Southampton 2-3 Aston Villa: Possession doesn’t rule the day (video)

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Aston Villa had a mere 23% of the possession at St. Mary’s on Wednesday, yet walked away the winners, hitting Southampton with lethal counter-attacks. It’s the third straight loss for the Saints who, after a fantastic start to the season, have now slid down into seventh. Villa, however, just may have hit their stride, having moved back up into tenth with their fifth straight unbeaten match.

The goals began in the fifteenth minute off a classic counter attack. Jay Rodriguez had just seen his thundering shot from distance saved, allowing Villa to sprint up the pitch ahead of Southampton. Gabby Agbonlahor took the ball from the halfway line and, alongside Libor Kozák, went two on one with Dejan Lorven. Agbonlahor easily gave the defender the slip and put the ball into the bottom corner.

It seemed inevitable there’d be more goals, and sure enough, Southampton started off the second half quickly, with Rodriguez getting his head on the end of a cross from Nathaniel Clyne to put the ball past Brad Guzan. Moments later, Rickie Lambert had a go, but his shot from more than 35 yards was blocked. It was clear that the hosts were intent on a winner, pressing forward and trying to get past a normally fragile Villa defense.

But again it was Villa, and again from almost nothing. A quick counter allowed Karim El Ahmadi the chance to put a cross through to Kozák, waiting in the center. The Czech got his head on the end of it, smashing in from close range, although it must be said that stand-in Saints keeper Paolo Gazzaniga did a bit to help bring it into the back of the net.

The visitors had their lead for a mere five minutes this time, and then their defense fell to pieces. A headed pass from Lambert, who was lurking near the post, was met by Pablo Osvaldo, who was clear to head it into the back of the net.

In the end, though, it was Southampton, who had kept such a strong defensive record for the first ten games, who allowed the final goal. Fabian Delph took the ball up from midfield, scaring off the Saints defense as he went. The midfielder let fly from distance, his scorcher rising and finally settling into the top corner of Gazzaniga’s net.

Southampton: Gazzaniga, Clyne (Fonte 59), Yoshida, Lovren, Shaw, Wanyama (Cork 45), S. Davis, Ward-Prowse (Osvaldo 38), Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert

Subs not used: Cropper, Chambers, Hooiveld, Gallagher

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar (Lowton), Clark, Baker, Luna, El Ahmadi (Weimann 86), Westwood, Delph, Agbonlahor, Kozák (Benteke 66)

Subs not used: Steer, Albrighton, Sylla, Tonev

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

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