Southampton 2-2 Stoke City: Points shared on soggy South Coast

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Southampton and Stoke City fought it out for a 2-2 draw at a stormy St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday, as both teams battled against the elements.

Saints took the lead in the 5th minute as Rickie Lambert curled in an absolute peach of a free kick to make it 1-0, but then a flurry of goals just before half time saw the game burst into life.

First up Peter Odemwingie slotted home coolly in the 38th minute, but then Steven Davis curled in a cross from the right that missed everyone and nestled into the far corner in a bizarre goal to put Saints back ahead five minutes before half time.

However Peter Crouch bundled home Stoke’s second goal in the 43rd minute, as the Potters made it 2-2 at the break.

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Despite massive pressure from the home side after the interval Stoke held firm and in terrible conditions in Southampton, the teams shared the points in a hard-fought encounter.

With the draw Saints remain in ninth and just two points away from Newcastle above them, while Stoke are in 12th on 26 points.

Saints went 1-0 up after five minutes when a handball on the edge of the box saw England international Lambert step up and curl home an absolute beauty to put Southampton 1-0 ahead.

The blustery conditions at St. Mary’s were playing a part, as Stoke were up against it in the first half.

Southampton looked more comfortable on the ball and were buoyed by their opener but Stoke continued to press high up the pitch to try and stop Saints from getting in behind them. A lung-bursting run from Davis saw right back Nathaniel Clyne force Asmir Begovic into a magnificent save in the 27th minute, as the rain hammered down on the South Coast.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup Chelsea go top, Liverpool hammer Arsenal, big wins at the bottom)

However in the 38th minute Stoke pulled level as Odemwingie beat the offside trap and latched onto a great through ball from Charlie Adam and finished superbly to make it 1-1.

But they didn’t stay on level terms for long, as a bizarre goal saw Saints go ahead when Davis crossed weakly from the right and the ball missed everyone and trickled into the net to put Saints 2-1 up.  Yet before half time Stoke made it 2-2 as Adam’s corner caused havoc in the box and Crouch headed home from close range to level things up again, after a mad five minutes of action.

In the second half the blustery conditions really came into play, as both teams struggled to get the ball down and spray it around. Southampton missed two good chances midway through the second period as Jay Rodriguez headed wide and Jack Cork skewed his shot off target, while Stoke looked to pounce on the break.

After an unforgettable second half, the final whistle went as the points were shared at St. Mary’s.

LINEUPS

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne (Chambers, 80), Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert

Goals: Lambert (5), Davis (40)

Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters, Odemwingie, Adam (Nzonzi, 79), Whelan, Assiadi (Guidetti, 84), Walters, Crouch

Goals: Odemwingie (38), Crouch (43)

Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.