MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 1-0 Columbus Crew SC

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The game in 100 words (or less): Pre-season rust, particularly for the Houston Dynamo. Disjointedness, particularly from the Dynamo. Signs of life and a grander plan, solely from Columbus Crew SC. It’s really tough to dominate a game on the road in MLS, and the Crew did just that — 60 percent possession and 18 shots (to 8), — but one couldn’t possibly foresee the man-of-the-match-type performance from goalkeeper Tyler Deric that was to come. The Crew could have chucked 100 shots at Deric on Saturday night, and they weren’t going to score.

[ READ: PST’s 2015 team-by-team MLS previews ]

Three moments that mattered

24′ — Clark saves Davis’s upper-90-bound free kick — Brad Davis probably still has the best left foot in MLS, and he was one stellar save from Steve Clark away from finding the back of the net for the 52nd time of his illustrious career.

52′ — Kamara’s diving header saved by Deric — Kei Kamara is the most dangerous aerial attacking in MLS, and he’ll score 15 goals this year. He nearly got his first of the season with a diving header from eight yards out. Deric was massive for the Dynamo, singlehandedly keeping them in the game as wave after wave of Crew pressure washed over his defense.

67′ — Houston with the unlikely breakthrough — Deric made a number of huge saves, particularly in the second half, and only because of those saves did Giles Barnes’ finish in the 67th minute matter one iota. Kofi Sarkodie channeled his inner-DeAndre Yedlin with a mazy run into the penalty area, crossed for Barnes near the penalty spot and Barnes hammered it home, over the head of Clark.

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Houston Dynamo: Deric, Sarkodie, Rodriguez, Taylor, Beasley, García, Clark, Garrido, Davis, Barnes, Bruin (Miranda 57′)

Goals: Barnes (67′)

Columbus Crew: Clark, Grana, Parkhurst, Pogatetz, Francis, Finlay, Trapp, Tchani (Schoenfeld 80′), Higuain (Jimenez 75′), Steindorsson (Speas 80′), Kamara

VIDEO: Lo Celso escapes red card via VAR after horror challenge

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Giovani Lo Celso can count himself a lucky man after his horror challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta wasn’t deemed worthy of a red card by VAR.

What on earth is going on.

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Lo Celso stamped on Azpilicueta’s leg as the Chelsea skipper slid in to get the ball and even though the Spanish defender was on the floor, Spurs’ Argentine playmaker had enough time to pull out of the challenge.

After a lengthy VAR check no red card was given as Chelsea’s fans, players and coaches looked on in bemusement after Olivier Giroud’s early goal gave them the lead.

Check out the video of the incident below and let us know what you think in the comments section below.


VIDEO: Giroud delivers for Chelsea v. Spurs

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Olivier Giroud delivered a stunning finish to put Chelsea ahead against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.

Giroud, starting for the first time since November, used all of his experience to run the Spurs defense ragged and provide a threatening focal point for the Chelsea attack.

The Frenchman, 33, jumped off the bench and had a goal disallowed by VAR in the 2-0 defeat against Man United on Monday but even after a VAR check for offside against Spurs, this time his goal stood.

Click play on the video above to watch the clinical finish.

It was a good job Giroud didn’t leave Chelsea in the January transfer window (as a move to Spurs seemed highly likely) after all.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Tottenham

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Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur in a massive London derby on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge.

With Frank Lampard‘s slumping Chelsea in fourth and just one point ahead of Jose Mourinho’s fifth-place Tottenham, this is a massive game in the battle for Champions League qualification.

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Injuries are piling up for both sides but Chelsea’s lack of clinical finishing has hurt them for several months as they’ve won just four of their last 14 Premier League games. Mourinho knows this is a good time for him to take his team to Stamford Bridge, even with his own injury crisis to deal with.

Not only does the Mourinho storyline carry significant weight ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Bridge, so too does the two sides’ increasingly tight battle for a top-four finish. As recently as Jan. 17, Chelsea enjoyed a nine-point lead on Tottenham, but the Blues’ current run of just one win from their last six PL games has seen that advantage shrink to a single point with the very real possibility of flipping two points in the opposite direction once the full-time whistle blows.

On the other hand, Spurs would already be miles clear if not for dropping a combined seven points from three games against the current 12th-, 19th- and 20th-place sides in recent weeks.

In team news Chelsea are without N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi who are all out injured. Olivier Giroud starts up front with Tammy Abraham only fit enough for the bench, while Chelsea have three center backs and Ross Barkley and Mason Mount come into the starting lineup.

Tottenham must do without Heung-Min Son for potentially the rest of the season after he suffered a broken arm. Mourinho must turn to other attacking options with Harry Kane also out until April. Dele Alli has been left on the bench as Spurs go with what also looks like a back five.


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Hodgson vows to sign new Crystal Palace contract

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Roy Hodgson has revealed that he has been offered a contract extension to remain at Crystal Palace beyond the 2020-21 Premier League season, and also hinted that he is highly likely to accept it.

[ MORE: Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be “something incredible” ]

Following a period of turmoil and instability which saw them drop dangerously close to the relegation zone prior to his arrival in 2017, Hodgson has steadied the ship and guided the Eagles to 11th- and 12th-place finishes in his first two seasons and has them sitting just a point out of 12th with a dozen games to go this season. At no point in his tenure has Palace flirted with relegation, and that’s apparently enough to earn a new deal to remain in charge — quotes from Sky Sports:

“The club have presented me with a contract and although the chairman has been away this week I’ve had a cursory glance through it. It all looks fine to me so I am pretty certain that at some point soon we’ll sit down and get it signed.

“If I am going to stay, it will be because I believe funds will be made available because we’ve had the intention to improve the squad and the team for a while now.

“We all realize you can’t make improvements to the actual team without spending some money. But I would never make those type of demands, because you can’t make any guarantees in the transfer market.

“All you can do is have good intention and if I signed for another year, I would sign because I believed the intentions are true and that something will happen going into the next season.”

As for the transfer situation, that’s something that’ll need to be sorted out in very short order if Palace plan to maintain their current place in the PL’s hierarchy, otherwise they’ll learn a harsh — and quick — lesson about standing still while everyone else is moving forward.