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Three things learned: Aston Villa v. Fulham

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Fulham sealed promotion back to the Premier League on Saturday as the 10-man Cottagers beat Aston Villa 1-0 in the Championship playoff final at Wembley.

Tom Cairney‘s strike midway through the first half was enough to send Fulham back to the top-flight and leave Villa heartbroken.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a tense battle in the heat at Wembley.


FLUID FULHAM FIT FOR TOP-FLIGHT 

Since December Fulham’s fluid, attacking style of play saw them go on an incredible run of just one defeat in 24 games as they just missed out on automatic promotion with a defeat on the final day of the season.

The Cottagers’ silky play won them the playoff final as Slavisa Jokanovic’s men stuck to their playing philosophy with Tom Cairney pulling the strings in midfield, Aleksandar Mitrovic a handful up front and teenager Ryan Sessegnon floating about to cause havoc. They dropped deeper in the second half as Villa went at them but still had good chances and always looked dangerous on the break, even when they were down to 10-men after Denis Odoi picked up a second yellow card.

With their brave style of play, Fulham will add panache to the Premier League.

You can expect special things down by the banks of the River Thames at Craven Cottage as American owner Shahid Khan will no doubt splash the cash to take them to the next level after they dropped out of the big time in 2014. They will be desperate to solidify themselves back in the top-flight.

Fulhamerica is back and on that note U.S. men’s national team center back Tim Ream had himself a heck of a game at the heart of Fulham’s defense at Wembley to help seal the deal.


SESSEGNON SENSATIONAL

You can understand exactly why the biggest clubs in England have been chasing Sessegnon for many years.

The 18-year-old was the Player of the Season in the Championship and he was involved in the key moment in the final as the Fulham academy graduate has been the main reason they’re back in the Premier League.

Sessegnon finished the season as Fulham’s top goalscorer with 17 goals and there were many pushing for him to be included in England’s World Cup squad this summer. He has all of the talent available to flourish as a wide forward in the top-flight and after Matt Targett‘s arrival in January he has been pushed further forward from left back and has thrived.

There’s no doubt that Sessegnon is destined for big things but now he has the fairtyale end to a fairytale season for him at Fulham.


VILLA’S EXPERIENCED HEADS RATTLED

Villa’s experienced defense boasts Ahmed Elmohamady, John Terry, James Chester and Alan Hutton and in a massive game at Wembley they were rattled early on and Villa couldn’t quite drag themselves back into the game.

Steve Bruce‘s side had the second-best defensive record in the second-tier this season and they kept Fulham from opening them up for most of the first half but one lapse in concentration was exploited by Sessegnon and Cairney as Hutton stepped up, Terry was caught out and Villa conceded.

To be fair to Bruce’s side they dragged themselves back into the game impressively after a turgid first half display and were easily the better team after the break with Jack Grealish pulling the strings.

Grealish (who could well have been sent off) squandered two good chances either side of half time with a rising shot in the first half and then a header he should’ve done better with in the second, while the English playmaker also danced through Fulham’s defense before being denied by Marcus Bettinelli.

Villa have made significant progress this season under Bruce but you have to wonder if he and most of this Villa squad will be around next season, especially after a year of struggle off the pitch for Bruce as he lost both of his parents within a few months.

If Bruce sticks around then Villa will be one of the favorites for promotion next season.

Peruvian match resumes after gun shots outside stadium

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LIMA, Peru (AP) A Peruvian soccer league match resumed on Monday after being suspended a day earlier because of fighting between fans of the same team.

The country’s soccer association said the last 25 minutes of the match between Alianza Lima and Sporting Cristal would be played behind closed doors.

Sporting Cristal was leading 2-1 Sunday when the match was suspended. Four people were wounded by gunshots outside the stadium during the match.

Peruvian Interior Minister Mauro Medina says the incident happened after rival groups of Alianza Lima fans clashed with each other. Police used tear gas to stop the fight.

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

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Premier League player Power Rankings are back after a frantic Week 5 of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

With a bevvy of fine individual displays after the international break, we have plenty of top talents to choose from.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Even
  2. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool – New entry
  3. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – New entry
  4. Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth) – New entry
  5. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham) – New entry
  6. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 4
  7. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) – Down 4
  8. Jorginho (Chelsea) – Down 2
  9. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – New entry
  10. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Up 5
  11. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
  12. Ruben Neves (Wolves) – Even
  13. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Even
  14. James Milner (Liverpool) – New entry
  15. Glenn Murray (Brighton) – Up 4
  16. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) – New entry
  17. Willian (Chelsea) – New entry
  18. David De Gea (Man United ) – New entry
  19. Josh King (Bournemouth) – New entry
  20. Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham) – New entry

Total transfer spending of top teams revealed

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It’s not about how much you spend, it’s about what you spend it on, right?

Well, sort of.

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How much have the top clubs on the planet spent to assemble their superstar squads?  In short, a ton. But the deeper analysis shows a clear trend: Premier League clubs are dominating the money spent in the transfer market to assemble their rosters.

The guys over at the International Centre for Sports Studies – CIES Football Observatory, have calculated the biggest spenders on the planet in terms of purchasing their current squads, and eight of the top 20 are from the PL with seven of the top 11 from England’s top-flight.

Take a look at the list below as four of the top six clubs come from England.

Manchester City at the top of the tree having spent $1.14 billion to assemble their current squad, PSG are in second with a spend of $920 million, while Manchester United sit in third after spending $918 million. Liverpool after fourth after dishing out $823 million to put together their current roster, Barcelona have spent $807 million and Chelsea sit sixth after spending $786 million.

Focusing on the Premier League specifically, you can see how much each of the current 20 teams have spent to assemble their squads.

Biggest takeaways: Southampton and West Ham should be doing a lot better, while Bournemouth, Watford and Wolves are punching well above their weight.

FIFA not happy with La Liga’s USA plans

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President of FIFA Gianni Infantino doesn’t seem impressed with La Liga’s plans to play a regular-season game in Miami in January, 2019.

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Barcelona, Girona and La Liga have applied to the Spanish Football Federation to move their match on Jan. 26, 2019 from Girona’s home stadium to Miami, Florida in a bid to attract new fans.

It would be the first-ever La Liga game played overseas, but Infantino isn’t a fan of the idea.

“I think I would prefer to see a great MLS game in the U.S. rather than La Liga being in the U.S,” Infantino said in a statement to ESPN. “In football, the general principle is that you play a ‘home’ match at ‘home’, and not in a foreign country. There are procedures in place for these things, so we will wait to receive anything official and then we’ll look into it. There are rules, regulations, that everyone complies with. In particular, such a proposal has to be approved by the respective associations, by the respective confederations and FIFA should also express a view on the matter, not least since it would have implications for football at global level as well.”

With FIFA having to approve the move, is that the end of this?

Probably not, but it is clear that this game would cause plenty of problems as the Spanish players’ union have already expressed serious concerns about moving games to the U.S. and elsewhere to try and grow their global brand.

The head of La Liga, Javier Tebas, has hit out at Infantino about his comments and clearly wants to game to go ahead. Yet U.S. Soccer, CONCACAF, the Spanish Football Federation and FIFA would all have to give it the thumbs up.

“I will remind the President of,  that in the , 3 teams of Canada participate, and he T is the current champion, and also in Canada there is another professional league,” Tebas said.

I see where Tebas is coming from but come on, comparing teams from Spain to Canada  playing games in the USA is a huge stretch. It appears La Liga remains desperate for this idea to work but there’s certainly a lot of schmoozing that needs to be done in the coming months to make a Spanish top-flight game in Miami a reality.