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Sterling leads England to 3-2 Nations League win over Spain

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Raheem Sterling has heard the criticism that he can’t finish chances, and he has responded. On the field, that is.

Behind a double from Sterling, England toppled Spain 3-2 with a vicious counter-attack that juxtaposed Spain’s sleepy, wasteful attack on Monday in Sevilla. The match marked the first time that Spain has ever conceded three or more goals in a competitive home match.

The Manchester City winger was the first on the scoresheet just 18 minutes in as England flowed forward on a counter-attack and with the two-on-three break, Marcus Rashford delivered a beautiful feed to Sterling who blasted his effort past a statue-like David De Gea. The break was actually started way back with Jordan Pickford, who touched past a charging defender and delivered an absolute bullet of a pass to Harry Kane just before the midfield stripe.

Spain dominated possession throughout the match, but they suffered from similar ills as this summer’s World Cup, unable to produce enough dangerous moments and embarrassing failures at the back. England, on the other hand, was happy to sit back and pick its spots on the break, and they were clinical when given the chance.

Marco Asensio skied a shot over the bar in the 18th minute, and Spain would rue its wastefulness as England would double its lead on the half-hour mark. Rashford was the one to finish it off on the counter this time, taking a pinpoint feed from Kane and volleying the bouncing ball into the back of the net after leaking behind the defense and beating Jonny to the spot.

Sterling would grab England’s third before halftime as England would display a bit of venomous half-court play. Kieran Trippier did the heavy lifting with a brilliant chip over the Spanish back line, finding Kane who had snuck behind Sergio Ramos and slid to meet the ball, tapping in front of net for Sterling who finished from the doorstep with ease.

Spain held a whopping 77% of the possession in the first half, but could only muster two shots on target out of 10 total efforts. In the second half, the pressure would finally pay off as the white-hot Paco Alcacer picked up a consolation on a corner in the 58th minute, heading in the goal on his first touch after coming off the bench to replace Iago Aspas. Alcacer has become an ultimate super-sub this season, scoring 10 goals for club and country in just 277 total minutes.

The home fans were livid when a penalty was not given as Jordan Pickford grappled with Rodrigo before completing a tackle in the 63rd minute, but only a corner was given. Spain pushed harder as the second half wore on, and Alcacer came close to a second with five minutes left as he struck a shot against his own man.

Spain bagged a second in the 97th minute with literally the final kick of the match, as Marco Asencio crashed a shot against the bar, and while Nathan Chalobah on his England debut cleared momentarily, it was sent back in by Dani Ceballos to the head of a diving Sergio Ramos. There was no more time for an equalizer, however, as the referee brought the game to an end even before the ensuing kickoff.

The competitive home loss is the first for Spain in 15 years, and it means England moves ahead of Spain to the top of Nations League League A Group 4 by a one-point margin.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: “We know what we want to do”

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Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.