Much-changed Tottenham fall to Dnipro, as squad players struggle in Europa league clash

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Eastern Europe on a cold February evening is a tough place to go.

Tottenham Hotspur found that out on Thursday as they lost 1-0 away at FC Dnipro in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 tie.

Spurs started with several second-string players, who found it tough going on a churned up pitch in Ukraine. And it was the performances of several of those stand-ins that will give Tottenham’s fans a small cause for concern.

With 10 minutes to go the pivotal moment came as Dnipro’s Brazilian striker Nascimento raced clear after a lighting quick break from the home side, one of many, and the attacker was brought down by Spurs’ defender Jan Vertonghen and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. The man Tottenham and Liverpool chased in the January transfer window, Yevhen Konoplyanka, stepped up and smashed the penalty past U.S. ‘keeper Brad Friedel to seal a first leg win for the Ukrainian side.

It could’ve been even worse late on as Konoplyanka terrorized Spurs’ defense and they managed to hack the ball clear on several occasions in the final moments as Dnipro pushed for a second and the Premier League sides goal led a charmed life. But Spurs survived the onslaught and return to White Hart Lane with only a 1-0 deficit to overcome in the second leg.

That won’t be that easy to do on this showing, as Dnipro have only lost four times this season, twice to Fiorentina in the group stages of the Europa League and twice in the Ukrainian league.

(MORE: Europa League draw for knockout round and Round of 16)

Tottenham started with Friedel in goal, Kyle Naughton at full back, Etienne Capoue as center half, while Andros Townsend and Nacer Chadli supported the  much-maligned Roberto Soldado up top. Spurs huffed and puffed, but looked disjointed in difficult conditions against a fired up Dnipro side. The industrial city is 280 miles south east of the troubled capital Kiev, and you could sense this game, which was in danger of being cancelled, took on a greater meaning for the local people after the recent troubled in the former Soviet nation.

But for Spurs, it was used as an opportunity to give squad players valuable minutes. However manager Tim Sherwood can’t be too happy with what he saw. Yes, chucking plenty of guys onto the pitch who haven’t played regularly together doesn’t usually work out that well, but they should’ve played better than they did. Tottenham are one of the favorites to win the Europa League, but if they thought they could draft in squad players to take them to the final in Turin, this result will be a rude awakening.

With the cash from selling Gareth Bale spent on strengthening the already deep squad last summer, Sherwood seems to have an multitude of players to choose from in every position. But are they strong and ready to compete in Europe and in the Premier League for a top four spot?

On this showing, I doubt it.

AC Milan completes signing of forward Kalinic

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MILAN (AP) Big-spending AC Milan has signed another player, completing the transfer of Croatia forward Nikola Kalinic from Fiorentina.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Milan said it signed Kalinic “on a loan deal with obligation to buy.”

Kalinic has signed a four-year contract through to June 30, 2021.

Milan has been in negotiations with Fiorentina for the 29-year-old Kalinic for a while, and he missed training last week as he attempted to push through the move.

Milan, which was bought by a Chinese-led consortium in April, has spent more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason, signing Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Ricardo Rodriguez, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Lucas Biglia and Mateo Musacchio.

Alan Shearer has a message for Wayne Rooney

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Alan Shearer finally has a friend.

On Monday Wayne Rooney scored in Everton’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City (see in the video above) and he became just the second-player in history to reach 200 goals in the Premier League.

Rooney, 31, still has some way to go to catch Shearer’s all-time record of 260 goals in the PL but the former Manchester United striker has a few more years left in the tank to try and get as close as he can.

Take a look at the video below as Shearer (or, Mary Poppins to Newcastle fans) delivers a message to Rooney.

What’s next for Julian Green, and what’s gone wrong?

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Julian Green will have a new team again soon, in all likelihood.

A Stuttgart publication says Green is on the transfer market this month, just eight months after moving from Bayern Munich to the then-2.Bundesliga side for less than $500,000.

Now 22, Green is three and a half years removed from Jurgen Klinsmann’s long campaign to get him into a USMNT shirt. It’s been a little less time since he scored in extra time against Belgium in the World Cup, but also less than a year since he scored goals in consecutive USMNT matches. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Green scored one goal in 10 appearances for Stuttgart, who was promoted to the Bundesliga at the end of last season. He fell out of favor there, but was far from poor. Green completed 87 percent of his passes and averaged 1.3 dribbles per game (only four teammates had more, though 10 matches is a smaller sample size).

Before that, he spent parts of three seasons with Bayern Munich and made just four appearances, taking a loan to Hamburg in 2014-15 that saw him banished to Hamburg II after just five appearances.

What gives? Whether attitude or skill, Green has a lot of work to do to get back to a level where he’s a reasonable USMNT call-up (Green has a respectable three goals in eight call-ups, netting against Cuba and New Zealand in Oct. 2016). Still, it’s far from over for Green at 22.

There are legit questions here, as the list of not high-profile players Bayern Munich has used in its senior team at a young age and blossomed elsewhere isn’t necessarily impressive (at least relatively speaking). Nils Petersen, Thomas Kraft, and Sandro Wagner are exceptions to the rule. Better put: Bayern has a really good idea what it’s doing when it lets young players walk, and it begs discussion on the best path for Green.

It seems likely he could get a move to another 2.Bundesliga club, and there’s an outside shot he could get a look in the top flight. It would be interesting to know where the interest lies abroad. Would it be hard to acquire a work permit for France or Spain (England seems a hard sell)? Could a move to a free-flowing Eredivisie club work?

Obviously Major League Soccer clubs would welcome his talent and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be a useful piece in the United States’ top tier, even if on a short-term move as he looks to regain confidence. Would Green see it as below him?

Arsenal’s Wilshere sent-off after brawling in U-23 match vs. Man City

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Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere isn’t standing around waiting for his next team, he’s fighting.

Period.

Wilshere got into with several members of Manchester City’s U-23 side in a match on Monday, with the English midfielder taking exception to a hockey-style hip check from City’s Matthew Smith.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Shoving the 17-year-old Smith, Wilshere saw the City man take a tumble and stay prone. Still riled up, Wilshere tangled with City’s Tyreke Wilson.

Wilshere and Wilson were sent off.

Given his injury history, we’re not surprised Wilshere took exception to a hard and needless foul in a U-23 match.

The Arsenal man has been linked with moves to Newcastle, West Ham, AC Milan, and Sampdoria, but Arsene Wenger wants to keep Wilshere at the Emirates Stadium.