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VIDEO: South Africa mid scores on an arrow from well inside own half

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This, quite simply, is one of my favorite long distance goals in recent memory.

It comes in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between South Africa and Cameroon, and off the boot of RSA midfielder Hlompho Kekana.

[ USMNT: Match recap | Player ratings | Three things ]

It’s not that he shoots from where he does, though that’s a big part of it; Kekana’s shot is hit with such authority that its intention is never in question.

This isn’t a looping ball that somehow tricks the goalkeeper; Kekana shot an arrow into the air.

Three things we learned: Aston Villa v. West Ham

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BIRMINGHAM — Aston Villa and West Ham played out a tense, tight 0-0 draw at Villa Park on Monday, as the Hammers were reduced to 10 men but held on fairly comfortably.

In a game where both teams somewhat cancelled each another out, with their similar approaches and two big men starved of service, Aston Villa had the better chances and will feel like that was two points dropped.

Here’s what we learned from Villa Park.


Wesley v. HALLER A DAMP SQUIB

This was billed as a battle of the big men, and neither showed up. Both big men are essential to the way their teams play, and both had tough evenings. Wesley was more mobile than Haller, making runs right across West Ham’s defense, and he did just that but somehow put a header wide from inside the six yard box early on. He worked tirelessly but it just didn’t happen for him.

As for Haller, he was less mobile, which was surprising, and his first big chance was a tame header wide after Anderson popped the ball right on top of his head. Haller didn’t run himself into the ground and was slow to react to loose balls around the box, but in fairness the service to him was lacking. Both teams are set up to play the ball to their target man as soon as possible and then get their playmakers around them to create havoc from the knock downs or layoffs. Both Wesley and Haller will be far from happy with their displays.


POINTS NOT MATCHING VILLA’S PERFORMANCES

There’s not doubt Villa had the better of the play, and chances, but just as much as their build-up play dazzled, their lackluster finishing once again let them down. Playing against 10 men for the final 25 minutes, Villa failed to make that advantage count. John McGinn‘s efforts from outside the box caused Lukasz Fabianski the biggest problems, and had Wesley powered home a header early on it could have been a very different outcome.

Villa have played well enough in their opening five games to have at least an extra four points on the board. It’s still early days but Villa are in the bottom four, and unless they become more ruthless that’s where they will stay this season.


STAGNANT GREALISH A CONCERN

Many believe Jack Grealish should have be in and around the England national team. Monday’s display, which epitomized his season so far, proved he still has a long way to go. Grealish was busy, trying to get on the ball as much as he could, but he took too many risks in front of his back four and gave the ball away needlessly on plenty of occasions. He failed to make incisive runs off Wesley and aside from the odd long ball out wide or clever flick, he didn’t cause West Ham many problems.

Grealish has the quality to unlock defenses and deliver moments of real quality in the final third and he had Villa’s best chance in the 88th minute but he shanked horribly wide when unmarked at the back post. That summed up his night. Grealish has yet to do it in the Premier League and at the age of 24 he is no longer a young buck with plenty of potential. He has to stand tall and deliver to drag Villa up the table.

Aston Villa, West Ham finish scoreless after Masuaku red

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Arthur Masuaku was sent off in the 67th minute, but that couldn’t save a scoreless dud at Villa Park as Aston Villa and West Ham shared the points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

The two sides combined for just five shots on target as the two played a spotty match with few real chances. According to Opta statistics, there was just one “big chance” created between the two sides through the 90 minutes.

Masuaku was sent off with 23 minutes to go for a second yellow card, a somewhat contentious decision by referee Mike Dean for a somewhat innocuous foul in the attacking half that featured little more than slight contact and a small drag. A frantic three minutes of stoppage time still left the scoreline begging and that was about deserved for the match.

[ JPW’s analysis of the match ]

The result feels double-edged for both sides. West Ham will be happy with its performance after falling a man down but will want more against a newly promoted side, while Aston Villa will pull out of the relegation zone with the point but may be disappointed with how they failed to grab the win after earning the man advantage.


3 things we learned

1. Jack Grealish is fearless: Ok, fine, we didn’t “learn” this – we knew it already – but we sure had it reinforced. While his teammates were headbutting each other, Grealish was out there balling, delivering excellent crosses, one of the only bright spots in an otherwise drab first half. He had two chances created from open play, three completed dribbles, and a bright passing map before the halftime break. After halftime he marauded into the penalty area along the end line to create a chance, and while he had a bad miss late, he was the only one to even attempt to reach the ball as the rest of his team relaxed and let it fly by. He’s a Dustin Pedroia-like player who gives 1000%, and while he may rub some the wrong way, it’s all a necessary sacrifice for the 24-year-old captain.

2.  West Ham absolutely misses Marko ArnautovicFelipe Anderson is a good player and Andriy Yarmolenko can be dangerous in moments, but neither can make up for the consistent spark Marko Arnautovic provided West Ham. Without his presence, this Hammers side had little to offer an Aston Villa defense that keyed on Felipe. Yarmolenko was poor and couldn’t relieve the pressure put on his Brazilian teammate. The Hammers have enjoyed a somewhat positive start to the season, but they will struggle to produce consistent winning spells without some kind of change in the creativity department.

3. Mike Dean is a good referee: At one point after the Masuaku red card, the away fans audibly changed “it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Mike Dean it’s all about you.” It’s understandable given the soft sending off, but overall Mike Dean did a solid job. The Premier League has somewhat lacked consistent referees after the retirement of Mark Clattenburg, and nobody has stepped up as the top English referee in his place. While Mike Dean makes plenty of mistakes and isn’t on the level Clattenburg was, he’s still a good referee, and it showed today. He had firm control of a somewhat chippy match and while the sending off was easy to disagree with, his overall performance was fair.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish


Early on, John McGinn saw the ball in the back of the net with a tidy finish from a tight angle, but the goal was ruled out for an earlier foul on Jack Grealish, who was otherwise bright for Villa throughout the match. Three players were booked in the first half-hour, with referee Mike Dean looking to keep the lid on a chippy match.

The most intense moment of the first half came between teammates as two Aston Villa players got into a heated exchange. Anwar El-Ghazi and Tyrone Mings had a coming together that featured a slight headbutt from the former, but the referee was on hand to break things up before it got any worse, with no punishment dished out.

West Ham held nearly 60% possession through the first half, but could only manage one shot on target in a relatively dull first 45 minutes as the home side defended well. Felipe Anderson was tidy in possession but created little with Arthur Masuaku also popping up in spots going forward.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half, Aston Villa came out with an attacking intent and nearly found a way in on 53 minutes as Grealish got through down the right and delivered a cross parried by Fabianski, which resulted in a shot from distance by McGinn who just missed wide right.

The moment of change came in the 67th minute when Masuaku brought down Ahmed El Mohamady needlessly in the attacking half. It was a relatively innocuous challenge but one Masuaku didn’t need to make. It produced a second yellow for Masuaku and left West Ham down to 10 men for the final 23 minutes.

The game opened up in the final five minutes but nothing came of it. Issa Diop had the defensive moment of the match as he produced a pinpoint tackle on El Ghazi who was in on the break until Diop blocked off the player but also accurately won the ball as the attacker went head-over-heels. Grealish had a bad miss at the death on an excellent delivery from deep, but on replay he was likely just offside anyways and any potential goal would have possibly been pulled out.

Marcelo added to growing Real Madrid injury list

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Real Madrid faces Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday to kick off their Champions League campaign, but Zinedine Zidane will have his work cut out for him to piece together the best squad he can muster.

Veteran full-back Marcelo is the most recent to hit the absentee list, joining six other first-team members on the sidelines for the important upcoming match. The 31-year-old suffered a neck injury in the weekend La Liga match against Levante. Marcelo completed the 90 minutes, but appeared to pick up the injury when falling onto his back after taking a shot in the first half. The club confirmed he will not take part against PSG.

Alongside Marcelo, Luka Modric is on the sidelines with a groin injury picked up on international duty, and his stand-in Federico Valverde is also a miss with a quad problem. Isco is also out with a hamstring injury and Marco Asensio is sidelined long-term with a torn ACL, leaving James Rodriguez as an option in midfield. Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos is suspended for his intentional yellow card in last season’s Champions League match against Ajax, and reserve defender Nacho is also suspended thanks to a sending-off late in the second-leg loss to Ajax.

The good news for Real Madrid is Eden Hazard made his debut over the weekend with 30 minutes against Levante and will likely be called upon against PSG to pick up the slack. 21-year-old center-back Eder Militao could also be an option as Zidane hopes to replace Ramos in defense, having made his debut this weekend alongside Hazard. Gareth Bale was suspended for the Levante match but is likely to be back in the starting lineup against PSG.

Madrid has been somewhat poor to start the season, with two draws and a near collapse against Levante this past weekend, but they still sit third in the league with eight points through four matches.

PSG has its own issues as well, with Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani both injured, while Neymar is suspended for the first half of group stage play.

Watch Live: Aston Villa v. West Ham

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Aston Villa host West Ham United at Villa Park on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in what promises to be an intriguing battle.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Villa have one win to their name so far this season, as Dean Smith‘s side have played well but have only got three points on the board as they sit in the relegation zone.

As for the Hammers, Manuel Pellegrini‘s side look better balanced this season and after their opening day humbling at the hands of Man City they’re unbeaten with Sebastien Haller leading the line.

In team news Villa make two changes. Anwar El Ghazi comes in for the suspended Trezeguet out wide, while Marvelous Nakamba comes in for Douglas Luiz in central midfield.

West Ham are unchanged from their 2-0 win against Norwich City before the international break.


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