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′

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday