Swansea 2-0 Fulham: Swans rebound against lifeless Cottagers (video)

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Goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Chico Flores gave Swansea their first win since December 4th as Fulham withered away to defeat at Liberty Stadium.

The Swans breathed life into their home fans and their season from start to finish, and it sent the visitors home hanging their heads at a complete lack of class and urgency.

As the home side begun brightly, Wilfried Bony got his first half-chance on 12 minutes but couldn’t convert firing over. The first real chance fell to Shelvey soon after who blasted over after some nice touches.

Fulham looked to absorb pressure and play on the counter, and it earned them a pair of good chances.  Towering Brede Hangeland came oh so close off a Kieran Richardson free kick, but his header stung just over the bar.

Then in the 30th minute they broke down the left wing, as Alex Kacaniklic breezed around Chico Flores and crossed perfectly to Ashkan Dejagah all alone in the box but his header was weak and right at Gerhard Tremmel.

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Clint Dempsey and Dimitar Berbatov were helpless to give Fulham any life as Swansea controlled most of the play.

Despite the chances Swansea remained in command, and Shelvey ripped a twisting shot on goal in the 40th minute, but he smashed the crossbar.   It was eerily similar to the last time these two sides faced each other, when Shelvey netted from well outside the box.

The attempt burst Liberty Stadium to life, and the pressure nearly broke the visitors, but they held on until halftime.  The second half begun exactly as the first ended, with Swansea full of life.

Fulham continued to live dangerously, and they’d get a last-gasp clearance out of the break. Sascha Riether cleared off the line on a corner kick, with Chico’s header just out of reach of a diving Stekelenburg.

Michael Laudrup brought on Nathan Dyer, a pacey winger from the bench who hadn’t played since December 12th due to injury.  Fulham couldn’t deal with his speed, and this time, Fulham wouldn’t have an answer. Jonjo Shelvey wouldn’t squander his second chance in open space.

He hit a cyclone from the top of the key, and it banged off the back of a cowering Brede Hangeland and past a wrong-footed Maarten Stekelenburg.

Swansea continued to batter the visitors who were without answer, and they got a second without too much wait. With just under 20 minutes to go, Chico got a header off a free kick and it clipped off Dimitar Berbatov past Stekelenburg at the near post. Another deflection, another goal.

The win for Swansea puts them up into 10th position, even with Aston Villa.  For Fulham, they remain a point above the drop, but two teams within striking distance have yet to play.

GOALS:

Swansea – Shelvey 61′, Chico Flores 75′

LINEUPS:

Swansea – Tremmel; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, de Guzman (Pozuelo 88′), Shelvey (Amat 79′), Routledge, Hernandez (Dyer 58′); Bony.

Fulham – Stekelenburg; Riether, Hangeland, Burn, Richardson; Dejagah (Bent 59′), Parker, Sidwell, Kačaniklić, Dempsey (Duff 71′); Berbatov (Tankovic 83′).

The halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world (video)

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco “very proud” of its unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

Queiroz: Iran has one “match point” left in World Cup group stage

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Iran manager Carlos Queiroz isn’t going to let his tournament be defined by one win or one loss, especially with a massive moment on the horizon.

Iran fell 1-0 to Spain on Wednesday, days after defeating Morocco in its World Cup opener. Team Melli was denied its equalizer despite VAR review thanks to an offside, and failed in several other bids to level the score.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Now Queiroz and his men need a win over Portugal to qualify for the first knockout stage in its five World Cup history.

“We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete. I felt we deserved a better result. There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved more for the way we played.

“But congratulations to Fernando Hierro and Spain. We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

What chance do you give Iran of getting over on Portugal, who only topped a dominant Morocco side via a terrific designed play executed to perfection by Cristiano Ronaldo?

The odds are in Portugal’s favor, if only for its experience in tight games on massive stages. Well, perhaps the better “if only” would be to say if only for Ronaldo. Either way…

Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled out

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  • Spain goal: Costa (54′)
  • Iranian goal disallowed
  • Next: Spain-Morocco, Portugal-Iran

Iran had an equalizer taken away via Video Assistant Referee and Spain picked up its first win of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win in Kazan on Wednesday.

Diego Costa scored Spain’s goal, as La Furia Roja joined Portugal atop Group B on four points. Iran has three, while eliminated Morocco has yet to get a result.

Team Melli lost their chance to sit atop the group when Saeid Ezatolahi rebound was ruled to have come after an offside touch from a teammate.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Spain certainly had its chances in the first half hour, capped off by an attempted overhead kick from David Silva.

Man City’s 32-year-old attacker had a great deal of chances in the contest, and would see a deflected rip bound wide of the goal during three minutes of first half stoppag time.

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

After Gerard Pique missed an in-tight chance to start the second half, Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand made an outstanding punch save on Isco before punching away the rebound bid.

Iran found its first true chance of the match in the 53rd minute, with Karim Ansarifard lashing into a shot from 15 yards that tore into the outside of the goal.

It was moments later that Spain went ahead, Costa getting a goal when a clearance bounding off his shin and into the net.

Mehdi Taremi flicked a header wide of the goal, and Iran thought it had an equalizer through Saeid Ezatolahi only for VAR to step in and call offside on the previous Iranian to touch the ball.

It was off, but only just.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Beiranvand was again on the scene for a 70th minute goal mouth scramble following a drawn-up corner kick by Spain.

Taremi pounded a header over the goal after a Vahid Amiri nutmeg of Pique led to a back post cross.