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.

UCL wrap: Napoli, Celtic win big; Nwakaeme volleys beauty (video)

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A day after three of five road sides felt good with their work in first legs of the UEFA Champions League playoff round, it was the hosts time to celebrate good results.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s UCL first legs ]

Home sides in Italy, Scotland, Greece, and Israel posted wins. Spanish side Sevilla did manage a road win.

Napoli 2-0 Nice

Chances and even possession was at a premium for the visitors, and Napoli found its breakthrough from one of the more overlooked gems in the world. Dries Mertens scored in the first half, his sixth career UCL goal, and Jorginho converted a second half penalty to give Napoli a foot in the group stage.

Adding insult was a pair of red cards in the 80th minute, the first to Vincent Koziello for a dangerous tackle (it was a harsh call) and Alassane Plea was given a second yellow for protesting the sending off.

Mertens’ goal was smooth as silk:

Celtic 5-0 Astana

A pair of Scott Sinclair goals joined an Astana own goal as the Bhoys went a long way towards avoiding the tight tie that made the last round tricky.

Olympiacos 2-1 Rijeka

Heber gave the visitors a halftime lead in the 42nd minute, but Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe equalized in the 66th minute to minimize the damage for Olympiacos, who would go on to win.

Istanbul Basaksehir 1-2 Sevilla

Remember Eljero Elia? The Dutchman’s on his eighth club and third since leaving Southampton after just a half season, but he’s given his Turkish side hope against mighty Sevilla after Sergio Escudero gave the Spanish side an early lead and Wissam Ben Yedder nabbed the winner.

Hapoel Be’er Sheva 2-1 Maribor

Goals from Anthony Nwakaeme and Shir Tzedek boosted the Israeli hosts to a come-from-behind win.

In the case of the former, it was a beauty:

Brighton breaks transfer record (again) with Izquierdo (video)

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Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Brighton and Hove Albion have broken its transfer record.

A week after setting a new club standard with the signing of Davy Propper from PSV Eindhoven, the Gulls have signed electric Colombian attacker Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge for over $15 million.

[ MORE: Matuidi medical at Juve ]

Izquierdo averaged a goal every other match for Brugge last season and broke through to the Colombian national team with two caps this summer, scoring in a friendly against Cameroon.

With Propper and Izquierdo, manager Chris Hughton has two more playmakers who can better set the table for a strike corps that has been questioned at the Premier League level.

Brighton lost to Man City 2-0 on Saturday and next faces Leicester City at King Power Stadium.

Matuidi having a medical at Juventus ahead of move from PSG

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi was having a medical at Juventus on Wednesday ahead of a potential move to the Serie A club.

Juventus said that Matuidi arrived at Turin airport in the afternoon and was undergoing tests.

Juventus will reportedly pay PSG 20 million euros ($23 million) plus bonuses for the 30-year-old Matuidi, who had a year left on his contract with the French club.

[ MORE: Wenger issues updates on Alexis, Ox, Wilshere ]

PSG, which is also trying to balance the books after buying Neymar for 222 million euros, could not afford to lose Matuidi on a free transfer.

Matuidi played nearly 300 games for PSG in all competitions after joining from Saint-Etienne in 2011.

After a difficult first season, he quickly became an integral part of the team for successive managers, Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc.

He flourished from a largely defensive midfielder to a robust, tireless runner with an eye for goal and an enormous work-rate.

Overcoming some technical deficiencies in his game, Matuidi gradually earned himself a place in the France lineup and became a key player at the 2014 World Cup and last year’s European Championship.

At the beginning of last season, after Blanc was fired and replaced by Unai Emery, he expressed a desire to leave PSG and already wanted to join Juventus. But the club blocked his move, considering him too important to leave, and he stayed for another season.

Altogether, Matuidi has scored 33 goals for PSG in 295 appearances, becoming a well-respected player among fans and teammates alike, often taking a public stance when others would not and when tensions arose within the club.

In all, Matuidi has won four league titles, three French Cups and four League Cups with PSG.

This story has been corrected to show that Neymar’s fee was 222 million euros, not 220 million euros.

Furious Cristiano Ronaldo responds to five-game ban

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Cristiano Ronaldo has hit out at the Spanish soccer federation after his five game ban for pushing a referee in the back was upheld.

Ronaldo, 32, pushed the ref after he was shown a second yellow card in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at Barcelona on Sunday.

It capped an eventful El Clasico for Ronaldo who arrived in the second half as a sub, then scored a stunner to put Real 2-1 up.

He received his first yellow for taking off his shirt and holding it up to the Nou Camp crowd to mock Lionel Messi for doing the same in a goal celebration in April at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo then received a second yellow for going down in the box under a challenge.

In an Instagram post the Real Madrid forward had the following to say about the decision which sees him banned for the second leg ag the Bernabeu on Wednesday as well as Real’s next four games.

“It seems to me exaggerated and ridiculous, this is called persecution.”