Offshore Drilling, Europe: at Russia 1, Portugal 0

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Man of the Match: With an early goal allowing Russia to play a very controlled match, the hosts were a series of above average if unspectacular performances. Still, there was one performance that should be particularly heartening to Russia supporters. Although Sergei Ignashevich may only have been slightly better than his teammates, the veteran defender showed a glimpse of a second life under Fabio Capello.

Ignashevich has always been a quality player, but under previous regimes he was often left exposed, the 33-year-old often found lacking after having his speed tested. Today, Russia’s organization left the veteran CSKA defender with clean up duty, his clearances (often aerial) helping to preserve the host’s control of the day.

Is it too simplistic to draw a line between Ignashevich and John Terry? They both veteran defenders who serve as cornerstones for teams Capello’s inherited, and in each case, their only flaw was deteriorating foot speed. Terry proved effective for England. Can Ignashevich be a similar, prolonged linchpin with Russia?

Packaged for takeaway:

  • It was a big win for Russia, if not necessarily an upset. Beating Portugal at home would have been expected when the draw came out, but for a team under a new regime, the result was a proof of concept.
  • That concept: A less free-wheeling Russia. Capello played a 4-2-3-1 (versus Portugal’s typical 4-3-3) that, consistent with the coach’s philosophies, was more opportunistic than persuasive.
  • Under Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat, Russia had been a team that often controlled the ball (consistent with those coaches’ philosophies), but in their first big game under Fabio Capello, the Russians proved capable of playing with out it.
  • That’s bigger news than it sounds. Before Capello, you’d expect Russia to eventually break down when they weren’t controlling the game. Even when they dominated the ball, there where still mistake prone (as evidenced in Euro 2012 and their playoff against Slovenia in 2010 World Cup qualifying). Early on, Capello’s solved that problem.
  • Of course, the early goal helped. A great, swift movement in the sixth minute saw play move from Viktor Fayzulin to Roman Shirokov, the Zenit midfielder hitting Aleksandr Kerzakhov with a through ball that put his club teammate on goal. Rui Patricio made an early dive right, leaving his net open for the match’s only goal.
  • Perhaps predictably (given 84 minutes to chase an equalizer), Portugal went on to dominate possession. With Russia’s defense preventing the Seleccao from establishing any fluidity, Portugal was only able to get five shots on Igor Akinfeev despite holding 66 percent of the Opta possession.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo’s mood was the barometer. When his team is executing, he’s quieted by his determined. When his side becomes disjointed and can’t connect, that determination creates a mask of confusion, anger and betrayal, a look that was plastered on Ronaldo’s face at the Luzhniki.
  • Ronaldo’s standout moment came with the ball 40 yards away. On the left wing, he tried to make a far post run but took only a step before colliding with Russia right back Aleksandr Anyukov. Despite being three inches taller and (likely) 15-20 pounds heavier, Ronaldo went down in pain, rolling around as if his nose had been broken. You can imagine Anyukov’s confusion.
  • Once his simulation was done, Ronaldo looked up at the referee, flashed a forehead full of black rubber pellets, and implicitly asked why his lovely performance couldn’t draw a whistle, let alone a card.
  • The win keeps Russia perfect at the top of Group F: 3-0-0. They’ve yet to allow a goal, and with few challenges among the packet’s four other teams, Russia should maintain control of the group through their June trip to Lisbon.
  • For Portugal, the pressure is on not to drop points . If they do, Fabio Capello’s squad can almost guarantee a trip to Brazil with a draw at the Estadio da Luz, with Portugal again left to navigate the playoff round.

Barcelona’s Twitter hacked to claim Di Maria signing

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FC Barcelona had eyeballs popping across the Twitterverse for a solid 90 seconds there.

La Liga’s giants Tweeted out a welcome to Angel Di Maria, the current PSG and former Real Madrid star, with the hashtag #DiMariaFCB.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

It was an odd Tweet for 4 a.m. local time, as humourously pointed out by our Andy Edwards, and the hackers were quick to claim credit before any Tweets could be deleted.

So if someone tells you Angel Di Maria is the latest member of Barcelona, be sure to stop the spread of fake news.

On a day where Barca’s reportedly ready to up their bid for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, something tells us someone at the Camp Nou is turning over their keys to the club’s social media.

Rescheduled Yankees game moves NYCFC-Houston to Connecticut

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A rescheduled New York Yankees game is moving New York City FC to Connecticut.

Relax, it’s only for a day.

NYCFC will entertain the Houston Dynamo at Rentschler Field at 3 p.m. on Sept. 23 instead of their regular home of Yankee Stadium.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

The club will offer tickets to another match to current ticket holders, and will also discount tickets to the game in East Hartford for fans who hold tickets to the Yankee Stadium game and want to travel for the Dynamo match (More info here, if you are in either of those camps).

This is the third of three scheduled seasons NYCFC will play at Yankee Stadium, and it doesn’t look like it’ll find a new home any time soon.

Given the everyday nature of Major League Baseball, it’s surprising there have not been more conflicts for NYCFC. We just remain hopeful for the day we can watch NYC’s star-studded roster play on a bigger home field.

“Injustice.” “Incomprehensible.” Ronaldo again protests suspension

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The five-game suspension Cristiano Ronaldo received for making contact with an official is not sitting well with the forward.

Better put: it’s still not sitting well.

Six days ago, Ronaldo took to Instagram to say he was being persecuted after his red card in the Spanish Super Cup.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

Tuesday afternoon, he kept up the strong words by saying the suspension is “incomprehensible” and “an injustice.”

Roughly translated, Ronaldo posted, “One more incomprehensible decision. From injustice to injustive, they will never overcome me. And as always I will come back stronger. Thank you to all who have supported me.”

We’ll say this: He’s a really good soccer player.

Barca to offer Liverpool $176M for Coutinho

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Barcelona is insane.

Desperate following a rough two-legged loss to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, the Blaugranas are reportedly ready to offer $176 million to Liverpool for Philippe Coutinho.

Read it again: $176 million for Philippe Coutinho. It’s about $126 million with $12 million more when Barca clinches a UCL spot over the next four seasons (which they have done every year since finishing sixth in 2002-03).

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

Even in this transfer market, that’s nuts. Crazy to offer, and maybe even crazier not to accept.

That’s pretty much two-thirds of the Neymar money. Two-thirds (I keep repeating myself with this story)

It’s even a convenient out for Jurgen Klopp, who’s said Liverpool is not a selling club. Here, he can say with a straight face that the club can improve with this money by selling a player who has — and I recognize it’s not all about goals and assists — one double-digit goal season in his career and a career single-season high of seven PL assists (done thrice).

Almost anyone who’s had the audacity to say the Reds should accept the bid has often been shot down by the Anfield faithful online. “It’ll ruin our season” and “How do we replace him this late?” are the common cries.

To the first question: No, it won’t. To the second: Easy?

It’s not like-for-like, but nearly every player in the world is available for $176 million. It’s not like-for-like, but here’s a short list: Antoine Griezmann, Gareth Bale, Paulo Dybala, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus… Shoot! Klopp could sign 2-3 of his favorite BVB alums.

With this fee, Coutinho would become the second-highest transfer fee of all-time, behind only Neymar. There are makeweights Barcelona could offer that would make the deal even more intriguing to the Reds: Arda Turan, Andre Gomes, Denis Suarez.

Look at it from a neutral’s eyes — which I know is hard from the number of times I’ve read @ Tweets that say, “The only people who would like this deal are fans of Chelsea or United!” — at some point, it becomes unreasonable to not take advantage of Barcelona’s desperation. Maybe Coutinho is worth the “fit” for Barca, but rejecting this fee is more illogical than the offer itself.

At the risk of inflaming every more Liverpool supporters, Ross Barkley is probably going to cost someone $35 million and he’s a year and a half younger (Coutinho is a superior player right now, but we’re talking about the market here).

And, lastly, at some point you’re telling your entire team room that you’re willing to turn down near record money — it would be the highest non-buyout clause transfer ever — to keep a player from his dream club.

Take the money. Use it. Move on.