Turkey Soccer Champions League

Gallant Galatasaray can’t keep Real Madrid from third straight semifinal


“I’m happy for Galatasaray,” José Mourinho told Sky Italia after the match, certainly trying to avoid the patronizing tone his words couldn’t help but convey. “Going out like this is great, and it is a satisfaction for them.”

He’s right. Galatasaray’s 3-2 win over Real Madrid should give the hosts some satisfaction, even if an early goal from Cristiano Ronaldo meant the Turkish Champions needed five goals to overturn Real’s then 4-0 lead. They came close, with goals from Emmanuel Eboué, Wesley Sneijder, and Didier Drogba between the 58th and 72nd minutes putting Gala within two of the semifinals. They wouldn’t even need to be half as miraculous as Borussia Dortmund to pull off one of the greatest upsets in Champions League history.

Then the expected happened. Real Madrid woke up. The team that was better for all but 15 minutes of the two-legged tie locked the match down. When Cristiano Ronaldo scored three minutes into stoppage time, the final more accurately depicted the imbalance between the teams. Real Madrid was moving on, 5-3.

For the second time, Galatasaray has beaten Real Madrid at home in a Champions League quarterfinal, though their other meeting was 12 years ago. Then, Gala also fell behind before scoring three unanswered goals. But just as this year, they were considerably second-best over two legs in 2011, forced to accept the fact that they were never truly a threat to Real Madrid.

But they did put a scare into the favorites on Tuesday, Mourinho confessed afterward. Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos-less defense was disorganized. Only after giving up three goals did they realize the stakes, tighten things up, and put the tie to rest. In the end, Gala was never within strike distance. For 20 minutes, they were within two strikes’ distance.

It wasn’t pretty, but for José Mourinho, Tuesday’s win crowned an admirable achievement. With two different clubs (Inter Milan, then Real Madrid), he’s made fourth consecutive Champions League semifinals. In 10 tournaments, he’s made the final four six times, a record that would make Mike Krzyzewski blush.

Now resumes the question for Real’s decima. If Mourinho’s pre-match expectations hold, Real Madrid and Dortmund will be joined in the semifinals by Barcelona and one of Bayern Munich or Juventus, giving Mourinho three potentially weighty semifinal options. Barcelona are Madrid’s biggest rivals, Bayern knocked Real out of last year’s Champions League, while Dortmund took four points from Los Blancos during group stage.

Even with today’s win, Real Madrid’s chances to claim their decima may be no greater than the 25 percent Mourinho ascribed on Monday. The road to his third Champions League title is still three difficult matches long.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.