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CONCACAF Champions League: Monterrey escape Torreon with dangerous draw

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The sad part about the away goals rule: It’s the best we’ve got. Which is fine, most of the time. Rather than see teams go on the road in first legs, bunker, and try to take their chances at home with 0-0 results, we usual get actual games. Teams are rewarded for the risk with the profit of the away goals tiebreaker, and while you still see the occasional team play for a 0-0, it’s relatively rare.

The bad part about away goals comes with those 0-0 results. If you’re away in leg one and earn that 0-0, you go home only slightly better off, with a goal allowed at home meaning a second draw will send you out. Even if you pull back a ill-won penalty, random set piece, or act of Mats Hummels generosity, you still need another goal.

That’s the state Monterrey are in after the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final. Away in Torreon, the two-time defending champions took a scoreless draw out of Estadio Corona, a result earned after playing the last 24 minutes with 10 men.

The match looked unlikely to end scoreless when the teams traded chances inside three minutes, with Humberto Suazo nearly giving the Rayados an away goal off a turnover deep in Santos’s end. Turning on a ball in the middle of the area, Suazo’s close range shot was close enough to Oswaldo Sanchez to draw a save from the veteran keeper.

The first half deteriorated, playing out as cagey as it was sloppy. In the second half, Suazo nearly scored again, putting a ball off the woodwork early in the period.

Early in the second half, Santos lost their most dangerous player. Mexican international Oribe Peralta was carted off the pitch after a Monterrey defender rolled over the outside of his right leg. Peralta was unable to get up after his knee bent inward at an unnatural angle, with Herculez Gomez eventually sent on to replace him.

In the 66th minute, Monterrey were forced to pull back, a dismissal leaving them hamstrung. Cesar Delgado, launching himself into a midfield challenge, saw straight red, leaving his team to play a man down. The match played out with the Guerreros laying siege, though few chances made it through the cluster of Monterrey defenders holding out for the draw.

In a way, Santos have only themselves to blame for the result. Normally a team that places a 4-3-3 formation, Santos elected to use a 4-4-2, even though they were at home. Perhaps coincidentally, the Guerreros rarely threatened Monterrey’s goal, their sacrifice of Gomez from their starting lineup failing to pay off.

The Rayados’ success puts next week’s decider in that weird, 0-0 netherworld. Are Monterrey really better off after leg one? In a position where they’ll need two goals if Santos score one, you can argue they’re the victims of the rule’s major quirk.

History, however, would suggest Monterrey’s in a good place. In their last 14 trips to Monterrey, Santos are winless, only five times managing a score draw.

Though there are potential pitfalls, Monterrey is closer to a three-peat after tonight’s result.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.