Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Fulham: Whites’ hope fading fast (video)

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Fulham remain two points from safety – and that’s before Norwich and West Brom have taken to the pitch. By the time the weekend is out, the Whites’ hopes may be very bleak indeed. Tottenham, meanwhile, move to within four points of fourth, but that faint dream hinges on whether Arsenal can beat Hull City on Sunday.

For the first ten minutes or so, it looked like Fulham might actually pull off a win, lifting themselves out of danger – at least, temporarily. Not two minutes had passed before Alex Kačaniklić barreled down the right and got himself behind the Spurs defense, but he put his strike just wide. Less than a minute later, Hugo Rodallega also had no trouble getting behind the hosts’ back line, but couldn’t get a decent shot in.

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

Tottenham began working their way into the match, but had difficulty putting their shots on target. Harry Kane’s headed pass found Younes Kaboul free just in front of goal, but the defender’s header hit the top of the net. Soon after, Spurs very nearly took the lead after David Stockdale pushed away Christian Erikson’s cross. Aaron Lennon took advantage, volleying in the rebound, but Stockdale pushed the shot into the post and allowed his defense to mop up the danger.

The breakthrough finally came in the 35th minute. A lovely free kick from Erikson floated invitingly over to the far post, where Paulinho was waiting. With no Fulham players nearby, the Brazilian had no difficulty sidefooting it in from about three feet out.

Fulham, conscious of their need for all three points, responded quickly. Steve Sidwell, running through the heart of the Spurs’ defense, attepted a little 1-2 with Kačaniklić. Instead it was Tottenham defender Zeki Freyers that helped him out, providing the ball that Sidwell knocked in for the equalizer – just 90 seconds after the hosts had taken the lead.

Spurs re-took the lead just minutes after the restart. Lennon had no trouble getting past a host of white shirts to send his cross into the area. Kane slipped past Jonny Heitinga, getting his head to the ball to flick it past Stockdale and into the back of the net. That made three goals in three starts for the young forward.

History almost repeated itself two minutes later, with Rodallega going dangerously close with a header. Hugo Lloris got a hand to it, however, tipping over the bar to preserve the Tottenham lead.

In a great show of self-awareness, Tottenham decided to pad their lead just a bit, taking a 3-1 advantage in the 62nd minute. Again the impetus came from an Eriksen free kick. The Dane whipped in a fast one, Kaboul got away from his marker, and the ball came off the defenders knee to land in the back of the net.

With fifteen minutes left to go, it looked as though that extra goal would be vital. Eriksen stuck out a hand to stop Rodallega from flicking the ball forward, providing Fulham with a penalty. Sidwell, looking for his ninth Premier League goal of the season, demanded to take it. The midfielder sent in a powerful shot, but it was straight at Lloris, who had no trouble saving.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Chadli (Dembele 67), Paulinho, Eriksen (Townsend 84); Adebayor, Kane (Soldado 79)

Goals: Paulinho 35′; Kane 48′; Kaboul 62

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga (Zverotić 66), Amorebieta, Hangeland, Riise; Kvist, Sidwell, Parker (Karagounis 56); Dejagah, Rodallega, Kačaniklić

Goals: Sidwell 37′

The halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world (video)

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco “very proud” of its unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

Queiroz: Iran has one “match point” left in World Cup group stage

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Iran manager Carlos Queiroz isn’t going to let his tournament be defined by one win or one loss, especially with a massive moment on the horizon.

Iran fell 1-0 to Spain on Wednesday, days after defeating Morocco in its World Cup opener. Team Melli was denied its equalizer despite VAR review thanks to an offside, and failed in several other bids to level the score.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Now Queiroz and his men need a win over Portugal to qualify for the first knockout stage in its five World Cup history.

“We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete. I felt we deserved a better result. There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved more for the way we played.

“But congratulations to Fernando Hierro and Spain. We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

What chance do you give Iran of getting over on Portugal, who only topped a dominant Morocco side via a terrific designed play executed to perfection by Cristiano Ronaldo?

The odds are in Portugal’s favor, if only for its experience in tight games on massive stages. Well, perhaps the better “if only” would be to say if only for Ronaldo. Either way…

Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled out

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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  • Spain goal: Costa (54′)
  • Iranian goal disallowed
  • Next: Spain-Morocco, Portugal-Iran

Iran had an equalizer taken away via Video Assistant Referee and Spain picked up its first win of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win in Kazan on Wednesday.

Diego Costa scored Spain’s goal, as La Furia Roja joined Portugal atop Group B on four points. Iran has three, while eliminated Morocco has yet to get a result.

Team Melli lost their chance to sit atop the group when Saeid Ezatolahi rebound was ruled to have come after an offside touch from a teammate.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Spain certainly had its chances in the first half hour, capped off by an attempted overhead kick from David Silva.

Man City’s 32-year-old attacker had a great deal of chances in the contest, and would see a deflected rip bound wide of the goal during three minutes of first half stoppag time.

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

After Gerard Pique missed an in-tight chance to start the second half, Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand made an outstanding punch save on Isco before punching away the rebound bid.

Iran found its first true chance of the match in the 53rd minute, with Karim Ansarifard lashing into a shot from 15 yards that tore into the outside of the goal.

It was moments later that Spain went ahead, Costa getting a goal when a clearance bounding off his shin and into the net.

Mehdi Taremi flicked a header wide of the goal, and Iran thought it had an equalizer through Saeid Ezatolahi only for VAR to step in and call offside on the previous Iranian to touch the ball.

It was off, but only just.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Beiranvand was again on the scene for a 70th minute goal mouth scramble following a drawn-up corner kick by Spain.

Taremi pounded a header over the goal after a Vahid Amiri nutmeg of Pique led to a back post cross.