Manchester United aren't anywhere close to first, yet Moyes retains hopes of the Premier League title

UEFA Champions League recap: Man United, Bayern join Real, PSG as group winners

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Group A: Manchester United (England) 1, Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) 0

Phil Jones’ converted corner kick midway through the first half was all that separated two sides who shared the game’s chances. Shakhtar should have gone up early, yet after 90 minutes, Jones’ goal had sent the Ukrainians to Europa League, the Red Devils through as group winners.

From our recap:

To the rescue has come a less likely figure in Phil Jones, who has finally turned the valve, releasing the enormous pressure that was continuing to build around an atypically wandering season at Manchester United. His 67th minute goal was the difference as Manchester United rediscovered something to smile about, rolling out a win Tuesday over Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League.

So United finish first in its group, a big benefit to a club that now gets to dodge the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona and perhaps some other biggies in the next round of tournament play, the first knockout round.

[MORE: Manchester United edges Shakhtar to stop the bleeding, finish atop Champions League Group A]

Group A: Real Sociedad (Spain) 0, Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) 1

Real Sociedad complete a disappointing return to Champions League with their fifth loss in six games, with the lack of urgency on a 49th minute corner allowing Ömer Toprak to score the game’s only goal, sending them to a 1-0 loss. The victory vaulted Bayer Leverkusen into second place, Sami Hyypia’s team overcoming their 5-0 loss to Manchester United to make the final 16.

Group B: Copenhagen (Denmark ) 0, Real Madrid (Spain) 2

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return from a thigh injury saw the Ballon d’Or finalist score his ninth goal of group stage, a new competition record. In an otherwise meaningless game for the visitors, Real Madrid improved to 16 points in six games and go undefeated into the competition’s knockout round.

[MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo sets record for most UEFA Champions League group stage goals]

source: Reuters

Group B: Galatasaray (Turkey) 0, Juventus (Italy) 0 — Abandoned

Thirty-one minutes, no goals, but a hail storm that redefined our perceptions of Istanbul. The game will pick up in the 32nd minute on Wednesday.

From our post:

Thirty minutes into today’s UEFA Champions League match in Istanbul, players were back in their locker rooms, stars like Didier Drogba, Carlos Tévez, and Wesley Sneijder forced to take a back seat to battalion of anonymous, shovel-laden soldiers. What started as a normal game between two teams contesting a knockout round spot soon put all the weather talk around Saturday’s MLS Cup to shame. Roughly 15 minutes before halftime, a hail storm that created a sheet of ice at the Turk Telecom Arena had rekindled memories of the United States’s snow game versus Costa Rica, only this time the game was stopped.

[MORE: Update: Storm in Istanbul sees Galatasaray-Juventus abandoned in UEFA Champions League]

Group C: Benfica (Portugal) 2, Paris Saint-Germain (France) 1

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva even weren’t in Laurent Blanc’s 18 for PSG’s meaningless match in Lisbon, a status that will make the team’s first loss of the tournament easy to bear. Although the French champions still struck first through Edinson Cavani, they were back on even footing after Lima equalized from the spot just before halftime. In the 58th minute, Nicolas Gaitán scored from five yards out, giving Benfica the lead they’d hold through full time. For the Eagles, it was a must-win game, one that kept pressure on Olympiacos to win in Piraeus to stay second in Group C.

Group C: Olympiacos (Greece) 3, Anderlecht (Belgium) 1

Javier Saviola and Sacha Kljestan swapped goals within six first half minutes of each other, the 1-1 scoreline giving Benfica hope the group’s cellar dwellers could take points in Greece. When Saviola missed an early second half penalty kick, those hopes gained momentum, but the former Benfica forward’s second and a late penalty conversion from fellow Argentine Alejandro Domínguez gave Olympiacos a comfortable win, Anderlecht finishing the match with nine men after two late red cards.

Group D: Bayern Munich (Germany) 2, Manchester City (England) 3

Looking to extend their record Champions League winning streak to 11, Bayern Munich got early goals from Thomas Müller and Mario Götze, building a two-goal lead after 12 minutes. A David Silva score pulled one back for the Citizens before halftime, with Aleksandar Kolarov and James Milner giving Manchester City a record-snapping victory at the Allianz.

From our recap:

Though the 3-2 defeat at the Allianz Arena won’t coast 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.

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

 

Group D: Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 2, CSKA Moscow (Russia) 1

Viktoria’s first points of the competition were enough to push them into Europa League, with Daniel Kolar and Tomas Wágner’s goals after Alan Dzagoev’s dismissal moving the 1-0-5 team into a tie for third. But thanks to their two goals in Russia, Viktoria are through at CSKA’s expense, Leonid Slutsky’s side finishing the match with nine after Pontus Wernbloom’s extra time dismissal. For Pavel Vrba, the future Czech national team coach, the victory sends him out on a high note, the congratulatory celebrations on the Viktoria sideline rejoicing in their coach’s farewell success.

Pardew says Crystal Palace need a “big name” signing this summer

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21:  Alan Pardew manager of Crystal Palace gives a thumbs up during The Emirates FA Cup Final match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium on May 21, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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After losing to Manchester United in the FA Cup final on Sunday, Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew is already looking ahead to next season.

The Eagles’ boss was happy with his team’s performance against United, but admitted that the club needs to bring in some more talent over the summer transfer window.

MORE: All 2015-16 PL season reviews ]

Speaking about his summer plans, Pardew said he wants to bring a “big name” to Selhurst Park to help Palace continue their plan of growth.

We have shown that we have got talent in the group. We need to refine it a little bit, and we are going to try to do that in the transfer market. But we were a force to be reckoned with against Manchester United. We have given a real good, honest account of ourselves.

I think we have got to get players who are better than this. There is no point in getting players who are not potentially better than the ones we have got. Well, then they have got to be good players. So will there be a big name in there? There’s going to need to be.

After a hot start to the 2015-16 Premier League season, many believed Pardew had a Palace side that was able to compete in the top half of the table for a spot in Europe. However, after sitting fifth on Boxing Day, Palace won just two of their final 21 matches and slid all the way down to 15th on the table.

[ MORE: The best moments of LVG’s memorable yet bizzare tenure at Man United ]

Palace has far too much talent to be languishing near the relegation zone, but Pardew is right that work must be done over the summer. If the club’s new American ownership is willing to spend, a quality striker will be Pardew’s first target.

Last summer’s striker signing Connor Wickham finished the season tied for the team lead with five goals, level with Yohan Cabaye and Scott Dann. When considering that four of Cabaye’s five goals came from the penalty spot and that Dann is a center-back, the Eagles’ lack of attacking depth is quite clear.

FIFA fires finance director Kattner over bonus payments

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  FIFA Acting Secretary General Markus Kattner looks on prior to the Extraordinary FIFA Congress at Hallenstadion on February 26, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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GENEVA (AP) FIFA has fired finance director and interim secretary general Markus Kattner after an internal investigation revealed he got irregular bonus payments worth millions of dollars.

Kattner was due the payments over a six-year period from 2008-14 from additions to his employment contract, a person familiar with the FIFA investigation said Monday.

The extra payments were signed off by then-President Sepp Blatter and then-secretary general Jerome Valcke, Kattner’s immediate boss in that period.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s FIFA coverage ]

“We don’t yet understand why these payments were made,” the person said on condition of anonymity as details of the investigation are confidential. “These contract provisions were not known widely and not to the appropriate officers at FIFA.”

It is unclear if the contracted payments which came to light last week could form part of a wider investigation of criminal mismanagement at FIFA conducted by Swiss federal prosecutors.

“We are not in a position to determine the legality of the contracts,” the person said, adding that “the appropriate authorities are aware of the issue.”

FIFA’s ethics committee is likely to now open an investigation against the 45-year-old German official, with charges of conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA among potential outcomes.

[ MORE: Louis van Gaal officially sacked at Manchester United ]

Kattner joined FIFA as director of finance in 2003 and took the deputy secretary general title in 2007, the year Blatter hired Valcke for the top administrative job of world soccer’s governing body. Kattner was promoted in an interim role when Valcke was suspended last September for financial wrongdoing and then fired in January.

“Markus Kattner has been dismissed from his position effective immediately,” FIFA said in a statement Monday. “FIFA’s internal investigation uncovered breaches of his fiduciary responsibilities in connection with his employment contract.”

FIFA has already announced that United Nations official Fatma Samoura is due to start work next month as the new permanent secretary general.

Kattner’s alleged wrongdoing came to light last Friday, the person said, one week after Samoura’s hiring was announced by President Gianni Infantino.

The 45-year-old German official was at FIFA headquarters on Monday before his firing was announced.

His exit is unconnected with the timing of Samoura’s hiring and expected arrival at FIFA in June, the person said.

[ MORE: Frank Lampard responds after being booed by NYCFC supporters ]

“This is based on documentary evidence that is information which emerged in the last three days,” the person said, with no whistleblower involved in revealing the case.

FIFA is being subjected to an internal investigation led by United States-based legal firm Quinn Emanuel, which is working separately from investigations by federal prosecutors in the U.S. and Switzerland.

As a central figure overseeing FIFA finances for more than 12 years of Blatter’s presidency, Kattner’s name has been linked to allegations in the American and Swiss cases, and investigations of other officials by FIFA’s ethics committee.

Michel Platini has said that his invoice requesting a $2 million payment for backdated salary from FIFA was sent to Kattner in 2010. The now-banned UEFA president got the money approved by Blatter in February 2011.

[ MORE: Uruguay sweating Suarez’s fitness ahead of Copa America Centenario ]

In that case, Platini had a four-year ban confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport this month, and Blatter awaits an appeal at CAS to challenge his six-year ban. They deny wrongdoing.

Kattner is also expected to be sought as a witness in German and Swiss investigations of unexplained payments between German organizers of the 2006 World Cup and FIFA.

When questioned at FIFA news conferences since October, Kattner has said he has been advised by FIFA not to comment on ongoing criminal and ethics cases.

Looking ahead for the USMNT: Two key friendlies before Copa 100

PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - NOVEMBER 17: USA's #3 DeAndre Yedlin brings the ball under control as T&T's # 3 Joevin Jones looks on during a World Cup Qualifier between Trinidad and Tobago and USA as part of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers for Russia 2018 at Hasely Crawford Stadium on November 17, 2015 in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo by Ashley Allen Getty Images)
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With the Copa America Centenario kicking off next week across the United States, what can we expect from the USMNT in their two upcoming friendlies?

After defeating Puerto Rico in a glorified scrimmage on Sunday, the U.S. has two more matches before the tournament that will pose a much tougher challenge for Klinsmann’s men.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The USMNT faces Ecuador on Wednesday, May 25 in Texas before traveling to Kansas City to take on Bolivia on Saturday, May 28. Both of those South American sides will be competing in the Copa America.

While Klinsmann may have given some of his younger players minutes against Puerto Rico, you would expect a much stronger lineup to be fielded in the friendlies against Ecuador and Bolivia.

However, as all U.S. Soccer fans know, you can never predict what Jurgen Klinsmann is going to do.

[ MORE: Louis van Gaal sacked after two years at Manchester United ]

Klinsmann confirmed that Brad Guzan will be his number-one goalkeeper at Copa America, which means we will likely see the Aston Villa man in net for both upcoming friendlies.

The USMNT will also get some reinforcements on the back-line with both Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler joining up with the team ahead of the Ecuador match. Cameron and Besler have worked together well as a solid center-back pairing in the past, but Besler will likely find himself behind John Brooks, who is coming off of a great season with Hertha Berlin.

The midfield is probably the biggest question in this team, as Klinsmann has endlessly tinkered with both formation and player selection. Michael Bradley is a surefire pick, but the other spots are much harder to determine. Klinsmann has recalled one of his personal favorites Jermaine Jones to the squad, a veteran who has found some good form in Colorado this season. Jones could slot into the middle alongside Bradley, but at 34-years-old, his lack of pace could cost the U.S. when facing a side like Colombia in the Copa America.

[ MORE: Liverpool set to sign Mainz goalkeeper Loris Karius ]

Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic is the youngest player in the side, with the 17-year-old entering this week with just one cap to his name. While Klinsmann may have brought the teenager just for the learning experience, fans will want to see Pulisic on the pitch and these friendlies could be a time for the midfielder to earn valuable minutes for his progression. However, if Klinsmann has no plans to play Pulisic at the Copa, it would be better for the team’s consistency if he does not feature in the pre-tournament matches.

Up top, Bobby Wood may have finally done enough to lock down a starting position. With Jozy Altidore out injured, this is Wood’s time to shine and prove he should be Klinsmann’s first choice striker every match.

The USMNT kicks off the Copa America Centenario on June 3 in Santa Clara, California, facing Colombia at Levis Stadium.

Arnautovic’s Stoke future up in the air ahead of EURO 2016

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 23:  Marko Arnautovic of Stoke City looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Stoke City at Etihad Stadium on April 23, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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After leading Stoke City in scoring this season, Marko Arnautovic may be on his way out.

Despite being under contract for another year, Arnautovic has yet to sign an extension with the Potters as he takes some time to decide on his future.

MORE: All 2015-16 PL season reviews ]

Arnautovic’s current contract contains a release clause of about $18 million, a price many top European clubs would be willing to pay after the winger scored 11 Premier League goals this season.

Speaking with the Stoke Sentinel, Potters’ CEO Tony Scholes said that while they want to sign Arnautovic to a new deal, the player and his agent are holding out.

I would love to appear more knowledgeable than anyone else on this, but the truth is it’s in Marko’s hands. And at the moment, the decision he’s taken is that he doesn’t want to sign yet.

He’s not out of contract for another year, albeit there is a release clause in his contract. We hope he will sign, but as I sit here now I can’t give you a definitive answer on that.

We want him to sign. He knows what we are prepared to pay. We believe this is the best place for him given the season he’s had, but at this moment in time Marko and his agent are biding their time.

Arnautovic is likely waiting to sign a new deal until after the European Championship, which runs from June 10-July 10. A starter for an Austrian team that went undefeated during qualifying, Arnautovic could see his value rise even more if he puts in a good showing in France.

[ MORE: Pirlo, Giovinco left off of Italy’s provisional roster for EURO 2016 ]

Losing Arnautovic would be a huge blow for the Potters, as he was their best player this season and a key piece in the club’s growth moving forward. Stoke is surely a club on the rise, but it’s up to Arnautovic to decide whether his future lies at the Britannia Stadium.