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.

Totti leaves future uncertain before final match with Roma

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ROME (AP) Francesco Totti has finally announced that Sunday’s match against Genoa will be his last with Roma after an incredible 25-season career with his hometown club.

Whether the 40-year-old Totti will continue playing with another squad remains anyone’s guess.

The 2006 World Cup winner opened his future to questions by releasing a carefully worded statement on Thursday.

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“Roma-Genoa, Sunday 28th May 2017. The last time I can wear Roma’s jersey,” Totti said. “I can’t tell you in a few words how much these colors meant, mean and will always mean to me.

“I just feel that my love for football never fades; it’s a passion, my passion. It’s so deep I can’t imagine not fueling it any longer. Ever. From Monday I’m ready to go again. I’m ready for a new challenge,” Totti added.

The first part of Totti’s statement inferred that it wasn’t his decision to end his Roma career but that of the club, by not offering him a contract for next season.

Totti has not hidden his difficult relationship with Roma coach Luciano Spalletti, who has used Totti mainly as a last-option substitute.

However, Spalletti is widely expected to follow former Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini to Inter Milan; while Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco, a former teammate of Totti’s, could move to Roma.

The second part of Totti’s statement, when he mentioned a “new challenge,” inferred that Totti is considering ending his career with another club.

Miami FC, which plays in the second-tier NASL and is managed by Totti’s former teammate with the national team, Alessandro Nesta, and co-owned by Paolo Maldini – another former Italy teammate – appears to be the most attractive option.

James Pallotta, Roma’s American owner, has offered Totti an unspecified management position.

As for Sunday, Totti is not expected to start.

While the match at the Stadio Olimpico was sold out for Totti’s goodbye, Roma enters the final match of the season still looking to seal second place in Serie A and a direct berth into the Champions League.

Roma is one point ahead of third-place Napoli, which will play at Sampdoria.

Totti has appeared in 785 matches in all competitions with Roma, third all-time in Italy for most games with a single club behind only Maldini (902 with AC Milan) and Javier Zanetti (858 with Inter Milan).

Totti is also second all-time in goals scored in Serie A with 250, 24 short of the record that Silvio Piola established from 1929-54. No other active player has more than 200.

But statistics don’t tell the entire story for Totti, a cultural icon perhaps more linked with his club and city than any other player in Italian history.

Born in the working-class San Giovanni section of Rome, Totti made his debut for Roma at the age of 16 way back in 1993.

In 1998 at the age of 22, Totti became the youngest ever Serie A captain.

At the 2000 European Championship, Totti’s chipped “Panenka” penalty against the Netherlands highlighted his talent and audacity.

A year later, Totti led Roma to its third Serie A title and was the centerpiece of a celebration inside the Circus Maximus attended by a crowd estimated at 1 million.

After a spitting incident with Denmark’s Christian Poulsen at Euro 2004 slightly tarnished his image, Totti regained respect within the national team by returning from a broken leg to help Italy win the 2006 World Cup – playing with a metal rod and about 10 support screws inside his left ankle.

In 2007, Totti led Serie A with a personal-high 26 goals and earned the Golden Shoe award as the top scorer in Europe.

In 2015, Totti scored twice as Roma came back from two goals down to earn a draw with Lazio in the city derby, then took a selfie with Roma’s fans in the background.

A final highlight came in February, when Totti scored in added time to give Roma a 2-1 win over Cesena and a spot in the Italian Cup semifinals.

On Sunday, Totti’s career will be honored with an extensive post-match celebration at the Olimpico.

Whether or not there will be more highlights next season – somewhere – remains to be seen.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

Transfer rumor roundup: Morata flying to Milan, Carvalho to Newcastle

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Alvaro Morata is one of the hottest properties on the planet. Like James Rodriguez, he doesn’t get the time at Real Madrid he’d receive at most other clubs in the world. And like James, he’s been linked with plenty of clubs including Premier League powers Chelsea and Manchester United.

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But Italian site Gazzetta says Morata will skip over the Premier League for a return to Serie A, this time heading to AC Milan. The ex-Juventus star, 24, scored 20 goals in 42 appearances for Real this year.

Morata is said to be flying to Italy, hours after Marca claimed that Jose Mourinho would insist on his inclusion in any deal for David De Gea.

Newcastle United is the latest club linked to Portuguese center midfielder William Carvalho, and the Magpies are said to be looking into a $78 million bid. The 25-year-old Sporting CP dynamo is a regular in the transfer rumor mill, and has 31 caps for Portugal. The Angola-born Carvalho played nearly every minute of Portugal’s EURO 2016 winning run.

Sevilla: Agreement with Sampaoli to leave for Argentina job

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Argentine managerial wizard Jorge Sampaoli is coming home.

Sevilla announced that Sampaoli is leaving the club after one season to take charge of the Argentina national team, with La Albiceleste’s World Cup fate hanging in the balance.

Sampaoli won 50 percent of his matches at Sevilla, leading the side to the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 in addition to finishing fourth in La Liga.

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He previously led Chile to its first Copa America crown.

Sevilla said the agreement to let him go will be signed on Thursday, allowing him to oversee Argentina’s next World Cup qualifier in late August. Argentina sits fifth in the CONMEBOL table, just two points out of second.

It heads to Uruguay before hosting Venezuela, with the remaining qualifiers versus Peru and away to Ecuador.

FA Cup Final preview: Desperate Arsenal meets Double-seeking Blues

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  • Clubs split PL series
  • Chelsea’s Conte aims for double
  • Chelsea 8W-3D-2L vs. Arsenal since 2012

Arsenal and Chelsea face off with a trophy on the line for the fourth time this century when the London sides hit Wembley Stadium for Saturday’s FA Cup Final.

Arsenal beat Chelsea in the 2015 Community Shield, the first silverware match-up between the two sides since the 2007 League Cup Final in Wales. The Blues won that one, 2-1, while Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0 in the 2002 FA Cup Final.

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A win would be Arsenal’s third FA Cup trophy in four seasons, and Arsenal would be thrilled to put something shiny in its trophy case following a season of tumult at the Emirates Stadium which ended without UEFA Champions League qualification for the first time in 20 years.

Conte knows Arsenal is desperate for something good.

What they’re saying

Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on what a win could mean“We wanted to finish higher up in the league, there is no doubting that. We cannot hide from that and we need to own up to that. The FA Cup is a big trophy, one we want to win and which would definitely boost morale going into next season.”

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte on the match: “If you ask me who is the favorite now, I can tell you it is Arsenal because Arsenal now has the possibility to find a good season after a win in the FA Cup. For this reason, we must play with great patience. We must find in ourselves the right motivation, the right anger because the game can be very difficult for all of these reasons.”

Prediction

Could go either way, with many players not just glory-hunting but in the shop window. Will Alexis Sanchez be the difference maker? Mesut Ozil? Maybe, but we think Chelsea ratchets up the intensity one more time and claims a double with a 2-1 win.