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Newcastle 0-2 Manchester City: Defending champs earn season’s first win by holding off Toon (video)

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Newcastle United sent six debutants onto the pitch at St. James Park, but it wasn’t enough to knock down the defending Premier League champions as Manchester City escaped with three points.

It wasn’t pretty for either side, but David Silva took advantage of some poor defending in the first half to put the visitors ahead, and Sergio Aguero put things away late for a wire-to-wire victory that at times proved nervy.

The first chance fell to Samir Nasri in the 12th minute, as a quick and powerful counter fell to the French winger. He wasn’t planning on shooting, but the ball bounced so perfectly in front of him he decided to blast a shot and forced a diving parry from Tim Krul.

Otherwise, there was little to report out of the first half-hour, with both teams proving incredibly wasteful.

Finally, after 37 minutes, we had our first moment of quality, with Manchester City earning their first goal thanks to some beautiful passing and shambolic defending by Newcastle.

Yaya Toure ripped a long ball up for Edin Dzeko in the corner of the box, and he settled well before flicking a pinpoint back-heel to a streaking David Silva, who snuck behind new Toon signing Daryl Janmaat much too easily to the near post. Silva finished cooly past Krul and Manchester City had their lead.

source: AP
David Silva’s goal proved the difference despite Newcastle’s threatening moments.

Dzeko’s back-heel was outstanding, but the two Newcastle defenders surrounding him were hardly looking to prevent him feeding an opponent, likely hoping the other would do the job.

Despite the relative lack in quality of the first half, it was fun to watch the partnership between Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic, who linked up well up front.  In addition, new Newcastle signing Remy Cabella showed some individual skill for the home side, despite an unfortunate hairstyle.

Newcastle surprisingly came to life following the break, with some shaky defending giving them some opportunity in the box, and the chances lit up the stadium.  Michael Williamson nearly picked out a free-kick with his head, placing it just over the bar on 58 minutes after Joe Hart unwisely came out to try and collect in traffic.

With the home side still pressing with a half-hour remaining, Alan Pardew threw on Gabriel Obertan, one who impressed in preseason, causing his manager to speak publicly of his second chance at St. James Park.

On ten minutes remaining, Newcastle began to throw everything forward and pressure the City defense hard. Substitute Ayoze Perez rifled a dangerous shot on a breakaway in but it was deflected just a whisker wide. Then Rolando Aarons came close a minute later.

The best chance yet came from Moussa Sissoko early in the four minutes of added time, having received a cut-back from Cabella, but the Frenchman blasted it over the bar.

Then Manchester City put things away, with substitute Sergio Aguero bursting down the left with Fabricio Coloccini. He cracked off a shot from a tight angle which Krul saved, but it came right back to Aguero and he nestled it into the far corner for a 2-0 lead and all three points.

LINEUPS

Newcastle: Krul; Janmaat, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Anita (Obertan 63′), Colback; Sissoko, Cabella, Gouffran (Aarons 74′); Riviere (Perez 83′).

Manchester City: Hart; Clichy, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Fernando, Toure, Nasri (Milner 78′), Silva, Jovetic (Fernandinho 72′); Dzeko (Aguero 83′).

Goals: Silva 38′, Aguero 90+2′

West Ham United 2-1 Liverpool: Ogbonna strikes after 120 minutes

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Jordon Ibe of Liverpool takes on Pedro Mba Obiang of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Angelo Ogbonna is now an FA Cup hero.

Two sides willing to move the ball and attack produced a fine FA Cup tie on Tuesday at the Boleyn Ground, with Ogbonna heading home the match-winner in the 121st minute of play for a 2-1 win.

Michail Antonio scored a first-half goal for West Ham before Philippe Coutinho equalized for the visiting Reds.

[ WATCH: Coutinho’s cheeky free kick ties the score ]

All told, West Ham heads to Ewood Park for a fifth-round date with Blackburn Rovers. Peterborough United hosts West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday to sort out the fourth round’s other replay.

Liverpool played a more second-string set than the home side.

Brilliance met brilliance in the 38th minute, as Dimitri Payet struck a gorgeous dipping free kick over the wall only to see Mignolet get the slightest touch to help the ball crank off the goal post. Cheikhou Kouyate failed to scissor kick the rebound, and Mignolet flew back into the picture to parry Antonio’s header.

Antonio would get his glory next, as Enner Valencia took Payet’s pass and dribbled through the left side of the 18 and toward the end line before crossing the ball. Antonio let the ball sink to hip height before volleying home. 1-0, 45′.

There were three goal posts struck in the first half.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

[ MORE: Recapping Week 25 in the PL ]

Coutinho scored on a clever free kick from the edge of the 18, betting on the wall jumping and cheekily rolling his shot under it and past Hammers keeper Darren Randolph.

Christian Benteke started and nearly finished a 56th minute chance inside the box, but his shot was blocked.

West Ham should’ve been awarded a penalty when Tiago Ilori pulled down Valencia in the box. Roger East didn’t see it that way.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or UEFA Champions League final a must ]

The match went to extra time after eight minutes of second-half stoppage time.

Mignolet made a solid flying stop on Mark Noble in the first frame of extra time. At the other end, Benteke struck a low chance wide of the right post. Moments later, Randolph came out to thwart Benteke on a breakaway.

If anyone needed a reminder of Daniel Sturridge‘s skill, the late sub let fly with a 108th minute bullet that missed the goal by inches.

Then Lucas Leiva gave up a free kick just as two minutes of extra time stoppage began, and Ogbonna struck.

LINEUPS

West Ham United: Randolph, O’Brien (Moses, 83′), Reid (Collins, 64′), Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate (Carroll, 76′), Noble, Obiang, Antonio, Valencia, Payet.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Stewart, Tiago Ilori, Smith, Teixeira (Origi, 60′), Lucas, Chirivella (Milner, 102′), Ibe, Benteke, Coutinho (Sturridge, 60′).

WATCH: Liverpool’s Coutinho bewitches West Ham with cheeky free kick

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool scores from a free-kick during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Philippe Coutinho has some gumption.

Liverpool’s Brazilian wizard tied things up with West Ham United in Tuesday’s FA Cup replay at the Boleyn Ground, and did it in style.

[ MORE: Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must ]

With a free kick from just outside the 18, Coutinho thought West Ham would expect he’d hit a ball that would get up quick before dipping after the wall.

They’d jump, he figured, and he’d roll it under the wall. He was correct (video courtesy Fox Soccer):

USWNT’s Solo says Zika fears could make her skip the Olympics

Hope Solo attends the premiere of "He Named Me Malala" at The Ziegfeld Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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As it stands, Hope Solo would skip the Olympics if fears over the Zika virus don’t subside in Brazil.

It’s been speculated that Zika increases the odds of certain birth defects, and Solo said playing in the Olympics is not worth risking future pregnancies.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

With CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying heading to NBC Live Extra at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday against Costa Rica (All games of the tournament will be streamed on Live Extra), Solo is set to star between the sticks for the USWNT.

But in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, the 34-year-old netminder is far from ready to commit to the tournament.

She went as far as to say she wouldn’t go if the tournament was today, elaborating in this story from SI.com:

“I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child,” said Solo, 34. “I don’t know when that day will come for Jerramy and me, but I personally reserve my right to have a healthy baby. No athlete competing in Rio should be faced with this dilemma. Female professional athletes already face many different considerations and have to make choices that male professional athletes don’t.”

Brazilian officials claim there will be minimal risk by the Summer Games because of the change in season, but that won’t alleviate all the concerns of female athletes. It will certainly be interesting to monitor how the situation develops in the coming months.

Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must

Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC
Brian Westerholt/AP Images for International Champions Cup
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Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is used to big matches, whether at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgian national team or during his loan to Atletico Madrid.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Courtois “standing tall” at Chelsea ]

If he doesn’t get one or two of those contests by the end of this season, a bad season will become an utter failure.

Courtois says it’s a long way to the Top Four, but Chelsea hasn’t given up on that hope. Regardless, he’s targeting wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, respectively.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“After that we play in the Champions League and FA Cup against two great sides and we have to try to win those games because the only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them.”

Chelsea’s star has fallen this year, but this is still largely the team that won the Premier League last season. Courtois’ goals are not unreasonable.