Brentford beat Bournemouth in thriller, reach playoff final – Video

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A wild second leg saw Brentford seal a superb comeback win to beat Bournemouth and reach the Championship playoff final at Wembley for the second-straight season.

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Bournemouth led 1-0 after the first leg and took an early lead in west London as Arnaut Danjuma finished off a counter attack clinically to make it 2-0 on aggregate.

But then all hell then broke loose.

First, Championship leading goalscorer Ivan Toney scored a penalty kick which was harshly awarded for a handball, as Bournemouth captain Amir Begovic was booked as an angry melee was sparked in the celebrations.

Moments later, Bournemouth were down to 10 men as former Brentford defender Chris Mepham took down Bryan Mbeumo and was sent off.

And although Bournemouth held out down a man until the second half, Vitaly Janelt made it 2-1 on the day and 2-2 on aggregate with a bizarre goal. He attempted to tackle Jefferson Lerma but instead struck the ball straight into the top corner from outside the box to give Brentford a precious lead.

Amid a crescendo of noise from the 4,000 home fans, half time substitute Marcus Forss was then the hero.

In the 81st minute the Finnish international striker just got ahead of USMNT center back Cameron Carter-Vickers at the near post and prodded home to send the Brentford fans wild.

The agony and ecstasy of the playoffs was in full show at the final whistle as Bournemouth’s players sunk to their knees and interim head coach Jonathan Woodgate looked distraught.

Can Brentford finally reach the Premier League?

As for Brentford, their head coach Thomas Frank celebrated wildly on the sidelines as he and his players lapped up a celebratory lap of honor.

“What an atmosphere,” Frank said. “4,000? It sounded like 40,000!”

The Bees are heading back to Wembley, as they aim to go one step better than last season when they lost narrowly to Fulham and missed out on promotion to the Premier League.

It has seemed like Brentford have been ready for Premier League promotion for about four or five years now, and their analytical approach to recruitment from owner Matthew Benham has paid off massively.

From Ollie Watkins to Ezri Konsa and Said Benrahma to Neal Maupay, Brentford have developed great players and made huge profits on player sales to the Premier League, but they’ve come up short in the playoffs in two of the last six seasons.

Let’s see if Ivan Toney and Co. can make it third time lucky, and get past either Barnsley or Swansea City in the final at Wembley on May 29.

Which USMNT players can join Aaronson as European trophy winners?

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Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen are USMNT players within 90 minutes of guaranteeing a UEFA Champions League winner from the United States, but are far from the only Yanks hunting late-season silverware in Europe.

Heck, both could be multiple trophy winners.

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Steffen has a League Cup and is virtually assured a Premier League title with Man City, while Pulisic’s Chelsea is in the FA Cup Final in addition to the UCL semis.

So who could claim a big prize ahead of a big summer for Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT?

Italy

AS Roma’s Bryan Reynolds would need his side to produce a stunning reversal after going down 6-2 in the first leg of the Europa League semifinal versus Manchester United.

Juventus’ Weston McKennie will not win the scudetto, but he may still lift the Coppa Italia if The Old Lady can beat Napoli in a rematch of last season’s final.

France

Timothy Weah and Lille are in control of their Ligue 1 destiny, a point ahead of PSG with three matches left for each team. Lille plays Lens, Saint-Etienne, and Angers in its run-in.

Spain

Sergino Dest (and Konrad de la Fuente) of Barcelona could still claim La Liga honors despite a midweek stumble against Granada. The Catalan club has already claimed the Copa del Rey, and can pull ahead of Atletico Madrid in the La Liga title race with a win on Saturday, though Real Madrid lurks with tiebreaker advantage on its El Clasico rivals.

Austria

American manager Jesse Marsch is leaving for RB Leipzig after the season but has already repeated as Austrian Cup winner and is on pace for the Austrian Bundesliga crown. Brenden Aaronson scored in his first final and won his first cup at the weekend and is in line for the same league honors.

Germany

Giovanni Reyna and Borussia Dortmund will stage a German Cup Final with a guaranteed USMNT winner when it meets Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig on May 13.

Belgium

Club Brugge goalkeeper Ethan Horvath and his men won the regular season, earning a minimum of Europa League Conference qualification and starts the playoffs with a healthy edge on Mark McKenzie and Genk. McKenzie subbed into Genk’s Belgian Cup win over Standard Liege. Matt Miazga (Anderlecht) has an outside shot of catching both in the playoffs.

2.Bundesliga and Football League Championship

Julian Green has driven Greuther Furth into an automatic promotion spot, though much is unsettled in Germany’s second-tier. U.S. eligible teammate Timothy Tillman has also helped the club into second place. Bobby Wood is still with third-place Hamburg ahead of a move to Real Salt Lake in the summer, and he’s back on the pitch after a long cold spell.

Sebastian Soto has been listed to PL2 action for Norwich City, who is going up to the Premier League after winning the Championship.

Tottenham loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers and Bournemouth are in the promotion playoffs along with Orlando City loanee Daryl Dike and Barnsley.

Three things we learned from Northern Ireland – USMNT

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Northern Ireland’s B-team scared the USMNT a couple of times but the Americans were by far the superior side over 90 minutes of a 2-1 win in Belfast on Sunday.

Easy Man of the Match Christian Pulisic won and converted a penalty in the second half after Tim Ream set up Giovanni Reyna’s deflected first-half as the U.S.

Niall McGinn scored a wild goal from an odd angle to bring the hosts within one with three minutes plus stoppage left in the game.

[ MORE: What’s become of relegated PL sides ]

The Yanks are now off until May, when they’ll face Switzerland ahead of the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal, which kicks off a wild summer and fall that includes the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.

It will also include the Olympics should the U.S. U-23 team beat Honduras in a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinal at 5:30pm ET Sunday.


Three things we learned from Northern Ireland – USMNT

1. Last USMNT match until May, and what do we really know? There’s no question the United States men’s national team is better, deeper, and more promising than it’s been in a long, long while (if not ever), but the pandemic has combined with the MLS’ non-European calendar and an even goofier and congested international calendar to give Gregg Berhalter very few chances to match up with A-teams outside of CONCACAF.

U.S. Soccer couldn’t do much about the fact that Northern Ireland kept most of its top players out of the match given the Norn Iron’s World Cup qualifiers sandwiched around the friendly, but it was a reminder that the Yanks will not often be able to measure themselves outside of their continent ahead of the World Cup (presuming they make it).

Berhalter entered Sunday’s match with 16 wins, three draws, and five losses in charge of the team, most of those against B-sides and all but six against CONCACAF opposition. Those half-dozen performances were, not surprisingly given the mix of players and opposition, a mixed bag.

And even if you want to drag some truths out of that, what can you compare it to, progress-wise? Dave Sarachan’s interim stint in charge of the team included a 1-1 draw with France, a 1-0 loss to Italy, and a 1-1 draw with Portugal’s B-team when a lot of these players were even greener in international and club experience.

It’s almost like you look ahead at the calendar and see a Switzerland friendly on May 30 before the Nations League final stage, the Gold Cup, the Olympics (hopefully), and World Cup qualifying. You’ll expect to beat most of the teams and measure yourself against Mexico. Everything else feels like a shoulder shrug and fingers pointing to how the gents do at their top clubs.

2. Pulisic is a boss, Reyna rewarded: The two goal scorers were rewarded for their industry and clever play. Reyna has looked exhausted at times for Borussia Dortmund and even in this game, but his willingness to push into open space to receive the ball and dribble into and out of danger is an asset. His deflected goal was aided by poor defending but he deserved it and it could help him kick back into scoring form for Dortmund. Shooting is funny that way.

As for Pulisic, he was far and away the best player on the pitch. Perhaps that’s not a surprise, but he could’ve won several free kicks and Northern Ireland hacked away at the Chelsea star, who was eventually rewarded with a penalty. Pulisic does have his injury concerns but his mentality doesn’t keep him away from contact and he’s going to be a CONCACAF killer. At age 22, he has 15 goals and 10 assists in 36 caps.

3. No closer to center back answers beyond John Brooks: This is a real worry for the United States men’s national team. While John Brooks has stayed healthy and is clearly the No. 1 center back in the pool, the questions of Nos. 2 and 3 are huge ones. Walker Zimmerman wasn’t healthy for this window and may be the answer for 2. Berhalter is giving Aaron Long every single chance to cement himself, and the New York Red Bulls man is a threat on set pieces and plays physically, but he’s not very good on the ball.

Then there are the kids. Chris Richards could and should grow on the way from 21-year-old to the 2022 World Cup, but he’s also played some right back at Bayern Munich. Matt Miazga is playing a lot at Anderlecht but is better on the same side of the pitch as Brooks. Mark McKenzie didn’t get a call despite moving to Genk. Cameron Carter-Vickers stayed with Bournemouth. Justen Glad is with the Olympic team. Miles Robinson? Erik Palmer-Brown?

While this isn’t exactly a case of the ol’ American football maxim of “If you can’t choose between your quarterbacks you don’t have your quarterback,” it isn’t too far off. Who is going to be the answer? And what happens if Brooks’ injury problems return?

Man of the Match: Christian Pulisic


Northern Ireland – USMNT recap

The USMNT burst out of the gates against a second-choice Northern Ireland side, feeding Christian Pulisic on the left.

The Chelsea star, playing in a formation Thomas Tuchel has been using in England, played Antonee Robinson down the left and the Fulham man’s pass through the six was absent receiver.

Kellyn Acosta gave away a dangerous free kick to the Norn Iron just outside the 18 and that was the tip of the iceberg. He was slow on the ball in a giveaway that allowed George Saville to spring Kyle Lafferty on a breakaway that the striker hit wide, and then gave the ball away again moments later.

The U.S. went ahead through Reyna, who took a square pass from Tim Ream and had some time to line up a shot that took a wicked turn to defy Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard.

The next chance came to Shayne Lavery of the hosts, and Steffen got low to slap away a shot after a Yunus Musah giveaway saw Matt Miazga and Tim Ream scrambling to cover the left of their 18.

Musah departed at halftime for Sebastian Lletget while AS Roma man Bryan Reynolds replaced Sergino Dest.

Reynolds probably could’ve won a penalty in the 57th minute but the referee was unswayed by the hand that moved the right back to the turf.

Brenden Aaronson couldn’t adjust to a wicked deflection of Antonee Robinson’s 65th-minute cross and the ball popped over the bar.

Lletget gave the ball away in midfield and Dion Charles flashed over the American goal from 21 yards.

Pulisic won his penalty with a dribble into the mix, cooly dispatching the finish. The Chelsea man then played Daryl Dike in on goal with a terrific pass but the Northern Ireland goalkeeper Hazard came up big.

Dike had another chance fed by Luca de la Torre that couldn’t find the goal and Pulisic then cued up a cross that either Dike or Miazga could’ve potted at the near and far post, respectively.

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Southampton hammer Bournemouth, reach FA Cup semifinal

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A South Coast derby was very one-sided in the FA Cup, as Bournemouth – Southampton ended in a lopsided 3-0 win for the visitors as they reached the semifinals in style.

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Nathan Redmond was the star of the show as he scored twice, set up one for Moussa Djenepo and Southampton had two goals chalked out for offside by VAR.

Bournemouth now focus fully on their promotion push back to the Premier League as Jonathan Woodgate has them in the playoff picture.

Southampton have an FA Cup semifinal at Wembley to look forward to (just their third in 18 years) and Ralph Hasenhuttl will hope this win will boost their confidence in the Premier League too.


Three things we learned from Bournemouth – Southampton

1. Nathan Redmond stands in superbly for Ings: He has had a poor season, but Redmond stood tall when Saints needed him up top with Danny Ings out injured. The winger was played centrally and oozed class on the ball and was too much for the Cherries to handle with his direct running, which summed up his first goal. His assist for Djenepo’s goal was perfect and his two goals were very well taken. Redmond has played for England in the past and there are reports he could play for Jamaica in the future, and on this form he will be causing the USMNT lots of problems in the future.

2. Saints’ focus on FA Cup pays off: Ralph Hasenhuttl has prioritized the FA Cup this season after Saints had a great start in the Premier League and it has paid off. Big time. Saints’ form has dropped off dramatically in the league since January, but that was partly down to playing a full strength team in cup games to get past Wolves and Arsenal en route to Wembley. Saints should have enough quality to stay up in the league, and this win will give them a lot of confidence as Danny Ings and Theo Walcott will return after the international break too. A run to the FA Cup final four and Premier League safety would represent a great season for this young Saints side.

3. USMNT’s Carter-Vickers struggled: Bournemouth were all over the place at the back and USMNT center back, Cameron Carter-Vickers, had a tough outing with Che Adams and Redmond running at him. CCV, now 23, is out of contract at Tottenham this summer and it will be intriguing to see if Bournemouth make his loan move permanent by offering him a contract. At times he looked too slow to react as he scored an own goal which was chalked off by VAR. Although he’s having a good season in the Championship, the trickery and power of PL players exposed his, and Bournemouth’s, defensive weaknesses.

Man of the Match: Nathan Redmond – Stunning display. Scored twice, set up another and almost grabbed his hat trick.


Southampton thought they had taken the lead through a Cameron Carter-Vickers own goal early on, but VAR was used to rule Kyle Walker-Peters offside by a very small margin when he sent the cross in.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The VAR images showed that part of Walker-Peters’ arm was just offside. Ryan Bertrand sent an effort wide moments later as Southampton kicked on before half time.

Arnaut Danjuma then forced Fraser Forster into a good stop at the near post as Bournemouth grew into the game, but just before half time Southampton took the lead.

Nathan Redmond ran forward and played a perfect ball into Djenepo who slotted home clinically.

Seconds before the half time whistle blew Southampton doubled their lead.

Stuart Armstrong turned from a throw in and played in Redmond who ran towards goal, beat Steve Cook and buried his shot into the far top corner.

Bournemouth pushed hard to get back in the game in the second half as Jack Wilshere fired just wide.

One long ball forward then caused havoc as Armstrong and Che Adams created a chance as the latter smashed home from outside the box, but the Scottish winger was in an offside position.

Moments later it was 3-0 as Armstrong hit the post, then Redmond finished the rebound brilliantly.

Armstrong went close to scoring a fourth and then set up Redmond to clip the post as Southampton eased to victory.

Bournemouth ousts Burnley from FA Cup through Surridge, Stanislas

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First of all, it feels wild that Jonathan Woodgate has taken hold of his second Championship club given the 41-year-old wasn’t playing too long ago.

But the 41-year-old Bournemouth caretaker boss has to be thrilled that his first match in charge of the Cherries is an FA Cup upset of a Premier League side.

Sean Dyche isn’t one to make a lot of changes but his Clarets side Tuesday featured a number of unfamiliar names and Bournemouth took advantage with a 2-0 win at Turf Moor.

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Sam Surridge and Junior Stanislas scored with the visitors’ two shots on target and Burnley failed to score with either of theirs as the Premier League hosts exited the competition.

American center back Cameron Carter-Vickers made his fifth appearance on loan from Tottenham, going 90 minutes with seven clearances and 8-of-12 duels won.

Bournemouth is sixth on the Championship table after spending months in the automatic promotion places.

Eddie Howe resigned as Bournemouth boss after the Cherries were relegated from the Premier League this summer and Bournemouth hired longtime Howe assistant Jason Tindall in August.

Tindall lasted just 31 matches in charge of the Cherries, compared to Howe’s 99- and 355-match stints in charge of the club. Ironically, Howe and Tindall left Bournemouth in 2011 for a short stint at Burnley, who hired then hired Dyche.