At halftime: Van Persie, Blind goals have Netherlands up two on Brazil — FOLLOW LIVE

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At first, Tuesday didn’t seem like much of a fluke after all. Conceding twice in the first 16 minutes, Brazil’s defense again went AWOL, digging a hole for the host nation after a pair of disappointing breakdowns. With goals from Robin van Persie and Daley Blind, the Netherlands were on the verge of replicating Germany’s semifinal slaughter.

Over the half’s last 20 minutes, however, Brazil were the most dangerous side, reaching the halftime whistle with edges in possession and shotsl.

The edge that mattered, however, remained the Dutch’s. At intermission in Brazil’s capital, it’s 2-0, the Netherlands.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Brazil vs. Netherlands ]

Goals:

2′ – Who knows what this referee is doing? Arjen Robben, racing past the Brazilian defense, is pulled down at the shoulder, seemingly from behind, by Thiago Silva just outside the Brazil penalty box. Not only does referee Djamel Haïmoudi erroneously point to the spot, but he only shows Silva yellow. When Robin Van Persie puts the ensuing penalty kick into the upper-right hand corner, the Netherlands have their lead. Too bad it should be 0-0 … and 11-on-10.

16′ – As an open quarter-hour comes to an end, the Dutch extend their lead. After a cross from the right is cleared weakly by David Luiz back to the penalty spot, Daley Blind has time to take two touches before putting the Netherlands’ second under the cross-bar, into the right of goal. It’s the 100th goal Brazil have conceded at in World Cup history, one that leaves them down two.

Other key moments:

21′ – From just above the arc, Oscar lets go of a right-footed shot, one that’s smothered by Jasper Cillesen. It’s the first time the Dutch keeper’s been called into action.

33′ – For the second time tonight, Brazil’s found success going down their right, this time seeing Maicon draw a foul on Georginio Wijnaldum just outside the penalty box. Oscar’s restart bends and drops at the edge of the six-yard box but misses Luiz, with Wijnaldum heading back and clear of goal.

Questions for the second half

Has Brazil’s defense settled in? – Though the Seleçao defense looked terrible over the game’s first 16 minutes, they held the Dutch to one shot on target throughout the remainder of the half. Was that the team coming together? Or was it the Dutch taking their foot off the pedal?

Is this playing in to Dutch’s hands? – The Netherlands have been willing to play without the ball all tournament, relying on their counterattack to create chances. Though Brazil made progress over the half’s final half-hour, is their pursuit playing into the Dutch’s plans? The more isolated Silva and Luiz become, the more likely Robben is to finish this game off.

Why PSG’s Alexis, Neymar pursuit fits in a (relatively) smart space

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Paris Saint-Germain’s run of four Ligue 1 titles ended last season, a campaign which also saw exciting league-winners Monaco go two rounds further into the UEFA Champions League.

Monaco looks set for a step back this season, with Bernardo Silva off to Man City and Tiemoue Bakayoko signing for Chelsea. Kylian Mbappe could join Monaco’s list of departures, and reports say Man City had a bid accepted for Benjamin Mendy.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

While Monaco is loading up on young talent again, PSG clearly sees its chance to surge back into the title seat and Les Parisiens may just make themselves European favorites as well if they can pry Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and Neymar from Barcelona.

That would be a South American trident nearly as potent as the one Neymar current shares with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi at Barcelona, and the Brazilian would not be second or third fiddle.

PSG has so far been relatively quiet this summer, with the addition of Dani Alves the lone new buy. Aside from money, how was Alves lured to Paris over Man City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola? The idea of a reunion with Neymar and several Brazilian mates — Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura — may’ve been enough and surely that conversation would’ve happened between the two Barca stars.

The French side has to make a big chance at some point soon, unless they’ve been able to unload their money bags and actually buy a fountain of youth. Thiago Motta is 34, Blaise Matuidi 30, Silva 32, and Edinson Cavani 30.

It’s calculated aggression from PSG to splash cash in hopes of rivaling Real Madrid, Juventus, and Barca in pursuit of the UCL title. The Neymar move weakens one of those rivals. If Marco Verratti isn’t part of a swap deal, the signings of Sanchez and Neymar would meet the Italian star’s ambitions well up the road.

De Boer: West Brom was out to injure Palace star Zaha

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No shrinking violet, new Crystal Palace boss Frank De Boer was left fuming at West Bromwich Albion players following the PL Asia Trophy third place match on Saturday in Hong Kong.

While the focus could’ve been on Luka Milivojevic‘s gorgeous free kick (watch here), De Boer couldn’t get past the hard fouls aimed at his key attacker.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

West Brom gave away the free kick that led to the aforementioned goal by chopping down Zaha, and the foul was not an isolated incident.

From the BBC:

“They were looking for him, to injure him,” said De Boer.

“He’s one of the exciting players in the league. I don’t want to think he’d be out for two weeks or months.”

De Boer is no stranger to rough play, so this is not coming from a soft place. We doubt it’s going to change anything from Tony Pulis‘ men, though.

Chelsea hammers Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing (video)

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Chelsea struck twice early and Michy Batshuayi put the cherry on top as the Premier League champions cruised past Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing on Saturday.

The Blues started a lineup they’d use on any occasion in the PL, while Arsenal had unproven prospects Cohen Bramall and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the XI.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

Willian‘s quick goal put the Blues up 1-0 at the Bird’s Nest, and Batshuayi scored the second and third. Both were pretty classy, especially the second.

Marcos Alonso did the lion’s share of the work to produce the second chance for Batshuayi, who is threatening to carry over his fine late season form to this campaign. What a smash.

Coutinho rocket helps LFC to PL Asia Trophy (video)

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Goals from Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho helped Liverpool come back from an early deficit to win the PL Asia Trophy on Saturday in Hong Kong.

Islam Slimani gave Leicester City an early lead in front of a heavy pro-Liverpool crowd at Hong Kong Stadium, but Coutinho delivered the goods on both goals in a 2-1 win.

The tournament win is Liverpool’s first in its second trip to the PL Asia Trophy Final.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

First he crossed for Salah to head home, and then he scored the above goal by cutting in from the left and lashing a shot past a flailing Kasper Schmeichel.

We’ve seen this one before from Coutinho, just not on this particular continent. The Brazilian remains a Barcelona target, but looks prepared for the season in whatever land he sets foot.