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?

EFL Cup Weds preview: East Lancashire Derby highlights slate

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Eighteen teams booked spots Tuesday in the League Cup’s third round, with Watford the lone Premier League side to take a fall.

Six more try their luck on Wednesday, the last day of tournament play before the big boys join up.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

A sleepy big affair is the East Lancashire Derby between Burnley and now League One side Blackburn Rovers, a rivalry which has been staged in three leagues or competitions since the turn of the century. This makes it four, joining the Premier League (2009-10), FA Cup (2004-05) and Championship (six times since 2012-13).

Burnley has three wins and three draws since its last loss to Blackburn, which came via David Dunn penalty at Turf Moor in a Premier League match on March 28, 2010.

Make no mistake, Clarets goalkeeper Tom Heaton thinks it’ll be a fantastic affair (from burnleyfootballclub.com):

“And for the players. Make no mistake, we were all delighted when the draw came in,” said Heaton. “It’s a fantastic match we are all looking forward to. It’s a fantastic night as players, fans and for the club.

“We’ll be going there geared up to win the game and give it everything we’ve got. The new lads coming in will certainly get an eye opener for the atmosphere and how good it is. They’re brilliant games to play in, I’ve enjoyed every minute of them.”

If you’re surprised by the rivalry, you have company in Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray. From Rovers.co.uk:

“I have to say living in the north east of England, Suffolk and Scotland most of my life I never would have grasped that Blackburn and Burnley and the geography of how close they were to be honest,” he said.

“It is not something that has hit me in the face before of a huge rivalry and yet I can feel it from the people around the building who have lived here all their lives how important this game is to them. … We’ll give it our very best shot and leave no stone unturned in trying to get a result.”

Elsewhere…

Southampton, fresh off adding $19 million Dutch center back Wesley Hoedt, will host Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s, one of four 2:45 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Also kicking off at that time is Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest at St. James Park, with USMNT fullback Eric Lichaj likely to feature for the visitors, as well as Rotherham United’s visit to Huddersfield Town and Cheltenham Town’s trip to West Ham United.

A quarter-hour later, the final two second round matches kickoff when Burnley hosts Blackburn Rovers and Rochdale heads to Stoke City.

Southampton lands $19 million Dutch CB Hoedt

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Southampton’s added another defender who checks all the boxes, and used its press release to cement its status on the future of want-away center back Virgil Van Dijk.

Saints added Lazio center back Wesley Hoedt on Tuesday, with the reported fee in the neighborhood of $19 million for the 4-times capped Dutch international.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Gooch scores for Sunderland ]

The 6-foot-2 defender is 23 years old, and played 23 matches for i Biancocelesti last season.

Here’s Saints vice chairman Les Reed:

“Finding a naturally left-footed player is even more difficult. We have been tracking central defenders on our target list for the past 12 months and Wesley has always been at the top of that list, so it was important to act when the opportunity came.”

As our own Joe Prince-Wright pointed out, Saints aren’t exactly rolling out the red carpet for Van Dijk’s departure.

Saints also have Maya Yoshida — who won a penalty for Saints this weekend — Jack Stephens, Maya Yoshida, Jan Bednarek and Florin Gardos in their corps.

Will Van Dijk stay? Betting sites have him at 5:6 odds to stay at Southampton, but somehow 1:1 to join Liverpool and 7:1 to head to Chelsea (Man City gets 24:1 odds).

At this point, we’d love to see Van Dijk stay and buck the summer’s (actually much longer than that) gossip as Saints fight for a Top Six place.

UCL preview: Three keys to Liverpool-Hoffenheim

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A pair of away goals are under Liverpool’s wing as the Reds prepare for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff round second leg versus Hoffenheim at Anfield.

That’s great, but it’s Mark Uth’s late concession goal for Hoffenheim that will have Liverpool supporters wary ahead of the return match.

Three keys to the match for Liverpool? Well, let’s start with an easy one.

1) Avoid these score lines: The 2-1 score line works for the Reds, of course, who will only fail to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League through some unlikely scenarios:

  • A two-goals or worse loss at Anfield
  • A 2-1 loss plus failing in penalty kicks
  • A one-goal loss while conceding three or more times

2) Don’t allow gaps in the midfield: Kerem Demirbay was being a little cheeky when he said, “We play better football than Liverpool,” and the sides have one major similarity: If you give them room, they can kill you.

Demirbay is a great example of this. The Confederations Cup winner can rip teams apart in the middle of the pitch, and giving him room allows him to choose between unleashing a cannon from distance and spotting Serge Gnabry, Andrej Kramaric, Sandro Wagner, or even Uth for chances on goal. Heck, even Adam Szalai on the bench is a very good option.

Gnabry and Kramaric played less than a half hour each in Hoffenheim’s 1-0 Bundesliga win over the weekend, while Wagner didn’t play at all. Game on.

3) Embrace the occasion: Jurgen Klopp branded Wednesday’s match and the presumed entry into the UCL group stage “the next step” in the club’s evolution under his watch.

This is Liverpool’s second UCL campaign of this decade, and the first UCL night at Anfield since a 1-1 draw against Basel on Dec. 9, 2014.

That night, Brendan Rodgers trotted out this XI: Mignolet, Johnson, Lovren, Skrtel, Enrique, Gerrard (who scored), Henderson, Lucas, Allen, Sterling, Lambert. His subs used? Coutinho, Moreno, Markovic (the last name earned a red card).

In previous home group games against Real Madrid and Ludogorets Razgrad, the Reds managed two more goals. Gerrard had another and Mario Balotelli the other.

So, and this is hopefully a bit overblown but certainly a concern: A whopping six Liverpool players have played in a home UCL match for Liverpool and no one on the Reds roster has scored a goal at Anfield in the competition.

EFL Cup wrap: USMNT’s Gooch shines; Watford upset

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Six Premier League teams dodged upsets upon entering the League Cup, stylized as the EFL Cup for a second season, but a seventh was not as fortunate.

[ MORE: 426 world clubs, ranked weekly ]


Watford 2-3 Bristol City

Etienne Capoue scored just after halftime to give the Hornets a leg up, but goals from Freddie Hinds and Bobby Reid eight minutes apart gave the Robins a lead that Niclas Eliasson buttressed in stoppage time. Adrian Mariappa pulled one back, but it wasn’t enough for Marco Silva‘s men.

Crystal Palace 2-1 Ipswich Town

The unbeaten Tractor Boys were as much of a problem as advertised, but James McArthur scored in the 76th and 84th minutes to give the Eagles a spot in the next round. Man City loanee Bersant Celina nabbed Ipswich Town’s lone goal.

MK Dons 1-4 Swansea City

Leroy Fer gave Swans a pair of leads at 1-0 and 2-1 before Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew scored late to salt away the win at Stadium MK.

Sheffield United 1-4 Leicester City

The popular score line saw Islam Slimani bag a brace in between goals from Demarai Gray and Ahmed Musa.

Carlisle United 1-2 Sunderland

USMNT youngster Lynden Gooch scored an 80th minute winner after assisting on Donald Love‘s opener, as the Black Cats scored a road win.

It’s the 21-year-old Gooch’s first senior goal for the Black Cats in his 19th appearance. It’s also his first assist and should give food for thought to boss Simon Grayson, who has been using him off the bench. Gooch played 362 Premier League minutes last season.

Tuesday’s other results
Aston Villa 4-1 Wigan Athletic
Leeds United 5-1 Newport County
Middlesbrough 3-0 Scunthorpe United
Norwich City 4-1 Charlton Athletic
QPR 1-4 Brentford
Fulham 0-1 Bristol Rovers
Cardiff City 1-2 Burton Albion
Doncaster 2-0 Hull City
Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Barnet
Accrington Stanley 1-3 West Brom
Birmingham City 1-2 Bournemouth
Reading 3-1 (aet) Millwall
Bolton 3-2 Sheffield Wednesday
Grimsby Town 0-1 Derby County (1st round match*)

*Derby will face Barnsley in a 2nd round match