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.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.