Three things we learned from West Ham United’s win over Swansea City

Leave a comment

LONDON — On Sunday at a chilly Upton Park, West Ham beat Swansea City 3-1 in an entertaining clash in east London.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

With victory the Hammers are up to third in the Premier League table and have won three on the spin as Sam Allardyce’s side aim to do something special this season.

Swansea were in this game until the final 20 minutes but Garry Monk’s men ran out of steam after they went down to 10-men.

Here’s three things we learned from the battle between two top-six hopefuls.

WEST HAM CAN BREAK INTO THE TOP SIX

The Hammers are on a roll. With their comeback win over Swansea on Sunday they are now third in the PL and have won three on their spin with just one defeat in their last nine games. Fans of the east London club are known for their cynicism but even they are becoming cautiously optimistic about what  their team can achieve this season. Andy Carroll bagged both goals, both headers for his first goals of the 2014-15 season, and is showing signs he’s finally recovered from injury and  is ready to lead their attack. More importantly, in Alex Song they have a central hub to build their attacks from, as the Cameroonian midfielder is always looking for the ball and effortlessly shrugs off opponents. Grabbing Song on loan from Barcelona is looking like an inspired transfer.

Then there is Diafra Sakho, who arrived off the bench at half time to replace Ecuadorian international Enner Valencia and hit both posts and was taken out by Lukasz Fabianski as the Swansea ‘keeper was sent off to hand the Hammers a huge advantage. Sakho then slammed home (watch above) the Hammers’ third for his eighth goal in his first 10 appearances for the Hammers. By the end of the game West Ham’s fans were signing “We’re gonna win the league!” Maybe that’s a little outlandish, but this win over Swansea proved their capable of at least finishing in the top six and can challenge for the top four in a season where Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton continue to stumble.

BONY’S BRILLIANCE

Earlier this week West Ham manager Sam Allardyce revealed he turned down the chance to sign Wilfried Bony for West Ham and instead signed Andy Carroll. So, you just knew Bony would score on Sunday but injury-hit Carroll also scored his first goals of the season and was the match-winner. So it wasn’t all bad news for Big Sam. However with his early strike, Bony is now the highest scoring PL player in 2014 with 19 goals, one ahead of Sergio Aguero, and the Ivorian striker is integral to everything the Swans do. When a long ball is clipped up to the 25-year-old, that is the cue for the likes of Jefferson Montero, Wayne Routledge and Gylfi Sigurdsson to attack. He also went back and marked Carroll on set pieces and is as reliable and hard-working as they come. No wonder the Swans signed him to a new deal earlier this season.

Bony’s hold up play is exemplary and when he gets a chance, he is coolness personified. That was evident as time to stood still when Jefferson Montero pulled the pull back to Bony in the 19th minute, as he delayed his run to open up space as he side-footed the ball home. Bony hit the bar in the second half after a clever run as the bullish forward continues to be the Welsh sides biggest threat. Oh, and by the way, what do you think of Big Sam’s decision to buy Carroll instead of Bony back in 2013? Carroll has scored just four to Bony’s 19.

HAMMERS BACK TO BASICS

In the 41st minute West Ham made it 1-1. It wasn’t the prettiest goal you will ever see but it was ‘so West Ham.’ Carl Jenkinson surged forward from right back and whipped in a delightful ball to the back post (which may have taken a slight flick off Jazz Richards… but don’t let that get away from the beauty) which seem to hang in the air for 10-15 seconds. And then, like a salmon leaping gracefully out of a cold Alaskan river on his way up stream, Andy Carroll hovered and headed home his first-goal of the season.Carroll did the same in the second half as he headed home from Stewart Downing’s corner. This soccer lark is easy, right?

For all of the Hammers’ added panache this season, which is down to the pace and trickery of Stewart Downing, Enner Valencia and Sakho, it was going back to the basics which has served them and Allardyce’s teams so well over the years, which did the damage against the Swans. The Irons’ should not be afraid to deviate back to their old ways from time to time.

PL Sunday preview: Wolves, Man United, Everton, Arsenal in action

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have a wide-range of action, as Wolves, Manchester United and Arsenal all take the field.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Norwich City  — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Gold and NBCSports.com

Wolverhampton Wanderers are heading into Sunday’s match against bottom dwellers Norwich City with fresh, positive inertia.

On Thursday, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men thumped Espanyol 4-0 in the knockout stages of the Europa League, giving Wolves a much-needed boost of confidence. The club, who has yet to win in Premier League play since January 18, ended a two-game streak without generating a goal against the Spanish side.

Wolves are the clear favorites heading into Molineux Stadium on Sunday. But on the other side stands a well-rested and hungry Norwich, who before going to winter break, showcased class and discipline against Liverpool in their last league showing.

Daniel Farke‘s side are eight points out of the safe zone but time is running out. The sense of urgency is at an all-season high for the Canaries, believers of their under-appreciated strengths.

“They (Wolves) are playing in Europe, they have kept three clean sheets, they have individual quality and it is a huge task,” Farke said. “But I don’t see any easy fixtures at this stage. It is about us. We always have a chance if we are good at our topics.

“People can write us off and say we have no chance to close the gap. But I don’t agree. It is possible.”

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Ruben Vinagre (hamstring) | Norwich — OUT: Timm Klose (knee), Sam Byram (hamstring)

Manchester United vs. Watford — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

History and data say Watford, who have never won a league game at Old Trafford, stand no chance against Manchester United on Sunday.

But if one victory inspired a mostly-lethargic Hornets this season under Nigel Pearson it was the 2-0 win over United at Vicarage Road. The second-to-last side went on a six-match unbeaten streak following the said victory. It brought the club back to life, lifting them out of the bottom three.

Watford have since faltered and dropped back below the red line, but Pearson promises to stick to his philosophical guns.

“We approach every game in a very similar way and that is to try and be as positive as we can,” he said. “We’ll go out there and we’ll do what we can to win the game, we’ve not changed our approach, it’s just that results sometimes change how people perceive things.”

United will certainly look different, as Odion Ighalo is expected to make his home debut against his former club following his arrival in earlier this month.

United, who stand in the seventh spot with 38 points, have a clear window of opportunity to surpass fifth-place Tottenham with a victory. Prior to Sunday’s match, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer addressed questions regarding consistency.

“It is team selection – you’ve got to maybe rotate in Europe like we’ve done, then maybe go back to what we were at Chelsea this week,” Gunnar Solskjaer said. “I feel that Bruno [Fernandes] and Odion [Ighalo] coming in will get more goals in the team. That’s been lacking. The games we’ve lost – West Ham, Burnley, Palace, Bournemouth – we’ve had chances but we haven’t scored goals.”

Perhaps Ighalo could finally contribute towards a win at Old Trafford with Watford jerseys on the field.

INJURIES: Manchester United — Paul Pogba (ankle), Axel Tuanzebe (thigh), Marcus Rashford (back) | Watford — OUT: Daryl Janmaat (knee), Tom Cleverley (match fitness)

Arsenal vs. Everton — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Subplots reign supreme ahead of Everton’s visit to the Emirates.

Mesut Ozil, who missed the Gunners’ 1-0 Europa League victory, and Andres Gomes, 16 weeks after an ankle dislocation and fracture, are both expected to return to action. Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti will meet for the first time after being linked to each other’s position before the start of the new year.

Perhaps the most significant one, however – at least to Everton – is that it’s been 24 years since the Toffees won at Arsenal. If they can pull it off this time around, the Liverpool-based side will be one step closer to the European dream.

“We have to be focused on Arsenal,” Ancelotti said. “Then there are very important games after. There’s [Manchester] United, Chelsea, Liverpool. After these four games, we can see what is going on for Europe.”

“This is a really important game against a strong team, away, but we have to have confidence to do our best and try to win. We’ve got 13 games to go and have got ourselves in a decent position,” he said. “It gives us the platform to have a decent season. I think we’ve done okay. We’ve had huge problems over six weeks and fair play to the squad for showing that resilience.”

Everton have picked up 17 points out the 24 possible under the Italian, while Arsenal have only experienced two wins under the Spaniard.

INJURIES: Arsenal — Cedric Soares (knee), Kieren Tierney (shoulder), Callum Chambers (knee), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (knee) | Everton — OUT: Jean-Phillipe Gbamin (thigh)

La Liga roundup: Messi puts four goals past Eibar in one-sided Barcelona victory

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lionel Messi’s masterclass against Eibar highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Eibar 0-5 Barcelona 

It seemed as if nothing was going to wake up Barcelona from their nightmare, but then Lionel Messi went on to put on one if his traditional magic shows.

The Argentine pelted four goals on Eibar on Saturday, sending the Blaugrana to the top of La Liga following Real Madrid’s loss to Levante.

 

 

 

Just how bad was Barcelona’s nightmare, one may ask? So bad that Barcelona supporters waving white handkerchiefs during a part of the game, expressing their frustration towards club’s board and chanting for president Josep Maria Bartomeu to resign.

As it’s been for the past decade or so, Messi was at the right place and at the right time to put the fires away.

Barca’s No. 10 broke the deadlock in the 14th minute, before completing his first-half hat-trick. He added a fourth in stoppage time, stretching his season goal count to 18 – the best in the league.

The goal-heavy performance ended Messi’s four-match goal drought – the longest for the Argentine since the 2013-14 season.

Messi’s masterclass proved to be quintessential potion to Barcelona’s illness. They needed it, especially with Napoli up next in the Champions League, which leaves the Catalans with no options then to win.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 1-0 Leganes

Real Sociedad 3-0 Valencia 

Levante 1-0 Real Madrid

Championship Focus: West Brom, Leeds improve promotion chances with wins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

By no means is the race for promotion within the Championship sealed and delivered, but West Brom and Leeds United continue to add to their lead on the rest of the pack.

Despite playing the final 13 minutes down a player after Romaine Sawyers saw a straight red card, the Baggies went on to earn a formidable 3-0 win over Bristol City.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sheffield United loanee Callum Robinson opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, while Hal Robsun-Kanu sealed his brace with 11 minutes left in regular time. With the victory, Wes Brom extends their league unbeaten streak to five matches, and their total point to 66.

At Elland Road, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United registered their first back-to-back wins since October, following a minimal-margin victory over Reading. Leeds holds a five-point cushion on third-place Fulham.

Meanwhile, with goals quick fire goals from Paul Gallagher and Alan Browne over a four-minute stretch against an aching Hull City, Preston moved into play-off contention.

Saturday’s results

Brentford 2-2 Blackburn
Bristol City 0-3 West Brom
Swansea City 3-1 Huddersfield
Wigan Athletic 1-0 Millwall
Barnsley 1-0 Middlesbrough
Birmingham 3-3 Sheffield Wednesday
Nottingham Forest 0-0 QPR
Preston 2-1 Hull City
Charlton 3-1 Luton Town
Stoke City 2-0 Cardiff City
Leeds United 1-0 Reading

Ronaldo matches record in 1,000th game as Juve beats Spal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo shows no sign of slowing down as he marked his 1,000th official match by scoring a record-equaling goal to help Juventus win 2-1 at Spal in Serie A on Saturday.

Ronaldo scored for an 11th straight league game, matching the Serie A record set by Gabriel Batistuta in 1994 and equaled by Fabio Quagliarella last season.

Ronaldo also hit the crossbar with a free kick late on and had an early goal disallowed.

Aaron Ramsey doubled Juve’s lead in the second half before Andrea Petagna got Spal back into the match with a penalty.

Juventus visits Lyon in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday.

Serie A leader Juventus extended its advantage to four points above Lazio, which visits Genoa on Sunday. Third-place Inter Milan is also playing a relegation-threatened team on Sunday as it hosts Sampdoria.

Spal remained firmly bottom of the table, eight points from safety, after a fifth successive defeat.

Ronaldo thought he had given Juventus the lead in the fifth minute but it was ruled offside on video review.

However, the Portugal forward did get on the scoresheet six minutes from the break, rushing in at the far post to volley Juan Cuadrado‘s cross into the roof of the net.

It took Juventus until the hour mark to double its lead when Paulo Dybala sent in a delightful through ball for Ramsey, who lifted it above Spal goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.

Spal reduced the deficit nine minutes later after Juventus defender Daniele Rugani fouled midfielder Simone Missiroli. After a lengthy wait and the use of video review, a penalty was awarded and Petagna fired it into the bottom right corner.

AC Milan was playing at Fiorentina later. Bologna drew 1-1 at home to Udinese earlier.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports