West Brom 0-2 Norwich: Crucial victory for Norwich (video)

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That’s five games without a win for West Bromwich Albion, and three straight losses have the Baggies down in 15th, just two points above the relegation zone. Norwich can be thrilled with their performance, however — at least, compared to the midweek 5-1 loss at Liverpool — and, while only in 14th, will be pleased to have given themselves some breathing room.

It was West Brom that got the first real opportunity of the match, with Chris Brunt seeing his shot blocked, but it was the Canaries that took an early lead, knocking in their first attempt. Leroy Fer slipped his pass through two Albion defenders, allowing Hooper to run on and execute a lovely finish, smashing his low shot into the bottom left corner.

The Baggies responded by applying pressure to Norwich, but despite plenty of attempts, the hosts couldn’t manage to test John Ruddy, much less put a ball in the back of his net.

source: Getty Images
Gary Hooper was on target as he returned to the starting lineup.

In an attempt to liven things up, Steve Clarke made a double switch at the break, bringing on Shane Long for Liam Ridgewell and replacing Morgan Amalfitano with Saido Berahino.

Although the double substitution created greater pressure on the Canaries, West Brom still couldn’t get their shots on target, and Ruddy still had very little to do. The hosts paid for their wastefulness in the 89th minute, when Fer doubled Norwich’s lead.

The Baggies defenders stood off Fer as he made his way into the area, making it all too easy for him to get in a low shot.

 

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Lugano, Ridgewell (Long 46), Yacob, Mulumbu, Amalfitano (Berahino 46), Sessegnon, Brunt, Anichebe (Vydra 81)

Subs: L Daniels, Dawson, Popov, Morrison

Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker (Martin 90), Turner, Bassong, Olsson; Redmond, Howson, Johnson, Fer, Elmander (Murphy 76), Hooper (Becchio 90)

Subs: Nash, Hoolahan, Garrido, R Bennett

Croatia smashes disheveled Argentina

AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
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Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic have Croatia in the knockout rounds and Argentina on the verge of World Cup disaster.

Croatia scored a pair of second half goals, one aided by a Willy Caballero howler, in a 2-0 win in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.

Argentina will enter its final match against Nigeria on the outskirts of the knockout rounds regardless of how Nigeria-Iceland ends on Friday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Ivan Perisic forced a big save out of Wily Caballero for an early Croatia corner kick that came to nothing.

Messi had a chance stopped inside of 10 minutes, then started a play that Dejan Lovren blocked for a corner in the 13th.

Enzo Perez missed an open goal off a poor Croatia giveaway in the 30th minute.

There were a pair of fouls not out of place on a red card lowlight reel, one for each team, but neither resulting in a sending off.

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Croatia took the lead through Caballero’s gaffe and Rebic’s smash in the 54th.

Argentina nearly answered moments later. After a mazy Messi dribble, Argentina regained possession in the 64th minute, spearheaded by a Gonzalo Higuain run that led to a corner.

Croatia came close to making it 2-0, as Mario Mandzukic couldn’t turn a flick on frame and instead saw it glide into the outside of the goal.

Then Modric put the match to bed as the clock hit 80, an absolute beauty. Another huge defensive mistake allowed Mateo Kovacic to cue up Rakitic for the third.

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WATCH: Caballero blunder punished as Rebic rip puts Argentina on ropes

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
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Willy Caballero has made one of the bigger blunders in recent World Cup history.

His Argentina side needs at least a point from Thursday’s match-up with Croatia, and the match remained scoreless into halftime.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But 10 minutes after the break, Caballero flubbed a clearance in a big way.

The Argentina goalkeeper then could only watch as Ante Rebic kept his composure to blast a side volley into the goal.

It was a fine finish, to be sure, but not possible without such a terrible gaffe.

Transfer rumor roundup: Chelsea in for Pjanic; Lozano to Juventus?

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Pro Soccer Talk examines some of Thursday’s top transfer stories, including a Premier League giant looking to add to its midfield.

[ MORE: Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Luis Suarez ]


Chelsea could be set to join Barcelona in the race for Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, according to the Daily Mail.

The Blues and new manager Maurizio Sarri are said to be open to looking to Serie A to solve some of the team’s troubled areas, including in the center of the park to join France international N'Golo Kante.

Sarri is already said to be keen on signing Napoli star Dries Mertens, whom he has coached for several years at the Stadio San Paolo


Meanwhile, Juve has interest in a World Cup star, with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano attracting significant looks from around the world.

Lozano scored for El Tri in their 1-0 victory over Germany to open their 2018 World Cup campaign, and has become an instant star in the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven.

PSV would reportedly be willing to complete a deal if the Serie A champions shell out over $40 million.


Sticking with Juve, Emre Can‘s move to the Turin side appears to be close to finalization.

Can is set to have a medical in Italy on Thursday, as the 24-year-old anticipates completing a five-year contract with the Serie A giants.


Finally, West Ham United is looking to add to its attacking options next season, and the club could be nearing a record move.

Lazio winger Felipe Anderson is reportedly set to come to the London Stadium in 2018/19 as the Hammers prepare a $46 million deal.

Anderson tallied four goals in 21 Serie A matches last season for the Biancocelesti.

RB Leipzig names Julian Nagelsmann future manager

Dominik Fluegel/dpa via AP
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Julian Nagelsmann won’t take over at his new club until the 2019/20 season, but Red Bull Leipzig has put a lot of confidence in one of the youngest managers in global football.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s tally gives Portugal win over Morocco ]

On Thursday, the Bundesliga side announced the appointment of the Hoffenheim coach, who will continue in his current capacity for the upcoming 2018/19 German campaign.

Nagelsmann signs on with Leipzig until the conclusion of the 2022/23 season.

The 30-year-old has spent two seasons managing Hoffenheim, guiding the club to back-to-back top-four finishes in the Bundesliga.

Leipzig is currently without a manager ahead of the next season, so it remains unclear who will take over until Nagelsmann assumes his role in 2019.