Croatia cruises to 4-0 win behind Mario Mandzukic brace

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Mario Mandzukic marked his 2014 World Cup debut with a brace to help Croatia to a 4-0 victory over Cameroon in Manaus.

The score was a bit misleading after Cameroon started the game brightly, only to give a goal to Croatia against the run of play through Ivica Olic.

The Indomitable Lions did well to continue pressing, and enjoyed some nice play down the wings, before Alex Song was shown a straight red card that changed the game. In the 2nd half, Ivan Perisic’s fantastic individual effort opened the floodgates and Mandzukic struck his brace, one by head and one by foot.

The match began well for Cameroon, hustling down the wings with a pace and hunger that lacked in the opening match 0-1 loss to Mexico. A flurry of chances came up empty and in the 11th minute Croatia took the lead when Luka Modric swung the ball out to the right wing where Drijo Srna found himself in space. The Shakhtar defender wasted no time whipping in a ball for Mandzukic who went shoulder-to-shoulder with defender Nicholas Nkoulou. The resulting ball fell to the feet of Perisic, who crossed hard and low for Olic to finish from close range.

Cameroon battled and arguably was enjoying the run of play when Song daftly chased down an off-the-ball Mandzukic on a 40th minute counter attack and ripped him down from behind with an elbow punch. Straight red was the obvious decision and Cameroon were down to 10 men, visibly deflated.

From there, Croatia took the game to Cameroon and only three minutes into the second half Ivan Perisic doubled the lead, picking up Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje’s poor clearance and dribbling 45 yards into the box, outrunning Dany Nounkeu along the way, and cooly finishing low to the keeper’s right.

After flubbing a glorious chance from a Sammir though-ball, Mandzukic rose high on Pranjic’s 61st minute outswinging corner to thump it into the back of the net. Fifteen minutes later and the wantaway Bayern Munich striker had his brace after Mateo Kovacic cut a clever pass to fellow substitute Eduardo, who sent teasing right-footed shot on Itanjde. The keeper parried the shot right to the feet of Mandzukic, who finished easily.

Late in the match Cameroon pushed forward and nearly scored off efforts by Benjamin Moukandjo and Stephane M’Bia but it was not to be for the Lions, who will be heading home after their final group stage match against Brazil on June 23rd.

LINEUPS: 

Cameroon – Itandje, Assou-Ekotto, Nkoulou (c), Song, Moukandjo, Aboubakar (Webo 70′), Choupo Moting (Salli 75′), Chedjou (Nounkeu 46′), Mbia, Enoh, Matip

Croatia -Pletikosa, Pranjic, Perisic (Redbic 78′), Corluka, Lovren, Rakitic, Modric, Srna (c), Mandzukic, Olic (Eduardo 69′), Sammir (Kovacic 72′)

Goals – Olic 11′, Perisic 48′, Mandzukic 61′, Mandzukic

Discipline – Song 40′ (red), Eduardo 69′ (yellow)

VIDEO: Pedro scores stunning goal for Chelsea

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Not a bad way to start the Premier League weekend…

12 minutes into the first game of Matchweek 9, Chelsea’s Pedro curled home a stunning effort into the far corner and off the far post after a corner was played short to him.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A simply stunning goal from the Spaniard which you can watch in the video above.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Watford in top five clash

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Chelsea host Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as fifth and fourth clash.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea are without a win in three games in all competitions and some pressure is starting to build on the Blues as they’ve fallen further behind the two Manchester clubs atop the PL table.

As for Watford, Marco Silva‘s men are in fourth place and aiming to keep up their impressive away form in the PL this season with three of their four wins coming on the road.

In team news Chelsea’s injuries are piling up with Victor Moses and N'Golo Kante missing but Alvaro Morata does start after recovering from his hamstring injury, while Watford start Troy Deeney up top after his impressive cameo against Arsenal last week.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Rudiger, David Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Ampadu, Zappacosta, Musonda, Willian, Batshuayi

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenia, Cleverley, Doucoure, Holebas; Pereyra, Deeney, Richarlison. Subs:

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!