Aston Villa 2-1 Hull City: Swarming start, shaky finish leave Villa undefeated still

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Aston Villa were the better side for much of the game as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann found the back of the net, but a late goal from Nikica Jelavic made things interesting.

The visitors had little to offer until the final 20 minutes as Villa’s attack swarmed the Hull side.

The game started as a cagey midfield battle, and there was little to speak of in the opening 10 minutes as each team looked to feel the other out.

Aston Villa’s new arrival Kieran Richardson was bright for the home side, and as he looked to unlock the Hull defense, his team followed suit.

Richardson began an attack and sent a ball into the box on 13 minutes, and while the cross was cleared, the ball was recycled and the following build up produced the opening goal.

Charles N’Zogbia slashed towards the attacking third and found Andreas Weimann at the top of the box.  The Austrian then cut back to Agbonlahor who turned sharply and blasted the ball into the back of the net. It was a brilliant bit of build up and passing and Villa were rewarded justly with their first goal in their last three matches across all competitions.

Villa continued to prove the better side early on, and held much of the meaningful possession as Hull played on their heels in the first half-hour.

The game got chippy and lacked flow, as fouls dotted the landscape as it approached the first 30-minute mark.

[VIDEO: Premier League highlights, here]

Villa, however, regained their dominant form and produced yet another lovely passing display that bore fruit. Hull debutant Michael Dawson gave the ball away sloppily, and Agbonlahor found Richardson on the edge of the box. The former Fulham man cut back for Weimann for the finish as Hull’s defense failed to recover with any shape.

The home side nearly had a third when Ashley Westwood ripped in a vicious free-kick following a yellow card challenge by Curtis Davies, but the ball clattered the corner of the post and came out.

The second half slowed a bit with Hull adding possession but failing to make it meaningful. Ahmed Elmohamady fired over the bar on 68 minutes in their closest chance yet.

Finally, the visitors produced something of quality and made it a game again after an hour of little on goal. Nikica Jelavic got a head to a free kick for Hull, and the ball deflected off Aly Cissokho past Brad Guzan.

[RELATED: Premier League stats]

The goal suddenly blasted the game to life, as Hull found themselves oh so close to grabbing a point or more out of an otherwise listless performance.

Recently called up to the England squad, Fabian Delph should have restored Villa’s two-goal lead after gliding through Hull’s midfield on a break, but he scuffed it wide on 79 minutes.

Following Delph’s attempt, it was all Hull as they searched for points. Jelavic has a good opportunity at the end of regulation but he was just offsides despite forcing a good save from Guzan.  Yellow cards began to fly every which way from Mark Clattenburg as he attempted to gain control of this game.

Darren Bent had a brilliant chance to put the game away after coming on and receiving a perfect pass from Weimann, but he dragged it wide in a seemingly costly miss for a side looking to fend off the opponent at the death.

Despite the frenetic ending pace, Hull could not find an equalizer and the game finished 2-1 to the home side.  Villa remain undefeated on the season, going to seven points, which brings them above Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham.  Hull, meanwhile, sit on four points while still having to navigate the Europa League.

LINEUPS:

Aston Villa: Guzan; Vlaar, Senderos, Hutton, Cissokho; Delph, Westwood, Richardson (Grealish 75′), N’Zogbia (Sanchez 64′), Weimann; Agbonlahor (Bent 85′).

Goals: Agbonlahor 14′, Weimann 36′

Hull City: McGregor; McShane, Davies (Rosenoir 46′), Dawson, Elmohamady; Livermore, Quinn, Huddlestone (Aluko 71′), Robertson, Ince (Brady 57′); Jelavic.

Goals: Jelavic 74′

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.