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.

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.