Late own goal saves Hungary from being frozen out

GIVEAWAY GOAL: Hungary's Laszlo Kleinheisler, rear celebrates as Iceland's Birkir Saevarsson, 2nd left, scores an own goal during the Euro 2016 Group F soccer match between Iceland and Hungary at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Saturday. (AP)
Updated 18 June 2016
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Late own goal saves Hungary from being frozen out

MARSEILLE: An own-goal by Iceland’s Birkir Savarsson in the dying seconds rescued a draw for Hungary in a frenetic Euro 2016 clash that keeps both team’s hopes alive of a second round berth.
A first-half penalty by Gylfi Sigurdsson put little Iceland on course for a fairytale win. But the European Championship newcomers succumbed to waves of late Hungarian pressure.
With 88 minutes gone, substitute Nemanja Nikolic sent a low ball into the area and in the thick of a goalmouth scramble, Savarsson touched the ball into his own net.
Prior to the tournament both teams viewed this Marseille tie as their best opportunity to get a win. But unfancied Hungary’s shock 2-0 victory against Austria on Tuesday meant a slot in the last-16 beckoned if they could beat the Scandinavians.
Hungary had more of the ball in the first-half, but, more used to playing a counterattacking game, they failed to craft clearcut openings against a physical Iceland defense.
Their midfield trio of Laszlo Kleinheisler, Balazs Dzsudzsak and Zoltan Stieber probed industriously. But the nearest they came to hitting the target in the first half was a Kleinheisler effort that raked across the goalmouth on 33 minutes.
In contrast, Iceland attacks carried more direct menace, with their best chance falling to Johann Gudmundsson on the half hour.
Having shouldered right-back Tamas Kadar off the ball, he found himself one-on-one against Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly but angled a weak shot straight at the 40-year-old, the oldest player ever to play at a European Championship final.
Approaching half-time Kiraly took center-stage in a horror show he will want to forget.
Six minutes before the break he fumbled a corner from Johann Gudmundsson, then tripped Ragnar Sigurdsson while grappling to recover the ball.
In the scramble that ensued referee Sergei Karasev pointed to the spot for a kick by Kadar on Gunnarsson.
He dived the wrong way for the penalty as Sigurdsson fired smartly to the left to give the Scandinavians the lead. Kiraly kicked the ball away in disgust.
After the break the Magyars resumed their pressure with Kleinheisler blasting over over twice in five minutes.
But it was Iceland who could have extended their lead on the hour, Sigthorsson heading wide from point-blank range after a pinpoint cross by Sigurdsson.
The goal-shy Magyars — who only scored 11 goals in 10 qualifying games — toiled anxiously for the leveller with Dzsudzsak twice sending free-kicks straight at Hannes Halldorsson.
As Hungary anxiously sought an equalizer Bernd Storck sent on Nikolic as an extra striker but they appeared to lack the final breakthrough touch.
Nikolics cross finally secured the equalizer to break Icelandic hearts.
Iceland, who nearly stole a winner with the final kick, a snapshot by subsitute former Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur Gudjohnsen, face Austria on Wednesday in their final group game.
The Nordic minnows need a win to seal a berth in the knockout stages. Hungary can progress by avoiding defeat against Portugal in Lyon the same day.


FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: A classic clash, sublime New Orleans Saints and a bad break for Alex Smith

Updated 20 November 2018
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FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: A classic clash, sublime New Orleans Saints and a bad break for Alex Smith

  • Saints once again show why they are serious Super Bowl contenders.
  • Unlucky Alex Smith suffers a horror injury.

LONDON: This is the time of year that can either make or break a team’s regular season. Are they headed for the playoffs or are they set to be on holiday in January? Here is what we learned after week 11 of the NFL.

RAMS AND CHIEFS SERVE UP A CLASSIC

Where to start analyzing Monday night’s epic in Los Angeles? It was certainly one of the best games of gridiron I have ever seen. From the first kick-off to the final seconds, both sides threw caution to the wind, with the Rams winning by three points in a 54-51 nail-biter — on the way to producing a classic clash that will still be talked about for years to come. 
American Football is often criticized for being too “stop-start,” but watching these two Super Bowl favorites go hammer and tongs for four quarters would have been enough to convert any detractor.
To put into context just how explosive both teams were, it was the first time two teams have scored more than 50 points in a match in the history of the NFL.
While many are praising the defensive qualities of a playoffs-bound Chicago, we are just glad the defensive units did not bother showing up for this one and we had the privilege of watching two blistering offenses in full flow. If either of these teams goes on to win the Super Bowl, they can pinpoint this match as one of the key moments of their season.

It was raining touchdowns in the all-time classic between the Chiefs and the Rams.



SAINTS CHANNELLING THE SPIRIT OF 2009

When the league fixtures were announced in the summer, the Saints-Eagles match-up was singled out as a test of the two team’s NFC championship credentials. Unlike the Rams and Chiefs extravaganza, though, this ended up being a damp squib of a game. 
Philadelphia just did not turn up, while the Saints — the hottest team in the league at the moment — were imperiously led by Drew Brees to a blowout 48-7 win, which now sits in the record books as worst defeat in the Eagles’ history. 
Brees threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns, meaning that the 9-1 Saints have now scored 40-plus points in three matches in a row and have become the first team in the Super Bowl era to post at least 40 points six times in the first 10 games of the season. It will take a very good team to stop this Saints side from claiming glory in Atlanta next February.

Drew Brees was once again in imperious form for the ever-improving and dangerous Saints. 



PURE ATHLETICISM TRUMPS TACTICAL PLAY-CALLS

Gridiron is an extremely technical and tactical sport, with coaches and players spending weeks perfecting certain plays. But sometimes a moment of sheer athletic prowess wins out and blows all the spreadsheets and playbook analysis out the window. Week 11 saw its fair share of brilliant moments — from Kenny Golladay’s sublime touchdown catch for the Lions against Carolina, to Juju Smith-Schuster’s unbelievable grab for the Steelers on a late, game-winning drive, not forgetting Odell Beckham’s strength to hold on in the end-zone for a Giants score against Tampa Bay. And those moments are exactly why millions of people tune in to the NFL every week.

Kenny Golladay with his moment of magic during Detriot's 20-19 win over Carolina. 



THOUGHTS WITH ALEX SMITH

Much progress has been made in preventing concussion and serious head injuries in the NFL in recent years. Rule changes and safety measures have been implemented, and we are beginning to see a reduction in the number of head and neck traumas. But in sport, horror injuries can happen — and there is little the league can do to prevent the kind of leg breaks Washington’s Alex Smith suffered during their game against the Texans. Everyone watching immediately knew the severity of the break, and it is clear Smith faces a lengthy recovery. Such injuries can end careers. Here’s hoping he makes it back.

Alex Smith being stretchered off after his horror injury suffered against the Texans.