US Open Cup final: Union 1-1 (6-7 PKs) Sporting KC

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Sporting Kansas City are Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winners for the third time (2004, 2012) in their 20-year history and major trophy winners for the third time (2013 MLS Cup) in four years after knocking off the Philadelphia Union, 1-1 (7-6 on penalty kicks) at PPL Park in the final of the 102nd edition of the competition.

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Paulo Nagamura went inches from giving the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute. Benny Feilhaber won the ball in the corner, raced along toward the penalty area and crossed to the back post. Graham Zusi corralled the wayward cross and quickly cut the ball back to Nagamura, whose shot hit the far post and bounced back into play, right into the hands of goalkeeper Andre Blake.

It wasn’t long after that Sebastien Le Toux got onto the end of Vincent Nogueira’s brilliant cross-field, diagonal ball and finished inside the far post to put the Union ahead in the 23rd minute.

Tim Melia pulled off a stunning double-save to thwart attempts by Le Toux and Tranquillo Barnetta in the 37th minute. Le Toux got in behind Seth Sinovic once again, received another one of Nogueira’s splitting passes, but his first touch took him away from goal and made the ensuing shot more difficult. Melia was out quick to make the high save. Le Toux then fed the ball to Barnetta, who cut inside onto his left foot and unleashed an effort that looked bound for the back of the net. At full stretch, Melia tipped the ball around his far post.

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The second half began much like its predecessor, with the Union picking apart the Sporting KC midfield and defense with dangerous passes and runs through all attacking channels. Melia kept his side in the game with another pair of strong saves, which proved game-changers when Krisztian Nemeth popped up with a stunning finish in the 65th minute.

With just 25 minute left in his side’s run through the 2015 Open Cup, Nemeth found himself the recipient of a clever ball out to the left corner of the 18-yard box, courtesy of Zusi. Nemeth’s first touch? A picture-perfect, right-footed effort that bent the ball around Blake and just inside the far post.

Conor Casey subbed into the game in the 77th minute. Less than a minute later, the veteran striker found himself one on one with Melia down the left side of the six-yard box. Melia was, again, quick off his line and closed the angle down impossibly quickly and made the save.

[ MORE: Bradley speaks on “hate, passion” in U.S. vs. Mexico rivalry ]

After a largely uneventful extra time period, the score remained 1-1 and the game headed to penalty kicks. Jim Curtin did opt to sub out Blake for John McCarthy, the Union’s penalty shootout hero twice already in the 2015 Open Cup.

Le Toux and Feilhaber each converted their attempt from the spot — 1-1 after round no. 1. Nogueira and Dom Dwyer each converted in round no. 2 — 2-2.

Maurice Edu and Nemeth each saw their attempt saved in round no. 3 — 2-2. Barnetta and Matt Besler each converted their attempt in round no. 4 — 3-3.

Casey and Nagamura each converted their attempt in round no. 5 — 4-4, and onto sudden death. Michael Lahoud and Zusi each converted their attempt in round no. 6 — 5-5.

Raymon Gaddis and Kevin Ellis each converted their attempt in round no. 6 — 5-5. Andrew Wenger’s attempt in round no. 7 was saved by the leg of Melia. Jordi Quintilla stepped up next, sent McCarthy one way and coolly rolled the ball over the line to win the shootout, 6-5.

VIDEO: Giroud delivers for Chelsea v. Spurs

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Olivier Giroud delivered a stunning finish to put Chelsea ahead against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.

Giroud, starting for the first time since November, used all of his experience to run the Spurs defense ragged and provide a threatening focal point for the Chelsea attack.

The Frenchman, 33, jumped off the bench and had a goal disallowed by VAR in the 2-0 defeat against Man United on Monday but even after a VAR check for offside against Spurs, this time his goal stood.

Click play on the video above to watch the clinical finish.

It was a good job Giroud didn’t leave Chelsea in the January transfer window (as a move to Spurs seemed highly likely) after all.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Tottenham

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Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur in a massive London derby on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge.

With Frank Lampard‘s slumping Chelsea in fourth and just one point ahead of Jose Mourinho’s fifth-place Tottenham, this is a massive game in the battle for Champions League qualification.

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Injuries are piling up for both sides but Chelsea’s lack of clinical finishing has hurt them for several months as they’ve won just four of their last 14 Premier League games. Mourinho knows this is a good time for him to take his team to Stamford Bridge, even with his own injury crisis to deal with.

Not only does the Mourinho storyline carry significant weight ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Bridge, so too does the two sides’ increasingly tight battle for a top-four finish. As recently as Jan. 17, Chelsea enjoyed a nine-point lead on Tottenham, but the Blues’ current run of just one win from their last six PL games has seen that advantage shrink to a single point with the very real possibility of flipping two points in the opposite direction once the full-time whistle blows.

On the other hand, Spurs would already be miles clear if not for dropping a combined seven points from three games against the current 12th-, 19th- and 20th-place sides in recent weeks.

In team news Chelsea are without N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi who are all out injured. Olivier Giroud starts up front with Tammy Abraham only fit enough for the bench, while Chelsea have three center backs and Ross Barkley and Mason Mount come into the starting lineup.

Tottenham must do without Heung-Min Son for potentially the rest of the season after he suffered a broken arm. Mourinho must turn to other attacking options with Harry Kane also out until April. Dele Alli has been left on the bench as Spurs go with what also looks like a back five.


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Hodgson vows to sign new Crystal Palace contract

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Roy Hodgson has revealed that he has been offered a contract extension to remain at Crystal Palace beyond the 2020-21 Premier League season, and also hinted that he is highly likely to accept it.

[ MORE: Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be “something incredible” ]

Following a period of turmoil and instability which saw them drop dangerously close to the relegation zone prior to his arrival in 2017, Hodgson has steadied the ship and guided the Eagles to 11th- and 12th-place finishes in his first two seasons and has them sitting just a point out of 12th with a dozen games to go this season. At no point in his tenure has Palace flirted with relegation, and that’s apparently enough to earn a new deal to remain in charge — quotes from Sky Sports:

“The club have presented me with a contract and although the chairman has been away this week I’ve had a cursory glance through it. It all looks fine to me so I am pretty certain that at some point soon we’ll sit down and get it signed.

“If I am going to stay, it will be because I believe funds will be made available because we’ve had the intention to improve the squad and the team for a while now.

“We all realize you can’t make improvements to the actual team without spending some money. But I would never make those type of demands, because you can’t make any guarantees in the transfer market.

“All you can do is have good intention and if I signed for another year, I would sign because I believed the intentions are true and that something will happen going into the next season.”

As for the transfer situation, that’s something that’ll need to be sorted out in very short order if Palace plan to maintain their current place in the PL’s hierarchy, otherwise they’ll learn a harsh — and quick — lesson about standing still while everyone else is moving forward.

Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be ‘something incredible’

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Jose Mourinho fancies himself either as a realist or a master of mind games — you be the judge, based on your own level of love or hate for the Portuguese manager — as Tottenham Hotspur embark upon their final dozen games of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

[ MORE: Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur ]

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Stamford Bridge where he’ll take on his former club Chelsea (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), Mourinho attempted to put into perspective the level of heroics that will be required for Tottenham to finish in the top-four.

Perhaps he has a point, given the long-term injuries to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, forwards who account for 20 of Spurs’ 43 PL goals this season and who will also miss the majority, if not all, of the rest of the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“Tottenham without Harry or Sonny, without one of them, doesn’t win a match since 2014. That means a lot. That means that Sonny and Harry score the majority of goals that Tottenham scores. This season was so, so negatively special that we are going to be without them both at the same time for a lot of matches.

“If we manage to finish top four it’s something incredible. Incredible achievement for the boys. So we have to give everything we have.”

As for their chances of doing, so? Well, let’s just say Mourinho is more than happy to pile the pressure onto others and divert it away from his own team, as he has routinely done throughout his career — quotes from Sky Sports:

“At this moment, Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal, Sheffield United, Wolverhampton, Everton — we are the underdogs.

“We have ambitions to be there but we are one, two, three points behind Chelsea, so they have an advantage to all of us. That’s obvious. It’s not a big advantage but it is an advantage.

“Chelsea, in this moment, are favorites for the fourth position, considering Leicester has nine points more at this stage of the season.”

Over the course of their next nine PL games, Spurs will face all six sides currently within five points of fourth place. They will almost certainly be without both Kane and Son for the vast majority of those critical six-pointers.