Henrikh Mkhitaryan joins Dortmund for $36 million, as Liverpool miss out

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Midfield prodigy Mario Götze is gone, and now Robert Lewandowski is leaving on a free to Bayern next season… It was about time Borussia Dortmund fans had some good news, so here it is.

This morning the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League runners up announced Armenian attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan has signed for a club record fee of $36 million from Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donestk.

“We are delighted that we got a fantastic new signing for the attacking midfield role in Henrikh Mkhitaryan,” said BVB sporting director Michael Zorc.

Hans-Joachim Watzke, Borussia Dortmund’s chairman said, “It was not an easy transfer, but we really wanted to have Henrikh – and now we have him!”

So as Dortmund rejoiced at the capture of the highly-rated Mkhitaryan, can they kick on with him as their focal point next season?

He shone in the Ukrainian Premier Liga, with 25 goals in 29 games last season and the 24-year-old was hounded by Liverpool all summer before deciding to join Dortmund. He is likely the instant replacement for Götze and if he succeeds, that will be a tremendous piece of business. It is not often you can replace your star player and get a profit, if Mkhitaryan excels he will make the Dortmund front office look like mathematical geniuses who can rival Harry Redknapp’s once indelible scent for a bargain on the transfer market.

MORE: Robert Lewandowski to sign for Bayern Munich in 2014

One thing we do know is that the young Armenian is quite the cunning linguist, as BVB’s official website claims he can speak English, Portuguese, French and Russian. And some others.

Impressive.

But on the field his languid, fluid style of play fits right in with what Dortmund need. Someone he can take the ball from the defensive midfielders and drive forward with purpose and pace, but can also pick out a pass. Just like Götze. Mkhitaryan always seems to have time on the ball and also times his runs from midfield perfectly. Just like Götze.

Can Mkhitaryan drive Dortmund onto another incredibly successful campaign in the Champions League? He has done it for several seasons with Donestk, so why not.

If Dortmund’s defensive midfield duo of Sven Bender and İlkay Gündoğan can get the ball to Mkhitaryan quickly and efficiently, he will do the rest.

Despite the disappointment of losing Götze to Bayern and Lewandowski also casually on his way to Munich next season, Dortmund’s fans should be hugely excited by the player they’ve acquired. Just watch the You Tube compilation video below.

There is a reason why Mkhitaryan was chased by Europe’s biggest clubs. But there is also a reason he chose Dortmund. This player and this club were meant for each other. Let the romance begin.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.