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Southampton 1-4 Tottenham: Alli leads comeback against 10-man Saints

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Saints led inside the opening two minutes at St. Mary’s, but they were undone by a controversial sending off of Nathan Redmond which visiting Tottenham capitalized on for a 4-1 win.

Dele Alli scored the opener and closer, with the meat of the sandwich coming via Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son.

Southampton went ahead just 70 seconds into the match when a free-kick from James Ward-Prowse curled into a perfect position, and Virgil van Djik lept incredibly high to meet it, powering home the header for a lightning-quick 1-0 lead.

Following the goal, Southampton pressed incredibly hard, throwing Spurs completely out of whack. With Tottenham back on their heels, Saints ran them ragged for the opening 15 minutes, with the best chance for a second coming on 17 minutes when a dangerous cross from Ryan Bertrand down the left nearly met Jay Rodriguez who had beaten Danny Rose, but Rose recovered to make the tackle at the last second. The ball sat untouched for a moment, eventually cleared.

Finally, Tottenham recovered, and took advantage of a lucky break. After finally collecting themselves, a 19th-minute cross from Moussa Sissokho clipped the back of Nathan Redmond and popped high in the air. Dele Alli found himself all along in front of net, and he met the ball with his head, directing it on and in despite a last-ditch challenge from van Djik.

Following the Spurs goal, the game slowed and things became cagey. The next good chance didn’t fall until the 43rd minute as Victor Wanyama received a ball from Rose in the box and glided past a defender, but the Kenyan couldn’t get a shot off in time, and he was closed down by Jose Fonte who slid in and deflected the shot out of danger.

The halftime break came and went, and Spurs would take the lead shortly after. In the 53rd minute, Harry Kane rose above Oriol Romeu to meet a corner, and he bagged the game’s third headed goal to put Spurs up 2-1.

It would get far worse for Saints, as Sissokho fed a delicious ball to Alli on the break just moments later. Alli was challenged hard by Redmond, and appeared to stumble near the top of the box under a slight shirt pull. The young Spurs midfielder recovered and eventually fired wide, which caused referee Mike Dean to pull back advantage and award a penalty, also handing Redmond a red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. The decision was controversial because it looked clear that Mike Dean awarded the decision for the pull, which clearly happened outside the box with defenders in the area.

With Spurs a man up and a chance to put the game away, Harry Kane blasted the penalty miles over the bar, looking back down at the turf where a sizeable divot was evident next to the ball. Replays show his plant foot slid a good distance on the kick, causing the ball to sail so high.

The man advantage allowed the visitors to dictate the pace of play, and they had another big chance on the 70-minute mark as a cross from Sissokho right along the baseline clipped out to Christian Eriksen at the top of the box, and with all day to pick a shot, he rattled the crossbar.

Spurs finally put the game away with a breakaway goal from substitute Heung-Min Son in the 85th minute, and Southampton were unable to put forth any significant fight down a man. They added salt to the wound with another two minutes later as Danny Rose displayed some silky moves and Alli finished it off cooly.

The win moves Spurs to 36 points, back within just one of Arsenal in the final Champions League place. Southampton, meanwhile, stays in the top half of the table, but fails to capitalize on the opportunity to move further towards a more guaranteed Europa League position.

Timbers sign Peruvian winger Andy Polo from Liga MX’s Morelia

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Timbers have acquired winger Andy Polo on loan from Liga MX club Monarcas Morelia for the upcoming season.

The 23-year-old native of Peru played in 25 matches last year for Morelia and made six starts with two goals.

He’s also World Cup-bound, having appeared in Peru’s two-legged playoff against New Zealand in November. Peru won 2-0 on aggregate. Overall, he’s appeared with the Peruvian national team 15 times since his senior debut in 2016.

“Andy is a versatile, young player who will add another element to our attack, and we believe that he has further upside to his development,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said in a statement.

The Timbers used targeted allocation money and have a purchase option. Polo’s arrival is pending a physical and receipt of a visa.

He will occupy an international roster spot.

Can Man United still sign Sanchez without Mkhitaryan swap?

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The answer to the (first) titled question is, undoubtedly, yes.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

The latter question — the “will they?” — remains a relative unknown at this point, but if reports out of the UK are to be believed, Manchester United are just as likely to send $40 million (or so) Arsenal’s way in exchange for Alexis Sanchez, should Henrikh Mkhitaryan refuse the move by declining any contract offers from the Gunners.

[ MORE: Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies ]

The thinking, at least for the last few days since Man United somewhat unexpectedly entered the Sanchez sweepstakes, was that swapping the Armenian for the Chilean was the obvious — and, perhaps only — way forward. Call it special circumstances or an obvious audible, but that’s not necessarily the case — from the Guardian:

“It is understood that if Mkhitaryan does not leave Mourinho believes that, given the club’s robust finances, [Man United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward could still sanction a move for a player who would potentially vastly improve United.”

By the time Sanchez is signed, sealed and delivered, United will have also paid Sanchez and his agent, Fernando Felicevich, massive signing-on fees that could total another $30 million. No matter the order in which the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan saga plays out, United will come out ahead with a superior player at a massively discounted price — should Sanchez ultimately move to Old Trafford, of course.

Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies

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If the FA, English football’s governing body, is insistent upon testing video-assistant refereeing (VAR) as they have done in recent FA Cup and League Cup fixtures, Antonio Conte believes they should darn well use it.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Following his Chelsea side’s penalty-shootout victory over Norwich City in an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday, Conte was equal parts frustrated and confused by the fact that video-referee Mike Jones failed to prompt referee Graham Scott to consult the on-trial system on multiple occasions.

Most notably, Chelsea’s 92nd-minute (extra-time) penalty shout following Timm Klose‘s tackle on Willian. Scott, instead, booked the Brazilian for diving — one of three cards, all shown to Chelsea players, for simulation on the night — and that was that.

“If you watch the replay you see very clearly it is a penalty,” said Conte after the game — quotes from the BBC:

“I think that there was a penalty but not on [Alvaro] Morata — on Willian.

“With Willian, the referee heard what the other referee watched and decided to continue to play. If we want to try to use this new system, it is important for the referee to wait, especially in this incident that is not so clear.

“And then when the referee that is watching had a doubt, he has to call the referee to watch and he can make a decision. The referee on the pitch has to make the decision, not one off the pitch.

“We can improve it for sure but we need to try to take the best solution. The final decision is for the ref on the pitch. Otherwise, why is there this ref?

“The mistake wasn’t of the ref on the pitch but the person watching. When you see this, you have to call the referee.”

VAR was used in another third-round replay, on Tuesday, and helped to correctly rule Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho as being in an onside position when he scored his side’s second goal. While offside/onside calls are much clearer, cut-and-dry decisions to make — and with the aid of a natural stoppage in play — clearly much work lies ahead with regard to the process of determining whether the referee has made a “clear and obvious error,” which remains the threshold for using VAR, in instances of fouls/diving.

Copa QF: Messi misses PK, Barca’s 29-game unbeaten run ends

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MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi missed a penalty and Barcelona conceded late as its 29-match unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss to city rival Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Messi failed from the spot in the 62nd minute, his shot brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Youngster Oscar Melendo netted the winner for the hosts in the 88th with his first goal as a professional.

“I have no words, I was looking forward to this first goal,” said the 20-year-old Melendo, who had come on as a substitute in the second half.

It was Espanyol’s first win against Barcelona at its RCDE Stadium.

The second leg of the Catalan derby is next week at Camp Nou.

Barcelona hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Aug. 16. It had won 23 of its last 29 matches in all competitions.

“We knew we would lose one day,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “The positive thing is that in a week we have a chance to rebound and advance.”

Messi had his chance from the spot after Sergi Roberto was fouled by Esteban Granero, but his low shot into the right corner was stopped as Diego Lopez dived to his left to tip the ball away.

It was a rare miss for Messi, who is having a stellar season and is the Spanish league’s top scorer with 17 goals.

“The penalty save gave us the boost that we needed,” Melendo said. “We were playing too defensively.”

Melendo netted the winner with a low shot from the middle of the area after a well-timed pass by Marc Navarro.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde did not use all of the team’s regular starters, leaving players such as Luis Suarez on the bench.

The match was interrupted for a few minutes in the 76th after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was hit by an object thrown by fans behind his goal.

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was replaced in the second half because of a foot injury.