Another giant downed by Costa Rica; Los Ticos top Italy, end England’s WC

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The temperatures pushed the tempers of the players, and the tempo of the game, as Costa Rica’s halftime lead led to a halftime skirmish with Italy in their Group D match on Friday afternoon.

But Italy could not respond in the second half, as Los Ticos continued CONCACAF’s remarkable World Cup in Brazil with a 1-0 win over Italy just days after shocking Uruguay by a 3-1 score.

Costa Rica is on to the knockout rounds. Italy is now even with Uruguay at a win a piece, and the two teams match up in the Group E finale. England has been eliminated.

Bryan Ruiz’s goal in the 44th minute was enough to give Los Ticos a much-desired lead, and here’s what we were saying at the break.

Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo teamed up on a number of first half occasions, with the young striker unable to capitalize on some splendid balls from the veteran midfielder. Costa Rica made adjustments in the second half, harassing Pirlo nearly every time he was near the ball.

It was effective, and as Balotelli was denied service he responded with anger and petulance. He earned a yellow card for his troubles midway through half No. 2.

The introduction of Cassano and Insigne provided a change of pace, but the final ball wasn’t there. Shots made their way to Navas, but he didn’t look threatened.

And Italy did very little to pierce the Costa Rica back line. As the game hit 75, 80, 85 minutes, there seemed very little threat of an equalizer. The tactics of Jorge Luis Pinto were spot on.

LINEUPS:

Italy – Buffon; Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Darmian; De Rossi; Candreva (Insigne, 56′), Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Casano, 46′), Marchisio (Cerci, 70′); Balotelli

Costa Rica – Navas, Gonzalez, Omana, Burgas, Duarte, Bolanos, Ruiz (Brenes, 81′), Gamboa, Tejeda (Cubero, 68′), Campbell (Ureno, 74′)

Goals: Ruiz (44′)

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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