Fulham 1-3 Everton: Subs the story as Everton outclasses spirited Fulham (video)

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Despite a spirited battle by relegation-threatened Fulham, a pair of Roberto Martinez substitutes bagged goals as the Toffees showed too much quality for the Whites who despite their strong effort were less than solid in front of goal.

Steven Naismith, on for an injured Ross Barkley, put the shot on net that resulted in Everton’s first, and Kevin Mirallas hit the winner with under 15 minutes to go on a feed from Aidan McGeady – both substitutes.

Naismith then sealed the winner to ensure his name would appear on the scoresheet.

Ashkan Dejagah, also a replacement for the Whites, hit Fulham’s equalizer that gave them hope but ultimately it wasn’t enough.

The goalkeepers both starred as well, with Tim Howard putting on a highlight-reel performance, and Stockdale’s own goal the only blight on his otherwise stellar tally for the day.

Fulham were by far the brighter side in the first half, but could not muster a goal.  Young Moussa Dembele, just 17 years old, was a breath of fresh air at the front of the hosts’s attack, finding teammates with ease in the final third.

The best pass from Dembele came in the 23rd minute, when the Frenchman laid off to a streaking Kieran Richardson, but his low, powerful shot was stopped expertly by a foot save from Howard.

However, the youngster also bungled a few chances of his own, firing well over with space at the top of the box, and also finding himself a free header at the end of a long ball from Lewis Holtby but he put the ball directly at Howard.

Dembele wasn’t alone in his shooting misfortunes, and despite the home side clearly the more incisive in the first half, they were dismal in front of net. Holtby came closest, with a header of his own also producing a wonderful save from Howard to palm over on 27 minutes.

Pacey winger Pajtim Kasami found himself in a great position to find a waiting Dembele but instead tried to take it himself and was dispossessed.  The first half also saw John Arne Riise launch one over, as did

Despite their failure to put the ball in the back of the net, Fulham dominated Everton on the ball in the first half with pinpoint tackling and good runs. The home side completed 17 of 23 tackles in the first 45 minutes, and completed 4 of 11 crosses.

However, with the Whites failing to score in the first half despite their positivity, the writing may have been on the wall.  Everton made them pay for their wastefulness just six minutes after the break, when a corner fell to the feet of Steven Naismith.  His shot wasn’t convincing, but with goalkeeper David Stockdale on the ground the ball took a deflection off William Kvist and then clamored off Stockdale’s foot into the back of the net.

But Fulham were not deterred. The game maintained a back-and-forth nature with both managers making quality changes. Naismith came on for an injured Ross Barkley at halftime and had his obvious immediate impact, and Felix Magath after the goal made a double attacking change akin to their dire table situation.

Magath’s substitutions paid off almost immediately, as Dejagah cut back inside from the left flank, leaving poor Sylvain Distin in pieces on the pitch before striking a worldly into the top corner just seven minutes after coming on.

But the hope instilled from Dejagah’s goal wouldn’t last long.  Everton pushed hard to restore their lead, and with a new organization about the side and their quality restored, it was too much for Fulham to hold out.

A break from substitute Aidan McGeady slotted through fellow sub Kevin Mirallas who put the ball into the back of the net 13 minutes from full time, and a controversial third from Naismith in the final minutes left Everton well ahead.

The win for the Toffees moves them within four of Arsenal in the final Champions League position, and the two clubs will meet in a massive showdown next weekend.  Meanwhile, Fulham again are left with nothing, and with Crystal Palace beating Chelsea earlier in the week, things look exceptionally bleak at the bottom.

LINEUPS:

Fulham – Stockdale; Riether, Heitinga, Hangeland, Riise; Holtby, Kvist (Woodrow 64′), Sidwell, Richardson (Dejagah 64′); Kasami, Dembèlè (Roberts 81′).

Goals – Dejagah 71′

Everton – Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Deulofeu (Mirallas 68′), Barkley (Naismith 45′), Osman (McGeady 77′); Lukaku.

Goals – Stockdale (og) 51′, Mirallas 79′, Naismith 87′

Peru’s World Cup foes lobby to overturn Guerrero’s ban

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Following last week’s decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Peru captain and talisman Paolo Guerrero has been banned from the 2018 World Cup — at the age of 34, almost certainly his last opportunity to star on the world’s biggest stage.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

However, in the days since that decision, a number of Guerrero’s fellow professionals and World Cup stars — France and Denmark captains Hugo Lloris and Simon Kjaer, and Australia’s Mile Jedinak — have written to FIFA, on behalf of FIFPro, the world player union, in hopes of rendering Guerrero eligible to pay at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“We respectfully ask the Fifa Council to show compassion,” the trio wrote. “In our view it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career.”

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

That Lloris, Kjaer and Jedinak are the players lobbying in favor of Guerrero is particularly notable given the fact that Peru will face France, Denmark and Australia in Group C.

Guerrero tested positive for cocaine late last year, after a tea he drank was tainted and triggered a fail drug test.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.