USA 1-2 Colombia: Battling Americans can’t halt Colombian comeback

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LONDON — The U.S. national team lost 2-1 to No.3-ranked Colombia at Craven Cottage on Friday, as Jozy Altidore’s early goal was cancelled out by Carlos Bacca and a late winner from Teofilo “Teo” Gutierrez.

For most of the game the U.S. were pinned back by Colombia but in the ninth minute they went ahead through Altidore’s spot kick, his 25th goal for the Stars and Stripes. Bacca, James Rodgiuez and Teo all went close for Los Cafeteros but the South Americans didn’t draw level until the 60th minute, and they did so in controversial fashion.

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James jinxed his way through on the edge of the box and played a play towards Teo who was in an offside position. Despite not touching the ball, he stood still and Bacca arrived to take the ball around Guzan and slot home into an empty net. Late on substitute Bobby Wood forced Vargas into a great save at the other end but then came the winner as Teo headed home at the back post after severe pressure from the South Americans.

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Early on James got on the ball as much as possible and linked up with Carlos Sanchez in the sixth minute but the Aston Villa man sent his shot straight at Brad Guzan. The U.S. went ahead in the after a corner from the right was flicked back into the danger area by Jermaine Jones and as Rubio Rubin arrived to challenge Pablo Armero, Colombia’s left back flick his hand into the air and knocked the ball away. Referee Szymon Marciniak pointed to the spot despite appeals by Colombia’s players of a foul by Rubin and the USMNT skipper scored the spot kick despite Camilo Vargas guessing the right way. 1-0 to the USA.

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The partisan crowd weren’t deterred and neither were their heroes as James whipped in a delicious cross from the right which Carlos Bacca headed over as the South Americans looked to get back on level terms. In the 15th minute Altidore almost scored his and the USA’s second as he nodded Alejandro Bedoya’s free kick towards goal but Abel Aguilar cleared the ball.

source: Getty Images
Klinsmann watches on as the USA give up another lead.

Midway through the first half Colombia almost got their equalizer as James’ wicked low free kick skipped just past Guzan’s post, then Bacca had a thumping effort deflected wide. Colombia came so close to making it 1-1 in the 33rd minute as Teo teed up Bacca after a bad giveaway from Fabian Johnson but Bacca clipped the post with his effort as Colombia pushed hard for an equalizer before the interval. Soon after Jones looked to have blocked Bacca’s shot with his hand in the box but Colombia’s appeals were waved away as the USA went in ahead at the half.

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A minute into the second half debutant Rubin came so close to his starting his U.S. career in style. A great ball from Bedoya on the left found the FC Utrecht forward at the back post but his brave diving header went just wide. In the second half Yedlin and Johnson switched positions on the right flank as the Seattle Sounders youngster, who is on his way to Tottenham Hotspur, got to use his pace further up the right wing.

Despite the U.S. steadying the ship, Colombia were level in the 60th minute as James weaved into the box. As he dinked the ball toward Teo in an offside position, Bacca arrived to take the ball around Guzan and tap into an empty net. Euphoria at the Cottage for the large band of Colombian fans but the U.S. can feel hard done by as Teo clearly influenced the play.

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Cuadrado, James and Bacca all smashed in shots on goal but Guzan was equal to them, and then the USA had a glorious chance at the other end but Vargas saved well from Wood with his feet. Colombia pushed hard for the winner late on and they got it through Teo as Edwin Cardona’s cross found him at the back post to head home the game-winner, over substitute Julian Green, as Colombian fans went wild.

LINEUPS

USA: Guzan; Yedlin (Green, 86′), Jones, Brooks, Garza (Beasley, 70′); Beckerman; Bedoya (Morales, 66′), Diskerud (Nguyen, 78′), F. Johnson; Altidore, Rubin (Wood, 66′)

Goal: Altidore (9′)

Colombia: Vargas, Arias, Franco, Murillo, Armero, Sánchez, Abel (Cardona, 74′), James, Cuadrado (Quintero, 90′), Bacca (Ramos, 78′), Teo (Martinez, 89′)

Goals: Bacca (60′), Teo (87′)

Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Eriksen

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After months of posturing and working the back channels, it would appear that Christian Eriksen is close to getting his transfer away from Tottenham Hotspur.

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After months of posturing and holding firm, it would appear that Tottenham are close to getting their desired transfer fee for Eriksen despite his contract having only six months remaining.

After months of posturing and unsettling the 27-year-old star, it would appear that Inter Milan are close to getting their Danish international playmaker.

In the end, it would appear that everyone is going to get what they want, only no one truly gets what they want. Spurs spent the last year trying to sign Eriksen to a new contract; Eriksen wanted to leave in the summer and will feel like they wasted six months of his career; much like Inter would have been desperate to bolster their squad in the summer.

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$22 million — the amount Spurs will reportedly receive from Inter — will hardly be enough to replace such an influential player, therefore Spurs come out of this long-running saga the worst of the bunch.

As for Eriksen and Inter, it’ll be a challenge for the player to immediately find his footing and shine ever so brightly in the midst of a title race, especially after the side has already slumped to back-to-back draws and fallen four points back of Juventus. Though, reportedly tripling his wages from Spurs to Inter leaves Eriksen the biggest winner in a mostly no-win situation.

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

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Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

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Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.

Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong

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Jose Mourinho seems to be quite happy that the Premier League will implement its first-ever winter break next month, allowing players a bit of rest and recovery time during a marathon campaign, but says its timing makes the break almost worthless for clubs competing in European competitions.

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The next four weeks will play out as follows for Tottenham Hotspur: FA Cup against Southampton this weekend; PL fixture against Manchester City next weekend; the following weekend off which results in two weeks without a game; PL fixture against Aston Villa the following weekend; Champions League first leg against RB Leipzig three days later.

In Mourinho’s perfect world, that first round of PL fixtures following the break would be held a week earlier, leaving the seven English clubs competing in the Champions League and Europa League with a week and a half between games before setting out once again to chase European glory. Instead, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all have a quick turnaround from PL action to UCL competition — quotes from the Guardian:

“It is what it is. I’m not happy that the break comes in the wrong moment. The break should be before the Champions League and, in the end, before the Champions League we don’t have the break. We have to play Aston Villa on the Sunday, playing [RB Leipzig three] days later. So we don’t really care about the break, honestly.”

Mourinho’s point is a solid one: if the winter break is going to exist — and it should — then why shouldn’t its benefits be maximized? Non-European sides — typically those with smaller squads — would still have the full two weeks between games, while those in Europe are able to better leverage their slightly larger squads with only 10 or 11 days between games — still a lengthy break relative to the rest of the season.

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It’s only the first year of the winter break in the PL, so perhaps hopefully they’ll receive Mourinho’s criticism — and that of any other managers — constructively.

Serie A: AC Milan extends unbeaten run since Zlatan’s arrival

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BRESCIA, Italy (AP) Ante Rebic scored his third goal in two matches, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was superb and AC Milan won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Brescia on Friday to climb into the Europa League places in Serie A.

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Rebic, who scored twice in a win over Udinese last weekend, pounced on a loose ball directly in front of the goal following a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 71st minute.

Since Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan over the holiday break, Milan is unbeaten with four wins and a draw across all competitions.

Donnarumma produced several difficult saves to deny Dimitri Bisoli and Ernesto Torregrossa.

Also, Milan fullback Theo Hernandez hit the crossbar in the closing minutes.

The Rossoneri moved up to sixth place, four points behind fifth-place Atalanta.

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“Our goal is to qualify for Europe,” Donnarumma said. “We’ve got to continue like this and not rest for a moment. There’s another big Italian Cup match coming up with Torino midweek and we want to reach the semifinals.

“We’ll take it one game at a time and try to keep this momentum going.”

Brescia was without Mario Balotelli, who was suspended for two matches after protesting a booking last weekend that ended up with the striker being sent off.

Brescia remained one point above last-place Genoa.