Nigeria twice rallies to draw Sweden in Women’s World Cup Group D opener

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The most consistent thing about Monday’s match between Nigeria and Sweden was the droning but distinct sound of a trumpet played by one of the few-dozen Nigeria fans in a corner of Winnipeg Stadium.

Otherwise, it was a wild and entertaining 3-3 draw to kick off play in Group D of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Sweden led 2-0 at halftime and led again 3-2 late, but eh No. 5-ranked team in the world couldn’t hold off the African champions. Sweden coach Pia Sundhage said she was happy to take a point, but acknowledged that her team did not execute according to plan, specifically citing midfield issues.

“I’ll tell you this: The gameplan was different from what you saw,” Sundhage said. “But I do understand that for some players, it’s their first tournament and the game is very special.

“I saw another game in front of me,” she continued.

[MORE: Complete coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup]

The road only gets harder for Sweden, with a match against the No. 2 United States – the team Sundhage coached to two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup final – looming on Friday.

Head coach Edwin Okon called Sweden’s two goals “cheap,” citing mistakes by his own team.

Francisca Ordega scored the late equalizer for Nigeria, nutmegging Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl in the 87th minute. Ngozi Okobi’s perfectly-weighted through ball sliced right through the center of Sweden’s stretched defense, finding Ordega in stride to give Nigeria a crucial point in what is considered the tournament’s toughest group.

Sweden substitute Linda Sembrant had put her team ahead three minutes after checking into the match, in the 60th minute. Fellow substitute Olivia Schough helped ignite a sharp combination of passes for Sweden, finding forward Lotta Schelin, who back-heeled the ball toward the endline for an overlapping Lina Nilsson. The defender’s cross made enough contact with Sembrant’s stomach to deflect into the net.

The Super Falcons impressed through the run of play but looked out of their depths on set pieces in the first half.

Nigeria goalkeeper Precious Dede was caught out of position on Sweden’s opening goal in the 21st minute, a Therese Sjogran corner kick that bounced off the chest of Nigeria forward Desire Oparanozie and into the net. Ten minutes later, Sjogran again proved provider, finding a teammate at the back post and Nilla Fischer eventually tapped the ball in for a 2-0 lead.

Okobi began the Nigeria comeback five minutes after the break, beating 31-year-old center back Fischer to a low cross inside the 18-yard-box and burying her shot past Hedvig Lindahl. Three minutes later, Fischer’s pocket was picked by 20-year-old wunderkind Asisat Oshoala, who was poised while slotting the ball past Lindahl and holding off a desperately recovering Fischer.

Oshoala’s equalizer brought Okon and his staff, as well as several players, to their knees to pray.

“At the end of the day, we thank God for the goals,” Okon said after the match.

Okobi, who was named player of the match, said her goal was not her doing, “but the power of God.”

Nigeria looked like it would be left empty-handed for after a Oshoala missed an empty net in the 69th minute. But Ordega’s equalizer gets Nigeria a point ahead of Friday’s second match against Australia. Sweden will next play Friday against the United States.

“We got one point and next time, when we play the States, I hope that we will follow the gameplan,” Sundhage said.

MLS Three Things: RBNY beats Atlanta, is a special club right now

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At this point, Jesse Marsch could take the USMNT job, Tyler Adams could bolt for the Bundesliga, and we’d still have to select the New York Red Bulls to finish with a home playoff game.

[ MORE: Willian’s shot at Conte ]

That’s how well run RBNY is these days, which is to take nothing away from their coach and 19-year-old star, but considering they navigated a solid CONCACAF Champions League run en route to this start… well…. wow.

On a night when Luis Robles’ ironman streak ended, Kaku recorded two assists, and Ezequiel Barco bagged his second goal in three matches, they don’t even meet the requirements of our three things.

Form giants deliver more goals

Marsch’s men have been shutout once this season, and most multiple goals in four-consecutive wins. Three of those four wins have come on the road, at LA, Colorado, and now Atlanta.

RBNY has the best points-per-game in Major League Soccer, has scored the joint-most goals despite playing in the second-fewest games, and is allowing barely more than a goal-a-game.

Bet against ’em. We dare ya.

BWP delivers the goods

RBNY’s 33-year-old English star scored twice and won a penalty that Daniel Royer converted as he continued his assault on all future Red Bulls’ hopes of becoming the club’s leading scorer.

Bradley Wright-Phillips has almost 50 more goals than his nearest competitor, Juan Pablo Angel, and he makes headers look like child’s play.

Victory comes with a price

Kemar Lawrence was lost with a scary-looking face-plant on a clearance, and needed to be stretchered off the pitch. Hopefully it’s not long-term for the Jamaican back.

Willian “edits” Conte out of FA Cup champions photo

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Willian is not a fan of Antonio Conte.

Come to another conclusion if you like, but it’s hard to argue the Brazilian wizard’s feelings following his Instagram post after Chelsea beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: Matic wants squad changes at Man Utd ]

Willian covered his manager in trophies following the win, and it’d be a stretch to call that a tribute to the Italian’s tactical brilliance.

The player recorded seven goals and six assists despite playing less than all but 12 Chelsea players in league play (12th place Alvaro Morata had 11 and 6).

We’re accepting alternative explanations for the since-deleted Instagram photo below:

Elis scores twice as Dynamo beat Fire 3-2

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Alberth Elis scored two second-half goals to help the Houston Dynamo beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 on Sunday for their first road win of the season.

Elis, on a one-on-one breakaway, cut back to evade defender Johan Kappelhof and ripped a right-footer from the center of the box into the back of the net to give Houston (4-3-3) a 3-2 lead in the 74th minute.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

The Dynamo’s Romell Quioto opened the scoring in the fourth, running onto a long through ball from Tomas Martinez and rolling the finish past sliding goalkeeper Richard Sanchez. Nemanja Nikolic tied it in the 14th minute and then fed Diego Campos for a goal about two minutes later. Elis converted from the spot to make it 2-2 early in the second half after Mauro Manotas drew a foul in the area conceded by Sanchez.

Chicago (3-6-2) has lost three of its last four games.

 

Inter Milan back in the Champions League after late heroics (video)

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It’s been more than a half-decade since Inter Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League, an infamous run that ended on Sunday.

Inter scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat fifth-place Lazio and advance into the Top Four via head-to-head record.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

Lazio held 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but could not get the job done at home, collecting red cards in the 79th minute and stoppage time.

Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino scored his third goal of the season, redirecting a corner kick home in the 81st minute, as Inter clinched fourth place in Serie A.