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World Cup referees miss yet another physical penalty in box

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Let’s get this out of the way first: VAR (Video-Assistant Refereeing) has been a fabulous addition to the game of soccer. In the 2018 World Cup, the availability of replay has done nothing but improve the ability of referees to correctly officiate the game, providing an outlet for mistakes to be corrected. Earlier on Friday, a referee gave a penalty to Brazil for a foul on Neymar, but with VAR applied correctly, the penalty was wiped off after it was determined Neymar went down easily. The game continued as it should, and a clear and obvious error was erased.

Unfortunately, despite the clear improvement to the game VAR provides, there’s still some work to be done in one very specific area of the game.

[ MORE: Recap of Serbia 1-2 Switzerland ]

On multiple occasions this World Cup, referees have missed wrestling matches in the penalty area, allowing defenders to essentially get away with murder instead of awarding attackers a deserved penalty. The worst example of this yet took place in the 66th minute of the 2-1 Switzerland win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, already with a goal to his name early in the match, went up to meet a set-piece delivery with his head. He was fully bear-hugged by Switzerland captain Steven Lichtsteiner, and while being wrapped up, was then rugby tackled by Swiss central defender Fabian Schar.

Yet somehow, Mitrovic was called for the foul, as the referee whistled him for ending up over the back of his defender on a genuine attempt to play the ball.

With every replay shown, it became more and more evident that not only should a penalty have been awarded, but the referee missed a clear and obvious call. Yet the match referee, German Felix Brych, was given no assistance from the VAR booth, left on an island after blowing the call.

There have been so many instances of this throughout the tournament, despite a public directive reportedly given by FIFA to referees asking them to crack down on physical play in the box, according to Fox rules analyst Dr. Joe Machnik. England striker Harry Kane was wrestled to the ground numerous times against Tunisia with no call, while many Egypt fans felt hard done by after Mohamed Salah was bullied in the box repeatedly against Russia.

The more defenders can get away with while defending set pieces in front of net, the more the game will be muddied by controversy, clouding an otherwise glittering debut for VAR on the international stage. That’s frustrating.

PL AT HALF: Stars shining across five 10 a.m. ET kickoffs

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We’ve seen goals, goals, goals across four of five Premier League matches which kicked off at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

[ MORE: Fulham draw Watford ]

There’s a lone nil-nil in the bunch, and that one’s offered promise of finish as well.

Manchester United 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

A sensational first touch pass from Paul Pogba (see above) and a low drive from Fred have the Red Devils leading at Old Trafford.

Leicester City 1-1 Huddersfield Town

The struggling Terriers took a surprising early lead, but Kelechi Iheanacho had the score line before the break.

Liverpool 3-0 Southampton

The Saints were unable to use Liverpool loanee Danny Ings, and the attack is struggling to do anything while the Reds have goals from a Xherdan Shaqiri-prodded own goal for Wesley Hoedt and a follow-up marker from center back Joel Matip.

Mohamed Salah scored in stoppage time after a Liverpool free kick rang off the cross bar and bounced on the goal line for the Egyptian to deposit in the goal.

Cardiff City 0-3 Manchester City

Moments after Cardiff nearly found a shocking way into the champions’ goal, it was Sergio Aguero who restored order for Manchester City. Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan added goals before halftime.

Crystal Palace 0-0 Newcastle United

Chances for both sides at Selhurst Park, though the Eagles are holding control of it.

Watch Live: Man United, Man City, Liverpool in action at 10am ET

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Six Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, with Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United all in action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Let’s see if the big boys can rotate their squads expertly after UEFA Champions League action a few days ago.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Cardiff City vs. Manchester City – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Wolves – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Fulham fight back to draw with Watford

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  • Gray put Watford ahead after 87 seconds
  • Mitrovic equalized in second half
  • Serbian striker has scored 17 league goals in 2018
  • Fulham have worst defensive record in PL, conceding 13 

A game of two halves saw Fulham and Watford draw 1-1 at Craven Cottage on Saturday in the Premier League.

Andre Gray fired Watford into an early lead but Aleksandar Mitrovic equalized in the second half and almost won it late on but he headed against the crossbar.

With the point Fulham move on to five for the season, while Watford have 13 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Watford had the perfect start to the game as Gray slotted home with less than 90 seconds on the clock following busy work from Will Hughes.

The chances kept coming for the Hornets, as Christian Kabasele somehow failed to convert a header from close range and then Gray was superbly denied by Marcus Bettinelli after Alfie Mawson‘s huge error.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

At the other end Mitrovic had a shout for a penalty kick waved away after he looked to be bundled over by Kabasele but Watford looked far more dangerous as Roberto Pereyera curled just wide of the far post in a first half the Hornets dominated.

Fosu-Mensah was lucky to be on the pitch after a high challenge on Troy Deeney as Fulham had a woeful first half.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

At half time Denis Odoi and Floyd Ayite came on for Fulham as Jokanovic switched things up, and at the start of the second half Andre Schurrle clipped in a great cross for Mitrovic but the Serbian striker nodded over.

Mitrovic went close soon after and was a real handful for Watford’s defense as the Hornets tried to protect their lead. They couldn’t.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Mitrovic punished Watford for all of their missed chances as he flicked home Luciano Vietto‘s cross at the near post to equalize as his fine 2018 continued.

Deeney squared late on when he should have had a shot on goal and Issac Success went close for Watford as they regained their composure.

However it was Mitrovic who forced Ben Foster into a fine late save and then from the resulting corner he hit the crossbar with a header, as Watford held on for a point.

USMNT legend Clint Dempsey honored by Fulham

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Fulhamerica is still going strong.

After announcing his retirement in August, U.S. men’s national team legend Clint Dempsey has been lauded for his contribution to the game.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Fulham Football Club were the latest to celebrate the Nacogdoches, Texas native, with Dempsey, 35, coming onto the pitch at half time of their Premier League clash with Watford on Saturday.

Dempsey played for the Cottagers from 2007-12 and scored 60 in 232 appearances in all competitions. He led Fulham to the final of the UEFA Europa League in 2009-10 where they lost to Atletico Madrid after extra time. Dempsey scored more Premier League goals than any other Fulham player and any other American in PL history.

His status as a Fulham legend remains, with their current American owner, Shahid Khan, cementing the American connection, plus Tim Ream and Luca De La Torre in the first team squad continue the strong U.S. link for the Cottagers.

The forward was appreciative of the welcome he received back in west London. Take a look at the scene as Dempsey was celebrated at the Cottage.