UEFA WOMEN S CHAMPIONS LEAUGE

Road results send Arsenal, Juvisy through in UEFA Champions League

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It looked like it was going to be a big day in UEFA Champions League for Yael Averbuch, the U.S. international whose second half volley pulled her Göteborg side even with Juvisy this evening in Sweden. The two quarterfinalists left northern France last week with the Feminine Division side up 1-0, but 65 minutes into the second leg, a volley from the 26-year-old North Carolina alum found the upper-left hand corner, pulling Göteborg even. Scoring goals while playing in the middle of her team’s formation, Averbuch was one of the players threatening to lead the Swedes into the semifinals.

But as often happens when the underdog fights back, the favorite wakes up, and while Juvisy wasn’t that much of a favorite over Gotebörg ahead of their tie, the French club had been the marginally better side over the two legs. Despite Averbuch’s equalizer, Juvisy had every reason to think themselves the better side, and over the match’s final 15 minutes, that quality bore out.

Camille Catala, who had just come off Juvisy’s bench a quarter-hour earlier, put her side in front in the 77th minute, giving the visitors a valuable away goal. Catala completed her double just before full-time, and when Janice Caymen (assisted by Catala) provided further insurance in stoppage time, Juvisy had a deceptively decisive victory.

Though their 3-1 win (4-1, agg.) gives a superficial impression of control, the two sides were within one goal of each other for the first 176 minutes of the tie. Still, it was the French side that applied most of the pressure on Wednesday, keeping Goteburg from connecting with forward Jessica Landström. Once Averbuch put the home side in front, the visitors started converting that pressure into results.

For Juvisy, it’s their first trip to the Champions League semifinals, a notable achievement for a French league that’s criticized for its lack of depth. With two-time defending champions Lyon likely to join Juvisy in the final four after Thursday’s match in Malmö, the Feminine Division will make up half of this year’s semifinals. And with emerging Paris Saint-Germain sitting second on the homefront, France’s league not only has the world’s best team but some newfound depth.

France is not Germany, but its league is also not the paper thin circuit its detractors imagine. It’s top heavy, and Lyon makes a mockery of the competition, but there’s a burgeoning quality in the league’s upper half. Goteborg bore witness to that on Wednesday

Kerr still not happy with Arsenal

“We weren’t particularly pleased with the way we played today” manager Shelley Kerr said after today’s match in Sassari, perhaps a greedy assessment given her team had just eliminated Torres Calcio.

A fourth minute goal from Naamh Fahey put Arsenal up 4-1 (agg.), enough of a cushion to help them see out a 1-0 result in Italy on Wednesday.

“You can’t take anything away from Torres,” Kerr added, “They battled really well today and put us under pressure a lot of times in the game.”

Despite playing without Kelly Smith (their playmaker injured in leg one), Arsenal converted an early corner kick to put the tie away. A ball from Rachel Yankey was played on by Ellen White, setting up Fahey to put the Gunners in front.

It’s the third straight year Arsenal has made the semifinals and the sixth time in 11 years they’ve made the final four.

They’ll meet the winner of Rossiyanka- Wolfsburg, with the Germans taking a 2-1 lead into Thursday’s leg in Russia.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham.

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.

Qatari official says World Cup drunks will be treated “very gently”

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, laborers work at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, May 4, 2015. Qatar’s top labor official told The Associated Press Monday that Qatar’s inability to ensure decent housing for its bulging migrant labor population was “a mistake” the government is working to fix as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, vowing his country would improve conditions for its vast foreign labor force. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
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One of the biggest unanswered questions still hanging over the 2022 World Cup — at least for fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament — has to do with the rules and regulations placed upon their consumption of alcohol.

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On Monday, Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup committee, attempted to ease those fears when he said that not only will the consumption of alcohol be permitted during the tournament in six years’ time, but that in the event of public drunkenness, the visitors in question will be dealt with quickly and “very gently” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I know in South Africa there where specific courts established during the World Cup for this kind of thing, and that is something we were discussing with FIFA.”

“In relation to drunk fans it will be as it is anywhere else, anyone who is rowdy, anyone who breaches the law, will be very gently – depending on how they react – taken care of in a manner to make sure that people are not disrupting the public order. Everyone will be able to have fun and be exposed to Qatari culture.”

“We welcome everyone in the world. We’ve hosted many people, from many places and [drinking] was never an issue. This will be a fun World Cup. It will be one of the best cups out there.”