Chad Marshall, Obafemi Martins

MLS snapshot: Second half surge sees Seattle top Houston

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Over 50,000 fans packed into CenturyLink field, as the Seattle Sounders beat the Houston Dynamo 2-0 on Sunday.

Second half strikes from Marco Pappa and Gonzale Pindea were enough to hand the Sounders their first win in three games as they continued their push for the 2014 Supporters’ Shield. The win was soured by a late red card for Obafemi Martins but despite that minor blip Sigi Schmid will be delighted with his sides performance.

With the win Schmid recorded his 200th MLS victory as a head coach. The first manager in MLS history to reach that milestone.

[RELATED: ‘Caps, Chicago bag big wins]

The turf field was looking a little strange in Seattle as recent maintenance work had left black patches and patterns all over the pitch. A tight encounter played out on that surface as the Dynamo took the game to Seattle early on in search of their first road win in six.

In the 26th minute Houston squandered the perfect opportunity to the take the lead as they were awarded a penalty kick by referee Chris Penso after Djimi Traore was adjudged to have handled in the box. However Brad Davis’ penalty kick was saved by Stefan Frei. The U.S. national team winger performed a stutter-step and tamely slotted his left-footed effort to Frei’s left but the big Swiss ‘keeper got down and kept the scores level.

Houston continued to push throughout the first half and Davis’ outswinging corner was headed just over the bar by Ricardo Clark. Seattle gradually came into the game as Martins and Lamar Neagle tried to get in behind but Tally Hall had little to do in an even first half at CenturyLink.

In the second half Houston continued to look lively in attack and Giles Barnes was went clean through but saw his shot blocked by a combination of Frei’s foot and Seattle defender Chad Marshall. Shortly after Martins looked to have been fouled in the box but play was waved on despite protests from the home crowd. The second half turned into a sloppy affair but in the 69th minute Pappa wriggled free of his marker on the edge of the box and drilled a shot goalwards which deflected off of David Horst’s standing leg and past Hall into the net. The deadlock was finally broken.

Less than five minutes later Seattle doubled their lead as Clark was clearly holding Martins in the box as a free kick arrived from the left. Referee Penso pointed to the spot for the second time in the match and Pineda slammed the ball home despite Hall getting his body behind the ball but the sheer power beat him. Late on Martins slid in and was shown a second yellow card and his marching order by Penso as the Nigerian striker will now miss Seattle’s pivotal trip to Real Salt Lake next weekend.

With the win Seattle go back to the top of the West on 41 points from 21 games, while Houston stay five points off a playoff spot in the East and sit in ninth.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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