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Bundesliga takes notice of US teen Sargent’s scoring debut

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BERLIN (AP) Still only 18 but with one Bundesliga goal from one Bundesliga match, United States forward Josh Sargent is already being touted as a possible heir to Claudio Pizarro.

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Sargent scored for Werder Bremen with his first touch two minutes after coming on as a substitute in his league debut against Fortuna Duesseldorf on Friday. Pizarro, who has scored more goals (194) than any other foreign player in the Bundesliga, is 40 with his one-year deal over at the end of the season.

“It’s a realistic goal,” Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt said of Sargent. “We want to develop our own top forwards. If, next summer, Josh is the one (to replace Pizarro), then we’ll have done a lot of things right.”

In the 3-1 win over Fortuna Duesseldorf, Sargent was in the right place at the right time to head home the rebound from close range after opposing goalkeeper Michael Rensing saved Martin Harnik’s initial effort.

It was the fastest goal scored by a Bremen debutant and it ensured Sargent, who turned 18 on Feb. 20, is the second-youngest player to have scored for the German club after Aaron Hunt.

“Beginner’s luck,” Sargent tweeted.

The teenager also got a goal in his national team debut on May 28, scoring in a friendly against Bolivia. The U.S. Soccer Federation said he is the first American since at least 1990 to score in both his national and professional team debuts. Sargent also scored against Peru in October.

Sargent, who is from O’Fallon, Missouri, and joined Bremen last year, was finally given his chance in the Bundesliga after impressing with seven goals in 12 games for the club’s under-23 team in Germany’s fourth tier. He had to wait until his 18th birthday before he could play.

“He’s a good guy,” said Kohfeldt, who is trying to protect the player from burgeoning expectations.

“There’s so much in the guy. I don’t want to expect too much from him,” Kohfeldt said. “He scored one goal. After that there were some actions that didn’t quite work out.”

Kohfeldt said Sargent could expect more Bundesliga appearances but there is no rush to give the teenager playing time. Bremen next plays at league leader Dortmund on Saturday.

“We need to be careful with what we expect from him,” Kohfeldt said. “If he makes five or six appearances by the summer, it’ll have been a good year.”

Sargent can also learn a lot from Pizarro. The veteran Peru striker, who is in his fourth stint at Bremen, helped the club win the German Cup in 2009 and helped Bayern Munich to six Bundesliga titles during his time in Bavaria.

Kohfeldt, who said Sargent had been working on his physique, also praised the player’s mental strength, saying he doesn’t care whether he plays at Bremen’s Weserstadion, the under-23’s Platz 11 or “in front of 80,000 in Dortmund.”

“He can block that out, a quality Pizarro also has,” Kohfeldt said. “That can make the difference between a good and an outstanding player.”

More AP Bundesliga coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Roma boss Di Francesco worried after late win

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Edin Dzeko saved Roma in the 95th minute, sealing a 3-2 win over Frosinone and moving the club back to within a point of a Champions League place. Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco wasn’t having it.

“We can’t keep getting away with this type of performance,” Di Francesco said to the media after the game.

[ MORE: Serie A recap as Roma and Torino win ]

Despite its solid league position down the stretch of the season, the club has looked shaky at times. On Saturday, the defense put forth a calamitous performance at the back filled with mistakes, bad passes, poor marking, and questionable decision-making. The game was tied 2-2 for most of the second half with Roma’s relegation-threatened opponents nearly pulling out a win if it wasn’t for goalkeeper Robin Olsen’s spectacular save.

“The positive from this evening is that we won, but I do hope he can start to play much better football from now on,” Di Francesco said. “The second goal came from our own set play and our positioning was off, Daniele De Rossi misread the situation.”

“Frosinone are scrapping for every point to secure safety and I know what that is like. We made too many mistakes and should’ve approached the game better, as we risked a draw or even a defeat. We always find a way to make life more complicated for ourselves with distractions.”

Frosinone’s first goal came from a mistake by Steven N’Zonzi, whose back-pass to no one was intercepted by Camillo Ciano who scored despite a great save attempt by Olsen. The hosts scored their second on the break as De Rossi and Aleksandr Kolarov were torn apart on the break despite a one-on-two advantage for the defenders.

“We had the game in hand and should’ve finished it off rather than just tried to control it. We’ve shown over the season that we are a team capable of scoring goals, but also of conceding them. We’ve got to improve.”

Despite the poor defensive performance, the attack played spectacular at times, with Stephan El Shaarawy the star and Dzeko a force. Dzeko was on hand to bundle in the winner five minutes into stoppage time as El Shaarawy lofted a short cross over a defender and into the chest of the Bosnian striker.

Carabao Cup final: Chelsea meets Man City at Wembley

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  • Both Chelsea and Man City have won the League Cup 5 times in club history
  • These teams have never met before in the League Cup final
  • Only 4 clubs have successfully retained the League Cup trophy

Chelsea looks to prove the 6-0 thwacking at the hands of Manchester City two weeks ago was a fluke as the two sides meet with a trophy on the line in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET at Wembley Stadium.

Blues boss Maurizio Sarri has been under fire the last few weeks for a downturn in form, with the club having lost three of its last four Premier League matches, including the heavy defeat to Man City. They have conceded 12 goals in those four matches, blown out not just by Man City but also by Bournemouth, plus a loss to an inconsistent Arsenal side to start the slide.

With a massive chance for Sarri to make a statement that he deserves his position, the Italian may be without first-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga who picked up a hamstring injury of late, and could be sidelined alongside Pedro and Davide Zappacosta who both have fallen ill.

For Manchester City, Pep Guardiola will have to make decisions on who to risk amid a tight Premier League title battle with Liverpool. While the trophy obviously means something to both sides, it also presents yet another fixture that could prove costly amid a tight league race which could have implications on the final few months.

Guardiola doesn’t expect to roll over the Blues with the same ease they did two weeks ago. “I don’t like to play the same team in a short period of time when you have beaten them before,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “They [Chelsea] are incredibly professional players, they are proud and bright and will do extra. We are going to play the type of game you have to play in a final and try to win the title.”

The biggest of Guardiola’s selection questions are in net, with the decision of starting regular number one goalkeeper Ederson or third-string Arijanet Muric who has been the go-to netminder for the entire League Cup run. Backup Claudio Bravo has been sidelined for the year with a long-term injury.

“Of course it is not the most important title of the season but once we are here in an amazing stadium against a top side, we want to prepare to win,” Guardiola said.

Also in question may be striker Sergio Aguero who scored a hat-trick against Chelsea last time out. He has featured in two of the five League Cup matches, but the final could be a high-pressure situation to give Gabriel Jesus a look while also giving Aguero some time off. The 30-year-old Aguero has featured in each of the last 10 Premier League matches.

Tuchel wants more from Mbappe despite brace

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Kylian Mbappe scored a brace as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Nimes 3-0 in Ligue 1 play.

Apparently that’s not enough for manager Thomas Tuchel.

According to the PSG manager, Mbappe should have had “five or six goals” and claimed that “it’s up to him…to finish the chances.”

Tough crowd.

Mbappe was a menace up front for PSG the whole game, scoring goals in the 69th and 89th minutes. He also had a number of missed opportunities that Tuchel is referring to, missing the target in the 43rd, 53rd, 60th, and 84th minutes, plus seeing a trio of efforts saved. Overall, Mbappe ripped off nine shots in the match.

“Yes,” Tuchel said to Canal Plus when asked if he was pleased with Mbappe’s performance, “but today he has to score four or five.

“He’s a phenomenon, he has extraordinary qualities. He plays in a good team; we are able to create a lot of opportunities. It’s up to him, Edi[nson Cavani] and Angel [Di Maria] to finish the opportunities.”

Mbappe is following his breakout year with another spectacular performance this campaign, owning 20 league goals in 19 Ligue 1 matches this season plus another four Champions League goals in seven appearances. He has helped PSG to a 2-0 advantage after the first leg against Manchester United in Champions League play, with the return leg to take place on March 6 in the French capital.

Premier League preview: Arsenal v. Southampton

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  • Arsenal has never lost to Southampton at home in 19 PL matches
  • Southampton is unbeaten in its last four PL away games
  • Arsenal has just four clean sheets this PL season, all at home

Southampton will look to complete the first league double over Arsenal in 31 years when they visit the Emirates on Sunday at 9:05 a.m. ET, live on NBCSports.com.

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The last time Southampton won both league games over Arsenal, 17-year-old Alan Shearer made his debut top-flight start and scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 win. They can end that drought tomorrow, following up December’s 3-2 win at St. Mary’s that saw Charlie Austin score an 85th minute winner. The Saints have struggled against the Gunners in London historically, however, as they have not won away to Arsenal in their last 23 attempts.

Despite the history, there’s plenty of reasons for both sides to be up for this match at the Emirates. Arsenal comes into the game just a point back of fourth-placed Manchester United, and with the Red Devils taking on title-contending Liverpool, there’s a big chance for the Gunners to take over a Champions League place should United drop points. Southampton, meanwhile, sits 18th in the Premier League table after losing to now-17th Cardiff City last time out, but would rise back out of the relegation zone with any kind of result.

The Gunners will have reinforcements after the 3-0 midweek win over BATE Borisov in Europa League play, returning Alexandre Lacazette from his European suspension, plus Laurent Koscielny is reportedly healthy despite coming off that midweek win injured. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the biggest miss for the Gunners after he also was unavailable midweek due to illness.

Southampton could see Michael Obafemi return for the first time since December after finally recovering from his hamstring injury, while Stuart Armstrong could also be back in the lineup after missing the loss to Cardiff with a calf problem.

What they’re saying

Arsenal manager Unai Emery on Mesut Ozil: “My message to him is to carry on. To be available like today [against BATE Borisov] and the last two weeks. Today I am happy, and he was like we want. We’re going to play a lot of matches and sometimes we need him to be in the first XI.”

Southampton manager Ralph Hassenhutl on playing top teams: “We are focusing on the game against a difficult opponent, a very good opponent we beat once already this year in a big game with a fantastic performance and I think we’ll need another one. I’m not afraid about all the big teams because we showed against Chelsea [a 0-0 draw] and Arsenal that we can also play against these teams good matches and we will need to, that’s for sure. Every game is difficult but I think in the first game we showed that we can bring this surprising result.”

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Prediction

Arsenal has looked shaky in the past against lower-tier sides, and they are coming off a European match that required their full attention and effort. Southampton pulls off a surprising 2-2 draw and leaves Arsenal without the chance to jump Manchester United despite the Red Devils taking on a title contender.

Fans who want to try their hand at predicting PL games can down the NBC Sports Predictor app, with a chance to win up to $50,000 each week. Download it on iOS or Google Play.