Extra time GK switch works, as Krul leads Dutch past Costa Rica in PKs

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Those pesky Ticos were at it again on Saturday in the World Cup quarterfinals, taking the Netherlands to penalty kicks at the Arena Fonte Nova.

But an unorthodox goalkeeper substitution by Louis van Gaal allowed Tim Krul to be the hero in penalty kicks, stopping two Costa Rica shooters on way to a 0-0 (4-3) win and a spot alongside Argentina, Germany and Brazil in the semifinals.

The sixth 2014 World Cup match to go to extra time had plenty of thrilling moments, most of them coming courtesy of brilliant Levante keeper Keylor Navas.

Robin van Persie missed at least three gold chances. Wesley Sneijder hammered two shots off the woodwork. Arjen Robben was a dribbling mastermind (but infuriating embellisher), dancing through Costa Rica’s stingy defense. But he was unable to find his fourth goal of the tournament.

Costa Rica manager Jorge Luis Pinto continued his masterful job by removing Los Ticos from their full-attacking ways. Instead, the Costa Rican team played for the counter. When they did scoop up the ball, their transition was strong.

And van Gaal wasn’t about to be out-managed without doing something wild, pulling off Jasper Cillessen in the 122nd minute, moments after the keeper made a great save. It would be Newcastle United’s Tim Krul to face the firing line.

To kicks, where Borges made his and Van Persie followed. Krul stopped Ruiz, and Robben finished his chance. The Columbus Crew’s Giancarlo Gonzlez scored to put the burden to Sneijder, but the Dutchman scored, too.

Bolanos and Kuyt both finished, meaning Umana would have to succeed on his chance. He didn’t. Krul made the save. The Netherlands won.

How did we get there? Here’s what we were saying at halftime.

To the second half, where Bruno Martins Indi took down Joel Campbell inside the box — and from behind — as the clock neared 60, and the case could’ve been made for a penalty. Referee Ravshan Irmatov was not swayed, however.

Wesley Sneijder nearly broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute with a flash of a free kick that bent a bit too far, striking the post before being cleared.

And van Persie had multiple chances to win it in regulation, the most grievous miss coming on a super flub in the 89th minute. Sneijder’s cross was perfect, but RVP was anticipating contact and failed to connect with the ball.

And later, in the third of four minutes of stoppage time, van Persie’s would-be winner was denied by Yeltsin Tejeda. The Costa Rican defender was on the near post to deflect the ball off the bottom of the cross bar and out.

Extra time found more shining examples of Navas at work, as Robben’s corner kick met Sneijder on the doorstep. But Navas pushed it aside, but moments later it was fear for Los Ticos. The keeper landed on Dirk Kuyt after leaping to corral a corner and needed medical attention, yet stayed on.

Los Ticos made it through the first 15 minutes of stoppage time. Netherlands continued to push Navas, but with shots and physical contact. Substitute Klaas Jan Huntelaar made contact with the keeper’s face and earned a yellow card.

Cillessen’s chance to be hero came in the 117th, when Urena broke through and ripped a low shot that the Dutch keeper booted away.

The 119th minute saw Sneijder put another shot off the bar. Wow.

In strode Krul for Cillessen and then came kicks.

Lineups

Netherlands: Cillessen, Vlaar, De Vrij, Martins Indi (Huntelaar, 106′), Blind, Van Persie (c), Sneijder, Robben, Kuyt, Wijnaldum, Depay (Lens, 76′)

Costa Rica: Navas, Acosta, Gonzalez, Umana, Borges, Bolanos, Campbell (Urena, 65′), Ruiz (c), Diaz, Gamboa (Murie, 78′), Tejeda (Cubero, 96′)

Charity match raised significant money for Hurricane Harvey victims

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On Saturday night, a charity soccer match in Houston, Texas helped raise money for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

[ MORE: Liverpool batters Bournemouth to go fourth ]

The “Kick in for Houston” game was organized by former Houston Dynamo and U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Stu Holden — now an analyst for Fox Sports 1. Holden served as one of the team captains, while former NBA star Steve Nash captained the other team.

In total, Holden’s event raised over $239,000 for hurricane relief funds, per the event’s website.

Saturday’s match featured several other notable celebrities and current, as well as, former soccer player, like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride, Mia Hamm and U.S. Soccer presidential candidate Kyle Martino.

The game — which was an 8 vs. 8 fixture — finished 12-12 at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Holden spoke after the match about the overall success of the event, and the sort of impact it had for the Texas community.

“Amazing,” Holden said after the game. “If I pictured three months ago after I sent that tweet that this was going to be the turnout… everybody that came, all the athletes, all the people in the crowd, all the work that’s gone on behind the scenes, I can promise you it’s a lot more than it seems.

“I’m caught up in the middle of all this, but I thought this was an amazing, amazing night, and I hope to do another of these in the future.”

Additionally, Holden and Co. will be auctioning off game-worn kits from Saturday’s game to also benefit hurricane victims.

Rooney says Man City have work to do be better than ’08 Man United

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Perhaps it’s the bias talking from the former Red Devils star, but Wayne Rooney doesn’t believe the Premier League leaders have surpassed one of his ex-squads.

[ MORE: Liverpool smashes Cherries to go fourth ]

Despite Manchester City’s amazing unbeaten start over the club’s opening 18 matches, Rooney says his former rivals aren’t quite yet better than his 2008 Manchester United team that went on to beat Chelsea in the Champions League final.

“I’m not sure they [City] are quite there. They would have to keep going and do a lot more,” Rooney told TalkSPORT. “There have been so many great teams throughout the years in the Premier League. This City team needs to win trophies and needs to do it for a longer period to be in that bracket.

“The best ever? I would go with the Man United team from 2008!”

Only one Premier league side has ever finished a season undefeated in league play, which was accomplished by “The Invincibles” of Arsenal from the 2003/04 campaign.

With Man City nearly halfway to that feat, and accumulating 52 points through the first four-plus months of the domestic season, Pep Guardiola and Co. appear on track to track to break several records.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table in Man City’s world ]

However, Rooney says the balance of competitions and a tricky fixture schedule over the holiday window will make staying unbeaten an impossible task for the Cityzens.

“I don’t think they can go unbeaten,” he added. “They have done incredibly well with the run they have been on, but the Premier League is so difficult, especially now with this Christmas period coming up.

“I know they have a huge squad, a great squad of players. But there are so many top teams. I think in previous years it has been two teams and you went in knowing you would win most of the other games.

“But now there are five or six other teams that can all beat each other and I’m sure in one of those games Man City will get beaten.”

Klopp hails players in blowout, downplays squad rotation

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain isn’t bothered by Jurgen Klopp‘s squad rotation at Liverpool.

“The front four have been on fire, they are not bad,” he said after the Reds battered Bournemouth 4-0 on Sunday.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

“Everyone’s a quality player and the rest of us have to sneak our noses in there. Squad rotation is important, keeps us fresh.”

Klopp was a little more critical of his squad, saying the changes had more to do with how the Reds performed against West Brom than a need to keep players fresh.

“I like them but against West Brom they didn’t hit the target. I don’t change my mind in three minutes, but we have to be consistently good because we are Liverpool.”

The manager especially loved how well Liverpool started, as Bournemouth didn’t have a chance to get moving. Klopp gets plenty of criticism, but he almost always has his finger on the pulse of his club. Sunday was a big win for the manager and his club, even if it was somewhat expected.

Making sense of the table in a Man City world

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There are natural advantages to being atop the table deep into a Premier League season, the most evident being the ability to enter into any match against a challenger knowing a draw will likely be fine.

But what about being ahead of the field by double digits?

Perspective is a major challenge when a team is as doing as well as Manchester City. Pep Guardiola‘s men have drawn just once in 18 matches, and hold a 11-point lead on Manchester United, 14 points better than third place Chelsea.

Speaking of the Blues, manager Antonio Conte raised an interesting point after Chelsea beat Southampton on Saturday. Conte says City’s crazy run has colored over his team’s fine results, as last season’s champions are 8-1-1 since losing two-straight in October.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

Four losses is four losses — United has three — but it’s an interesting notion. Both sides have lost to City at home, but otherwise will finish the weekend boasting multiple match leads on the field when it comes to second- and third-place.

Is this much different from recent years? Consider the following seasons after 18 weeks.

Remember: Manchester United has 41 points, and Chelsea 38 (And United has been missing its World XI class player for all but eight games. Some of his doing, some not).

2016-17

Chelsea led the table with 46 points, six better than Liverpool and seven ahead of Man City. Spurs, who would finish second, had 33 points with a match-in-hand. That 13-point gap closed to seven.

2015-16

Leicester was atop the table with 38 points, just two better than Arsenal and three ahead of Man City. They’d finish 10 points better than Arsenal’s 71.

2014-15

Chelsea (45 points) held a three-point advantage on Man City and 10 on third place Manchester United. The Blues would finish eight points ahead of City.

2013-14

Liverpool and Arsenal were dead even with 36 points, one better than eventual champions Man City. The title winners finished two ahead of Liverpool, four free of Chelsea, and six past Arsenal.

So… both United and Chelsea would be leading the Premier League in two of the past four seasons, which is certainly notable.

I don’t want to belabor the Pogba point too much, especially since the most recent absence comes from a red card suspension, but what if United had him for all those matches? Do they find a goal in the 0-0 at Liverpool? Get a point from the 1-0 loss at Chelsea? Flip the script on the 2-1 loss at Huddersfield Town?

Let alone the City loss.

But again, seasons like this one from City remind us of the challenges of framing seasons when one campaign is oh-so-dominant.