Recap: The English Premier League (Matchweek 33)

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Even with a reduced slate of matches due to the FA Cup semi-finals, Matchweek 33 proved to be yet another crucial week in the Premier League. With Wigan, Manchester City and Chelsea involved in the FA Cup, that left Tottenham, Swansea City and West Brom with a weekend of rest. Saturday featured a fixture list of Arsenal v. Norwich City, Aston Villa v. Fulham, Everton v. QPR, Reading v. Liverpool and Southampton v. West Ham.

The match of the day was a no brainer. After falling behind Norwich 1-0 courtesy of a 56th minute header by Michael Turner, Arsenal were awarded a controversial penalty in the 85th minute that Mikel Arteta dispatched in the left corner. The goal invigorated the Gunners to a seven minute purple patch where goals by Olivier Giroud (’88) and Lukas Podolski (’92) vaulted Arsene Wenger’s side to a 3-1 victory and third spot in the table.

At Villa Park, Paul Lambert’s side needed three points to provide some relegation breathing room and things looked good in the 55th minute when Charles N’Zogbia put the ball on his left foot and hooked it into the left corner. But eleven minutes later Fabian Delph’s own goal ensured the Cottagers a draw bringing them to that magic 40 point safety mark. For Lambert, the single point puts the Villains even with Stoke City and Sunderland on 34 points, just three ahead of relegation threatened Wigan, who have two games in hand.

In the north-west goals by Darron Gibson (40′) and Victor Anichebe (56′) handed Everton a comfortable 2-0 victory against a lifeless QPR, who remain in 19th place, seven back of the Latics. With five matches to play Harry Redknapp’s squad isn’t mathematically eliminated but they have a defeated look to them and appear bound for the Championship next season.

Joining the R’s in the second flight will be 20th place Reading, also on 24 points. The Royals earned a 0-0 draw against Liverpool at the Madejski on Saturday behind a mammoth performance by goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who earned 11 saves after the Reds tagged him with 28 shots. With the single point, Brendan Rodgers’ side are now five points behind 6th place Everton, who have a game in hand on their neighbors.

Over at the formidable St. Mary’s Stadium, a Gaston Ramirez opener (59′) was nixed by a 66th minute strike by Andy Carroll to give West Ham a hard-earned point ensuring both sides stay seven points clear of the drop zone.

With Wigan, Manchester City and Chelsea all in FA Cup action, Sunday’s reduced slate was reduced to two matches, Newcastle v. Sunderland and Stoke City v. Manchester United.

After crashing out to Benfica in the Europa League, Newcastle limped into the Tyne-Wear Derby and were punished 3-0 by a Paulo Di Canio inspired Sunderland side that received goals from Stephane Sessegnon (27′), Adam Johnson (74′) and David Vaughan (84′).

At the Britannia Stadium, United ensured their cushion at the top of the table with a 2-0 win as Robin van Persie (66′) ended his 10 match goal drought with a well-taken penalty after Michael Carrick (4′) opened the scoring to heap worry on a Potters side that sits just three points above relegation.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.