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UEFA Women’s Champions League roundup: Tyresö edges PSG in day’s headliner

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As a testament to how far UEFA Women’s Champions League has come, there was a savory tie at this early stage of the competition. Had they not been drawn together, both Swedish champions Tyresö and French runners up Paris Saint-Germain would be considered threats to make the final. But with one team seeded (PSG) and the other unseeded, they ended up drawn against each other in this, the Round of 32.

A few years ago (which seems like an eternity, in current, women’s club soccer time), this type of matchup wouldn’t have happened. There just weren’t this many quality teams in Europe. The odds of (a.) a strong team like Tyresö being in the second pot, and (b.) them “hitting” another talented team like PSG in the draw created a mathematical improbability. Now, with the quality of the continent’s best teams improving, it was always possible (if unlikely) that Tyresö could draw a Lyon, Turbine, Arsenal, or Wolfsburg. Or, PSG.

For Americans, this was an ideal matchup. PSG’s two U.S. products (Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan) are most among any of the seeded teams, with Heath’s acquisition reflecting the Parisians’ concerted effort to start laying tracks in the U.S. market. Tyresö appears to be doing the same, having added Whitney Engen (from Liverpool), Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris (both Washington Spirit) to a team that already had Christen Press and Meghan Klingenberg.

Ahead of the Champions League showdown, the acquisitions hadn’t exactly gone as planned for Tyresö. Strong leaders in the Damallsvenskan before their U.S. influx, Tyresö’s fallen to second in Sweden since the end of the NWSL season. Paris Saint-Germain, on the other hand, keep asserting themselves as the second-best team in France, even though they were rudely reminded of that stature in a recent 3-0 loss to Lyon.

Tyresö sold out their venue for PSG’s Wednesday visit (3,327) and got on the board first through Press, who gave the Swedes a lead 22 minutes in. But the U.S. international played a part in giving the lead away when she brought down Swedish star Kosovare Asllani in the Tyresö penalty area. Sabrina Dellanoy’s conversion sent the teams into halftime tied at one.

source: AP
Christen Press, seen here while on U.S. Women’s National team duty, scored both of Tyresö’s goals in today’s 2-1 win over visiting Paris Saint-Germain. Here 21 goals in 20 Damallsvenkan games this season are six more than the next-highest goal-scorer in Sweden. (Photo: AP Photo.)

The teams traded near-misses early in the second. Brazilian icon Marta nearly put he team ahead at one end while former North Carolina standout Klingenberg was called on to save a ball off the line at the other. Eventually, however, Press was allowed to make amends, her second goal of the game giving Tyresö a 2-1 lead just after the hour mark.

It was an obligatory win for Tyresö, if they truly have designs on going far in this competition. Unfortunately, haven given up an away goal, they’ve created a problem for themselves ahead of next week’s leg in Paris. Win, and of course they’re through, and same thing with a tie. But if Paris Saint-Germain reverses today’s result, Tyresö’s going to have to solve their away goals problem. And keep it within one.

(Note: The follow recaps are compiled from reports around the internet. Feel free to add your own spin in the comments, hopefully filling in the gaps left by their brief synopses.)

OTHER RESULTS

Tavagnacco (Italy) 3-2 Fortuna (Austria) – The result looks like trouble for Tavagnacco, having to hit the road after allowing two at home, but given the depths from which they climbed, it could have been worse. Florentina Spanu Olar and Janni Arnth had the hosts down two after 28 minutes only for the Italians to comeback to take a slim lead out of their home leg.

Pärnu (Estonia) 0-14 Wolfsburg (Germany) – Pärnu finished the game without a goalkeeper, their starting number one having been sent off after all the team’s substitutions were used. By that time, though, the damage was already done. Nineteen-year-old Lina Magull had scored four times. Martina Müller had three. The Washington Spirit’s Conny Pohlers had a hat trick off the bench (extending her goal-scoring record in this competition to 45 goals). By the time Elis Meetua was dismissed, Wolfsburg was already up 12-0.

CSHVSM-Kairat (Kazakstan) 1-7 Arsenal (England) – Arsenal’s fresh off the relative indignity of having finished third in England, a disappointing finish in a circuit they used to dominate. That means next year, the Gunners won’t be in this competition, perhaps explaining why they elected to take out their frustrations on one of the competition’s true minnows. Scottish attacker Kim Little was the only Arsenal player to score more than once.

Standard Liege (Belgium) 2-2 Glasgow City (Scotland) – Glasgow City started strong but ended up chasing two leads, both of which they eventually pulled back. Tassa Wullaert scored twice for the Belgians, but each time was equalized by Suzanne Lappin, with the duo left to continue their showdown next week in Scotland.

Zürich (Switzerland) 2-1 Sparta Parha (Czech Republic) – Not a bat result for the Czechs, who withstood the Swiss champions to take a workable result out of Zürich. According to reports, however, Zürich were the better side and were made deserved winners when Rahel Kiwic gave them their second lead with 24 minutes left.

source:
Megan Rapinoe, now in her second stint with French champions Olympique Lyon, played in her team’s 4-0 win at FC Twente on Wednesday.

Twente (Netherlands) 0-4 Lyon (France) – Tough draw for Twente, but somebody had to get Lyon. Had the Dutch team not been drawn against the competition’s favorites, they may have been able to get into the second round. Today, however, showed just how big the divide is between building clubs and the new big spenders. With U.S. international Megan Rapinoe coming off the bench, Lyon got goals from midfielder Louisa Necib (22′), newly acquired Japanese international Saki Kumagai (31′), former Juvisy standout Leatita Tonazzi (52′), and best player in the world candidate Lotta Schelin (60′). Expect a similar result next week.

Barcelona (Spain) 0-0 Bronby (Denmark) – Unlike on the men’s side, the Danes carry the pedigree amongst these two teams, though Barça have notably improved in recent years. That’s what makes today’s result disappointing from the Catalans’ point of view. A 0-0 result does allow them to swiftly turn the tables should they score next week, but in spite of Bronby’s quality, they would have hoped to make a better statement to start their second Champions League appearance.

Spratzerm (Austria) 2-2 Torres (Italy) – Torres, down to 10 women, got an 88th minute goal from Sabrina Marchese to salvage a road draw. The Italian champions had gone down 2-1 after Nicole Billa’s second goal of the game took advantage of Elisa Bartoli’s mid-second half dismissal, but with Marchese coming off the bench to find an equalizer, last year’s quarterfinalists take an advantage back to Sassari.

Spartak Subotica (Serbia) 2-4 Rossiyanka (Russia) – An early José Mahi goal didn’t phase the Champions League veteran Russians, who got a hat trick from Natalia Shylapina to come back in match they ultimately controlled.

PK-35 Vantaa (Finland) 0-3 Birmingham City (England) – Like Arsenal, Birmingham City won’t be in this competition next year, and like the Gunners, the Blues posted a lopsided, road result to start this year’s tournament. Melissa Lawley, Kirsty Linnett, and Kersy Harrop got the club’s second Champions League season off to a strong one, their three-goal edge likely to expand next week in the West Midlands.

Thor/KA (Iceland) 1-2 Zorkiy (Russia) – Russia to Iceland has to be one of the longest trips possible in European soccer, but Zorkiy handled it admirably thanks to goals from Svenlana Tsydikova and Elena Morozova, both set up by Maria Ruiz. The two clubs combine to have seven Americans on their books, which will leave one cluster of U.S. ex-patriots on the outside of Champions League after next week’s decider.

TOMORROW

The first leg of the tournament’s Round of 32 finishes off tomorrow, with …

  • Turkey’s Konak Belediyesi hosting Poland’s Unia Raciborz;
  • Former champions Turbine Potsdam (Germany) traveling to Hungary to face MTK;
  • Apolllon Limassol’s large U.S. continent leading the Cypriots against visiting Neulengbach (Austria);
  • Norway’s Lillestrøm welcoming Swedish titans Malmö.

Thibaut Courtois committed to Chelsea despite links to PSG

WATFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Chelsea at Vicarage Road on February 3, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Thibaut Courtois has denied reports he could leave London for Paris Saint-Germain this summer after a disappointing season at Chelsea.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper missed a large portion of the season through injury and failed to regain his top form when healthy as the Blues struggled throughout the year.

With a new manager in Antonio Conte taking over in June, some believed Courtois would be sold to allow the Italian to bring in a goalkeeper of his choice.

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid reach UCL final ]

Despite recent reports linking Courtois with a transfer to PSG that would make him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, the Belgian international does not fancy a move to France.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Courtois said he is happy at Chelsea and will “100-percent” be back at Stamford Bridge next season.

I have never had any contact with PSG. I have played a lot against PSG recently – twice last season, again this season in a friendly and twice more in the Champions League this year.

They are a good club who win their league easily. Me, I like playing in England. Paris is a very good club but I am happy at Chelsea.

I have a contract for three years, so I will say 100 per cent [be staying at Chelsea]. Rumours affect any club where things are going badly. People think the top players want to leave because they are not in the Champions League.

Those words show quite a change from Courtois’ opinion a few months ago, when he cast doubt over his Chelsea future.

At just 23, Courtois has already made more than 200 appearances in his career for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. Although he did not have a standout season this year, Courtois has shown his talent as a potential top-five goalkeeper in the world and Conte would be wise to keep him.

Former CONMEBOL president has petition to stop extradition rejected

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Paraguay’s top court has rejected a petition by Nicolas Leoz, the former head of the South American football confederation, to halt his extradition to the United States.

Leoz is being held under house arrest in Paraguay. He is accused of receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks and was among dozens of top officials indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.

[ FOLLOW: Leicester City’s miracle ]

Leoz’s lawyer Ricardo Preda told The Associated Press that his petition was turned down, but that he would continue to appeal against the extradition.

Leoz was the head of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013 when he resigned, and was replaced by Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.

Figueredo is under house arrest in Uruguay on similar charges. Figueredo was replaced by Juan Angel Napoul of Paraguay, who is under house arrest in Miami.

Cristiano Ronaldo back healthy for Real Madrid; will play vs. Man City

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid warms up during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Valdebebas training ground on May 3, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is “100-percent” for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal match against Manchester City.

Ronaldo missed the first leg at the Etihad while recovering from a thigh injury, which ended a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]

The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 93 goals, Ronaldo has not featured for Real since suffering the injury in a La Liga match against Villarreal on April 20.

Real Madrid had the better of chances in the first leg in Manchester, but Joe Hart’s heroics stopped Zidane’s side from grabbing an all-important away goal. However, Ronaldo’s absence was clearly visible and his return is a massive boost for Real.

[ RELATED: Atletico Madrid eliminate Bayern Munich, advance to UCL final ]

Even if Ronaldo is not 100-percent fit as Zidane claims, his inclusion in the lineup is still vital for Real’s success. A threat in so many different aspects of the game, his presence alone can throw off opposing defenses, leaving more time and space for his teammates to expose a City back-line that has its flaws.

Premier League chairman: Leicester City made mugs of all of us

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  Leicester reacts to Leicester City's Premier League Title Success on May 03, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has been around football for a long time, but even he can’t explain Leicester City’s miraculous title run.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester coverage ]

With the Foxes now officially champions of England, Scudamore hailed the achievement as “the biggest sporting story ever.”

Speaking to BBC Sport, the Premier League’s top exec said Leicester’s run has silenced all the bookmakers and critics who said it could never happen, but that he wouldn’t want it any other way.

It’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.

Nobody saw it coming and even when it was halfway through the season nobody said it could be sustained.

We don’t know what the future holds because we’ve all become completely hopeless at predicting anything, including the bookmakers and everybody else – because this one nobody saw coming.

It’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.

If the bookmakers had it as a 5,000-1 event, you would imagine you should achieve these type of things once every 5,000 years. It gives us 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of being able to say: ‘Leicester 2016. Just remember Leicester 2016.’

Pegged as pre-season favorites for relegation, Leicester defied the odds (5,000-1 odds) and claimed the most unlikely of championships. A top executive with the Premier League since 1999, even Scudamore had to admit he had a bit of egg on his face.

[ VOTE: What is the top moment from Leicester’s fairytale run? ]

Scudamore may not have believed in the Foxes, but few outside the city really did. One thing the chairman did have right though, is that we will all remember ‘Leicester 2016.’