Leighton Baines

AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

Europa wrap: Milan runs riot; Everton wins; USMNT’s Horvath posts clean sheet

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The matches were plentiful as clubs from around Europe angled for a spot in the UEFA Europa League group stage in the first legs of playoff round ties.

[ MORE: Schalke’s American teenager ]


Panathinaikos 2-3 Athletic Bilbao

Ageless Aritz Aduriz just keeps scoring, and La Liga’s visitors erased a 2-0 deficit with a pair of goals from the 36-year-old — he’s not really ageless, guys and girls — sandwiched around a De Marcos tally.

Everton 2-0 Hajduk SplitRECAP

Stylish assists from Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney set-up Michael Keane and Idrissa Gana Gueye for rare goals, and Everton could’ve had many more in the first leg. Hajduk, however, showed some danger late and a raucous, disruptive, and even violent visiting crowd showed the second leg will be anything but simple for Ronald Koeman‘s men.

Club Brugge 0-0 AEK Athens

USMNT backstop Ethan Horvath kept a clean sheet with a two-save performance for Brugge, and the Greek visitors won’t take any away goals home for the second leg.

AC Milan 6-0 Shkendija

In another realm, Milan is still scoring goals. Andre Silva netted twice in the first 28 minutes, Fabio Borini and Luca Antonelli also scored. And how about Riccardo Montolivo?

 

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov 1-1 Oleksandriya
Apollon Limassol 3-2 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 3-2 Red Star Belgrade
Dinamo Zagreb 1-1 Skenderbeu
FH 1-2 Braga
PAOK 3-1 Ostersund
Vardar Skopje 2-0 Fenerbahce
Viktoria Plzen 3-1 AEK Lamaca
Altach 0-1 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Ludogorets Razgrad 2-0 Suduva
Domzale 1-1 Marseille
Osijek 1-2 Austria Wien
Viitorul 1-3 Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax 0-1 Rosenborg
Legia Warsaw 1-1 Sheriff
Partizan 0-0  Videoton
Maritimo 0-0 Dynamo Kyiv

Everton 2-0 Hajduk Split: Toffees cruise in Europa League first leg

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  • Keane nabs first EFC goal
  • Baines, Rooney with classy assists
  • Gueye scores rare goal
  • Second leg Aug. 24 in Croatia

Michael Keane and Idrissa Gana Gueye scored as Everton took a 2-0 lead over HNK Hajduk Split in a UEFA Europa League playoff round first leg at Goodison Park on Thursday.

Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney had assists for the Toffees, while Jordan Pickford, Ademola Lookman, and Davy Klaassen also posted lively performances for the hosts ahead of next week’s second leg.

The Toffees could’ve scored four or five if not for questionable offside calls alone, and the match was interrupted in the first half when the Hajduk support section got out of hand.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Ademola Lookman won an early corner for Everton that led to nothing, and played a terrific ball into the center of the box that Davy Klaassen just missed with a sliding effort.

Hajduk had a moment in two in transition, but the Toffees handled it well. Baines in particular broke up the earliest sign of danger.

The breakthrough goal was splendid, with Baines scooping up a punched corner kick and darting past a defender to dink an aesthetically-pleasing ball into traffic for Keane to head home. 1-0, 30′.

The match was stalled for 5-10 minutes after riotous behavior from visiting Hajduk Split supporters, who tossed bottles onto the field and charged at the stewards (one appeared to punch a security guard).

The Toffees went up 2-0 off a classy assist from Rooney, who was moving away from the defense when he cut a ball to a darting Gueye. The Senegalese engine provided a rare goal in the 45th minute.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

The chances were at a premium for both sides in the second half, with Everton still having the better of play. But Jordan Pickford had to get horizontal to make an outstanding two-handed parry on a Hajduk rush in the 61st minute.

Hajduk really found its game late as Everton seemed to rest on its laurels. Pickford was livid, and called into duty to make some big stops and preserve an important home clean sheet.

Has Everton’s expensive rebuild given it Top Four hope?

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There’s one each August.

Take last season. Buoyed by a seventh place finish under Slaven Bilic in 2015-16, West Ham United spent to bring Andre Ayew, Manuel Lanzini, Håvard Nordtveit, Gokhan Tore, Simone Zaza and a host of others to town.

Some worked out, some didn’t, some were hurt, but the Irons didn’t move the needle in taking all season to build any semblance of form. Prone to losing streaks, West Ham lost four-straight and five-straight matches in the PL, going six and seven games without a win.

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

This year, it’s again the seventh place finisher making noise, and some think Everton could finish higher than Merseyside rivals Liverpool in Ronald Koeman‘s second year on the job.

The Toffees need to handle Hajduk Split over two legs to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage, and Koeman has built up enough quality to make a deep run in the tournament and a nice climb in the Premier League standings.

When the biggest question mark of the big summer additions is England’s all-time leading scorer, well, big things are going to be expected from Goodison Park.

Everton has added Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaasen, Sandro Ramirez, Michael Keane, and Jordan Pickford. Those are potential impact players right up the middle of the pitch (perhaps with Sandro shipped wide because of Rooney). The Toffees still have Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gana Gueye as a killer midfield duo, Ashley Williams to team with Keane, and any number of prospects and valuable commodities (plus the leg peg of Leighton Baines).

And rumor has it Gylfi Sigurdsson is going to end up at Goodison.

Sure the club sold Romelu Lukaku and will be without influential fullback Seamus Coleman for some time, but there are many reasons to believe the Toffees can reach new heights.

Here’s the rub: and it’s the schedule. How far behind will the Toffees be in their chase for the Top Four after opening the campaign home to Stoke, then away to Man City, away to Chelsea, home to Spurs, and away to Bournemouth (with the Hajduk Split matches mixed into the first three encounters)?

That’s one heck of a gauntlet, one laden with away obstacles. But navigating that mess and still being within shouting distance will be a major victory, and one that could propel Everton’s status as a contender deep into the season.

Ranking the top 10 Premier League players in each position

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It’s always nice to open up a can of worms before the start of the season, right?

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

With new players arriving in the Premier League and superstars staying put, we thought it would be a good idea to rank the best players in each position ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Think of this as a preseason PL player Power Rankings, if you will, and if you want to use this us a “cheat-sheet” for your PL fantasy teams, go for it.

Here’s a list at the top 10 in each position. Let the debate begin in 3, 2, 1…


Goalkeepers

1. David De Gea
2. Hugo Lloris
3. Petr Cech
4. Thibaut Courtois
5. Jack Butland
6. Jordan Pickford
7. Kasper Schmeichel
8. Joe Hart
9. Lukasz Fabianski
10. Ben Foster

Right back

1. Antonio Valencia
2. Seamus Coleman
3. Kyle Walker
4. Danilo
5. Cedric
6. Nathaniel Clyne
7. Kieran Trippier
8. Victor Moses
9. Hector Bellerin
10. Pablo Zabaleta

Center back

1. Toby Alderweireld
2. Cesar Azpilicueta
3. Virgil Van Dijk
4. Jan Vertonghen
5. Laurent Koscielny
6. Vincent Kompany
7. David Luiz
8. Eric Bailly
9. Michael Keane
10. Gary Cahill

Left back

1. Danny Rose
2. Ryan Bertrand
3. Marcos Alonso
4. Nacho Monreal
5. Leighton Baines
6. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
7. Benjamin Mendy
8. Luke Shaw
9. Aaron Cresswell
10. Andrew Robertson

Central midfielders

1. N'Golo Kante
2. David Silva
3. Mousa Dembele
4. Paul Pogba
5. Juan Mata
6. Nemanja Matic
7. Victor Wanyama
8. Ander Herrera
9. Oriol Romeu
10. Georginio Wijnaldum

Attacking midfielders/wingers

1. Kevin De Bruyne
2. Dele Alli
3. Eden Hazard
4. Sadio Mane
5. Philippe Coutinho
6. Christian Eriksen
7. Mesut Ozil
8. Leroy Sane
9. Gylfi Sigurdsson
10. Bernardo Silva

Strikers

1. Harry Kane
2. Alexis Sanchez
3. Sergio Aguero
4. Romelu Lukaku
5. Diego Costa
6. Alvaro Morata
7. Javier Hernandez
8. Gabriel Jesus
9. Roberto Firmino
10. Jamie Vardy

UEFA Europa League wrap: Everton, Milan, Marseille take leads

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Lone Premier League contestants Everton controlled proceedings at home but had trouble finding the finishing touch, while Milan and Marseille got goals from summer signings to nab wins of their own in the first legs of the UEFA Europa League’s third qualifying round on Thursday

[ MORE: Mendy a doubt for PL opener ]

All but two of the second legs will be held Aug. 3, with Sion-Suduva and AEL Limassol-Austria Wien the previous day.

Everton 1-0 MFK Ruzomberok

For over an hour, Everton had better than 70 percent possession at Goodison Park and nothing to show for it. But Leighton Baines‘ 65th minute rip deflected home to give the Toffees a deserved lead over its Slovakian opposition ahead of next week’s match in Ruzomberok.

Everton finished the match with a 20-8 edge in shots and 72 percent possession.

CSU Craiova 0-1 AC Milan

New Milan man Ricardo Rodriguez bagged a 44th minute free kick to give the free-spending Rossoneri a notable start to life in the UEL.

Marseille 4-2 KV Oostende

Valere Germain’s move from Monaco to Marseille is paying big dividends already, with French striker helping himself to a hat trick at his new home stadium.

UEFA Europa League first legs
Mlada Boleslav 2-1 Skenderbeu Korce
Trakai 2-1 FK Shkendija
Olimpia Donetsk 1-1 PAOK
Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-0 Panionios
Utrecht 0-0 Lech Poznan
AIK 1-1 Sporting Braga
PSV Eindhoven 0-1 Osijek
SK Sturm Graz 1-2 Fenerbahce
Suduva 3-0 Sion
Krasnodar 2-1 Lyngby BK
AEK Lamaca 2-0 Dinamo Minsk
Dinamo Bucuresti 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
Botev Plovdiv 0-0 Maritimo
Bnei Yehuda 0-2 Zenit St. Petersburg
Astra Giurgiu 0-0 Oleksandriya
Brondby 0-0 Hajduk Split
Arka Gdynia 3-2 Midtjylland
Gent 1-1 Rheindorf Altach
Red Star Belgrade 2-0 Sparta Prague
Panathinaikos 1-0 Gabala
Bordeaux 2-1 Videoton
Aberdeen 2-1 Apollon Limassol
Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 Odd Grenland
Freiburg 1-0 Domzale
Austria Wien 0-0 AEL Limassol