West Brom makes Belgian Pocognoli club’s fourth signing of the summer

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Barely missing out on Belgium’s World Cup team hasn’t cost Sébastien Pocognoli a chance to move to the Premier League. On Saturday, West Bromwich Albion announced the 26-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the West Midlands club, with the left back moving for an undisclosed fee from Hannover in the German Bundesliga.

Pocognoli had been named to Beligum’s provisional squad for this summer’s World Cup before missing out on the trip to Brazil. Now, after two years in Germany, the fullback joins new manager Alan Irvine’s squad, becoming the team’s fourth signing of the summer.

From West Brom’s website:

Head coach Alan Irvine said: “Sébastien is an experienced left-back who has played at a high level for many years.
“After being named in Belgium’s provisional World Cup squad, he just missed out on Brazil, mainly because he hadn’t played enough games towards the end of the season.
“But he’s joined us with a real hunger to prove himself at Albion and get back into the international set-up.
“We’ve done our due diligence on Sébastien in terms of people who have worked with him, including Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas.
“You make your own mind up about a player’s ability from watching him play but you put these calls in to find out about their personality. The feedback on Sébastien was very positive.”

West Brom have already added Joleon Lescott and Chris Baird in defense as well as Craig Gardner in midfield, but with Liam Ridgewell’s departure creating a hole at left back, Pocognoli could be in line to claim a starting spot. Amongst the other defenders currently in West Brom’s senior squad, it’s unclear who else would be in line for full-time duty after a season in which Ridgewell made 33 starts.

Over the course of two years at Hannover, Pocognoli made 30 appearances, 27 of which were starts. Before moving to Germany, the 5’11” defender spent three years with Standard Leige, returning to Belgium after spending three seasons in the Dutch Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar.

In the Bundesliga, Pocognoli was a decent back who failed to stand out, perhaps a good description if you’re looking for a steady option. Replacing a serviceable if unspectacular player, Pocognoli may prove a decent choice, depending on how he adjusts to the Premier League. With his fee undisclosed, it’s impossible to say whether this is a good or bad deal for West Brom.

Regardless, defense is an area that must be addressed if the Baggies are to avoid another relegation battle. Among clubs that survived last season, only Newcastle and Sunderland conceded more goals.

Lescott should be a major upgrade, while Baird’s return to the first division carries more doubts. And while Pocognoli did earn regular time for a mid-table club in Germany, that’s no guarantee he’ll be able to replace Ridgewell at The Hawthorns.

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

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A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.

Scholes: Pogba didn’t earn Man United spot in 2012 before Juve stint

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Paul Pogba‘s young career has been bright, but a former Manchester United legend suggests that there was a time where the Frenchman struggled to find his way at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup quarters

The 24-year-old Pogba is now in his second stint with the Red Devils, after spending four seasons in Italy with giants Juventus.

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes says though that back in 2012 — prior to Pogba’s move to Juve — that the physical player wasn’t pleased with the fact that he wasn’t getting regular minutes with the first team.

“Ferguson wanted me initially to come back and coach the reserve team with Warren Joyce,” he told BT Sport. “I said in September I’d come back. So I started helping Joycey, and I was training with the reserves.

“I was training every day with the likes of Pogba, Lingard, all these types of players. They were a really good side and I was really enjoying training. I was getting fit, I felt great, and it got to December time and the team was struggling a bit.

“They had a load of injuries, no central midfield players were fit. They ended up playing Phil Jones and Fabio da Silva in central midfield in a game against Blackburn at Old Trafford.

“Funnily enough that was the end of Pogba, because he thought he should have been playing instead of them. But he wasn’t doing well enough.”

Scholes, who had retired briefly in 2011, came back after just six months for the Red Devils, and ended up playing a year-and-a-half more following the decision to end his playing career.

It is widely believed that Pogba’s decision to head to Juventus was largely due to the impact of Scholes in the United squad.

Video: Rochdale puts Tottenham on upset alert at the half

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It’s been a tremendous season for Ian Henderson, particularly in the FA Cup, and now he and his side are one half away from upsetting one of the Premier League giants.

Henderson’s finish on the brink of halftime has put League One side Rochdale up 1-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, as the minnows aim to become the first non-PL side to advance to the quarterfinals in this season’s tournament.

A sloppy giveaway from Spurs near midfield created the attack for the hosts, and allowed Rochdale to capitalize on one of its few attacks during the opening stanza.

Benfica routs Boavista 4-0 to take lead in Portugal

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Benfica routed Boavista 4-0 to move ahead of FC Porto at the top of the Portuguese league on Saturday.

Benfica is one point in front of Porto, which has two games to play.

[ MORE: Man United gets Brighton in FA Cup quarters, Chelsea draws Leicester ]

Ruben Dias opened the scoring for Benfica in the 18th minute when he headed in a pass from Jardel.

Jardel added a goal just before halftime. Boavista’s Nuno Henrique also scored an own goal before Raul Jimenez polished off the victory in the 90th.

Jonas had a penalty saved by Boavista goalkeeper Vagner with the score 0-0.

Porto hosts Rio Ave on Sunday. Sporting Lisbon is three points behind Benfica before visiting Tondela on Monday.