Watford 0-1 Stoke City: Adam header sends Stoke into top half

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A match with little flow and plenty of whistles saw an early Charlie Adam header earn three points at Vicarage Road in an otherwise uninspiring match with little goal action.

Adam’s first half-hour finished as he put a header off the goalkeeper into the back of the net, technically an own-goal but Mark Hughes will take it nonetheless.

The visitors started the brightest, and had the best early chance on six minutes as Mame Biram Diouf had an acrobatic go, but his bicycle kick plowed into the face of Etienne Capoue. The rebound fell to Bruno Martins Indi just inside the top of the box, who ripped a good effort on goal, but it was straight at Heurelho Gomes, who saved comfortably.

The game was quite open through the first 20 minutes, but with no goals to come, it devolved into a foul fest with a pair of yellows shown before the half-hour mark. Watford was forced into a change, as Christian Kabasale had to come on in place of Younes Kaboul, who went off injured.

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Just before the 30-minute mark, Stoke had a deserved lead. A corner from Xherdan Shaqiri swing in to Charlie Adam, and his precise header struck the left post, pinged across the line and pinged into Gomes, and into the back of the net for an own-goal off the goalkeeper.

Through the rest of the first half, there was less action on net than with the referee’s whistle, as Bobby Madley was forced to earn his paycheck for the day. Jose Holebas sliced through the Stoke penalty area incisively in first-half added time, but a pinpoint tackle by Glen Johnson ended the chance and the half.

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In the second half, Stoke continued to have the better chances. Holebas pulled up lame on the ball just two minutes after the break, which began a 2-on-1 counter for the Potters. Shaqiri charged down the left on the ball, and his great cross to the far post was just inches out of reach for Walters, who for some reason didn’t even give the effort a chance despite appearing to be potentially within range.

The hosts were forced into a second change, as Holebas limped off in favor of Odion Ighalo. The game plodded on through the second half with little action to show for it. Watford had its best chance of the second half with a spell in front of net with 10 minutes remaining that ended as Daryl Janmaat fired over.

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The second half ended without a shot on target for either side, and a disappointing finish for Watford left them still in a promising eighth in the table but without any points from a game that begged to be won. In the dying moments, Miguel Britos was sent off with a minute left in regulation after pulling down Shaqiri to earn his second yellow card. In addition, a yellow card to Valon Behrami in injury time means he will be suspended next time out, as Watford could be dangerously thin next weekend against West Brom.

For Stoke, the three points sees them slide into the top half of the table, moving up to 10th on 16 points.

Red-hot Rebić scores again as AC Milan tops Torino

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MILAN (AP) Ante Rebić kept up his scoring form to lead AC Milan to a 1-0 win over struggling Torino in Serie A on Monday.

The Croatia international beat his marker to redirect a cross from the center of the area midway through the first half at the San Siro.

The score raised Rebić’s tally to six goals and an assist in eight matches since he earned his starting spot – a move that coincided with Zlatan Ibrahimović’s return to the Rossoneri.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Bouncing back from a derby loss, Milan moved up to eighth and just beyond the Europa League places. The seven-time European champion is hoping to return to continental competition after voluntary withdrawing from this season’s Europa League to pay for UEFA financial fair play breaches.

Torino, meanwhile, lost its fifth straight, with new coach Moreno Longo still unable to turn things around in his second match in charge.

Ibrahimović narrowly missed a curling shot shortly after the break.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Simeone: Liverpool intensity “makes me admire it as a rival”

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The UEFA Champions League returns at long last on Tuesday, and two of the greatest managers in the game will match wits for the first time.

No we’re not talking about Lucien Favre and Thomas Tuchel, the meeting of the minds in Tuesday’s other kickoff between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain in Germany.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp will go head-to-head with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone in Spain, and the fiery German thinks it will be “absolutely interesting.”

From The Liverpool Echo:

“People say I emotional on the sideline,” Klopp said. “I am only on level 4, Diego is level 12. Really I am the kindergarten cop against him. He is so impressive after all these years, after so many years at the club – eight years. That is really long and having still this emotional level, still, wow. So impressive. I say, his teams are always organized world class.”

The admiration is mutual.

Simeone expects a huge challenge from a Liverpool team he regards on a historic plane.

“We are facing a magnificent team, really well-trained by a coach who is different and has different alternatives in his team,” he said, via The Independent. “We have always spoken about great teams throughout time and I have no doubt this Liverpool is going to go down in history as a great team because it is different to teams that we have admired. This team is much more intense, more adaptable, and it makes me admire it as a rival.”

The bettors say Liverpool is the heavy favorite in the first leg despite the match’s location at the Wanda Metropolitano. With football geniuses like Klopp and Simeone, however, either could have a plan to throw the other for a loop.

CONCACAF Champions League preview: Five MLS sides eye history

CONCACAF Champions League preview
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Once the Premier League and La Liga had taken their final bows of the day on Saturday, there felt was a particular absence, one soon-to-be filled by domestic soccer.

Yes, MLS is coming soon, and the CONCACAF Champions League is even closer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Five MLS sides begin their Round of 16 ties over the next three evenings, some with easier paths than others to elusive CCL glory.

The competition may not have burned itself onto the mainstream, lagging behind continental competitions in Europe and South America, but those who’ve embraced it (hint: this guy) love the thing.

For all the progress Major League Soccer has made in its quarter-century, it’s yet to find much success in dealing with Liga MX powers in the fight to qualify for the Club World Cup.

MLS sides have not won the competition since it was rebranded the CCL. Only three MLS sides have made the CCL final this decade, with Real Salt Lake (2011), Montreal Impact (2015), and Toronto FC (2017) all coming up short at the last step.

The CCL provides everything you love and hate about World Cup qualifying, and those dicey pitches with sometimes worse lighting mean the favorites aren’t guaranteed much.

The top half of the bracket sees three MLS teams — Montreal, Seattle, and NYCFC — and just one Liga MX side, while the bottom half gives us a Liga MX v. MLS match-up straight away.

That’s Leon v. LAFC, and it begins Tuesday night in Mexico. That tie carries the added intrigue of MLS superstar Carlos Vela bringing his act back to his home country for the first time… ever.

Bracket

Saprissa (Costa Rica) v. Montreal — 8 p.m. ET Weds.
Olimpia (Honduras) v. Seattle — 10 p.m. ET Thurs.

San Carlos (Costa Rica) v. NYCFC — 8 p.m. ET Thurs.
Alianza (El Salvador) v. UANL Tigres — 8 p.m. ET Weds.

Leon v. LAFC — 10 p.m. ET Tues.
Portmore United (Jamaica) v. Cruz Azul — 8 p.m. ET Tues.

Comunicaciones (Guatemala) v. Club America — 10 p.m. ET Weds.
Montagua (Honduras) v. Atlanta United — 10 p.m. ET Tues.

The 2 Robbies podcast: VAR carnage at Stamford Bridge

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle dissect a crazy game at Stamford Bridge that saw Chelsea on the wrong side of several VAR decisions (00:45).

The gents also recap the big moments from the weekend; Liverpool beat Norwich (18:30), Son’s late winner against Aston Villa (24:45) and Arteta‘s attackers thrash Newcastle United (30:15).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]