Bayern survive Arsenal scare, move on in Champions League

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Arsenal were outshot 23-5 and only created two chances, a formula that should have given them little chance to narrow the 3-1 lead Bayern Munich accumulated three weeks ago in London. But one of those shots was Olivier Giroud’s third minute goal. The second was Laurent Koscielny’s 85th minute header. Although Arsenal was dominated for the 81 minutes in between, the Gunners entered the final five-plus minutes of today’s match tied at three – one goal short of the most remarkable comeback in UEFA Champions League history.

Whether time ran out or reality woke up, Arsenal never found their history-making goal. Perhaps predictably, they never came close. Bruised by not defeated, Bayern saw out the final five minutes plus three minutes of stoppage time to move into the Champions League quarterfinals. Away goals served as the tiebreaker after Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at the Allianz Arena left the teams tied on aggregate, 3-3.

(MORE: Málaga into final eight for first time.)

The final scoreline seems ridiculously close given the extent to which Bayern dominated the two legs. After falling 3-1 at home, Arsenal was given almost no chance on the road against the consensus best team in Europe. Even after their early goal, the task seemed impossible, particularly after they finished the first half outshot nine to one while barely holding the ball.

The numbers were worse by full-time, and only a 10-minute spell where Bayern tried to bleed out the match made the possession number respectable (54-46). But at the end of that spell, a Santi Cazorla corner kick was converted by Koscielny, equalizing for the Gunners.

Given the lopsided nature of the game, a 0-0 would have been a generous score. A 1-0 result would have been a rarity, but a 2-0? Arsenal was already dwelling in the realms of the remarkable. To ask for 3-0 would be too much, yet there they were, one freak play away from the unfathomable.

To their credit, Bayern buckled down and saw out the match, but their willingness to let Arsenal push them to the brink engenders serious doubts. This is not the type of performance we usually see from championship teams, and it’s not hard to imagine what teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, and even Borussia Dortmund would do giving similar opportunities. Arsenal is a decent team that was having an average day, yet they almost knocked Bayern Munich out of Champions League.

We alluded to this last night when discussing the Sounders’ flat start: Why do certain tendencies always seem to come through? Is it because they’re innate to their teams? Or it is because we’re looking for signs those qualities exist?

Tonight, Bayern showed the kind of fragility that was discussed in the wake of their upset in last year’s Champions League final. Their performance at the Emirates gave them enough breathing room to survive, but if this Bayern Munich shows up in the later rounds, all of the otherworldly quality they’ve shown throughout a dominant campaign will be wasted. This can not happen again, yet given the narrative surrounding FCB, can we be so sure they’ll perform to their potential in these next five Champions League matches?

Perhaps today was just a bad day – ironically so, given their dominance of most of the match. But that’s where the fragility comes in. Bayern can control 95 percent of a game, but in that five percent, they’re capable of shooting themselves in the foot.

In that way, timing was on Bayern’s side. If you’re going to have a bad game, best have it at home, with a 3-1 lead, against a team nobody expected to compete for Champions League.

Thanks to that coincidence, today may prove no more than a learning experience for Europe’s best team.

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.