West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Aston Villa: Early Shane Long double not enough as Villa fights back at The Hawthorns

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For the second straight derby, 2-0 wasn’t good enough. In January, it was Aston Villa who’d gone up two at The Hawthorns only to be pulled back to 2-2. This time, the hosts’ two goals in the first 11 minutes didn’t hold up. A triple substitution from Paul Lambert early in the second half helped spur his team’s comeback, Aston Villa able to take a 2-2 draw from rival West Bromwich Albion.

The Baggies were on the board after three minutes, Shane Long converting off a long ball from Chris Brunt to give the home side and early lead. Long completed his double eight minutes later with a close range chip over Brad Guzan, forging a lead the hosts would hold for nearly an hour.

Then, Karim El Ahmadi got Villa onto the scoresheet, with the visitors being brought all the way back when Ashley Westwood scored his first career goal in the 76th minute. For the second time in as many derbies, West Brom and Villa were destined to finish 2-2.

The result leaves both teams where they started, as far as the Premier League table is concerned. Eleventh and 12th coming into today’s action, West Brom and Villa stay at the edge of the league’s top half, now sitting one point behind 10th place Swansea City.

Playing long and direct early, Steve Clarke’s team took advantage of Villa’s three-man back line,  Brunt’s third minute ball from well inside his own half finding Long for the game’s first chance. The West Brom attacker brilliantly brought the ball down onto his left foot and shot before Villa keeper Guzan could get in position. Curling his try inside the left post, the Ireland international had the hosts up shortly after kickoff.

Long would be a threaten throughout the first half hour, but thanks to Leandro Bacuna’s help, it took him only eight minutes to complete his double. A poor pass from the right flank back toward the middle saw Long intercept the ball and go in toward goal. Drawing Guzan off his line in front of the right post, Long chipped off the bottom of the crossbar and in, giving West Brom a surprisingly easy 2-0 lead.

The next 20 minutes saw a series of half-chances for Long’s hat trick before Villa settled in. Even then, the Claret and Blue were unable to mount any meaningful threats on goal, leading Paul Lambert to make a rare triple substitution 12 minutes into the second half. By that time, West Brom’s edges in shots and shots on target had evened out, but the match was still decidedly the Baggies’.

Lambert’s move nearly paid off within two minutes, with a deflected shot from Andreas Wiemann forcing Boaz Myhill into a reflex push wide of his left post. When Villa followed up with a blast from Fabian Delph (eventually blocked), the visitors seemed to have uncovered some momentum. Within minutes, however, West Brom had regained their legs, generating a chance for Stephane Sessegnon from the edge of the six. For the second time on the night, the Beninese midfielder missed his chance to make it 3-0.

Those misses began haunting West Brom in the 67th minute when Villa pulled one back. Weimann, playing a cross from Bacuna, headed down for El Ahmadi, who finished from eight yards out to pull Villa within one.

Though Villa maintained control of the match, the game seemed to stabilized until a benign 76th minute cross from Christian Benteke was blindly cleared toward the middle by left back Goran Popov. Collecting the ball just outside the West Brom area, Westwood beat Myhill into the right of goal, the Baggies’ keeper given little chance to prevent the first Premier League goal of the 23-year-old’s career. For the second straight derby, a 2-0 lead had proven meaningless.

By the final whistle, the match had swung again, Clarke’s late changes pinning the guests in their own end. But the chances never came, leaving West Brom on the other side of a derby comeback. Unable to counter Lambert’s triple substitution, the Baggies were left to rue points lost.

Goals

West Bromwich Albion3′, 11′ Long

Aston Villa: 67′ El Ahmadi, 76′ Westwood

Lineups

West Bromwich Albion: Boaz Myhill; Steven Reid, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Goran Popov (82′ Victor Anichebe); Youssouf Mulumbu, Claudio Yacob; Morgan Amalfitano, Stephane Sessegnon (73′ James Morrison), Chris Brunt; Shane Long

Ununsed subs: Luke Daniels, Matej Vydra, Craig Dawson, Saido Berahino, Nicolas Anelka

Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker; Aleksandr Tonev (57′ Andreas Weimann), Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Yacouba Sylla (57′ Fabian Delph), Leandro Bacuna; Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak (57′ Gabriel Agbonlahor)

Unused subs: Jed Steer, Chris Herd, Jed Bowery, Matthew Lowton

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’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 – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

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ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.

Xhaka, Shaqiri display controversial goal celebrations in win over Serbia

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A seemingly innocuous goal celebration performed by both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri has thinly veiled, politically charged undertones and could potentially land the pair in FIFA disciplinary proceedings following Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.

Both displayed a bird hand signal as they celebrated scoring goals, and considering their pre-match comments, post-match social media posts, and ethnic backgrounds, those were clearly meant to represent the double-eagle symbol in the middle of the Albanian flag.

This is a complicated political scenario, but it could be considered by FIFA to be politically provocative. Shaqiri is Albanian, born in Kosovo before moving to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings when he was just a year old. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. Xhaka is of Albanian descent, and his father previously participated in a demonstration against the communist Yugoslavian rule in Kosovo that landed him a lengthy jail sentence. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Following the match, Xhaka posted a picture of his celebration on his Instagram story, with the caption in Albanian roughly translated to, “Here you go Serbia, this is why they call me Granit Kosovo!” He deleted the post, and replaced it with an image of his celebration side-by-side with Shaqiri’s, with the slightly more cryptic caption, “We did it, bro!” in English.

FIFA is wildly against any type of political demonstration or involvement in the world of soccer. The governing body has punished individual nation federations in the past for government involvement, while political demonstrations on the field are fiercely frowned upon.

Switzerland captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner came to the defense of his two teammates after the match. When asked about the celebrations, he said to Goal.com, “We had a lot of pressure, it was not an easy game for us. We have a lot of Albanians, so there is a lot of history between Serbia and Albania. It was a very tough game for them mentally.”

“It was good. Why not? This is the history for them,” Lichtsteiner continued. “The war between them was so difficult. I spoke to the father of one of our players who is Albanian, and he told me about this history. This is more than football. This is more than football because they have this period, this war that gave them both big problems. I understand them. I think it’s normal, it’s part of their life. There was also big provocation ahead of the game from them [Serbia], so I think it’s normal.”

Shaqiri could be in especially hot water. The Stoke City midfielder wore boots with the flags of Switzerland and Kosovo. He has made it clear in the past that he values his roots, saying, “I was born in Kosovo, but I grew up in Switzerland. I live both mentalities, it’s not a big difference.”

Switzerland finishes its World Cup group stage round with a match against Costa Rica on Wednesday in which a win would secure a spot in the knockout stage.