Drilling down on: at New York Red Bulls 2, San Jose Earthquakes 2

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Man of the Match: Rafael Baca had it easy on San Jose’s first goal, but looked at the running the 22-year-old did to put himself in position:

From that point on, Baca seemed like he was in the middle of everything. He completed a match-high 54 passes with a 83.1 percent success rate (overall match success rate: 76 percent).

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The hype around this match advertised shootout, and for one half, the two teams delivered. But the goals were less a function of great attacking than poor defending:
    • On the opening goal, Víctor Bernárdez got caught watching Kenny Cooper, while the entire San Jose defense seemed to lack urgency as Thierry Henry positioned himself to deliver the final ball.
    • On the second goal, Rafael Marquez decides to stop running with Baca, and Jan Gunnar Solli is nowhere to be found at the back post.
    • The third goal’s hard to pick apart, as a lot of left backs lose foot races with Dane Richards, but on San Jose’s second, Solli quit on the play early, seemingly assuming Steven Beitshour’s cross was destined to go out.
  • Unfortunately, this match is less likely to be remembered for the goals, more likely to be remembered for a series of Crimes and Misdemeanors:
  • Henry’s tackle seemed like an innocent mistake, Marquez’s incident reflects an respect issue, but Chavez’s speaks to a different issue. It’s the worst attempt at a challenge I’ve seen all year, one that harkens back to some other deplorable choices. MLS should come down hard.
  • Unfortunately, those three incidents had a greater influence on the second half than the goals. The excessive physicality stagnated play, and the final 45 minutes played out scoreless and choppy. That a player led the match with 54 completed passes speaks to the lack of fluidity.
  • There may have been more to the second half than two sides being wary. New York seemed like a bully that had been punched in the mouth. After easy wins over Colorado, Montreal and Columbus, the Red Bulls seemed tentative once they realized San Jose could hang with them.
  • And as prolific as New York’s attack can be, it’s hard to consider them on Sporting Kansas City’s level until they solve their defensive issues. For a team that seems to have one too many midfielder, I can’t help but wonder if the Red Bulls wouldn’t be better with Marquez in defense, if only until Wilman Conde returns.
  • On the same play that saw Salinas’s clavicle broken, Bernárdez was stretched from the field. Early word has the Honduran international suffering a sprained MCL.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

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England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

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England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

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Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

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After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

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But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.