Adnan Januzaj

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La Liga roundup: Real Sociedad win, pull level with Barcelona and Real Madrid (video)

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Real Sociedad’s last-minute win in Granada highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Granada 1-2 Real Sociedad

Who would have thought that after 12 matchweeks, Real Sociedad were going to be in front of Atletico Madrid and Sevilla in the standings and tied with powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid at 22 points?

Surely, Imanol Alguacil and his men were amongst the few who held on to the string of hope. Perhaps that is why their fourth victory in seven away matches came down to the wire.

With a 89th-minute winner from Portu, Sociedad edged a formidable Granada side 2-1 on Sunday.

 

Playmaker Martin Odergaard, who is nursing a right foot injury, was inactive for the visitors, but Alguacil’s late, attack-oriented substitutions proved to be the password to victory. Taking the field in the 84th minute, Adnan Januzaj contributed the match-winning assist.

It was the same Portu who broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, ending Granada’s four-game run with clean sheets. Following a splendid 20-yard pass from captain Mikel Oyarzabal, the 27-year-old slotted them ball past Rui Silva with a right-footed strike.

Granada, who fell to sixth in what is a crowded top La Liga, responded with an eye-catching goal. Alvaro Vadillo lined up from distance and rifled the ball past an inattentive Alex Remiro, who saw the ball take a slight bounce before striking the back of the net.

With Leganes next up on the calendar, the new co-leaders’ chances of remaining atop take a big boost. As for league newcomers Granada, who have put together an impressive season, Valencia is the next opponent they’ll try to defeat.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Valladolid 3-0 RCD Mallorca

Villarreal 1-2 Athletic Bilbao

Osasuna 4-2 Alaves

Leganes 1-2 Eibar 

Celta Vigo 0-1 Getafe 

When will Ed Woodward be held accountable for Man United failures?

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Six seasons, five managers, three Champions League qualifications, zero Premier League titles.

That is the Manchester United story since they last trimphed over the English top flight in Sir Alex Ferguson‘s final season as Red Devils boss.

The leadership has been chopped and changed many times over, but there is one constant: Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who ascended to his current role in 2012 and was made top operational executive a year later after the departure of David Gill. Since Woodward took full control of the club, Manchester United has spiraled completely out of control, with the luster of 13 Premier League titles almost fully rusted away.

While Manchester United has collected three trophies under his watch, the two most coveted – the Premier League and Champions League titles – have eluded the storied club, instead settling for an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League title (plus two Community Shields, as Jose Mourinho would tell you).

Still, Woodward has somehow escaped heavy criticism for his rocky tenure, with the first-team managers – far more publicly accountable figures than club executives – taking the brunt of the flak for losing streaks, negative tactics, mediocre youth development, and shambolic defending. Yet Woodward remains unscathed, free of full-scale scrutiny while everything he touches turns to ash.

Woodward’s history in the transfer market has been downright abysmal. Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Angel Di Maria, Fred, Eric Bailly, and Luke Shaw have all been purchased for enormous sums of money during Woodward’s time in charge, yet none of them have lived up to their financial burdens. It is impossible to truly know what Woodward’s exact role is in the transfer dealings, but as the top operational executive at the club, he is responsible for the consistent failures whether he has taken a hands-on approach or has delegated most of the duties to others. It’s time the buck stops at the top.

Since the start of the 2013 summer transfer window, Manchester United has shelled out a gargantuan $712 million in transfer net spend and the Red Devils are no closer to challenging for the Premier League title than when they began their quest to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. After losing to relegated Cardiff City to close out the 2018/19 Premier League season with little more than a whimper, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it would take “a long time” for Manchester United to be in a position to compete for the league title. The Notwegian boss even dared to warn supporters to temper their expectations; the Europa League would be a reasonable ambition for the time being. Those words from a Manchester United mouthpiece like Solskjaer are a brutal indictment of Woodward and his leadership of the club over the past few years.

When Sir Alex departed, the team admittedly needed an overhaul. The legendary boss somehow squeezed one last triumph out of an old and dilapidated squad, as if fans needed yet another reason to revere the greatest manager the game has ever seen. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Dimitar Berbatov were all over 30 and on their way out of the club while David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Rafael, Fabio, Jesse Lingard, Danny Welbeck, and Adnan Januzaj were all 22 years old or younger and looking for guidance and direction as they continued to develop.

Instead, they were met with chaos and instability, as David Moyes, Giggs, Louis Van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho all tried and failed to restore order to the club. None of the managers were given enough time to establish any sense of consistency, and it’s unclear whether any of them were good enough hires that things would have improved if given that luxury. Instead of embracing the period of transition, the club fell into a form of purgatory, hoping to maintain a steady ship while also understanding that things would not be the same. Woodward, a career accountant, may know what it takes to secure a lucrative sponsorship, but eventually they need the on-field results to match the claim of the world’s most popular club, or the financial leverage will wane.

While many players and managers have come and gone over the past few years, Woodward has remained the only constant figure, and the longer the club continues to rot, the more obvious his role in allowing the club to fester. Now, he wishes to bring on a technical director (see: Director of Football) to help with on-field decisions and player acquisitions, a smart choice in delegating the football responsibilities but also another hire to get right. And yet…he’s reportedly looking to hire Darren Fletcher, who literally retired as a player one week ago and has zero executive or managerial experience, in what feels like more of a PR move than anything of actual significance.

With this year’s sixth place finish – the club’s fourth finish outside the Premier League’s top four over the last six years – it is time fans direct their frustration and unhappiness further up the food chain. Ed Woodward must be held accountable for the failures of the club, or the glory days of (actually not that) long ago will become an even more distant memory with every passing year.

La Liga: Barcelona restores 7-point lead, Atletico moves second

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Barcelona restored its seven-point lead at the top of the La Liga table with a casual 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid. They held the visitors to zero shots on target at the Camp Nou and Lionel Messi did the job on the other end.

Goalless through the majority of the first half, Messi opened the scoring in the 40th minute by slotting home a controversial penalty given after Gerard Pique was awarded a foul inside the area under pressure from Valladolid defender Michel who stepped in the back of Pique’s legs, but still the Barcelona defender crumpled into a heap quite easily. The referee pointed to the spot, and Messi buried his low effort into the bottom-right past a diving Jordi Masip who guessed correctly but could not reach the shot.

Atletico Madrid also found itself on the right end of a 1-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano as Antoine Griezmann put the visitors through in the 74th minute, scoring a deflected strike served up by Alvaro Morata. The game also marked the return of an injured Diego Costa from two months on the sidelines, coming on for the final half-hour. The win pushed Atletico up to second, above Real Madrid by two with Los Blancos set to play tomorrow.

Real Sociedad moved into seventh with a convincing 3-0 win over Leganes behind a brace from Mikel Oyarzabal. The game was scoreless at halftime but the 21-year-old put the hosts up for good in the 50th minute, with Adnan Januzaj delivering a cross that Oyarzabal headed in. He doubled the lead nine minutes later for his eighth league goal of the season, and Willian Jose added the cherry on top 15 minutes from full-time.

Levante hammered 10-man Celta Vigo 4-1, already 2-0 up when the hosts lost Ryad Boudebouz to a straight red card for a truly absurd tackle, massively late and with his studs showing all the way up near the groin of Borja Mayoral. With Celta Vigo reduced to 10, Jose Luis Morales scored his second of the game just after the hour mark, and Mayoral grabbed one late to finish the scoreline. The result is disappointing for Celta Vigo who have slipped into the relegation battle with seven losses and just one win in their last nine matches.

‘Prototype’ Pickford reshaping opinions of English GKs

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SAMARA, Russia (AP) — It was just about the only thing Jordan Pickford got wrong all game.

“It was a daft injury by myself,” the England goalkeeper recounted. “I went to punch the (ground) and ended up punching my knee and hurt my thumb. It was a bit of anger. But I’m a man, not a mouse. I’m fine and I’ll live another day, won’t I?”

[ VIDEO: England fans celebrate World Cup win over Sweden at IKEA ]

Pickford left Samara Stadium on Saturday with a heavily bandaged left hand, a glass vase to commemorate a player-of-the-match performance in England’s World Cup quarterfinal win over Sweden, and with his new-found status as the pride of a nation.

The global reputation of English goalkeepers has taken a battering in recent years but Pickford is reshaping opinions with his standout performances in England’s surprising run to the World Cup semifinals in Russia.

Four days after being England’s penalty-shootout star against Colombia in the round of 16, the 24-year-old Pickford produced three brilliant, one-handed saves in a 2-0 win over Sweden to ensure his team ultimately enjoyed smooth progress to a last-four match against Croatia.

The only previous England goalkeepers to appear on such a stage were Gordon Banks — the World Cup winner from 1966 — and Peter Shilton, a veteran of 125 international caps who was 40 when he played in the 1990 World Cup semifinal loss to West Germany.

[ ENGLAND: Why they’ll win the World Cup ]

They are England’s two greatest goalkeepers. The way Pickford’s career is progressing, he could be joining that elite group.

Pickford is the most expensive British goalkeeper in history , after joining Premier League team Everton from Sunderland last year for a fee that could rise to 30 million pounds ($38.3 million), and the third costliest goalkeeper ever after Italy great Gianluigi Buffon and Brazil’s Ederson Moraes of Manchester City.

He is breaking the mold. Away from his agility and shot-stopping, no previous English goalkeeper has showed such composure and technical ability with his feet, a trait that England manager Gareth Southgate sees as vital for his team’s approach.

“Pickford, for me, is sort of the prototype of what a modern goalkeeper should be,” Southgate said.

Against Sweden, some of the clipped passes Pickford made to his wingbacks, Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young, were as good as any of England’s ball-playing midfielders could produce.

“To be able to play the way that I think we want to play going forward,” Southgate said, “we need goalkeepers of that ilk.”

Whatever happens in the semifinals or potentially the final, Pickford will return to England as one of the team’s star performers in Russia. The abiding memory will likely be an acrobatic save against Colombia that saw him tip Mateus Uribe’s dipping long-range effort onto the crossbar at full stretch.

[ MORE: Zlatan loses bet with Beckham after England win ]

It might even rival Banks’ storied save from Brazil great Pele in the 1970 World Cup.

Yet, more recently, English goalkeepers have been better known for make high-profile mistakes, too. There was Robert Green allowing a seemingly harmless shot from U.S. forward Clint Dempsey through his grasp and into the net in a World Cup group-stage game in 2010.

Joe Hart was at fault for the winning goal when tiny Iceland beat England 2-1 in the round of 16 at Euro 2016. In 2007, Scott Carson’s mistake, when he spilled a long-range effort into his own net in a decisive qualifying match, contributed to England failing to reach Euro 2008. England’s goalkeeper at the start of the 21st century, David James, was sometimes cruelly labeled “Calamity James” because of his frequent mistakes.

The main criticism aimed at Pickford at this World Cup was his failure to stop Adnan Januzaj’s curling shot that earned Belgium a 1-0 win over England in the group stage. The ball almost went over the head of Pickford, who dived to his right and attempted the save with his left hand.

Pickford stands at 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) tall, which is relatively short for an elite goalkeeper, and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said: “I would have caught it. He was too busy throwing his legs in the air.”

Pickford has shown since then that he makes up for his lack of height with agility and speed across his line. Just ask Swedish players Marcus Berg and Viktor Claesson.

England is just hoping Pickford’s thumb heals in time for Croatia.

VIDEO: Ten best goals of the World Cup group stage

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We’re sure we’re missing some, and goodness knows we didn’t spend a terrible amount of time determining the order, so feel free to marvel at these 10 beautiful goals of the World Cup group stage and then tell us which ones we missed and which ones we sorted poorly.

[ MORE: Top 20 players of the World Cup group stage ]

We know Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj, and Marcos Rojo won’t be jazzed with their omissions. Who else is missing?

10. Coutinho to Paulinho versus Serbia

9. Cheryshev’s cheeky chop

8. Diego Costa dances his way to glory

7. Golovin’s nasty free kick

6. Cristiano Ronaldo’s nastier free kick

5. Ricardo Quaresma sneaks a snappy goal before halftime

4. Philippe Coutinho‘s beauty against Switzerland

3. Wizardry from the unlikely boot of Nacho

2. Banega to Messi: Touch, touch, boom.

1. Kroos. Few words needed.