France clobbers 10-man Honduras after Palacios red for 3-0 win

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France dominated from front to back, and Honduras let any upset chance for an upset get away, as Karim Benzema scored twice and forced an own goal to lead the favorites through 3-0.

Honduras withstood the French onslaught for almost the entire first half, until Wilson Palacios conceded a penalty a minute before the break, earning his second yellow card in the process, and his side could not hold up a man down.

France held over 70% of possession throughout the first half, and they clattered the post twice but could not find a way through for much of the first half. Honduras mounted a dangerous counter or two to show they weren’t totally incapable of an attack, but sustained attack proved difficult.

Unfortunately for Honduras, they couldn’t make it through to the break with a promising deadlock. With a minute to go in the half, Wilson Palacios went clattering into the back of Paul Pogba in the box, and it was more than enough for a penalty.

To make matters worse, it earned the Stoke City midfielder his second yellow card, having already gotten into a mess with Pogba once earlier that earned both men cautions. With Honduras down to 10 men, they were no match for France’s onslaught, and Benzema slotted home the penalty for their first lead.

Just after halftime, it was clear the French would take advantage of the numerical advantage. Pressing for a second to put the result out of doubt, they grabbed it soon after, although not without a touch of controversy.

Benzema unlocked things on the left edge, and he fired from a tight angle. The ball went past Valladares and out of his reach, so he let it go. With the goalkeeper in a relaxed state, the ball caromed off the post and directly back at him.  Valladares tried to jolt back into action, but it was too late, and he fumbled the ball over the line for an own goal.

Let’s not take anything away from the striker (other than the official goal), since Benzema’s strike was of top quality, and France deservedly doubled their lead. Replays were inconclusive as to if the ball crossed the line no matter how many times they were played, but goal-line technology sprung into action and confirmed the score.

Benzema would get redemption for missing out on the official goal tally by bagging his brace later on. Patrice Evra went down in the box after banging knees with a defender, and a rip on net from Antoine Griezmann caromed off Evra’s body in a heap on the ground.

The richochet came right to Benzema, who blasted a howitzer into the back of the net for France’s third, all off his foot, if not all on his tally.  Evra was taken off the pitch on a stretcher, but came back onto the field a few minutes later. He was noticeably hampered.

LINEUPS:

France – Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra; Cabaye (Mayuba 65′), Matuidi, Pogba (Sissokho 57′); Valbuena (Giroud 78′), Benzema, Griezmann.

Goals – Benzema (pen) 45′, 72′; Valladares (og) 48′

Honduras – Valladares; Figueroa, Bernardez (Chavez, 46′), Izaguirre, Beckeles; Palacios, Espinoza, Najar (Claros 58′), Garrido; Bengtson (Chavez 46′), Costly.

Discipline – Palacios (2nd yellow) 44′

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”