Sunderland 1-2 West Ham United: Unlucky Black Cats survival hopes hurt

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West Ham scored the first two goals at the Stadium of Light and then held on tight to withstand a furious Sunderland rally that came up short and put the Black Cats’ Premier League survival hopes into further peril.

Andy Carroll and Mohamed Diame scored for West Ham before Adam Johnson made it interesting with under a half-h0ur to go, but Sunderland could not find an equalizer.

The Black Cats remain four points inside of the drop zone with a ghastly set of fixtures ahead of them, while West Ham is 11 points safe.

Phil Bardsley bolted forward inside of two minutes. He found no options for a pass, and tried a tough bending shot that missed the goal wide. But it was clear Sunderland was ready to push West Ham.

Yet West Ham struck first in the ninth minute, and Newcastle boy Andy Carroll couldn’t help but relish his headed goal against the rivals of his boyhood heroes and former team. Carroll blew kisses to the crowd and gesticulated wildly to the away crowd as the Hammers went up 1-0.

Sunderland nearly struck back straightaway, but Lee Cattermole continued to be snakebit when his open low shot was stopped by Adrian.

The Black Cats protested wildly when a handball in the box was not called on Kevin Nolan, but Webb did not have the viewpoint to see what would’ve been a clear penalty. Neither linesmen stepped in, and it remained 1-0 West Ham into the half.

West Ham doubled its advantage just after halftime. Mohamed Diame stepped up to a headed clear and hit it off a Black Cats defender and past Vito Mannone. With a brutal run-in to Survival Sunday, Sunderland was now in a very, very bad spot.

Stuart Downing could’ve ended it — it being a number of things including Sunderlands survival hopes, but his partial breakaway missed the near post after Mannone appeared to get mere millimeters of a glove on the low shot.

But hold on! Adam Johnson needed just 11 minutes on the pitch to crack a left-footed blast past Adrian after a great side-footed pass from fellow substitute Gardner.

It was 2-1 in the 66th and the home side was feeling some hope. The goal was just Sunderland’s 14th in 15 home PL matches this season.

And it was oh-so-close to getting knotted up in the 68th minute, when Adrian couldn’t handle Ki’s long drive but was able to get his arm in the way of Wickham’s close-range rebound.

Less than two minutes later, it was Fabio Borini’s turn to try and level. Adrian had the short side covered and a pressured Borini put his shot off the outside of the net.

With five minutes of stoppage time, Ignacio Scocco had a good chance to head home an equalizer off a very hard hit cross but put it over the bar.

LINEUPS:

Sunderland: Mannone; Brown, O’Shea (Gardner, 60′), Vergini; Alonso, Bridcutt, Ki (Scocco, 79′), Cattermole (Johnson, 53′), Bardsley; Wickham, Borini

Goals: Johnson (65)

West Ham United: Adrian; McCartney (Armero, 46′), Tomkins, Reid, Demel; Noble, Taylor; Downing, Nolan (Nocerino, 83′), Diame (Johnson, 78′); Carroll

Goals: Carroll (9), Diame (50)

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”

Would Real three-peat be most impressive feat in UCL history?

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When Franz Roth’s 57th minute goal gave Bayern Munich a 1-0 win over Saint-Etienne in Glasgow on May 12, 1976, it marked the last time a club won three-consecutive European Cups.

Oddly enough, Ajax turned the trick in the previous three seasons to Bayern’s run, and Real Madrid won the first five from 1955-60 when the tournament required a side of its ilk win only four ties. By 1976, the tournament began with the Round of 32.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

While there were certainly reasons the tournament was more difficult, consider that travel was far more taxing on the body and officiating far less advanced if even impartial, what Real Madrid would do this weekend would be an incredible achievement.

Winning three-straight competitions in any of the elite league is insane, and the UEFA Champions Leagues is especially bonkers.

Yes, an injury to Neymar made the PSG defeat a little less impressive, but consider that Real has advanced to the final while playing a murderer’s row (especially in relation to their opponents). Juventus was next, and then Bayern Munich. Now, Liverpool.

While no one, maybe ever, should cry for Real Madrid, this third run is more impressive than the first two in that the club simply isn’t as strong as previous iterations. That’s evidenced by their relatively poor performance in La Liga play, finishing almost 20 points back of rivals Barcelona and three behind Atleti.

Real sold nearly $100 million worth of players this offseason than it bought, with Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos the biggest names through the door while Alvaro Morata, Danilo, and James Rodriguez skipped town.

Who knows what’s in the water in Real, but its veteran squad continues to produce big results. Cristiano Ronaldo is 33. Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric 32. Marcelo and Benzema 30.

If Real holds off Liverpool, there will be some myopic notes about how it should’ve been expected to win the match, but that ignores that in a competition as deep as ever, Real took on all comers and triumphed for the third-straight year.

In doing so, they are likely achieving the most impressive feat in modern UCL history, certainly at least since Porto won the 2003-04 tournament under Jose Mourinho… and that was a one-off.

Report: Earnie Stewart in negotiations for U.S. Soccer GM job

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Philadelphia Union sporting director and USMNT centurion Earnie Stewart is reportedly in negotiations to become the United States men’s national team general manager.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

The report, from Metro NY reporter Kristian Dyer, says the Netherlands-born executive has the proverbial ball in his court.

Stewart, 49, racked up 103 caps and 18 goals for the Yanks and had a glittering playing career spent between Willem II, NAC Breda, and DC United.

He later had high-ranking positions with NAC Breda and AZ Alkmaar.

Here’s Dyer, quoting a source:

The source, speaking to Metro on the condition of anonymity, said that Stewart is believed to be the frontrunner and is in negotiations for the position following an impressive showing during the interview process.

The club, when asked for a comment, told Metro that “Since Earnie’s first interview with U.S. Soccer, we have respected their process, and as such, we will decline further comment until a final decision has been made.”

Stewart scored against Colombia in the 1994 World Cup and added markers in qualifying for the 1998 and 2002 tournaments.

His familiarity with both MLS and European leagues would be a boon for the U.S., and Stewart’s Union has brought along a number of promising young players including Auston Trusty and Keegan Rosenberry (the latter drafted out of Georgetown).

Carrick: Haven’t entertained possibility of Pogba leaving Man Utd

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Michael Carrick is hammering the idea of a Paul Pogba exit from Manchester United.

Pogba’s had his problems with manager Jose Mourinho, but recently praised the boss for the season’s education.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

But is an exit is just not going to happen, says Carrick as he heads toward a coaching role at Old Trafford.

From Sky Sports:

“Of course he’s got a future, he’s a big player for us, he’s a great age, he’s got his peak years ahead of him. It’s not even something I’d give a second thought to, to be honest.”

The retired midfielder also said he’s looking forward to working under Jose Mourinho, whom he calls “the best man to learn from.”

He also said United’s trophy-less season wasn’t ideal, but it’s more about them their competition.

“We’re not looking at City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, anyone. We’re looking at ourselves to improve, we believe we’re capable of improving a lot and we’ll see where that takes us.”