Comeback for the ages vaults Borussia Dortmund past Málaga

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It’s too recent to put in any proper perspective, our tendency to exaggerate what’s new and fresh destined to drift into hyperbole. Instead, it’s best to think about Borussia Dortmund players climbing fences to celebrate with fans; the dejected slouches of Málaga’s players scattered across the pitch at the Westfalenstadion sat in testimony of what’d just happened. BVB had completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in Champions League history. Instead of perspective, it was best to focus on the moment.

Down 2-1 on aggregate as the clock spun past 90:00, the reigning German champions needed two goals to overturn Málaga’s away goals tiebreaker. Over the course of three nebulous minutes that ticked off as the stadium clock stood still, BVB got them. Goal mouth scrambles pushed home by Marco Reus and Felipe Santana in the 91st and 93rd minutes saved Jurgen Klopp’s side, giving Dortmund a miraculous 3-2 win that vaults them into UEFA Champions League’s semifinals.

The stakes may not have been as high, but the method was reminiscent of the 1999 final. That’s when Manchester United went extra time trailing Bayern Munich 1-0. With a European title on the line, substittue Teddy Sheringham broke through in the 91st minute before fellow sub Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s 93rd minute winner. Now United’s two stoppage time goals in Barcelona are the standard for European comebacks.

Today, it was the Germans that were on the right side of fate, though in buildup to the comeback, it looked like it would Málaga keeper Willy Caballero that would wear the cape. The man who stonewalled Dortmund a week ago made spectacular late stops on Marco Reus and Mario Götze, giving the impression destiny was on Málaga’s side. Thanks to goals from Joaquín and Eliseu, the Andalusians looks set to go through, even if Eliseu’s apparent insurance should have been whistled for offside.

source: APTrailing was an apropos position for a Dortmund side that had put themselves behind the game for much of the match. While many expected BVB to come out with an energy that put aside last week’s 0-0, Dortmund instead allowed Málaga to establish a comfortable place in the match. When the Spaniards went up on 25 minutes, it seemed the Miguel Pellegrini-inspired scripts espousing opportunism and resiliency could cast another debutant in the semifinals, even if Robert Lewandowski pulled BVB even by halftime.

But Málaga had their crucial away goal, and when Eliseu guided Júlio Baptista’s ball into goal in the 82nd minute, Dortmund seemed out. Ten minutes and two goals seemed too much to ask from a young team whose naiveté was allowing Málaga to steal this tie.

Perhaps, in the end, that naiveté saved them. Dortmund had no reason to expect they could come back. Not after scoring once in 180 minutes. Not after Caballero had hinted at his impenetrability. Not after Götze and Reus and Lewandowki showed themselves incapable of the razor’s edge finished they’d need to beat Málaga’s keeper. Their edge in talent neutralized over two legs, BVB had no reason but blind ignorance to think a miracle was in the cards.

Ultimately, it was sure will, not precise finishing, that moved Dortmund into the final four. A scramble in the box after a Caballero save allowed Reus to finish from four yards out. Two minutes later, with Caballero on his backside, a shot deflected off a goalline-sitting, potentially offside Felipe Santana put BVB into the final four.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this for Málaga. They’d executed their plan perfectly, holding out at home only to pounce in Germany, along the way collecting two valuable away goals. Taking advantage of their inexperienced if more skilled adversaries, they’d embodied their coach’s vision, even if they needed some goalkeeping heroics to do so.

After 184 minutes, it wasn’t enough. It took one of the most remarkable comebacks in tournament history to do it, but Málaga was sent out. And Dortmund, with the potentially emboldening experience of having their Champions League lives flash before their eyes, move on to the semifinals.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.