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Bielsa returning to French league to take charge of Lille

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Controversial coach Marcelo Bielsa will take charge of ambitious Lille for next season, signaling his return to French football after a chaotic end to his spell with Marseille.

Lille said in a statement on Sunday that Bielsa will replace interim coach Franck Passi on July 1 and has been given a two-year deal.

“Marcelo Bielsa is without a doubt one of the most respected and influential coaches in the world and it’s a huge satisfaction for Lille,” said Marc Ingla, a club director. “It also proves the ambition of our club.”

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A former Argentina manager, Bielsa is highly rated as an innovative, attack-minded leader who brings the best out of his players.

With Lille hiring Bielsa, Lyon already settled into a new stadium, Marseille recruiting aggressively under new American ownership and Monaco challenging Paris Saint-Germain strongly, next season promises to be an even more competitive one in France.

A more entertaining one, too, now that Bielsa is back and likely to give the French media plenty of headlines.

Bielsa stunned fans and the club’s directors when he quit Marseille last season, after just one game of the new campaign. The 61-year-old Argentine was taking charge of his second season and was a fan favorite when he suddenly quit.

[ MORE: Wenger treatment “unacceptable,” says Pep ]

He was out of contract but had struck a verbal agreement with the president to extend his tenure.

Then, just before putting pen to paper on his new deal, he changed his mind, alleging that Marseille officials amended the terms of the agreement at the last minute. He had previously publicly criticized Marseille’s president in a vitriolic outburst during a news conference because he was angry at the club’s transfer policy, saying it had signed players over his head.

Controversy seems to follow Bielsa, who in football circles earned the nickname “El Loco Bielsa” (Crazy Bielsa), due to his driven personality, single-mindedness, tough talking and relentless determination to do things only on his terms.

In the summer of last year, he quit as coach of Italian side Lazio – just two days after the Italian club announced it had signed him.

In football terms, Bielsa made much of his reputation more than a decade ago.

At club level, he won three Argentinian titles with Newell’s Old Boys and Velez Sarsfield – reaching the South American Copa Libertadores final with Newell’s in 2002. Later on, he also guided Athletic Bilbao to the Europa League and Spanish Cup finals in 2012.

[ MORE: Bernardo to Chelsea? Blues reportedly bid first ]

With Argentina, he won gold at the 2004 Olympic Games and led Argentina to the Copa America final the same year.

Lille’s new owner Gerard Lopez, the president of the finance group Genii Capital and former president of the Lotus Formula One team, previously spoke about Bielsa in glowing terms.

Lopez recently took over from Michel Seydoux – a French businessman and film producer who was club president since 2002 – and Lopez is keen on rebuilding Lille with talented young players in the same way Monaco has done.

Athletic Bilbao's coach Marcelo Bielsa (
(Photo credit should read RAFA RIVAS/AFP/GettyImages)

On the final day of the transfer window last month, Lille signed six players aged 23 or under. Dutch forward Anwar El Ghazi, who joined from Ajax, scored his first goal for the club on Saturday.

The club’s scouting network is also likely to be very strong in South America, with Bielsa working closely alongside Luis Campos – who is an advisor to Lopez.

Campos previously worked with Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid and then for three years as a technical director with Monaco.

The well-connected Campos oversaw the arrival of several promising young players at Monaco – including highly rated attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva – and they have blossomed so much that Monaco is top of the league and has scored more than 100 goals overall this season.

Lille is playing catch up.

Although Lille qualified six times for the Champions League during Seydoux’s tenure and clinched the league and cup double in 2011, results have dropped and the northern French club is currently in 14th place.

The club’s youth system – which produced players such as Chelsea star Eden Hazard – has not been so successful in recent years and this will also be an area for Bielsa to improve.

Ayoze Perez hat trick leads Newcastle past Southampton (video)

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  • Newcastle now 10 points clear of 18th
  • Perez scores both Magpies goals
  • Southampton five points ahead of drop zone

Ayoze Perez a hat trick as Newcastle United held off Southampton’s second half charge in a 3-1 win at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Mario Lemina scored a beauty for Saints in a game of high quality goals.

Newcastle goes 12th with 41 points, while Saints remain 16th with 36.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle wanted a penalty when an early shot from Ayoze Perez was blocked by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s arm.

Miguel Almiron took a Salomon Rondon flick and hit a wayward cross that Angus Gunn slapped wide of the goal.

The dam burst near the half-hour mark, when Perez scored both of his goals.

The first came with a fine, physical dribble right which the Spaniard punctuated with a hard shot across his body and inside the far post.

Then it was 2-0 within four minutes, Perez sliding onto the end of a Rondon cross to slap the ball inside the goal.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

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Saints deserved a goal and nearly had one through Maya Yoshida before Lemina answered the bell.

Off the bench, the ex-Juve midfielder scored from 21 yards after Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond combined to set the table.

But Matt Ritchie‘s diving header was redirected by Perez for an 87th minute insurance goal and the completion of a fine hat trick.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Pellegrini ready for VAR after West Ham draw Leicester City

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West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini knows his side played well enough for three points in its 2-2 draw with Leicester City, but also is well aware that the Irons should’ve had three goals before the Foxes’ nabbed their second equalizer of Saturday’s match at the London Stadium.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-2 Leicester ]

Lucas Perez’s would-be brace wouldn’t stand when the linesman’s flag was raised for what should’ve been an insurance goal for the hosts, who were very good on the day.

But Leicester would score through Harvey Barnes in stoppage time to eke out a point in London.

“I think we deserved more than a draw,” Pellegrini said.

“We should have been leading 3-1 but it was a mistake of the linesman. Yes, I’ve seen the goal again and he was one meter onside. There is nothing you can do about that. Next season when we have VAR it can be more fair.”

Still two switched-off moments cost the Irons a win nearly as much as the linesman’s flag.

“We generally played well but you cannot concede two goals.”

Fulham win second-straight, beat Bournemouth (video)

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  • Mitrovic’s penalty kick the winner
  • Second-straight win for Fulham
  • 3 defeats in 4 for Bournemouth 

Already-relegated Fulham beat Bournemouth 1-0 at a sunny Vitality Stadium on Saturday, as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the only goal of the game to secure Fulham’s first away win of the season.

Mitrovic’s penalty kick came in the second half, as an even game saw the Cottagers edge it and caretaker boss Scott Parker has done his chances of getting the full-time job no harm at all with back-to-back PL wins against Everton and Bournemouth.

With the three points Fulham remain in 19th and are on 23 points, while Bournemouth sit in 12th on 41 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Callum Wilson raced in on goal early on but lifted his effort over the bar, and Bournemouth did all the pressing as Fulham struggled to get out of their own half and Josh King then fired over when it looked easier to score.

At the other end Nathan Ake cleared a header from a corner off the line, then Mitrovic flashed a shot over the bar but was offside.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Ryan Fraser forced Sergio Rico into a smart stop across his goal after a trademark surging run forward, as Bournemouth turned the screw. Bournemouth were forced into an early change as Junior Stanislas (who only replaced Adam Smith in the team just before kick off) went off with a knee injury and youngster Jack Simpson replaced him.

Mitrovic was then denied by a great last-ditch tackle by Steve Cook as Fulham improved, and from the resulting corner Denis Odoi‘s flicked header was saved well by Artur Boruc.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

At the start of the second half Fulham went ahead, as Simpson clattered into Mitrovic to give away a clear penalty kick. Mitrovic stepped up and sent Boruc the wrong way to end his drought of nine games without a goal and put Fulham 1-0 up.

Ryan Sessegnon weaved his way into the box and forced Boruc into a save at his near post as the visitors dominated the play in the second half.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Fraser flashed a shot just wide and Bournemouth threw everything at Fulham late on, with Rico denying Wilson and then Maxime Le Marchand coming up with a huge block.

David Brooks‘ cross hit the top of the crossbar and then Lys Mousset sent a late header straight at Rico, and that was as close as Bournemouth came to an equalizer as boos rang out from the home fans at the final whistle.

Barnes saves Leicester point at West Ham (video)

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  • Antonio gives Irons halftime lead
  • Vardy answers
  • Perez, Barnes trade late goals

Harvey Barnes used stoppage time to score his first Premier League goal as Leicester City twice came back in a 2-2 draw with West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday.

Michail Antonio and Lucas Perez scored for West Ham, while Jamie Vardy had Leicester’s other goal.

Leicester moves to 48 points, one back of seventh place Watford, while Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons have 43 and sit 11th.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Ham were better money for an early goal, and Ricardo Pereira got to Michail Antonio just ahead of Marko Arnautovic‘s splendid 26th minute cross to deny the Irons an opener.

Robert Snodgrass stole a pass and fed Felipe Anderson for a shot which looked headed for the far post but smashed Antonio in the chest from close range.

Antonio got a deserved goal of full intent when he collected a Mark Noble crosss and turned a header beyond the reach of Kasper Schmeichel.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Vardy scored for Leicester out of nearly nothing, with Vardy cutting in front of Fabian Balbuena to knife a Ben Chilwell cross inside the near post.

Balbuena made some amends with a fine block of a James Maddison chance cued up by Harvey Barnes.

Substitute Pedro Obiang cranked a shot off the post that clattered onto the path of Perez for the goal.

Barnes then struck in the second of five minutes stoppage, rolling across and under Lukasz Fabianski following a Youri Tielemans through ball.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]