Seedorf lauds Milan’s improvement, remains optimistic about second leg at Atlético

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Within the context of a disappointing 2013-14 season, Milan’s performance on Wednesday against Atlético Madrid was a small ray of sunshine, even if the Rossoneri left the San Siro down 1-0 in the teams’ UEFA Champions LeagueRound of 16 matchup. Particularly in the middle of the first half, Milan played as well as they have all season, generating two near-goals for Kaká and another for Andrea Poli. While a 83rd minute winner from Diego Costa meant the day was ultimately an unsuccessful one, the performance highlighted the slow progress the team has been able to make under Clarence Seedorf.

“I think everybody saw what my players did tonight, and I am proud of what they did, really,” Seedorf said after his first Champions League match as a head coach (as relayed by UEFA.com). “In the last 20 minutes we were tired and we were also a bit unlucky with their goal, I have to say … It will be tough in the return leg, I know, but I also remember I have had some fun in that stadium.”

A four-time Champions League winner as a player, Seedorf was hired to replace former Milan boss Max Allegri on Jan. 16, lifting some fans’ hopes that a disappointing season could still see Milan do some damage in Champions League. Although Wednesday’s result means that’s now less likely, the performance showed the Rossoneri have become a more capable side than the one Seedorf inherited last month.

“My players are trying to improve, they are working hard, and I see the team spirit growing,” Seedorf said after his first Champions League game as a head coach. “My past experience tells me that team spirit can make you go far in the competition.”

As Wednesday showed, it will take more than team spirit to oust the favored Atlético, but given three more weeks to help his players adjust to a new system (as well as each other), Milan may be even stronger when the teams take the field at the Vicente Calderón.

“Balotelli is improving match by match but it takes time for strikers to adapt to each other,” Seedorf explained. “They have not played many games together.”

Between Wednesday and Milan’s visit to Madrid, Seedorf’s team will get three chances to improve that familiarity: league matches against Sampdoria, Juventus, and Udinese. On Mar. 11, they try to turn around their one-goal deficit at the Calderón.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.