UEFA Champions League roundup: Celtic and Lyon stunned, Zenit wins big

1 Comment

Easily the most shocking result of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff matches was Kazakhstani side Shakhter Karagandy’s 2-0 home win over Scottish powerhouse Celtic FC. Elsewhere, Real Sociedad defeated Lyon in France, and Zenit St. Petersburg scored its first goal (and win) in the competition in Portugal.

Shakhter Karagandy 2-0 Celtic

In the early kickoff, Andrei Finonchenko and Sergei Khizhnichenko scored for the home side to record the upset of the playoff round so far. Kazakhstan has never had a team in the Champions League group stage, but holding a two-goal advantage in Glasgow will be difficult, especially against a team that knows something about upsets, having defeated FC Barcelona in last year’s edition of the competition.

Paços de Ferreira 1-4 Zenit St. Petersburg

Russian international Roman Shirokov recorded a hat trick for Zenit to beat Paços 4-1. The away team never took its foot off the gas, but it never really got out of third gear in an easy victory. Andrey Arshavin and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk played only small roles, coming off the bench, and the Russian powerhouse left Hulk at home.

Viktoria Plzeň 3-1 NK Maribor

Marián Čišovský scored in the eighth minute for Plzeň, tying him for the goalscoring lead in the 2013 tournament with Shirokov, who scored a hat trick on the same day. The home team went up 2-0 before Maribor’s Aleš Mejač pulled one back, leaving the result in doubt until Michal Ďuriš sealed it in the 89th minute for the Czechs.

Olympique Lyonnais 0-2 Real Sociedad

Haris Seferović and Antoine Griezmann produced Goal of the Year candidates within the same 90 minutes to sink Lyon. Griezmann hit a stunning overhead kick from the top of the penalty area in the 17th minute, and Seferović followed up with a thunderous volley on a bouncing ball from the left flank in the 50th. (Watch the full video highlights here.)

PSV Eindhoven 1-1 AC Milan

In the most evenly contested game of the evening, Stephan El Shaarawy headed Milan in front in the first quarter of an hour, but Tim Matavž evened it up on the hour mark to make the second leg in Italy next week more interesting. The home side had more opportunities to score, but AC Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati was equal to the task to keep his team in the match.

Wednesday’s games (all 2:45 p.m. ET kickoffs): Dinamo Zagreb vs. Austria Wien, Schalke vs. PAOK, Ludogorets Razgrad vs. FC Basel, Steaua Bucharest vs. Legia Warsaw, Fenerbahçe vs. Arsenal

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

Twitter/@torontofc
Leave a comment

TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Leave a comment

U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.