QPR 1-2 Everton: Lennon second effort gives Toffees the spoils (video)

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It was nervy at times, but Everton squeaked by Queens Park Rangers with a big 2-1 win on the road at Loftus Road to earn just their second winning streak of the season.

Aaron Lennon was big in the buildup to Everton’s first goal and he scored the second to send the Toffees through.

The opening 15 minutes proved exciting but physical, with challenges from both sides sending opponents toppling to the ground. QPR had a number of chances on the 10 minute mark as they pumped the ball into the Everton box, but nothing came of it. The Toffees then would go down the other end and take the early lead.

Arouna Kone started the impressive build-up down the left. He cut the ball into Aaron Lennon in the box, and with his back to goal, he touched to Leon Osman at the top of the box. Osman found Seamus Coleman on the right, and with space as a result of the ball movement, Coleman rifled home an accurate strike that hit the inside of the post and into the net for the lead inside 20 minutes.

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Bobby Zamora was the most dangerous home attacker to look for an equalizer, and he nearly had it but headed wide on the half-hour mark at the end of a Charlie Austin cross.

QPR would find the equalizer though, past the hour mark. Eduardo Vargas, who just came on five minutes prior as the first Rangers substitute, and on a corner-kick scrum the ball came to Vargas just in front of the near post and he poked it home past a flailing Tim Howard.

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It got worse for Everton as they saw Romelu Lukaku limp off, replaced with under a half-hour to go by Ross Barkley. But while QPR continually proved dangerous, Everton would be the deadly ones.

Lennon picked up the eventual winner when Coleman burst down the right and cut a cross along the ground through the box. The ball found Kone and while he couldn’t finish under a heavy challenge, the ball squirted out to Lennon and he powerfully thumped home the rebound for the lead.

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QPR wouldn’t go quietly. Their best chance came just moments before the final whistle as substitute Adel Taarabt clattered the bar, but it wouldn’t come off for the home side and they would fall for the fifth straight time, as the danger sirens grow louder. Meanwhile, the three points for Everton pushes them a full nine points above the relegation zone, virtual safety for Roberto Martinez as fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

LINEUPS

QPR: Green; Isla, Onhoua Caulker, Suk-Young; Phillips, Barton, Sandro (Henry 71′), Hoillet (Vargas 60′); Austin, Zamora (Taarabt 82′).

Goals: Vargas 65′

Everton: Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines; Gibson, McCarthy, Osman; Lennon, Kone (Naismith 79′), Lukaku (Barkley 67′).

Goals: Coleman 18′, Lennon 77′

Free agent players fear being released before season ends

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Out of contract players fear they will be released before the season is concluded, according to a report by The Telegraph.

For the Big Five European leagues, with seasons starting in August and ending in May, most contracts run through June 30. With the coronavirus shutting down leagues across the world and causing the likely extension of most domestic seasons, that timeline is almost certainly pushed back, meaning games could be played later than the expiration of contracts.

While some players who are in the lineup often, such as Chelsea’s Willian, Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen, or Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser aren’t in danger of being released since they are heavily relied upon by their clubs, many others who are on the fringe could see their contracts terminated before the campaign comes to a close.

The report states that while FIFA cannot change contract law, players are hoping that FIFA will impose temporary sanctions on clubs that release players before the season is up.

High-profile players out of contract who could be impacted include Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne, and Manchester United’s Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Sports lawyer Nick De Marco of Blackstone Chambers told Sky Sports that it’s likely players will be under no obligation to stay with their clubs beyond the date of their current contract, but some may wish to even if they aren’t playing to continue earning a paycheck.

“Legally, they cannot be forced to continue to play for the club,” De Marco told Sky Sports News. “Nobody can force them to do so; FIFA, the FA, the club or anybody else. If they want to walk away, that’s a matter for them but it will really be a matter of whether, financially, that makes sense for them.”

“If you’re a lower league club, financially stressed, you won’t be wanting to pay players beyond June 30,” De Marco said. “So, a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t going to work. It’s going to depend on each case. The key is going to be agreements.”

Infantino warns against restarting games too early

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino has cautioned leagues on restarting too early from the coronavirus shutdown, citing continued health concerns.

Bundesliga teams have already returned to training as they gear up for a possible May return, while Premier League clubs are hoping for a return to play in June. Both leagues have detailed that for the foreseeable future, games will be played behind closed doors to keep from masses of people spreading the virus.

Still, Infantino is cautious of these plans, hoping that leagues take public health seriously.

“No match, no competition, no league is worth risking a single human life,” Infantino said. “It’s better to wait a little bit longer than to take risks.”

“I cannot stress this enough,” he told Fifa’s 211 member associations on Friday. “Our first priority, our principle, the one we will use for our competitions and encourage everyone to follow, is that health comes first. Everyone in the world should have this very clear in their mind.”

Most leagues are are on hold as the world copes with the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussions are taking place about when to restart, and all involve playing behind closed doors first as a return to action in front of fans would likely require a vaccine before that many individuals can safely convene in a group environment.

“It would be more than irresponsible to force competitions to resume if things are not 100% safe,” said Infantino. “If football manages to have a discussion where everyone contributes positively, and keeps in mind the global interest over the individual one, I am convinced our future can be better than our past, and we will be better prepared for the times ahead.”

WATCH LIVE: The 2 Robbies on Lunch Talk Live

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe are two guests who will appear on the show Lunch Talk Live hosted by Mike Tirico.

[ WATCH LIVE: Lunch Talk Live on NBCSports.com ]

NBC Sports’ new daily sports talk show, Lunch Talk Live focuses on the current state of the sports world and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, providing guests with a platform to discuss the state of sports, voice their personal stories, and detail how they are adapting their daily lives during this challenging time.

The two Robbies will join other guests Luke Kuechly, Rich Eisen, Tony Dungy, Michele Tafoya, Paul Azinger, and Dan Hicks.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Gabriel to Chelsea, Kante to Real Madrid

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Chelsea is all over the transfer news today.

According to an ESPN report, Chelsea has tabbed 22-year-old Lille center-back Gabriel Magalhaes as one of their top targets this coming transfer window. The Brazilian has been a regular in the Lille lineup this season, making 24 league appearances and helping the squad to the league’s fourth-best defensive record.

The report states that both sides are “optimistic of a deal” with Chelsea ready to pay the $37 million fee.

With transfer targets are identified at Stamford Bridge, it seems the club has also figured out some sort of strategy regarding transfers out. A report by 90min states that while Chelsea is more than happy with N’Golo Kante, roster congestion may allow them to be flexible with his status at the club.

With Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic developing a solid partnership during Kante’s extended injury struggles this season, plus the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the availability of Ross Barkley, and the emergence of young Billy Gilmour, Kante is expendable. The report states that while Chelsea is not looking to shop the Frenchman, Real Madrid has held longtime interest and Los Blancos are likely to explore that likelihood in the upcoming transfer window.

Kante has three years left on his deal, and while Chelsea is under no hurry to sell, he will be 32 years old by the time his deal expires so any longer and the midfielder’s value is sure to begin falling.

A familiar name with Premier League transfer rumors is Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho. Linked with PL clubs for years, the Real Betis man is now connected with Leicester City as well as French side Monaco, according to the Leicester Mercury which cites unnamed reports in Portugal. The 28-year-old has 59 caps for Portugal, including a starting role in the side’s Euro 2016 title. He would reportedly cost around $25 million with three years still remaining on his Real Betis contract.