Offshore drilling, England (FA Cup semifinal): Chelsea 5, Tottenham 1

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Man of the Match: Chelsea had a lot of good but not great performances, with John Terry, Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Ramires putting a good foot forward. But let’s give this one to Didier Drogba. His opening goal was massive, in more ways than one. Not only was the timing of it important (opening the scoring) but the skill behind it was incredible. How often does somebody do something like that at Wembley?

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It was amazing to see Tottenham content to sit back, not pressure Chelsea at all in the first half. While Chelsea brought the ball out of their own end, only Emmanuel Adebayor was in their half, providing only the obligatory pursuit.
  • The approach was far too deferential. Between that and Spurs seeming insistence on only counter attacking (playing a number of quick, low-percentage balls out of their own half rather than retaining possession), it was as if Harry Redknapp told his team taht Chelsea was as strong as two years ago and they’ll need to feast on crumbs.
  • Despite all this, Tottenham were probably the better team come halftime. Twice they came close to the opener, with John Terry saving a Rafael van der Vaart header off the line before van der Vaart went off the post with a cross for that left Petr Cech of two minds. Neither of those chances were generated off of counters.
  • But the best Spurs chance was probably a non-chance. David Luiz, beaten by Aaron Lennon just inside the penalty area, reached out and grabbed his opponent. Lennon elected to run through it, something that surely earned him Twitter plaudits, but it may have cost his team. Gus Puyet, asked at halftime whether he thought Lennon should have gone down, said “yes, but maybe that’s because I’m a foreigner.” That’s probably not the reason, Gus.
  • Spurs’ unwillingness to pressure Chelsea bit them on the first goal. Frank Lampard was allowed to play a 60-yard ball for Drogba, who then got all Drogba-y. While some bay ask that William Gallas do more (seems he left Drogba with only a very tough shot), what they should be asking is why is Harry Redknapp implemented a plan that does pressure the likes of Lampard.
  • The second goal was terrible. After Carlo Cudicini blocks a ball into the air, John Terry comes in and, under the guise of playing the ball, launches himself and takes out three Spurs: Ledley King, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, and the goalkeeper. Juan Mata comes, plays a ball into the pile, and Martin Atkinson gives a goal despite the ball not even reaching the line. I can only infer that amid the chaos, Atkinson trusted Juan Mata’s celebration to be the decider. (I say that flippantly, but subconsciously, that might have happened.)
  • Credit to Spurs for responding quickly, but unfortunately, Martin Atkinson made another somewhat controversial decision. When, in the 56th minute, Emmanuel Adebayor blew by David Luiz and went in alone on goal, he was taken down by Petr Cech after playing the ball wide, allowing Gareth Bale to run onto Spurs’ first goal. Atkinson played advantage and let play continue, but Cech should have still been carded. Advantage means allowing play to continue. It doesn’t mean the foul didn’t happen.
  • If course, the root of the controversy was many (myself included) thinking Cech should have been sent off, but as it was pointed out to me soon after, the laws of the game state that if advantage is played on a goal scoring opportunity and the goal’s subsequently scored, you can’t dismiss the offender. You can only issue a yellow card.
  • After late goals by Ramires, Lampard, and Florent Malouda, the scoreline is unfairly lopsided. Many broadcasters and pundits opined Sprus had played better throughout much of the match, but that doesn’t mean Chelsea’s result is undeserved. In fact, many of Chelsea’s matches have played out this way of late. This is their new approach, and while it won’t win style points, it may win trophies.
  • They’ll get their chance in the FA Cup final. Chelsea moves on while Spurs are left to hold them (and Newcastle) off for fourth in league if they’re to salvage their season.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.

Alaves eyes upset of Barcelona in Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The final of the Copa del Rey pits Barcelona’s star power against a tiny Basque Country club whose biggest weapons are its grit and gnawing hunger for a taste of glory.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Win or lose, Alaves is savoring the cup final on Saturday as the perfect finish to its first season back in Spain’s topflight in an decade.

[ MORE: Three key battles ahead of Chelsea-Arsenal FA Cup final ]

But to have a chance of winning the first major trophy in its 96-year history, Alaves’ ragtag collection of journeymen has to be squeezed of every ounce of effort by coach Mauricio Pellegrino to upset the cup-holders led by Lionel Messi.

One statistic illustrates how daunting their task will be: Messi, all by himself, has scored exactly as many goals as the entire Alaves squad this season, with 53 across all competitions.

“We will need to play a very complete match to have a chance, but we are a team that always competes to the maximum,” said Pellegrino, who is completing a noteworthy first season with the club.

The final will be the last competitive match at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium. An exhibition match the next day will be its farewell before demolition.

The final will also be the last match for departing Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who could bow out with a third straight Copa del Rey.

Here are some reasons Alaves can believe in an upset for the ages:

DONE IT BEFORE

Alaves has already toppled Barcelona this season.

A shocking 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Sept. 10 was Alaves’ first win since its return to the first division following 10 years in the second and third tiers.

That surprise victory set it on its way to overachieving all campaign. It reached the Copa del Rey final by defeating the more talented Celta Vigo in the semifinals, and finished the league in a meritorious ninth place.

The bad news is that Barcelona showed no mercy back in Vitoria, where Luis Suarez scored twice in a 6-0 rout.

NO SUAREZ

But Suarez won’t be available for Barcelona on Saturday, when he serves a one-game suspension after being sent off during the semifinals against Atletico Madrid.

Luis Enrique could start Paco Alcacer in his place up front alongside Messi and Neymar.

OLD AND YOUNG

Alaves is not devoid of talent.

The 19-year-old right back Theo Hernandez, who is playing on loan from Atletico, is drawing rave reviews and interest from European powerhouses, including Real Madrid.

Marcos Llorente, a 22-year-old Madrid reserve player also on loan, has impressed as a defensive midfielder.

Captain Manu Garcia, at 31, is the only player who has been with the team through its rise from the third tier in 2013.

“Our coaches are telling us that by working as a team just like we have all year, we have a chance to win,” Garcia said.

OH SO CLOSE

Alaves came ever so close to winning the 2001 UEFA Cup when it defied expectations in its first European campaign by reaching the final against Liverpool.

Jordi Cruyff, son of Dutch great Johann Cruyff, scored late to level the thriller at 4-4 and force extra time, only for Alaves to succumb on an own goal by Delfi Geli.

“I want our fans to enjoy the day,” Garcia said. “I remember (the final in) Dortmund from when I was young. I have many memories of that day and that’s why I ask our fans to be proud of Alaves, and that they make the Calderon into our stadium because that is what we will need it to be.”