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Cardiff City is Premier League; Playoffs, relegation set

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Cardiff City is going back up to the top flight.

City sends its headline-making owner Vincent Tan back into the Premier League, where the Bluebirds would become the second Welsh team should Swansea City avoid relegation.

[ MORE: Sir Alex in intensive care ]

Cardiff City opened the door with a scoreless first half, but Fulham politely declined to put any pressure on the Bluebirds by conceding twice in the first 45 minutes against relegation-threatened Birmingham City en route to a 3-1 loss. Cardiff drew Reading 0-0.

Cardiff was relegated from the Premier League after one season, 2013-14.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have already been promoted as Championship winners, while the playoffs begin next week.

The battle for the final spot in the Premier League will feature No. 3 Fulham, who was beaten by Birmingham City, against No. 6 Derby County, and a match-up between No. 4 Aston Villa and No. 5 Middlesbrough.

As for the relegated clubs, as results for Birmingham and Bolton Wanderers avoid a final day drop.

Bolton’s survival was quite unbelievable. Adam Le Fondre put the Wanderers ahead of Nottingham Forest in the second half, but Ben Osborn and Jack Colback scored nine minutes apart to put Bolton back in the Bottom Three. Yet David Wheater and Aaron Wilbraham scored in the 87th and 88th minutes to send the Macron Stadium into elation.

Burton Albion and Barnsley join Sunderland in heading down to League One.

Lodeiro brace gives Seattle’s faint playoff hopes a lifeline

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In Major League Soccer’s forgiving playoff structure, there’s almost always a way back into the mix.

When your team has a talent like Nicolas Lodeiro, your chances get magnified quite a bit.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Lodeiro scored twice, once from the spot, and Seattle debuted its new Designated Player in a 2-0 Cascadia Cup win over Vancouver on Saturday.

Seattle is now eight points back of the West’s final playoff spot with 15 to play in its season. And the Sounders join Portland on three Cascadia Cup points, with the Timbers beating Seattle in the other cup match of the season.

Raul Ruidiaz came off the bench for the Sounders, and showed early glimpses of why Seattle wanted the World Cup participant from Peru.

The ‘Caps finished the match with 10 men thanks to a red card on Efrain Juarez, who saw yellow and then made contact with the referee.

The second goal took a vicious turn on its way to making goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic look capital-A awkward.

MLS 3 Things: Unstoppable Martinez grills DC in surge toward record

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Josef Martinez bagged his MLS record sixth career hat trick, and moved to within five goals of the single season goal record as Atlanta United battered DC United 3-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Caps’ Davies nears Bayern move ]

1) The MLS record book better get used to his name: Martinez now has 22 goals in 22 matches this season, and he’s going to break the Major League Soccer single season goal record if he’s at least half as productive over the final 12 matches.

Martinez has goals in nine of his last 10 matches. He got luck to set up his third, but look at this composed finish.

2) Another American milestone: 18-year-old USMNT prospect Andrew Carleton made his first MLS start and helped set-up Martinez’s second goal, which gave Atlanta United its first lead.

3) Rooney fails to find score sheet: England hero Wayne Rooney couldn’t find a goal or assist after picking up one of the latter in his debut. This time it was a start for Rooney, who went 66 minutes and earned a yellow card to go with his second shot.

Premier League friendlies: Saints undone by Lampard’s Rams

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Nine Premier League clubs were in action Saturday, none of them at home.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

An ex-PL star, however, thrilled his home fans in a Pride Park debut, facing top flight competition.


Derby County 3-0 Southampton

Frank Lampard is the new Rams’ boss, and his first home match was a win over Premier League competition.

“Lamps” got two goals from Tom Lawrence, and another from Mason Bennett as Saints fell by three. It was Southampton’s first match since returning from a China trip which saw a draw with Schalke and a defeat of Jiangu Suning.

Notts County 1-4 Leicester City

The visitors went down 1-0 before rebounding with vigor to hammer the Magpies behind four different scorers: Demarai Gray, Wes Morgan, Islam Slimani, and Hamza Choudhury.

AFC Wimbledon 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

The Gulls slipped to defeat, going down two before Ollie Norwood converted an Aaron Connelly-won penalty

Oxford United 1-3 Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha, Jeffrey Schlupp and Sullay Kaikai scored as Roy Hodgson‘s men collected an easy enough win away from home.

Real Betis 2-0 Huddersfield Town /  Roy-Weiss Essen 1-0 Huddersfield Town

The Terriers lost a pair of 45-minute friendlies in Belgium.

Elsewhere

Lille 0-0 (4-2, PKs) Everton
Lyon 4-0 Fulham
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-3 Watford
Preston North End 2-2 West Ham United

Neymar: I get the diving jokes but “you will never understand”

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Neymar proved himself not above a laugh at his own expense this week when he posted a video regarding the Neymar Challenge, the phenomenon in which people writhe around in agony at the slightest touch.

The 26-year-old wants the world to understand his reasons for play-acting — or at least his perceived exaggerations — following some fouls, and the keyword here is apparently “some.”

[ MORE: Neymar staying at PSG ]

Neymar is consistently fouled by teams, and there’s little doubt that the majority of Brazil’s World Cup opponents were aiming to disrupt his love of the game if not outright injure the magnificent talent.

He implies, frankly enough, that he’s extra sore and feels injuries more closely than the next guy.

There’s no question Neymar made some ridiculous theater in Russia with his rolling and grimacing, but take a look at his logic and let us know if you buy the “complications” of his antics.

From Sky Sports:

“Do you think I want to suffer tackles all of the time? No, it is painful, it hurts. After the games I stay back for four or five hours putting on ice, it’s complicated but if you haven’t experienced that you will never understand. I saw [the jokes], but I took them with a humor. Even yesterday I posted on Instagram a joke with the children about it.”