Drilling down on: at Portland 2, San Jose 1

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Man of the Match: Involved in both of Portland’s goals, Franck Songo’o may have had his best match of the year. Portland’s right midfielder was surprisingly effective in possession through the middle. In the 29th minute, Songo’o won the individual battle that started the Timbers’ goal-scoring counter, eventually providing the final ball on the opener. In the 59th minute, his restart from 50 yards – hit right to the edge of the six-yard box – led to Portland’s winning goal.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Both teams played 4-4-2 formations that would have cancelled each other out without a few tweaks. Both teams wanted to play one midfielder high (Darlington Nagbe for Portland, Khari Stephenson for San Jose), but their defensive shapes were practically flat across the middle.
  • After an initial spell where Portland seemed bothered by San Jose’s pressure, the Timbers started to generate the match’s first opportunities – chances that resulted from a couple of twists in the midfield battle.
    • San Jose started with Rafael Baca on their left. Throughout the year, this set-up’s turned out to be an advantage for the Earthquakes. Naturally a central midfielder, Baca’s been able to come inside, giving San Jose a numerical advantage against two-man midfields (which, with Nagbe and Lovel Palmer, Portland played on Tuesday).
    • Portland, however, played wide midfielders Eric Alexander and Songo’o very narrow. A couple of early Portland goal kicks saw the teams’ 20 outfield players lined up within 25-30 yards of each other across the width of pitch.
    • Within that confined space, Alexander and Songo’o put in some of their finest soccer of the season, leaving Sam Cronin, Khari Stephenson, and Baca outgunned through the middle.
    • Portland used this advantage to generate chances down their right, with right back Jack Jewsbury given free rein to streak unmarked into attack.
  • This is, however, highlighted one of the limitations to putting Jewsbury, a natural midfielder, at right back. Portland coach John Spencer wants to keep his captain in the team, even though there are no spots in midfield for him. After early season troubles at the full back positions, Jewsbury’s been moved into defense. The switch has provided some needed stability; however, Jewsbury doesn’t offer much on the ball when attacking from wide positions. Given multiple, uncontested chances to get dangerous passes into the box, Jewbury failed to pick out a man. Despite an interesting tactical battle in midfield, Portland didn’t have the personnel to make it pay off.
  • Instead, their goal came on one of the season’s better counterattacks, one you might see in one of the hundreds of tactics texts you can get on Amazon. Its six key parts:
    • A corner from the right of goal from Shea Salinas targeted Alan Gordon far post. Futty Danso did enough to move Gordon off the ball, …
    • leaving the cross to go through the box to Baca, who had it taken from him by Songo’o.
    • A couple of dribbles and some quick touches between Kris Boyd and Alexander, and Songo’o was alone on the ball streaking down the right flank.
    • As Songo’o approached the area, Danny Mwanga made an early run far post.
    • Alexander went far post, drawing a man that didn’t matter.
    • Mwanga’s early, decisive run beat his man, was easily picked out by Songo’o, and gave Portland the opening goal.
  • It was Mwanga’s first goal since being traded to Portland; his first goal of the season; and his first goal in over a year.
  • The goal came at a pivotal moment of the half. San Jose had seemed to weather the home team’s opening “storm” (never testing goalkeeper David Bingham, it was more of a mild shower than full-fledged storm). They’d started one-touching their way through Portland’s midfield with relative ease, having adjusted to the rhythm of the match. Those adjustments created the corner off which Portland countered, the goal restoring momentum to the Timbers.
  • Halftime cooled that momentum, and the sides started the second on even footing. Fourteen minutes into the half, an aberrational goal hand the night to the Timbers:
  • A foul just inside San Jose’s half saw a Songo’o restart target the right post. At the edge of the six, Bingham collided with Danso, the ball spilled across the face of goal. Jewsbury won the race to the ball, sliding onto the Timbers’ second goal.
  • It was a goal which some referees may have waved off, though it was unclear Danso had committed a foul. Often goalkeepers are given the benefit of the doubt when they get their hands to the ball, though it didn’t look like Danso had necessarily initiated contact. By the book, it was unclear the winner should have stood. By convention, it was a rare goal to see stand.
  • The shock of the goal left San Jose momentarily bewildered, but 15 minutes later, the Earthquakes pulled themselves back into the match. A cross from Justin Morrow was headed clear by Lovel Palmer, though a lurking Marvin Chavez pumped a shot back in from 19 yards out. The ball deflected off Alan Gordon and into the middle of Troy Perkins’ net – another late goal given up by the Timbers.
  • Shortly before the goal, Songo’o had to be stretchered from the field, with Timbers medical staff taking im straight to the locker room.
  • The match’s last quarter hour saw a nervy Timbers desperately keep San Jose at arms length, though Portland again looked like a team that doesn’t quite know how to get to full time with a lead. Though they got there tonight, the way they reached full time won’t inspire much confidence.
  • Confidence, however, is not a column in MLS’s standings, which now have the Timbers on the edge of a playoff spot. Portland now sits on 19 points, only three short of fifth-place Colorado in the West.
  • For San Jose, it’s their fourth loss of the season, though the Quakes maintain the league’s best record and a four-point lead in the West.
  • Perhaps more importantly, the match didn’t provide any real reason for concern. Though Frank Yallop may be beyond such condolences, his team didn’t play badly. While they may have never truly hit top gear, they also were undone by a couple of surprise goal – a counter attack and a aberrational set piece turned good. Going forward, the counters against them won’t be executed as well, and the set pieces won’t be as freakish.

Tottenham – Newcastle United: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Tottenham – Newcastle United: Can Newcastle United score an upset against travel-weary Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Sunday (Watch live at 9 am ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)?

Spurs have gone from London to Bulgaria to Southampton to Macedonia and are now back in London for Sunday’s match-up with a Newcastle team that surprised them at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a little over a year ago.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Spurs bent Shkendija in Europa League play on Thursday, with Heung-min Son posting a goal and two assists over 90 minutes. Harry Kane and Giovani Lo Celso came off the bench in what could be a sign of Jose Mourinho’s intent for Sunday.

Newcastle has been off since Wednesday’s 7-0 demolition of 10-man League Two side Morecambe in the League Cup. Steve Bruce did the trick without fitness-question Allan Saint-Maximin as well as rested Jonjo Shelvey and Callum Wilson.

STREAM TOTTENHAM – NEWCASTLE UNITED LIVE

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Tottenham – Newcastle United this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Tottenham – Newcastle United (INJURY REPORT)

Tottenham Hotspur – QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Reguilon (ankle) | OUT: Gareth Bale (knee), Japhet Tanganga (thigh)

Newcastle United – QUESTIONABLE: Allan Saint-Maximin (ankle), Jamal Lewis (eye) | OUT: Matty Longstaff (thigh), Martin Dubravka (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Paul Dummett (thigh), Dwight Gayle (knee)


What they’re saying: Tottenham – Newcastle United

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho on Tanguy Ndombele’s 90 minutes versus Shkendija: “He played very well. Of course in a game where I can imagine our percentage of ball possession was very, very high and our percentage is high he feels obviously much more comfortable. However, even without the ball he had recovery, he had duels, he had defensive transition. It was a really positive game from Tanguy, really happy.

Newcastle’s Steve Bruce on meeting Spurs: “We can’t think we can go and play against the top teams and match them just in a game of football. We have to do something different, tactically. We did it well against the top teams last year. Let’s hope we can do the same again this year.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Newcastle United is not expected to get anything out of this, +600 to win and +360 to take a point compared to Tottenham’s -225 to win.

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Prediction: Tottenham – Newcastle United

The Magpies can take some hope from Palace’s consecutive wins away to Manchester United, but Spurs should deliver the goods. Questions about Saint-Maximin’s fitness even if he does play ask even more, as does the fact that Steve Bruce has been keeping Miguel Almiron on the bench to start matches. Throw in Bruce versus Mourinho and it’s safe to expect Spurs to overcome their travel-weary legs and post a 3-1 win.


How to watch Tottenham – Newcastle United stream and start time

Kickoff: 9 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Serie A: Inter win 7-goal thriller with 87th, 89th-minute goals (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s results in Serie A, where Inter Milan scored twice in the final five minutes of regular time to beat Fiorentina 4-3…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Inter Milan 4-3 Fiorentina

This is your weekly reminder that Serie A remains the most underrated, insane top-flight league in the world — particularly in the last-game-of-the-day time slot, at 2:45 pm ET. Seven-goal thrillers capped off by a late goal, or two, are more of the rule than an exception.

Anyway, Inter Milan’s title dreams looked set to begin with a home defeat to last season’s 10th-place finishers until Romelu Lukaku and Danilo D’Ambrosio scored an 87th-minute equalizer and an 89th-minute winner, respectively.

Inter started in a hole, down 1-0 after just three minutes. Lautaro Martinez pulled Antonio Conte’s side level in first-half stoppage time, but it was hardly an ideal start to the season. Federico Ceccherini put the ball into his own net in the 52nd minute to put Inter ahead.

The lead lasted just five minutes and just as quickly turned into a deficit, as Gaetano Castrovilli and Federico Chiesa bagged goals in the 57th and 63rd minutes. That, of course, only served to set the stage for the end-of-game heroics.

Torino 2-4 Atalanta

Saturday’s other thriller only featured six goals, though it still proved to be highly entertaining as well.

Andrea Belotti fired Torino ahead after 11 minutes, but Atalanta were level through Alejandro Gomez just two minutes later. Eight minutes after that, Luis Muriel put them 2-1 ahead. It was 3-1 in the 42nd minute, but Belotti scored again to make it 3-2 just a minute later. Marten de Roon restored a bit of breathing room and made it 4-2 with the game’s final goal in the 54th.

After finishing third, four points behind Inter and five behind champions Juventus, it’s a strong start for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side in 2020-21.

Other Serie A results

Sampdoria 2-3 Benevento
Cagliari 0-2 Lazio

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Spezia v Sassuolo — 6:30 am ET
Hellas Verona v Udinese — 9 am ET
Crotone v AC Milan — 12 pm ET
Napoli v Genoa — 12 pm ET
Roma v Juventus — 2:45 pm ET

La Liga: Real Madrid steal late win against 10-man Betis

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s results in La Liga, where Real Madrid were quite fortunate to come out with three points…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Real Betis 2-3 Real Madrid

Opposition own goal? Check. Opposition red card? Check. Late-game penalty kick? Also check. The defending La Liga champions needed all of that in a span of 35 minutes, and a bit more, to escape their trip to Betis with three points.

Things started off well for Zinedine Zidane’s side Federico Valverde put Los Blancos ahead after 14 minutes, with a little help from Karim Benzema. The 1-0 scoreline didn’t survive until halftime, though, and neither did the 1-1. Aissa Mandi and William Carvalho each scored two minutes apart for Betis just before the break.

Real Madrid got back to level terms three minutes after the restart, thanks to an own goal from Emerson. 20 minutes later, Emerson was shown a straight red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. Things went from bad to worse for Betis in the 82nd minute, when Marc Bartra was deemed to have handled the ball inside the box following video review. Sergio Ramos stepped up and sealed the win with a delicate chip down the middle.

Full-blown crisis averted, for now, after drawing with Real Sociedad on the opening day of the season.

Valencia 1-1 Huesca

This season looks set to be a hugely difficult one for Valencia as the club endures untold financial hardship and looks to sell off as much of the first-team squad as possible in an attempt to balance the books.

Saturday’s draw with newly promoted Huesca was simply the latest chapter, of which there will be many, of struggle for Javi Gracia’s side.

Other La Liga results

Alaves 0-0 Getafe
Elche 0-3 Real Sociedad

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna v Levante — 6 am ET
Eibar v Athletic Bilbao — 8 am ET
Atletico Madrid v Granada – 10 am ET
Cadiz v Sevilla — 12:30 pm ET
Real Valladolid v Celta Vigo — 12:30 pm ET
Barcelona v Villarreal — 3 pm ET

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

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Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock