Southampton 0-1 Cardiff City: Cala’s the man as Bluebirds bag huge win

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Cardiff City sealed a smash and grab 1-0 victory against Southampton at St. Mary’s on Saturday, as the Bluebirds breathed new life into their battle against relegation.

The pivotal moment came midway through the second half, as Cardiff’s Juan Cala was composed on the edge of the box and finished superbly to stun Saints after the home side had dominated vast swathes of the match.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were slack in front of goal and the closest they came to scoring was in the first half when Gaston Ramirez’s deflected effort cannoned off the bar and out.

With the win, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer side are now just three points from safety with four games to go. As for Saints, they stay in eighth spot after a disappointing home defeat.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

It was a tentative start to proceedings down in the sun on the South Coast, as both sides kept the ball well early on.

Rickie Lambert came close for Saints after 20 minutes, as a left-wing cross found the England international at the back post but he couldn’t keep his header down. Cardiff caused Saints few problems in the opening 45 minutes but Pochettino’s team lacked pace in the final third after Jay Rodriguez’s season-ending injury seems to have disrupted their offensive fluidity. The Bluebirds finally mustered a chance after 20 minutes, as a move down the left saw Fraizer Campbell head wide of the far post.

Saints almost took the lead midway through the first half as Gaston Ramirez saw his deflected shot hit the crossbar and out, then Rickie Lambert’s free kick was punched away by David Marshall as Southampton pushed hard. Cardiff continued to frustrate the hosts as the sides went in level at the break despite Saints’ dominance.

Following the interval the same pattern ensued but the South Coast club were struggling to create chances against a stubborn South Wales side. Luke Shaw surged forward on several occasions from left back but he sent a wayward shot wide as Saints snatched at any chance which fell their way.

Southampton stepped it up a notch after the hour mark as Lambert again headed over, after Schneiderlin and Ramirez both had shots deflected. After absorbing all of that pressure, Cardiff hit Saints with a hammer blow as Cala controlled the ball and then smashed home to give the away side a shock 1-0 lead in the 65th minute.

The home side pushed to grab an equalizer late on, with substitute Sam Gallagher going clean through in the last 15 minutes but Cardiff’s Marshall came up with a big save when left one-on-one.

Cardiff held on and almost added a late second from substitute Wilfried Zaha, as they stunned Saints to give their battle against the drop a timely boost.

LINEUPS

Southampton: Gazzaniga, Chambers (Clyne, 67′), Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Cork (Do Prado, 79′), Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Ramírez (Gallagher, 66′), Lallana, Lambert

Cardiff City: Marshall, Caulker, Whittingham, Medel (Zaha, 61′), Campbell, Kim, Mutch, Cala, Théophile-Catherine, Dæhli (Bellamy, 87′), Fabio (McNaughton, 78′)

Goal: Cala (65′)

Premier League clubs vote VAR into use for 2019-20 season

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It’s been inevitable for quite some time, but now it’s official: video review will be used in the Premier League when the 2019-20 season kicks off next August.

[ MORE: Fulham hire Claudio Ranieri after firing Slavisa Jokanovic ]

20 of 20 current PL clubs voted on Thursday to confirm the use of the modern technology beginning next season.

The Bundesliga and Serie A began using the video assistant referee (VAR) at the start of the 2017-18 season, and have continued (successful) operation of the system in 2018-19. Major League Soccer introduced the protocol two-thirds of the way through its 2017 season, to far greater degrees of varying success. La Liga is set to begin use of VAR next season as well.

[ MORE: England vs. USMNT preview ]

VAR was first used in the English game last season, when select FA Cup fixtures were used as test runs, while the same is being done in the EFL Cup this season.

Chelsea expected to let Cahill leave on loan in January

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Gary Cahill is no longer first-choice at Chelsea — anything but, in fact, as he’s played just 21 minutes in the Premier League this season — and the club is prepared to allow its captain to leave on loan in January as a reward for six years of excellent service, according to a report from the Guardian.

[ MORE: Fulham hire Claudio Ranieri after firing Slavisa Jokanovic ]

New Blues boss Maurizio Sarri has used Cahill sparingly thus far — even leaving him out of the 18-man team for Sunday’s draw with Everton — but has praised the 32-year-old for his professionalism and influence as a valued member inside the locker room. For those reasons, Sarri is prepared to do right by one of the club’s most senior members as Cahill seeks regular first-team minutes.

[ MORE: England vs. USMNT preview ]

Cahill’s current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2020, thus a loan in January and an ensuing permanent transfer this coming summer represents the club’s final opportunity to recoup a small fee for a player who will surely garner plenty of interest from within the PL. Having paid under $9 million to sign him from Bolton in January 2012, Chelsea have gotten pretty good value for their initial investment, including two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup, and one Champions League and Europa League title each during Cahill’s spell at the club.

U.S. U-20 men one win from World Cup

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One win.

That’s all the United States’ U-20 men’s national team will need to advance to this summer’s World Cup in Poland and the Pan-American Games in Peru.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

The Yanks cruised through group play with a nearly perfect nine days of soccer, the closest of five wins a 6-1 defeat of Trinidad and Tobago.

Competition is a bit tougher in the knockout stage, but Costa Rica and Honduras did the U.S. a massive solid by drawing 1-1 in their opener.

Now Tab Ramos’ kids can qualify for the World Cup with a defeat of Costa Rica on Friday or Honduras on Monday.

The top two teams in each group qualify for Poland, while the Group A winner advances to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship to face the winner of Group B (Mexico, El Salvador, or Panama).

The U.S. has spread the scoring around, lead by 17-year-old Ulysses Lainez of LA Galaxy II (six goals). His former Galaxy Academy buddy, Alexis Mendez of Freiburg has five goals, as does Toronto FC 18-year-old Ayo Akinola.

Atlanta United sits atop Forbes’ list of most valuable MLS franchises

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Atlanta United came up just short of the Supporters’ Shield, but it’s off-the-field success is No. 1 with a bullet.

Giving high marks to attendance and merchandise sales, Forbes places the Five Stripes atop its list of the most valuable franchises in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

United sits first, with a valuation of $330 million. Both Atlanta and the second place Galaxy have valuations ahead of the two-least valuable teams combined (Columbus and Colorado). And the Five Stripes are worth twice the individual values of those teams and Vancouver. Full list here, from Forbes.com:

“Last season, average home-game attendance was 48,200, and this year the team is drawing over 50,000 fans per game. In just two seasons Atlanta has already laid claim to the league’s eight best-attended games ever, and nine of the top eleven.”

The margins are fine, relatively speaking, with Atlanta’s advantage over second place LA Galaxy by $10 million. Seattle is third at $310m, with newcomers LAFC at $305m, and Toronto FC at $290m.