At halftime: Brazil with chances but no goals against Mexico — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: An energetic start from Mexico gave way to Brazilian control, with a lack of quality in the middle of the park leaving El Tri unable to build anything going forward. Brazil, on the other hand, fully stressed Mexico’s defense, though missed chances from Fred and Neymar led the teams scoreless at halftime. While Mexico started to assert itself before intermission, it still finished the first period without a shot on target.

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Goals (and how they happened): They didn’t.

Other key moments:

11′ – After an energetic start from Mexico, Brazil gets its first chance down the left, where Oscar has been moved the absence of the injured Hulk. Cutting into the penalty box, the Chelsea midfielder plays a ball to the edge of the six with the outside of his right foot, giving Fred a chance from close range. The Brazilian striker fails to convert, leaving the match scoreless.

13′ – El Tri’s worst nightmare? That hamstrung midfield failing to take care of the ball. Early on, that fear almost came to fruition. Giving Neymar possession at the edge of the attacking third, the Mexico defense watched as Brazil’s most dangerous player was given a chance to choose between targets. When the play ultimately broke down, Mexico were spared, but more questions about the team’s midfield had emerged.

26′ – Mexico gets caught on a counter, but after Neymar’s ball from the left is cleared from the penalty area, Guillermo Ochoa looks like he’ll go untested. Dani Alves, however, thought otherwise, getting to the ball first and hitting a cross to the far corner. There, Neymar out-leaps Rafa Marquez to put a shot at Ochoa’s right post, with a lunging stop allowing Ochoa to keep the match scoreless.

41′ – What’s this? Mexico threatening? Just before halftime, it actually happened. After a clearance from an Andres Guardardo cross is worked back to the middle of the field, Jose Juan Vazquez takes a chance from 28 yards out. For a moment, it looks like the shot could curl inside the right post, but going just wide, the try left César without a save over the first 45 minutes.

43 – A restart fired into the Mexico box sees Paulinho deflect a ball behind the Mexican defense. As El Tri’s line pushes up the field, three Seleçao players are left in front of Ochoa. David Luiz gets to the ball but can’t get it past the Mexican keeper, failing to convert the team’s best chance of the half.

Lineups:

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva (c), David Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Ramires, Luiz Gustavo

Mexico: Ochoa, Rodriguez, Marquez (c), Herrera, Layun, Dos Santos, Moreno, Guardado, Peralta, Aguilar, Vazquez

Key players:

  • Neymar, Brazil – Oscar is having a great tournament, thus far, but with Luiz Felipe Scolari putting his star in the middle of the formation, it’s clear everything revolves around Neymar.
  • Oribe Peralta, Mexico – If Brazil maintains control, Mexico’s hopes will hinge on Peralta stealing a goal. The Santos striker won’t need many chances, but against Thiago Silva and David Luiz, the question is whether he’ll have any.

Numbers to know:

55-45: Possession goes in Brazil’s favor. If effective possession was a thing, the numbers would be even more lopsided, but thanks to Mexico coming into the match by the halftime whistle, the real numbers don’t look so lopsided.
4-0: Shots on target, in Brazil’s favor. In fairness, Hector Herrera had a try from distance that should have been recorded as a shot on target, but with the officials failing to see Júlio César’s touch, Brazil was awarded a goal kick.
11-6: Tackles won, in favor of Brazil. Oscar alone has disposed Mexico five times.

Question for the second half:

  • Does Mexico change it up? And if so, how? Miguel Herrera has done a good job of stabilizing this team, but he hasn’t been able to install a Plan B. If El Tri does change it up — and based on the first half, they’ll need to — it will may be more about personnel than approach.
  • Is Brazil waning? After a spirited Mexico stormed out of the gates, Brazil eventually took control, enjoying 20-25 minutes or primacy. But the end of the half, however, Mexico had started to get a grip on the game. Is that a pattern, or a blip?

Roma slips in 3-1 derby loss to Lazio

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The Derby della Capitale went Lazio’s way, all but shattering any hopes Roma had of catching Juventus for the Scudetto as Keita Balde scored a brace in the 3-1 win.

Balde is absolutely on fire, with now five goals in his last two matches. His brace comes on the heels of a hat-trick in a 6-2 win over Palermo last time out.

The 22-year-old Senegalese international scored his first just 12 minutes in thanks to some horrid defending from Roma’s Emerson, and Balde cut the ball inside the near post to the surprise of Wojciech Szczesny. His second killed off the game in the 85th minute on the break, as Senad Lulic unselfishly gave it up to Balde on the 2-on-1 for an easy finish.

With Balde’s first the only score of the first half, Roma had momentarily pulled back level on a Daniele de Rossi penalty moments after the break, but it was Dusan Basta to provide the eventual winner just five minutes later. The goal was a bit generous, as his hit at the top of the box took a huge deflection off Federico Fazio and looped into the top corner.

Roma dominated possession throughout, but they were locked down, as Lazio matched them on the shot count despite finding themselves on the back foot for much of the game. Roma also saw Antonio Rudiger sent off in the dying minutes of the game for a very high boot that caught Lazio substitute Filip Djordjevic directly in the shin.

The loss paired with Rudiger’s impeding suspension means that Roma must now change its focus from looking ahead towards Juventus and instead over their shoulder. With a brutal run-in for Roma remaining, including games against AC Milan, Juventus, and Chievo Verona left on the schedule, they will be tested to hold their four-point lead over Napoli, who also has a game in hand.

Stream Live: Lukaku, Everton welcome title favorites Chelsea

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Everton hopes to have a better showing than the reverse fixture as welcome leaders Chelsea to Goodison Park live at 9:05 a.m. ET on CNBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Toffees fell 5-0 on their visit to Stamford Bridge in early November, part of a furious Chelsea run and the beginning of a poor run of form for the home side. Now, Everton is flying to finish the year, led by Romelu Lukaku, who is surrounded by rumors of a return from whence he came to Merseyside, from today’s opponents.

[ WATCH LIVE: Everton vs. Chelsea live online at NBCSports.com ]

Lukaku has 12 goals in his last 11 games, on absolute fire to the end of the campaign, only feeding the rumors. He heads the attack, with support from Enner Valencia who returns to selection after a short suspension last time out. Aaron Lennon, Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori are all injured with long-term problems, but Everton has no other issues.

For Chelsea, the Blues continue with the decorated back three of Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, and Gary Cahill. Despite his positive performance last time out against Southampton, Cesc Fabregas is rotated back to the bench in favor of first-choice attacker Pedro, who supports Diego Costa along with Eden Hazard.

With the Blues four points clear at the top, this game represents one of the tougher fixtures remaining on their soft finish to the season. Chelsea has lost a whopping six of its last 10 trips to Goodison Park across all competitions.

LINEUPS

Everton: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Jagielka, Williams, Calvert-Lewin, Baines, Gueye, Davies, Barkley, Valencia, Lukaku.
Subs: Robles, Kenny, Pennington, Barry, Lookman, Mirallas, Kone.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard.
Subs: Begovic, Zouma, Ake, Chalobah, Fabregas, Willian, Batshuayi.

Stream Live: Man City can strengthen Top 4 spot at Middlesbrough

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A week after Manchester City struggled to finish on net, the torrid Gabriel Jesus returns to the lineup as the Citizens travel to Middlesbrough at 9:05 a.m. ET live online at NBCSports.com.

Jesus scored three goals in five Premier League appearances after arriving in the winter, but broke a bone in his foot and faced a long spell on the sidelines. He is back from injury and starts alongside Sergio Aguero in the City attack. Raheem Sterling drops to the bench as Pep Guardiola produces a flat 4-4-2 to fit both attackers in the formation.

[ WATCH LIVE: Middlesbrough vs. Man City live online at NBCSports.com ]

City is also now forced to play with Willy Caballero in goal after Claudio Bravo was injured in the Manchester derby. On the bench to back up the goalkeeper is 21-year-old Manchester City youth product Angus Gunn.

For Middlesbrough, they were forced into a change as Fabio comes into the lineup in place of the injured Daniel Ayala who drops out with an ankle problem. Gaston Ramierz was reportedly available for selection after missing the win over Sunderland due to suspension, but he does not appear in the lineup or on the bench.

Boro has served as City’s boogey team in the past, without a win in their first 14 Premier League meetings, but they have turned that around, with wins in four of their last seven against Boro.

LINEUPS

Middlesbrough: Guzan, Fabio, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, De Roon, Forshaw, Downing, Stuani, Negredo.
Subs: 
Dimi, Bernardo, Barragan, Fischer, Traore, Bamford, Gestede.

Man City: Caballero, Kompany, Kolarov, Otamendi, Clichy, Navas, Fernandinho, Garcia, De Bruyne, Jesus, Aguero.
Subs: 
Gunn, Sagna, Zabaleta, Fernando, Sterling, Nolito Sané.

Man United 1-1 Swansea: Sigurdsson rescues a point for Swans

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Swansea City went controversially behind, but they always remained a threat, and Gylfi Sigurdsson was again the man to pull them from the cold, dark waters.

Wayne Rooney had bagged a highly controversial penalty at the stroke of halftime, but Sigurdsson delivered his specialty: a beautiful curling free-kick with 11 minutes to go as Swansea grabbed a point and doomed the home side to yet another single point at Old Trafford.

Swansea began with much of the early possession, with Manchester United sloppy on the ball. The home side, which has been struck by countless injuries of late, was forced into yet another early change as Luke Shaw was unable to make it out of the opening 10 minutes with an ankle injury, replaced by Antonio Valencia.

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A furious chance for the Swans saw Fernando Llorente shake free of Eric Bailly and force a good save from David De Gea on 14 minutes. Down the other end two minutes later, Jesse Lingard timed a run well and received a brilliant ball from Anthony Martial, but he couldn’t bag the opener, with Lukasz Fabianski there to smother the ball.

On the half-hour mark, Martial burst into the box and took it on himself, cutting across three defenders to find space and firing on net but it was right at Fabianski who held on nervously.

Just before halftime, United found the breakthrough as Marcus Rashford went down near the endline on a challenge from Fabianski. The decision was poor, as Rashford dove amid hardly any contact from Fabianski off his line, but with the referee in a poor position to see the magnitude of the challenge, he pointed to the spot after a long deliberation. Wayne Rooney, who had been mostly invisible in the first 45 minutes, buried the chance from the spot with the final kick of the first half.

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Rooney nearly had a second just minutes after the halftime break, but his effort on the empty left side of the net thumped into the back of Martial and harmlessly away. United then suffered yet another injury to its defense, with the reliable Eric Bailly unable to continue after whacking the back of Llorente’s leg.

Injuries were a concern for both sides throughout the contest. Swansea had just brought on Jefferson Montero, who has been plagued by hamstring problems all season. Montero was on the pitch just five minutes before pulling up after a physical contest between he and Antonio Valencia, forced back off the pitch and needed a stretcher to reach the tunnel. Martin Olsson came on, and was immediately thumped in the air full tilt by Ashley Young, but thankfully Olsson could continue despite the heavy clatter to his ribs.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Swansea fired a warning shot at the Red Devils on the break as Jordon Ayew cut back for Gylfi Sigurdsson, but he thumped the ball acres over the bar. That was a harbinger of things to come, as Ayew was fouled on the edge of the penalty area, and Sigurdsson stepped up to conjur the ball into the back of the net, with David de Gea failing to even produce an attempt at a save.

The visitors nearly snagged the win in six minutes of stoppage time, on a free-kick from Sigurdsson yet again, which he lofted into the box, and with Llorente’s defender Daley Blind falling to the turf, the Swans striker was completely free, but he bungled the wide-open chance and saw it harmlessly into the arms of De Gea.

The point for United only moves them within a point of the top four, failing to snag the chance to jump Manchester City, who have yet to play today. For Swansea, they fail to pull out of the relegation zone, still sitting two points below Hull City despite owning a slightly better goal differential.