England ousts host Canada to make Women’s World Cup semifinal for first time

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — England is headed to the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup for the first time ever after beating host Canada, 2-1 on Saturday in front of a tournament-high crowd of 54,027 fans at BC Place.

The Lionesses got off to a quick start thanks to first half goals from Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze and they never looked back.

“To come here under the pressure that we’re under against 50,000 Canadians, against the home nation, everything was against us today,” England captain Steph Houghton said. “And to be able to go 2-0 up in the first 15 minutes was credit to all the girls. There’s a great belief in this squad. It’s a historic moment for English football to be able to get to a semifinal in a World Cup.”

It will be England vs. Japan in the semifinal on Wednesday in Edmonton, Alberta, with a spot at the World Cup final match at stake. Germany and the United States play in the other semifinal on Tuesday in Montreal.

For Canada, the loss marked heartbreak on home soil.

“Obviously it’s not how we wanted the tournament to end,” Canada captain Christine Sinclair said. “Anytime you get knocked out of a tournament your upset. Especially when I thought we didn’t deserve to go out like that tonight.”

England got off to a brilliant start by smashing a pair of quick goals past Erin McLeod and a shambolic Canadian back line. Canada defender Lauren Sesselmann has been all over the map during the World Cup with her shaky and unconvincing play. Sesselmann was stripped of the ball in midfield by Jodie Taylor. The Portland Thorns forward turned Allysha Chapman inside and out while racing in on goal. Taylor deposited the ball past McLeod for an early 1-0 advantage.

As if things could not get worse for the host nation, they did. A free kick from Fara Williams found an unmarked Lucy Bronze at the back post. The England right back headed the ball off the bottom of the bar and past McLeod for her second goal in as many matches.

Fourteen minutes in and Canada was down 2-0. This was the first time the Red and White had to come back trailing in a match. Melissa Tancredi’s first half misses from in close could have absolutely changed the complexion of the match had she converted. England gave Canada all sorts of problems in the opening forty-five and John Herdman’s players looked completely shocked.

Canada was given a lifeline in the 42nd minute when they cut the deficit in half. Ashley Lawrence spun away from her defender and fired a low shot on target that England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was not able to control. The ball was dangerously left in the path of Christine Sinclair and the Canadian skipper scored and earned a thunderous cheer. Canada was back in the match before halftime.

Canada coach John Herdman elected to keep Sesselmann in the match and did not make any changes before the second half. It was in fact England that made the first substitution. Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was forced to exit the match with what an apparent eye injury. Siobhan Chamberlain entered with her team on the brink of a semifinal birth.

The long-awaited return of Diana Matheson finally happened for Canada. Realizing Canada need more offensively in a win or go home match, Herdman gave Matheson the green light for her first match action since October 2014 after tearing her ACL and suffering a foot fracture in her comeback. The midfielder came on to a huge roar in the 62nd minute for Wilkinson. Josee Belanger shifted back into a fullback position while Matheson controlled the right flank.

Adriana Leon and Sophie Schmidt both had late chances in close, but nothing really tested Chamberlain. For the second consecutive England match, it was Bronze scoring the match-winner. The fullback earned the heroics in hostile territory.

Canada’s World Cup dream came to an end.

Sinclair is proud of the way her teammates played during the World Cup. The future is bright for Canada, but at the moment, this loss to England will take a while to recover from.

“I’m proud of them,” she said of her teammates. “You look around the stadium and there’s fifty odd thousand people wearing Canada jerseys. The young kids now dream of representing Canada, and we did that. This one stings, but in the grand scheme of things this tournament was a huge success.”

Injured England player Jordan Nobbs was not able to recover from her hamstring injury to participate in the match. Nobbs has been sidelined for much of the World Cup. The England vice-captain talked about emotions from the sidelines as she watched a victorious England.

“It’s never racking watching the girls,” she said. “There’s a whole 23 that have played a massive part in this tournament. I think nearly everyone one of us in the squad have been in the squad at some point. I just think it shows the strength in our squad. We’re behind each others backs through and through.”

Now, its on to the semifinals for England.

Canada Starting XI: Erin McLeod; Allysha Chapman, Lauren Sesselmann, Kadeisha Buchanan, Rhian Wilkinson (Diana Matheson 62); Ashley Lawrence, Desiree Scott (Kaylyn Kyle 77), Sophie Schmidt; Melissa Tancredi (Adriana Leon 71), Christine Sinclair(C), Josee Belanger. (4-4-3)

England Starting XI: Karen Bardsley (Siobhan Chamberlain 51); Claire Rafferty, Laura Bassett, Steph Houghton(C), Lucy Bronze; Fara Williams (Ellen White 78); Jill Scott, Katie Chapman, Jade Moore; Karen Carney (Casey Stoney 90+3), Jodie Taylor. (4-1-3-2)

Leeds defender Jansson joins Malmo fans outside Stamford Bridge

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Sometimes, soccer players can be accused of being too disconnected from the fans who travel across their country to support their side. But not Pontus Jansson.

The Leeds defender traveled to London Thursday evening to join Malmo fans as they marched, sang, and chanted outside Stamford Bridge. It’s unclear if Jansson actually went into the stadium for the Europa League match, but what is clear is that he’s never lost his affection for his boyhood club. He even led some supporters in one of the Swedish club’s chants.

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Jansson joined Malmo’s youth academy in 2006 and made his professional debut for his hometown side in 2009, playing in Sweden until 2014. Jansson has been a regular for Leeds each of the last three seasons since joining from Torino.

Like thousands of other Malmo fans, he probably figured this was his best chance to see a European away game of his favorite club close by. So there he went from Leeds to London to join the Malmo fans.

Premier League sets start date for 2019-2020 season

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Mark it down.

The Premier League announced that the 2019-2020 season will begin on Saturday, August 10. That’s just 90 days after the 2018-2019 season will finish on May 12.

In addition, the Premier League is continuing with closing their summer transfer window before the start of the season. August 8, at 5 p.m. local is the next transfer deadline day.

Additional news about next season’s schedule is expected to be announced in the coming months.

Manchester United opened the 2018-2019 season on Friday, August 10 with a 2-1 win over Leicester City.

Arsenal, Chelsea cruise into Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal looked right at home back in the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium.

After losing twice on the road this month, including a surprise 1-0 defeat last Thursday to BATE Borisov, Arsenal took care of business at home. The Gunners defeated BATE, 3-0 on the night (3-1 on aggregate), with goals from centerbacks Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulous, while BATE’s Zakhar Volkov scored an own goal early to tie the scoreline between the two legs.

[READ: Premier League Power Rankings]

South of the Emirates Stadium, Chelsea built on their 2-1 aggregate lead over Malmo FF with a resounding 3-0 win. Malmo finished with ten men and the game was highlighted by goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and a Ross Barkley free kick.

With the wins, both Premier League sides advance to the Europa League Round of 16. The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on Friday, with matches taking place March 7 and 14.

Arsenal took an unexpected lead in the fourth minute of the match. A seemingly harmless cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was somehow turned into his own net by BATE centerback Zakhar Volkov. After some shaky moments early, Arsenal settled in and controlled the match, leading to the go-ahead goal. Granit Xhaka played the first of his two assists as Mustafi got on the end of a corner kick to head the ball in for a goal.

In the 60th minute, Sokratis’ header off a corner kick put the game away and allowed Arsenal fans to relax for the final half-hour of play.

Chelsea, meanwhile, didn’t get the early goal like Arsenal but didn’t end up needing it.

Maurizio Sarri sat Jorginho, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso and it led to a better defensive performance, albeit Malmo isn’t a world beater. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 55th minute with a tap-in after great work from N’Golo Kante and Willian. It was Giroud’s sixth Europa League goal this season.

Barkley delighted the Stamford Bridge crowd with a terrific free kick from the edge of the box in the 74th minute and Hudson-Odoi put the cherry on top with a right-footed strike ten minutes later.

Former Premier League midfielder Diarra leaves PSG, announces retirement

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PARIS (AP) Veteran midfielder Lassana Diarra announced his retirement on Thursday, hours after he terminated his contract with French league leader Paris Saint-Germain by mutual agreement.

The 33-year-old Frenchman joined PSG in January 2018 and his contract was set to expire in June. Diarra’s career ends after 15 years and many high profile stops. He played for Arsenal, Chelsea and even Portsmouth in England, as well as spending three strong seasons with Real Madrid.

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Le moment est venu de « raccrocher les crampons » comme on dit . Pour le football , j’ai beaucoup donné . Grâce au football , j’ai énormément reçu . Le sport de haut niveau est une véritable école de courage , de persévérance et de respect . Il ne s’agit pas de faire l’unanimité mais d’honorer , en professionnel , avec volontarisme et loyauté la confiance que l’on vous accorde . Je ne dis pas que j’ai tout fait parfaitement mais je l’ai fait avec coeur , passion et bienveillance . Merci à tous ceux et toutes celles qui m’ont encouragé tout au long de ma carrière sportive . Une pensée pour les clubs , entraîneurs , éducateurs et coéquipiers qui ont fait partie de mon quotidien pendant toutes ces années . Je n’oublie pas ma première sélection avec la France en 2007 . Porter le maillot de la sélection nationale est le rêve de tous les footballeurs . Je tourne donc la page mais je n’oublie rien . Je vais continuer à œuvrer avec enthousiasme , détermination et sincérité dans mes nouveaux projets . Amitiés LASS

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After Real Madrid, Diarra became a journeyman, playing two seasons in Russia and part of a season in the United Arab Emirates. With PSG, Diarra made 10 league appearances last season under former coach Unai Emery, and has made only three in the league this season in Thomas Tuchel’s team.

Diarra made 34 appearances for France and was a regular starter during the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup.