CONCACAF Champions League Roundup: Champions fall in Panama; Sporting slips at Estelí

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Portland’s 2,500-mile trek from Boston to Guyana did not go unrewarded. On a discolored ground in Providence, Guyana, the Timbers made a resounding CONCACAF Champions League debut, defeating Alpha United, 4-1.

The game played to the expectations that have grown from MLS’s meetings with the regions’ minnows. While trips to Costa Rica, Honduras, and, of course, Mexico can still haunt U.S. and Canadian teams, visits to the regions’ less-established leagues tend to be more forgiving.

Coming off a loss last week to Olimpia, United proved just as accommodating to their MLS guests. Steve Zakuani scored his first of the season in the 18th minute, while Maxmiliano Urruti doubled the advantage in the 34th. Through a wonderful free kick from Barbosa Murilo pulled the home side within one moments before the break, second half goals from Fanendo Adi and Alvas Powell gave Portland the lopsided result.

Despite the convincing performance, the Timbers merely stayed on par. The real challenge in Group 5 will be Olimpia, who also have three points after one match. Where the winner of the teams’ head-to-head battles will likely reach the quarterfinals, it’s imperative to get three points from Alpha United.

Club América 6-1 Bayamón FC

Even without Raul Jiménez in tow, Club América remain one of the tournament favorites, a fact they hammered home at a largely empty Estadio Azteca. With goals in the sixth (Moisés Velasco), 12th (Michael Arroyo), 14th (Ventura Alvarado), and 20th (Martín Zuñiga) minutes, Antonio Mohammed’s teamtook advantage of a shaky Adrian Krul, putting the match away before the Puerto Ricans had a chance to settle.

Gil Burón’s goal just before halftime sent América into intermission up 5-0, though Nicholas Walker would pull Bayamón within four on the hour. In stoppage time, Zuñiga’s second of the game make it 6-1 – Bayamón’s second straight five-goal loss.

Real Estelí 1-1 Sporting Kansas City

A potential setback saw MLS’s champions drop points in Nicaragua, failing to take advantage of the same slip from Saprissa a week ago. Now Sporting may need to take four points from the Costa Ricans to guarantee a knockout round return.

Estelí broke through early, with a sixth minute save from Jon Kempin deflecting off midfielder Jorge Claros and in for an own goal. Ten minutes later, Peter Vermes’ side responded, with a free kick buried by Toni making it 1-1.

Estelí would go on to outshoot Sporting 11-5 on the night, prompting Vermes to eventually call on Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer to spark the attack. Ultimately, neither team was able to break through, leaving both sides reason to rue the final score at the Estadio Independencia.

Chorrillo 1-0 Cruz Azul

The upset of the night saw the tournament’s defending champions give Panama’s Chorrillo its first points in Champions League, simultaneously ruining La Maquina’s perfect record (6-0-0) against Panamanian sides. Putting home the rebound of a 70th minute penalty kick, Justin Arboleda authored Chorrillo’s little piece of history, leaving the holders bottom of their group through two matches.

Luis Fernando Tena’s team also slipped up last week, drawing at home to Costa Rica’s Alajuelense. Tuesday’s performance offered more of the same, with the Cementeros allowing the hosts to have the better of play early on.

Though the holders slowly started exerting more control, attempts by Marco Fabián, Fausto Pinto, and Gerrado Torrado failed to come good, leaving Chorrillo within a whistle of their history-making upset.

In the 69th minute, that whistle finally came, putting the pressure on goalkeeper José de Jesús Corona to keep his team even. After saving the initial try, however, Corona couldn’t prevent Arboleda from converting the rebound, leaving Cruz Azul with one point through two matches.

Bilic, Fonte react to brutal home loss to Brighton

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Jose Fonte tried to shoulder some of the blame after West Ham United piled more pressure on its manager with a 3-0 home loss to Brighton and Hove Albion on Friday.

“It’s not only the manager, it’s the players as well,” Fonte said. “We have an unbelievable squad and should not be in this position.”

[ RECAP: West Ham 0-3 Brighton ]

Fonte said he understands why fans are booing the club, which has eight points and sits in the bottom half of the Premier League.

Given the club’s summer spending, with Javier Hernandez, Joe Hart, and Marko Arnautovic amongst the buys, pressure’s been on Bilic to deliver the goods. So far, the Irons have not.

Bilic did not deny his role nor his responsibility. From the BBC:

“It’s very hard for me to say anything clever now. I take full responsibility for it. I don’t want to hide.

“It is not a good situation and the board will do what they are going to do. It’s their decision.”

Not a man who feels like he’ll have his job much longer, but is it fair? A lot of West Ham’s key pieces are new, but surely they are not a club who should be peering over its collective shoulder to see the drop zone.

West Ham 0-3 Brighton: Gulls fly past Irons

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  • Murray heads Gross free kick
  • Izquiero strikes from distance
  • West Ham blanked at home
  • Murray earns, converts PK

Glenn Murray scored twice and Jose Izquiero also scored to lead visiting Brighton and Hove Albion past West Ham United 3-0 at London Stadium on Friday.

The loss will do nothing to ease the pressure on West Ham manager Slaven Bilic.

Brighton moves into 10th with 11 points, behind Newcastle United on goal differential. West Ham’s eight points keep them ahead of 16th place Everton, also on goal differential.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brighton took a lead in the 10th minute when Premier League veteran Murray lost Pedro Obiang and turned Pascal Gross‘ free kick across a diving Joe Hart and inside the far post.

Murray now has PL goals for Brighton and Hove Albion, Bournemouth, and Crystal Palace.

West Ham had chances from Marko Arnautovic, Michail Antonio, and — perhaps most dangerous, a left-footed rip from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez that nearly saw its way inside the far post.

And then… well, wow. Izquierdo darted inside from the left and hit his hard shot at Hart, who could only slap the ball inside his goal:

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[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Manuel Lanzini threatened with a slightly deflected 65th minute free kick, and the Irons wasted the ensuing corner.

A dizzying, creative run by Anthony Knockaert provided Murray a 1v1 with Hart, but a second touch allowed the keeper to close down the Englishman.

Murray earned Brighton a PK within a minute, unable to get past the block of Pablo Zabaleta. He took his shot well.

Malta captain mutes goal celebration after journalist slain

AP Photo/Elisabetta Baracchi
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Malta captain Andre Schembri says the car bomb slaying of a Maltese investigative journalist prompted him not to exult after scoring an historic goal.

Schembri’s temporary equalizer for Cypriot club Apollon in a 3-1 loss to Italian side Atalanta in the Europa League on Thursday made him the first Maltese player to score in proper European competition – excluding qualifying.

[ PL PREVIEW: Saints vs. West Brom ]

But instead of pumping his fist or leaping in joy over the achievement, Schembri hung his head as teammates mobbed him.

Schembri wrote on Facebook on Friday, “Celebrating my goal didn’t feel right after what happened in Malta this week.”

Malta has been stunned since Monday by the slaying of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption reporter whose targets included Malta’s leading politicians.

“When they killed Daphne I wasn’t able to sleep for three nights,” Schembri told the ANSA news agency. “Malta is Europe, it’s not the third world. We need to be united when faced with grief like this, to say that we’re better than all of this.

“I love my country and with that goal it came naturally to me to think about a reporter’s freedom and the life of a mother of three children.”

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. West Bromwich Albion

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  • West Bromwich Albion hope to choose from goalkeepers Ben Foster (back) and Boaz Myhill (hamstring) for the trip to St Mary’s. Hal Robson-Kanu (strain), James Morrison (calf) and Oliver Burke (hamstring) will all be absent for the Baggies.
  • Southampton are again without Jeremy Pied but have no other injury concerns.
  • Of all teams to have met in at least seven different Premier League campaigns, Southampton v West Brom has the lowest goals-per-match ratio in the competition (21 in 14 matches, 1.5 per match). 
  • Dusan Tadic has been directly involved in a goal in each of his last three PL appearances against the Baggies (one goal, two assists).

Two mid-table sides meet up in the south of England as Southampton hosts West Bromwich Albion at 13:20 p.m. Saturday afternoon. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both teams are struggling for form heading into the match. West Brom is winless in its last seven games while Southampton has just one win in its last five, coughing up a chance to defeat Newcastle a week ago.

It’s a big boost for Southampton though that Manolo Gabbiadini is back on the scoresheet after scoring twice against Newcastle. It was Gabbiadini’s first goal since the second week of the Premier League season.

At the other end, West Brom have a worry with both of its top two goalkeepers, Ben Forster and Boaz Myhill. recovering from injuries.

What they’re saying

Southampton manager Manuel Pellegrino on his team: “The reaction of the team was really good, but we have to start from the beginning with this spirit. Sometimes you have to be patient, because at the beginning teams have more energy, they are fresher and they can press you better. I think we feel comfortable with the ball. If we are precise with the ball and with our tempo, we can create more problems – it doesn’t matter who we are playing. We know that West Brom are really strong physically, and dangerous from set plays and on the counter-attack. That’s something we’ve been working on this week. Every single week we are learning from our last few games, and I feel that my players are better prepared.”

West Bromwich manager Tony Pulis on facing Southampton: “They’re a good footballing team. Pellegrino has come in with his own ideas and the way he wants to play. From watching them in a couple of games away from St Mary’s they seem a little more relaxed. They look a little more uptight at home. But I’m sure they’ll become the team everyone knows they can be.”

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Prediction

West Bromwich doesn’t look closer to stopping its slide down the table, especially on the road. Even with Jay Rodriguez returning to his former club, Southampton should find the offense to put Tony Pulis and West Brom away. Southampton 2-1 West Bromwich Albion