Zoltan Gera

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Hungary wins Group F, and Ronaldo drags Portugal through after thriller

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Cristiano Ronaldo almost single-handedly dragged Portugal into the knockout rounds with two goals and an assist as Hungary lost a trio of leads in a 3-3 draw that still handed them Group F at EURO 2016 on Wednesday.

Balazs Dzsudzsak scored a pair of deflected goals for Hungary, and Zoltan Gera also scored as they clinched a date with the runner up of Group E.

Nani scored Portugal’s only goal, his second of the tournament, and Portugal finished third in the group. Up next is Croatia, in a game which could be just as high scoring.

[ MORE: Ronaldo’s absurd back heel ]

LYON, FRANCE - JUNE 22: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group F match between Hungary and Portugal at Stade des Lumieres on June 22, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Gera hammered a low rope through the legs of a defender and into the bottom right corner as Hungary seized the lead in the 19th minute.

Free kicks came for Portugal from dangerous spots, but Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly did well to marshall the defense or make the stop like when he flew low and left to slap a hard, low Ronaldo offering away.

Nani equalized for Portugal just before halftime, as the ex-Mancheter United man got on the end of a through ball from fellow ex-Red Devil playmaker Ronaldo to beat Kiraly and make it 1-1.

[ USMNT: Gulati cares about third place game ]

Balazs Dzsudzsak put Hungary back in front with a deflected free kick in the 47th minute, but Ronaldo answered back with a gorgeous cheeky backheel to make it 2-2.

Dzsudzsak hit another deflected shot home within moments, but there was Ronaldo again. The Real Madrid star stroked home a solid finish to make it 3-3 with just under a half hour to play.

Watch Live: West Brom vs Stoke City (Lineups and Discuss)

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Mark Hughes, flying under the radar with Tony Pulis and Gus Poyet taking much of the managerial headlines, looks to pick up Stoke City’s first-ever top-10 Premier League finish for Stoke City.

They travel to The Hawthornes to face West Bromwich Albion at 10am ET live on Oxygen or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Interestingly, West Brom can still mathematically be relegated, but it would require spoiling a 17-goal advantage in differential over Norwich, so Stoke has some goalscoring to do!

Asmir Begovic is missing for Stoke City in goal, having picked up a slight toe injury, but the Stoke Twitter account says it won’t have any affect on his World Cup status. Replacing him is Thomas Sorensen, with Jack Butland on the bench.

Ossama Assaidi also misses out for Stoke, having seen his knee injury from February flare up again.  Otherwise, it’s a very full-strength lineup for Hughes and Stoke City as they gun for club history. They can see themselves jump as high as ninth place with a win and Newcastle dropped points.

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West Brom gets Liam Ridgewell back, seeing him on the bench.  Saido Berainho is the lone striker up top for a team that has struggled to score goals all season long, while Matej Vydra is in the strike reserves on the bench.

Billy Reid is out, while Zoltan Gera is as well, having likely already played his last game in a West Brom shirt.

LINEUPS:

West Brom – Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Brunt; Dorrans, Mulumbu, Morrison, Amalfitano, Sessegnon; Berahino.
Bench – Myhill, O’Neil, Lugano, Yacob, Anichebe, Vydra, Ridgewell.

Stoke City – Sorensen; Muniesa, Shawcross, Wilson, Cameron; Arnautovic, Whelan, Nzonzi, Odemwingie; Ireland, Walters.
Bench – Butland; Pieters, Wilkinson, Adam, Palacios, Etherington, Crouch.

Championship Sunday Focus: West Bromwich Albion

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Story so farMired in the bottom half of the table for most of the season, it never truly appeared that the Baggies would be faced with relegation until a few weeks ago, all of a sudden you blink and they’re in 17th.

However, unless they find a way to lose a 17-goal lead in differential, they won’t have to worry about playing in the Championship next season.

Let me rephrase that…they won’t have to worry about playing in the Championship next season.

However, finishing 17th isn’t anything to write home about, and if West Brom would like to give themselves a bit of a boost going into the offseason, they’ll look to finish out with a win over Stoke City.  This wasn’t the way Jeremy Peace envisioned the season ending up when he appointed Pepe Mel as manager, but at least they’ll have another Premier League fixture list next season.

MORE: Head here for everything Championship Sunday

The club has a lot of work to do if they want to give supporters a sense of safety next season, but finishing the season on a high note will also do a bit towards that.

Who do they play and where can I watch it?
The Baggies close out at the Hawthornes against Stoke City, a club that’s taken points off them a whopping 13 of the last 14 times, including five wins in the last six meetings for the Potters.

For Stoke, there’s a bit more riding on the match, with the club searching for its first-ever top-10 finish in the Premier League, but neither have any serious implications on its final match.

The two teams will collide at 10am ET Sunday live on Oxygen, or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Form guide:

April 12: D vs. Tottenham 3-3
April 21: L @ Manchester City 3-1
April 26: W vs. West Ham 1-0
May 4: L @ Arsenal 1-0
May 7: L @ Sunderland 2-0

When the final whistle blowsWest Brom supporters will check the scorelines furiously before seeing Norwich didn’t beat Arsenal by 16 goals. Then they’ll wipe the sweat from their brows. It’s been a season of lots of pressure and little results, but the ones they got were timely enough.

Pepe Mel hardly fared better than his sacked predecessor Steve Clarke, and the club very well could make another change this coming offseason. That won’t be the only change if it happens, either. Zoltan Gera is likely to leave at the expiry of his contract, and a lack of goals recently will see them likely reassess the current striking options of Saido Berainho, Matej Vydra, and Victor Anichebe. Berainho is a good talent for the future, but likely will need help if the club is to put together a consistent attack.

Watch Live: Manchester City v. West Brom

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Manchester City’s title-hopes hang in the balance today when they host West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium at 2:45pm on NBCSN or online via Live Extra.

City’s chase for the title hit two bumps last week when they lost 3-2 to Liverpool and drew 2-2 with Sunderland. Those results have left the 3rd place Citizens in a tough situation, having to win their remaining five matches while hoping Liverpool drop points.

It won’t come easy for the Baggies as West Brom have issues of their own as they sit 17th place just three ahead of relegation strugglers Cardiff City and Fulham.

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If City are to take care of business they’ll have to do so without Yaya Toure (groin), Jesus Navas (ankle) and Matija Nastasic (knee). For the Baggies, Zoltan Gera (hamstring) is the only absentee. 

Lineups: 

City (4-4-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Demichelis, Clichy; Silva, Garcia, Fernandinho, Nasri; Dzeko, Aguero

Bench – Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Kolarov, Milner, Negredo, Jovetic

West Brom (4-2-3-1): Foster; Jones, Dawson, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Dorrans; Brunt (c), Sessegnon, Amalfitano; Vydra

Bench – Myhill, Morrison, Anichebe, Yacob, Lugano, Berahino, Reid

 

Premier League Preview: Manchester City v. West Brom

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  • West Bromwich Albion have taken just two points from six previous Premier League games at the Etihad Stadium
  • City have won only one of their last four Premier League games
  • City have conceded seven goals in their last four games after recording clean sheets in each of the five games before then

With Chelsea shock-losers to Sunderland on Saturday and Liverpool defeating Norwich City on Sunday to take a five point advantage in the Premier League, Manchester City will be hard-pressed to take care of West Brom on Monday evening.

If City’s title hopes took a ding in last weekend’s 3-2 loss to Liverpool, they took a full-blown dent when they drew 2-2 with Sunderland on Wednesday. The relegation-threatened Black Cats proved a formidable side to Manuel Pellegrini’s men, who should expect the same type of venom from the 16th placed Baggies.

On 33 points, West Brom sit just three points above 18th place Cardiff City and 19th place Fulham although Pepe Mel’s side does enjoy a game in hand on both clubs. Since their 0-2 loss to Hull City on March 22nd the Albion have gone undefeated in three straight matches, drawing 3-3 with Cardiff, beating Norwich City 1-0 and drawing 3-3 with Tottenham.

Despite West Brom’s poor status in the league they have managed to take points this season from each of the Top 7 – Everton (twice), Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea (twice), Liverpool and Tottenham (twice) – except City. It’s this Jekyll & Hyde kind of form that City will be weary of, especially considering the last time these two sides met the Citizens nearly threw away a 3-0 lead when the Baggies scored twice in the last five minutes.

If City are to take care of business they’ll have to do so without Yaya Toure (groin), David Silva (ankle) and Jesus Navas (ankle) while Matija Nastasic (knee) remains a long-term absentee. For the Baggies, Zoltan Gera (hamstring) is out but James Morrison (ankle) and Jonas Olsson (achilles) are likely to return.

What They’re Saying

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: “We have had an important amount of injuries during the whole season. I think it has not only been our team, though. We play so many games with a lot of intensity and maybe all the teams that play in all the competitions have a lot of injuries. But, of course, it is a problem.”

West Brom manager Pepe Mel: “It is impossible that West Brom will go down – it is not really even something we have been thinking about.”

Predictions

Picking City is the easy choice here but without Toure, Silva and Navas it won’t be a cakewalk for Pellegrini’s men. James Milner and Javi Garcia will have to step up but beware of this tricky West Brom side with it’s back against the wall. Nicking a point here wouldn’t surprise.