Borussia Dortmund's Lewandowski celebrates a goal against Stuttgart during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match in Dortmund

Stuttgart pokes Borussia Dortmund; BVB responds with six in Bundesliga rout

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The final score was as lopsided as the performances, and in that way, Friday’s was what’s become a typical performance in league from Borussia Dortmund. But en route to their 6-1 win over visiting Stuttgart, BVB were handed one, minor setback. Stuttgart kicked the hornet’s nest.

Borussia Dortmund’s trademark intensity was evident early at the Westfalenstadion, but when Karim Haggui took advantage of Mats Hummels misjudging a corner to give Stuttgart an unexpected 13th minute opener, that persistence turned into vengeance. Although they had started well, Thomas Schneider’s team were in for a long night.

BVB responded within six minutes with defender Sokratis Papastathopolous’s his own corner kick magic. Marco Reus added a second three minuter later, dribbling through a confused and disorganized Stuttgart defense to make it 2-1. Dortmund would carry that lead through halftime.

After intermission, the slaughter commenced. Starting in the 54th minute, Robert Lewandowski took advantage of more astounding Stuttgart defending to score twice in the three-minute span, the Polish international eventually completing his hat trick in the 72nd. With nine minutes left, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ended the scoring, lobbing a bouncing ball over  Sven Ulreich from a tight angle right of goal.

Here are some mixed-language highlights:

A quick view of the numbers would gives you a good idea of how the match played out. Stuttgart had one shot on goal and one corner kick – Haggui’s goal. They went on to be outshot 16-3, with Dortmund putting 10 on target. The hosts only had 52 percent of the game’s possession, but the foul total hints at the difference in intensity between the two sides. BVB was whistled 15 times. Stuttgart only committed four fouls.

The disparity in form was as wide as the numbers. Stuttgart looked like the team that got Bruno Labbadia fired earlier this year, a surprisingly inept performance from a club that’d gone over a month without a loss. Dortmund, meanwhile, displayed the same venom with which they opened the season. The teams were in completely different leagues, but whereas BVB’s was one of elite, relentless attacking, Stuttgart’s featured Eredivisie-level defending, a combination that produced a landslide result.

Dortmund’s attack shouldn’t be short-changed, though. In fact, with BVB moving to 31 goals in 11 games, we should be asking how good they might get. Marco Reus is playing as well as ever. Robert Lewandowski has improved on a rate that’s produced 46 league goals over the last two season. Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s production has increased as he’s settled into the team. Perhaps this groups won’t make it as far as last year’s Champions League finalists, but they may end up more prolific.

That abundance of goals has temporarily vaulted Dortmund top of the table, two points ahead of a Bayern side that visits Hoffenheim tomorrow. The rout almost moves Lewandowski to the top of the league’s scoring charts with nine goals, two clear of a five-man logjam with seven.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia