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

Bobby Wood looks forward to working with Arena, praises Klinsmann

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A back injury kept Bobby Wood from United States men’s national team camp, but the Hamburg striker has been feeling good about the side’s World Cup fortunes since before the big win over Honduras.

Speaking with Hamburg’s team magazine, Wood gave a sprawling interview on his career and time with the national team. Wood praised Arena for scouting in Germany, saying the USMNT boss is a quiet coach who has his own style of playing, one that will prod the Yanks into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Complete USMNT-Panama preview ]

But the 24-year-old Hawaii-born striker saved his fondest words for ex-coach Jurgen Klinsmann, essentially calling him a career-saver. From HSV live (translated from German):

He’s very important to me. I believe if Jürgen had not been U.S. coach, then I might have stopped playing football or would have played somewhere in the fourth league.

That is why I am very, very grateful to him. At that time I was in a deep hole – it was real heavy. … He has believed in my quality. We are still in contact, he texts me.

Wood was a part-time player for 1860 Munich when Klinsmann first called him up to the national team side, and now he’s a Bundesliga striker who will be in demand if the club is relegated. Wood has also been mentioned as a target for Premier League clubs.

That’s a pretty good career jump. Klinsmann may have failed to deliver much of what he promised to the national team, but talent mining was done quite well.

USMNT-Panama preview: World Cup calm at stake

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Still wounded from the first two matches of the Hex but buoyed by its demolition of Honduras, the United States men’s national team faces an inspired Panama on Tuesday night in Panama City.

The Yanks arose from the ashes of losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to bury Honduras 6-0 Friday behind a Clint Dempsey hat trick and a goal and two assists from Christian Pulisic.

A win on Tuesday in Panama gives the U.S. something that can only soothe the nerves ahead of two summer qualifiers and the Gold Cup: Top Three status in the Hex (as is always expected).

Now the resurgent Americans face a Panama side which sits above them on the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table, having narrowed the gap on a Los Canaleros side who itself has narrowed its sights on a USMNT which burned them nearly four years ago.

[ USMNT-HONDURAS: Player ratings | Three things ]

Panama looked set to earn an interconfederation playoff berth with a 2-1 lead over the already-advanced U.S. when Graham “San” Zusi and Aron Johannsson led a shocking comeback at the Estadio Rommel Fernández to give Mexico the Hex’s fourth-place.

Los Canaleros shot out of the Hex gates with a win at Honduras and a 0-0 draw at home against Mexico, but fell 1-0 at Trinidad and Tobago on Friday thanks to Minnesota United star Kevin Molino.

Now licking its wounds while eyeing revenge, Panama will hope its pair of draws with the U.S. at the 2015 Gold Cup are the start they need to pick up a first home World Cup qualifying win over the States. Panama won the third-place match over the USMNT via shootout at the that tournament.

Boss Hernán Darío Gómez is no stranger to international battles having led Ecuador, Colombia, and Guatemala. He deployed a 4-5-1 against T&T, and could opt for that again but has usually used either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 with two holding mids against deeper sides than the Soca Warriors.

The former has worked better, and the personnel sometimes serves as a surprise. Last time out, in a 0-0 draw against Mexico, Gomez kept Anibal Godoy and Luis Tejada on the bench in what looks like a 4-2-2-2 at times.

[ MORE: Making sense out of the 6-0 win ]

Bruce Arena faces his own issues. In addition to the absences of Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson, the USMNT lost Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks in the win over Honduras.

Lletget’s absence is quickly remedied by either Alejandro Bedoya or, more likely, Jermaine Jones, but Brooks is a bigger problem. The Hertha Berlin man cleaned up several messes made by Omar Gonzalez, the ex-LA Galaxy man who — for better or worse — may not have shaken Arena’s confidence thanks to their long relationship.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Geoff Cameron is his best option at CB, and could serve a similar purpose to Brooks. Still, he’s not 100 percent.

Gonzalez and Matt Besler worked well together a long time ago, but Tim Ream was Arena’s first choice when Brooks hit the turf with dehydration on Friday. There’s also wild card Walker Zimmerman, who would be taking the field in his highest-profile match yet.

Arena will want to take the match to Panama, even on the road. How will it look in front of Tim Howard? This is an option for Arena, though not one we expect:

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Ream — Villafana

Jones — Bradley — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

Instead, Arena will probably roll the bones with Gonzalez again, and keep things close to the Honduras win. It would be silly to break up the Villafana-Nagbe partnership on the left, and the top three isn’t changing one bit.

The question is whether Arena ruffles Jones, who is both combustible and not part of the long-term future. But Jones, like all of us, would’ve seen 6-0. So, probably, this:

Howard

Cameron — Gonzalez — Ream — Villafana

Bradley

Bedoya — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

If Bradley provides the same picture-perfect cover for the back four and Pulisic continues to hum off the veteran big bodies of Dempsey and Altidore, the latter of which who is due a goal or two, the Yanks win. At worst, they’re beaten for pace by Alberto Quintero and stymied by Jaime Penedo. But the former can be covered by an in-form Howard, and the latter can only hold out for so long.

A draw puts the U.S. behind Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico ahead of two months off and the knowledge that both Mexico and Costa Rica are home for both June qualifiers.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.