Offshore drilling, Russia: at CSKA Moscow 2, Spartak Moscow 1

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Man of the Match: Even though his goals were more luck than marksmanship, former Manchester United protégé Zoran Tosic was the difference today for CSKA. At least, he was the difference on the scoresheet. In the lineup in large part because of his service, Tosic scored both CSKA’s goals from dead balls. The first was an attempted cross Spartak let fall in the box, confusion on the part of the goalkeeper leading to an unfortunately conceded goal. The second was a great strike from the deep right flank, that needed help from the opposition. Spartak’s Ari lifted his left forearm to his face after Tosic struck his shot. The ball deflected off his arm and in for the winner.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • While Zenit St. Petersburg has long secured first in Russia, there is a knockdown, drag out for second place (otherwise known as Russia’s place in the preliminary rounds of UEFA’s Champions League). With the win (and Dinamo Moscow’s loss at Zenit), CSKA jumped from fourth to second, one point ahead of their pair of Moscow rivals.
  • While there no shortage of clubs in Moscow, CSKA-Spartak is the big derby. Both share Luzhniki Stadium, site of today’s game. The crowd was in full-force pre-match, half the stadium waving blue and red flags (for CSKA), the other flaunting their red and whites.
  • CSKA started the game stronger, making headway into Spartak’s attack through the athleticism of right winb Ahmed Musa, but by halftime, Spartak was generating the better chances, especially winning crosses drilled to the edge of Igor Akinfeev’s six yard box.
  • Akinfeev, just back from a layoff after reconstructive knee surgery (for an injury suffered against Spartak), looked confident laying out for a number of first half saves. While only two of the (six, or so) saves were particularly difficult, Akinfeev seemed to have glue on his gloves, getting his body in front of and catching an array of headed shots.
  • There is little Akinfeev could have done on the conceded goal, with Spartak forward Artem Dyzuba leaving Aleksei Berezutski in quicksand before launching an equalizer into the upper 90 from 14 yards out. It almost looked like a high school play: A small shimmy from the dangly attacker before going left to the side of the area and letting go of a rocket.
  • Dyzuba was a part of one the matches strange, quirky symmetries. At 6’4″, he was often playing the number 10 to Emmanuel Emenike’s number nine. Emenike’s only 5’11”. At the other end, CSKA often did their own inverse big-little partnership when 6’3″ Tomas Necid played behind Seydou Doumbia (5’10”).
  • You can spend years watching Russian soccer and it never gets old: There were two sets of twins on the field today. The Berezutski twins (Aleksei and Vasili), Russian internationals, were the central defense pairing for CSKA. The Kombarovs twins (Dmitri and Kirill) took up the fullback positions for Spartak, though they are natural midfielders.
  • The acquisition of Swedish ball-winner Pontus Wernbloom is a perfect fit for CSKA. At least, if allows them to play a very aggressive team, as they did today. Musa was basically an attack-only winger, and with Tosic having little value when he’s in from the left, having Keisuke Honda as part of a two-man midfield could be an invitation to be dominated. Wernbloom, however, was very good today and allowed Honda to roam, even as CSKA was matched against a 4-2-3-1.
  • If you’re somebody who likes seeing the middle-tier countries of Europe do well, you can’t help but hope CSKA holds on to second. They have far too much talent to be fluttering around Europe. With strong international quality at nearly every position, this team should be in Champions League.

Highlights

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga