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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′

USMNT lineup vs Canada sees Jermaine Jones at CB, Morris and Altidore up front

at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.
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The United States takes on Canada for the second of two friendlies that test those involved in January camp. With Iceland already dispatched 3-2, Canada is next up, at 10:30 p.m. ET from the StubHub center in California.

Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen his lineup, and it’s not easily discernible.

The back line is the biggest head-scratcher, with three central defenders starting, and at least one of them out of position. Jermaine Jones, who performed well in a midfield distribution role against Iceland, has been moved back to the defensive line, partnering with Matt Besler. Steve Birnbaum, also a central defender who had ups and down against Iceland, is back in the lineup. There’s nowhere to fit a third central defender, so he will play out wide. Kellyn Acosta, a natural full-back, rounds out the back four.

In midfield, the personnel lends itself to a flat four, if only because there’s really no other way it can go. Again, a multitude of central defenders are deployed, with Michael Bradley, Lee Nguyen, and Mix Diskerud forming some kind of CM/CM/Winger combination (Nguyen is likely the odd man out wide), with Gyasi Zardes out wide on the other end.

Jozy Altidore returns up front, this time to partner with Jordan Morris, who makes his first USMNT appearance as a professional player.

Finally, San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham makes his USMNT debut between the sticks.

Jurgen Klopp says Daniel Sturridge is focused on getting healthy, not leaving Liverpool

during the Capital One Cup quarter final match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on December 2, 2015 in Southampton, England.
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Jurgen Klopp has made his frustrations with Daniel Sturridge‘s injury history very clear, but he still knows the England international is a crucial part of his squad, and he will be patient, no matter how frustrating it is.

Sturridge has been out since early December, and has made just five appearances all season due to a number of recurring injuries that have sapped him of his consistency for the last two years.

But with the 26-year-old back in training the last two days, the English media has speculated that Sturridge is looking to leave Liverpool, and that the club is trying to rid themselves of him as well. Klopp does not see it that way.

[ RELATED: Daniel Sturridge says he’s “good to go” ]

“I have no feeling that Daniel is thinking like this so stop thinking about it,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference, speaking ahead of the match Saturday against Sunderland. “I spoke to him but not about this. I didn’t ask: ‘do you want to leave?’ “Why should I? He’s been back in training for two days. I don’t go over and say: ‘Daniel, I hear you want to leave? Is there truth in it?’ I don’t believe that it is like this.”

Klopp called the rumors a “non-story” and believes as soon as Sturridge is out on the field, the rumors will stop. He just has to get out on the field first.

“Since I was here I’ve had a normal relationship with Daniel Sturridge,” Klopp said. “The only problem is I have only had him 10 or 12 times on the training pitch – that is the truth. Now he is back we hope he can stay in team training and everything will be good. If everything is normal from now on then he is in the race.”

The German said that just having returned to training, Sturridge won’t be ready for Saturday’s game, but he could potentially be back to action for the FA Cup match against West Ham on Tuesday.

DFB takes legal action against Beckenbauer, FIFA, others

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - DECEMBER 16: Franz Beckenbauer attends the Energy For Life Christmas Ball For Children at Hofburg Vienna on December 16, 2014 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Monika Fellner/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Franz Beckenbauer
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BERLIN (AP) — The German football federation has opened legal proceedings against Franz Beckenbauer, former members, and FIFA in a bid to limit potential damages arising from the 2006 World Cup corruption affair.

The DFB tells The Associated Press in a statement that it has “taken the necessary measures to prevent a possible limitation of claims” against former head of the German World Cup organizing committee Beckenbauer and his then vice-president Fedor Radmann, former DFB presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, former DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt, the executors of Robert Louis-Dreyfus’ estate, together with FIFA.

Central to the affair is a suspect 6.7 million euro payment made to FIFA by the DFB before the 2006 World Cup was awarded. The money was loaned to the German federation by Dreyfus.

Brazilian midfielder Fred has doping ban extended to club, out until June

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 19:  Fred of Donetsk goes for a header during the UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg match between SK Rapid Vienna and FC Shakhtar Donetsk on August 19, 2015 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
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Shakhtar Donetsk striker Fred, a regular for the Brazilian national team, has seen his CONMEBOL doping ban extended worldwide to all competitions.

A FIFA disciplinary committee announced that Fred’s suspension now covers “all types of matches, including domestic, international, friendly and official fixtures.”

The 22-year-old tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide during last summer’s Copa America, and has not played for the Brazilian national team since, having been banned for a year by CONMEBOL. He had been playing for his Ukranian club while FIFA was reviewing the case, making 12 appearances in league play and scoring two goals. He also played six times in the Champions League without scoring a goal.

The one-year ban is back-dated to Fred’s last international squad appearance, when he was on the bench for the Copa America quarterfinals on June 27 of last summer. That date will allow Fred to be eligible for the Rio Olympics, which start August 5.