Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City: Swans shock United on Van Gaal’s debut (video)

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Swansea City shocked Manchester United in the opening game of the 2014-15 Premier League season, as the Welsh side defeated the Red Devils 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The visitors took an early lead through Ki but United rallied in the second half and equalized through Wayne Rooney’s acrobatic effort. However with 18 minutes left the winner arrived as new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson scored to hand the Swans their first-ever league victory at Old Trafford over United.

The defeat was Manchester United’s first home defeat on the opening day of the season since 1972, as Louis van Gaal got off to the worst possible start as Red Devils boss. The misery of last season and the David Moyes era won’t evaporate in a hurry, as United started the season off with yet another damaging defeat. Van Gaal’s task to return the Red Devils to their past glory looks even tougher than we thought.

[VIDEO: Ki hands Swansea the lead]

Both teams settled into the match at a windy Old Trafford and the visitors also went clean through in the 6th minute as Jonjo Shelvey’s delightful reverse pass found Wayne Routledge but the wingers’ first tough eluded him at the crucial moment.

United tried to attack down the flanks early on but had little joy and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s long-range effort forced David De Gea to make a save as Swansea looked dangerous on the break. With the likes of Robin van Persie, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck missing, the Red Devils looked disjointed going forward.

source:
Swansea’s goalscorers, Ki and Sigurdsson, celebrate their opening day win.

As the first half wore on Swansea kept things tight at the back and an injury to debutant Jesse Lingard forced him off as Adnan Januzaj replaced him. A deflected shot from Phil Jones forced Lukasz Fabianski into a smart save at his near post, but the Red Devils failed to spark into life offensively.

Swansea then took a shock lead in the 28th minute as Korean midfielder Ki was found on the edge of the box by Sigurdsson and he calmly slotted the ball home to put the Welsh side 1-0 up. Wilfried Bony nudged Phil Jones out of the way cleverly as the ball nestled into the bottom corner past De Gea at a stunned Stretford End. Ki spent last season on loan at Sunderland but on his return to the Swans he netted his first goal for the club as Swansea led at the break.

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After the break the Red Devils pushed hard for an equalizer as Nani replaced Javier Hernandez at the interval and United switched to a back four. Januzaj was scythed down by Neil Taylor and the Welshman was booked for his troubles as the Belgian winger influenced the game.

In the 52nd minute Rooney equalized in acrobatic fashion for the Red Devils as Mata’s corner was flicked on to the back post and the newly appointed United captain sent a bicycle kick from five-yards out into the back of the net. 1-1.

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That goal buoyed United into action as Swansea sat back and invited intense pressure from the home side. Januzaj was lively on the right and was causing plenty of problems. Rooney almost had his second goal of the game in the 66th minute as the English forward curled a delicious free kick up and over the wall which but the ball struck the outside of the post and went wide.

However new signing Sigurdsson stunned Old Trafford again with 18 minutes to go as the Icelandic international scored from 12 yards out following a flowing move down the left. Substitute Jefferson Montero clipped the ball into the back post and although Routledge skewed his shot off target it fell to Sigurdsson to score in his first game for the Swans since leaving Tottenham Hotspur. Van Gaal looked shocked as United trailed late in the game. Try as they might, United couldn’t equalize as the new era at Old Trafford was ushered in by a shock defeat to start the season.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Blackett; Lingard (Januzaj, 20′), Fletcher, Herrera (Fellaini, 67′), Young; Mata; Rooney, Hernandez (Nani, 45′)

Goal: Rooney (53′)

Swansea City: Fabianski, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor (Tiendalli, 53′), Ki, Shelvey, Dyer (Montero 67′), Sigurdsson, Routledge, Bony (Gomis, 77′)

Goals: Ki (28′), Sigurdsson (72′)

Report: Liverpool to escape punishment over Van Dijk pursuit

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The Times states that Liverpool will not be punished further for pursuing Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk.

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Earlier this month the Reds issued a public apology to Southampton and stated they had ended their interest in the 25-year-old Dutch defender following allegations that Van Dijk was flown to Blackpool (just north of Liverpool) to meet with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and their manager messaged VVD “regularly” as they chased the Dutch international.

Southampton, as you would expect, were far from happy about this so-called “tapping up” from Liverpool and reported the Reds to the Premier League by making an official complaint.

Liverpool’s apology was then followed by a preliminary investigation, but reports state that there will be no further action taken against Liverpool by the PL with “insufficient evidence” to support the claims surrounding the alleged “tapping up” of Van Dijk and unless new evidence arrives then the case will be closed.

Regardless, this whole episode has been incredibly embarrassing for Liverpool, especially when you take into account their current ban from signing academy players when a similar case cropped up over chasing a youngster in Stoke City’s academy.

Klopp has not only lost the chance to sign Van Dijk (at least, that’s the way it seems for now) but Liverpool have also lost some respect for the way they supposedly went about this business. American owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) went to great lengths to apologize for this situation and are keen to stress they always conduct their business in a respect manner.

Now, we would all be a little naive to believe that this type of thing doesn’t happen a lot in soccer. A player (usually through his agent) will perhaps gently let another team know he’s interested in a move to them, and the ball gets rolling from there. Of course, the two clubs are supposed to agree a fee for the player first and then said player can meet with his potential new club to square away the details.

Southampton are said to still be furious about the approach from Liverpool to Van Dijk, so much so that if they were to sell their star player and captain this summer (they maintain he’s not for sale) they’d rather take less money from another club (Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal are all said to be interested) than let him leave for Anfield for over $70 million.

After Liverpool plucked Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane from Saints in the past few years, it’s easy to understand why the South Coast club are now standing firm and saying enough is enough.

Vidal rips Ronaldo ahead of Confederations Cup semifinal

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Chile hopes to make a statement on Wednesday when it faces EURO 2016 champions Portugal and Ballon d’Or champion Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions can lay claim to another inter-confederation title with two more wins in the 2017 Confederations Cup, beginning with the semifinal in Kazan.

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Chile finished behind Germany in Group B but didn’t lose a match and only allowed two goals. That’ll be tested by Portugal and its seven goals in three matches.

Two of those goals came from Ronaldo, but don’t tell that to Arturo Vidal. Chile’s hard-edged midfielder doesn’t like him much.

From Goal.com:

“Cristiano is a smart ass,” he told reporters. “For me he does not exist.

“I have already told my Bayern Munich team-mate Joshua Kimmich that we will meet again in the final.”

Germany will have to take care of Mexico to make that happen, though we have a feeling a certain smart ass will have a thing or two to say before it’s all said and done.

Vidal has spoken loudly of his desire to get Chilean teammate Alexis Sanchez, a former Barcelona man, at his club Bayern Munich. If Ronaldo is on the market, this isn’t a great recruiting tool. Ah, jokes.

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

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Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Kwadwo Poku.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

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Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Timo Werner abused in Germany but key to World Cup defense

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) The abuse has followed Timo Werner for months, gathering pace as rapidly as the striker has amassed goals.

No German player was more prolific in the Bundesliga last season. No player was as ostracized.

But Werner is now a full-blown Germany international, scoring his first goals at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and he could hold the key to the World Cup defense next year.

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That could require Germany supporters to forgive a player they jeered at during his first competitive game for Joachim Loew’s team earlier this month.

“Kobe Bryant has also been booed everywhere and he always been the best,” Werner reflected ahead of Germany’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Mexico on Thursday, seeing a kindred spirit in the basketball great. “I do not want to say that I am the best like him, but (the abuse) is a bit of an incentive.”

If playing for the ascendant but deeply unpopular Leipzig wasn’t bad enough, a dive in December by Werner provided a focal point for the animosity – jealousy, perhaps – toward the Red Bull-funded team.

The insults have even been hurled far from Germany, far from soccer stadiums. The dive won a penalty against Schalke, and provided Werner with one of the 21 goals that helped to propel Leipzig into second place and a Champions League debut next season.

“There was a dive, he made a mistake and he admitted it,” Loew said, “but he is very, very young player.”

And a potentially very important one for Loew at the World Cup in Russia next year. Germany’s striking options are being assessed at the eight-team Confederations Cup as Loew still seeks a long-term successor to Miroslav Klose as target man for the world champions.

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Werner opened his account for Germany on his fourth appearance, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon on Sunday in Sochi.

“Werner put in a lot of legwork,” Loew said. “He showed how dangerous he is and that he’s got a great nose for goal. Both of his efforts were very well taken.”

Werner’s rivals for a place in the squad next year include fellow squad newcomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner. They are both close to 30, while the 21-year-old Werner has youth, strength and speed on his side. Even Wagner said he has “never seen such a good striker at that age.”

That’s a result of Werner fusing his pace with intelligence on the ball, mastering dribbling at high speed first with Stuttgart and then at Leipzig.

“There’s no recipe for it,” Werner said. “The quickest players just know how to do it automatically. I like to knock the ball three or four meters ahead of me when I’m on the counter or have space in front of me, that way I can increase the distance between a defender and myself.”

Such proficiency should help Werner win over fans beyond Leipzig. Time, he hopes, will heal the fractures, and there’s certainly support from his new international teammates.

“I wish him well because of the issues he has had to endure,” captain Julian Draxler told Germany’s ARD television.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup