At halftime: Possession not enough as Germany held by Ghana — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: The six Bayern Munich starters in Germany’s team will be used to this huge edge in possession, but with Ghana eschewing pressure to stay organized at the back, Group G’s favorites have been left hoping the combination of through balls and passes send across the six-yard box will pay off. Through 45 minutes, no dice, with Germany and Ghana going to halftime scoreless for the second straight World Cup.

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Goals: They’re coming. I think. As much possession as Germany has had, Ghana’s also had their moments near the favorites’ goal.

Other key moments:

7′ – The match’s first chance has gone the way of the Black Stars, who saw almost nothing of the ball over the match’s first six minutes. Yet after a long diagonal from left back Kwadwo Asamoah finds Christian Atsu deep on the right, the German defense is opened up, giving striker Asamoah Gyan space to attack the near post. Atsu cuts back and puts a left-footed ball across the top of the six, but Gyan puts his shot into the seats.

11′ – Germany’s begun having success finding runners cutting through the Ghanian defense. This time, Mesut Özil’s run behind Ghana’s left is regarded with a chance to find Thomas Müller in the middle of the area. After turning on what looks like a right-footed shot, the Bayern Munich attacker rolls a back pass to Toni Kroos. The midfielder’s blast from just beyond the penalty box is blocked by Jonathan Mensah.

13′ – Manuel Neuer is called into action, with a long blast from Atsu forcing the German goalkeeper into a diving stop. Before the Germans can regain possession, André Ayew has room to play a ball across the top of the six, though Germany’s defense handles the chance.

21′ – Germany’s first true moment of danger sees Ghanaian defender John Boye step up. On a ball played wide right, Özil is allowed time to cut in and play a cross to the edge of the six-yard box. Müller, coming off a game one hat trick, is there, but a sliding challenge from Boye keeps the German attacker from putting a shot on goal. Played off Müller, the ball goes out for a Black Stars goal kick.

29′ –  Asamoah, tested throughout the half, misjudges a long ball, allowing Mario Götze to get behind him. Boye, however, steps up again. Trying to find Müller in the middle of goal, Götze sees his pass blocked by the sliding Black Star, who plays the ball out for a corner.

33′ – A cross from Ghana’s right for Gyan is brought down but easily poked away. Unfortunately, the German defense is caught flat-footed, allowing Sulley Muntari to come from deep and one-time a swerving shot toward Neuer. The punch is easy enough, but on a try from 32 yards, Neuer was at the mercy of Suntari’s aim as Ghana drew another save.

36′ – Germany finally goes left, but the story’s the same. Played behind the defense, Özil tries another ball across the top of the six. Again, Boye is there to put the ball out for a corner.

Lineups:

Germany: Neuer; Howedes, Hummels, Boateng, Mertesacker; Lahm, Khedira, Kroos; Gotze, Muller, Ozil

Ghana: Dauda; Afful, Mensah, Boye, Asamoah; Rabiu, Muntari, Atsu, A. Ayew; Boateng, Gyan

Key Players:

  • Kwadwo Asamoah, Ghana – The Juventus wide man is his defense’s most recognizable name, something that hasn’t prevented the Germans from going at him. Though he started the match strong, Asamoah was too often seen chasing play moving back toward his own goal. Whether Asamoah needs to improve or get help from his teammates, Ghana’s left need to provide a deterrent.
  • Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira, Germany – When the Germans do get behind Asamoah, they’re quickly playing across goal, but Müller’s back pass in 11th minute hints there are other options. If the Germans can get Kroos or Khedira forward, they can make Ghana pay for having to fall back to that six-yard box. Given how quickly the Germans are playing, that’s easier said than done, but if Joachim Löw is willing to play one of his midfielders higher up, he may be able to take advantage of Ghana without sacrificing the numbers he’s playing along the Black Stars’ defense.

Question for the second half:

  • Can Ghana afford to hold out? – Say the Black Stars defense is up to this challenge. Their organization problems at the back don’t resurface, and Boye continues to clean up anything sent in front of Dauda’s goal. Let’s say all they need to do is stay this course. Is that even a good thing? Ghana might end up with a 0-0 draw, but they’d be on one point headed into a game three showdown against Portugal. Can Ghana afford to hold out, or did their loss to the U.S. make this a must win?

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.

PL Preview: Three Tuesday fixtures including Chelsea visit to Huddersfield

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As the holiday season nears, the Premier League begins to ramp up. While that can be hard on Premier League managers, it’s great for you, the fan, who now has plenty of options to choose from as you make your way through the work week.

[ PL SCHEDULE: Where to watch all midweek Premier League games ]


Burnley vs. Stoke City – 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

If Burnley defeats Stoke City on Tuesday, the Clarets would jump Tottenham, Arsenal, and Liverpool en route to a place in the Premier League table’s Top 4. Just pause for a moment and soak that in.

Better?

That’s right, Sean Dyche has his Burnley side on a roll, having won five of its last seven matches. In games where they were earning draws last year, they’re picking up all three points this year. Meanwhile, they face a Potters group that sits just three points above the relegation zone, meaning the heat has turned up on Mark Hughes. What is in store for us at Turf Moor?

INJURIES: Burnley – Tom Heaton (shoulder), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee) | Stoke City – Jese (personal leave), Glen Johnson (knee), Bruno Martins Indi (shoulder), Stephen Ireland (leg).


Huddersfield vs. Chelsea – 3:00 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Antonio Conte, in charge of the defending champions, is suddenly on the hot seat. Already 14 points back of leaders and expected winners Manchester City, the Blues are sitting a distant third in the table.

A trip to Huddersfield could be exactly what the doctor ordered. The Terriers started the season well, but had lost four Premier League matches in a row before a 2-0 victory over Brighton turned things around.

Conte has already ruled Chelsea out of the title, with the Blues now fighting for a Champions League place. Can the boss take advantage of the poor opposition form? He will be without star striker Alvaro Morata who is dealing with both back problems and general fatigue, with Conte calling his schedule “impossible.”

INJURIES: HuddersfieldMichael Hefele (Achillies), Philip Billing (ankle), Jon Stankovic (knee), Kasey Palmer (ineligible – parent club) | Chelsea – Alvaro Morata (back), David Luiz (knee).


Crystal Palace vs. Watford – 3:00 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

The Eagles hav a chance to pull themselves not only off the bottom of the Premier League table, but out of the relegation zone completely when they host Watford at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace sits a point back of Swansea City on the bottom, but with somewhat improved performances under Roy Hodgson, three points would climb them completely out of the drop.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how Hodgson balances a desperate need to collect points with discipline of his struggling striker Christian Benteke, who remains goalless on the year after missing a critical penalty he wasn’t supposed to take in the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth over the weekend.

Watford, meanwhile, is without a win in its last three and desperately needs a result. The Hornets sit ninth in the Premier League table but could see their advantage over the bottom half evaporate with another loss.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace – Mamadou Sakho (calf), Joel Ward, Damien Delaney, Connor Wickham (knee) | Watford – Will Hughes (hamstring), Isaac Success (knee), Nathan Chalobah (knee), Younes Kaboul (hamstring), Craig Cathcart (knee)

Report: FA to open inquiry on Man United-Man City tunnel incident

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The FA is looking into what exactly happened in the minutes after the final whistle at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.

According to multiple reports in England, an altercation took place in the area outside the dressing rooms as Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was not particularly happy with the way Manchester City players were celebrating their 2-1 victory. According to the Telegraph, Mourinho went to the visitors dressing room and asked the players to show more respect to the hosts.

[MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks]

Mourinho then reportedly ended up with a milk carton and water thrown at him while Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta suffered a cut to his head.

Now the FA is looking into the situation and has reportedly asked Man United and Man City to submit their version of the events, as the altercation did not make it into referee Michael Oliver’s post-match report.