Swansea 0-0 West Ham: Both sides wasteful despite need to win

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Swansea and West Ham each have not won since October 24. They both came into the Liberty Stadium desperately needing three points. They both leave the Stadium without the prize.

Both sides proved risk-averse and wasteful as they crawled towards a 0-0 draw on Sunday.

They each bunkered down early, and while Swansea began the more innovative of the teams, but the opening 25 minutes saw few chances on goal. Both teams seemed to have an uneasiness about them, and while the midfield proved physical, there were few risks taken.

The best chance came five minutes from halftime as a wild shot from Bafetimbi Gomis trickled to Jack Cord who backheeled to Andre Ayew. The Ghanan poked an effort on goal but it spun just wide, possibly clipping off a defender.

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The game continued to work in Swansea’s favor as West Ham was forced to defend in bunches, and the home side nearly went ahead as Cork on the hour mark unleashed a monstrous volley destined for the top corner that forced a fantastic save by Adrian.

A minute later Swansea played a beautiful one-two between Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ki Sung-Yeung, and the latter pumped a shot that seemed to deflect off the hand of James Collins before falling wide. The Swans implored referee Lee Mason to award them a penalty, but he refused.

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West Ham had a moment of creativity as Alex Song played a delicious ball up the left edge but the cross was too close to Lukasz Fabianski who collected. Swansea brought on Jonjo Shelvey with 18 minutes to go, the first appearance for the England international in a month. Enner Valencia, off the bench at the hour mark, forced a stellar save from Fabianski when he dipped inside to shake Ashley Williams and fired a shot that the Swansea keeper could only leap to keep out.

With seven minutes to go Nikica Jelavic appeared to be through two-on-one but instead crashed straight into Williams in his attempt to go around the defender.

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The teams scratched and clawed their way to the final whistle, neither side able to find a way through. Despite the chance to pull themselves out of the relegation zone, Swansea instead find themselves still two points shy of Newcastle in 17th. West Ham’s defensive game plan saw them draw for the fourth match in a row – three of which finished 0-0 – and a failure to turn one point into three points has them still in eighth, unable to keep pace with Watford who are three points clear in seventh.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.

Clark County “declines to prosecute” Ronaldo for rape

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Cristiano Ronaldo will not face sexual assault charges for a June 2009 incident in the United States, attorneys say.

An American woman filed a civil lawsuit against the Juventus superstar last year, claiming that Ronaldo forced himself upon her while she was in a prone position in his hotel room.

[ MORE: Bayern keen on Zaha ]

Ronaldo had expressed belief that he would be cleared of the claims, and claimed that graphic documents produced by German publication Der Spiegel were altered and fabricated.

Las Vegas police issued a warrant in a bid to get Ronaldo’s DNA, and the DA’s office says the woman’s refusal to name her attacker stopped them for collecting “vital evidence.” The woman reached a civil settlement with Ronaldo in 2010.

From News3LV.com:

“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the D.A.’s office said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”

Bayern Munich kicking the tires on big Zaha bid

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A sensational report is linking Wilfried Zaha not just with a move away from Crystal Palace, but a move clear of the Premier League altogether.

90min.com says that Bayern Munich has turned to Zaha, having been rebuffed in their pursuit of Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.

Palace wants $100 million for Zaha, but so far has only received a $50 million offer from Arsenal for his services. Reports Monday said Arsenal is upping its bid, and offering a loan of Reiss Nelson as a make-good. Palace has had good Fortune with loans from the big boys of the PL, in particular with Ruben Loftus-Cheek two seasons ago.

A lot of this makes sense for all parties, apart from Sane, and it will be interesting to see if the report brings a bigger bid from the Gunners.

Zaha is a sensational player, and has created chances year-after-year for the Eagles. He wants to taste the Champions League, but Palace is not willing to let him go for (much) less than its asking price given its sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United.

Bayern will spend less on Zaha than it would on Gareth Bale or Sane, and get a determined player who is very much in his prime. Zaha would also get the chance to showcase himself with actual breathing room on the pitch, thanks to Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and others.

And Palace, of course, will end up with between $80-100 million and the knowledge that it won’t need to mark Zaha on a Premier League pitch. More importantly, the money raised from Zaha and Wan-Bissaka will allow them to strengthen at nearly every position (above what they have now, not above AWB and Zaha).