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

Pressure builds on Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz

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Borussia Dortmund has fallen to fifth in the Bundesliga table thanks to a trio of consecutive losses in league play, and suddenly there is loads of pressure on manager Peter Bosz.

The Dutchman came to Westfalenstadion after upper management pushed Thomas Tuchel out over the summer, and while he won seven of his first eight league matches in charge by a total goal differential of 21-2, things have come crashing down. The black & yellow have lost three in a row Bundesliga matches and four of their last five across all competitions, with their only win in that span coming over third-tier Magdenburg.

With fans feeling helpless over the departure of the wildly successful Tuchel that came as a result of a falling out between the German and his superiors, Bosz would always be on a short leash. He inherited a flawed squad, yet one that had achieved much under his predecessor, and immediate failures would naturally be lumped on the new man.

The most recent defeat, a 2-1 falter at Stuttgart, was a microcosm of Dortmund’s recent failures. The team conceded a comically poor goal five minutes into the match, worked hard to equalize just before the halftime break, and conceded again just after returning to the pitch. They controlled much of the match, but largely failed to capitalize.

The head man summed it up pretty well. “The defeat really hurts,” Bosz proclaimed after the final whistle. “We came here to win, so we’re very disappointed. When you see the goals we conceded, it borders on the ridiculous. It hurts because we actually put in a relatively good performance in the first half. The team performed well after conceding the early goal, only the final ball was lacking. The second half wasn’t as good. We need to keep going, we won’t give up.”

So what do the Dortmund executives do? Does Bosz get the benefit of the doubt based on performances? Or does he get blamed for the sudden dropoff in results? There is plenty of pressure given the team sits not only nine points back of Borussia Dortmund in league play, but is also third in a brutal Champions League group with almost no hope of recovery, and even threatens to miss out on a drop to Europa League play if they slip behind Cypriot club Apoel Nicosia, whom they find themselves level on points with.

Even if the club sticks with the Dutchman for now, his room for error has almost completely evaporated and it’s only mid-November. The next two matches will likely tell the tale, and it’s an uphill battle. Tottenham comes to Westfalenstadion on the backs of a disappointing defeat to North London foes Arsenal, followed by the home end of the Rivierderby against a Schalke side that sits second in the Bundesliga table, three points above Bosz and Dortmund.

Antonio Conte calls Tony Pulis a “really good manager”

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West Brom, after four straight defeats, sits 17th in the Premier League table, most recently suffering a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Chelsea.

Yet Blues boss Antonio Conte has offered his counterpart an olive branch, supporting his fellow Premier League manager at a time of panic.

With reports that Pulis could be fired this coming week – some say as early as Monday – the Baggies boss is under heaps of pressure, but Conte doesn’t believe he should be. “I must be honest, I think Tony Pulis is a really good manager,” Conte said, hoping those in charge don’t make decisions based on Sunday’s result.

“He has great experience and it’s always very difficult to play against his team. This game became easy because we started very strong, with great concentration and desire to win. We showed from the start our will to win this game. But I repeat: Last season we struggled a lot against them.”

West Brom has lost four in a row in league play, and they haven’t picked up a win since August, and as The Guardian points out, they have the lowest average possession in the Premier League and have the second-lowest shots on target thus far. They registered just two shots on target against Chelsea, and held 39% possession, which is actually slightly above their average for the season.

Sergio Ramos suffers broken nose in Atletico Madrid draw

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Real Madrid trails Barcelona by 10 points in the La Liga title race just 12 matches in, and now they will have to play catch-up without their best defender.

Club captain Sergio Ramos suffered a broken nose after being accidentally kicked in the face by teammate Lucas Hernandez during the first half of Madrid’s 0-0 draw with cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid. He received treatment and remained on the field, but he was withdrawn at halftime.

Manager Zinedine Zidane was unable to give a timetable for Ramos’s return.

Ramos said via Twitter, alongside some graphic images of his bloody nose, “I would bleed a thousand times for this badge and this shirt. Thanks for your support. I’ll be back in no time.”

Up next for Madrid is Champions League group match against Cypriot club Apoel midweek before a league game against Malaga at home. Athletic Bilbao and Borussia Dortmund are also on the horizon. A masked Sergio Ramos could be in our midst soon.

Real Madrid has not lost a league match without Ramos since March of 2015, but they drew their only game this season with Ramos suspended, a 2-2 home split with Valencia.

Moyes roasts West Ham players after loss to Watford

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After his first game in charge of West Ham, David Moyes thought he had a better squad. Apparently he was mistaken.

A 2-0 loss to Watford gave Moyes a rude awakening as he looks to replace Slaven Bilic and pull the Hammers out of the relegation zone. He was not pleased with his players.

“Overall, that level of performance will not be good enough,” Moyes told reporters after the match.

He wasn’t done.

“I thought this was a big job, but there were some players with big reputations who disappointed me. There were some who I thought would show me more, and why they play for the team regularly. They need to show me, ‘If that’s your reputation, show me why you’ve got it.'”

He backtracked slightly, agreeing that the players are in a difficult position changing managers, but ultimately that excuse wasn’t enough for him. “It’s tough for the players – I could sense that – but I didn’t enjoy our performance in the end. I didn’t enjoy us giving the ball away too cheaply, too many times and I expected us to do better.”

Moyes even called out striker Andy Carroll, saying he removed the England international because he feared Carroll would pick up a second yellow card. Carroll could have been carded seven seconds into the match, leaving Marvin Zeegelaar with a bloody nose after an elbow to the face, something Carroll has been sent off for earlier this season. He was eventually given one in the 28th minute.

“I thought we defended OK,” Moyes said, “but then we gave away cheap goals by getting bundled off the ball and we didn’t really deal with it. We didn’t do well enough in all departments at different times.”

That’s about as ruthless as you’ll ever hear the mild-mannered David Moyes, and all West Ham players should beware that their places in the team are in jeopardy.