Chelsea fails to kill off Galatasaray as home side earns a 1-1 draw

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Instead of returning to Stamford Bridge with a commanding lead, Chelsea will welcome Galatasaray back home for the second leg with things all square.

Aurelien Chedjou cancelled out Fernando Torres’s early goal, and Galatasaray gave their home fans some hope after a sluggish first half.

In a first 45 that handed the visitors acres of space on the Turk Telekom Arena pitch, Chelsea could only bag one goal against a fleeting Galatasaray, and they suffered the consequences later on.

Torres scored inside 10 minutes, and it appeared that Chelsea were well on their way to a dominating victory against a home side much too willing to throw men forward.  The goal was also the first scored by an English club in this year’s Champions League knockout stage.

However, as the Premier League leaders lulled the game – and the crowd – to sleep, the Turks pressed on and eventually equalized 20 minutes after the break.

With the home side desperately trying to get their usually rowdy fans back into the game, a corner found Didier Drogba who picked out Selcuk Inan.  The captain hit the post, but it was a sign of things to come, and it sprung the crowd to life.

With the faithful back into the match, another corner just minutes later came in close to the net. Petr Cech hesitated and sat back instead of collecting the corner, and Aurelian Chedjou struck home from close range.

The goal gave new life into Galatasaray, who before had little to offer aside from the strong work rate of strikers Drogba and Burak Yilmaz.  They nearly grabbed the lead when Alex Telles dispossessed Willian in the Chelsea half and unleashed a howitzer on goal but Cech dove to save well.

(MORE: Real Madrid sends Champions League message with 6-1 demolition of Schalke)

No more goals were recorded, but momentum will no question be with the Turks headed into the second leg, and while Chelsea have secured a vital away goal, they will be disappointed not to have killed off the game in the first half when they were clearly on top.

Galatasaray manager Roberto Mancini selected what much of the Turkish media called his most attacking side he’s ever put on the pitch since his hiring in Turkey.  It backfired early though, as it simply left too much space for the Chelsea forwards, leading to the visiting goal on nine minutes.

However, as the game progressed, Mancini admitted his mistake and made a tactical change on 31 minutes and another at halftime.  Chelsea seemed more and more content with their spoils and sat further back, allowing the attacking-minded Turks to build and build.

(MORE: What we learned from Real Madrid’s five-goal, Champions League rout of Schalke)

There were plenty of storylines oozing out of the Turk Telekom Arena.  Didier Drogba put in a shift against his former club for the first time after scoring the penalty to win the 2012 Champions League.

Mancini was also facing Jose Mourinho for the first time since Mourinho’s Real Madrid knocked the Italian’s Manchester City out of last year’s competition.

Liverpool fans warned, as Roma pledges support

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There was a terrible incident in Liverpool on Tuesday when a Reds supporter was set upon by Roma fans and left in critical condition.

Sean Cox, 53, was attacked outside a pub before Liverpool’s 5-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg win over AS Roma.

[ MORE: LFC 5-2 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

Liverpool has released its plans to keep supporters safe should they be among the 5,000 with tickets in Rome on Wednesday (via LiverpoolFC.com), pledging the “most comprehensive safety and security advice.”

The club has taken the exceptional measure of requesting an extraordinary meeting in the Italian capital, which will take place on Friday April 27. … At the behest of Liverpool, club officials will join AS Roma, UEFA and the relevant Italian police and security services to discuss specific ongoing concerns.

Merseyside Police chief superintendent Dave Charnock backed up Roma’s police demand that Liverpool fans without tickets skip the trip to Italy. According to the BBC, Liverpool was asked to put fans names on their tickets to the game.

“While we understand and appreciate that many Liverpool fans will want to travel to Rome, I would encourage fans who do not have tickets to not travel,” he said.

AS Roma, for its part, posted a photo of Cox with the statement, “His recovery and the safety of all fans attending football matches, is the only thing that matters now.”

Report: Gerrard on Rangers shortlist ahead of Old Firm Derby

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Could Steven Gerrard‘s first foray into management come against his old manager and in one of the most heated derbies in the world?

The BBC is reporting that the Liverpool legend is on the shortlist for Rangers as the Glaswegian side prepares to hire a new manager in its bid to reverse Celtic domination of the Scottish Premiership and the Old Firm Derby.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Brendan Rodgers has engineered a marvelous run of form for Celtic, who went unbeaten in the league last season. Rodgers is also a sought-after managerial candidate for bigger jobs in Europe, and may not be at Celtic if and when Gerrard is hired by its rivals.

Either Celtic or Rangers have won the Scottish top flight title dating back to 1984-85, when champions Aberdeen were led by some guy named Alex Ferguson.

Rangers are facing a Manchester United moment this weekend, traveling to Celtic Park for a Sunday derby against Celtic which would see their rivals clinch the Premiership with a win.

Celtic has a 10-point lead on Rangers and Aberdeen, and is extremely likely to win its seventh-straight Premiership title. The record for most consecutive Scottish titles is nine, shared by Celtic (1966-74) and Rangers (1989-97).

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.