Colorado Rapids v Seattle Sounders

MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Colorado Rapids

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One game, 100 words or less – A chance-less first half that showcased an improved Colorado defense gave way to a quick turn, with poor defending on an early second half corner allowing Clint Dempsey to give Seattle a 51st minute lead. Reverting to form that underscored a five-match losing streak they carried into the match, the Rapids began leaking chances, with Martins coming close three times over the match’s final 40 minutes. Though they were unable to double their lead, the Sounders still earned a one-sided 1-0 victory, one that creates some temporary breathing room at the top of the league.

Goals

Seattle: Clint Dempsey 51′
Colorado: None.

Three moments that mattered:

51′ – Dempsey unmarked – The first good chance of the match saw Seattle earn a corner after a ball put behind the defense by Gonzalo Pineda allowed Brad Evans to test debuting goalkeeper Joe Nasco. Off the ensuing corner, Marc Burch forgot he’s not longer a Sounder, giving Clint Dempsey an open volley from the middle of the area. Converting into the right side of goal, “Deuce” gave the favorites a 1-0 lead.

58′ – Martins almost breaks the bar – A suddenly struggling Colorado defense made life worse for itself with a poor clearance from Marvell Wynne. Moments later, Obafemi Martins unloaded on a bouncing ball just inside the penalty area, which the Nigerian’s shot testing the integrity of Nasco’s crossbar. Withstanding that test, the south end’s woodwork kept it 1-0.

90′ – Nasco keeps it close – A blast from Martins from near the edge of the penalty area gave Seattle a chance to (finally) double its lead, but Nasco again came up with a strong save, pushing the ball well wide. Quickly, however, Seattle had the ball at Clint Dempsey’s feet, drawing another save from Nasco. Moments later, Seattle’s strikers were combining on a counter, and while the attack fizzled just inside the final third, the Sounders remained on the edge of their insurance goal.

Lineups

Seattle: Stefan Frei; DeAndre Yedlin, Chad Marshall, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez; Brad Evans (Chad Barrett 75′), Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda, Marco Pappa (Lamar Neagle 75′); Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins (Andy Rose 92′)
Colorado: Joe Nasco; Chris Kulte, Thomas Piermayr, Marvell Wynne, Marc Burch; Marlon Harrison (Gabriel Torres 60′), Dillon Powers, Nick LaBrocca, Dillon Serna (Charles Eloundou 79′); Deshorn Brown, Edson Buddle

Three lessons going forward:

1. The break didn’t help Colorado – During the first half, the Rapids looked less like a team riding a five-game slump than an underdog trying to survive Seattle. The second half, however, saw them revert to form. Though the first 45 minutes gave Rapids fans reason to hope, Colorado’s weekend off didn’t solve the team’s problems.

2. Seattle’s starting XI seems mostly set – This isn’t major news, but it’s still worth pausing to consider what Seattle will look like going forward. Brad Evans has settled in on the right side of midfield, pushing Lamar Neagle to the bench. Though a healthy Djimi Traoré could eventually supplant Zach Scott in central defense, today’s XI looks like the team Sigi Schmid’s going to bet on. Over the last two weeks, that looks like a bet that should come good.

3. Edges being wasted – Deshorn Brown had only one goal in his last four games, a rate that should have improved today at CenturyLink. Against a back line of Marshall, Scott, and Leo Gonzalez, Colorado had a chance to take advantage of Brown’s speed, particularly on CenturyLink’s gridiron-friendly turf. Except for one, maybe two moments in the second half, that edge was never leveraged, allowing Seattle to enjoy an easy afternoon at home.

Where this leaves them

  • Temporarily, Seattle has a five-point lead in both its conference and Supporters’ Shield standings. Regardless of what happens later this weekend in Carson and D.C., the Sounders will again be top of the table come Monday.
  • Colorado is still three back of fifth in the East, but if Vancouver gets a result tonight against Portland, the Rapids will lose touch with the West’s final playoff spot.

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.