UEFA Women’s Champions League roundup: Heath, PSG out; Wolfsburg sets new mark

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One way or another, prominent Americans were going home. In the home side at Charlety in Paris were Tobin Heath and Lindsay Horan, the duo hoping to see Paris Saint-Germain overcome their 2-1 deficit and make UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16. To do so, however, they would have to end the season of Christen Press, Ali Krieger, and the rest of the American contingent from Sweden’s runners up, Tyresö. One team would leave eliminated by the round’s least favorable draw.

Heath, Press, and Krieger weren’t the only prominent names visiting Paris on Wednesday. Tyresö, having aggressively targeted American signings this summer, also started U.S. internationals Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg. Washington Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was in goal, while former Women’s Professional Soccer Most Valuable Players Marta and Verónica Boquete featured in attack. A fan of the women’s professional game in the U.S. would have recognized most of Tony Gustavsson’s starting XI.

That star power was the result of a summer buildup that was questioned when the then-Damallsvenskan leaders risked their winning formula to bring in the likes of Krieger, Harris and Engen, but against a PSG side that’s spent big to bring in Heath, Horan (among others), it’d be needed. French internationals Laure Boulleau, Laura Georges, Marie-Laure Delie were also in today’s lineup, joining a foreign contingent German defender Annike Krahn and Swedish attacker Kosovare Asllani.

These teams too talented to be meeting in the first round (Round of 32), a contention undermined by the reality of Wednesday’s game. There they were, two of the more talented teams in Europe, about to see one eliminated at step one of the process. Had they been draw against other clubs, each would be threats to make the semifinals. Instead, one of them was going home three rounds earlier, that club’s big spending set to go for naught.

With those stakes, it’s no surprise the tie’s second leg played out as a cagey affair, the visiting Swedes playing as if a clean sheet was their best hope. Despite the presences of Marta, Press, and Boquete, Tyresö would only put two shots on Karima Benameur, finishing the match outshot 13-6.

It was indicative of the type of control PSG exerted, twice seriously testing whether Harris could protect Tyresö’s slim edge. One slip, and the roles would be reversed, PSG left to decide whether to defend their away goals edge of press for insurance. When the match hit intermission scoreless, it still seemed like a matter of time before PSG turned those tables.

source: AP
Ashlyn Harris, seen here playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team, had five save for Tyresö today in Paris. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Yet as the second half ticked away, Farid Bensetti’s side never found a way through. They made changes, taking off Asllani, Heath and Jessica Houara in favor of Linda Bresonik, Kenza Dali, and Horan. They forced 10 corner kicks and generally controlled the match. But unable to unlock an opponent readily sacrificing attacking verve for defensive zeal, Paris Saint-Germain were left with the what if. The 0-0 result made Tyresö 2-1 aggregate winners.

For team that’s signing players to six-figure deals, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, particularly given their control of the match. Yet PSG’s is a long-term ambition. They may have thought themselves capable of making noise in this year’s competition, but their domestic tests against superpower Lyon showed they’re still progress to be made.

Unfortunately for them, however, this result means the few tests they’ll get against OL will be the only time they face Champions League-caliber competition for the rest of this year. The biggest challenge remaining in their season isn’t progressing in Champions League; it’s preventing Juvisy or Montpellier from claiming their place in next year’s tournament.

For Tyresö, however, their investment is starting to pay off, even if the shakeup may have cost them a league title (Malmö has clinched the Damallsvenskan title). Though there’s no guarantee things will be easier for them in the Round of 16, Marta, Boquete, and the team’s contingent of Americans can move forward knowing they’re capable of knocking off teams with PSG’s firepower.

Here are the rest of the day’s results:

source: Getty Images
38-year-old Patrizia Panico, seen here playing for the Italian national team, scored as Italian champions Torres advanced on Wednesday. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Torres (Italy) 3-1 Spratzern (Austria); Torres advances, 5-3 aggregate: This one was more lopsided than it looks, with first half goals from Swiss international Sandy Mändly and 38-year-old icon Patrizia Panico putting Spratzern on the ropes early. The Austrians finally got on the board in the 84th minute through forward Lisa Makas, but by that time, they were three goals down and still hadn’t reversed Torres’s edge in away goals.

Birmingham City (England) 1-0 PK-35 (Finland); Birmingham City advances, 4-0 aggregate: The Blues start to make amends for last year’s early exit after finishing off Finland’s champions, with last week’s lopsided result in Vantaa taking the drama out of today’s second leg. Despite only getting a goal from Chelsea Weston in the 50th minute, Brum outshot their guests 21-3, preventing PK-35 from recording a shot on goal.

Zorky (Russia) 4-1 Thór/KA (Iceland); Zorky advances, 6-2 aggregate: Three goals over a 13-minute span of the first half took the life out of this one, with midfielder Elena Morozova (22′) , Ukraine’s Vira Dyatel (24′) and American Nick Astley (34′) putting Zorky up 5-1. The teams traded second half goals, with Zorky’s coming from Chicago Red Star midfielder Alyssa Mautz.

Wolfsburg (Germany) 13-0 Pärnu (Estonia); Wolfsburg advances, 27-0 aggregate: It’s a growing competition. Much like when the World Cup started expanding its field, when a couple of tournaments forced teams to take their lumps, this is short-term pain for long-term gain. This particular pain represents a new tournament record, with Washington Spirit forward Connie Pohlers adding three more goals to her personal competition high mark.

Brønby (Denmark) 2-2 Barcelona (Spain); Barcelona advances on away goals, 2-2 aggregate: After being held to a scoreless draw last week in Catalonia, Barça’s progress in the women’s game look set to be stunted, something that was affirmed when Anja Thorsen put the Danes up after 25 minutes. The second half, however, saw the Spanish champions convert on the two shots they put on Jenny Olsson. Marta Corredera’s 52nd minute equalizer gave the visitors an away goals edge, while 18-year-old Serbian international Jelena Čanković left Brønby chasing miracles after her 87th minute goal. Four minutes into stoppage time, Boye Sørensen pulled the home side even, but away goals see them out of the competition.

Fortuna (Denmark) 2-0 Tavagnacco (Italy); Fortuna advances, 4-3 aggregate: Camilla Larsen’s 32nd minute opener equalized for Fortuna, making the two goals recorded last week in Italy potentially decisive. When Romanian Laura Rus added insurance in the 81st minute, the Danes were into the Round of 16.

source: Getty Images
German international Anja Mittag, seen celebrating her country’s victory at Euro 2013, scored twice for Malmö on Wednesday. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Malmö (Sweden) 5-0 LSK (Norway); Malmö advances, 8-1 aggregate: German international Anja Mittag posted a first half double, Dutch starlet Manon Melis scored in the 21st (and 84th) minute, while Swiss star Ramona Bachmann completed the first half assault. The hosts up 4-0 (7-1) by the 34th minute.

Turbine Potsdam (Germany) 6-0 MTK (Hungary); Potsdam advances, 11-0 aggregate: Three players, three doubles, all within the match’s last half-hour:  Japanese striker Asano Nagasato scored in the 62nd and 92nd minutes; 19-year-old Macedonian midfielder Natasa Andonova added goals in the 63rd and 88th; and Swedish midfielder Antonia Göransson recorded hers in the 65th and 84th minutes. Potsdam outshot MTK 49-4.

Neulengbach (Austria) 1-1 Apollon (Cyprus); Neulengbach advances, 3-2 aggregate: FC Kansas City’s Sinead Farrelly, one of six Americans starting for Apollon, pulled the Cypriot side within one in the 77th minute, but a 58th minute goal from 22-year-old Slovakian Alexandra Bíróová held up, sending the most U.S.-friendly club out of the tournament.

Lyon (France) 6-0 Twente (Netherlands); Lyon advances, 10-0 aggregate: Lotta Schelin and Megan Rapinoe added goals from the bench, though by the time they were brought on (46′, 59′), Twente were already chasing six. Lartitia Tonazzi and Louisa Necib had the hosts up two at halftime, while Élise Bussaglia and Eugénie Le Sommer doubled their team’s lead before Schelin and Rapinoe made their contributions.

Sparta Praha (Czech Republic) 1-1 Zürich (Switzerland); Zürich advances, 3-2 aggregate: 16-year-old Mirjine Selim’s early strike not only gave Zürich valuable insurance but also pulled back the goal they conceded at home in leg one. Iva Mocová’s second half score gave the Czechs life, but the hosts were never able to mount the pressure needed to pull back the final goal.

There are four more Round of 32 deciders tomorrow:

  • Rossiyanka (Russia) return home with a 4-2 edge over Spartak Subotica (Serbia);
  • Konak Belediyesi (Turkey) try to protect their 2-1 lead against Unia Raciborz in Poland;
  • Glasgow City (Scotland) return home having earned a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege (Belgium);
  • and Arsenal (England) hold a 7-1 edge over Kazakhstan’s CSHVSM-Kairat.

The Round of 16 matchups have already been drawn, with matches to begin the second week of November, with Germany’s teams both drawing tough matchups:

  • Barcelona vs. Zürich
  • Konak/Urai vs. Neulengbach
  • Fortuna vs. Tyresö
  • Spartak/Rossiyanka vs. Torres
  • Turbine Potsdam vs. Lyon
  • Zorky vs. Birmingham City
  • Malmö vs. Wolfsburg
  • Kairat/Arsenal vs. Standard/Glasgow

Pochettino: “Challenge is to keep going” ahead of North London Derby

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Mauricio Pochettino was thrilled to see Tottenham Hotspur’s title push continue with a win over in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Spurs won 1-0 on a beautiful Christian Eriksen goal from distance, moving back to within four points of Premier League leading Chelsea.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-1 Spurs ]

Pochettino’s men didn’t stop fighting for the winner despite relentless fight from the home side, with improving mettle on display this season.

“Unbelievable. Very good performance. I think second half we played much better than in the first half. It was difficult in the first half for us to move the ball and find the space but we changed the shape at half time and it was more fluid, we started to find the space and started to push Palace deeper and deeper.”

After two tough London Derbies — Spurs fell 4-2 to Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal — Tottenham now has the big one: a visit from Arsenal in the North London Derby.

“It was good to get the three points and be alive in the race for the title. The challenge is to keep going. It is always better to win but it is true [the Arsenal game] is a big derby, perhaps the last at White Hart Lane and I think it will be an exciting game.”

We’re ready for it. Spurs will be favored to pick up all three points, but all bets are off when it comes to the NLD. That’s especially true considering the ticking Top Four clock for Arsenal and the title fight for Spurs.

Palace 0-1 Spurs: Eriksen saves the day

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  • Sakho stretchered off
  • Eriksen rescues title hope
  • Spurs four back of Chelsea

Palace made them work for it.

Tottenham Hotspur didn’t exactly sends chills down the spine of Chelsea with its performance, but Spurs found a way past tricky and in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday at Selhurst Park.

Christian Eriksen‘s pretty goal sealed the three points for Spurs, who have five matches to chase down four points from the Blues.

Palace sits 12th, seven points clear of 18th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Two in-forms started with confidence, Harry Kane lashing wide of the frame for Spurs and Wilfried Zaha driving Palace on the right wing.

Another in-form Eagles attacker, Christian Benteke, did well to create space and hit a low shot that forced Hugo Lloris to ground.

Victor Wanyama was on yellow when he slid to intercept Andros Townsend, taking the Englishman to the turf. Jon Moss gave Wanyama a harsh warning, but did not produce the red card.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-min were called upon soon after the break to liven up Spurs attack.

The substitution that stood to shake up the match was Palace center back Mamadou Sakho, who was hurt with about 40 minutes to play.

Eriksen stung a shot across goal for the eventual winner, a rare moment of class from a three-match day that didn’t quite fit the standard of the Premier League.

Arsenal 1-0 Leicester City: Only an own goal

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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  • Chances at a premium
  • Monreal forces Huth own goal
  • Arsenal moves sixth
  • Foxes six clear of drop

Nacho Monreal‘s desperate shot ricocheted off Robert Huth‘s chest and gave Arsenal a 1-0 win over Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Entertainment value wasn’t high over the course of the match, as Arsenal had trouble piercing Leicester’s congested back four.

Arsenal is now three points back of Manchester United and four behind Man City before Thursday’s Manchester Derby.

Leicester is six points clear of 18th and has played one less game than most of the teams chasing them.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Arsenal had most of the ball to start the match, but needed to make the first big stop. Petr Cech kept the match goalless when he flew to stop a left-footed whip from Riyad Mahrez.

At the other end, Mesut Ozil set up Theo Walcott for a chance that prodded a solid save from Kasper Schmeichel.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Wilfried Ndidi was again a monster in the middle third for Leicester, arguably the main reason the Foxes have rebounded from their relegation plight.

Arsenal had a chance pushed away from danger by Robert Huth after Alexis Sanchez misjudged his time on the ball in front of goal in the 56th minute.

Schmeichel then dove to slap away a deflected Francis Coquelin shot.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Laurent Koscielny went down in pain after landing awkwardly in the 79th minute, leaving a gap in space that Shinji Okazaki would’ve exploited were it not for a block from Gabriel Paulista.

Leicester’s Yohan Benalouane should’ve seen red with 10 minutes to play following a leaping boot to the back of Olivier Giroud, but only a foul was given.

Ndidi made a sliding intervention on Mesut Ozil in the 85th minute, another terrific bit of work from the Nigerian.

That’s when Huth’s unlucky moment lifted Arsenal to the lead.

Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland: Derby honors and a bit of life

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  • Boro’s first PL win since Dec. 17
  • Smoggies move within six of 17th
  • Sunderland on verge of relegation

Marten De Roon snared Middlesbrough new hope at safety and a derby win as Boro scored early to complete a season sweep of Tees-Wear Derby rivals Sunderland on Wednesday.

The 1-0 win means Sunderland is 12 points back of 17th place Hull City with five matches to play. Hull has four matches left.

For Boro, it’s six points back of Hull but a devastating run-in that includes Man City, Chelsea, Southampton, and Liverpool.

The win was USMNT backstop Brad Guzan‘s second of the Premier League season, the first coming in the reverse fixture.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

De Roon tilted the Tees-Wear Derby to Boro’s side with an opening goal that could signal the end of Sunderland’s slim safety hopes.

Stewart Downing tempted 2-0 with a hard low shot that Jordan Pickford did very well to save with a leg.

Sunderland did find a bit of danger when Didier N’Dong forced Brad Guzan into a save, but Billy Jones nodded over the frame.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]