Sunderland 2-2 West Ham: Not enough for battling Black Cats

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  • West Ham took lead through Ayew, Collins
  • Sunderland equalized through Khazri, Borini
  • Black Cats bottom on 21 points
  • 1 win in 7 for West Ham

Sunderland drew 2-2 with West Ham United at the Stadium of Light on Saturday but David Moyes‘ men still looked destined for relegation.

West Ham, who had Sam Byram sent off in second half stoppage time, twice took the lead through Andre Ayew and James Collins, but Sunderland dug deep as Wahbi Khazri scored directed from a corner and Fabio Borini netted a late equalizer.

Sunderland stay bottom on 21 points with the draw, while West Ham’s poor run continues as they have 37 points.

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The Hammers took the lead early on through Ayew as Andy Carroll‘s shot fell into his patch and the Ghanaian finished superbly. 1-0 to West Ham and the worst possible start for Sunderland.

Robert Snodgrass then curled a wonderful bending effort just wide from the edge of the box as West Ham threatened to go further ahead.

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Darron Gibson smashed an effort wide as Sunderland tried to battle back into the game and they scored a freak equalizer to give them hope.

Khazri’s corner from the left missed everyone and nestled into the far corner as Darren Randolph couldn’t get past Victor Anichebe. 1-1.

Buoyed by that equalizer the Black Cats pushed on and Billy Jones fired an effort just wide and Lee Cattermole went down in the box under a challenge from Snodgrass but no penalty kick was awarded.

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Just two minutes into the second half Collins put West Ham ahead with a header from close range as he nodded home Snodgrass’ corner. 2-1 to the Hammers.

The Black Cats pushed hard to get back into the game with Didier Ndong‘s shot going way over the bar, then Jermain Defoe‘s effort was blocked from close range.

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Late on there was a nasty collision which involved Jones and the Sunderland man was stretchered off the pitch with a serious looking injury. His replacement Borini soon had Sunderland level in the 90th minute.

Randolph tried to clear a cross but he got it all wrong as the ball fell to Borini who finished calmly with his first contribution on the pitch. 2-2.

Byram was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow after fouling Adnan Januzaj and despite plenty of balls into the box the Black Cats could break through.

Despite Sunderland playing well, Moyes’ men came up short and relegation from the Premier League seems like a forgone conclusion at this point despite a battling display.

Mata seems to confirm Champions League is Man United’s priority

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With the Premier League title all but wrapped up, English top flight teams are beginning to put their true focus onto competitions they still have a realistic shot of winning.

Manchester United sits in second place in the Premier League table, but they are a full 18 points back of rivals Manchester City, as so with a Champions League match against Sevilla on Wednesday afternoon, Juan Mata all but confirmed that the Red Devils are putting their main efforts into Europe’s largest competition.

“If we had less of a gap with respect to the Premier League leaders and we had a chance to fight for it, it wouldn’t be so tough to be eliminated from the Champions League, but now our aim is to progress from every round,” Mata said to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser. “It would be a big blow to be eliminated in the last 16.”

Last season, a similar story played out. Manchester United was out of reach of a top four finish in the league, so manager Jose Mourinho publicly admitted they were putting their main focus on the Europa League due to the automatic berth the competition’s winner received into next year’s Champions League. The gamble paid off, as Manchester United won the competition and earned their spot in the Champions League this season.

Sevilla has not progressed past the Round of 16 since 1958. Manchester United, meanwhile, has not made it past the Champions League quarterfinals since their runners-up finish in 2011, when they lost to Barcelona in the finals at Wembley Stadium.

Wenger confirms Ospina will start pair while Ozil, Ramsey miss out

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Arsene Wenger confirmed in his pre-match press conference that goalkeeper Petr Cech will get an extended rest with a pair of Cup games on the horizon for Arsenal.

In his place, David Ospina will start both Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 match against Ostersund and Sunday’s EFL Cup Final against Manchester City. Ospina is no stranger to this type of rotation, with the Colombian owning just 30 starts over the last three seasons in national and international Cup competitions compared to just seven Premier League appearances.

In addition, Wenger also confirmed that Mesut Ozil will miss out for Thursday’s match due to illness, but is expected back for Sunday’s EFL Cup final. Arsenal has a 3-0 lead over Swedish club Ostersund after the first leg, with the second leg to be played at the Emirates.

Wenger said Aaron Ramsey is back in training, and while he will not be risked in the Europa League match in his return from a groin injury that saw him miss the North London derby loss, he could be in contention to play against Manchester City. [Ramsey] is not in the squad tomorrow, he had a good training session. We will see how his evolution goes between now and Sunday. I don’t rule him out.”

Ramsey scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Everton in early February, but has played just 181 minutes since picking up a hamstring injury in mid-December.

Finally, Wenger said that Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will both receive starting spots against Ostersund, as will some unnamed youth products. Welbeck has been out of Premier League action since mid-January, stuck behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he received four minutes off the bench in the North London derby and will get another opportunity in the Europa League to prove his worth.

Conte admits job security speculation will always exist at Chelsea

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Antonio Conte admits that he will always face speculation about his tenure as manager while he is employed at Chelsea, but dismissed it as “no problem for me.”

There is a general acceptance that Conte will part ways with Chelsea at the end of the season given the tough times the club has seen this campaign. The Blues are hanging on to a Champions League place by a thread, and struggled through a January that included just two wins across all competitions in six matches.

“I’ve said it very clearly: I’ve got a contract until 2019 and I intend to respect this, but you know anything can happen in football,” Conte told Italian publication Mediaset. “It takes two to be happy and continue a marriage. Our work is unique because we’ve always got our suitcase in our hands.”

Conte did issue somewhat of a warning to Chelsea, however, that if he were to be fired, it could come back to haunt the club, as he would have no shortage of offers. “My intention is to respect my contract, but if something were to happen, it would open up different scenarios.” Big clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid could have job openings this summer if their lofty goals aren’t met, and those places would be attractive destinations for Conte, who won the Premier League title with Chelsea just last year.

“It’s a bit the history of Chelsea and inevitable when, in the past, in 14 years, 10 coaches have been changed,” he said. “Clearly when there is this habit, let’s say, the press play on it and as soon as there is a result or two which don’t go your way, they try to put the pressure on.

“But it’s no problem for me. I hope that this pressure doesn’t harm the players, not me, because I go looking for pressure.”

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.