As it happened: Barcelona vs. Chelsea

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As we did last week, PST live blogged today’s UEFA Champions League semifinal between Barcelona and Chelsea. Here’s how it happened:

Score: Barcelona 2 (2) [Busquets 35′, Iniesta 43′], Chelsea 2 (3) [Ramires 45+1′, Torres 90+2′]

Final: An amazing day for Chelsea. Their captain got himself ejected. Their other central defender left early with injury. A brilliant finish from Ramires in the first half put them back in front, and Fernando Torres sealed the victory. Chelsea is on to Munich, and Barcelona’s title defense is over.

90+2′ – Torres intercepts a ball along the left but has it taken from him. Xavi tries a ball into the box but it’s intercepted, with Cole punting it deep. Torres is the only person near the center line. He dribbles in on Valdes, gets around him and puts Barcelona away. Chelsea will go on to Munich.

90′ – Messi tries a chip for Sanchez, but Ivanovic heads it out. Mascherano collects and takes a crack, forcing Cech to push it out of play. Corner from Xavi targeting Puyol comes to nothing.

88′ – Torres intercepts a Messi pass on the right. Mascherano takes it off him with a nice tackle, brings it back in only to be taken down by Meireles. Raul spends too much time arguing (stalling), and is shown yellow.

87′ – Barcelona wins, takes a corner, but nothing comes of it.

85′ – We’re getting into not again territory here for Chelsea fans. Any score will be heartbreaking. They can be encouraged by Barcelona’s reluctance to shoot despite scaring Cech with a Messi long try a few seconds ago.Messi, in particular, is playing one pass too many.

83′ – Messi finally decides to have a crack and he puts it off Cech’s left post. Replays showed Cech pushed it onto the woodwork.

82′ – Goal for Barcelona, but it’s waved off. Messi’s ball to the right for Alves finds the Brazilian off side. Thought the next touch from Sanchez was in the back of the net, the score remains the same.

81′ – Chip by Messi for Keita into the left of the area goes out for the goal kick. Barcelona has no intention of shooting the ball.

80′ – Drogba, who was just seen exhaustedly walking back to his left-flank’s role, is off. Fernando Torres is on. Chelsea is out of subs.

79′ – This is frustrating to watch. Barcelona just wants one too many pass. Messi, instead of taking a speculative shot from 23 yards, tried to play to a teammate, allowing Chelsea to intercept and clear the ball.

78′ – As  base, Chelsea has Lampar, Mikel and Miereles playing in front of a back four, Kalou and Drogba defending wide.

77′ – Also (and this happened a couple of minutes ago) Barcelona brought Tello from the right to the left flank, seemingly allowing Iniesta to play in midfield.

75′ – Keita is playing as a center forward along with Sanchez. On their last entry into the box, Barcelona tried to loft a ball for him at Cech’s right post. Drogba tracked back to head it clear.

74′ – Fabregas is off. Seydou Keita is on.

73′ – A lot of Barcelona possession within 25 yards of goal, but everything’s so congested, they’re looking for something that isn’t there. It’s unclear what they’re waiting for. They’re got to start putting the ball ito the box, be that via shots at Cech or by sending it in and hoping for the best.

72′- Lampard slides into Fabregas, brings a second leg through, and sees yellow.

71′ – As Barcelona tries to increase the pressure, every player by Mascherano is in the final third. Three (Alves, Busquets, Puyol) sit right on its edge. It will be interesting to see when Puyol gets sent farther forward, possibly to attack Ramires.

69′ – Drogba is down but gets up relatively quickly only to see the referee come over and say something that agitates him.

68′ – Chelsea with some possession on their right flank before Lampard lofts a ball into the box for Kalou, who forces Valdes to come and weakly punch into midfield, where it’s cleared.

67′ – Cuenca, who has had a good match, comes off. Cristian Tello is on.

66′ – Barcelona backs all of Chelsea’s players into their box but still got a ball over most of them before Ramires heads it into touch. The corner’s played out into midfield, another ball is sent in, and Ramires heads it out.

64′ – Chip from the left flank gives the crowd pause as Drogba’s trying to run onto the ball. Barca plays it out for a corner, and when Frank Lampard swings it in, Valdes can’t get to it before Ivanovic puts a head to it. Ball goes out, but Chelsea always had another.

63′ – Drogba is just running around to where he’s needed. Five minutes ago he was deep on the right. Over the last two minutes he’s been deep on the left, and whenever the ball is dead, he makes his way back to a striker’s position.

62′ – Barcelona catches Ramires too narrow, plays it out to Cuence who has a shot from seven yards out. Cech some down and makes another great save.

61′ – Reminiscent of how Jose Mourinho used Samuel Eto’o two years ago, Didier Drogba was just seen on the left of  a six man defensive line: Ramires-Ivanovic-Lampard-Bosingwa-Cole-Drogba.

59′ – Cech has picked up a  yellow card, possibly for time-wasting, as he was warned in the first half (and the card seems to have been given during the process of taking a goal kick).

58′ – Kalou is on for Mata.

56′ – A near embarrassing moment for Valdes. Drogba bring the ball out of his own end, plays it past Puyol at half way and then fires at goal. Valdes has to dive to keep the ball out.

54′ – Barcelona with another good chance that goes (as they say) wanting. Alves bursts down the right and puts a ball far post, but Sanchez can’t head it home.

50′ – Now Iniesta finds his way into the book, fouling Drogba.

48′ – In there, Branislav Ivanovic picked up a yellow card. If Chelsea makes it to Munich, he’ll be suspended.

48′ – Lionel Messi steps to the ball and … unbelievable! It’s off the bar! Chelsea is still in front as Messi against misses a golden chance, this time from the spot! Cech had guessed the right way but had no way of stopped that, were it a ball length lower.

48′ – We’ve got a penalty. Drogba brings down Fabregas after being dispossessed. Barcelona is set to go up again. The play was way to the right of the box, but there was little hesitation.

46′ – Welcome back. Barcelona is now moving from right to left in your head.

Halftime: Total passes (I believe this is Opta): 349-89, Barcelona.

Halftime: As seen on Twitter, Xavi has 59 completed passes in the first half. Chelsea: 61.

Halftime: I suppose this goes without saying: If Chelsea makes the final, Terry won’t play. David Luiz has yet to return to health, and Gary Cahill went down in the first half.

Halftime: Possession: 72-28, Barcelona; Shots: 9-4, Barcelona; Shots on target: 3-1, Barcelona.

Halftime: An incredible last 10 minutes saw three goals and a red card, though essentially, we’re right back where we started. Chelsea is still en route of Munich, even if the score looks a little different. There’ll be no penalty kicks, as Chelsea takes a 2-2 “edge” into intermission.

45+1′ – We’re headed to injury time, and Chelsea desperately needs halftime … wait – Lampard plays a through ball for Ramires and Valdes is eight yards off his line. The chip is in the back of the net. It’s now 2-2 and Chelsea, thanks to their away goal, is in front! (Originally put Drogba as the scorer … bad reflexive response, I guess)

44′ – Ramires picks up Chelsea’s second yellow.

43′ – It just got a lot worse for Chelsea. Alexis squares for Messi, who plays into the left of the area for Iniesta. It’s a cool finish on a shot we see missed more than make. Just inside the lower-right corner, Barcelona is in front.

43′ – UEFA is reporting a collision between Valdes and Pique is what prematurely ended the defender’s night.

42′ – Chelsea defense is actually Ramires-Ivanovic-Bosingwa-Cole. Mikel stays in midfield.

40′ – Terry’s dismissal will force Mikel into central defense and, seemingly, has left the Blues with two hopes: Drogba and penalty kicks.

37′ – Amazingly dirty play. As the ball is on the right flank, John Terry takes his right knee and puts it into the small of Alexis Sanchez’s back. The assistant most have saw it, because after a brief pause, the official didn’t hesitate to produce red.

37′ – John Terry has been red carded.

35′ – We are tied up! Barcelona wins a corner and targets Puyol with the restart. Chelsea heads it clear but Alves is there to bring it back in and play it out to the left for Cuenca. He puts it across the face, along the six for Busquets, who has an open goal to left-foot the equalizer home. It’s 1-1, people.

34′ – Drogba and Busquets collide again. This time, Drogba gets up checking his mouth for blood.

33′ – For the first time we see Iniesta making an attacking move from the left. The ball from Fabregas to him goes into touch. On the goal kick, the official talks to Cech about taking too much time. Cech obliges and restarts.

33′ – Possession: 72-28, Barca. Shots: 6-2, Barca. Shots on target: 1-0, Barca.

31′ – Long ball from Drogba (goal kick) flicked on for Mata running behind. He has a step on Puyol and forces Valdes to punt it into touch for a throw. Within seconds of the restart, Chelsea’s given the ball back, and Mikel has to take down Sánchez to prevent a break. First card.

30′ – I can’t help but think Barcelona didn’t think out the Piqué substitution. As we saw some work from them on their right you see Cuenca’s presence completely blocks Alves. Alves has a killer right foot and could be valuable in other ways, but I can’t help but wonder if Adriano wouldn’t have been the better choice.

28′ – Not seeing many ill effects of Cahill coming off. On the last exchange (started with a cross from Cuenca), Ivanovic made a nice read to drop into the box as Xavi tried to chip for Fabregas.

26′ – Piqué has had to come off. It’s unclear what happened, but he’s going straight to the locker room. It seems like an aggravation of the leg injury he has suffered from throughout the month. Dani Alves is on – not Adriano. Will Busquets drop into defense? Or will Alves play a traditional defender’s role?

25′ – For all the talk of Barcelona needing depth, they’re creating enough chances by going straight down the middle. Intricate passing, running until they can’t anymore. Typical Barcelona.

22′ – Drogba and Busquets collide contesting a long ball. Neither go down. This really should be the headline.

22′ – Long chance from Mascherano goes just over the bar. The game’s really picked up over the last four minutes.

20′ – We’re seeing enough from Barcelona to know breaking down the defense won’t be the problem. As has been the case for most of the year, finishing will be the issue. Messi (Messi!) has already failed to convert two very good chances.

19′ – Another great chance for Barcelona, this time requiring Cech to be at his best. A ball played to the left of goal gives Messi a chance from eight yards out. The ball’s heading for the far corner but Cech gets a leg to it. What a save.

19′ – Sometimes, you have to love modern technology. We’re back.

12′ – Finally, it happens. Bosingwa is on for Cahill. Di Matteo decides not to take any chances.

11′ – Early, Barcelona has 74 percent of the possession (the UEFA possession, not Opta’s)

10′ – Just as the board had been prepared to announce the sub, Bosingwa sis back down.

9′ – Cahill’s back on the pitch, but it still looks like Bosingwa is going to come on. Later in the game we could have expected Bosingwa to come on for Mata and play right midfield. Obviously, that won’t happen should Bosingwa come on.

7′ – Barcelona’s fans boo, suspecting early time-wasting. Nice. Cahill’s now up and running along the goal line, testing his leg. Bosignwa is taking off his warm ups. If he comes on, Ivanovic will play centrally.

6′ – Barcelona with another entry into the area as Fábregas slips a ball into the Invanovic-Cahill channel. Sánchez is in behind but is closed down quickly by Lampard. Nothing comes of it besides Cahill doing down. He’s tweaked his left hamstring, and it doesn’t look good.

4′ – Early we see a benefit to Pique beyond his height. He’s perfectly comfortable stepping into midfield and handling the ball. Here he swings it out to Cuenca on the right, who plays it in before Ivanovic sends it out for a throw.

3′ – Brilliant chance for Barcelona. Ball rolled to Messi’s feet. Touch to Sanchez, back to Messi, freezing John Terry. Right-footed shot from 14 yards goes into the outside of the side netting.

3′ – Barcelona with their first real foray forward sees a chip from Xavi go over Terry and Messi, bouncing into the arms of Cech.

2′ – Messi with a giveaway, ball to Drogba ho holds up play before playing wide to Ivanovic, who is fouled. Restart is quickly given back to Barcelona.

1′ – Early Ramires and Ashley Cole break down the right of Barça’s defense. Cole rolls a ball toward the six but Drogba can’t get to it before Valdés swallows it up.

1′ – Game on! Barcelona needs a goal. Chelsea needs time to speed up.

0′ – Chelsea will be moving from right-to-left on your imaginary screen. They’ll also be kicking off.

[LIMBO] – Anthem is sung and the handshakes are done. We’re moments away.

[LIMBO] – Players are finally walking out. The crowd, having just finished singing, will undoubtedly discard their typical golf clap celebrations for more a full-voiced approach. And just in case you were wondering, the officials are wearing lavender.

[LIMBO] – Sky Sports just featured a Braveheart, 300-esque rallying cry from somebody I can only assume is Gerard Butler’s second choice voice double. Teams are lining up in the tunnel.

[LIMBO] – We’re now in the middle of that nether region between advertised start time and kickoff. We should be about 10 minutes away. For Barcelona and Chelsea fans, may as well be an hour.

4′ – Sky Sports just showed the replay of John Terry’s miss in Moscow. I’m assuming this was both obligatory and not at the request of Chelsea supporters.

6′ – Jamie Redknapp, commenting on di Matteo, with a possibly unintended vicious backhand to André Villas-Boas: “I think [di Matteo’s] shown common sense.” I suppose I should be used to this. I’m not. It’s still very amusing.

7′ – One thing Roberto di Matteo has going for him, as it concerns his prospects for a permanent position at Chelsea: The Blues have a recent history of success with managers sporting caterpillar eyebrows.

9′ – As far as prematch news goes, it’s been pretty slow, a reflection of everybody pretty much knowing what’s about to come. Can Chelsea hold out for 90 minutes? Potentially worrisome news, Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceIndy) just asked about rumors of a ruckus outside the Nou Camp between Chelsea supporters and Barcelona’s faithful.

14′ – As implying by tactical savant Michael Cox on Twitter (@zonal_marking), Pep Guardiola’s selection leaves him with a ton of options. Guardiola could go with four across the top with Iniesta, Messi, Sánchez and Cuenca and still have Fábregas coming from deep. You could drop Iniesta into midfield and play 3-4-3. You could move Fábregas up and play … let’s just start the game already.

Point: Barcelona’s got a ton of interchangeable parts.

-18′ – Good line here from SI’s Georgina Turner, via her Twitter (@georgina_turner): “I’m not suggesting Sky have overhyped Barca v Chelsea, but if the teams don’t emerge in solid gold gladiatorial armour, I’ll be disappointed”.

-27′ – Now, Chelsea’s selection, unchanged from Stamford Bridge:

G – Petr Cech
LB – Ashely Cole
LCB – John Terry
RCB – Gary Cahill
RB – Branislav Ivanovic
LM – Ramires
CM – Raul Meireles
CM – John Obi Mikel
CM – Frank Lampard
RM – Juan Mata
F – Didier Drogba

Subs: Turnbull, Bosingwa, Essien, Malouda, Torres, Kalou, Sturridge

Though there was some post-match debate as to what the formation was exactly last week, reviewing the tape certainly seemed to show a 4-5-1/4-1-4-1 though most of the game. Up 1-0 at kickoff, we may see the same, only with the midfield sitting even deep at the match’s onset.

-29′ – The consensus seems to be Alves was dropped because he was at fault for the goal at Stamford Bridge, something with which I disagree. The tactic was the problem at Stamford Bridge. Guardiola’s move today is less an indictment of the player as it is the approach.

-34′ – Barcelona’s lineup first, with one major surprise:

G – Victor Valdés
D – Gerard Piqué
D – Javier Mascherano
D – Carles Puyol
M – Sergio Busquets
M – Xavi Hernández
M/F – Andrés Iniesta
M/F – Cesc Fábregas
F – Alexis Sánchez
F – Lionel Messi
F – Isaac Cuenca

Subs: Pinto, Alves, Alcántara, Keita, Adriano, Pedro Rodríguez, Tello

Amazingly, Dani Alves has been benched. Where many thought Barcelona would have to do a better job or stretching out Chelsea’s defense, their best wide player is out of the XI.

The other change from last week: Gerard Piqué is in, Adriano is on the bench.

This looks like it will play as a 3-4-3, with Sánchez and Cuenca possibly playing wide attacking roles. But, we’ll have to wait and see.

-36′ – Welcome back. I missed you. Did you – not, you don’t have to say. We’ll get the lineups up in a minute and then update you on all the latest pregame news. In the interim, you can check out

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

[ MORE: Turkey hands bid plans to UEFA for EURO 2024 ]

It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

[ MORE: Turkey hands in bid plans to UEFA for 2024 EUROs ]

Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

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Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.