Reus, Blaszczykowski, Aubamenyang goals see Borussia Dortmund down Napoli, move second in UEFA Champions League group

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At the beginning of the day, Borussia Dortmund were staring down scenarios that would send them to Europa League, but after goals from Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski, and Pierre-Emerick Aubamenyang, last year’s UEFA Champions League finalists are back in second place in their group. With their 3-1 win over Napoli at the Westfalenstadion, Dortmund pass the Italian club in a hotly contested Group E,  giving the Germans the inside track on the group’s second knockout round spot.

The result leaves both teams on nine points, three behind group-leading Arsenal, who defeated Marseille Tuesday night in North London, 2-0. Having lost 2-1 at Napoli in the team’s first meeting in September, Dortmund holds the tiebreaker edge over the partenopei thanks to a superior goal difference in games between the side.

[ELSEWHERE: Arsenal cruises past Marseille, draws closer to Champions League knockout rounds]

At the onset, Napoli appeared set to replicate their approach from the teams’ meeting in Naples, playing off of Dortmund while letting a team more comfortable playing in transition dominate control the ball. But whereas BVB seemed uncertain how to attack Napoli in September, the hosts showed some early patience in the face of Rafa Benítez’s approach, willing to hold the ball and establish themselves in their opponents’ half rather than impetuously push forward.

In the ninth minute, however, the referee’s whistle sent both teams’ plans flying out the window. Whistling Napoli defender Federico Fernández for fouling BVB’s Robert Lewandowski on a corner kick, Carlos Velasco paved the hosts’ path to an early lead, Marco Reus opening his right foot onto the 10th minute conversion.

Reus nearly doubled Dortmund’s lead in the 17th minute, a free kick from the edge of the area forcing a diving save from Pepe Reina at the left post. From there forward, however, Napoli started controlling more of the game, the one-goal margin allowing Dortmund to recede into their more comfortable counter attacking posture. The visitors would go on to hold 54 percent of the half’s possession, nearly equalizing through José Callejon in the 29th minute only to see the former Real Madrid midfielder’s try go off the post. Come halftime, Reus’s conversion was all that separated the sides.

Dortmund came out of halftime on the front foot, able to sustain pressure once they established a presence in Napoli’s defensive third. As the hour mark approached, chances for Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Nuri Sahin drew saves from Reina, with the home team looking evermore likely to find a decisive second goal.

In the 59th minute, however, Napoli were given a brief moment of hope when a pass from Callejon found Gonzalo Higuaín open 16 yards from goal. Goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, however, had read the play brilliantly and charged off his line to give the Argentine little chance of scoring.

source: AP
An early first half confrontation between teams saw Sebastian Kehl, Goran Pandev carded after Raúl Albiol foul on Henrikh Mkhitaryan. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Moments later, Dortmund had their decisive goal. A break down the left flank saw Reus played into space, BVB launching into one of their vaunted counters. As the German international approached the penalty area, he played a long pass across the box to Jakub Blaszczykowski, who was cutting in from the right. With Reina working to get back across to contest the shot, Blaszczykowski one-timed the cross low and between the Spaniard’s legs, giving Dortmund a two-goal lead after an hour of play.

Eleven minutes later, however, Napoli were back in the match, taking advantage of a Dortmund turnover in their own half to get on the scoresheet. After forcing the giveaway near the center circle, Napoli quickly played to Higuaín toward the left, whose one-touch pass into Dortmund’s right channel put substitute Lorenzo Insigne in on goal. The Neapolitan’s first touch arced over the oncoming Weidenfeller and into the far corner, making it 2-1.

Insigne’s spark persisted after his breakthrough, but a Napoli team chasing the goal that would keep them ahead of Dortmund in the standings was forced to expose themselves to counterattacks. It nearly left them down two when Aubamenyang went wide right on a 76th minute breakaway, but two minutes later, the Gabon international finished the scoring. Put in on Reina by Lewandowski, the BVB attacker lifted his shot over the charging keeper and into goal, restoring Dortmund’s two-goal edge.

That margin gives BVB a crucial edge in goal difference over Napoli, not only earning them an advantage in their head-to-head tiebreaker but leaving them likely to go through if there’s a three-way tie atop the group after the next round. If both Dortmund and Napoli win on December 11, three teams will finish with 12 points, with almost every tiebreaker scenario seeing last year’s finalists ahead of at least one of Arsenal or Napoli.

Goals

Borussia Dortmund: 10′ Marco Reus (p.k.), 60′ Jakub Blaszczykowski, 78′ Pierre-Emerick Aubamenyang

Napoli: 71′ Lorenzo Insigne

Lineups

Borussia Dortmund: Roman Weidenfeller; Kevin Großkreutz, Sven Bender, Sokratis Papastatopoulos, Erik Drum; Nuri Sahin, Sebastian Kehl; Jakub Blaszczykowski, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus; Robert Lewandowski

Unused subs: Jonas Hofmann, Mitchell Langerak, Oliver Kirch, Koray Günter

Napoli: Pepe Reina; Christian Maggio, Federico Fernández, Raul Albiol, Pablo Armero; Blerim Dzemali (62′ Gohkan Inler), Valon Behrami; José Callejon (66′ Lorenzo Insigne), Goran Pandev (76′ Duvan Zapata), Dries Mertens; Gonzalo Higuaín

Unused subs: Paolo Cannavaro, Miguel Britos, Burno Uvini, Rafael Cabral

Referee leaders want on-field official to see video replays

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LONDON (AP) Antoine Griezmann headed the ball into the net and was in full celebration mode with his France teammates when referee Felix Swayer pinned a finger into his left ear to block out the stadium noise.

[ VIDEO: VAR system used correctly

An assistant in front of a bank of monitors was assessing replays and had some bad news for Griezmann. Swayer was told through his earpiece that a player was offside in the buildup.

The goal was then ruled out, without Swayer seeing a replay. But that won’t necessarily be the case by the time video replays are fully approved to be rolled out across soccer.

For now, the experimental phase is still in full flow but if refereeing leaders get their way officials should always have access to the footage themselves around the field.

“The subjective decisions should be made by the on-field referee because they have got the feel for the game,” Mike Riley, general manager of English refereeing organization, told The Associated Press. “They can put it in the context of everything else. So as part of the process we have got to work out how we can do that as effectively as possible … without interrupting the flow of the game.”

The International Football Association Board, the game’s lawmaking body, is in its second year of trials with various versions of video assistant referees (VAR). Some games, like the France-Spain friendly, do not allow the referee to evaluate incidents and instead by rely on the VAR.

But VAR could end up only ruling on what Riley describes as “decisions of fact,” such as whether a ball was inside or outside the penalty area.

Ultimately, if you are appointing one of the top referees to preside over a major game, that person is seen as ideal for making the big calls, according to IFAB.

“Fundamentally we are told very much by players and coaches they want the referee to be making the most important decisions,” IFAB technical director David Elleray said, referencing England’s top referee. “They don’t know who is in a van out in the car park or 300 miles away in a match center.”

Soccer’s lawmakers only envisage video replays being used to correct game-changing decisions involving four situations: penalties being awarded, red cards, cases of mistaken identity and goals being scored.

That situation arose twice in the Stade de France on Tuesday as France lost 2-0 to Spain. After Griezmann’s goal was disallowed, video replays worked against France again but in Spain’s favor when an incorrect offside call against Gerard Deulofeu was overturned and his goal stood.

Swayer again relied on the information from a colleague benefiting from replays.

“Nicola Rizzoli was appointed to referee the last World Cup final because he is the best referee,” Elleray said. “But if actually the two most important decisions in the match are made by somebody watching a TV screen … the most important person is the man you put behind the TV screen not the man on the field.”

The challenges are how referees are able to view replays without lengthening the delay. For now the technology isn’t satisfactory for officials to use wearable devices and receive footage in real time. That means going to the side of the field to watch incidents with the eyes of thousands of fans in the stands on them. The screens are likely to be on the opposite side to the technical area to avoid coaches being able to surround and harangue the referee.

“Some of our stadiums don’t lend themselves to monitors by the side of the pitch because they are really tight,” said Riley, a former Premier League referee who is now in charge of appointments for games in the world’s richest soccer competition. “Is it right for referees to have to run 30 yards to go and look? Can you get the footage to the referee on the field somehow? All these things have to be explored through the experiment and come out with a solution that works for football.”

Live experiments are taking place in about 20 competitions this year, including the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July that will serves as a World Cup test event.

Once IFAB adds video replays to the laws of the game, any competition meeting the requirements will be able to use them.

For Riley, permitting replays is “the most significant change in refereeing in the game for generations,” far more significant than the 2012 decision to allow technology that simply determines whether the ball crossed the goal line.

“If you are making such a significant change,” Riley said, “you need to really explore and understand all the potential implications.”

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Amid fanfare, Bastian Schweinsteiger arrives in Chicago

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Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, it is clear Bastian Schweinsteiger is kind of a big deal…

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Posing for photos with fans as he stepped off the flight with his wife, former Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic, the former Bayern Munich midfielder was mobbed by Chicago Fire fans who are delighted he has arrived in Major League Soccer as the newest Designated Player.

The German legend has completed his move from Manchester United to the Fire and will be officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday after signing a one-year deal.

[ MORE: Latest MLS news ]

Schweinsteiger, 32, has already had a training session in the books and the World Cup winner is expected to make his debut in Chicago’s home clash with the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Below is a video of Schweinsteiger’s arrival in Chicago, his first training session and a collection of photos he took with ecstatic Fire fans.


Liverpool’s Emre Can scores stunning goal in training

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Emre Can, take a bow.

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Alongside Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum, the German international stole the show as BT Sport rocked up for an episode of “Goals Recreated” at Melwood.

The premise is simple: can current day PL players recreate sensational goals of the past?

On this occasion each player had four attempts to mirror Papiss Cisse‘s stunning goal for Newcastle United against Chelsea, and although Mane came close Can was the man of the moment.

Click play on the video below to see the stunning effort.


Barcelona defends Messi over “unfair” suspension

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi’s four-match international suspension for insulting a linesman was “unfair and totally disproportionate.”

[ MORE: Messi handed ban by FIFA ]

Barcelona released a statement Wednesday expressing “its surprise and indignation” with FIFA’s decision to sideline the playmaker for so long following the incident in Argentina’s win over Chile in World Cup qualifying last week.

The punishment was announced before Argentina lost at Bolivia 2-0 Tuesday, a result that left the two-time champions at risk of not qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Barcelona says it “wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary player in terms of conduct both on and off the field.”

Pending an appeal, Messi will only be available to play in Argentina’s final qualifier, on Oct. 10 against Ecuador.