Swansea City 3-3 Stoke City: See-saw match ends in draw after Swansea comeback

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Swansea City found themselves 2-0 down in less than a half-hour, and battled back to deservedly go up 3-2 until referee Robert Madley awarded a 96th minute penalty to Stoke City which the visitors converted for a share of points at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

Despite owning the majority of possession and pressure, the Swans were undone early on the break as Stoke were on target with their early chances.  Peter Crouch assisted both goals with great touches, but things would change.

Swansea threw immense pressure at the Stoke back four, and they were unable to deal with the pace and incision as the game grew, and they battled for three goals to take a lead with five minutes to go.

But a shot off a corner may or may not have struck Wayne Routledge’s arm on its way through the box, and the referee allowed Charlie Adam to convert from the penalty spot and salvage a point for the visiting side.

It was Stoke on the break which gave them the early advantage. With Ashley Williams on the sidelines after an injury knock in the eighth minute, Jonathan Walters took advantage.  A long ball from the back found the towering Peter Crouch who flicked on with his head to the Irish midfielder who powered through the remaining back line and finished off the post and in.

Swansea didn’t capitulate following the goal, instead dominating possession and taking control in front of the home crowd.  Wilfried Bony finally unlocked the Stoke defense in the 24th minute, but couldn’t make them pay, rushing the volley and firing over off balance.

They would rue that chance, as Stoke came down the other way and again scored a second on some lovely passing.  Leon Britton lost the ball in the midfield, and it fell to Walters on the wing.  His pinpoint cross found Crouch in the box, whose brilliant one-time touch sprung Stephen Ireland free and he made no mistakes past Gerhard Tremmel.

Crouch’s two assists were both outstanding, and the imposing figure at front of Stoke’s attack was causing the home side all kinds of problems.Swansea reasserted their possession dominance again but again were wasteful in front of goal.  Wilfried Bony found himself gifted a free chance on goal when Stoke defender Erik Pieters made a massive mistake in the 40th minute passing it back to Bony, but Asmir Begovic did well to dispossess Bony before he could get a shot off.

Swansea began the second half in control as well, and this time they wouldn’t prove wasteful.  Bony got his goal when a corner in the 56th minute went long, and the Swans brought it back out to Jonathan de Guzman who sent in a perfect cross and Bony unleashed a powerful header past a hapless Begovic.

The goal sprung Swansea to dangerous heights, and the combination of Wayne Routledge and substitute Nathan Dyer used their pace to created chance after chance for Bony.

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Substitute Charlie Adam converted the controversial penalty to end a wild match in Swansea.

Swansea continued to pour forward and got their deserved equalizer in the 74th minute.  Routledge on the left wing worked well to find space and crossed into the crowded box, and the cross was cleared by Robert Huth but only to Dyer.  The 25-year-old rifled a viciious attempt that took a deflection and skidded past Begovic to level the score.

Following the equalizer Swansea didn’t take their foot off the gas, and the game because very chippy. Angel Rangel earned himself a yellow card in a scuffle where he shoved Crouch to the ground.

Swansea nearly had another chance in the 83rd where Rangel and Bony broke with numbers, but some poor touches saw the build-up break down.  They wouldn’t misfire on the next chance.

Jonjo Shelvey worked hard on the wing to give him room to feed Bony in the middle, and the Dutch sensation shot the ball to the far post with one touch for the lead.

The drama wasn’t over though.  With Swansea feeling like they’d snatched victory, the chippiness earlier led to six minutes of added time, and the penalty was awarded when a header came swerving through the crowded box and possibly struck the arm of Wayne Routledge right in front of goal.

It was a soft call if anything, but Bobby Madley awarded the penalty to the shock of the Swansea players.  Michael Laudrup rued after the match that not a single Stoke player aside from Asmir Begovic up for the late corner appealed for the penalty call.  Routledge appears to have maybe stuck his elbow out a bit, but nobody expected the call to come in.

The point for both sides is enough to bump them up a place or two. Swansea are now up to 13th level with new boys Cardiff City, and Stoke City move out of the relegation zone on goal differential, dropping Fulham below the dreaded line.

GOALS:

Swansea City – Bony 56′ 85′, Dyer 74′
Stoke City – Walters 8′, Ireland 25′, Adam 96′

LINEUPS:

Swansea City – Tremmel; Rangel, Chico Flores, Williams, Davies; Britton, De Guzman (Shelvey, 71′), Pozuelo (Canas, 90′), Lamah (Dyer, 55′), Routledge; Bony.

Stoke City – Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters; Walters, Nzonzi, Ireland (Wilson, 72′), Palacios (Adam, 72′), Arnautovic (Etherington, 54′); Crouch.

Chicharito tells father MLS move is “beginning of my retirement”

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Major League Soccer has been fighting the notion that it is a “retirement league” for the better part of the last decade. The business strategy of bringing on European stars in the twilight of their careers is sensible to garner interest in the league, and often those players have gone on to set records and become stars.

Still, many use the label as a derogatory mark, and that has resulted in a significant PR hurdle for the league on several occasions. It has cropped up again just days after Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez signed for the LA Galaxy at 31 years old.

Chicharito was confirmed to be a new LA Galaxy player on Tuesday, and he went on record to say that he was coming to the league to be competitive. “It [MLS] is a very attractive league that is growing, even if some do not want to accept it,” Hernandez told beIN Sports. “Some say I am playing here because I will retire or just have fun. They are completely wrong.”

Well, unfortunately for Chicharito, he is one of those people. On the vlog Naked Humans centered around Chicharito and those in his life, the Mexican striker was seen calling his father to tell him the news of signing with the Galaxy. On the call, which was released in Wednesday’s episode around the 26-minute mark, Chicharito seemed initially trepidatious to tell his father the news. “It’s almost certain I am going to LA,” he began. When his father began to be supportive by asking, “So?” Chicharito responded to explain his palpable sadness. “Everything is ok everything is perfect dad, it’s only that, well it’s like the beginning of my retirement, you know?”

Hernandez went on to clarify a bit later, but not by much. When father protested, saying “no it isn’t!” But Chicharito went on to explain a bit further, saying, “No dad, try to understand me…what I mean is that we are saying goodbye to a career that we put a lot of effort into, and we worked, and I know you guys also feel it and we’re going to look at the bright side and it’s going to be amazing. But whether we like it or not, we are retiring from the European dream.”

Those do not sound like the words of a player who is excited to enter into a new chapter of his career, but instead seem to sound like those of a downtrodden former player riding off into the sunset resigned to his fate. It’s possible some of this was lost in translation, but overall Chicharito seems to be consoling himself and talking himself into the decision more than actually hoping to reassure his father on the phone.

Hernandez signed for the Galaxy on Tuesday from Spanish club Sevilla, joining as the highest paid player in Major League Soccer. He will go head-to-head with fellow Mexican striker Carlos Vela of LAFC in the cross-town rivalry, hoping to challenge Vela’s single-season MLS goalscoring record set last season.

Report: Man United board continues support of Solskjaer

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The ugly 2-0 loss to Burnley on Wednesday deepened Manchester United’s woes this season and yet again exposed the significant holes in the Red Devils’ squad.

[ RECAP: Man United 2-0 loss to Burnley ]

Despite the negativity surrounding the defeat, however, it appears that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s managerial job is safe for now at Manchester United. According to a report by Sky Sports, the Manchester United board continues to hold support for Solskjaer as they look desperately for consistency at the position. The report states that the club is “not even considering” a managerial change at this point, and that both the players and board “remain fully behind Solskjaer.”

The Red Devils have struggled mightily to recapture the glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson since his retirement, and while the team yearns to back a manager through a rebuild like Liverpool has with Jurgen Klopp, the retooling at Manchester United has been far bumpier. The club hired Solskjaer first in December of 2018 as interim manager in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s departure, but then permanently after smashing initial success.

[ MORE: Solskjaer says Man United “mentally tired” in Burnley loss ]

Since his permanent signing, however, the club has won just 11 of its 32 Premier League matches dating back to late last season. The attacking threat has been promising at times but overall inconsistent, while the defense proves consistently porous at the worst possible times. Shockingly, they have won consecutive league matches just twice during that stretch, both coming recently with wins over Spurs and Manchester City in early December before a pair over Newcastle and Burnley through the festive period.

Many fans have heaped blame not on Solskjaer but instead at the feet of Ed Woodward, club chief executive who has ushered Manchester United into a financial golden age but has also flopped hard as head of recruitment. The club has reportedly attempted to bring aboard a Director of Football to assist in player recruitment and lift the weight off the shoulders of Woodward who does not have a sporting background, but so far has yet to pull the trigger, leaving the business executive aboard as the so far unsuccessful head of personnel.

As results continue to spiral downward, however, more pressure has reached Solskjaer’s doorstep, with the club investing significant financial might this summer to bring on the likes of Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka plus the continued development of youngsters Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and Scott McTominay to mixed results. Rashford and McTominay have blossomed this season into some of the best in the league, but Lingard has seen his growth stunted while Andreas Pereira and Anthony Martial also look to have hit a developmental wall.

Injuries have also taken a toll, with midfielder Paul Pogba a significant missing piece for much of the season due to a foot problem and both McTominay and Rashford have been hit by knee and back injuries respectively.

All told, Solskjaer has had little to work with in terms of available talent, and it’s not like he is underperforming given the quality of the squad. However, despite official blame yet to be publicly placed at the feet of Woodward or his bosses, it appears that the board is yet to make Solskjaer a scapegoat for the club’s league struggles. Manchester United sits fifth in the Premier League table, six points back of Chelsea for the final Champions League spot and a massive 30 points behind leaders Liverpool. They have qualified for the Champions League just twice in the last five seasons, and both those times failed to reach past the Round of 16. For a once powerful club, the rot runs deep at the moment, and while Solskjaer is safe for now, he will be wise to remain cognizant of the dangers over his shoulder.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.