Borussia Dortmund cruise into Champions League’s final eight, eliminate Shakhtar Donetsk

Leave a comment

In some ways, the match seemed the same as the one Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk played out three weeks ago, a game that ended tied, 2-2. Dortmund was again exerting control, but whereas last month’s match in Donetsek saw a quick Shakhtar side threaten BVB in transition, the German champions had an easy go of it on Tuesday. First half goals from Felipe Santana and Mario Götze had the Germans up two at half and when  Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski scored early in the second, Dortmund had their margin of victory. Making surprisingly easy work of a talented Shakhtar team, Dortmund moves into the final eight, winning on aggregate 5-2.

Most of us who had been following this Shakhtar team expected more, especially with Taison having capably replaced the departed Willian. But Mircea Lucescu’s side lacked the verve they showed in Ukraine. Before settling in after their third goal, Dortmund had heavy advantages in possession, shots, shots are target — the crude measures we use to describe the match’s tenor.

Whereas Shakhtar was able to use their counterattacking game to threaten BVB three weeks ago, today they were muted. This played out as your typical big league titan against a mid-sized league’s aspirant. Donetsk was never in the game.

It took Dortmund 31 minutes to open their account, with Santana — starting for Mats Hummels — heading a near post corner above the post-guarding defender to put BVB up 3-2. Six minutes later, a Robert Lewandwski cross was redirected inside Andriy Pyatov’s right post by Götze, giving Dortmund a 4-2 lead.

Just after halftime, a Götze shot spilled in front of goal gave Blaszczykowskia chance at an easy put back, Dortmund’s 5- 2 lead extinguishing any hope Shakhtar had of upsetting the German champions.

For a team that’s transcending their league, Donetsk’s loss leaves little tangible reward for what’s been a remarkable year. At 18-0-1, Shakhtar’s 13 points up in the Ukrainian Premier League, a circuit that used to be hotly contested between them and Dynamo Kyiv. Now left to gauge themselves against Europe, Shakhtar’s been shown to be significantly behind the continent’s best. It’s not a surprising verdict, but it’s one that leaves the club with little to show for their obvious quality.

For the victors, the decisive result is another sign they’re viable Champions League contenders. While BVB’s recent loss to Bayern was a reminder there’s still progress to be made, not many teams would have hung a three-goal victory on Shakhtar Donetsk. That they did reaffirms the idea they’re among UEFA’s best.

Some may see this result as reason to dream of an all-German final. Until BVB proves vulnerable in Champions League, there so reason that dream can’t come true.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.