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)

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.