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: Swansea host Manchester United

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Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

[ STREAM: Swansea v. Man United ]

Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.