US ‘keeper Brad Guzan hails Aston Villa’s new-look defense after solid start

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In the week where he seemingly jumped into the role of U.S. national team’s number one goalkeeper for the next year, following Tim Howard’s sabbatical, Brad Guzan put in another top display to record his second shutout in as many games to kick off Aston Villa’s season.

Villa held Newcastle to a 0-0 draw at home on Saturday and coming off their opening day 1-0 win at Stoke City, the Midlands club have tallied four points from their opening two matches of the campaign. Not bad at all, especially compared to the last few seasons.

[HIGHLIGHTS: Villa 0-0 Newcastle]

Guzan, 29, played a huge part in thwarting Newcastle as late on Siem de Jong smashed an effort on goal but Guzan beat the ball away superbly as he helped Villa on the way to another point.

Following the match Guzan spoke to reporters about Villa’s new experienced core at the back and how they have helped the sleeping giants of English soccer to get off to a solid start to the new campaign.

 “I was just happy to play my part really,” Guzan said. “Up to that point the guys in front of me had made my job quite easy. I hadn’t had much to do in terms of saves. When you have a defense in front of you that are prepared to put it on the line and make blocks and tackles it makes it easier for a keeper. I thought we were a little bit unlucky not to get three points. Yes, they might have had a bit more of the ball, but up until that save I didn’t really have anything to do.”

With Swiss international center back Philppe Senderos arriving on a free from Fulham, Aly Cissokho signing from Valencia and Scottish right back Alan Hutton back in from the cold after various stints away on loan, Villa’s defense all of a sudden looks much tougher to beat. Plus with the shaved heads of Guzan, Hutton, Vlaar and Senderos back there, Villa’s defense merged into a mass of brilliant bold defenders who threw their body on the line time and time again for the cause. Bravo.

A back four of Hutton, captain and World Cup star Ron Vlaar, Senderos and Cissokho is much different than the core of youngsters who manned it last season. The likes of Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton and Nathan Baker have all been replaced after two seasons of struggle for Paul Lambert’s men who gave youth a big chance to succeed. With new assistant coach Roy Keane on board, his mantra has always been to set up a solid defense and have a few attackers who can win you games.

USMNT ‘keeper Guzanis  behind a new sturdy defense and although Villa may not be the most attractive team to watch this season, they will certainly get plenty more points as their defensive unit looks in fine fettle early on in the 2014-15 season.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Man City steps towards the title, Merseyside recap

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle dissect Derby Day, where Man City set the Premier League single season all time consecutive winning streak against rivals Man United, Jurgen Klopp had a bad day at the office against the blue half of Merseyside and Arsenal stutter again away from home.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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La Liga & Serie A: Suarez, Messi pace Barca; AC Milan tops Bologna

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

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Villareal 0-2 Barcelona

The visitors struggled to break down Villareal’s back line throughout the opening 45 minutes, but the Blaugrana were aided by Raba’s second-half dismissal on Sunday. From there, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez helped Barca pick up its 12th win of the season and restore the club’s five-point lead over Valencia.

Messi’s goal — his 525th for the club — matched Gerd Muller’s Barca record on Sunday, while the finish was his 18th in all competitions this season.

Real Betis 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Saul Niguez scored his second goal of the La Liga season to help give Atletico an important road victory against Real Betis. Atleti now sits third in Spain’s top flight, but remains six points behind league leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 0-2 Malaga
Levante 1-2 Athletic Bilbao


AC Milan 2-1 Bologna

Giacomo Bonaventura scored twice on Sunday to give AC Milan a victory at the San Siro. The midfielder opened the scoring inside the opening 10 minutes, before Simone Verdi’s finish in the 23rd minute leveled the match for Bologna. Bonaventura tabbed his second goal of the day in the 76th minute to give the Rossoneri a win and keep the team inside the top seven. Milan currently sits on 24 points through 16 matches.

 

Elsewhere in Serie A

Chievo Verona 0-0 Roma
Napoli 0-0 Fiorentina
SPAL 2-2 Hellas Verona
Udinese 2-0 Benevento
Sassuolo 2-1 Crotone

Second-half burst gives Ajax big win over Dutch leaders PSV

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For only the second time this season, Dutch Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven have lost a league match.

Ajax stormed back for a 3-0 victory over PSV on Sunday in Der Topper, the long-standing rivalry between the two Dutch powerhouses.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from the Manchester Derby ]

The victory moves Ajax up to third place on 32 points this season, while PSV remains atop the league table on 39 points.

David Neres, Lasse Schöne and Donny van de Beek each scored in a span of 11 minutes after the halftime break to five the hosts a comfortable result.

Neres broke the deadlock in the 61st minute when he stunned PSV with a long-distance volley that couldn’t be dealt with by goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.

Schone then found the back of the net three minutes later, while Van de Beek capped off the outing with the dagger in the 72 minute.

Sunday’s win also gives Ajax a slim advantage over their rival in the all-time Eredivisie series, 54-24-53.

Stanford knocks off Indiana to capture third consecutive NCAA title

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Prior to this weekend, only one team in NCAA men’s soccer history had won three or more titles in consecutive years. Now, you can add Stanford to that list.

The Cardinal knocked off the Indiana Hoosiers, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium behind Sam Werner’s extra-time winner.

[ MORE: Kamara, Zimmerman amongst biggest MLS trade moves on Sunday ]

Werner, who also scored the second goal for the Cardinal in Friday night’s 2-0 victory against the Akron Zips, provided the finish in the second overtime after powering a shot over Hoosiers goalkeeper Trey Muse.

On the cold day in Chester, PA, both sides struggled to come up with chances on goal, with the Hoosiers managing just one shot on target in the match.

Prior to 2015, Stanford had never won a College Cup in school history, however, the Cardinal are now tied for sixth in NCAA history with their third championship.

The University of St. Louis has captured the most titles in men’s soccer, with 10, while Indiana’s eight championships rank second.