Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Premier League

Aston Villa 0-0 Newcastle: Guzan saves a point as Villa moves top (video)

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Okay, okay, top of the league because no one else has played two matches… but Aston Villa lead the Premier League after surviving a scoreless home opener against Newcastle United.

The visitors showed plenty of danger, and missed several fairly simple chances to score. American goalkeeper Brad Guzan made plenty of solid saves for the Villans in what was often a sleepy affair as the hosts shut up shop until a late Newcastle red card.

[MORE: Full match replay]

Jack Colback and Remy Cabella were the stars for Newcastle, which couldn’t find the recipe for a goal from its strikers.

[ RELATED: Stoke City seeks European loan for Brek Shea ]

The Magpies tried a bit of a short corner move in the 5th minute, but Brad Guzan snared Vurnon Anita’s deflected shot.

The 16th minute found Aston Villa with a dangerous free kick following a tactical challenge from a beaten Colback, and former Newcastle player Charles N’Zogbia bent his left-footed shot just wide of diving Tim Krul… and the net.

Both Newcastle and Aston Villa fans cheered for the duration of the 18th minute in honor of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, Newcastle supporters who died on the Malaysian Airlines disaster in Ukraine.

Newcastle earned a free kick from about 25 yards out, stood over by Geordie boy Colback. He blasted the attempt wildly over the bar. Later, Cabella slid a through ball a hair too long for Emmanuel Riviere. That extra quarter stride cost Riviere some power, and Guzan went to ground to make the save.

Cabella was felled by a backhand of N’Zogbia in the 42nd minute after a giveaway, but nothing came of the foul.

The Magpies did well out of the break, as Daryl Janmaat nearly headed a past Guzan, earning the club a corner. Janmaat lashed a left-footed 18-yarder just wide of the bar in the 56th minute as well.

Newcastle continued to control the chances, with Mike Williamson laughably missing a solid chance. But corner after corner began to come for the Magpies, who still failed to finish.

Paul Lambert looked to flip the script in Aston Villa’s favor with the introduction of new signing Carlos Sanchez in the 63rd minute. And Sanchez’s first ball was a gorgeous feed that was played out for a corner kick.

Alan Pardew tried a similar trick by inserting big-money transfer Siem de Jong in the 70th minute.

De Jong nearly found a goal in the 88th minute as Newcastle continued to control play. Cabella put a neat pass through the de Jong, but Guzan made a strong reactive save.

There was an amusing span in the 90th minute as Villa fans would not return the match ball for a corner kick, and then tossed the ball in Colback’s path as he prepared to take the corner with a new ball.

Mike Williamson took a second yellow as four minutes of stoppage time began for hip-checking a rushing Fabian Delph.

Lineups

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Senderos, Vlaar, Cissokho (Baker, 85′) Westwood, Delph, Richardson (Bent, 76′), Weimann, N’Zogbia (Sanchez 63′), Agbonlahor

Newcastle United: Krul; Janmaat, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Anita (de Jong 70′), Colback; Gouffran, Sissoko, Cabella; Riviere (Perez, 77′; S. Taylor, 90+2′)

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.

Emre Can back in the Liverpool side ahead of Europa clash vs. Villarreal

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14:  Emre Can of Liverpool battles for the ball with Idrissa Gana of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Emre Can has recovered from an ankle injury and will be in Liverpool’s squad for their Europa League semifinal against Villarreal on Thursday night.

The German international has not played since April 14 when he was forced off in the Reds’ wild 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool prepping for Villarreal ]

Giving his team update on Wednesday, manager Jurgen Klopp said Can is back in the team, although captain Jordan Henderson is still out. The Reds enter the second leg trailing 1-0 on aggregate.

Another positive note out of Melwood was the return of Danny Ings to first-team training. The 23-year-old striker signed with Liverpool last summer, but managed just eight appearances before having his season end to a torn ACL in October. Ings is still far away from his full return, but it was a good sight to see him back on the pitch and making progress in his recovery.

Disappointed Pellegrini rues lack of offense in Man City’s loss to Real

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images )
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Manchester City put in an uninspired performance against Real Madrid on Wednesday, losing the match 1-0 and falling out of the UEFA Champions League.

[ RECAP: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City ]

The match was decided by just one goal, but the scoreline was flattering to City as they failed to create any kind of real chances at the Bernabeu. Over the two legs, City managed just two shots on target.

While City were wildly disappointing in the second leg, manager Manuel Pellegrini did not think the match was that one-sided, saying both teams struggled on the attack.

I am disappointed because I think that was a very close game with two teams who did not create many chances. The two teams were working with no-one making a difference.

It is not the best thing changing a defender very early but I don’t think we had any problems in defence, we had problems creating, same as Real Madrid. They did not create many chances.

Real Madrid was not in top form, but they still could have scored three or four goals on Wednesday. Joe Hart had to come up with some big saves to keep things close, as the England goalkeeper was by far City’s most valuable player throughout the tie.

[ MORE: Liverpool preparing for Europa League match vs. Villarreal ]

The absence of David Silva through injury certainly hurt City’s attack, but there was very little service moving forward from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. The poor play in the midfield left Sergio Aguero stranded alone up top, nearly invisible in the second leg.

Without service, Aguero was forced to track back to try and find the ball himself, leaving City no options to hit on the counter. For a tie between two of the most expensive teams in the world, neither side was truly impressive, but City surely disappointing.