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′

Prosecutors question Beckenbauer in World Cup fraud case

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) Swiss authorities say prosecutors have questioned Germany soccer great Franz Beckenbauer in their ongoing World Cup fraud case.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT looks to build momentum vs. Honduras ]

Criminal proceedings against Beckenbauer and three other German members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee were opened in 2015. The four are suspected of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement, and misappropriation relating to a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) to FIFA in 2005.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras WCQ ]

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that federal prosecutors questioned Beckenbauer earlier in the day in Bern, adding that “Beckenbauer was cooperative.”

Beckenbauer’s home in Austria was raided last year for evidence on behalf of Swiss federal prosecutors investigating corruption linked to FIFA.

Report: Man City launching massive bid for AC Milan’s Donnarumma

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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly established himself as the best young goalkeeper in European soccer, and AC Milan won’t be letting the 18-year-old go without a pretty penny in return.

[ MORE: Schedule, preview for UEFA World Cup qualifying ]

According to Sky Sport Italia, Manchester City is preparing a massive bid in the range of $130 to $160 million to acquire the AC Milan shot-stopper as the English side’s goalkeeping situation is still unsettled.

The Citizens have failed to hunker down at the goalkeeper position this season despite spending big to bring in Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo, who has underperformed. Willy Caballero has also been shaky at times for the English giants, while on-loan keeper Joe Hart will almost certainly move on from the club over the summer.

Donnarumma is currently second in Serie A in saves (110), trailing only Crotone’s Alex Cordaz, who has stopped two more shots.

Since turning professional in 2015, Donnarumma has quickly enjoyed his rise through Italian football for both AC Milan and with the national team. After previously featuring for the Under-15, U-17 and U-21 sides, Donnarumma has established himself as the surefire replacement for Gianluigi Buffon once he retires from the international game.

Honduran federation suggests U.S. Soccer gamesmanship ahead of WCQ

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Three critical points are on the line for the U.S. Men’s National Team and Honduras on Friday night when CONCACAF World Cup qualifying returns to action, but the Central American side may have some added motivation.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT looks to build momentum vs. Honduras ]

In the lead up to their Hexagonal meeting in San Jose, California, Honduran federation president Jorge Salomon has suggested that his national team has had difficulty finding training facilities because of U.S. Soccer’s gamesmanship.

[ MORE: Five USMNT questions ahead of WCQs ]

Salomon told Honduran outlet Diez that Los Catrachos were forced to train in Fort Myers, Florida ahead of the match because of U.S. Soccer’s attempt to sabotage Honduras’ comfortability ahead of Friday.

“That’s why we went to (Fort Myers),” Salomon told Diez. “We found two (fields) but they weren’t up to the standard for a national team.

“They have blocked us from some fields to train, but that is part of the sporting psychological battle you face when you are the visiting team,” Salomon added. “It’s no problem, we have done a good job.”

Meanwhile, Goal USA is reporting that U.S. Soccer claims to have provided Honduras with the same resources that it does for every visiting opponent and that it was Honduras’ choice to train in Florida as “a cost-saving measure.”

Rapinoe named to USWNT roster ahead of April friendlies

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The U.S. Women’s National Team wasn’t at its best the last time they stepped out for the SheBelieves Cup, but Jill Ellis’ group will have a chance to find their feet again next month as they prepare to face Russia in a pair of friendlies.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras WCQ ]

Ellis announced her 24-player roster on Thursday, which was headlined by the inclusion of Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe.

“This is our last chance to get together before the NWSL starts and we’ll take full advantage of the training time as well as the two matches against a team in preparation for the European championships,” said Ellis. “Following these matches, my staff and I will begin a heavy investment in attending and evaluating the NWSL games as well as tracking our players overseas before we get back together for our European trip in the summer. I’m very much looking forward to our domestic league starting.”

Back-to-back losses to England and France in the SheBelieves Cup gave the USWNT an unwanted start to 2017, however, the Russians will give the U.S. another strong test in April.

The USWNT will play the first of the two friendlies on April 6 in Dallas at Toyota Stadium before meeting the Russians three days later in Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Here’s the entire 24-player roster for the USWNT ahead of their Russia friendlies.

Goalkeepers (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders (6): Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Megan Oyster (Boston Breakers), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars)

Midfielders (8): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash/Manchester City), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign)

Forwards (7): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride/Olympique Lyonnais, FRA), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (UCLA), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)