Stoke City 1-0 Newcastle United: Four games without a goal for Newcastle (video)

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With Newcastle having failed to score in their last three outings, and missing Loïc Rémy due to injury, it never looked as though this match would be a replay of the 5-1 Magpies win back on Boxing Day. Sure enough, what we got was a rather scrappy affair, with few shots on target and Stoke managing to eek out all three points.

The Potters really should have scored by the time ten minutes were out. Marko Arnautović sent in a pin-point cross from the left, falling perfectly for Peter Crouch, about five yards out. But Crouch was able to do nothing more than bash his header against the base of the post.

Two minutes later, Newcastle also wasted a fantastic chance. Dan Gosling slipped into space to meet a ball from Shola Ameobi, but, despite being just six yards out, the midfield managed to place his shot over the bar.

The game seemed destined to revolve around missed chances. Ameobi’s own effort, a shot from distance, went wide. Peter Odemwingie had a good chance on a ball from Arnautović, but could do nothing with it.

So it seemed rather apt that the opening goal seemed to be more luck than skill. Stoke fans might classify it as a wonder-goal, but in fact, Erik Pieters overhit his cross. The ball floated down over Tim Krul, hit the far post and bounced into the back of the net.

Newcastle had a chance to respond before the half was out, but Asmir Begović got down to save Cheick Tioté’s effort from distance.

The visitors did their best to find an equalizer in the second half, but everything they conjured up was rather tame. Papiss Cissé started out the second half with a wasted, high effort from a pass from Mike Williamson. His 64th minute shot was much more threatening, but Steven N’Zonzi was there with a block.

Stoke made attempts to double their advantage by hitting Newcastle on the break, but they were only able to come close to a second. Hatem Ben Arfa, on for Dan Gosling just moments before, couldn’t control the ball and Stoke were able to break, with Charlie Adam putting his shot wide. A few minutes later, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, on for Steven Taylor, was called into action to ensure a great cross from Geoff Cameron was put out of danger.

LINEUPS

Stoke City:Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Ireland (Adam 66), Nzonzi, Whelan, Arnautovic; Odemwingie (Walters 87); Crouch

Goals: Pieters 42′

Newcastle United: Krul; S Taylor (Yanga-Mbiwa 61), Williamson, Coloccini; Anita, Gosling (Ben Arfa 73), Tiote, Gouffran, Dummett; Sh Ameobi, Cisse (Armstrong 73)

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

Adam Davy/PA via AP
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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images
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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

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


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE