Late Seferovic winner gives Switzerland all three points with 2-1 victory over Ecuador

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Seasoned veteran Ottmar Hitzfeld made two changes for his Switzerland side, and both substitutes scored as Haris Seferovic’s tap-in four minutes into added time gave the Swiss all three points in a crucial Group E match.

Ecuador scored first, a 22nd minute header for Enner Valencia, but the Swiss came back with a pair of second-half goals for the 2-1 win.

Switzerland started the most promising, and remained that way throughout the first half, but they could not find the back of the net.

The expected threats of Josip Drmic and Xherdan Shaqiri both had chances inside the first 20 minutes, but a good tackle from Jorge Guagua on Drmic and an easy save low by Alexander Dominguez kept them out.

Ecuador scored first, against the run of play, to stun the Swiss and set the tone for the first half. A free kick from the left edge by Walter Ayovi found his Pachuca teammate Enner Valencia wide open in the box, and he leaped high to finish with his head.

The Swiss were caught off guard, and as a result were timid going forward much of the rest of the first half.

But they found their legs during the break, and a halftime change paid dividends for Hitzfeld.  Bringing on Admir Mehmedi for Valentin Stocker, Mehmedi struck from a set piece of his own.

A corner by Ricardo Rodriguez saw Mehmedi easily out-muscle Carlos Gruezo to nod the ball home from close range.

The match continued to be Swiss pressure followed by Ecuadorian counter, but both sides had chances.  Switzerland had a brilliant chance when Josip Drmic put the ball into the back of the net, but the flag went up right away for offside – which replay showed was incorrect as Granit Xhaka let the ball go while Drmic was in the offside position.

The winner came in the 93rd minute, with end-to-end action resulting in Switzerland’s victory. Valon Behrami dispossesed substitute Michael Arroyo with a chance of his own in the box, and the Swiss pressed forward.

Gruezo tried to stop the break with a foul in the midfield, but he only got man and not the ball, and Behrami got up and continued on advantage by the referee.  Rodriguez got the ball near the left corner flag, and he sent in a perfect cross to Seferovic making a near-post run, and the 75th-minute substitute tapped it in.

The points are crucial for Switzerland, who look to prove they are worthy of their seed and also put themselves into position alongside favorites France to advance from the group.  For Ecuador, they will be devastated by the result, as they were clearly bright throughout the match but undone by their own game – a break at the death.

The win for Switzerland marks the fifth time already in this tournament that the team who concedes first has picked up a win. Meanwhile, not a single draw has been recorded so far in Brazil.

LINEUPS:

Switzerland – Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Djourou; Xhaka, Behrami, Inler; Drmic (Seferovic 75′), Stocker (Mehmedi 45′), Shaqiri.

Goals: Mehmedi 48′, Seferovic 90+3′

Ecuador – Domínguez; Guagua, Erazo, Paredes, Ayovi; Noboa, Montero (Rojas 77′), Gurezo; A. Valencia, Caicedo (Arroyo 70′), E. Valencia.

Goals: E. Valencia 22′

Report: Man City, Guardiola to discuss new contract this summer

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Manchester City does not want to let Pep Guardiola start the third year with the club without signing on for longer term.

Guardiola enters the third and final year of his deal in August, and the BBC reports that Man City plans to negotiate a new deal with the Catalan wizard this summer.

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This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given City’s outstanding sophomore season under Guardiola.

Unbeaten City has an 11-point lead on the Premier League table after 18 weeks, with one draw and a PL record 16-straight wins. They have 56 goals scored, conceding just 12.

They’ve won five of six UEFA Champions League matches, only losing a match their opposition needed and they did not, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. City faces Basel next, and visits Leicester City in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.

Lanzini charged by FA for fooling ref with dive

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Manuel Lanzini dove to earn a penalty in West Ham’s 3-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday at the bet365 Stadium, and he may pay for it.

Lanzini, who also posted an assist in an influential performance, drew the penalty converted by Mark Noble when he hit the deck under minimal contact from Erik Pieters.

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He could miss two matches for “successful deception of a match official,” the same penalty given to Everton’s Oumar Niasse for a similar offense.

West Ham pulled out of the drop zone with the win, but has three bottom-half battles coming up over the festive fixtures: Saturday versus Newcastle, Dec. 26 at Bournemouth, and Jan. 2 versus West Brom.

Griezmann backtracks over ‘insensitive’ blackface tweet

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MADRID (AP) Soccer star Antoine Griezmann has apologized for any offense caused after posting an image of himself on social media in blackface as part of an NBA party costume on Sunday.

Griezmann, who is white, was also wearing a wig and holding a basketball in the photo which had “NBA 69 ALLSTARS” on the jersey.

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The photo on his official Twitter account was accompanied by the message “80’s Party” followed by basketball and laughing emojis.

One response called the photo a “bad idea” with others urging the France forward to delete the tweet.

Griezmann at first reacted to the criticism by tweeting: “Calm down friends, I’m a fan of the Harlem Globetrotters and of this great era… It’s a tribute.”

He later tweeted an apology to those he had offended.

“I recognize that’s it’s insensitive on my part. If I offended some people I’m sorry,” he wrote.

The 26-year-old Griezmann plays for Spanish team Atletico Madrid but has been linked to a move to Barcelona.

Alex Morgan named CONCACAF Female POY, Navas wins Male POY

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CONCACAF awarded some of its finest players and coaches on Sunday night, and two familiar faces took home the evening’s most notable awards.

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U.S. Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) and Keylor Navas of Costa Rica and Real Madrid each earned Female and Male Player of the Year honors, after boasting tremendous 2017 seasons.

Morgan who primarily plays for Orlando in the NWSL, was also a member of Lyon, who went on to win the Women’s Champions League this past season.

Navas, on the other hand, played a key role in Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League run, as well as Los Blancos’ La Liga title.

For Morgan, the award is her third since CONCACAF began handing out its annual awards in 2013. Meanwhile, Navas has now won Male Player of the Year on two occasions.