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


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.

Griezmann sets pre-World Cup deadline for transfer future

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French striker Antoine Griezmann is no stranger to seeing his name in the transfer rumor mill, but that familiarity doesn’t make it any more enjoyable for the Atletico Madrid attacker (who celebrates his 27th birthday on Wednesday).

Long-tipped for a move to either Barcelona or Manchester United, Griezmann knows one thing: He wants his future sorted before the World Cup.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“I want to travel to Russia without this concern,” he told L’Equipe. “It’s not about knowing where I’ll play, but about having the peace of mind if I’m still in one place or another.

“It may be boring, but I have told my sister that, whether I stay or not, this will have to be resolved beforehand. What bothers me the most is that everyone asks me about this issue.”

That’s both honest and reasonable, and we can imagine it’s not a blast to answer questions on your future every day. He also has a contract through 2021-22, which won’t make any transfer a simple one.

Griezmann has 23 goals and 13 assists in all competitions for Atleti this season, as La Liga’s second place side remains alive in the UEFA Europa League. He’s scored 106 goals for Atleti since arriving from Real Sociedad.

NYCFC signs second Homegrown Player in history

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Four years, two Homegrowns.

That’s the decent track record for New York City FC, which has spotted a second youngster from amongst its ranks in 15-year-old Joe Scally.

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Scally joins United States youth international James Sands as Homegrown Players from NYCFC. Here’s USMNT legend and NYCFC technical director Claudio Reyna:

“Joe has been one of the top performers in the Academy for the past few seasons and represented US Soccer at U-15 and U-17 level.”

“He has all of the attributes we look for in a right-back: he’s strong in defense and can support in attack to help create chances from wide areas.”

Sands was signed last summer, and played 23 minutes for NYCFC against Colorado in his lone senior appearance.

Allow England defender Alfie Mawson to charm you

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Swansea City’s Alfie Mawson is at England national team camp, and the young man is conducting himself in downright adorable fashion.

It seems the 24-year-old London defender cannot quite believe Gareth Southgate called his name for the Three Lions.

[ MORE: Key newcomers for USMNT friendly ]

“A lot of people wouldn’t have even heard my name until this call up,” Mawson told the BBC. “You know it’s down to performing well at certain times, it’s down to doing the right things and sometimes it’s down to being a nice person.”

Mawson has played every minute for Swans this season, picking up two goals and an assist. More importantly, he’s won 3.3 aerial battles per game and 6.3 clearances.

While this won’t necessarily serve him well against the Netherlands and Italy in this week’s friendlies — they don’t put a lot of hopeful balls into aerial or clearing positions — it’s kept Mawson on the England radar for this summer’s World Cup.

Mawson is two seasons removed from playing in the Championship, and was loaned to lower league clubs like Maidenhead United and Welling United. At the time, he was going to “car boot sales with my girlfriend” which from my limited Googling seems the English equivalent of a yard sale and flea market combined.

“We are in a good position now where we don’t really have to do the car boots unless she wants a bit of excitement on a Sunday morning.”

Pretty good position, yeah.

FIFA urges Russia to hasten work on delayed World Cup arena

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SAMARA, Russia (AP) FIFA has urged Russia to speed up World Cup preparations at a stadium which needs “a huge amount of work” to be ready on time.

With less than three months to go until the World Cup, the 45,000-seat Samara Arena is the only one of 12 stadiums which doesn’t yet have a pitch installed.

The stadium in the Volga River city of Samara was already badly delayed due to a complex roof design, but now cold weather in the Russian spring is causing further problems. The pitch can’t be installed until the weather warms up.

“Obviously we would expect further progress than this,” FIFA’s chief competitions official Colin Smith said on a visit to the arena Wednesday. “We don’t yet have a pitch, and obviously we need to wait for some warmer weather conditions in order to get this pitch installed.”

As of Tuesday, instead of a field, there was an area covered with tarpaulins and snow. Temperatures are forecast to stay slightly below freezing for the rest of the week.

“There’s a huge amount of work still to be done,” Smith added. “From the information we’ve received there’s nothing stopping all these areas being completed on time. It just requires commitment and more manpower to get it done on time, and when we talk about on time, we’re talking about the commissioning date of the end of April.”

If that date passes, it could restrict FIFA’s ability to test the stadium with Russian league games and install World Cup equipment. Outside the arena, deep snowdrifts cover much of an area that is due to be landscaped for the tournament and will host some facilities for fans.

Alexander Fetisov, deputy governor of the Samara region, said the stadium will be ready.

“I’d like to avoid unnecessary dramatization of the situation,” he said. “Everything is being done so that the stadium is commissioned in the time required.”

Samara isn’t the only World Cup field which has drawn attention in recent weeks. The stadium in Kazan has been widely criticized by Russian fans after a brown, muddy surface was used for league games after the winter break.

Smith said FIFA was offering Russia help to get its fields ready, adding, “We’re doing everything possible and we’re convinced that we’re going to have a very, very high standard of pitches at this tournament.”