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Ligue 1: Falcao scores late winner, preserves Monaco’s 3-point lead

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PARIS (AP) Monaco had Radamel Falcao to thank once again as the Colombia striker came off the bench to score the winner with a superb free kick in a 2-1 home victory against Dijon on Saturday.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs apply pressure to Chelsea (again) ]

Falcao scored an opportunistic winner in a 1-0 defeat of Angers last weekend, and this goal was equally important as it kept Monaco three points clear of Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the French league.

Nabil Dirar scored the first goal midway through the second half, having also set up Falcao’s winner against Angers.

With teenage star Kylian Mbappe enduring a tough evening and Monaco struggling to find space in the first half, 19th-placed Dijon took the lead with a goal from Cedric Varrault shortly before halftime.

Monaco pushed hard after the interval but failed to break Dijon’s solid defense from open play. Falcao first came to the rescue in the 69th minute when the striker hit a free kick from 25 meters (yards) that hit the bar, bounced on `keeper Baptiste Reynet and stopped just in front of the goal line. Dirar rushed toward the ball and hammered it into the back of the net to level.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL preview — Chelsea visit Mourinho at Old Trafford ]

Falcao, who played 31 minutes, sealed Monaco’s win in the 81st with a sumptuous 20-meter curled strike into the top right corner that left Reynet stranded.

It was Falcao’s 26th goal of a season that has confirmed his return to the highest level and his 18th in 24 league games. Six of those games have been as a substitute since he has occasionally struggled for full fitness.

Falcao warmed up perfectly for the visit of Borussia Dortmund in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday, with Monaco leading 3-2 from the away leg in Germany

With five games left to play, Nice is guaranteed a top-three finish in the French league for the first time in more than 40 years.

Chasing its first league crown since 1959, the southern side beat struggling Nancy to ensure its first podium slot since it was runner-up behind Saint-Etienne in 1976.

The only team still unbeaten at home, apart from defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, Nice was caught cold against the run of the play after 26 minutes. It recovered with goals from Mickael Le Bihan and Jean-Michael Seri, who scored a brace.

The win kept Nice within four points of leader Monaco, which has one game in hand.

[ MORE: La Liga roundup — Madrid, Barca win final games before El Clasico ]

Yoan Cardinale made a reflex save in the 25th minute to deny a direct free kick from Loic Puyo which surprised everyone else in the box, but the Nice `keeper was powerless in the next minute after midfielder Valentin Eysseric failed to clear a corner from the left. That allowed Issiar Dia to recover the ball in the area and serve up an assist for Maurice Dale, who scored from six yards (meters).

The goal triggered an all-out assault on the Nancy goal and the hosts managed to level 10 minutes later. After receiving the ball in front of the area, Younes Belhanda almost lost it but managed to deliver a perfect through ball for Le Bihan, who beat `keeper Guy Roland Ndy Assembe for his third goal this season with a precise shot to the bottom corner.

In the absence of injured striker Alassane Plea and with Mario Balotelli suspended, Le Bihan was given his first start of the season and proved to be a worthy addition to the team, with two other good chances in the second half. Le Bihan scored a brace in February after coming off the bench in a 2-1 win against Montpellier on his return from a 17-month injury layoff.

Eysseric almost doubled his team’s lead immediately after the interval when he dribbled on the left side of the box and forced Ndy Assembe into a fine save. Issiar Dia then committed a clumsy foul on Dalbert Henrique in the box and Seri coolly converted from the spot with a shot right in the center of the goal in the 50th minute.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Champions-elect, Juventus, go 8 points clear ]

Seri doubled his tally with five minutes left from Eysseric’s clever assist in the back of the defense.

Montpellier made a big step forward in the fight against relegation with goals from Ryad Boudebouz and Isaac Mbenza.

After posting its first home win since February, the 2012 French champions moved to 12th place, eight points above the danger zone.

It was Boudebouz’s 11th goal this season, his best ever tally in the league.

Also Saturday, Guingamp beat Toulouse 2-1; Metz and Caen drew 2-2; and Rennes defeated Lille 2-0.

MLS Snapshots: Hat trick for Accam; MNUFC come back from 2-0

Photo credit: Chicago Fire / Twitter: @ChicagoFire
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The game in 100 words (or less): All hail King David Accam, the newest superstar of MLS — except, well, you know, he’s been doing this for a couple years now. It’s not his fault you hadn’t already taken notice. For too long, it was Accam and not much else for the Chicago Fire, who finished bottom of the league two straight seasons, in 2015 and 2016. Now, with the likes of Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic and Bastian Schweinsteiger joining him in Bridgeview, Accam has ascended to his rightful throne as an MVP candidate. The 26-year-old Ghanaian international strengthened his case on Saturday, bagging three goals and an assist, playing a key part in all four goals, in Chicago’s 4-0 drubbing of Orlando City SC. Accam’s season stats now sit at 10 goals and six assists, for the Eastern Conference’s second-place team. If these kind of performances persist, don’t be surprised when Accam follows in Fabian Castillo’s footsteps, right off to Europe.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

8′ — Accam rounds Bendik for 2-0 — The long-ball distribution from Bastian Schweinsteiger is perfect, but Accam still has a ton to do from there. He corrals the ball with his first touch, quickly goes around Joe Bendik, gets his wits about him and fires through an opening to make it David Accam 2-0 Orlando City SC. This one came just six minutes after his brilliant backheel finish for the opening goal.

52′ — Accam sets up Nikolic for 3-0 — The time and space afforded Accam is inexcusable from Orlando’s midfield remaining players in their defensive half of the field, but the through ball still required inch-perfect precision to find Nikolic.

63′ — Accam converts from the spot — No doubt about this one, as Accam slams home from the penalty spot to complete his much deserved hat trick.

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Man of the match: David Accam

Goalscorers: Accam (3′, 8′, 63′ – PK), Nikolic (52′)


Minnesota United 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

Three moments that mattered

45+2′ — Tchani heads a rocket past Shuttleworth — You’re not going to find many headers with more power behind them than this one from Tony Tchani, anywhere in the world, anytime.

50′ — Calvo heads down and past Ousted — Take, for example, Francisco Calvo’s goal five minutes into the second half… not quite as much behind it.

63′ — Thiesson hits it low, through traffic, for 2-0 — Jerome Thiesson’s equalizer needed eyes to make its way through a penalty area full of bodies.

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Man of the match: Kevin Molino

Goalscorers: Techera (17′ – PK), Tchani (45+2′), Calvo (50′), Thiesson (63′)

MLS Snapshots: Manneh inspires Crew SC; Philly, Atlanta win at home

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
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Columbus Crew SC 4-1 Montreal Impact

Three moments that mattered

17′ — Higuain’s free kick beats Bush — Aided by a slight deflection off the top of the wall, Higuain put a free kick past Evan Bush to give the home side an early lead.

70′ — Manneh makes an immediate impact — The initial ball from Higuain is what you came here for, but the elementary defending by three Montreal defenders is what’ll keep you glued until the very end.

72′ — Manneh sets up Kamara for 3-1 — Kekuta Manneh had been on the field for all of three minutes, and he put a goal and an assist to his name. Most importantly, three points to that of Crew SC.

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Man of the match: Federico Higuain

Goalscorers: Higuain (17′, 88′), Jackson-Hamel (19′), Manneh (70′), Kamara (72′)


 

Philadelphia Union 1-0 D.C. United

Three moments that mattered

28′ — Blake gets down to deny Harkes from distance — Ian Harkes had picked out a spot just inside the far post, but Andre Blake was well up to the task of denying DCU’s homegrown rookie.

31′ — Picault slams Bedoya’s cross — Alejandro Bedoya’s cross has some serious loft on it, which it makes it so tough to keep the ensuing shot low and to hit it with such power. Fantastic finish from Picault.

70′ — Blake stone-walls Neagle from the spot — It’s a pretty poor penalty from Lamar Neagle, but it’s a massive moment so badly needed by Andre Blake who’s been well off his own standard this season. Don’t be surprised if it’s a season-turning save for the talented Jamaican.

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Man of the match: Andre Blake

Goalscorers: Picault (31′)


 

Atlanta United 1-0 Colorado Rapids

Three One moment that mattered

67′ — Martinez turns and beats Howard for the game’s only goal — You can’t give Josef Martinez this kind of space, and this kind of time, around the six-yard box. He’s shown us seven times already this season (in just seven games) how deadly he is from there.

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Man of the match: Josef Martinez

Goalscorers: Martinez (67′)

VIDEO: Accam’s slick backheel puts Chicago ahead

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For the last two years, David Accam has been, in my estimation, the best player in MLS that no one talked about.

[ MORE: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win NY derby 2-0 ]

Understandably so, of course, given the 26-year-old Ghanaian international and the Chicago Fire been rooted to the bottom of the league table for two years running. All of that has changed in 2017, though, as Accam finally has a forward (Nemanja Nikolic) who can not only put chances away, but create space and chances for his teammates, and a solid midfield base which allows him to cherry-pick counter-attacks just that little bit more.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Entering Saturday’s game against Orlando City SC, Chicago sat second in the Eastern Conference, just four points back of Toronto FC, and Accam’s 7 goals and 5 assists (in 15 games) were a huge part of the why and the how. It didn’t take Accam long — two minutes, in fact, to put Chicago ahead of Orlando with a ridiculous backheel finish to Matt Polster’s cross.

 

Bravo fit again, but will he start Chile’s Confed Cup group finale?

Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
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MOSCOW (AP) Claudio Bravo is fit again and could start in goal against Australia at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said Saturday.

Bravo – who is Chile’s joint most-capped player with Alexis Sanchez – hasn’t played since April 27, when he injured his calf for Manchester City in a derby game with Manchester United.

“Claudio is fit, he’s managed to train the last couple of days just like his other teammates,” Pizzi said. “He’s ready and available to play.”

Pizzi brushed off concerns about a lack of match fitness, saying that “quite obviously we take into account that factor” but players like Bravo are “are of such good quality that it isn’t that important they haven’t played in the last couple of months.”

Stand-in Johnny Herrera played in Chile’s 2-0 group stage win over Cameroon and Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Germany.

Gary Medel was substituted with a minor injury while playing in defense for Chile against Germany. Teammate Francisco Silva said Saturday that Medel had complained of “a very small muscle contraction issue” but was now fit.

Pizzi said he will aim to tire out Australia with Chile’s trademark all-action style, even though his team struggled for energy in the latter stages against Germany.

“This energy drop we had in the second half didn’t damage us too much because the opposing team couldn’t maintain a high pace because of the demands we’d imposed on them,” Pizzi said of the Germany game.

“We’re going to try to get (the Australians) tired as well and use this to beat our opponent, and we hope this is going to translate into goals.”