Tommy Smith

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Russia 2-0 New Zealand: Hosts ease through opening match

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The 2017 Confederations Cup got off to a strong start for hosts Russia as they held much of the possession and soundly defeated New Zealand 2-0 in the tournament opener.

Russia ended the game with 62% of the possession and it felt like much more. They also out-shot New Zealand 16-6 (7-1 in shots on target).

The hosts poured on the pressure in the early going. Just six minutes in, a corner swung in and defender Viktor Vasin got his head to it, but he hit the inside of the post and failed to go in before Michael McGlinchy cleared it off the line. Three minutes later New Zealand needed yet another goal-line clearance as Dmitry Poloz chested down a cross and touched it awkwardly past goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, but Tommy Smith was there to boot away the slow-roller.

On 15 minutes, Russia went direct and dropped in a long-ball for Poloz who got behind the defense, but Marinovic came off his line to clear the ball. The 2017 Confederations Cup does sport video assistant referees who were on hand to review the penalty shout as play continued, but they chose not to pull it back despite some contact.

With the game slowing past the half-hour mark, pressure in the attacking half by Russia forced a bad giveaway from New Zealand, and a brilliant touch by Poloz sprung Denis Glushakov who poked the ball over Marinovic and it trickled in off the post with defenders giving chase to put the hosts up 1-0. Michael Boxall, one of the charging defenders, was credited with the own-goal as it glanced off his knee after coming off the post.

The first half ended without any further incident, and the second half begun in a similar fashion up to the hour mark. With 20 minutes remaining and Russia again on top, Aleksandr Samedov crossed low from the right, and when Boxall whiffed with the chance to clear the dangerous ball, it fell to Fedor Smolov at the far post who had the simplest of tap-ins to double the lead.

Despite the deficit, New Zealand wasn’t done as they looked for a way back in. Ryan Thomas ripped an absolute howitzer towards the top-right corner in the 77th minute, but it was saved by Igor Akinfeev. On the ensuing corner Smith had a free header on net, but veteran Yuri Zhirkov cleared off the line while manning the far post.

The clock eventually wound down with no further danger, and Russia secured the first three points of the tournament, sending them to the top of Group A with Mexico and Portugal still to play on Sunday.

Huddersfield promoted to Premier League after PK drama

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LONDON — Huddersfield Town beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks in the Championship Playoff Final at Wembley on Monday to secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time in club history.

[ MORE: JPW on”miracle” for Terriers ]

In a tense, tight game Huddersfield missed big chances early on and Reading fought back valiantly but the Terriers won and secured an estimated $218 million jackpot for next season.

German-American manager David Wagner who got the better of Jaap Stam as his team won 4-3 on penalty kicks as Danny Ward saved Jordan Obita‘s spot kick and then Christopher Schindler scored the winner.

[ MORE: Wagner reacts to fairytale

A remarkable story as Huddersfield secured promotion to the top-flight of English soccer for the first time in 1972.

Huddersfield had the first big chance of the game as Aaron Mooy‘s free kick from the left found Michael Hefele but he nodded just wide after rising at the back post.

The Terriers continued to press and had a glorious chance to take the lead as Elias Kachunga got free on the right side of the box and his shot across goal looked destined to be tapped home by Isaiah Brown… but somehow he shinned the effort wide from one yard out.

At the other end Reading went close when Lewis Grabban dropped deep and curled towards the top corner but it flew just wide.

Huddersfield continued to pour forward in search of the opener as Nahki Wells’ cross was hooked clear and Reading, somehow, went in level at the break.

Reading started the second half well as John Swift burst into the box but his show was straight at Danny Ward who saved.

That effort sparked Huddersfield back into life as they twice surged into the box but couldn’t find the final pass at the crucial moment.

The game grew more tense as the clock ticked closer to 90 minutes with substitute Collin Quaner failing to get proper contact on Aaron Mooy’s cross.

Late on Reading pushed forward as Hefele made a wonderful last-ditch clearance with Yann Kermorgant lurking and Huddersfield lost captain Tommy Smith to a serious injury.

Seven minutes of stoppage time couldn’t find a winner, so the game went in to extra time but an extra 30 minutes failed to open up the game as Garath McCleary drilled a low shot wide and then Nahki Wells dragged a tired effort wide in the 116th minute and that was as close as either team came to scoring.

After 120 minutes it finished 0-0 and penalty kicks were needed to decide who gained promotion to the Premier League.

Huddersfield won on penalty kicks after Danny Ward saved Jordan Obita’s spot kick and then Schindler stepped up to send the Terriers into the top flight for the first time since 1972.

Huddersfield Town outlasts Sheff Weds., onto Wembley for playoff final

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Absolute heartbreak for Sheffield Wednesday.

There’s no other way to describe losing on penalty kicks, 90 minutes from a second-straight trip to the Championship playoff.

The victors, Huddersfield Town, outlasted the Owls through 120 minutes and won 4-3 in kicks to move within a single win of the Premier League.

[ RECAP: Saints 0-0 Man Utd ]

Huddersfield Town will face Reading at Wembley on May 29 for the right to join Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion in England’s top flight.

Here’s how former USMNT player David Wagner, manager of Huddersfield Town, reacted to the match:

“First I must share my thoughts with Sheffield Wednesday. They have had a great season and I can only imagine how sad they are. They are great competitors.

“If you play two games and have to go to penalties, it shows how tight and even the games are.

As for the players… well, a bit less sympathy and understandably so. Here’s captain Tommy Smith:

“It’s an amazing feeling. This team are a special bunch, and it stems back to the backroom staff. It’s a special club. It’s been an unbelievable season and this is an incredible feeling. Why can’t we go on and win at Wembley?”