Aston Villa 0-0 Southampton: Villa break four-game losing streak (video)

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The match at Villa Park provided very few moments of liveliness or intrigue, yet Paul Lambert is still likely to be pleased. After losing four in a row, Aston Villa have finally picked up a point – a point that could prove vital in the battle to stay up.

As for Southampton, they’re well safe but well out of the battle for Europe, so losing out on all three points likely didn’t sting much.

When the first half finished, Aston Villa had just 29% possession and had taken exactly zero shots. That, right there, should tell you all you need to know about the first 45 minutes.

But in case you’re one that likes the details, here’s a bit more to round out the picture of the first half.

(Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win)

Southampton threatened early. From the third minute, the visitors were slipping down the flanks, pulling passes back from the byline and generally harassing the Villa defense. Rickie Lambert could’ve had the Saints up 2-0 by the time five minutes were up. First the forward got his head on the end of a cross from Luke Shaw, but Brad Guzan was there to save his side. Moments later, the Villa defense was there to put Lambert’s shot out for a corner.

At the half-hour mark, Guzan got the chance to play hero again. For some reason, Nathan Baker – who’d just made a vital clearance to deny a Southampton goal – allowed Steven Davis to shoot from close range. Guzan, who’d come out to chase a wayward cross, flew back to keep out the shot.

The hosts started the second half much more brightly than the first, getting their first shot of the game in the 49th minute. However, the strike from Karim El Ahmadi was straight to Artur Boruc, doing nothing much to threaten a goal.

Southampton actually had the ball inside the net in the 65th minute, just after Marc Albrighton, Villa’s liveliest player, had threatened at the other end. Adam Lallana got on the end of a long ball from Morgan Schneiderlin and had the ball behind Guzan, but he was clearly offside.

Villa may have gotten away with one in the 80th minute, when on-loan fullback Ryan Bertrand stuck out his hands, knocking a cross from Nathaniel Clyne off course. It could’ve been given as a penalty, but the referee waved play on.

With five minutes left to go, Paul Lambert tried to liven things up a bit with the introduction of Villa Academy product Callum Robinson. The 19-year-old did inject a bit of pace into the match, but his best chance went wide.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Albrighton, Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi (Holt 80), Agbonlahor, Weimann (Robinson 85)

Subs: Steer, Sylla, Tonev, Lowton, Clark, Holt, Robinson

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Ward-Prowse (Gallagher 67), Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Wanyama (Cork 83), Lallana (90), Lambert

Subs: Cork, Do Prado, Chambers, Gazzaniga, Hooiveld, Reed, Gallagher

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfield unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

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.”