Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Raffael, Yevhen Khacheridi

Winners, losers from opening day of Champions League

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As we sort through today’s results (and try to get caught up on eight matches), let’s take a quick inventory of winners and losers from the first day of UEFA Champions League action:


U.S. television viewers – By now, FOX Soccer’s motive for choosing its lead game is pretty clear. They want ratings, and usually that means picking the game featuring the English team with the highest profile. Rarely does that lead to viewers actually seeing the best game, but today, it all came together. Real Madrid and Manchester City scored five times over the last 23 minutes in Madrid, including a Cristiano Ronaldo game winner in the 90th minute – exactly the type of action every broadcaster wants.

The State of Qatar – This was the night Qatar Investment Authority wanted when it bought Paris Saint-Germain – Champions League soccer, under the lights, at the Parc de Princes. And their team didn’t disappoint. PSG’s two high-priced imports from Milan (Zlatan Ibrahimovic and – on his debut – Thiago Silva) scored within 30 minutes as the Parisians rolled to a 4-1 win over Dynamo Kyiv.

Vitor Periera, head coach, Porto – Periera nearly lost his job last year when the Portuguese champions failed to advance out of an easy group. Perhaps Periera learns from his Champions League debut, because today Porto took care of business. The second-year boss led the former champions to a 2-0 victory in Zagreb, snapping Dinamo’s 33-match unbeaten run.

Isco, midfielder, Málaga – The 20-year-old has recently been linked with a move to Borussia Dortmund. If today was a try out, he got the part. Two goals (his first three minutes in) helped Málaga to a successful Champions League debut, an easy 3-0 win over Russian champions Zenit.


Milan coach Max Allegri – Milan has gone 270 minutes without scoring at home this season after today’s 0-0 draw with Belgian champions Anderlecht. Many are giving the coach a pass, given he lost his best attacker (Ibrahimovic) this summer. But when you look at Allegri’s team, there’s almost no excuse for not getting something at the San Siro against Sampdoria, Bologna, or Anderlecht. Expect the rumblings about Allegri’s job to intensify.

Zenit’s checkbook – At the beginning of September, the Russian champions spent $104 million to lure Alex Witsel and Hulk from Portugal. Since, the team has gone 1-1-1, fallen to fourth in the Russian Premier League, and opened this season’s Champions League with a thud in Andalusia. It looks like Zenit tried to fix something that wasn’t broken.

Borussia Dortmund – How can a team that won 1-0 be a loser? Technically, they’re not, and 87th minute winners (this one from Robert Lewandowski) have a way of sending a team off the field triumphant. But then there’s context. BVB fell flat in last year’s Champions League and have a difficult group this year (with Real Madrid and Manchester City). Facing an Ajax team that’s clearly the fourth of four in Group D, Dortmund had a chance to not only get three points but also salve doubts they can compete with the group’s big spenders. So much for that idea.

UEFA discipline – Arsene Wenger began his three-match suspension as Arsenal visited Montpellier. The Gunners still won, 2-1. Even if Arsenal had lost, the touchline ban would have probably been insignificant. It’s not like the manager isn’t pulling the strings, regardless. The loss, however, gives Wenger a way to thumb his nose at UEFA as he serves his third suspension within a year. It might not be logical to couple today’s result with the suspension, but in sports, scoreboard has the final say.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Sporting KC (video)

Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans celebrates after Sounders' Nelson Haedo Valdez scored a goal against Sporting Kansas City in the second half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There’s a ton to unpack here, so we’ll dive right in. The Seattle Sounders topped Sporting Kansas City in the final knockout-round game of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Nelson Valdez scored the game’s only goal, an 88th-minute header, but not without supreme controversy. For starters, Valdez was offside as Joevin Jones played the ball into the box, just as Matt Besler was on a free kick for Sporting earlier in the second half. Besler’s goal was ruled out for offside, Valdez’s was allowed to stand. Benny Feilhaber, perhaps in his final game for Sporting, played like a man possessed and so nearly singlehandedly won the game for Sporting at multiple points on the night. Stefan Frei stood on his head and refused to allow such an occurrence. Osvaldo Alonso could have been sent off twice on the night — once on a straight red; once on a second yellow — but finished the game with just a single caution. Up next, the Sounders will take on Supporters’ Shield-winning FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

10′ — Zusi hits the post with a strike through traffic — Benny Feilhaber’s through ball to set up this double-chance for Sporting in sumptuous, and fully deserving of a proper finish.

53′ — Besler heads home, but he’s offside — This is about as close an onside/offside decisions get.

79′ — Frei denies Feilhaber after a spectacular run — Feilhaber’s run was mesmerizing, but Stefan Frei’s save was the tiniest bit better.

88′ — Valdez heads home the late winner — If Besler was offside, Valdez was offside. An unfitting end to a thrilling game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Benny Feilhaber

Goalscorers: Valdez (88′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.