Leicester City 3-0 Newcastle United: Foxes continue incredible revival

1 Comment

Leicester City have spent 140 days at the bottom of the standings this season but have peaked at the perfect time as they sealed their fifth win in six games at home against Newcastle Untied on Saturday.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

The Foxes prevailed 3-0 at the King Power Stadium after a sensational start which saw them go 2-0 up after 17 minutes with goals from Leonardo Ulloa and Wes Morgan. Ulloa added another at the start of the second half against an awful Newcastle outfit who played with 10-men for over 30 minutes after Mike Williamson was sent off. Daryl Janmaat was also red-carded in stoppage time, as the Magpies finished the match with nine-men and their season hit a new low.

Leicester has all the momentum as they continue to climb clear of the bottom three, while Newcastle is on a eight-game losing streak. With the win the Foxes moved onto 34 points and are four points clear of the drop zone, while the Magpies are just two places and a point ahead of Leicester.

 [ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Leicester flew out of the traps and Newcastle gave the ball away from the kick off and a move down the Foxes’ left saw Jeffrey Schlupp win them a corner. Marc Albrighton whipped the ball in and Ulloa headed home at the near post to send the home fans wild. 1-0 to Leicester after just 38 seconds.

Newcastle responded well after going behind as patient build up play saw Ayoze Perez get free on the right hand side of the box but he fired his shot wide of the far post. The Spaniard looked lively but Newcastle failed to capitalize on some dangerous moments and were soon 2-0 down.

In the 17th minute a free kick from Albrighton on the left flank took out the entire Newcastle defense and Leicester’s captain Morgan prodded home. 2-0, as the dream start continued. Newcastle went close through Emmanuel Riviere’s snapshot which clipped the side-netting but John Carver’s side looked shell-shocked after an awful opening.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Before half time Newcastle had a great chance to pull one back as Perez played in Riviere but the French attacker slipped at the crucial moment, much to the amusement, and relief, of the home fans.

After the break it took Leicester just three minutes to make it 3-0 as Riviere shoved Marcin Wasilewski in the back as a corner kick came in. Ulloa stepped up and slammed home a penalty kick. 3-0, lights out for Newcastle.

Leicester were all over Newcastle and Schlupp’s cutback was dragged wide by Albrighton when he should have at least hit the target. Ulloa had a header well saved by Tim Krul. Newcastle’s afternoon took a turn for the worst when Williamson clattered into Vardy and was shown a second yellow, as the remainder of the game played out with the Magpies in damage limitation mode.

Janmaat was also shown a second yellow late on for fouling Vardy and the away fans continued to shown their unrest towards owner Mike Ashley as their side were 17 points ahead of Leicester two months ago. Eight defeats later and the Foxes are just one point behind and Newcastle is in real danger of dropping into the bottom three.

LINEUPS

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Wasilewski (De Laet, 68′), Huth, Morgan, Albrighton, Cambiasso (Hammond, 74′), James, Mahrez, Schlupp, Ulloa (Kramaric, 78′), Vardy

Goals: Ulloa (1′, 48′), Walker (17′)

Newcastle United: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Williamson, Dummett, Gutierrez, R.Taylor (De Jong, 58′), Colback, Sissoko, Riviere (Anita, 64′), Perez (Armstrong, 74′)

Atlanta heads into MLS playoffs looking to defend its Cup

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) It’s been a strange season for Atlanta United.

They’ve added more two more cups to their collection.

They’ve endured some rather baffling losses.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

After all that, the defending MLS Cup champions are heading into the postseason from essentially the same position as last season.

Atlanta, which was runner-up in the Eastern Conference, will host the New England Revolution on Saturday in the opening round of the playoffs, a rematch of their Oct. 6 game to close out the regular season.

“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty decent spot, as strange as the season has maybe been,” midfielder Julian Gressel said Wednesday after a training session. “We’ve already won two trophies, and now we have a chance for a third.”

In mid-August, United broke out the champagne after a 3-2 victory over Mexican powerhouse Club America to capture the Campeones Cup.

A couple of weeks later, they were celebrating again with a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United in the U.S. Open Cup final, guaranteeing a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

“I felt like we were always there and pretty much at our best in those games,” Gressel said. “That’s why I’m pretty confident we’ll be at our best when it really matters.”

But there are reasons to be concerned. Atlanta struggled badly in some league games – especially on the road – and rarely looked like the dynamic team that won the MLS Cup in just its second year under former coach Tata Martino.

With Frank De Boer now at the helm, United got off to a sluggish start and spent much of the season juggling lineups and switching up tactics in a desperate bid to find some consistency. Atlanta never put together an unbeaten streak longer than five games – it had three such stretches a year ago – and finished with 58 points, 58 goals and a plus-15 goal differential. All were short of the 69 points, 70 goals and plus-26 differential from the 2018 season.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

Still, United’s second-place showing in the East behind New York City FC matches last year’s finish, guaranteeing the team at least one home game in the playoffs and another in the conference semifinals should it beat the Revolution.

That’s a crucial edge for a franchise that has essentially broken every MLS attendance record and again averaged more than 52,000 per game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, doubling up every team in the league except Seattle and Cincinnati. In 17 home games, Atlanta lost only twice.

While United closed out the season with a 3-1 victory over New England, the Revolution has been one of the league’s hottest teams over the second half of the season.

Atlanta will be further tested by the possible absence of its best defender, Miles Robinson, who is dealing with a strained left hamstring sustained during a workout with the U.S. national team last week.

If Robinson can’t go, United will have to change up their lineup once again and possibly adopt a more defensive approach to Saturday’s game.

“If I do push up, it’s more so getting back a little faster than I normally would, things like that,” said midfielder Darlington Nagbe, one of those who may be affected if Robinson can’t go. “Just feel the game out and see how it plays out.”

In the regular-season finale, Ezequiel Barco got the start over Pity Martinez, a lineup that de Boer might go with again in the playoffs.

Barco played only 15 league games this season because of injuries and a lengthy stint with Argentina at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but he provided the sort of spark de Boer was looking for against New England. Martinez, who was the 2018 South American player of the year and Atlanta’s major acquisition during the last offseason, has struggled to find his nice in MLS with just five goals in 32 appearances.

“We have to see,” de Boer said. “The only thing that concerns me is to win the playoffs.”

MLS switched up the playoff format this season. Instead of the top two teams from both the East and the West receiving byes and two-legged rounds to determine the winner of conference semifinals and finals, only the first-place finisher gets the opening round off and every step of the playoffs is a single-game elimination.

There is no room for error.

“If you have an off day, you might be out,” Gressel said. “I feel like it’s a format that favors the underdog a bit more, or gives the underdog a bit more hope.”

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

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com

Zlatan paces MLS jersey sellers, offers fresh quip on Minnesota challenge

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: He’s like a more charming, less anarchist version of Tom Hardy’s Bane.

The LA Galaxy man was revealed to again have the top-selling jersey in Major League Soccer on Wednesday, days before the club begins its 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs run with a match in Minnesota.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Snow is in the forecast, but Zlatan is not bothered by such weather.

“I’m from Sweden I was born in the snow. When it snows, I’m a viking. When it’s warm, I’m a lion. We adjust for every condition there is.”

Back to the jerseys, the MLS MVP finalists are 1-2-3 in sales. Ibrahimovic is first, followed by Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, and LAFC’s Carlos Vela.

The top sellers amongst Americans are Seattle’s Jordan Morris (7) and Cristian Roldan (12). Chris Wondolowski of San Jose is 13th, while other domestic names on the Top 25 include Sebastian Lletget, Brad Guzan (!?!), Dom Dwyer, Jozy Altidore, and Graham Zusi.

Midweek El Clasico possible in December following political unrest

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

Political unrest in Catalonia has both La Liga and the Spanish government looking to move the first El Clasico of the season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are scheduled to meet at the Camp Nou on Oct. 26, but the jailing of nine Catalan separatists has caused uproar in-and-around Barca.

In fact, Barca as a club has denounced the imprisonment, so it plays more than a peripheral role in the controversy.

[ JPW: What now for Berhalter, USMNT? ] 

Players heading to and returning from international break have faced in challenges in getting to the club.

Instead, Marca says that we may see a midweek match played in Madrid on Wednesday, Dec. 18, with the reverse fixture in March moved from Madrid to Barcelona.

Dec. 18 would give both teams three matches in eight days before La Liga’s winter break. Barca would play Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, and Alaves, while Real would play Valencia and Real Betis in addition to the Clasico. Both difficult runs, but fairly even.

Reports claim Allegri linked with Manchester United, Spurs

AP Photo/Luca Bruno
Leave a comment

The international break can be a slow time for news, but what to make of multiple reports claiming that Max Allegri is in discussion with a pair of struggling traditional Premier League powers?

Tuttosport claims that Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have interest in hiring the Italian manager, adding that United has had “intensified” contact with him.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Noise out of Old Trafford continues to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while there is no real buzz that Mauricio Pochettino is on the verge of leaving Spurs.

The 52-year-old Allegri has won Serie A once with AC Milan and five times with Juventus, claiming a Serie C title with Sassuolo in 2007-08.

Is there anything to it? He’d be a great hire for either side. In United’s case, he’d be a marked upgrade on their current boss.