Mexico: Mohamed debut brings early, continued success for Club América

Leave a comment

When we last left Liga MX, León was claiming their first title in 21 years, Miguel Herrera was moving on from the Club América job, and former Tijuana boss Antonio Mohamed was ready to return from Argentina for a chance to continue the Águilas’ success. The Mexico City titans had won the 2013 Clausura and finished top of the fall campaign’s qualification stage before falling to León in last tournament’s finals. With neither Copa Libertadores nor CONCACAF Champions League to distract his team, Mohamed was inheriting a talented and potentially single-minded side, making América one of the favorites to claim another title.

But for those hoping América’s time near the top might end, there was potential in discontinuity. Although Mohamed (pictured, right, with Tijuana) had proven himself by guiding Xolos to the 2012 Apertura crown, bringing in a new coach still represented a transition for América, particularly given the success Herrerra had brought back to the Azteca. Yet with the Águilas falling 5-1 in December’s final, detractors could hope some kind of negative momentum would carry forward into the winter season.

That hope, however, was squelched 10 minutes into América’s Saturday match against Tigres. Opening the Clausura at home against the team that played them to a standstill (3-3) in the Apertura’s quarterfinals, América went up early through Luis Gabriel Rey, whose deflected shot off Carlos Salcido gave Enrique Palos no chance to prevent the opener. By the half-hour mark, Mohamed’s men had doubled their lead, with Paul Aguilar getting into the penalty area for an easy right-footed finish from 16 yards. Four minutes after half time, when Raul Jiménez cut across Juninho to set up two open chances on Palos, América had a 3-0 lead, an advantage they’d carry through the final whistle.

Mohamed’s site let up, but the final numbers were still lopsided. Come full-time, that 49 minutes of damage had padded an 8-1 advantage in shots on goal. Whereas Tigres had played the Águilas to within a goal of Liguilla elimination five weeks ago, they were outclassed by just after intermission on Saturday.

It was a bad omen for those hoping América might falter. After 90 minutes of Mexico’s latest tournament, any wish América would stall was rebuked.

There was no transition here. Instead, América appears refocused. Through one round of the new tournament, they’re on top of Liga MX’s table – the only team to win their opening match by more than one goal.

Elsewhere

  • Morelia 0, Querétaro 1 – An early set piece goal from Miguel Martínez held up as the Gallos Blancos withstood a late red card to claim one of the weekend’s three wins.
  • Santos Laguna 1, Chivas 1 – Omar Bravo’s return to Chivas paid off when the former Sporting KC man finished for the middle of the area in the second minute. Five minutes after half-time, an own goal from Isreal Castro equalized for Santos, who were forced to hang on after Oswaldo Alanís earned a second yellow in the 66th minute.
  • Monterrey 0, Cruz Azul 0 – A disappointed Tecnológico was left disgruntled when the final whistle blew on Saturday’s lackluster affair, leaving La Machina with an early road result. Marco Fabian made his Cruz Azul debut, while none of the Cementeros’ MLS additions cracked Luis Fernando Tena’s 18.
  • Pachuca 0, Toluca 1 – A 75th minute goal from Pablo Velazquez saw the Red Devils to take full points after the Tuzo defense allowed the 26-year-old Paraguayan to turn on a left-footed shot from near the spot.
  • Chiapas 1, Veracruz 1 – First half goals from Lucas Viatri and Jehu Chiapas cancelled out in one of the weekend’s six draws.
  • Atlas 0, Tijuana 0 – Herculez Gomez, Joe Corona, and Greg Garza were all in César Farías’s starting XI, which managed only two shots on target while claiming a point in Guadalajara.
  • Pumas 2, Puebla 2 – Martín Bravo had Pumas up two after 36 minutes (one from the spot, the other via deflection), a lead that collapsed dramatically in second half stoppage time. In the 91st minute, Matias Alustiza lobbed Pumas keeper Alejandro Palacios from 21 yards out, while Cesar Sánchez completed Puebla’s comeback with a penalty conversion in the 95th minute.
  • Atlante 1, León 1 – On a chewed up pitch in Cancún, Manuel Viniegra’s 46th minute goal pulled back Carlos Peña’s first half opener, with relegation-embattled Atlante taking points from the defending champions to open the season.

Others
América 3, Tigres 0

Standings
(All teams have played one match)

1. Club América, 3 pts.
2. Querétaro, 3 pts.
2. Toluca, 3 pts.
4. Puebla, 1 pt.
4. Pumas, 1 pt.
6. Atlante, 1 pt.
6. Chiapas, 1 pt.
6. Chivas, 1 pt.
6. León, 1 pt.
6. Santos Laguna, 1 pt.
6. Verzcruz, 1 pt.
12. Atlas, 1 pt.
12. Cruz Azul, 1 pt.
12. Monterrey, 1 pt.
12. Tijuana, 1 pt.
16. Morelia, 0 pts.
16. Pachuca, 0 pts.
18. Tigres, 0 pts.

Mourinho praises Chelsea, his defense after Man Utd win

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho had a better game plan, better substitutions, and perhaps most critically the better of luck as Manchester United came back to defeat Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things ]

Romelu Lukaku had a goal and an assist, and both Jesse Lingard and Eric Bailly were good off the bench in the win.

United reaped the rewards of a razor-thin offside call denying a late Cesc Fabregas goal as well as Alvaro Morata blasting the ball off the cross bar early and Andreas Christensen‘s head injury going unseen by the official in the lead-up to the Lukaku goal.

But make no mistake: after coming back from a slow start against an in-form opponent, United deserves the three points that split the season series.

Mourinho deferred to his players for the performance, mostly, and was effusive in his praise of Chelsea.

“They started very well. It’s as simple as that. When they hit the post, I was looking to my players and I was thinking, “What can we do? Who can I blame?” It was so well-played, so beautifully played, there is nothing to say. They have a very good team. They have a fantastic dynamic. I was trying to find a way for my players to be dangerous in the interior because through the sides they are very strong, so we found a way to play against them where we didn’t concede much.”

He did, however, note that the Red Devils had Eden Hazard in his their pocket for a second-straight match:

“We had control of Eden. Willian, of course, is an amazing player and in that action he killed us but with the production of the game we had more and more control of the game. That’s the way I was expecting the game (to go).”

Considering the way Hazard disappeared in Mourinho’s final year at Stamford Bridge, it’s little surprise the ex-Chelsea boss relishes the opportunity to dismiss the player in a quote.

United moves five points clear of fifth place Chelsea.

Three things from Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

Leave a comment

Antonio Conte‘s was outdone by Jose Mourinho, only just, as the artist formerly known as “The Special One” had the plan and got the required bounces for a big Premier League win on Sunday.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea ]

Manchester United beat Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford, and here are our main takeaways.

Mourinho turns back the hands of tactical time

Manchester United’s boss has rightly been judged for his tactical acumen and organization this year, and not just for perceived parking of proverbial buses.

But Mourinho outfoxed his old nemesis Sunday with a series of changes that weren’t always about the flow of the game as much as keeping Conte’s Chelsea off balance.

Already prepared to play more than usual, United showed inspired work through the middle of the pitch and Paul Pogba was given a bit more freedom and responded by doing a lot of little things right.

The Jesse Lingard sub obviously worked out for the best as the Englishman scored the go-ahead goal, and the introduction of Eric Bailly for his first extended run since Halloween turned out to be an inspired risk.

Lukaku delivers (and delivers)

The big Belgian striker had a dozen goals but none against the Top Six sides of the Premier League before Sunday’s match at Old Trafford.

Lukaku started and finished the equalizer, and then worked well down the right flank before hitting a pinpoint cross for Lingard to head home. That was the one, really, that turned the story line in his favor.

That it came against his old club will feel wonderful.

It’s worth noting that Lukaku did have an assist against Spurs and a goal against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, but he entered the match with just those numbers and a 2-2-2 record against Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City, and Arsenal.

Conte unlucky, not rewarded by Morata

Spanish forward Alvaro Morata got the start in place of in-form Pedro, as Antonio Conte decided against the so-called “false 9” which has served his club well in recent week.

It has to be said: Morata’s hard early volley off the cross bar makes Conte’s choice look better if it gets the Charlie Conway “quarter of an inch the other way” treatment, but Hollywood wasn’t on the scene here.

Pedro did provide some love off the bench, but it was not enough as Manchester United’s big man ultimately delivered what Chelsea’s target man could not.

Some of Conte’s choices did work out fine: Antonio Rudiger had some key moments, and who knows what happens had play been stopped when Andreas Christensen went head-to-head with Lukaku ahead of the Belgian’s goal.

And it’s worth noting that Conte’s sub of Fabregas had a chance to match Mourinho’s perceived brilliance with Lingard but was ruled just offside.

Conte didn’t necessarily lose this game of inches, but Mourinho made the moves that won it. It could simply be that some matches are just not to be.

LIVE, League Cup final: Arsenal v. Man City

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal and Manchester City clash at Wembley on Sunday (kick off, 11:30 a.m. ET) for the League Cup trophy — known as the Carabao Cup for sponsorship reasons — as Arsene Wenger looks to win the tournament for the first time, while Pep Guardiola is aiming to secure his first piece of silverware as City’s manager.

[ LIVE: Updates from Wembely

The Gunners lost won this trophy in 1993, while Man City have been in this final in three of the last five years, winning it in 2014 and 2016.

In team news Arsenal start with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front in a 3-4-3 formation with Mesut Ozil supporting Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey returning from injury to start.

[ LIVE: League Cup final stats ]

Man City start with Claudio Bravo in goal, while Vincent Kompany starts in central defense alongside Nicolas Otamendi. Gabriel Jesus returns to the bench after a long spell out with injury.

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while we are on site at Wembley to provide you with analysis and reaction from what promises to be a classic encounter.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina; Bellerin, Chambers, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey; Ozil, Aubameyang. Subs: Cech, Mertesacker, Kolasinac, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Welbeck

Manchester City: Bravo; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Danilo; Fernandinho, Silva, Gundogan; De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Ederson, Stones, Laporte, Bernardo, Zinchenko, Foden, Jesus

Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea: Lukaku on point

Leave a comment
  • Lukaku the star
  • Assists Lingard winner
  • Willian gave Chelsea lead
  • Sides split season series

Romelu Lukaku scored and set up Jesse Lingard for the winner as Manchester United came back to beat Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Willian scored the Blues’ opener.

The win moves Manchester United back into second place with 59 points. Chelsea now sits fifth with 54 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The visitors were nearly in front when Morata belted Marcos Alonso‘s cross off the bar, and the rebound popped over the goal.

The 10th minute saw Paul Pogba win a free kick off Morata at the corner of the 18.

Anthony Martial broke up a long spell of Chelsea possession with a dribble and cross that failed to meet a receiver in the 25th minute.

Antonio Rudiger blocked a Lukaku chance moments later, then Courtois stopped Alexis Sanchez.

A yellow card came N'Golo Kante‘s way after the Frenchman chopped down countryman Pogba following a nifty move in the 30th minute.

Willian broke up a cross and then was there at the other end to finish his move and start the scoring. There was a rare David De Gea mistake on the finish, but Willian hammered his effort.

Lukaku then defied critics of his big match record in starting and finishing a terrific team goal with Nemanja Matic, Sanchez, and Martial.

Andreas Christensen was stunned after head-to-head contact with Lukaku just before the goal, but play was not stopped.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

A slow first stanza of the second half hoped for change with Jesse Lingard’s entry for Martial.

Courtois made a fantastic tip save of a Lukaku side volley in the 68th, off a Sanchez cross.

Lukaku did his best Lingard in a role reversal with the wide man, working the right to send a cross inside for the Englishman to head home.

Willian tried to answer back within a minute, but De Gea went low to collect the shot.

Fabregas was offside by a razor-thin margin when his clean finish slid inside the far post with five minutes to play.

Lukaku effectively killed the game with a 60-yard dribble and shot, blocked out for a throw, deep into stoppage time.