Manchester City FC v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League

Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Manchester City 1, Borussia Dortmund 1

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Man of the Match: No doubt, it’s Joe Hart. Manchester City’s goalkeeper came up with seven saves, many of them on point blank shots, keeping his team alive for 89 minutes. It will be easy for people (including myself) to say Manchester City didn’t deserve a point for this game, but only one team had Joe Hart. City deserves credit for nurturing him. Today was part of their payoff. For one day, Hart lived up to the hyperbolic claims he is the world’s best goalkeeper.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Aside from an initial, mind-numbing first 20 minutes (that you should just fast forward through, if you’re going to watch this later), Borussia Dortmund was clearly the better side. Able to move with ease through City’s defense, Dortmund outshot the English champions 22-12.
  • Roman Weidenfeller did have to make two big saves of his own in the first half, stopping Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko after City’s forwards beat BVB’s high line.
  • In truth, it wasn’t so much the whole defense that City beat as much as Neven Subotic, who had a poor day. Running in front of Subotic and behind Hummels, City’s forwards were able to get on to passes played behind the defense. At times Subotic was lagging behind the rest of BVB’s line, at others he was just beaten for pace. Regardless, it was a problem BVB had to solve.
  • Eventually pressure through the midfield helped protect BVB’s defense. Ilkay Gundogan came up from his holding role to play along side Jacob Blaszczykowski, playing much of the match through the middle while Marco Reus went left (Mario Götze right). The line of four through the middle harassed Yaya Touré and Jack Rodwell, the latter coming on in the 34th minute for an injured Javi García.
  • The Rodwell substitution looked like it was going to be decisive when his turnover led to BVB’s goal. His 61st minute square ball was intercepted by Reus at the edge of City’s defensive third. Reus streaked in past an unprepared defense to beat Hart for what looked like it would be the match winner.
  • Subotic had something to say about that. In the 89th minute, Agüero turned on a left-footed volley at a sharp ankle right of goal. The shot hit Subotic squarely on an outstretched right arm. It was ball-to-hand, but it was a call every referee in the world would make, giving Mario Balotelli the opportunity to salvage a point for City.
  • Tracking back to a question asked in the preview, was this match BVB’s breakthrough? They certainly outplayed a big team, and while they may not have gotten full points, we’re smart enough to see the disparity between the teams.
  • But that disparity seemed more Manchester City’s doing than Dortmund’s. It’s difficult to imagine this match being played again and City being this bad. The central defense was terrible, the midfield was non-existent, meaning the forwards had little service. It’s not often we see Vincent Kompany and Yaya Touré marginalized like this.
  • The performance leaves City on one point through two rounds, and while they have a back-to-back with Ajax coming up, they’ll be under pressure to get full points. If they get them, they’ll be on seven with matches at home with Real Madrid and at Borussia Dortmund. Thanks to today’s draw, they’re probably going to need BVB to stumble (perhaps in that matchday six game in Dortmund) to avoid a second straight trip to Europa League.
  • For Dortmund, it could prove a huge result. They got a point, but perhaps more importantly, they kept Manchester City from full points. Even if they lose both upcoming matches with Real Madrid, they’ll be at most three points behind City when they face Ajax on matchday five.

AT THE HALF: Man City 1-2 Monaco; Atleti lead in UCL round of 16

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Radamel Falcao Garcia of AS Monaco celebrates as he scores their first and equalising goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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We’re only halfway through the first leg of Manchester City versus Monaco, and Bayer Leverkusen versus Atletico Madrid, in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, but the goals are coming fast and furious from England to Germany.

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Man City found themselves 1-0 up at the Etihad Stadium, when Leroy Sane turned on video-game mode to set up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal in the 28th minute. But, as City have so typically done in the Champions League, they began self-destructing four minutes later. Radamel Falcao‘s diving header brought Monaco level in the 32nd minute, and Kylian Mbappe’s finish over the head of Willy Caballero put the visitors 2-1 up eight minutes later.

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As for Tuesday’s other round-of-16 tie, Saul Niguez simultaneously opened the scoring and snatched the soul of every Bayer defender who dared to contest him. Antoine Griezmann added a second for Atleti, who hold their 2-0 lead at halftime, seven minutes later.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Man City v Monaco; Bayer v Atletico Madrid

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his sides fourth goal during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on January 6, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clashes get underway on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Manchester City host AS Monaco at the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola knowing his shaky defense must stay strong against the leading scorers in France’s top-flight. Monaco have already come to England and beaten Tottenham Hotspur in the UCL group stage and under talented manager Leanardo Jardim the likes of Radamel Falcao looks fired up and ready to go.

That said, City have been much better in recent weeks and have shown their best form this season in the UCL. Remember, Pep has never failed to reach the semifinals of this competition as a manager. Quite the record.

Elsewhere Bayer Leverkusen welcome Atletico Madrid to the BayArena with Mexico’s Javier Hernandez back among the goals and aiming to give the Bundesliga outfit a lead to take with them to Madrid.

The runners up late season, Atleti are currently fourth in La Liga but Diego Simeone’s side have looked stellar in Europe this season once again as they finished above Bayern Munich to win their group. Expect a tense, tough game in Germany.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Manchester City vs. AS Monaco – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid – 2:45 p.m. ET

Bayern defends Ancelotti for middle-finger gesture to fans

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich has defended coach Carlo Ancelotti for raising his middle finger to Hertha Berlin fans after supposedly being spit at following a dramatic 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga.

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Bayern says “basically we find the human reaction of Carlo Ancelotti with the gesture to be emotionally understandable after the nasty spitting attack.”

Robert Lewandowski’s injury-time equalizer for Bayern on Saturday prompted altercations between Bayern and Hertha players in a heated atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium.

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The German soccer federation ended its investigation into the matter after Ancelotti agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,300) to its foundation for social work.

In 2014, Norbert Duewel, then-coach of second-division club Union Berlin, was fined 3,500 euros for raising his middle finger in a 4-1 loss at home against 1860 Munich.

Sacha Kljestan ready to take reigns as Red Bulls captain

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 6:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls dribbles past Steven Beitashour #33 of Toronto FC  during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 6, 2016 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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When news began to spread of a trade regarding one of Major League Soccer’s most recognizable faces, Sacha Kljestan was with his New York Red Bulls teammate at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January camp.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The clarity over Dax McCarty’s move to Eastern Conference foe Chicago Fire is very much uncertain — even a month after the fact — but the veteran midfielder’s absence left an opening for the Red Bulls captaincy.

[ MORE: PST talks with Atlanta president Darren Eales ahead of 2017 ]

And that was an opportunity that Kljestan was honored to be named.

“I was just proud. My first feeling was that I’m thankful for Jesse [Marsch] having that trust in me and my teammates having that trust in me as well, which is very important,” Kljestan said. “But I just feel very proud to represent Jesse and the coaching staff and represent every member of the club that works with the New York Red Bulls. Most importantly I want to represent the fans in a way that they are proud of.”

Fortunately for the Red Bulls, what they have had over the past two seasons in Kljestan is a player that not only provides flash and brilliance on the pitch but also stability off the field and in the locker room.

Since making his return to MLS in 2015, Kljestan has notched an astounding 34 assists — the most of any player during that span — to go along with his 14 goals.

Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch has been impressed with Kljestan’s work ethic since bringing in the Designated Player, and he says little thought needed to be put into naming the U.S. international his squad’s next captain.

“It almost wasn’t even a choice at all,” Marsch said in regards to naming Kljestan his primary captain. “He had served as basically a vice-captain for two years and it was an natural fit. There were discussions with the staff but I think it was pretty clear that this is a guy that is a top leader. That being said, we’ve said all along that the captain isn’t a one man job.

“It’s about a community of people and certainly the two guys that will support Sacha the most will be Luis [Robles] and Brad [Wright-Phillips]. I think the three of them will take on big leadership roles and there’s room for young guys to blossom into bigger leadership positions as well.”

The Red Bulls have undoubtedly proven their success in the regular season since rebranding to the aforementioned name in 2006 when the Global giant, Red Bull, acquired the franchise.

The last 11 seasons have provided the club with plenty to cheer about, including two Supporters’ Shield crowns and only missing out on the postseason once, but the Red Bulls have struggled to get past one major hurdle.

Winning an MLS Cup is challenging.

It’s only something that 11 teams have accomplished in the league’s history. Of those 11 teams, only five of them have won two or more titles since MLS’ inception in 1996.

Marsch’s approach since day one has been very clear to both his team and the opponents that the Red Bulls face. The goal has been to play an attacking-minded press, similar to that of Barcelona in the club’s hay day.

While that pressing style likely won’t change, the team is prepared to add another dimension to its attack by switching to a two-forward setup starting in 2017.

“With our little tweak in formation that we’re doing now, we’re trying to be less susceptible to opening ourselves up and creating too much space between our lines,” Kljestan said. “We’re working on ways now to become more connected and become harder to break down and really make teams earn their chances against us. We might go through some growing pains with the formation but I think it’ll make us stronger in the long run.”

The Red Bulls begin their 2017 journey on Wednesday when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The two sides will meet a second time on March 2 in Vancouver.