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Croatia stun England, reach World Cup final

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  • Trippier put England ahead
  • Perisic equalized for Croatia
  • Manduzkic scores winner in extra time
  • Croatian second smallest nation to reach World Cup final

Croatia fought back to beat England 2-1 in their 2018 World Cup semifinal in Moscow on Wednesday as Mario Mandzukic scored the winner in the second half of extra time.

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Kieran Trippier gave England the lead after five minutes but the Three Lions wasted several chances and were punished as Croatia dominated the second half. Ivan Perisic got the equalizer and hit the post in the second half of normal time and he then set up Manduzkic’s winner to send Croatia to the final.

After their third-straight extra time win (the first nation to ever do that at a World Cup)Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia will play France in Moscow on Sunday in the final, while Gareth Southgate‘s England will play Belgium in Saint Petersburg on Saturday in the third-place match.

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England got off to a perfect start as Dele Alli was brought down by Luka Modric on the edge of the box to win a free kick and Trippier curled home a stunner to make it 1-0.

What a way to score your first goal for England.

Trippier sent over a corner soon after which Harry Maguire nodded wide of the far post as England battered Croatia early on. Croatia finally got going and had an effort on goal as Perisic dragged a shot just wide, but at the other end Kane, who should have put England 2-0 up.

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England’s skipper was played in by Jesse Lingard and although Danijel Subasic saved his initial effort Kane then smashed the post from two yards out as the offside flag was raised but VAR would have surely overturned the decision.

Croatia cranked up the pressure before half time as England blocked a few shots from distance, then Ashley Young denied Ante Rebic with a well-timed challenge. Lingard slotted wide at the other end as the game opened up and right on half time Dejan Lovren went down in the box as VAR checked the call but nothing was given.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

At the start of the second half Croatia cranked through the gears but England looked dangerous on the break as Lingard’s shot deflected over the bar and Trippier’s cross almost found Kane in the six-yard box.

Raheem Sterling then got free but he couldn’t get his shot off and moments later Perisic had a fierce shot blocked by Kyle Walker who put his body on the line.

Croatia finally equalized as Sime Vrsaljko’s superb cross found Perisic in the center of the box and he prodded home brilliantly to make it 1-1. That goal gave Croatia the momentum as Perisic then hit the post as Walker and Pickford were involved in a mix-up.

England had a decent chance late on as Trippier’s free kick to the back post found Kane but he couldn’t connect properly on his header and nodded wide.

In extra time England regained their composure and they thought they had regained the lead as Stones’ header from a corner looked in but Vrsaljko got back to head off the line.

Pickford then denied Mandzukic right on half time with a huge stop as he flicked the effort over the bar bravely. Brozovic then drilled over from a short corner as Croatia’s chances continue to come.

Manduzkic gave Croatia the lead as Perisic headed forward and the Croatian legend snuck behind Stones and finished across goal to take his nation to the World Cup final.

Report: Sanchez unlikely to move from Man United this winter

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According to a report by The Telegraph, Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to move from Old Trafford in the 2019 winter transfer window due to a lack of interested parties.

The report states that Manchester City has long since decided against pursuing Sanchez further given their wealth of attacking talent and Sanchez’s poor form, with Sanchez having turned them down last year in favor of United. Now, despite Paris Saint-Germain’s recent interest, that option appears to be reportedly fading as well, given PSG’s decision that they, too, do not have room for Sanchez in their loaded squad.

The Telegraph also reports that the high wages for Alexis at Manchester United leave only a handful of teams able to consider him an option anyways, and now two of the notable clubs in that category have turned the idea down.

Sanchez has struggled mightily under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United since moving this past winter. He has just one goal this season and has started just five Premier League matches due to poor form. Sanchez has been out-shined by players like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, as those two English youngsters have combined for nine goals and 1,742 minutes. Overall, Sanchez has scored just three league goals for Manchester United.

It will be up to Mourinho to get the best out of Sanchez, a brilliant player at his best but at the moment just another among the squad at Old Trafford.

Glenn Murray signs one-year contract extension at Brighton

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Raheem Sterling. Callum Wilson. Mohamed Salah. Harry Kane. Anthony Martial. Richarlison. Sadio Mane. Glenn Murray.

All of these players have six Premier League goals this season. One of these is not like the others.

Glenn Murray – at least nine years older than everyone else on that list – has signed a one-year contract extension at Brighton & Hove Albion, keeping him at the club through the summer of 2020.

The 35-year-old has been absolutely critical to Brighton’s season as the Seagulls sit 12th in the Premier League table. Murray’s six goals have ALL secured points for the club. He has the opening goal in a 3-2 victory over Manchester United, both goals in a 2-2 comeback draw with Fulham, a 90th minute equalizing goal in a 2-2 draw with Southampton, the only goal of a 1-0 win over West Ham, and the only goal in a 1-0 win over Wolves. In the seven games Murray has not scored, Brighton has lost six and won one, scoring four total goals over the seven matches.

“It means a lot that the club has shown another year’s faith in me,” Murray told the official club release. “I just want to carry on in the form I’m in at the minute and continue scoring goals at this level for Brighton. I don’t think at any stage of my career I’d have believed I would be getting another contract in the Premier League at this age, but you just never know what can happen in football.”

Murray originally joined Brighton in 2008 and stayed for three seasons before departing for Crystal Palace on a free transfer three years later. He then rejoined Brighton in the summer of 2016, first on loan from Bournemouth before completing a permanent transfer a year later. He has 231 total appearances for the Seagulls over his career, and his winner against Wolves in late October was his 100th goal for the club.

“Glenn has scored consistently for us, first in helping us win promotion, and now in the Premier League as we seek to establish ourselves at the top level,” said manager Chris Hughton. “He’s proved himself at the very top late in his career, and his professionalism and approach on and off the pitch is a big factor in why he’s still doing it now. After recently reaching the 100-goal mark for the club, I know Glenn will be hungry to add more goals to that tally, and I am pleased he’s extended his time with the club.”

USWNT takes care of Scotland 1-0 on Morgan strike

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Alex Morgan scored her 98th international goal just before halftime as the United States women downed Scotland 1-0 in a friendly in Paisley, Scotland on Tuesday. It wasn’t the prettiest performance the U.S. has put forth this year by a longshot, but they got the job done despite a Carli Lloyd missed penalty. The win completed an undefeated 2018 for the U.S. women, a fabulous feat on the whole.

The United States was dominant throughout the opening 45 minutes, controlling 70% possession and holding the hosts to just a single shot. Morgan struck four minutes before the break as Mallory Pugh sent in a deep cross from the right flank that sailed just over the head of a leaping Lloyd but dipped right to Morgan unmarked at the far post. The 29-year-old finished with a powerful volley, connecting with the ball mid-flight and rocketing it inside the right post.

The goal is Morgan’s 18th of the season and 25th goal over her last 26 international matches. Otherwise, the United States held the possessional advantage but struggled to produce too many clear-cut chances. That changed after halftime.

The US came incredibly close to a second in the 53rd minute as Julie Ertz trailing the play received a layoff from Morgan, and while her effort deflected off a defender, it was saved wonderfully by halftime substitute Shannon Lynn who managed to get her leg up to block the deflection despite laying out for the initial shot.

The visitors were awarded a penalty in the 62nd minute as Kirsty Smith clipped the toes of Pugh in the box, and Lloyd took the spot-kick, smashing it against the crossbar and out of play with Lynn right there looking on, having guessed correctly.

Scotland had its best chance of the evening in the 75th minute as they won the ball in the attacking third and charged forward to Erin Cuthbert. She charged forward splitting U.S. defenders, but eventually the ball was cleared by Becky Sauerbrunn after a heavy touch by Cuthbert as she looked to take aim on the doorstep. They would get another good look five minutes ltaer as Julie Ertz was caught out by a wonderful chipped ball over the top toLana Clelland who rifled on net, but the shot was turned wide by Ashlyn Harris.

That was it for the game as both teams brought on late subs, but no more big chances were created. The victory is the 18th of the season for the United States, going a full calendar year without a loss through its 20 total games. The USWNT also extended its clean sheet streak to a whopping 884 minutes, extending nine full shutout matches, the longest streak since 2004/05 when they went 10 straight matches.

For Scotland, the defeat snaps a five-game winning streak that dates back to an April 5th loss to Switzerland in World Cup qualifying.

Iran warned new law is putting Asian Cup place at risk

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) Iran has been told it could face suspension from the Asian Cup in January over a law interfering in the national soccer federation’s independence.

The Asian Football Confederation says it is “closely monitoring the current issues” with its top-ranked team, and will not tolerate “third-party interference in their member associations.”

The Malaysia-based AFC says Iran’s parliament announced a law “designating the (soccer federation) as a non-government public body and prohibiting the engagement of retired personnel.”

The AFC says it hopes Iran’s soccer body “can maintain its independence and avoid any sanctions” less than two months before the Asian Cup starts in the United Arab Emirates.

Iran, the best Asian team at No. 30 in FIFA’s rankings, plays its opening game Jan. 7 against Yemen in Abu Dhabi. The group includes Iraq and Vietnam.

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