Snap Judgments: Initial reactions to Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League results

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Eight games in a just over four hours leave us with a lot of catching up to do before we can really sink our teeth into Tuesday’s Champions League results, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give some immediate thoughts on a day that saw England’s giants win on the road, Barcelona be Barcelona, Bayern fall flat, and Juventus played to a standstill in Turin.

Group E

Juventus 1-1 Shakhtar Donestk – More on this match to come, but the game of the day played out that way, and in three acts. (1) Shaktar dominated early, eventually producing the first goal. (2) Juventus responded quickly and appeared to be making this into a typical Juve match before (3) an open and intense final 30 minutes left the teams drawn at one. Shakhtar showed they’re capable of playing with one of Europe’s elite, while Juventus drops points at home, giving Group E’s pole position back to Chelsea.

Nordsjaelland 0-4 Chelsea – Goals piled on late make the final score deceptive, though there was little doubt Chelsea would win this one. They were clearly better from the opening whistle, even if it took a while for Juan Mata to break through. The Spaniard would add a second after halftime as the Blues cruised back to the top of their group. Given how other giants performed away from home on Tuesday, this is a very convincing result (that will talk more about this evening).

Group F

BATE Borisov 3-1 Bayern Munich – An incredible result for the Belarussians, producing a legendary victory in the history of their club. In the preview for this game, we not only alluded to Bayern as the world’s best at-the-moment team but also declined to go into BATE’s chances, claiming “you’re smart enough to know Bayern are heavy favorites to win this match.” Give BATE credit. They pulled the upset that wasn’t even worth considering, a far more difficult task than proving PST wrong.

Valencia 2-0 Lille – Lille has now gone winless in seven and look destined for last place in this group. Thanks to two goals from Jonas, Valencia gets their first points of the competition, setting up a home-and-home with BATE (now on six points) that could determine who’s going to the knockout round and who’s going to Europa. For Lille, Mathieu Debuchy picked up a second yellow late, putting him out for matchday three’s game against Bayern.

Group G

Sporting Lisbon 0-2 Barcelona – Exactly what you’d expect from Barcelona, though surprisingly, Lionel Messi didn’t score. Barça’s goals came from Alexis and Cesc Fábregas (both assisted by Messi, of course). A straight red for Sergio Busquets in the 88th minute means the Barça holder may miss multiple matches, a big loss with Thiago Alcantera having suffered a knee injury this weekend. For Sporting, they’re scoreless through two and need to get their post-Whitsel/Garcia life figured out before their matches with Spartak.

Spartak Moscow 2-3 Celtic – What happened to Spartak? Two weeks ago, they were almost knocking off Barcelona in Catalonia. Now they’re loosing at home to Celtic? When you give up an early goal then see a man (Juan Insurralde) red carded right when you’ve taken control of the match, you set yourself up for this kind of upset. All credit to Celtic, who came out and both started and finished strong. They sit second in the group with four points.

Group H

CFR Cluj 1-2 Manchester United – This was very typical United, giving life to a team they should have played off the field. Cluj came out strong and scored first, but two goals from Robin van Persie keeps the Red Devils perfect through two rounds. Will follow up on them later, but Cluj deserves from credit. They provided their win at Braga was no fluke. They only kept 35 percent of the possession, but late in the match, they had their chances to equalize. Right now, the look like they second-best team in this group.

Galatasaray 0-2 Sporting Braga – This result was coming, with Braga having recovered from their matchday one loss to Cluj. But when you see the scoreline, it’s still a bit surprising. Certainly Gala could use their home field advantage to carry them past a team like Braga? Apparently not. The Turkish champions conceded early and late and are now the only team in Group H without a win.

Those are our snap judgements. What are yours?

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.