Ignacio Scocco

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Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Sunderland 1-2 West Ham United: Unlucky Black Cats survival hopes hurt

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West Ham scored the first two goals at the Stadium of Light and then held on tight to withstand a furious Sunderland rally that came up short and put the Black Cats’ Premier League survival hopes into further peril.

Andy Carroll and Mohamed Diame scored for West Ham before Adam Johnson made it interesting with under a half-h0ur to go, but Sunderland could not find an equalizer.

The Black Cats remain four points inside of the drop zone with a ghastly set of fixtures ahead of them, while West Ham is 11 points safe.

Phil Bardsley bolted forward inside of two minutes. He found no options for a pass, and tried a tough bending shot that missed the goal wide. But it was clear Sunderland was ready to push West Ham.

Yet West Ham struck first in the ninth minute, and Newcastle boy Andy Carroll couldn’t help but relish his headed goal against the rivals of his boyhood heroes and former team. Carroll blew kisses to the crowd and gesticulated wildly to the away crowd as the Hammers went up 1-0.

Sunderland nearly struck back straightaway, but Lee Cattermole continued to be snakebit when his open low shot was stopped by Adrian.

The Black Cats protested wildly when a handball in the box was not called on Kevin Nolan, but Webb did not have the viewpoint to see what would’ve been a clear penalty. Neither linesmen stepped in, and it remained 1-0 West Ham into the half.

West Ham doubled its advantage just after halftime. Mohamed Diame stepped up to a headed clear and hit it off a Black Cats defender and past Vito Mannone. With a brutal run-in to Survival Sunday, Sunderland was now in a very, very bad spot.

Stuart Downing could’ve ended it — it being a number of things including Sunderlands survival hopes, but his partial breakaway missed the near post after Mannone appeared to get mere millimeters of a glove on the low shot.

But hold on! Adam Johnson needed just 11 minutes on the pitch to crack a left-footed blast past Adrian after a great side-footed pass from fellow substitute Gardner.

It was 2-1 in the 66th and the home side was feeling some hope. The goal was just Sunderland’s 14th in 15 home PL matches this season.

And it was oh-so-close to getting knotted up in the 68th minute, when Adrian couldn’t handle Ki’s long drive but was able to get his arm in the way of Wickham’s close-range rebound.

Less than two minutes later, it was Fabio Borini’s turn to try and level. Adrian had the short side covered and a pressured Borini put his shot off the outside of the net.

With five minutes of stoppage time, Ignacio Scocco had a good chance to head home an equalizer off a very hard hit cross but put it over the bar.

LINEUPS:

Sunderland: Mannone; Brown, O’Shea (Gardner, 60′), Vergini; Alonso, Bridcutt, Ki (Scocco, 79′), Cattermole (Johnson, 53′), Bardsley; Wickham, Borini

Goals: Johnson (65)

West Ham United: Adrian; McCartney (Armero, 46′), Tomkins, Reid, Demel; Noble, Taylor; Downing, Nolan (Nocerino, 83′), Diame (Johnson, 78′); Carroll

Goals: Carroll (9), Diame (50)

Premier League Relegation Watch: Clubs primed to go down (Matchweek 30)

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Matchweek 30 saw massive wins by Fulham and West Brom meaning only seven points separate 12th placed West Ham United from last placed Fulham. The Premier League relegation race is shaping up to come down to the wire with multiple clubs vying for safety.

Here’s the relegation watch currently stands:

source: Getty Images12. WEST HAM UNITED 31 PTS (29 PLD)

Remaining Matches (9): Manchester United (H); Hull City (H); Sunderland (A); Liverpool (H); Arsenal (A); Crystal Palace (H); West Brom (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A)

League Form: WWWWLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Marco Boriello, shin (no return date); Joey O’Brien, shoulder (April 14th

Vegas odds to be relegated: 16/1

Verdict: West Ham ripped off four straight wins in February but have since lost two straight to Everton (0-1) and Stoke City (1-3), respectively. But with key players (Andy Carroll and Winston Reid) now healthy, the Hammers should have no problem reaching the 40 point mark.

source: Getty Images13. HULL CITY 30 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (9): West Bromwich Albion (H); West Ham United (A); Stoke City (A); Swansea City (H); Manchester United (A); Arsenal (H); Fulham (A); Aston Villa (A); Everton (H)

League Form: DWLWLL

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Sheffield United on March 13th)

Injuries: Robbie Brady, groin (no return date); Paul McShane, ankle (no return date), Joe Dudgeon, knee (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 12/1

Verdict: Despite losing two straight, Hull City have enjoyed a fantastic Premier League season and few will have the Tigers pegged to go down. With a favorable end of the season schedule and a relatively healthy roster, expect Hull to be in the league come next August.

source:  14. SWANSEA CITY 29 PTS (29 PLD)

Remaining Matches (9): Everton (A); Arsenal (A); Norwich City (H); Hull City (A); Chelsea (H); Newcastle United (A); Aston Villa (H); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A)

League Form: LWDLDL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Nathan Dyer, ankle (March 22nd); Jonjo Shelvey, hamstring (March 22nd); Kyle Bartley, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 10/1

Verdict: These are troubling times at the Liberty Stadium as Swansea find themselves with the second worst form record in the league having taking only five of a possible 18 points from their last six matches. The free-fall can be blamed on a number of things, namely an injury plagued season, participation in the Europa League and managerial ineptitude.

Making matters worse for the Swans is their end of the season schedule which boasts difficult fixtures with Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle and Southampton as well as potential relegation six-pointers with Norwich and Sunderland.

source: Getty Images15. NORWICH CITY 29 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Sunderland (H); Swansea City (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Manchester United (A); Chelsea (A); Arsenal (H)

League Form: DLWLDL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Leroy Fer, hamstring (no return date); Jonas Gutierrez, calf (March 22nd); Michael Turner, hamstring (March 22nd); Elliot Bennett, knee (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 7/4

Verdict: If anyone who is currently safe is going to get relegated, Norwich City looks the most likely. The Canaries put in a lopsided effort at Southampton this past weekend, coming back from 3-0 down to lose 4-2. With only eight matches to play, Chris Hughton’s side must take points in their next four matches, all of which are winnable. After that, however, it’s curtains for Norwich who end the season against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

source: Getty Images16. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 28 PTS (29 PLD)

Remaining Matches (9): Hull City (A); Cardiff City (H); Norwich City (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A); West Ham United (H); Arsenal (A); Sunderland (H); Stoke City (H)

League Form: DLDDLW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Morgan Amalfitano, knock (no return date); Chris Brunt, knee (April 21st); Billy Jones, hamstring (March 29th); Claudio Yacob, hamstring (March 22nd); Diego Lugano, knee (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 7/2

Verdict: Such a massive win for West Brom this past weekend. To go into the Liberty Stadium and come from 0-1 down to win 2-1 will be a huge boost to the confidence of Pepe Mel’s side. The Albion remains banged up with a number of key injuries but with six of their final nine contests against clubs outside the Top 10, staying up looks to be in the cards.

source: Getty Images17. CRYSTAL PALACE 28 PTS (29 PLD)

Remaining Matches (9): Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H); Cardiff City (A); Aston Villa (H); Everton (A); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Liverpool (H); Fulham (A)

League Form: LWLDLD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Danny Gabbidon, knock (March 22nd); Barry Bannan, illness (March 22nd); Marouane Chamakh, hamstring (March 29th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 3/2

Verdict: Winless in their last four, Palace need to be careful. They worked hard to ascend out of the relegation zone after Tony Pulis was appointed but the Eagles are now finding it difficult to see out the spring. And with a challenging end of the season schedule pitting Palace against Newcastle, Chelsea, Everton, City and Liverpool the points won’t come easy for the Selhurst Park faithful.

source: Getty Images18. SUNDERLAND 24 PTS (27 PLD)

Remaining Matches (11): Norwich City (A); Liverpool (A); West Ham United (H); Tottenham (A); Everton (H); Manchester City (A); Chelsea (A); Cardiff City (H); Manchester United (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Swansea City (H)

League Form: DWWLLD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Steven Fletcher, ankle (no return date); Keiren Westwood, shoulder (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 7/4

Verdict: Of the three teams currently in the relegation zone, Sunderland feel like the most likely to escape. With 11 matches left to play (and most of those being favorable matchups) and having reduced their workload by exiting from the FA Cup, Gus Poyet’s side will have no excuses if they go down. The health of Steven Fletcher will be a factor but with Jozy Altidore available and Ignacio Scocco added to the strike ranks this winter, the Black Cats still have options up top to get the job down.

source: Getty Images19. CARDIFF CITY 25 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (9): Liverpool (H); West Bromwich Albion (A); Crystal Palace (H); Southampton (A); Stoke City (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H)

League Form: LDLLWL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Ben Turner, knock (no return date); Andrew Taylor, knock (no return date); Mark Hudson, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/4

Verdict: Vegas has Cardiff as the most likely squad to be relegated and for good reason – the Bluebirds are in the worst form of any club in the league and have only eight matches to play. If there are upsides to Cardiff’s situation it’s that the remaining matches are against favorable opponents and the squad is in good health. That said, talk to any pundit covering the Premier League and he’ll tell you Cardiff is destined to be playing in the Championship next season.

source: Getty Images20. FULHAM 24 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Manchester City (A); Everton (H); Aston Villa (A); Norwich City (H); Tottenham Hotspur (A); Hull City (H); Stoke City (A); Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: DLDLLW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Kostas Mitroglu, knee (no return date); Ashkan Dejagah, groin (no return date); Giorgos Karagounis, muscle injury (no return date); Scott Parker, knee (March 22nd); Damien Duff, knock (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 2/7

Verdict: Fulham is only slightly more likely than Cardiff to make it out of the relegation zone. Like the Bluebirds, the Cottagers don’t have any games in hand on their opponents. But Felix Magath’s team did play quite well this past weekend, defeating Newcastle 1-0 at the Cottage. It’s a win that they’ll look to gain some motivation from although Manchester City and Everton will be difficult tasks over the next two weeks.

When April comes, however, the fixture list becomes quite favorable for Fulham with matches against Villa, Norwich, Hull, Stoke and Palace. So while the situation is bleak for Fulham a thin line hope still remains.

Gus Poyet backs his Sunderland players for relegation fight, says some critics “haven’t got a clue”

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No one wants to be in a relegation scrap, but Sunderland boss Gus Poyet says his Black Cats are motivated to leap out of the drop zone as soon as possible.

And even through controversy from his player selection and Sunderland’s subsequent dismissal from the FA Cup quarterfinals at the hands of Hull City, Poyet maintains that the battle for Premier League survival will be enough for his club ahead of its massive Saturday match-up with Crystal Palace.

“If I was a player, going to play the team three points ahead, I wouldn’t be affected or down just because there is no more cup and no more Wembley.”

“If there are weak players in the dressing room feeling sorry, I assure you they will not play.”

The fans and some pundits have hit back at Poyet for his changing of the lineup between Sunderland’s March 1 loss to Manchester City in the League Cup final and Sunday’s aforementioned loss to Hull.

He had strong words for them as well.

“People will criticise, but you cannot go back – some of them haven’t got a clue what goes on behind the doors.”

“Wes Brown and Craig Gardner were injured, Jozy Altidore and Valentin Roberge ill, Emanuele Giaccherini started and he is one of our most expensive players, Steven Fletcher is coming back and Ignacio Scocco needs to play.

“There are no excuses from me, if someone wants to look for some, then fine. I’m man enough to say we played 11 first-team players that were certainly good enough to win the match.”

So there are some more answers for those questioning why Altidore wasn’t suiting up for the Hull match.

Sunderland sits in 19th place with 24 points, one point back of Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion. The Black Cats have played three less matches than the Bluebirds and two less than the Baggies. A win over Palace would land them even with the Eagles.

Wednesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Who’s going where?

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This morning we are going to take a quick look around Europe to see which transfer rumors have surfaced.

With plenty of big money deals already flying around, and new managers building their squads hurriedly behind the scenes, this summer is set to see plenty of transfer activity.

Let us begin.

The race for Christian Benteke is heating up as several clubs aim to sign Aston Villa’s 22-year-old Belgian international striker. Tottenham have offered Jermain Defoe plus cash for Villa’s top scorer, while Atletico Madrid have put in a $37.5 million bid. It seems as if these offers may be too good to turn down for Benteke, who has been extremely quite in the press on his future. But should he stay in the EPL or move abroad? A step up to Spurs or maybe even Arsenal would be a good move in my book, Benteke is made for the EPL and with better service, he should score plenty more goals, wherever he plays next season. (The Mirror)

Despite Jose Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge, John Terry‘s time in West London could be coming to an end. The Chelsea captain is rumored to be subject of a $12 million bid from mega-rich AS Monaco, where former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri is in charge. Many thought Mourinho’s return would see 32-year-old Terry return as a regular for the Blues, but it could be the opposite. And oh yeah, Terry was spotted in Portugal yacht-shopping today, just a coincidence? A luxury yacht would be more at home in Monaco than on the River Thames. Perhaps. (Telegraph)

Meanwhile Mourinho has already angered Arsene Wenger by hijacking Arsenal’s bid to sign Fiorentina’s Stefan Jovetic. The new Chelsea boss has wasted no time identifying targets, and the $35 million rated forward is top of Mourinho’s wanted list. The Montenegro striker has been tracked by Arsenal and Manchester United, but the 23-year-old would be a great signing for Chelsea. Where would he fit into their vast array of attacking talents? Your guess is as good as mine. (The Times)

Elsewhere Argentinian winger Ignacio Scocco has been linked with a moved to Sunderland. The 28-year-old Al-Ain player has been looking to move away from the United Arab Emirates and could get his wish as Black Cats boss Paolo Di Canio overhauls his squad this summer. He spent last season on loan at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, scoring 27 goals in 36 games. Sunderland were woeful in front of goal last year, scoring just 41 in 38 games, so his attacking intent excite fans. The only stumbling block could be his $90,000 weekly wage. (Sunderland Echo)

Edin Dzeko could be joining Mourinho at Chelsea too, as the 27-year-old Manchester City striker is just the type of player Chelsea’s new manager is looking for. Dzeko has found himself often coming off the bench at City, but with his tall powerful frame and impressive hold up play, he could resemble something similar to Didier Drogba in his prime. With Chelsea taking Dzeko they would step aside from the race for Edinson Cavani, to sweeten the deal for City as they’ve been chasing Napoli’s Uruguayan forward intently. (Daily Star)

In Spain, reports this morning have Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain joining Arsenal. Newspaper AS say that Tottenham, Liverpool and Juventus are also interested but Arsenal are in the driving seat for the 25-year-old Argentinian forward. He has recently stated his intent to leave Madrid this summer for a fresh challenge and Arsene Wenger certainly needs a proven goalscorer to help his young Gunners squad push on to challenge for the EPL title next season. Is Higuain the missing piece in the puzzle for Arsenal? (AS)