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Manchester City comeback ends Bayern Munich’s record run; defending champions still win Group D

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Bayern Munich’s record 10-match winning streak in UEFA Champions League is no more, with a rotated Manchester City team overcoming a two-goal deficit to produce one of the most surprising results of this year’s tournament. After goals in the first 12 minutes from Thomas Müller and Mario Götze, Bayern appeared to be on their way to a perfect group stage, yet a City team starting six reserves got goals from David Silva, Aleksandar Kolarov, and James Milner, handing the defending champions their first Champions League loss in nine months.

Though the 3-2 defeat at the Allianz Arena won’t cost Bayern Group D — FCB’s two-goal win in Manchester giving them the tiebreaker over the Citizens — it was Bayern’s first home loss under Pep Guardiola, the club was without a defeat at home since March’s 2-0 Champions League loss to Arsenal. In all competition, Bayern were unbeaten since their German Super Cup loss to Borussia Dortmund (July 27), today’s loss ending a 27-match undefeated run.

For the Citizens, a team that had already confirmed their knockout round spot, the win does nothing for their position in the competition, but with a short history of pronounced disappointment in this tournament, the result marks City’s biggest win in Champions League. And for a man whose Real Madrid team fell short of glory in Spain at the boots of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, Manuel Pellegrini is sure to savor a victory that quells any notion the Chilean can’t beat his former La Liga adversary.

With a multi-goal win, Manchester City had a chance to take the group from Bayern Munich, and opportunity City’s boss seemed to pass on before the opening whistle. Joe Hart was back in goal for Costel Pantillimon. The long forgotten Joleon Lescott came in at Vincent Kompany’s expense, with Micah Richards starting at right back. James Milner was deployed out left while the returning David Silva got a start up top along side Edin Dzeko. Add in Javi Garcia in midfield for the suspended Yaya Touré, and this was an XI picked to rest its stars, not win a Champions League group.

Against a Bayern team that saw Philipp Lahm return from injury, the approach had all the success you’d expect. Five minutes in, the defending champions were on the board, a drilled diagonal from Dante finding Thomas Müller behind Aleksandar Kolarov, with the German international’s second touch sending a ball behind Joe Hart for the opening goal. Seven minutes later, Mario Götze was abandoned at the edge of the six-yard box on a corner kick, a ball from Mario Mandzukic finding the Bayern midfielder for an easy second goal. The quarter-hour pole still minutes away, the route appeared to be on.

Be it through Bayern complacency or City’s ascendance, the visitors soon found their way into the match, trading attacks with their hosts instead of merely absorbing the holders’ advances. Whereas Bayern’s pressure high through the middle had troubled City at the outset, the team chasing a two-goal deficit had adapted and were soon creating chances of their own.

In the 28th minute, City broke through, halving Bayern’s lead through Silva. Off a cross from Jesus Navas, Milner came in from wide left to head back toward the middle, with an acrobatic play in front of goal from Silva allowing a high leg from the Spanish international to turn the ball toward goal. Beating a transitioning Manuel Neuer, Silva brought City within one.

Going into halftime, Bayern had regained full control, and while that didn’t translate into goals, they were keeping City from threatening Neuer. Near the hour mark, however, two mistakes quickly turned Bayern’s one-goal lead into a one-goal deficit, putting the defending champions’ 10-match Champions League winning streak in jeopardy.

source: AP
Controversially given, Aleksandar Kolarov’s 59th minute penalty kick drew Manchester City even. Three minutes later, James Milner scored the winner in City’s 3-2 win at Bayern Munich. (Photo: AP Photo.)

In the 59th minute, Dante was judged to have brought down Milner in the far left of the penalty area. Though the Bayen defender didn’t appear to have committed foul before hearing David Fernández’s whistle, City was still given a chance for their equalizer, with Kolarov’s conversion making it 2-2.

Three minutes later, Milner went from supporting cast to lead actor, curling a right-footed shot from wide left inside Neuer’s far post, giving City’s rotated side an unlikely lead. Playing a cross from Jesus Navas that had eluded Jerome Boateng, Milner opened his right foot onto a ball from well wide of goal. Catching Neuer moving back to the left post, Milner curled his shot toward the far upright, his spin on the ball sending the shot diving into the far netting, putting City up, 3-2.

From there, Manchester City were able to start packing it in, central midfielders Fernandinho and Garcia sitting deep to protect the defense. While the game became more one-sided, a Bayern team “held” to 58 percent possession now monopolizing the ball, the dynamic didn’t yield chances. City were ready to hold out for the upset.

By match’s end, Bayern hadn’t found a way to threaten Hart, a smiling Pep Guardiola readily conceding defeat at the final whistle. Though the Bayern boss’s regret was surely tempered by the knowledge his team had won their group, his congratulations seemed earnest, the former Barça head coach embrace the hand of a man who’d just found his first victory over a rival.


Goals

Bayern Munich: Thomas Müller 5, Mario Götze 12

Manchester City: David Silva 28, Aleksandar Kolarov 59 (p.k.), James Milner 62

Lineups

Bayern Munich: Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Dante, David Alaba; Thiago Alcántara; Thomas Müller, Mario Götze (Javi Martínez 55), Toni Kroos, Franck Ribéry; Mario Mandzukic (Xherdan Shaqiri 68)

Substitutes: Rafinha, Diego Contento, Daniel van Buyten, Claudio Pizarro, Tom Starke

Manchester City: Joe Hart; Micah Richards (Pablo Zabaleta 16), Martín Demichelis, Joleon Lescott, Aleksandar Kolarov; Jesus Navas, Javi Garcia, Fernandinho, James Milner; David Silva (Álvaro Negredo 73), Edin Dzeko

Substitutes: Jack Rodwell, Vincent Kompany, Dedryck Boyata, Sergio Agüero, Costel Pantilimon

Wenger slams criticism of Arsenal’s players ahead of fan protests

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Arsene Wenger is not a happy man.

I know, I know, tell us something we don’t know.

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However, the 66-year-old Gunners boss has taken exception to widespread criticism of his players ahead of fan protests against him which are planned for this Saturday’s game against Norwich (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) at the Emirates Stadium.

Speaking to the media on Friday, Wenger stood up for his players who are having their commitment questioned.

“I tell you, this team has character and attitude. Some people who question them, I know them well – they have less character than this team has. I saw them play, and even know them very closely, and they should not question the character of these players,” Wenger said. “There are some groups of people that try to manipulate our fans, but I believe apart from a personal agenda and a big ego there’s not a lot behind [the criticism].”

Okay then…

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With empty seats galore at the Emirates last Thursday during the 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, Wenger had been dealing with growing fan unrest throughout this season.

Although Wenger urged fans of Arsenal to support the players on Saturday against Norwich he did admit he shares their frustration about limping out of the title race this season, of all seasons.

“I can understand the frustration,” Wenger said. “No one is more frustrated than me, but our disappointment has not to go too far. When a club cannot enjoy anything any more, it is in trouble, and we have to not forget that in football you go down very quickly and you come up very slowly.”

Arsenal looked certain to be making a title charge in February after they beat Leicester City late on but since that huge victory they’ve won just three of their last nine Premier League games, plus lost in the FA Cup to Watford and were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Barcelona at the Round of 16.

After two decades of Wenger in charge and no PL title in 12 years, Arsenal’s fans want more. They want trophies and success.

They also want answers from Wenger and as the protests on Saturday will show, the vast majority also want a new manager.

Goteborg apologizes over crowd trouble at abandoned match

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - OCTOBER 31:  IFK Goteborg receives the silver medal after the match between IFK Goteborg and Kalmar FF at Gamla Ullevi on October 31, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden.  (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images)
Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images
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GOTEBORG, Sweden (AP) Swedish club IFK Goteborg has apologized for crowd trouble that resulted in a league match against Malmo being abandoned after a firework landed next to a visiting player warming up on the sidelines and he responded angrily.

Wednesday’s game was interrupted in the 77th minute, with the score at 0-0, when a firecracker tossed from the crowd exploded next to midfielder Tobias Sana, a former Goteborg player. Jolted by the loud bang, Sana reacted by throwing a corner flag into the stands.

[ WATCH: Sana throws corner flag into Goteborg fans ]

Match officials decided to abandon the match, saying a linesman who was also near the firework when it exploded was shocked by the incident.

Sana, who said he had a headache and ear pain following the incident, apologized for his actions.

“Now that I’ve gotten over the shock, I feel it was the stupidest decision of my life,” Sana said Thursday in statement. “There are many young people who look up to me so I really want to apologize.”

Malmo said that Sana wouldn’t face any sanctions from the club.

In a move suggesting the firework was thrown by home fans, Goteborg posted an apology on its website directed at Malmo, match officials and the spectators. The club could face sanctions from the Swedish football association’s disciplinary committee.

There was another security incident on a chaotic evening in Goteborg. After the match was suspended, a Norwegian hockey player ran onto the field, reportedly as part of a bet with teammates at recently crowned Swedish champion Frolunda.

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Newspaper Aftonbladet said Mats Rosseli Olsen, who played for Norway at the Sochi Olympics, was charged with a public order offense and could face fines.

Frolunda director Christian Lechtaler told Swedish news agency TT that Olsen’s behavior would have “consequences” but didn’t elaborate.

“Mats is very regretful and doesn’t feel good at all about this,” Lechtaler said.

Swedish football has been marred by crowd problems for years, including fans throwing objects at players and match officials and brawling with each other before or after games. Two years ago, a Djurgarden fan was killed after being attacked by hooligans ahead of an away match against Helsingborg.

Flores on future at Watford: “I need to feel happy”

during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Watford at the Boleyn Ground, April 20, 2016, London, England
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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On the surface, it sounds crazy: Why trade a manager who led a first-year Premier League club to relatively quick safety in England’s top flight and a FA Cup semifinal?

But Watford is not any club when it comes to their views on managers, having parted ways with Slavisa Jokanovic after the Serbian manager led them to promotion. Oh, and when hired Jokanovic was the Hornets fourth coach in five weeks.

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So current manager Quique Sanchez Flores isn’t safe despite the Hornets’ 12th place status. That probably has a lot to do with Watford’s four points since the start of March, a tough schedule run that included Leicester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham.

So, could he be gone this summer? Flores has a break clause after this season, and Watford may not have a choice even if they want to keep the Spaniard around.

From Sky Sports:

Asked if he wanted to stay, Flores said: “This is not the question for me now.

“I know the kind of people I want to work with. That’s the only thing I can say. In the last four or five years I work from my feelings. I work around people I feel completely protected with.

“These are my feelings. When we finish the season I will check what the conditions are but I need to feel happy.”

Who needs who the most? Flores’ season has been impressive even with the late struggles, but Watford’s managerial merry-go-round happened before the club advanced into the Premier League and they’ve survived despite making a change in the summer. Still, we’d do our best to keep Flores at Vicarage Road.

Ex-soccer star Weah to run again for president of Liberia

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 25: Liberia soccer legend George Weah speaks during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw at the ICC convention centre on November 25, 2007 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) Former world footballer of the year George Weah says he will make a second bid to become president of Liberia.

The ex-AC Milan striker announced on Thursday he will stand as a candidate in elections next year, when current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second and final term ends.

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Weah, who formed the Congress for Democratic Change party, lost to Sirleaf in the 2005 election.

Declaring his intention to stand again, Weah told supporters he sympathized with the plight of many poor Liberians. He said “there were times I didn’t have school fees. I continued to strive with the hope that one day life will get better.”

Weah was the world footballer of the year in 1995. He is a senator in his West African homeland.