclusion means Balotelli’s alone when Italy penetrates down the right.

Question for the second half:

  • Will Manaus play its part? – Contrary to prematch suspicions, the pitch is fine and appears to be holding up well. The humidity, however, will test each sides fitness. With an 82 degree temperature complemented by 70 percent humidity, attrition could be a factor.

Electricity restored at Maracana after some late bills paid

This Feb. 2, 2017 shows Maracana stadium with a dry field in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stadium operators, the Rio state government, and Olympic organizers have fought over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills and management of the venue. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio’s electricity utility has turned the power back on at the famous Maracana stadium after it was shut off for almost a month in a dispute over $1 million in unpaid bills.

The utility on Thursday said power had been restored after the stadium operator paid 1.3 million reals ($430,000) in late bills from November through January. It was shut off on Jan. 26 in the dispute.

The utility said it is still negotiating for 1.8 million reals ($600,000) in unpaid bills from the organizing committee of last year’s Rio Olympics. Rio 2016 organizers still owe millions to companies which helped prepare the Olympics and Paralympics

The stadium has been vandalized over the last month with seats torn out, televisions stolen and the grass field left untended.

VIDEO: FC Dallas youngster Kellyn Acosta unleashes howitzer goal

Arabe Unido goalkeeper Miguel lloyd (1) reaches up to block a shot from FC Dallas as defender Rigoberto Nino (2) and FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta (23) watch in the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals soccer match, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Frisco, Texas (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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With FC Dallas taking on Panamanian club Aribe Unido in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta grabbed a second for the Major League Soccer club 10 minutes past halftime.

It wasn’t just any old goal. It was a STRIKE.

The Texas native trailed the play, and with Roland Lamah shut off in the box by solid man-marking on the ball, Acosta was there to provide an outlet, and he blasted a vicious strike into the top-left corner. The find by Lamah was a smart one with a host of defenders closing in, and his calm demeanor was rewarded as his teammate launched a rocket into the back of the net.

The goal is a fodder for those who believe Acosta, who has played full-back for much of his career, should be a midfielder instead. His positioning and ability to trail the play with deadly accuracy is what makes this goal so special.

Acosta would bag a third in the dying minutes of the game, giving FC Dallas a 3-0 lead to take on the road as they travel to Panama for the second leg on March 1st.

Top Premier League Storylines – Week 26

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of Leicester City speaks with his players during the break in extra-time in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay match between Leicester City and Derby City at The King Power Stadium on February 8, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Well. This weekend’s return of Premier League action was already slated to be an exciting one, but now with today’s enormous bit of breaking news, it has become even more intriguing.

[ WATCH: Previewing every match in Week 26 ]

There’s plenty to discuss at the top of the Premier League table, as Arsenal and Spurs look to heal their European wounds, but it’s what’s at the bottom that has everyone talking today.

How will Leicester City react after the firing of Claudio Ranieri?

Leicester City vs. Liverpool —  3:00 p.m. EDT Monday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Well. The Foxes had their work cut out for them coming into this match already, but now it has a whole new flavor. Claudio Ranieri has been dismissed just nine months after winning the Premier League title, and sitting just a point off the drop coming into the weekend (and inside the relegation zone coming into the match?) Leicester City will be lead into King Power Stadium by Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare and First Team Coach Mike Stowell.

Liverpool stopped a five-match winless streak last time out with a quality 2-0 win over Tottenham, but the Reds defense has been leaky all season, and if Leicester is to break its horrid 610-minute goalless streak, it would be here. The Foxes are without a win in five and have not scored a Premier League goal in all of the 2017 calendar year. Can they respond and begin to play for themselves rather than their former manager?

Can Dele Alli and Tottenham bounce back?

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs looked like they had rediscovered their Champions League form with a comprehensive smothering of Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup. Then, they welcomed KAA Gent to Wembley and promptly lost their heads. Dele Alli was sent off for one of the worst challenges you’ll see, and Spurs were vulnerable as a result, crashing out of the Europa League.

Now, Mauricio Pochettino must regroup the squad and get them ready to host Stoke, a team they clobbered 4-0 in the third match of the season. The squad is still healthy, and the loss of European play may actually help them in the long run. Here, however, it provides them with negative form and a short prep time. They need this one badly to solidify a top four place moving forward, can Poch turn it around?

Can Sunderland get a result against surging Everton?

Everton vs. Sunderland — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Hull City hosts Burnley. Crystal Palace welcomes Middlesbrough. With those two fellow occupants of the relegation zone playing at home against lower-half sides, the spotlight is squarely on Sunderland. The Black Cats have a tough matchup, on the road at Everton.

The Toffees haven’t lost a Premier League match since falling to Liverpool in mid-December, and have scored 19 goals in the eight matches since that blemish. With that in mind, Sunderland must get some kind of a result to pull off the bottom of the Premier League table. Can they snatch points at Goodison Park?

EFL Cup final could leave Chelsea well out in front

Chelsea vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Chelsea is already eight points ahead of the pack and looks to be the clear favorite to win the Premier League title. It could get even clearer after this week. Manchester United is off, Manchester City is off, and Arsenal is off. Couple that with Tottenham struggling and Liverpool facing a desperate Leicester City side, and it’s entirely conceivable that a win for Chelsea over Swansea City could leave the Blues as far as 11 points clear at the top of the table, albeit a game ahead of some. That would all but wrap things up, wouldn’t it?

Mario Balotelli handed 2-match ban for abusing referee

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, of Italy, reacts during the Europa League group I soccer match between OGC Nice and FC Salzburg, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s teammate Alassane Pleas has confirmed he heard Bastia supporters racially abusing Balotelli with monkey chants during the league match on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
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After being sent off for referee abuse in last weekend’s Ligue 1 win over FC Lorient, Nice striker Mario Balotelli has been handed a two-match ban.

Balotelli earned his second red card of the season in the 69th minute of a 1-0 win that kept Nice within striking distance of the leaders Monaco. It was his second straight red and third sending-off of the season, having already been dismissed in reverse fixture against Lorient after a pair of yellows in the final three minutes of the game.

After the mercurial Italian’s hot start to the season, he has just one goal in the last two months, the third in a 3-1 win over Guingamp. He has not scored a point-winning goal since bagging both in a 2-1 win over Dijon back on December 18th.

Balotelli’s agent, the well-known Mino Raiola, was so frustrated with his client’s continual dismissal problems that he told French media conglomerate RMC Sport that the solution to Balotelli’s problems is to “cut out his tongue.”

“I have already found the solution: you have to cut out his tongue,” Raiola said bluntly. “To play soccer, there is no need for language! In all seriousness, he knows he made a big mistake and he has no excuse. He knows he needs to improve that. He is very sad for him, for the team.”

The suspension leaves Balotelli on the sidelines for tomorrow’s match against 11th placed Montpellier and then on March 4th at 17th placed Dijon. Nice sits in third, level on points with 2nd placed PSG and three back of leaders Monaco.