Chico Flores

Everton 3-2 Swansea City: Everton tighten grip on Europa League spot (video)

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The Champions League is but a dream for Everton, but Europa is looking increasingly likely. A 3-2 win over Swansea City puts the Toffees temporarily into fifth, depending on how Tottenham do against Southampton tomorrow. The Swans, however, are now just four points in the clear, although neither Sunderland or Fulham are making a decent bid for safety.

The first half at Goodison Park started rather quietly.

Wilfried Bony two chances rather quickly, with his first, a rather speculative shot from 35 yards, was easily saved. His second, off a ball from Chico, went just wide, wasting Swansea’s opportunity to once more take an early lead.

Everton, as is their want, tried to gain control through possession, but it was a penalty that gave them the lead with twenty minutes played. Chico brought down Ross Barkley as he got on the end of a lovely pass from John Stones. Leighton Baines was the man who stepped to the spot, sending a low, sharp shot to the bottom corner of the net. Michel Vorm guessed correctly but was unable to keep it out.

Yet the Swans managed to beat – or at least equal – Everton at their own game. Wayne Routledge did well to pick out Angel Rangel tearing up the right. The fullback squared for Bony, who this time had no trouble slotting home from close range.

The Toffees wasted little time in restoring their advantage after the restart, however. With less than ten minutes played in the second half, Romelu Lukaku shook off his marker before dashing on to meet Kevin Mirallas’ cross. From that range, the Belgian could hardly fail to score.

Five minutes later and Everton were ahead 3-1. As the corner came in, the Swansea defense determined Lukaku was their main threat, leaving Ross Barkley unmarked. The attacker slipped in to head home at the far post.

With over thirty minutes left to play, Swansea started to push. Tim Howard did well, flying through the air to deny Bony with just one hand. It was Pablo Hernández who set up Bony with a cross, and two minutes later he himself had a go, but Howard was quick enough once more.

Gary Monk then threw Michu into the mix, denying Bony the chance at a second. The Spaniard, just returned from a month out, hasn’t scored in the Premier League since September, and although his presence did liven up the Swansea side, he did little to challenge Howard in goal.

The visitors did manage another goal, however, in stoppage time. A corner taken by Hernández dropped favorably to Ashley Williams, who nodded in Swansea’s second.

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Baines, Stones, Distin, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas, McGeady (Osman 85), Barkley (Naismith 84), Lukaku (Gerard Deulofeu 93)

Goals: Baines 20′; Lukaku 53′; Barkley 58′

Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Britton, Cañas (De Guzmán 69), Hernandez, Dyer (Shelvey 63), Routledge, Bony (Michu 70)

Goals: Bony 33′

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. West Bromwich Albion (Lineups and Discuss)

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Both Swansea and West Brom could use a result on Saturday, but it’s likely the visitors will be more desperate for points from the match at Liberty Stadium (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

The hosts will be smarting after last week’s draw with Crystal Palace, as the incident that led to Palace’s penalty appeared to have taken place outside the area. But Swansea will need to simply shake off the cobwebs and move forward, as, with just 29 points, they’re only four points above the drop and are in serious need of a little cushioning.

West Brom, on the other hand, are even on points with 18th-placed Cardiff, although at least they have a game in hand. But considering Pepe Mel has yet to win a match since being appointed on January 9th, it’s tough to believe the rest of the Baggies’ season will be an easy one. But the visitors will have to do better than last week’s 3-0 lost to Manchester United…right?

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Chico Flores is out after seeing red last weekend, so it’s Jordi Amat that steps in. Up front, Gary Monk has tinkered with his attack some, keeping Wilfried Bony up top but replacing Pablo Hernández with José Cañas, as the former picked up an injury last week. It’s Roland Lamah in for Nathan Dyer, but the biggest news must be that Michu is back and on the bench.

Mel shuffles his lineup somewhat after last week’s poor showing. Victor Anichebe keeps his place up top, but Zoltán Gera drops to the bench, while Morgan Amalfitano and Chris Brunt are out. Instead it’s Stéphane Sessègnon and Graham Dorrans – getting his first start since opening day. Craig Dawson steps up in the back, James Morrison replaces Claudio Yacob and, from the way the Baggies wrote their lineup, it looks like Liam Ridgewell is playing in midfield. Anything is possible when you’ve got nothing to lose.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Davies, Britton, Canas, de Guzman, Routledge, Lamah, Bony.

Subs: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Taylor, Hernandez, Emnes, Michu, Lita

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Reid, Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Ridgewell, Sessegnon, Anichebe

Subs: Myhill, O’Neil, Vydra, Gera, Berahino, Sinclair, Thievy

Twice appealed, twice denied: Andy Carroll’s three-match suspension upheld… again

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Upon further review, Big Sam still isn’t going to have Big Andy in the fold for the next few weeks.

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has failed in his second appeal to overturn the red card received by striker Andy Carroll for a violent tussle with Swansea’s hot-tempered thespian Chico Flores.

RELATED: VIDEO – Andy Carroll loses red card appeal, reacts angrily

Allardyce claimed the second appeal was in the name of justice, and the West Ham boss has taken issue with what he deems play-acting by the Swans player. Yet it’s hard to feel for the boss, as Carroll carries a reputation as an antagonist (at best) and swings his arm at a place Flores would presumably be.

Some have disagreed on that part, but to me the purpose is obvious. It matters little that Flores grabs his face and rolls over like a toddler on a hill, Carroll makes contact with the top of his victim’s head and intent matters. This isn’t needed in football, and if you think neither is Flores, well, those aren’t independent concepts.

Carroll will miss relegation scraps with Aston Villa and Norwich City, as well as a visit from Southampton. He’s played in just four matches this season after a lengthy injury absence, building up minutes from 19 to 29 to 63, and 58 in the red card match.

It’s sort of bizarre that West Ham would double-up on its appeal, as the FA showed up to the second one as well. Allardyce’s comments are worth the price of dramatic admission. Read them all via Sky Sports, but here’s my favorite:

“(Referee) Howard  (Webb) thought that Andy has smashed him straight in the face by his reaction and then when you see it after there is little or no contact and it is nowhere near his face, so it is a shame.

“The other scenario that he must feel a lot more guilty of is he has just got his manager sacked.”

What a burn, Big Sam. What… a… burn.

West Ham United 2-0 Swansea: Carroll the hero and the Villain in West Ham win (video)

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José Mourinho may have criticized Sam Allardyce’s “19th century tactics” after West Ham held Chelsea to a goalless draw midweek, but Allardyce played everything perfectly in the match against Swansea. The plan? Plump balls in and let Andy Carroll get on the end of them. Eventually, goals will come.

The result? A vital win for West Ham, their first at Upton Park since November. The Irons temporarily pull themselves above Stoke, who face Manchester United later today, and out of the drop.

It took awhile for West Ham, who attacked straight from the opening whistle, to turn their constant pressure into goals. But in the 26th minute, their strategy paid off perfectly. Carroll knocked down a cross from Matt Taylor, heading it directly into the path of Kevin Nolan. Nolan’s finish was spot on, volleying into the bottom right corner.

Swansea’s best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute. A ball from Jonjo Shelvey sent Wilfried Bony free on goal, but James Tompkins was there, sliding in to stop the Swans striker. It looked as though it might be a penalty for the visitors, but Howard Webb held off. The referee has yet to award a spot kick this season.

The Irons capped off their domination of the first half with a second goal from Nolan. Swansea inexplicably left Carroll alone on the far post, allowing him to once again head into Nolan’s path. From close range, there was no way he could miss grabbing his side’s second.

It was Swansea that needed to look lively after the restart, but it was Carroll that very nearly made it three for the hosts. First his header from Matthew Jarvis’s corner went wide, and the same happened on a corner from Stewart Downing. Still, it looked more likely the Irons would increase their lead, rather than Swansea launching a comeback.

West Ham threw Swansea a lifeline in the 59th minute, when Andy Carroll was handed a straight red card after an altercation with Chico Flores. With the booking looking harsh on the replay, it’s possible the Irons will win an appeal and get the three-match ban reduced for their most valuable player.

For the final thirty minutes, the hosts sat back and soaked up the pressure, a logical move when down a man. More worrying for Michael Laudrup, however, is the fact that his Swansea side could barely threaten, despite being in the driver’s seat for the last half hour. With the loss, suddenly the Swans are just two points clear of the relegation zone.

West Ham United: Adrian, McCartney, Nolan (Nocerino 87), Tomkins, Jarvis (C. Cole 66), Carroll, Taylor (Reid 79), Noble, Collins, Demel, Downing

Goals: Nolan 26′; 45′

Swansea City: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Chico, Williams, Davies, Amat (Pozuelo 63), de Guzmán, Shelvey (Hernández 70), Dyer (Ngog 77), Routledge, Bony

Former Swansea captain: “Yes, we had words, but at no time was I threatened with a brick by anyone.”

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It all seemed so bizarre this morning. Sure, there are tussles between teammates at training grounds all the time but a threat involving a brick as a weapon? Where on the training ground do you find such loose bricks?

Then again, if this entire incident between former Swansea captain Garry Monk and current teammate Chico Flores only serves to give us the following quote then it’s probably all worth it.

From a statement on the Swansea City site:

“I have been playing in the professional game for 20 years and training rows are nothing new in a competitive and pressurized environment.

“Recent media reports have blown everything out of proportion. Yes, we had words, but at no time was I threatened with a brick by anyone.

“Chico is a team-mate and we stick together for the betterment of Swansea City and the fans.”

Something happened but, people, there were no bricks. Police officers? Maybe. But bricks? No. Flores weighed in:

“It was just an argument between team-mates as can happen sometimes in a training session or in any changing room of any football team… nothing more!” said the Spaniard.

“I did not threaten anybody in any moment and even less with a brick. I consider myself a respectful person and a good team-mate who likes unity and closeness and I help create a good atmosphere around my team-mates.  My relationship with Garry Monk has always been fantastic and still is.”

So to recap: no denial of police being called and there certainly was some sort of problem but no bricks were harmed in the making of this non-rift between teammates.