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′

Top Premier League storylines – Week 35

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It’s a short Premier League weekend with the FA Cup taking place, but all eyes will be on the Emirates Stadium after Friday’s stunning news.

Arsene Wenger begins his farewell tour at Arsenal this Sunday as the Gunners host a London derby against West Ham United.

[MORE: Arsene Wenger’s legacy

Arsenal aims to finish season on a high
Arsenal vs. West Ham —  8:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

The decision to step down has taken attention away from Arsenal’s defeat last Sunday when Newcastle came back from a one-goal deficit to defeat the Gunners, 2-1. Perhaps with the manager on his way out, Arsenal’s players will be extra motivated to end the season on a high note. If Arsenal continue to slip up, it could be out of Europe entirely, as the club sits just two points above seventh place.

For West Ham, a win would all but ensure the club’s place in the Premier League next season, but the club currently sit just six points above the relegation zone, and with the team going through a rough past few months, every point gained at home or away counts.

Does a guard of honor await Manchester City?
Manchester City vs. Swansea City —  11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

By virtue of Manchester United’s defeat last Sunday, Manchester City became officially Premier League champions-elect.

The club will get to raise the trophy officially at the end of the season, but for now, it appears Swansea City will be the first club to show its respect to Man City’s dominance throughout the season with a guard of honor. Man City is still chasing more Premier League records, but Swansea City, just four points above the drop zone, needs this win more.

Relegation scrap on tap
Watford vs. Crystal Palace —  10:00 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

It’s a proverbial six-pointer as Watford, about as far north you can go in the London area, takes on Crystal Palace in south London in a key relegation battle.

Just three points separate the two sides, but a win for Watford would push the club up to 40 points while a win for Palace would put the Eagles even on points with the Hornets at 37 each. Interestingly, via the Premier League, “Watford are winless in their last six home meetings with Crystal Palace in all competitions (D3 L3), since a 2-0 victory in the Championship in February 2009.”

Stats behind Wenger’s time at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger
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When you manage for nearly 22 years, you’re sure to accumulate numerous statistical milestones.

Arsene Wenger holds the record for most Premier League games managed (823), FA Cups won (7) and of course, his incredible run of 49 games without defeat with the 2003/2004 Arsenal invincibles team.

[MORE: ALL COVERAGE OF ARSENE WENGER’S DEPARTURE]

Our friends at Opta have put together some statistics together on Wenger’s achievements over his time at the club that spans three decades.

Arsene Wenger’s Career (as of April 20, 2018)

Titles

Premier League 🏆🏆🏆

FA Cup 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆

Community Shield 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆


Games Managed

Premier League – 823 games, 473 wins, 199 draws, 151 losses, 57.5% winning percentage

UEFA Champions League – 177 games, 83 wins, 41 draws, 53 losses

FA Cup – 109 games, 73 wins, 22 draws, 14 losses

League Cup – 73 games, 42 wins, 9 draws, 22 losses

UEFA Cup/Europa League – 23 games, 14 wins, 5 draws, 4 losses

UEFA Champions League qualifying – 14 games, 13 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses

Community Shield – 9 games, 6 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss

(more…)

Bocanegra, Hucles to chair USSF technical development group

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CHICAGO (AP) Former U.S. men’s captain Carlos Bocanegra and retired women’s midfielder Angela Hucles will chair a new technical development committee established by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The organization also appointed eight chief officers who will report to chief executive officer Dan Flynn, but the final two direct reports remain to be hired: general managers for the men’s and women’s national teams.

Bocanegra currently works as the vice president and technical director for Atlanta United while Hucles is a former CEO and has spoken at sports leadership summits. Both Bocanegra and Hucles are members of the U.S. Soccer board. Bocanegra in particular has been floated for the position of U.S. Men’s National Team general manager, and this appointment could be the first step. And with more than 100 caps for the U.S. Women’s National Team and time spent as an executive, Hucles could also be angling for the USWNT general manager position.

The USSF said its board also established a new commercial committee, raising the board’s committee total to six under new president Carlos Cordeiro, who succeeded Sunil Gulati in February.

Nico Romeijn was promoted to chief sport development officer from head of coaching education, Ryan Mooney to chief soccer officer from director of sport development and Brian Remedi to chief stakeholders officer from chief administrative officer. Tonya Wallach was appointed chief talent and inclusion officer

Department heads continuing senior roles who are direct reports to Flynn include Jay Berhalter (chief commercial and strategy officer), Neil Buethe (chief communications officer), Eric Gleason (chief financial officer) and Lydia Wahlke (chief legal counsel).

Kroenke’s statement on Wenger

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Stan Kroenke has been a mostly hands-off owner for Arsenal over the past 10 years, preferring to put his trust in Arsene Wenger.

But today, with Wenger’s public announcement that he will step away at the end of the season, Kroenke released a poignant statement, calling on the club’s fans around the globe to back the side as it looks to hold on to a place in next season’s Europa League.

[MORE: Reaction to Arsene Wenger’s decision]

“This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport,” Kroenke said. “One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsène has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.

“Arsène has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude. Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record. He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.

“We have high ambitions to build on Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.

“We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game.”

Kroenke has drawn the ire of many Arsenal fans who had been calling for Wenger to be sacked for years, as the Arsenal board year after year continued to offer Wenger a new contract. It appeared that as long as the club was stable financially, with UEFA Champions League television revenues coming in and the team competing for a top-four Premier League position, the board was content.

However, the last two seasons have seen Arsenal slip, with a record amount of defeats during Wenger’s tenure and a second-consecutive season outside of the Champions League, leading to more lost revenue.