United States Man of the Match vs. Panama: Alejandro Bedoya

7 Comments

Panama certainly proved worthy and stingy opposition for a United States side that had mowed  down the Gold Cup field prior to Sunday’s final in Chicago, if  only for the Central Americans’ ability to make a wet blanket out of this one. The match defined “stalemate” for more than 70 minutes.

So there wasn’t much to choose from in terms of U.S. Man of the Match.

Alejando Bedoya did as much as anyone in attempting to open up the congestion with a little dose of variety here and there. And it was Bedoya (pictured, on the left) who supplied the centering pass into such an inviting area than turned into Brek Shea’s piece-of-cake tap-in, the game-winner. (In fact, the ball was probably going in, ushered along by Landon Donovan’s accidental dummy; Shea probably would have been wiser to let that ball meander in on its own, subtracting any chance for an offside verdict.)

Bedoya was the best U.S. man in the first half. Not because he did anything extraordinary, but because he did something. Starting as the right-sided man in the U.S. 4-4-2, Bedoya found some space inside here and there, cutting toward the middle to create a shot (including one deflection that nearly sneaked in) or looking to combine with Eddie Johnson or Landon Donovan.

(MORE: Shea goal guides U.S. to fifth Gold Cup title, 1-0 win over Panama)

Again, there wasn’t much there as Panama frequently had all 11 players within 40-50 yards of its goal. Just ask Donovan, who was seeing precious little of the ball, or Johnson, who needed to drift well out wide to find any possession. Or ask Joe Corona, who played Bedoya’s left-sided opposite and found little joy at all. He gave way after about 70 minutes to Shea.

Late in the match, Bedoya wisely chose possession over something more chancy and adventurous as the United States embraced the stalemate, demonstrating some wile and looking to finish off the tournament.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
Leave a comment

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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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.

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

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.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

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

Leave a comment

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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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.