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Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea: Stalemate at Old Trafford (Video)

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MANCHESTER — Chelsea and Manchester United played out a 0-0 draw on Monday, as both sides settled for a point in their fiercely contested Premier League clash.

The most anticipated game of the season so far took center stage at Old Trafford on a perfect August evening in front of 75,032 but both teams didn’t read the script. Swirling subplots involving Wayne Rooney, José Mourinho, transfer bids and much more dominated all the pregame chat but the main event didn’t live up to the billing.

In a cagey affair from start to finish, Chelsea set up to snatch a draw at the home of the reigning Champions and carried out their game plan superbly. And while their were brief moments of promise from David Moyes’ United side, his first home game in charge ended with a draw.

However plenty of question marks still remain over his sides title credentials as they failed to cause Chelsea any real problems throughout a tepid 90 minutes. The closest United came to scoring came was in the 77th minute as Wayne Rooney found space 30 yards out before unleashing a powerful effort that Peter Cech had to dive to his right and push it out for a corner.

(MORE: Wayne Rooney dazzles for Manchester United, is this the end of the saga?)

While Chelsea’s ultra-defensive setup limited them to goalscoring opportunities, they played patient soccer that allowed Brazilian midfielder Oscar to have a few half chances, but nothing more, on United’s goal.

All eyes were understandably on Rooney as the 27-year-old England international started for the first-time since the end of last season. And the man Chelsea want so badly showed exactly why he’s so coveted with a virtuoso display of hard work, skill and determination.

In an unprecedented move, Mourinho decided to name his starting lineup without a recognized forward as young German attacker Andre Schurrle played in the false no. 9 role, further adding to the mind games the “Special One” had been playing all week. And despite not playing an out-and-out forward, Mourinho’s men looked composed and patient when going forward throughout the first half.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho praises “kids” after defensive masterclass)

The games first chance came after 10 minutes, when a flowing Chelsea move saw the ball break to Oscar on the edge of the box. However the 21-year-old Brazilian could only smash his fizzing effort straight at David De Gea.

Following a cagey start the game became very disjointed in the first half but Manchester United eased into proceedings and gradually became a dominant force. Rooney looked rusty but a few nice touches to set up attacks were widely applauded by United’s fan as Chelsea’s supporters chanted “We’ll see you next week” in reference to his long-rumored transfer to Stamford Bridge.

source: Getty ImagesBut it was again Chelsea who looked lively on the break, as a move down their left flank in the 22nd minute found Oscar free on the edge of the box, but the Brazilian skewed his shot wide.

Buoyed by that chance United pressed up the pitch and almost got the games opener, as Ramires was caught in possession 30 yards from goal. Van Persie picked up the loose ball but his first touch took him away form goal, however he rounded Branislav Ivanovic on Chelsea’s right and rifled a shot towards goal that struck the side netting.

The game then threatened to boil over as Oscar was caught twice in quick succession on the halfway line, first by Antonio Valencia then by Rooney. And then Kevin De Bruyne was booked for taking out RVP when it looked as though the Dutchman had run into the Chelsea winger.

In the 39th minute Phil Jones settled the ball on United’s right before pulling back a cross that John Terry could only half clear as the ball dropped to Tom Cleverley 25 yards out but the England international smashed his left-footed effort over the bar.

To see out the half another chance fell to Oscar as another piece of patient build up play from Chelsea’s striker-less attack resulted in an opening. De Bruyne played a searching ball to Hazard on the edge of the back and his lay off found Oscar who once again hit his shot straight at De Gea.

After the break both teams remained edgy as United tried to force the issue. In the 49th minute, Red Devils left back Patrice Evra made a surging run forward and played a lovely one-two with Welbeck who back-heeled the ball into his path. But Chelsea’s Gary Cahill read the situation perfectly to shut Evra out and clear the ball.

In the 55th minute Rooney showed just why Chelsea want to sign him, as he wriggled free of Ramires’ challenge on the edge of the box before clipping a sublime short pass to Welbeck in the box. However Rooney’s England colleague fluffed his lines and scooped his effort horribly over the bar.

Chelsea defender Cahill then hit a piledriver from over 35 yards out in the 58th minute that tested De Gea’s handling as the midfield battle continued to rule supreme in the second half at Old Trafford.

(MORE: Jury still out on David Moyes at Manchester United)

A frantic few minutes then ensued as Schurrle was played through one-on-one but failed to beat the offside trap as he crashed his effort against the bar. In a bid to alter his sides fortunes Mourinho sent on Fernando Torres in the 59th minute for winger De Bruyne. Chelsea had held United for 60 minutes, now was their chance to attack. Yet that never materialized.

But in the games 61st minute United’s players, coaching staff and fans were incensed as Cleverley’s shot slammed into Frank Lampard in the box and seemed to strike the Chelsea’s midfielders hand. But referee Martin Atkinson waved play on. And then in the 71st minute Chelsea’s Ashley Cole screamed for a penalty as he nutmegged Jones and threw himself to the ground. Mourinho looked away in disgust but replays showed Cole was lucky to get away without a card for simulation.

The loudest roar of the night was reserved for Rooney as the United attacker tracked back the full-length of the pitch to halt Ramires’ right-flank run with a perfectly timed sliding tackle. Rooney’s sublime tackle sparked United into life as the England forward unleashed a rasping long-range effort in the 77th minute that Cech had to tip around the post.

After that the game petered out to a stalemate as both teams settled for a draw in the biggest game of the 2013-14 season so far. Honors even at Old Trafford but plenty of questions still remain as both sides start to mount their title challenge.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Valencia (Young 65), Rooney, Welbeck (Giggs 77), Van Persie. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Buttner, Smalling, Anderson, Kagawa.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; De Bruyne (Torres 59), Oscar, Hazard (Azpilicueta 92); Schurrle (Mikel 86). Subs not used: Schwarzer, Essien, Mata, Lukaku.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.

NASL weekend preview: Miami, Minnesota meet playoff fortunes head on

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There are still two full months of soccer to go in the NASL’s Fall Season, but this weekend could be a major day for the title fortunes of one squad in particular.

Miami FC and Minnesota United are level on points with 15 heading into Saturday’s match at FIU Stadium.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

If you’re unfamiliar, the NASL Playoffs involve four teams: the Spring champion (Indy Eleven), the Fall champion, and two other teams with the best combined record between seasons.

Miami’s played one fewer game, and both it and Minnesota — fresh off the news it’s headed to MLS in 2017 — are seven points shy of first-place FC Edmonton.

But Minnesota is on pace to make the playoffs through combined schedule, while Miami had a poor first half and would be better served to win the Fall Season if it wants a shot at the NASL Soccer Bowl Trophy.

Saturday
Carolina Railhawks at New York Cosmos
Rayo OKC at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Minnesota United at Miami FC

Sunday
Indy Eleven at Ottawa Fury
Puerto Rico at FC Edmonton

Arsenal reportedly set for $69 million double Friday buy

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger‘s much-maligned transfer business is about to take the “much” off the verb.

Lucas Perez of Deportiva de la Coruna is reportedly going to be joining Arsenal on Friday, and the Gunners are also close to finally landing Valencia center back Shkodran Mustafi.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Perez, 27, broke out for a career-best 17 goals last season, and scored on debut last weekend. He’s set to cost $22.5 million, while Mustafi makes up the other $46.5 million.

The 12-times capped German center back stands 6-foot, and would bring stability to a Gunners unit which has (again) been beset by injuries.

From the BBC:

Spaniard Lucas, 27, scored 17 goals in 37 games last season and Arsenal will meet a 20m euro (£17.1m) buyout clause.

Germany international Mustafi, 24, is set to join for a fee in excess of £35m.

Is this, coupled with the Granit Xhaka buy, enough to help Wenger right the ship? Mustafi, especially, would be a key piece. Perez is a bit of a lesser-known quality.

MLS Weekend Preview: Desperation mounts as rivals meet in Oregon

Portland Timbers defender Vytas Andriuskevicius, second from right, trips up Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, right, in the second half of a MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Seattle. Andriuskevicius was called for a foul on the play, and the Sounders' Clint Dempsey scored a goal on the resulting penalty kick. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Desperation is up-and-down the schedule this weekend in Major League Soccer, as the playoff race really heats up.

The calendar turns to September next week, and teams will end this weekend with a clear view of their runs into the season’s final Sunday: Oct. 23.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

The tumult that is an MLS season means only one team is more than two wins out of a playoff spot right now, and that’s Houston (7 points back of Western No. 6 Portland).

Here’s who is feeling the heat of their matches this weekend:

Portland and Seattle: The Cascadia Cup rivals tangle Sunday in Oregon, with the Timbers holding a one-point edge on the Sounders for the West’s final playoff spot. Seattle has played one fewer games than Portland, and a win on Sunday would be a double-whammy for PDX; The Timbers would be level on points with Seattle and Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings with just one match to go (compared to their opponents’ two).

Vancouver: The ‘Caps don’t have a Cup game this weekend, but will face an L.A. team which hasn’t lost at home. Vancouver is in real danger of moving more than one win behind in the fight for a playoff spot. If they lose to L.A. and both San Jose and Portland win, the Whitecaps will be five points back of a playoff spot. Of course, this being MLS, a win and help could see Vancouver in sixth when the smoke clears.

Columbus and New England: No one likes to comment on job status, but Revs’ boss Jay Heaps and his Columbus counterpart (Gregg Berhalter) have to be a bit concerned at this point. New England is a total mess, opening up a goalkeeping controversy, and is pinning its hopes on some Open Cup final karma. The Crew was supposed to contend for a title after last year’s final run, but is currently in the East’s cellar with just three home wins from 13 matches.

Schedule

Friday
Colorado at Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. EDT

Saturday
Chicago at DC United — 7 p.m. EDT
Sporting KC at Philadelphia — 7 p.m. EDT
San Jose at Columbus — 7:30 p.m. EDT
Montreal at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. EDT
FC Dallas at Houston — 9 p.m. EDT
Vancouver at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT

Sunday
New England at New York Red Bulls — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Seattle at Portland — 5 p.m. EDT
New York City at Orlando City — 7 p.m. EDT