Suárez scores twice in return, leads Uruguay to 2-1 win over England

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Two shots are all you need, provided they fall to Luis Suárez. Scoring twice in his 2014 World Cup debut, Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer has put England on the brink of elimination, with his 84th minute game-winner giving the South American champions a 2-1 win over the Three Lions in São Paulo.

Suárez opened the scoring in the 39th minute with his team’s first shot on target, heading inside Joe Hart’s right post to give Uruguay a 1-0 lead. After Wayne Rooney’s first World Cup goal in the 75th minute appeared to preserve a draw for England, Suárez blasted a 84th minute shot from the right of the penalty area into the center of goal, converting La Celeste’s second shot on target into the game-winning goal.

Though England managed six shots on Fernando Muslera, the loss leaves the team on the verge of its first group stage exit since 1958, potentially eliminated before they take the field next Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. If Costa Rica draws Italy tomorrow, the Three Lions are out.

Uruguay, on the other hand, have new reason for optimism. Playing his first match since the end of the Premier League season, Suárez almost single-handedly sank a team that started five of his Liverpool teammates. In the process, Suárez gave Uruguay reason to believe ahead of their group stage’s toughest match: Tuesday’s meeting with Italy in Natal.

[ MORE: Talking points: Putting England’s failure in context ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Even play that saw England hold 60 percent of the ball through halftime failed to produce a shot on target until the 39th minute. Then, perfectly executing a plan that asked Nicolas Lodeiro to connected Uruguay’s midfield with its two attacking stars, La Celeste struck first, getting both Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez involved in the day’s first goal.

On a quick movement out of its own half, Uruguay found Lodeiro in front of the defense, with the ensuing attention leaving Cavani open on the left flank. A ball played wide opened up the English defense, allowing the Paris Saint-Germain striker to find Suárez with a right-footed chip to the middle of the area. Having pulled off the back of defender Phil Jagielka, Suárez headed inside Joe Hart’s right post, giving the two-time champions a 1-0 lead.

England nearly responded through Daniel Sturridge two minutes later, but after being sent to halftime with their one-goal deficit, the Three Lions allowed Uruguay to assume control of the game early in the second period. A 49th minute cross from Suárez nearly caught Hart out of position, though the Manchester City keeper fell back to his line to keep the ball out. Three minutes later, Lodeiro put Cavani in on goal in the left of the penalty area, though the ensuing shot was sent well wide of the right post. Minutes after the teams returned to the field, England was in danger of conceding a second goal.

source: AP
England’s Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the match between Uruguay and England in Sao Paulo. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

In the 54th minute, however, the Three Lions nearly even the scales, but with his second big miss of the match, Rooney’s World Cup goal-scoring drought continued. After heading an open chance onto the bar in the 31st minute, Rooney was given a chance to equalize from nine yards. One-timing a left-footed shot, Rooney found Muslera in the middle of goal, allowing the Uruguayan keeper to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead.

Just over 20 minutes later, however, Rooney’s slump was over. Attacking the far post as play built down England’s right, the maligned attacker tapped in a Glen Johnson pass sent through the six-yard box, scoring his first World Cup goal from close range to bring the Three Lions back into the tournament.

By match’s end, however, the headlines belonged to Suárez. Off a long ball out of Uruguay’s end, a headed ball allowed Suárez to get behind the England defense and into the right of Hart’s penalty box. As the England keeper went low to try to block the shot, the Uruguayan sniper went high, putting his 41st international score into the middle of the Three Lions’ goal.

It’s a score that will likely send England out at the group stage for the first time since 1958 (England failed to qualify in 1994). Roy Hodgson and his team need Costa Rica to lose twice, Italy to beat Uruguay, and the tiebreakers to fall their way in order to make the knockout round. Any draws over the group’s final three games send the Three Lions home.

Though Uruguay has yet to face the Italians, their scenarios are more positive, particularly if Suárez continues scoring goals. With a win on Tuesday, La Celeste will likely go through. Even without that result, there are other scenarios that could see the two-time champions into the second round.

LINEUPS

Uruguay: Muslera; Pereira, Godín, Jimenez, Cáceres; Rodríguez, Gonzalez (78′), Ríos, Lodeiro (Stuani 67′); Suárez (Coates 88′), Cavani.

Goals: Suárez 39′, 84′

England: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson (Lambert 87′); Welbeck (Lallana 71′), Sterling (Barkley 64′), Rooney; Sturridge.

Goals: Rooney 75′

Timbers sign Peruvian winger Andy Polo from Liga MX’s Morelia

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Timbers have acquired winger Andy Polo on loan from Liga MX club Monarcas Morelia for the upcoming season.

The 23-year-old native of Peru played in 25 matches last year for Morelia and made six starts with two goals.

He’s also World Cup-bound, having appeared in Peru’s two-legged playoff against New Zealand in November. Peru won 2-0 on aggregate. Overall, he’s appeared with the Peruvian national team 15 times since his senior debut in 2016.

“Andy is a versatile, young player who will add another element to our attack, and we believe that he has further upside to his development,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said in a statement.

The Timbers used targeted allocation money and have a purchase option. Polo’s arrival is pending a physical and receipt of a visa.

He will occupy an international roster spot.

Can Man United still sign Sanchez without Mkhitaryan swap?

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The answer to the (first) titled question is, undoubtedly, yes.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

The latter question — the “will they?” — remains a relative unknown at this point, but if reports out of the UK are to be believed, Manchester United are just as likely to send $40 million (or so) Arsenal’s way in exchange for Alexis Sanchez, should Henrikh Mkhitaryan refuse the move by declining any contract offers from the Gunners.

[ MORE: Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies ]

The thinking, at least for the last few days since Man United somewhat unexpectedly entered the Sanchez sweepstakes, was that swapping the Armenian for the Chilean was the obvious — and, perhaps only — way forward. Call it special circumstances or an obvious audible, but that’s not necessarily the case — from the Guardian:

“It is understood that if Mkhitaryan does not leave Mourinho believes that, given the club’s robust finances, [Man United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward could still sanction a move for a player who would potentially vastly improve United.”

By the time Sanchez is signed, sealed and delivered, United will have also paid Sanchez and his agent, Fernando Felicevich, massive signing-on fees that could total another $30 million. No matter the order in which the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan saga plays out, United will come out ahead with a superior player at a massively discounted price — should Sanchez ultimately move to Old Trafford, of course.

Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies

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If the FA, English football’s governing body, is insistent upon testing video-assistant refereeing (VAR) as they have done in recent FA Cup and League Cup fixtures, Antonio Conte believes they should darn well use it.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Following his Chelsea side’s penalty-shootout victory over Norwich City in an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday, Conte was equal parts frustrated and confused by the fact that video-referee Mike Jones failed to prompt referee Graham Scott to consult the on-trial system on multiple occasions.

Most notably, Chelsea’s 92nd-minute (extra-time) penalty shout following Timm Klose‘s tackle on Willian. Scott, instead, booked the Brazilian for diving — one of three cards, all shown to Chelsea players, for simulation on the night — and that was that.

“If you watch the replay you see very clearly it is a penalty,” said Conte after the game — quotes from the BBC:

“I think that there was a penalty but not on [Alvaro] Morata — on Willian.

“With Willian, the referee heard what the other referee watched and decided to continue to play. If we want to try to use this new system, it is important for the referee to wait, especially in this incident that is not so clear.

“And then when the referee that is watching had a doubt, he has to call the referee to watch and he can make a decision. The referee on the pitch has to make the decision, not one off the pitch.

“We can improve it for sure but we need to try to take the best solution. The final decision is for the ref on the pitch. Otherwise, why is there this ref?

“The mistake wasn’t of the ref on the pitch but the person watching. When you see this, you have to call the referee.”

VAR was used in another third-round replay, on Tuesday, and helped to correctly rule Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho as being in an onside position when he scored his side’s second goal. While offside/onside calls are much clearer, cut-and-dry decisions to make — and with the aid of a natural stoppage in play — clearly much work lies ahead with regard to the process of determining whether the referee has made a “clear and obvious error,” which remains the threshold for using VAR, in instances of fouls/diving.

Copa QF: Messi misses PK, Barca’s 29-game unbeaten run ends

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MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi missed a penalty and Barcelona conceded late as its 29-match unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss to city rival Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Messi failed from the spot in the 62nd minute, his shot brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Youngster Oscar Melendo netted the winner for the hosts in the 88th with his first goal as a professional.

“I have no words, I was looking forward to this first goal,” said the 20-year-old Melendo, who had come on as a substitute in the second half.

It was Espanyol’s first win against Barcelona at its RCDE Stadium.

The second leg of the Catalan derby is next week at Camp Nou.

Barcelona hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Aug. 16. It had won 23 of its last 29 matches in all competitions.

“We knew we would lose one day,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “The positive thing is that in a week we have a chance to rebound and advance.”

Messi had his chance from the spot after Sergi Roberto was fouled by Esteban Granero, but his low shot into the right corner was stopped as Diego Lopez dived to his left to tip the ball away.

It was a rare miss for Messi, who is having a stellar season and is the Spanish league’s top scorer with 17 goals.

“The penalty save gave us the boost that we needed,” Melendo said. “We were playing too defensively.”

Melendo netted the winner with a low shot from the middle of the area after a well-timed pass by Marc Navarro.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde did not use all of the team’s regular starters, leaving players such as Luis Suarez on the bench.

The match was interrupted for a few minutes in the 76th after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was hit by an object thrown by fans behind his goal.

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was replaced in the second half because of a foot injury.