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Premier League will lose its most unique player when Mousa Dembele leaves Tottenham

Promising young footballers are regularly compared to a current or former great and it’s usually based upon a couple of attributes: the new Thierry Henry, the new Lionel Messi, the new Ronaldo. They rarely live up to the billing, but it’s a useful shortcut for describing their style. It’s difficult, though, to imagine anyone being an accurate “new Mousa Dembele” — not because the Belgian was so magnificent that no one could possibly come close, but because Dembele is unlike anyone else before or since.
Rewind to summer 2010, when Dembele joined Fulham. They’d just been defeated in the Europa League final, had lost Roy Hodgson to Liverpool and appointed Mark Hughes as their new manager. Dembele was a promising signing, having won the Eredivisie with Louis van Gaal’s AZ, but he was regarded as a forward. The Guardian’s report described him as “the Belgium striker” while noting that “he can also play on the wing.” Hughes said he was “strong and quick, and will add another dimension to our attacking options.”nfl cheap jerseys nike

Dembele came off the bench against Manchester United and then made his full debut at Blackpool, where he played just off Bobby Zamora and assisted both goals in a 2-2 draw. The next weekend he was again Zamora’s strike partner in a home clash with Wolves. Zamora suffered a broken leg in the first half but Dembele came to Fulham’s rescue with two goals, securing a dramatic 2-1 win.

“We hope Moussa can get the goals — there’s a big onus on him now that Bobby’s out,” said Hughes. That made sense: he’d managed two goals in two starts. Yet despite playing the remainder of the season up front, Dembele didn’t manage another goal until his final game of the season, a 5-2 home defeat to Liverpool. In fact, he was so lacking as a goal-scoring threat that his position changed entirely.6

The crucial change came in a home contest against Stoke the following February. When one journalist dared to tweet (presumably having been tipped off by a dressing room source) that Dembele would be starting alongside Danny Murphy in the engine room, he was widely mocked. This was a forward and a relentless dribbler; Fulham played two aggressive wingers. How would Martin Jol, who had replaced Hughes, be brave enough to use him in a midfield duo? But, sure enough, that’s what happened. With new signing Pavel Pogrebnyak playing up front and scoring on debut, Dembele was now a deep central midfielder.

“Dembele was playing in a deeper role than usual and the Belgian was clearly enjoying being able to dictate the play,” read the match report on Fulham’s website.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“Dembele was impressing for the hosts despite playing in an unusual role alongside Danny Murphy in central midfield,” read the Daily Express. “The Belgium international was leading the Stoke defenders a merry dance.”

That set the tone for the rest of Dembele’s Premier League career: opponents found themselves unable to get close. This was 2012, a period when Barcelona still dominated European football and Spain were about to complete their hat-trick of international successes, a period when midfielders were essentially all about passing. But Dembele, while very reliable in possession, was largely about dribbling. It’s difficult to think of another central midfielder so adept at turning away from pressure, at slaloming past opponents to launch a quick break.

India must turn ‘Sorrow of Sharjah’ at Asian Cup into fuel for fire

Japan’s J League started in 1993. At the same time, the national team was doing well in qualification for the 1994 World Cup and what would be a first appearance on the global stage. Going into the final game against Iraq in Qatar, the Samurai Blue just had to win to book their ticket. The goal was duly scored, and at halftime the team’s Dutch coach, Hans Ooft, wrote “45 minutes to the World Cup” on the whiteboard in the dressing room. Iraq equalised soon after the break, but Japan restored their lead and were in front with just seconds to go.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Then it happened. Jaffar Osman Salman rose in the area and his header looped ever so slowly, ever so painfully, over the head of the goalkeeper. Suddenly it was 2-2, Japanese players were sinking to their knees and South Korea, who had already won their game and were lying down on the turf thinking it was all over, were celebrating instead.5

Years later, Ooft theorised that the heartbreak of 1993 had been an important turning point in the history of Japanese football. To have something so valuable in your hands, only to have it snatched away in the cruelest way possible, had two effects.

Qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup was a fine achievement, but that was nothing to thrashing Thailand in the opening game. Thailand have been the dominant team in Southeast Asia, a stronger region than South Asia, for much of this decade. They expected to win comfortably against India with three of their players in the J League, but they lost 4-1. India then went on to face the host United Arab Emirates, the third-placed team from 2015, a team that wasn’t that far from qualifying for last summer’s World Cup and a team a couple of levels above India in Asian terms. The U.A.E., led by former Serie A and Asian Cup-winning coach Alberto Zaccheroni, won 2-0, but India impressed once again and had they been more clinical and the crossbar a little thinner then a deserved point would have come their way.nfl cheap jerseys nike

It left the Blue Tigers needing a point against Bahrain in the final game. When you only need a draw, it can make for a difficult situation. Do you attack, defend or do a bit of both? India defended and did so too deeply. It very nearly worked, but a careless tackle from captain Pronay Halder in the dying seconds prompted the referee to point to the spot.

Sources: Jed Lowrie agrees to two-year, $20M deal with Mets

The New York Mets have reached a two-year, $20 million deal with free-agent infielder Jed Lowrie, league sources told ESPN on Thursday, adding a versatile veteran to an overhauled team that hopes to compete in the loaded National League East this season.

The 34-year-old Lowrie is coming off the best year of his career, setting highs with 23 home runs, 99 RBIs and 78 walks as the surprising Oakland A’s made the postseason.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

He’ll join an infield that already includes the newly acquired Robinson Cano at second base, Todd Frazier at third base and Jeff McNeil in a utility role — the same sort of move-around-the-diamond spot Lowrie will likewise fill, according to sources.

The deal reconnects Lowrie with Brodie Van Wagenen, his former agent who was hired this winter as Mets general manager and has made a number of splashes in hopes of reinvigorating the moribund Mets. The trade for Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, which cost the Mets prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, was the biggest.5

New York also has signed reliever Jeurys Familia, catcher Wilson Ramos and traded for center fielder Keon Broxton and utilityman J.D. Davis.

Before he played 157 games last season, Lowrie reached 100-plus games just twice — in 2013 and 2014 with the A’s — in his 10-year career. In 2018, Lowrie, who has settled in as a second baseman the past three years, again went into spring training free of any injuries after coming off one of his best seasons in 2017, and he delivered in having a durable, consistent campaign.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

How the Mets fit in Lowrie and spread plate appearances with a crowded infield will be part of the challenge manager Mickey Callaway faces following a 77-85 season. Lowrie’s patient approach and ability to switch hit make him a likely part of the Mets’ everyday lineup.

Lowrie helped the A’s make the playoffs three times in his tenure, hitting .271/.341/.413 with 60 homers and 320 RBIs in 687 games. His career line is .262/.335/.414 with 104 homers and 509 RBIs in 1,109 games.

Oklahoma City Thunder get a lift from the bench against San Antonio Spurs

After a scoreless first half against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, looking out of sorts and showing signs of frustration, he was trying to find some spark, something to ignite him. He’s an emotional, temperamental player, and it wasn’t just the first half against the Spurs. It was the past few games, in which he wasn’t shooting well, wasn’t finishing at the rim and, in his mind, wasn’t helping his team.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Schroder scored 19 points in the Thunder’s 122-112 win over the Spurs — all in the second half — and did so in the kind of flurry that takes over a game and swings it dramatically in one direction.

His first bucket came with 2:47 left in the third, a patented stutter-step floater in the paint over a leaping Spurs big. A minute later, he pulled confidently from the wing, splashing a 3. A minute after that, he knifed to the rim, took some contact and finished a tough layup. He slapped the floor in frustration, said something to the official and was dinged with a technical. It was just collateral damage to keep the motor running hot. He capped the quarter with a driving layup at the buzzer, helping turn a nine-point halftime deficit to a six-point lead heading to the fourth.6

“I think a lot of times players can lose confidence,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He doesn’t — at all. He almost gets irritated, he gets upset, he gets mad … in a good way.”

Schroder has been a revelation this season coming off the bench, restoring some order to a tried-and-true Thunder method of having a dynamic second-unit scorer and creator to complement Westbrook. But the past few games were rough, with him hitting just 11-of-32 in a three-game losing streak and 19-of-73 (26 percent) in the previous six games. Schroder’s 3-point percentage had been slipping, his shot selection had been growing more questionable, and not coincidentally, his scoring had been down. He felt like he was letting the team down.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“He wasn’t letting nobody down,” Westbrook said. “He’d missed shots — that’s normal, that’s a part of the game. Tonight he played well, aggressive, made some shots and was big for us.”

Schroder often plays the part of complementing the main course, but he has the ability to feature. He sets the table for the entire second unit, which, as a collective, produced on Saturday. Abdel Nader scored 15 on 6-of-6 shooting, and Patrick Patterson added 13, hitting 3-of-3 from 3.

Asian Cup: Qatar, Japan, Uzbekistan win opening games

Qatar and Japan won their opening games at the Asian Cup on Wednesday, but for both teams it’s all about 2022. Quite literally for Qatar, who are hosting the next World Cup that year and scored their first goal at 8:22 p.m. — or 2022 — Qatar time.

Japan’s quest for a record fifth title started with a 3-2 victory over Turkmenistan, while Qatar earned a 2-0 win over Lebanon amid political tension with the host nation.

After giving up an early goal, Japan — who have a young squad that’s been rebuilt with an eye on the next World Cup — scored three in quick succession to turn the game around.

Yuya Osako scored in the 56th and 60th minutes, the latter following a goalkeeping error, and Ritsu Doan made it 3-1 in the 71st.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Arslanmurat Amanov scored with a long-range shot to give Turkmenistan — the Asian Cup’s second-lowest-ranked team — the lead in the 26th minute. Ahmet Atayev converted a penalty toward the end after a foul by Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.6

After losing to Belgium in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup, Japan are trying to rebuild. Coach Hajime Moriyasu left some experienced players off the team for the Asian Cup, including midfielder Shinji Kagawa and forward Shinji Okazaki. He is instead giving more prominence to players like Gonda, whose last competitive international game was in 2013.

Japan are unbeaten in six games since the World Cup, five of those victories.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

In the other Group F match, Uzbekistan beat Oman 2-1. Eldor Shomurodov scored the winning goal in the 85th minute.

Uzbekistan finished the match with 10 men after defender Egor Krimets was sent off in stoppage time for fouling an opposing player who was through on goal.

Qatar dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge against Lebanon before Iraqi-born Bassam Al-Rawi curled in a free kick in the 65th. Almoez Ali made it 2-0 from a rebound 14 minutes later.

Earlier, Lebanon thought they had scored their first major-tournament goal since 2000 through Ali Hamam from a corner, but it was ruled out for a foul away from the ball.

Kane reminds Chelsea of what they’re missing as Spurs grab advantage

When Stuart Pearce was England Under-21s manager, he went to visit Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. The two spent a few days together, Guardiola offered various pieces of advice on all aspects of the game, but as the two men parted he turned around and offered one final suggestion: “By the way, get a Messi in your side.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Mauricio Pochettino might say something similar about Harry Kane.

Kane’s first-half penalty was the difference between Tottenham and Chelsea in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal at Wembley on Tuesday. It was a penalty awarded after the VAR ruled Kepa Arrizabalaga had fouled Kane in his area, a ruling that came after Kane’s run was adjudged to have been kept onside by Cesar Azpilicueta. The latter proved controversial, with Maurizio Sarri slamming the decision, citing “the pictures on our camera,” which revealed that “Kane was offside, clearly offside.”5

“I think we deserved more, because in this match we played better than the opponents,” he explained, in plain-enough terms. “We were in control of the match. We played about 70 balls in the opposing box, against 11 balls from Tottenham. Eighteen shots against seven, I think. Five goal opportunities against two.”

All of which is the sort of analysis that you can paint as either a good or a bad thing for Chelsea. Good that they dominated, particularly in parts of the second half, but the fact they didn’t convert that dominance into goals and a victory must be a concern.

Which, in turn, emphasised the glaring difference between the two teams at Wembley. Kane’s goal may have been only a penalty, but where the England captain is concerned, for “penalty” you can read “goal.” He’s missed only one of his past 14, that against Liverpool last season, a failure that dogged him for a full seven minutes before another came along, which he of course buried.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Those seven minutes perhaps encapsulated one of the main reasons why Kane is so good. It’s like he has one of those memory erasers from “Men In Black,” but rather than making him forget extra-terrestrial encounters, it wipes misses from his brain, freeing him from the self-doubt that might lodge in the brains of others.

Despite loss, Nets can finally point toward a brighter future

For the past five years, any mention of the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets immediately brought up one thing: the blockbuster, draft-night trade in 2013 that altered the course of both franchises and inextricably linked them for years to come.

A move the Nets thought would elevate them to championship contention instead helped them win a single playoff series — and served as the firepower behind Boston’s execution of one of the most efficient rebuilds in NBA history, thanks to Brooklyn’s descent to the bottom of the standings.nfl cheap jerseys nike

As the Nets remained there, the trade — and its seemingly never-ending draft obligations — served as a constant reminder of how all of that losing would not translate into any of the one currency losing teams always can hang onto: hope.

That was the case, at least, everywhere outside of Brooklyn. Inside the team — and, specifically, the offices of general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson — there was simply too much work to be done to spend time worrying about the situation they inherited.5

“I’ll give Sean a lot of credit: We just kind of put it in a box, and we never really talk about it,” Atkinson said before his Nets lost 116-95 to the Celtics on Monday at TD Garden. “But I do love the fact that it’s Brooklyn and Boston, and this is what the NBA’s all about. I hope we can improve enough where these games become more and more meaningful as we go down the line.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

While no one would mistake the Nets for being in the same class as the Celtics quite yet, the Nets do have something cooking in Brooklyn, despite the restrictions both Marks and Atkinson have spent the past two-plus seasons working under. Even after losing Monday night, the Nets have won 12 of their past 16 games, a stretch that has allowed them to surge into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Given the dearth of quality teams in the East outside the top five, there’s no reason to think the Nets can’t stay there.

That the Nets are even in the conversation for a playoff spot is a credit to the plan Marks and Atkinson have put in place since they arrived with the organization in 2016. That plan required them to get creative to create assets when the franchise otherwise didn’t have any. The assets the organization should’ve had wound up in Boston, as first-round picks in 2014 (James Young), 2016 (Jaylen Brown) and 2017 (Jayson Tatum) gave the Celtics a pair of young wings to build around. The 2018 Nets pick that became Collin Sexton was the key piece of the trade that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston in the summer of 2017.

‘Money Badger’ Michael Badgley continues to make clutch kicks for Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers kicker Michael Badgley is playing postseason football in January for the first time, and enjoying every minute of it.

“It’s the playoffs,” Badgley said. “During the regular season, every point matters. But in the playoffs they matter even more. With the team we’ve got, as long as I can go out there and get my side of the job done, we’re definitely a threat, so it’s awesome.”

An undrafted rookie out of the University of Miami, Badgley at this time last year was beginning his pre-draft preparation.

But fast forward to this year, and Badgley has been the soothing balm to the Chargers’ kicking woes.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

In his latest effort, Badgley buried a franchise postseason-record five field goals, including a long of 53 yards, in his team’s 23-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. He’ll be called on again this Sunday when the Chargers play at the New England Patriots in a division-round game.5
Because of his clutch performances, Badgley earned the nickname the “Money Badger” from Chargers fans on Twitter.

“I have a lot of confidence in that young man because he has a lot of confidence in himself,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said.

Badgley said one of the reasons for his success is the meaningful relationships he’s quickly developed in the locker room, starting with veteran punter Donnie Jones and long-snapper Mike Windt, and expanding to the rest of the team.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

“Just in the locker room, becoming friends with everybody,” Badgley said. “And then when I go out there and get the extra point or the field goal, that makes more of a difference than a lot of people know.

“So it’s awesome with the locker room and camaraderie we’ve got with the whole team. It starts day one when you first get in. You have no idea, but you’re looking around like, ‘Oh, there’s Philip [Rivers] and there’s Antonio [Gates].’ It’s one of those things where you want to just make the kicks and develop trust.”

Man United’s Sanchez and Lukaku must prove themselves – Solskjaer

The Norwegian has already had an impact on Paul Pogba’s form since taking over from Jose Mourinho and the 45-year-old says it is up to Sanchez and Lukaku to follow the Frenchman’s example and use the fresh start to get back to their best.buy nike nfl jerseys cheap

“I cannot do anything for their performances on the pitch,” Solskjaer told a news conference on Friday. “I’m here to give them the path and it’s up to them to do it on the pitch. It’s up to them when they get a chance that’s the name of the game as a footballer. You’ve got to do it yourself.”5

Lukaku, who is back after compassionate leave, has managed just six goals this season while Sanchez, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, has scored only once this term.

Pogba also struggled for form during a disappointing start to the season but the midfielder has been one of the stars of Solskjaer’s first two games, scoring twice in the 3-1 win over Huddersfield on Boxing Day.nike nfl jerseys for cheap

Solskjaer has also confirmed Antonio Valencia is nearing a comeback from injury and will remain club captain when he returns to the team. The United caretaker boss was less optimistic about Chris Smalling’s fitness and revealed the defender may have to wait until the trip to Tottenham on Jan. 13 due to a foot injury.

“Antonio is the captain when fit,” he said. “He’s going through a couple of tough sessions now to get him ready for the busy period. There are not many better right backs going forward.

“Smalling has got a sore foot so I don’t think we’ll see him until the New Year, maybe not before Spurs. Marcos [Rojo] and Scott [McTominay] look like they can take part soon.”

Houston Astros reach two-year deal with Michael Brantley

Brantley, 31, who missed most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons with injuries, enjoyed an impressive bounce-back season with Cleveland in 2018, hitting .309 with 17 homers and 76 RBIs. He also scored 89 runs in 143 games and posted an .832 OPS.

Brantley, who was acquired by Cleveland in the CC Sabathia deal with Milwaukee in 2008, was one of the majors’ best all-around players before his run of injury woes, capable of making a key play at the plate, on the bases or in the field.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

He had a breakout season in 2014, batting .327 with 20 homers, 97 RBIs and 23 steals in 156 games. He was working on another good year in 2015 when he hurt his right shoulder diving for a ball in Minnesota.5

The two-time All-Star needed two surgeries to fix his shoulder and played just 11 games in 2016, missing Cleveland’s run to the World Series. He appeared to be back on track in 2017 and was a strong candidate to be the AL’s Comeback Player of the Year when he injured his ankle while chasing a fly ball to left field during a game Aug. 8.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Brantley made a surprising return late that season and was selected for the playoff roster against the New York Yankees, but he went just 1-for-11 in the five-game series. Despite the string of injuries, Cleveland decided to pick up his $11.5 million option for 2018.

Indians president Chris Antonetti said in November that the team was interested in re-signing Brantley for 2019 as well but did not want to commit $17.9 million for one year.