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.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

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Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

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England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.