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Sessegnon scores 15th as Fulham equals Man City unbeaten mark

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Fulham equalled the longest unbeaten run in the English top four tiers this season as it defeated sixth-placed Millwall 3-0 on the road to increase its streak to 22 games without a loss and moving the club into position for automatic promotion.

The Whites have not lost since December 16th when they fell 1-0 to relegation-threatened Sunderland. The unbeaten streak matches Manchester City’s run of 22 games to start the Premier League campaign before a 4-3 loss to Liverpool in mid-January broke the spell.

Highlighting the match was the game’s opening goal from 17-year-old Ryan Sessegnon, the young defender’s 15th goal of the Championship season. Just a week ago, Sessegnon was named a finalist for PFA Player of the Year alongside Harry Kane, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling. Also scoring in the win was Newcastle loanee Aleksandar Mitrovic who has bagged 11 goals in 15 matches since moving to Craven Cottage on Deadline Day of the winter transfer window, sparking talk of a possible permanent move should the Whites find themselves promoted at the end of the season. Fulham has not trailed a single second since he stepped on the field for his club debut.

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic has the team firing on all cylinders, outscoring opponents 49-14 during the unbeaten streak and racking up 56 out of a possible 66 points, with just five draws blemishing an otherwise perfect record. The club has scored first in 15 straight matches, and has not trailed since drawing level in the closing minutes of a 2-2 draw with Hull City on December 30th. The only teams in the top four leagues to score more goals than Fulham since Jokanovic took over are Liverpool and Manchester City.

USMNT defender Tim Ream has been arguably the club’s most valuable player during the streak, locking down a defense that has picked up 11 clean sheets during the unbeaten run. Ream has played in all but two league matches this season, completing the full 90 minutes in all 41 of his appearances thus far. He has been voted Man of the Match five times this season by the fans on the team’s official website, most recently in a 1-0 victory over Reading on April 10th. He also grabbed the award in a 2-0 win over Championship title winners Wolves on February 24th, a game that saw the Whites out-possess and out-shoot the league champions. Ream had this stunning goal-line clearance in the victory over Millwall on Friday, saving Fulham’s bacon with goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli on the ground after an acrobatic save.

Fulham still has work to do in the Premier League promotion picture, despite the spectacular form. They sit in 2nd position as it stands, leading Cardiff City by two points, but Cardiff has yet to play this weekend, giving them a massive two games in hand. Fulham could ultimately be done in by a slow start to the season that saw them win just twice in the first nine matches of the season as the squad adjusted to a host of new additions. In addition, Fulham suffered a disappointing draw last time out against Brentford as the Bees scored in the 94th minute to deny Fulham all three points, a massive blow to their automatic promotion hopes. Still, Fulham would be considered favorites in any potential playoff run, with Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, and Millwall currently the other teams in playoff positions.

There’s plenty on the line for the club over the next few weeks. Should Fulham fail to gain promotion, it could be a massive blow to the club as Sessegnon could be lured away from Craven Cottage, with Jokanovic and playmaker Tom Cairney also likely to garner speculation of a departure over the summer if the club was to remain in the Championship.

Race for Premier League promotion beginning to heat up

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The race for promotion to the Premier League has taken a wild and unexpected turn.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have all but secured the title with a nine point lead and five matches remaining. However, directly below them is where things have suddenly become hairy.

Cardiff City seemed to have second place done and dusted, with a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2013 almost ensured as they sat on a seven-match winning streak and without a loss since New Year’s Day, holding a seven-point lead plus a game in hand as March wound down. Now, just a week later, things could potentially be falling apart as the race heats up.

Following a draw to 9th placed Sheffield United, Cardiff hosted leaders Wolves on Friday in a top-of-the-table meeting, and chaos ensued. Wolves held nearly 2/3 of the possession and went ahead 1-0 past the hour mark as Ruben Neves bagged a beautiful free-kick goal, looping his close-range effort over the wall and tucking it inside the left post.

As the game wound down, Cardiff began to push forward as they looked for a late equalizer. They earned a penalty as stoppage time began, and Gary Madine stepped up to take it hoping for his 11th goal of the year. Instead, former Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy dove to his left and acrobatically kept the effort out, preserving the lead as a big celebration ensued. But the fireworks weren’t over.

Six minutes later, as Cardiff continued to press forward in desperation, Wolves’ Ivan Cavaleiro chopped down Aron Gunnarsson on the edge of the box, and the linesman flagged for a foul. That brought a second stoppage-time penalty opportunity for Cardiff still trailing by a goal. This time, former QPR winger Junior Hoilett stepped up to the spot, but his effort clanged the underside of the bar and came back out, and Cardiff could not capitalize on the ensuing scrum.

The loss means Cardiff has wasted its game in hand, suddenly dropping five points in the last two matches, sitting now five points above Fulham in third. The Whites are in spectacular form, unbeaten in a club-record 18 straight matches and leading the Championship form table. Fulham still has memories of playoff failure from last season, and would love to secure automatic promotion with a late-season charge, playing stunningly beautiful possession-based soccer under Slavisa Jokanovic.

Meanwhile, Cardiff next faces fourth-placed Aston Villa, who also remains in contention for promotion just two points back of Fulham. The pressure seems to be getting to Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, who refused to shake the hand of Wolves manager Nuno after the loss on Friday, instead firing some flowery language in his direction for his post-match celebration while applauding the home fans. He chastised Nuno after the game, telling Sky Sports in his post-match interview “in the British game you need to have manners and a bit of class.”

The remaining playoff places are currently occupied by Derby County and Middlesbrough who sit 15 and 17 points back of Cardiff City in 2nd, but that battle is raging as well. Just off the pace sits Bristol City, Millwall, and Sheffield United all at 62 points, just one behind Middlesbrough’s final playoff spot. Preston is another two back of that on 60 points, while Brentford is two behind them at 58.

Report: Aston Villa striker Agbonlahor considering MLS move

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A long-time English goalscorer looks to be ready to pursue new endeavors next year.

The Telegraph is reporting that veteran Aston Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor will likely leave the club at the end of the 2017/18 season, even if the Villans are promoted back to the top flight of English soccer.

Agbonlahor spent many of his professional years with Villa during their PL stay, but since the team’s fall to the Championship, the Englishman has struggled to find any goalscoring rhythm.

In his two seasons in the second-tier, Agbonlahor has only managed to score twice across all competitions, and has seen his playing time dwindle down significantly.

The report suggests that Agbonlahor’s time is almost certainly up at Villa after the dip in form, and a move to Major League Soccer could be in the cards as he aims to revitalize his career.

The 31-year-old has spent 17 years at Villa, including his days with the club’s youth academy.

FA Cup fifth round preview, score picks

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The last 16 of the FA Cup takes place this weekend and there are plenty of big boys aiming to avoid upsets in the oldest knockout competition on the planet.

[ LIVE: Follow FA Cup scores here ]

Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are all still in the competition and all four are heavily favored to ease into the quarterfinals.

Where will the upsets be? Tottenham head to third-tier Rochdale to play on the freshly laid pitch at Spotland and we saw how they struggled at Newport in the fourth round, while Brighton host fourth-tier Coventry City who have already knocked out Stoke City on their way to the last 16.

Wigan have also beaten PL opponents on their way to the fifth round after dispatching Bournemouth and West Ham but they face a Manchester City side who are eyeing the quadruple.

Below is a look at the schedule in full, while I make my score prediction for each game.


FA Cup fifth round schedule

Friday
Leicester City vs. Sheffield United – 2:45 p.m. ET (JPW’s pick = Leicester to win 2-0)
Chelsea vs. Hull City – 3 p.m. ET (JPW’s pick = Chelsea to win 4-1)

Saturday
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Swansea City – 7:30 a.m. ET (JPW’s pick = Swansea to win 2-1)
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Coventry City – 10 a.m. ET (JPW’s pick = Coventry to win 2-1)
West Bromwich Albion vs. Southampton – 10 a.m. ET (JPW’s pick = 0-0 draw)
Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester United – 12:30 p.m. ET (JPW’s pick = 1-1 draw)

Sunday
Rochdale vs. Tottenham Hotspur – 11 a.m. ET (JPW’s pick = Tottenham to win 3-0)

Monday
Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City – 2:55 p.m. ET (JPW’s pick = Man City to win, 3-1)

PHOTOS: Leeds United release new badge amid uproar

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Leeds United is a proud club.

But their fans aren’t so proud of their team right now.

The Yorkshire club — three times champions of England who have been outside of the Premier League since they were relegated in 2003-04 amid financial ruin — announced they have released a new club badge.

Citing “six months of research” and “10,000 people consulted” the club released the new logo which shows a headless figure with a white shirt on, holding their right arm up and having a clinched fist over their heart in the club salute. And that’s pretty much it.

Have a look for yourself below. Seriously. That’s their new badge.

There has been an overwhelmingly negative response to the new crest, with online petitions already having thousands of signatures to change the badge back to the previous design.

To me this all looks rather MLS 1.0.

It’s a bold design but a little lifeless and you can certainly understand why the vast majority of Leeds’ fans are more than a little underwhelmed.

Their badge previously featured the “White Rose of Yorkshire” within it, but that’s now gone as new owner Andrea Radrizzani, who bought Leeds outright in May 2017, is trying to give the Elland Road club a new identity and get away from its recent troubles of bouncing between the second and third tiers of English soccer.

Leeds are currently in 10th place in the Championship table, three points off the playoff spots as they battle to return to the PL.

Other clubs have since responded to Leeds’ new badge on social media. Warning: banter zone.