At halftime: Furious Algerian pressure overwhelms South Korea for 3-0 lead

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Story of the game: Algeria made significant attacking changes to their lineup, and boy did it pay off in the first 45 minutes against South Korea.

With both group underdogs looking to take three points from this crucial match if they are to have any hope at a surprise knockout phase appearance, the Algerians clearly wanted it more. They played a smash-and-grab attack and caught the South Koreans completely off guard.

Islam Slimani, on the bench for Algeria’s first match, got the start up front and played beautifully, picking up a goal and assist in the first half.

Goals:

26′ – After poking just about every pressure point in the South Korean defense, Algeria found their breakthrough straight up the middle.  A long ball up the gut found a charging Slimani, and he powered his way through a pair of defenders unable to keep up, and touched the ball past the keeper for the opener.

28′ – Algeria weren’t finished, and their attacking flair earned another goal. A corner flew into the South Korean box, and goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong misjudged the flight of the ball. He came out too far for the punch, and Algerian defender Rafik Halliche beat him to the ball and scored with a powerful header.

38′ – Slimani cut through the South Korean defense, and the Algerians continued their blitzkrieg. In space in the box, he brilliantly touched the ball with the outside of his foot across two defenders to a wide-open Abdelmoumene Djabou for an easy low finish.

Other key moments:

4′ – Algeria started the much better and more attacking side, and nearly produced a goal right away.  Sofiane Fegouhli was brought down in the box but no foul called by the Colombian referee.  Yacine Brahimi ended up scuffing the shot over.

9′ – With Algeria still asking all the questions, a corner found Islam Slimani at the far post, but his free header went just wide and into the side netting.

LINEUPS:

South Korea: S R Jung, S Y Yun, Y G Kim, H M Son, C Y Park, Y Lee, J C Koo, K Y Han, S Y Ki, C Y Lee, J H Hong.

Algeria: Mbolhi, Bouguerra, Halliche, Mesbah, Feghouli, Brahimi, Medjani, Slimani, Bentaleb, Djabou, Mandi.

Goals – Slimani 26′, Halliche 28′, Djabou 38′

Key players:

  • Islam Slimani – By far the most dangerous Algerian in the first half, he was incisive on the ball and smart off it.  He found spaces in every situation he was put in, and has his country well in front.
  • Sofiane Feghouli – With both pressure in the midfield and chances at the front, Feghouli shadowed Slimani and proved dangerous in doing so.

Numbers to know:

  • 86% – The passing accuracy of Algeria, 14% better than their full opening match against Belgium.
  • 25 – The number of successful attacking-third passes for Algeria in the first half, 20 of which came on the left flank.
  • 8 – The amount of touches South Korean star Son Heung-Min had in the first half (7 passes received, 1 interception), one of which came in the Algerian box. He did not produce a shot.

Questions for the second half:

  • Can Algeria maintain this heavy pressure for another 45 minutes? Smash-and-grab is exhausting, and the Algerians clearly worked incredibly hard to build this lead. The biggest question for them is will they change things up and sit back to hold on, or will they continue to pour on the pressure and risk getting tired very early?
  • Is South Korea emotionally sunk? Anytime a team falls behind by three goals this early, it’s always a valid to ask if they’re too far back, physically and emotionally.  Can they break through this furious Algerian pressure to get their forwards the ball?

WATCH LIVE: Bournemouth vs. Liverpool

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Liverpool looks to pile misery on Bournemouth while increasing its Top Four stock with a visit to the Vitality Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Reds can climb back into the Top Four with a win, and will do so with Sadio Mane, Danny Ings, and Dominic Solanke amongst their bench players.

Bournemouth starts Jermain Defoe, Joshua King, and Jordon Ibe amongst its attackers.

LINEUPS

Bournemouth: Begovic; Daniels, Ake, Francis, Smith, Pugh, Surman, King, L. Cook, Ibe, Defoe. Subs: Boruc, S. Cook, Gosling, Arter, Fraser, Stanislas, Afobe.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Gomez, Lovren, Klavan, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coutinho, Salah, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Milner, Mane, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

AT HALF: Lukaku, Lingard have Man Utd up at West Brom (video)

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Romelu Lukaku didn’t celebrate much more than a fist pump following his match-opening goal against former teammates West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: Watch via NBCSports.com).

No one said anything about celebrating teammates’ goals, though.

Lukaku scored to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead, then watched as Jesse Lingard‘s deflected lash left Ben Foster high and dry as United cruised into the break up two goals.

It’s 10th PL goal of the season for Lukaku, who has 15 in all competitions. For Lingard, it’s four and seven.

Here’s Lingard’s marker:

Celtic’s record unbeaten run ends at 69 matches

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Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run has ended at 69 matches, and it ended with a thud.

Tynecastle Park was the scene for a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Hearts, a defeat started by a 16-year-old’s first Scottish Premiership goal.

[ REPORT: Luiz done at Chelsea? ]

Harry Cochrane’s his name, and his 26th minute goal gave Hearts the lead, and it was 2-0 by halftime through Kyle Lafferty, the ex-Burnley and Norwich player.

David Milinkovic scored three minutes after halftime, as the wake-up call didn’t arrive at the break, and added a penalty kick late in the match.

Celtic has a two-point lead on second-place Aberdeen with a match-in-hand. Rangers sit five-points back.

Sixty-nine games! Remarkable in any league. Here’s what Rodgers had to say:

“But I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and this to be their first defeat; of course it’s a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.”

WATCH LIVE: West Brom vs. Manchester United

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The Hawthorns is the scene as Manchester United attempts to pull back into sole possession of second place on the Premier League table with a visit to West Bromwich Albion (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Baggies have several regular starters on the bench, with Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, and Gareth McAuley (Allllll the Gareths!) getting a rest.

United will hand starts to Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, with Anthony Martial on the bench with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Nyom, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Yacob, Livermore, Burke, McClean, Rondon. Subs: Myhill, Robson-Kanu, Brunt, Barry, Rodriguez, McAuley, Field.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young, Herrera, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay, Ibrahimovic, Martial.