Where They Stand: Groups E through H after round one of UEFA Champions League

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On Tuesday, Shakhtar Donetsk had the day’s biggest win, taking three points on the road against a team (Real Sociedad) that’s set to rival them for a Champions League spot. While that exact scenario didn’t surface again on Wednesday, Basel’s victory at Stamford Bridge may prove more valuable. Though Chelsea are still likely to win Group G, the Swiss champions can now afford a home slip against Schalke (or Steaua) without falling behind in the group. Surprise points can make up for a lot of evils.

For Chelsea, the loss may not have been as detrimental to them as La Real’s was to Shakhtar. The Blues are better equipped than Sociedad to make up those points. Despite today’s result, Chelsea are likely to reverse this result when they go to Switzerland. The same can not be said for La Real’s visit to Donetsk.

There were two other home losses on Wednesday. For Austria Wien, Porto’s win was a setback but not an unexpected one. The way the group is shaking out, a more realistic goal for them is challenging Zenit for third place. They’ll have to see how Porto performs in St. Petersburg before knowing if they’ve lost ground.

Marseille’s loss at home to Arsenal was a setback, though, as things won’t get easier going forward. With Napoli and Borussia Dortmund rounding out Group F, it’s possible  l’OM have played their easiest Champions League game. We’ll have to wait to see if Arsenal sustains their current form, but given how today’s game played out, Marseille may find their Italian and German visitors even more troublesome.

[MORE: Where Groups A through D stand.]

[MORE: Tuesday’s Champions League roundup.]

Here’s where Groups E through H stand after the second day of Champions League action:

* – To each of these standings we’ve added a column labeled +/-: a crude attempt to track how many points a team has dropped at home (minus) or picked up on the road (plus). It’s a very crude attempt to gauge the extent to which teams are holding serve.

Group E
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS +/-*
FC Schalke 04 1 1 0 0 3 0 3 1-0-0 0-0-0 3 +0
FC Basel 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 0-0-0 1-0-0 3 +3
Chelsea 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0-0-1 0-0-0 0 -3
Steaua Bucuresti 1 0 0 1 0 3 -3 0-0-0 0-0-1 0 +0

We discussed this earlier, but today’s big loser may not be Chelsea. It may be Schalke.

Stay with me.

Chelsea is going to be favored to win the rest of their group stage games, and if they can claim 10 points in those five, they’re probably through. If they play to their potential, today’s loss is a non-issue. If they don’t, today’s loss is the tip of the iceberg. Either way, the result will look a lot different in a couple of months.

Schalke, on the other hand, merely held serve. Their record looks good and that goal difference is nice, but look at that +/- column: +0. They’re right where they should be.

Now look at Basel – the team that’s supposed to fight them for second place: +3.

Yeah, this could turn out to be a bad day for Schalke.

Group F
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS +/-*
Arsenal 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 0-0-0 1-0-0 3 +3
Napoli 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 1-0-0 0-0-0 3 +0
Borussia Dortmund 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0-0-0 0-0-1 0 +0
Marseille 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0-0-1 0-0-0 0 -3

Borussia Dortmund may be upset about how things went down in Florence, but they shouldn’t be. First, Neven Subotic wouldn’t have been marking Gonzalo Higuaín on that goal, and that’s not the first (or last) time Mats Hummels has been beaten. Second, though, they can still get through this group without points in Naples. It just makes holding serve at home more important.

For Marseille, today was a reminder of their unfortunate reality. With as heated as the competition’s likely to be among the group’s big three, l’OM could become a whipping boy. A punching bag. A post-Harry QPR. After Arsenal won at the Velodrome today, Napoli and BVB can’t afford to drop points in France.

Nine or 10 points may not be enough to get through. At least, Arsène Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, and Rafa Benítez shouldn’t count on it. Getting that crucial 13th point (meaning you’ve swept at home, won in Marseille, and got another draw) should be each team’s goal.

[MORE: Napoli 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Early goal, red card decisive.]

[MORE: Borussia Dortmund down a player, coach, goal going into halftime.]

Group G
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS +/-*
Atlético Madrid 1 1 0 0 3 1 2 1-0-0 0-0-0 3 +0
FC Porto 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0-0-0 1-0-0 3 +3
Austria Wien 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0-0-1 0-0-0 0 -3
Zenit St. Petersburg 1 0 0 1 1 3 -2 0-0-0 0-0-1 0 +0

Atlético Madrid’s performance made their case for being the group’s favorites (a case Diego Simeone might reject), but it was Porto who gained ground. Their possession-hungry win in Vienna makes the group’s top seed the first team to claim road points.

Perhaps Atlético should be expected to do the same, but road points in Champions League are never a given. Unlike Porto, Simeone’s team is not a squad that’s navigated these waters together before. Trips to new places could see them fail to grasp the stakes. Porto’s +3 could be Atlético’s +1.

Group H
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS +/-*
Barcelona 1 1 0 0 4 0 4 1-0-0 0-0-0 3 +0
AC Milan 1 1 0 0 2 0 2 1-0-0 0-0-0 3 +0
Celtic 1 0 0 1 0 2 -2 0-0-0 0-0-1 0 +0
Ajax 1 0 0 1 0 4 -4 0-0-0 0-0-1 0 +0

Move along. Nothing to see here. Home teams win. Road teams lose. Dogs and cats remain at war.

 

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.