Champions League: Atlético Madrid conquer Dragão, take 2-1 win from Porto

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Saturday’s win at the Santiago Bernabéu may have been the biggest in Atlético Madrid’s recent history, but seeing Colchonero boss Diego Simeone leap into his assistant’s arms just before full-time on Tuesday, you’d have a hard deciding which result was bigger: This weekend’s 1-0 Derbi win over Real Madrid, or today’s 2-1 victory at Porto? While it’s hard to imagine a more symbolic result than this weekend’s win at the Bernabéu, an airborne Simeone, legs dangling behind his assistant as he was carried down the Dragão’s sideline, cast a compelling visage. Who would have thought a win in Portugal would evoke that kind of emotion?

[MORE: Derbi loss was so much more for Real Madrid.]

The drama certainly helped, Atlético having fought back from a one-goal deficit to claim full points just before time. Jackson Martínez’s 16th minute goal and the confidence it instilled in Porto built that tension, but after halftime, the resiliency Simeone has slowly worked into his team won out.

Off of Gabi’s restart along the right flank, Diego Godiín headed into an empty net in the 58th minute, Helton having misjudged a ball that swung away from him nine yards from goal. Then in the 86th minute, after Atlético had turned Porto’s fortress defense into a salvage operation, a clever restart allowed Ardan Turan to finish high into Helton’s goal, a game-winning score that sent Simeone airborne.

It was the first time in 19 months Porto had lost at home. No Champions League team had won at the Dragão since Chelsea in four years. In league, Porto has gone 75 games without a loss. Yet on Tuesday, Portgual’s champions fell to a team that’s playing as well as any team in Europe.

Whether Atlético stay at this level is a conversation for another place, but coming off back-to-back road wins against Real Madrid and Porto, there’s no team in Europe that’s accumulated a better résumé through the season’s first six weeks. They’re perfect in league, played Barcelona to two draws in the Spanish Supercopa, and after taking full points in Portugal, the Rojiblancos sit alone atop Group G, having won the most-difficult game of their group stage schedule.

source: AP
Arda Turan (right) celebrates after his right-footed blast clinched Atlético Madrid’s 2-1 victory at Porto. Between La Liga and Champions League. Atletíco is now 8-0-0 on the season. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Paris Saint-Germain went to Porto last year and fell. The year before, it was Shakhtar, and the year before that it was Arsenal. Not since Manchester United then Chelsea won at the Dragão four years ago have Porto been beaten at home in Champions League, but today, Atlético joined that group.

For Porto, worn down over the course of 90 minutes, left more tired than distraught as Turan’s goal was pulled from their net, the result will eventually find perspective. If Atlético maintains something close to this form, they’ll go on an win this group easily, leaving the matches between the Dragons and Zenit to decide second place. In that scenario, today’s result won’t matter, much.

But for Atlético, Simeone’s reaction told the tale. It wasn’t just that they beat Porto or have now won two key matches in a row. It’s how it happened, with Martinéz’s early goal providing a heightened test of all the qualities the Argentine boss values most.

Ultimately, all the organization, work, determination, and opportunism paid off. All of the qualities that have allowed Atlético to transcend the pack in Spain and join Barça at the top have translated onto Champions League. On Tuesday, Atletico conquered the Dragão.

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.