Football: US rout Panama, edge closer to FIFA World Cup 2018

Panama midfielder Armando Cooper (11) dribbles the ball as US midfielder Michael Bradley (4) and defender Jorge Villafana (15) defend during the second half at Orlando City Stadium. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 07 October 2017
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Football: US rout Panama, edge closer to FIFA World Cup 2018

ORLANDO: Christian Pulisic fired the US to a 4-0 win over Panama on Friday that saw the Americans inch closer to a 2018 World Cup berth.
The brilliant 19-year-old scored one goal and made another in a sensational early barrage that left Panama reeling.
Pulisic opened the scoring on eight minutes and beautifully set up strike partner Jozy Altidore to make it two and compound a nightmare start for Panama, who now look destined to settle for a play-off match against either Syria or Australia to land a World Cup place for the first time in their history.
Honduras, whose match in Costa Rica was put back a day because of adverse weather; also remain in the hunt in the North and Central America and Caribbean region (CONCACAF).
For the Americans, however, a win against bottom of the hexagonal table Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday will seal their ticket for an eighth consecutive finals — and even a point should do it.
“The game in Trinidad won’t be easy but we are in a good position now,” said US manager Bruce Arena. “It won’t be easy, it will be challenging. We faced challenging conditions in Honduras and Panama so we will be ready. Trinidad are out but will be a handful.”
Trinidad and Tobago seized a lead against Mexico in San Luis Potosi before the regional powerhouse roared back for a 3-1 victory.
The result left Mexico on 21 points and on course for a record haul of 24 if it can beat Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Tuesday.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Shahdon Winchester put the visitors ahead in the 66th minute. With El Tri struggling to find momentum it looked as if defeat was a possibility.
Manager Juan Carlos Osorio sent in Carlos Vela, Oribe Peralta and Hirving Lozano in the second half and Lozano grabbed an equalizer that energized Mexico. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez put the hosts ahead before Hector Herrera added a third goal in injury time.
In Orlando, the tension was palpable as Panama arrived in Orlando a point ahead of the United States — who had earned just one point from their prior two matches.
Arena needed his side to heap early pressure onto a Panama side who have been notoriously difficult to break down, conceding just five goals in their prior matches of the six-nation final round of qualifying.
Pulisic’s youthful, skillful exuberance proved the key to unlocking the most miserly of backlines.
Bobby Wood, who was given the start ahead of veteran Clint Dempsey, led the line with Altidore.
And it was the former Sunderland striker who went close early on when his close range shot was charged down before Wood shot inches wide soon after.
Pulisic settled any US nerves with a brilliant display in the eighth.
Altidore flicked the ball on and after the Dortmund star escaped the challenge of Roman Torres, and Pulisic rounded Jaime Penedo and slid home from a tight angle.
Pulisic impressed again in the 19th, picking up the ball on the left wing and firing in a cross that was tapped in by Altidore.
The outcome was sealed in the 43rd. Wood was tripped in the area by Armando Cooper and Altidore stepped up and chipped the ball down the middle.
Pulisic left the field to an ovation in the 56th — before Wood capped his industrious night with a well-taken strike.
“It was a bad night,” Gomez said. “They were totally superior, excellent. It could have been worse — it could have been 10-0.”


Last gasp Shaqiri goal seals Swiss win over Serbia

Updated 22 June 2018
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Last gasp Shaqiri goal seals Swiss win over Serbia

  • The win puts Switzerland in pole position to make it out of a tough Group E that contains five-times winners Brazil but they were pushed all the way by the Serbs.
  • It was a sweet victory for Shaqiri and fellow Swiss goalscorer Granit Xhaka, who along with team-mate Valon Belrami were booed relentlessly by Serbia’s fans throughout. Shaqiri, Xhaka and Belrami trace their roots to Kosovo, a former province of Serbia.

KALININGRAD: A last-minute Xherdan Shaqiri breakaway goal handed Switzerland victory Friday as they came from behind to defeat Serbia 2-1 in Kaliningrad.
The win puts Switzerland in pole position to make it out of a tough Group E that contains five-times winners Brazil but they were pushed all the way by the Serbs.
It was a sweet victory for Shaqiri and fellow Swiss goalscorer Granit Xhaka, who along with team-mate Valon Belrami were booed relentlessly by Serbia’s fans throughout.
Shaqiri, Xhaka and Belrami trace their roots to Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, a fact which had stoked tensions before the match.
Both Shaqiri and Xhaka pointedly celebrated their goals by making an eagle gesture with their hands, viewed as a symbol of defiance.
Serbia raced out of the blocks, funnelling possession to Southampton winger Dusan Tadic on the right flank, who troubled Switzerland with his crossing all match.
An Aleksandar Mitrovic header forced a smart save from Swiss keeper Yann Sommer after four minutes.
Seconds later, Tadic took the ball past left-back Ricardo Rodriguez, cut back on his favored left foot and delivered a majestic cross that Mitrovic duly buried with his head.
In a frenetic first half, Switzerland had more of the ball but were sloppy with it, giving away possession in advanced positions and sending Serbia on the break.
Lazio’s highly rated Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fizzed a right-footed shot narrowly wide of Sommer’s right post on 15 minutes, and Mitrovic almost scored with a spectacular bicycle kick that went the same way minutes later.
Switzerland, who came to Russia ranked ahead of the likes of France and Spain, felt their way into the game as the first-half progressed.
On the half-hour mark, Steven Zuber cleverly teed up Blerim Dzemaili but the Hoffenheim man got his feet in a muddle and Vladimir Stojkovic was able to parry away.
But it was Serbia, who beat Costa Rica 1-0 in their Group E opener, who nearly went in two up.
Nemanja Matic missed a glorious chance to double the lead just before the break when Tadic’s in-swinging corner found him unmarked at the back post but the Manchester United midfielder couldn’t sort his feet out.
Matic said during the build-up the team were expecting a “hellish” encounter with the Swiss, who in their game with Brazil fouled star forward Neymar 10 times alone.
Switzerland grew in stature after the break and were rewarded with a spectacular equalizer courtesy of Xhaka’s 52nd-minute piledriver.
They had the better chances in the second period, with Shaqiri’s curling effort from the edge of the area grazing Stojkovic’s bar on the hour mark.
Coach Vladimir Petkovic brought on attackers Breel Embolo and Mario Gavranovic in a bid to force a winner, and Gavranovic forced a smart save from Stojkovic from a close range effort with 10 minutes remaining.
But it was Stoke City winger Shaqiri who struck the decisive blow, breaking through Serbia’s offside trap to slot home calmly as the 90 minutes wound down.
Serbia will now need something from their final Group E match against Brazil, while a draw against Costa Rica would see Switzerland through.