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′

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.