Bundesliga roundup: Bayern Munich extend league lead with Bayer and Dortmund dropping points

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Tough day in the Rhineland, as Borussia Dortmund had to battle back from two-down, and Borussia Monchengladbach could only muster a scoreless draw at ninth-placed Mainz 05.

In addition, second-place Bayer Leverkusen majorly disappointed at home against Eintracht Frankfurt, losing 1-0 and allowing Munich to extend their lead at the top of the Bundesliga table.

Everything else held true to league position, as Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, and Schalke all won.

Bayern Munich 3-1 Hamburg

The league leaders increased their gap at the top to seven points, showing no ill effects from their 3-2 loss to Manchester City midweek.

It took most of the first half to get going, but after it was over Mario Mandzukic, Mario Gotze and Xherdan Shaqiri had all bagged goals.  The Bavarians host Bayer Leverkusen next weekend with a chance to make the gap even larger.

Hoffenheim 2-2 Borussia Dortmund

Two goals from the hosts in the first half forced Dortmund to battle from behind, finally pegging back level via Lukasz Piszczek in the 67th minute.

It was all Dortmund could muster though, as Piszczek, Robert Lewandowski, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all wasted chances to clinch the full bounty, and Dortmund fell 12 points off the leaders Bayern Munich.

Bayer Leverkusen 0-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

The first home Bundesliga defeat since March leaves Bayer unable to keep pace with Bayern Munich at the top, as a Marco Russ header downed the hosts.

It could have been more too, had Eintracht taken advantage of their dominant first half, but goalkeeper Kevin Trapp made some quality saves to doom Bayer.

Mainz 0-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

The visitors were clearly on top but couldn’t get the spoils despite moving their unbeaten run to seven matches.

Mainz’s Shinji Okazaki wasted a counter opportunity, as did Monchengladbach’s Max Kruse and the point moves the visitors level with Borussia Dortmund with 32 points.

Hannover 3-3 Nurnberg

Nurnberg blew a three-goal lead, but the comeback was marred by Hannover’s second, which came on a missed offsides on Mame Diouf who grabbed the last two scores in the 87th and 90th minutes.

source: AP
Jefferson Farfan bagged the second for Schalke as they eased into sixth in the table.

The comeback is bitterly disappointing for the visitors, who are still searching for their first win of the season, and three points would have seen them out of the relegation zone.

Schalke 2-0 Freiburg

It took an own-goal just before the break to start the scorebooks, but Schalke built on that with a 67th minute penalty by Jefferson Farfan.  American Jermaine Jones was bright along the right flank.

The victory also marked the substitute return by Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who made his first Bundesliga appearance in over a year on his way back from a torn ACL.

Augsburg 4-1 BTSV

Andre Hahn bagged a double within three minutes as Augsburg jumped Mainz in the table and moved to 8th place.  BTSV remains in 20th with just eight points on the year.

Hertha BSC 3-2 Werder Bremen

On Friday Werder Bremen were looking to bounce back from a 7-0 shellacking at the hands of Bayern Munich, but couldn’t maintain an early lead.

Adrian Ramos led the comeback for Hertha with a first-half double and Ronny picked up the winner as they maintained their spot in seventh place.

Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut in FA Cup replay

Photo credit: Chelsea FC / Twitter: @chelseafc
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Ross Barkley was expected — and himself expected — to make his Chelsea debut on Wednesday, when the Blues host Championship side Norwich City in a third-round FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Alas, the 24-year-old English midfielder has been ruled ineligible due to a lesser-known and -applied rules surrounding transfers and player registration.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup | Wednesday preview ]

Barkley completed his move from Everton to Chelsea, for $20 million, on Jan. 5, the day before Chelsea and Norwich drew 0-0 at Carrow Road. In order to be eligible for Wednesday’s replay, Barkley is required to have completed his transfer prior to the noon cut-off the day prior to the original tie. While the time of official approval is unknown, Barkley’s move wasn’t announced by the club until after 5 p.m. in the UK.

As such, Chelsea will attempt to set up a behind-closed-doors friendly this week, in order to provide Barkley a bit of game action as he builds fitness and sharpness ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Barkley hasn’t seen a single minute of first-team action this season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in the summer.

FA Cup preview: Three more PL sides face 3rd-round replays

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Three more Premier League sides, including a top-four fighter, attempt to join a dozen of their top-flight contemporaries in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea and Swansea City host Championship opposition in the form of Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively, while Bournemouth will make the 500-mile roundtrip to take on League One side Wigan Athletic.

The Blues, who now sit fourth in the PL after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Leicester City, could manage only a scoreless draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road earlier this month. They are winless in their last four games across all competitions — all draws — including their League Cup semifinal first-leg draw with Arsenal last week; the last three of those all finished without a single goal scored. Chelsea, who are tied with Liverpool with the fourth-most FA Cups in their history (7), lost out to Arsenal in last season’s final at Wembley Stadium.

Swansea are undoubtedly the side on highest Cupset alert, as Wolves are the runaway leaders and champions-elect in the Championship (10 points clear after 27 of 46 rounds played), thus able to devote more attention to the FA Cup than the typical second-division side. With the two sides separated by just a single place in the English footballing pyramid (Swansea, 20th in the PL; Wolves, 1st in the Championship), they appear destined to swap places by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s punishment for conceding a pair of early goals to a side currently 32 places below them in the pyramid, is the long, midweek trip from the south coast to the DW Stadium in the northwest of England. It was the Premier Leaguers who needed a two second-half goals, including Steve Cook‘s 90th-minute equalizer, to draw level at home in the first meeting.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay actionFULL ROUNDUP

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town
West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town
Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Agent: 37-year-old Ronaldinho has retired

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SAO PAULO (AP) The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho announced Tuesday that the former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker has retired from football.

Roberto Assis made the announcement to Brazilian media on behalf of the 37-year-old midfielder, who played his last professional match in 2015 for Brazil’s Fluminense.

“Ronnie’s professional career is over. He wants to be a football ambassador, do charity, and work with his friends in music from now on,” Assis told The Associated Press.

Assis hopes to schedule some farewell matches for Ronaldinho after the World Cup in Russia, which ends July 15. The initial plan is to play games in Brazil, Europe and Asia and to also get Brazil’s national team involved, Assis said.

Last July, Ronaldinho said on the sidelines of a friendly in Chechnya that was he was “too old” to return to action.

The Brazilian’s decorated career also includes one World Cup title (2002), one Champions League victory (2006) and two Spanish league titles with Barcelona, and two FIFA world player of the year awards (2004 and 2005).

Ronaldinho started his professional career at Gremio in southern Brazil in 1998. He left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2001 and was signed by Barcelona two seasons later.

At the Camp Nou, he was the engine of a team that took Barca back to the limelight. However, after a series of club trophies, Ronaldinho’s career took a downturn. He was often accused by Brazilian and Spanish media of lacking professionalism, despite his mentoring of a then youthful Lionel Messi.

In 2008, with Messi then leading Barcelona, Ronaldinho left for AC Milan. Despite being part of a team that won Serie A in 2011, he failed to reach his previous heights as a player.

When returning home became a real option, Ronaldinho frustrated Gremio’s efforts to re-sign him and joined Flamengo instead.

Disappointing performances in Rio de Janeiro took him to Atletico Mineiro, a club that then was more often fighting against relegation than for titles.

Yet a more mature Ronaldinho took Atletico to a different level.

In his last great run, Ronaldinho carried Atletico with his superb passes and dazzling dribbles to second place in the 2012 Brazilian Championship.

A year later, he was the key to his club lifting its first Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club trophy, but his hopes of playing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were dashed.

Ronaldinho left to play for Mexico’s Queretaro in 2014-15, but was mostly on the bench.

He played his last seven matches as a professional for Fluminense, though his performances were a far cry from his best days in Spain.

Now living in Rio, he has appeared in advertisements all over the world since leaving Fluminense.

USL granted 2018 2nd-division sanctioning by U.S. Soccer

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U.S. Soccer has officially granted the United Soccer League second-division sanctioning, behind first-division Major League Soccer, for the upcoming 2018 season, as well as first-division status for the National Women’s Soccer League.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan unveiled by Liga MX side Club Leon ]

USL, which will feature 33 teams in 2018, had been granted temporary second-division sanctioning, alongside the North American Soccer League, in 2017. As NASL’s demise continued and accelerated — the league will not begin play this spring, opting instead for a late-summer kickoff, after a number of its teams either folded or jumped ship to USL — USL, with the help of MLS, quickly pounced to capitalize — from U.S. Soccer’s statement:

Sanctioning allows NWSL and USL to operate a Division I and II league, respectively, during the 2018 season and includes a two-year pathway to full compliance with the Professional League Standards. USL has demonstrated substantial progress toward reaching full compliance since being granted provisional Division II sanctioning in 2017.

Conspiracy theorist’s take: USL supplanted NASL as the U.S.’s second-most viable professional men’s league — and more importantly, being granted official second-division status — paves the way for MLS to, at some point well down the line — say, 2030 or so — implement its own multi-tiered system of promotion and relegation, featuring anywhere between 60 and 80 teams, while still remaining a single-entity structure closed to the lower reaches of the sport in America, as the lines separating MLS and USL have only become more and more blurred in recent years.

[ MORE: Donovan ready to “win championships” after ending retirement ]

MLS realizes that public demand for promotion and relegation in the U.S. has grown significantly louder in recent years — particularly given the climate of the sport after the men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, and subsequent ongoing presidential-election campaign — thus an open-but-not-really-open system which satisfies neither side will eventually be the end result.