Sunderland 0-3 Man United: Red Devils down 10-man Black Cats

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It was smooth, it was comprehensive, and it was decisive. Before and after Seb Larsson’s 43rd minute sending off, Manchester United was the better side as they cruised to a 3-0 win at the Stadium of Light, keeping their Champions League hopes alive.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic started things off a half-hour into the game, and from there it was done and dusted, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford deepening the wound for the Sunderland fans.

The home side had little to offer in the early going, and Manchester United took advantage, controlling the pace of the game and the attacking flow. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had an early chance on a free-kick from just outside the area but he couldn’t direct the close-range effort around the wall.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester United got a bit foul-happy, and it lifted the Black Cats to a spell of possession, as Victor Anichebe and Jermain Defoe both just worked half-chances, with the former off-target and the latter offside. Sunderland would rue those misses, as Manchester United would soon go in front. Just past the half-hour mark, Ibrahimovic produced a moment of brilliance as, with his back to both goal and a double-team, he still managed to find space to turn and shoot, rifling a shot low into the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead.

The visitors had a shot for another minutes later as Zlatan fed Luke Shaw making a run down the left. The young wing-back fed Marouane Fellaini on the penalty spot, but under heavy pressure from Bryan Ovideo, his shot was blocked and then smothered by Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Seconds later, Oviedo pulled up with a hamstring injury, signaling for a substitution and manager David Moyes was required to oblige.

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It would get worse for the hosts, as just before halftime, Seb Larsson was given a straight red card for going over a tackle, with his studs finding the shin of Ander Herrera, who was lucky to escape unscathed. That left Sunderland a man down, and sealed things for a team increasingly likely to find the drop.

Larsson was furious, taking forever to leave the field and then engaging the fourth official on his way off, but he will have little argument after watching the replay, going over the ball and taking aim at Herrera’s shin with his studs.

The game was immediately out of reach for the home side, as Manchester United took a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the second half restart. Henrikh Mkhitaryan collected a long ball from Luke Shaw, touched it expertly forward, and fired into the bottom corner with a similar finish to Zlatan’s earlier strike. The assist from Shaw was his first Premier League helper in over two years.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

With the game firmly in hand, Jose Mourinho instructed his team to shut it down just past the hour mark, looking to preserve the clean sheet against a disadvantaged opponent. Despite that, they still had some chances down the stretch. Moments after coming on the field, Anthony Martial received a perfect long-ball from Daley Blind and nearly chipped Pickford but couldn’t get enough air under the ball.

They’d get a third with just ticks left on the clock as Rashford played a one-two with Ibrahimovic, receiving the return ball to beat Jason Denayer, and the 19-year-old expertly finished to the far left corner for United’s third. The final few minutes were nothing more than a formality, as Manchester United jumped back over Arsenal into fifth with a four-point gap between them and Champions League play. Sunderland remains 10 points back of safety, their Premier League status dwindling with each failed result.

The halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world (video)

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco “very proud” of its unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

Queiroz: Iran has one “match point” left in World Cup group stage

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Iran manager Carlos Queiroz isn’t going to let his tournament be defined by one win or one loss, especially with a massive moment on the horizon.

Iran fell 1-0 to Spain on Wednesday, days after defeating Morocco in its World Cup opener. Team Melli was denied its equalizer despite VAR review thanks to an offside, and failed in several other bids to level the score.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Now Queiroz and his men need a win over Portugal to qualify for the first knockout stage in its five World Cup history.

“We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete. I felt we deserved a better result. There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved more for the way we played.

“But congratulations to Fernando Hierro and Spain. We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

What chance do you give Iran of getting over on Portugal, who only topped a dominant Morocco side via a terrific designed play executed to perfection by Cristiano Ronaldo?

The odds are in Portugal’s favor, if only for its experience in tight games on massive stages. Well, perhaps the better “if only” would be to say if only for Ronaldo. Either way…

Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled out

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  • Spain goal: Costa (54′)
  • Iranian goal disallowed
  • Next: Spain-Morocco, Portugal-Iran

Iran had an equalizer taken away via Video Assistant Referee and Spain picked up its first win of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win in Kazan on Wednesday.

Diego Costa scored Spain’s goal, as La Furia Roja joined Portugal atop Group B on four points. Iran has three, while eliminated Morocco has yet to get a result.

Team Melli lost their chance to sit atop the group when Saeid Ezatolahi rebound was ruled to have come after an offside touch from a teammate.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Spain certainly had its chances in the first half hour, capped off by an attempted overhead kick from David Silva.

Man City’s 32-year-old attacker had a great deal of chances in the contest, and would see a deflected rip bound wide of the goal during three minutes of first half stoppag time.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

After Gerard Pique missed an in-tight chance to start the second half, Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand made an outstanding punch save on Isco before punching away the rebound bid.

Iran found its first true chance of the match in the 53rd minute, with Karim Ansarifard lashing into a shot from 15 yards that tore into the outside of the goal.

It was moments later that Spain went ahead, Costa getting a goal when a clearance bounding off his shin and into the net.

Mehdi Taremi flicked a header wide of the goal, and Iran thought it had an equalizer through Saeid Ezatolahi only for VAR to step in and call offside on the previous Iranian to touch the ball.

It was off, but only just.

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Beiranvand was again on the scene for a 70th minute goal mouth scramble following a drawn-up corner kick by Spain.

Taremi pounded a header over the goal after a Vahid Amiri nutmeg of Pique led to a back post cross.