Snap Judgments: Quick reaction to Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action

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If Tuesday was defined by road success, Wednesday was about late goals. They turned matches in Gelsenkirchen, Manchester, Porto and St. Petersburg, and while we haven’t had time to catch up on all eight matches, we do have time for some snap judgments:

Group A

Porto 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain – James Rodriguez’s 83rd minute goal gives Porto a just result. Aside from a couple of moments of danger from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Portuguese champions were consistently the better side. Poor finishing let this match stay even until its final moments, but Porto’s Colombian dynamo made sure the hosts got three huge points. They sit on top of Group A perfect through two rounds.

Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb – New coach Oleg Blohkin’s Champions League debut with Dynamo saw his team up two after 33 minutes. Ultimately, the win is just holding serve. Dinamo’s expected to finish bottom of this group. Today, we saw why.

Group B

Arsenal 3-1 Olympiacos – As expected, Arsenal dominated the ball, but a goal from Kosta Mitroglou in first half stoppage time made this more interesting than Arsène Wenger would have liked. Lukas Podolski’s early second half winner (and Aaron Ramsey’s insurance tally) keeps the Gunners at the top of Group B ahead of their home-and-home with Schalke.

Schalke 2-2 Montpellier – Like Arsenal, Schalke made it more difficult than they would have liked, falling behind in the 13th minute. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s second half penalty conversion was set to put Schalke along side Arsenal with six points, but a 90th minute goal from Souleymane Camara grabbed a point for Montpellier. It’s a disappointing result for Schalke, but safely in second place (three points up on Montpellier), they’re still in a strong position to go advance.

Group C

Zenit St. Petersburg 2-3 Milan – Two very fortunate goals (in off Zenit players) get a struggling Milan full points in Russia. Zenit only played well for 30 minutes in the middle of the match. With no points through two rounds, they’ll rue not giving a better effort while going down two in the first 16 minutes.

Anderlecht 0-3 Málaga – We talked up Málaga as the better side, but a three-goal win is surprising. Anderlecht only put one shot on target as the Andalusians got another two-goal performance, this one from Eliseu. Málaga has six points, a +6 goal difference, and are going to be difficult to keep from the knockout rounds.

Group D

Manchester City 1-1 Borussia Dortmund – Borussia Dortmund were clearly the better side, but when Neven Subotic capped a poor day with a hand ball in the 89th minute, City had their route into the match. Mario Balotelli converted, City got their point, and left few who will remember how much the Germans’ superior play. We’ll drill down on this one later.

Ajax 1-4 Real Madrid – It took Real Madrid 42 minutes to break through, and when Ajax pulled back a goal early in the second, it looked like we might have a game. Ultimately, El Real got the result we expected. They’re perfect on top of Group D, and Cristiano has back-to-back hat tricks. We’ll assume he’s happy now.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million, and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.

Kenny Saief approved for one-time switch from Israel to USMNT

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Kenny Saief has been officially cleared by FIFA to make his one-time switch of international allegiance from Israel to the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday.

Saief, 23, was born in Panama City, Fla., to Druze-Israeli parents and began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa in 2005, at the age of 11. After a handful of first-team appearances for various Israeli clubs between 2010 and 2013, Saief earned a regular place in Ironi Nir Ramat HaSharon’s first team during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, he moved to Belgian side Gent, where he’s played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena included Saief on his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

He appeared for Israeli youth national teams at just about every level, but having grown frustrated at the lack of a call-up to the senior team, Saief made it known many months ago he would consider a switch to the USMNT if the omission continued.

Saief figures to serve as something of a utility-man for the USMNT, at least from the start. He’s a left-footed midfielder who’s played extensively on both the left and right wings, and even a bit at left back. It’s the latter that should most intrigued USMNT fans, considering the dearth of options available at the position.

Geiger, Marrufo, Villarreal picked as Gold Cup referees

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) Mark Geiger, who three years ago became the first American to referee a knockout stage match at the World Cup, is among 17 referees picked for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Americans Jair Marrufo and Armando Villarreal also were announced Thursday for the 12-nation tournament, which runs from July 7-26 in various U.S. cities.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Geiger, who is from New Jersey, was a referee for France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria in the round of 16.

Three each were picked from Mexico (Roberto Garcia, Fernando Guerrero and Cesar Ramos) and Honduras (Melvin Matamoros, Oscar Moncada and Hector Rodriguez).

Two will come from Costa Rica: Henry Bejarano and Ricardo Montero.

Others picked for the tournament are Joel Aguilar (El Salvador), Drew Fischer (Canada), Walter Lopez (Guatemala), Yadel Martinez (Cuba), John Pitti (Panama) and Kimbell Ward (St. Kitts and Nevis).