Chico

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP

NYCFC hold off 10-man TFC to make Shield race even tighter

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The game in 200 words (or less): In a battle of two teams chock-full of stars, the marquee names made the greatest impact — for better and for worse — in a battle of Eastern Conference titans on Sunday. New York City FC topped Toronto FC, 3-2 at Yankee Stadium, on the back of goals scored by established superstar David Villa and rapidly rising star Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (twice). On the other side, Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez got the goals for TFC, but it was another of the Reds’ highly paid stars, Jozy Altidore, who will go down as the goat for his 11th-minute red card. Altidore, seemingly frustrated after Alexander Callens won a midfield battle between the two players, kicked out at the NYCFC defender with the ball already out of play. Referee Chico Grajeda made the only correct decision, showing Altidore the red card for violent conduct. NYCFC’s victory returns them to level footing (47 points) with the New York Red Bulls (though, still behind on tiebreakers) for second place in the East, one point back of first-place Atlanta United. TFC, the defending champions with largely the exact same roster as last season, sit ninth, now seven points back of the sixth and final playoff place after Montreal and Philadelphia picked up points on Saturday.

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Three Four moments that mattered

11′ — Altidore’s petulance earns him an early shower — Frustrations are becoming very, very visible in Toronto.

15′ — Villa makes it 1-0 minutes later — It doesn’t matter if Anton Tinnerholm hit his shot 90 degrees into the wrong direction (he was still credited with the assist), because Villa clean up the mess and go it alone.

27′ — Giovinco finishes some slick build-up for 1-1 — Up a man or down a man, it doesn’t really affect the brilliance that is Sebastian Giovinco. Michael Bradley and Vazquez weren’t bad in quickly progressing the ball either, and the Atomic Ant made a pretty difficult finish look easy.

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88′ — Tajouri-Shradi smashes a volley for the winner — From nothing, to something, very quickly.

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Man of the match: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

Goalscorers: Villa (15′), Giovinco (27′), Tajouri-Shradi (36′, 88′), Vazquez (51′)

Costa to miss Leicester match; Is it because of training fight?

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Two fiery personalities set the training ground earlier this week, according to reports.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa clashed with staff earlier this week, reportedly sending the striker off the Blues’ trip to Leicester for Saturday’s match against the Foxes.

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Costa apparently argued with fitness coach Julio Tous, and manager Antonio Conte had to step into the incident. Other reports claim he hasn’t trained in days because of a big money offer from China unsettling him.

Either way, he’s not going to Leicester.

From The Telegraph:

Costa has not trained with the rest of the squad for the past three days after a bust up over an injury with fitness coach Julio Tous, in which Conte got involved, and has not travelled to Leicester.

Chelsea are also aware that Costa has received a staggering offer from China, with at least one club telling the Spain international that they are willing to pay him £30 million-a-year net for him to leave Stamford Bridge.

If true, the incident throws January into a precarious situation for Chelsea. For lesser players, like Andros Townsend at Spurs and Chico Flores at Swans, it’s meant the door (eventually)

Costa has not only been phenomenal for Chelsea, but has also talked about how he considered leaving in the summer. The report adds that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been adamant he won’t allow the 28-year-old striker to leave.

Has this changed anything for Abramovich and Conte? And could this change Chelsea’s interest in swapping backup striker Michy Batshuayi for Conte pal and Swansea City striker Fernando Llorente?

It does seem one of those stories, especially given the stature of Costa at Chelsea, that ends with everyone saying, “These things happen, but Costa isn’t going anywhere.”

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Swansea one-ups January fight with alleged six-man practice “punch-up”

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Well if this isn’t a “relegation scrap,” we’re not sure what is.

The last time we visited Swansea City’s training ground fight club, there were reports of “bricks brandished.” Now-manager Garry Monk was a player on the team and he was certainly “not” sparring with Chico Flores during practice.

Oh, how the times have changed. Sure, it’s only been a couple months, but things are vastly different in Wales.

Because leading up to last week’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea, the whole whole team was fighting (or at least a half-dozen Premier Leaguers)… each other… at training… with chairman Huw Jenkins in attendance.

From FourFourTwo:

Reports in the British press had claimed a high-intensity intra-club practice match last week was marred by several dangerous tackles, which led to a six man punch-up.

But Swansea dismissed the fight as something that happens at clubs ‘up and down the country’ and declared the Premier League outfit had already ‘moved on’.

“These things often happen on training grounds up and down the country, so despite the media reports, Swans fans shouldn’t be concerned,” a Swansea spokesman told the South Wales Evening Post.

Right. We’ve gone from “not uncommon” to “these things often happen” in such a short spell of time. What’s next? During preseason we hear reports of Nathan Dyer and Jordi Amat playing Russian Roulette while Jonjo Shelvey and Michel Vorm knife-fight a la the “Beat It” video and Swansea’s PR department’s response is something like:

“Look, cutlery dust-ups and other weaponized games are a longstanding tradition in football. Swans supporters can ignore this ‘War on Swansea’ by the mainstream media.”

You can’t possibly believe a story like this is good stuff for a Swans club still striving to stave off the drop. Just three points ahead of No.18 Fulham, things can get dicey when a team is not “pulling together.”

Swansea travels to listless Newcastle on Saturday, and here’s one more chuckle-worthy note from a Daily Mail report:

There are other issues at the club and a source claimed one player was caught refuelling with crisps at half-time in a recent match.