Andrey Arshavin, Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Borussia Dortmund punish slack Zenit Saint Petersburg in 4-2 Champions League win

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Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund traveled to Russia and came back with a massive 4-2 win in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie with Zenit Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

Dortmund struck twice through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus in the first five minutes to stun Zenit, but the Russian team fought back in the second half as Oleg Shatov pulled a goal back to make it 2-1. But less than five minutes later Robert Lewandowski punished some slack marking to make it 3-1, however a penalty kick from Hulk in the 68th minute made it 3-2 in an enthralling contest at the Petrovosky stadium.

However just when you thought Zenit were about to clinch an unlikely draw to take with them to Germany next month, Lewandowski popped up to make it 4-2 and clinch a crucial away win for last season’s Champions League finalists. The win means that out of five UCL last 16 games played so far, the away side has won on every occasion.

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In the third minute Dortmund went ahead as Reus ran past Zenit defender Lombaerts in the box and instead of going down the German international squared the ball to Mkhitaryan who slotted home to make it 1-0.

Then just 70 seconds later Dortmund went 2-0 up as Italian left back Domenico Criscito was caught of position and Reus punished him with a low strike into the bottom corner to stun the home crowd. With the Russian league on a winter break, Zenit have been without a competitive game since December and that showed early on with some lackluster defending.

source: AP
Zenit battled hard, but Dortmund always had the edge.

That trend continued throughout the first half as in the 18th minute Robert Lewnadowski raced clear but saw his shot saved by Lodygin as Dortmund threatened to increase their lead before the break. In the 29th minute Reus worked some room on the edge of the box and clipped a right footed shot just wide of the far post.

Zenit did rally and steadied the ship slightly after that disastrous start which saw them go 2-0 down within the opening five minutes, but Dortmund went in 2-0 up at the interval without having to force the issue at all.

After the break Zenit, predictably, improved as Brazilian striker Hulk tried twice to get in behind with clever runs across the defense. In the 56th minute Zenit were back in the game as Hulk’s run opened up the chance for Rondo to shoot twice and his second effort cannoned off the post but fell straight to Shatov who hammed the ball home to make it 2-1.

But less than five minutes later Dortmund regained their two-goal advantage as Lewandowski played a great one-two with Tomasz Piszczek and the Polish international swept home to make it 3-1 to the away side.

However just when Zenit looked to be down and out, they were handed a lifeline as Viktor Faizulin was brought down in the box and Hulk smashed in the penalty kick to make it 3-2 in the 68th minute. But just two minutes later Zenit switched off again as Tymoshchuk gave the ball away and Lewandowski was played in to hammer home his second and Dortmund’s fourth to make it 4-2.

The rest of the  game played out with Zenit trying to get back into the match, but Dortmund held firm and now take a 4-2 advantage into their second-leg at the Westfalenstadion in March.

LINEUPS

Zenit Saint Petersburg: Lodygin; Criscito, Lombaerts, Luis Neto, Anyukov (Smolnikov, 82) Fayzulin (Kerzhakov, 84), Witsel; Arshavin (Tymoshchuk, 15), Shatov, Hulk; Rondon

Goal: Shatov (56′), Hulk (68′)

Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Sokratis, Friedrich, Schmelzer; Kehl, Sahin; Grosskreutz (Durm, 90), Mkhitaryan (Aubameyang, 70), Reus (Hofmann, 85); Lewandowski

Goals: Mkhitaryan (3′), Reus (4′), Lewandowski (61′ & 71′)

Messi returns ahead of schedule, sporting golden hair (photo)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina looks on against Chile during the Copa America Centenario Championship match at MetLife Stadium on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chile defeated Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi is back with Barcelona a week earlier than expected, as the Camp Nou set prepares to defend another La Liga title.

That means Messi will be on the roster for the International Champions Cup, as Barcelona is slated to play Celtic, Leicester City, and Liverpool.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby in China on Monday ]

That’s not the only surprise from the 29-year-old, who has pulled an Aaron Ramsey and dramatically altered his ‘do.

Glad to have him back on our screens a bit earlier than planned, and — although I’m far from a style icon — I’ll be just as glad when the blonde grows/washes out of his head.

Ronaldo seeking new contract, says he’ll miss UEFA Super Cup

FUNCHAL, MADEIRA, PORTUGAL - JULY 22: Dionisio Pestana, Cristiano Ronaldo and Miguel Albuquerque (President of the Regional Government of Madeira) during the opening of the new 'Pestana CR7 Funchal' Hotel owned by Cristiano Ronaldo on July 22, 2016 in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo’s long summer has earned him an extended vacation, but the knee injury he suffered in the EURO 2016 Final would’ve kept him from this season’s first big club match anyway.

The 31-year-old star will not be available for the Aug. 9 UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla, saying he’ll be back in the mix just one day later.

[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]

Ronaldo also said he’s going to speak with the club about extending his contract, which runs through the 2017-18 season. He’s very been vocal about his desire to finish his career at the Bernabeu, and will put pen to paper in order to prove it.

From Sky Sports:

“I spoke to the president on the phone and when I get to Madrid, we will talk about it.

“Obviously it’s something I want, I have mentioned it many times, and the club also wants it. But we only spoke briefly, and there will be more concrete things to come.”

No surprises here, though it would’ve been nice to have Ronaldo on our screens for the match-up between his Champions League winners and the Europa League champions.

Guardiola, Mourinho prepare for derby in China, shake off personal rivalry

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 16: Barcelona manager (L) Josep Guardiola shakes hands with head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid before the start of the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 16, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Preseason matches rarely have legitimate hype, let alone live up to it.

Yet Monday will see Manchester United and Manchester City tangle outside of England for the first time in history, and there are a lot of fans looking forward to the early morning match in China.

[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]

A lot of that has to do with it being the first match-up between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho as bosses of City and United, to the extent where journalists asked whether the longtime rivals would shake hands (admittedly a weird question, as if to say, “Are you a grown-up?”).

They essentially issued the same answer, and here are Mourinho’s comments, from ManUtd.com:

“Of course I will shake his hand – why wouldn’t I? I don’t understand the question to him or to me. We were opponents for three years [in Spain] but we are professionals. I don’t see why I wouldn’t shake his hand.”

Both managers also talked, understandably, about fitness and health being their No. 1 goal of the match, and there are concerns about the pitch in China due to heavy rains.

Guardiola also gave insight into Vincent Kompany‘s continued struggles with recovery from the injury that hampered him for much of last season, refusing to give a timetable for the captain’s return.

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-1 FC Dallas (video)

COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 23: Marlon Hairston #94 of Colorado Rapids celebrates after scoring a first half goal past Chris Seitz #18 of FC Dallas during a game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 23, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): In keeping with the the theme of “we never really learn anything in MLS, it just kind of happens,” both the Colorado Rapids or FC Dallas had the chance to make a massive statement in the two sides’ ongoing race for the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield (FCD entered Saturday’s clash at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with a three-point lead), but they ultimately settled for a 1-1 draw, and we settle for “wait until next week, maybe we’ll actually learn something then.” At least the goals were great, though — Marlon Hairston opened the scoring by rounding the goalkeeper with traffic in all directions, and Victor Ulloa unleashed a rocket from well outside the penalty area to equalize late on. In that sense, the 90 minutes were befitting a first-versus-second matchup. The draw means the Rapids are unbeaten in their last 15 league games, but the LA Galaxy, who won away to the Portland Timbers and inched two points closer to the league’s elites, are ultimately the day’s biggest winners.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

26′ — Akindele goes inches wide of the far post — Quick, decisive movement around the penalty area is the only way to create that half-yard of space needed to fire a shot off.

33′ — Hairston breaks out, Zimmerman makes the dramatic block — Hairston was thisclose to having a one-on-one chance on goal, but Walker Zimmerman made a spectacular recovery run and an even better last-second sliding tackle to deflect Hairston’s shot narrowly wide of the post.

44′ — Hairston rounds Seitz to make it 1-0 — Composure, quickness, finesse. Hairston displayed it all on this goal, his second in as many games.

82′ — Ulloa unleashes a blast from 25 yards out f0r 1-1 — If not for the net on the goal, Ulloa’s strike might still be traveling at an ever-so-slightly upward trajectory for the rest of time.

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Man of the match: Sam Cronin

Goalscorers: Hairston (44′), Ulloa (82′)