Battling Arsenal bow out, as Bayern Munich reach UEFA Champions League quarters after 1-1 draw (3-1, agg.)

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Arsenal crashed out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, as they drew 1-1 with Bayern Munich away at the Allianz Arena, but lost 3-1 on aggregate in the last 16 tie.

Bayern took the lead early in the second half as Bastian Schweinsteiger slotted home Franck Ribery’s cross from the left, as the Gunners fell further behind. But to their credit Arsene Wenger’s side had a real go at it, as German international Lukas Podolski leveled things up in the 57th minute to give the Gunners hope.

However as the second half wore on Bayern looked more likely to score, as Arsenal struggled to break down the reigning European champions. It was a brave performance in Bavaria from Arsenal but after a disastrous second half of the first leg in North London, the Gunners simply left themselves with too much to do. Late on Thomas Muller saw his penalty kick saved by Lukasz Fabiansk in the dying moments.

After holding Arsenal at bay Munich advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the third-straight season, as the German powerhouse looks to be hell bent on defending their fifth European crown successfully.

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Early on Arsenal pressed high up the pitch to try and take the game to Bayern, but the home side had all of the early play as the Gunners tried to launch some counter attacks. One of those came from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was scythed down by Bayern defender Dante who was handed a yellow card.

Bayern dominated possession but Arsenal held firm and looked solid at the back, however in the 19th minute a lighting quick attack on the left saw David Alaba set up Franck Ribery who chipped the ball to the back post but an onrushing Arjen Robben hit his volley into the ground and over the bar.

In the 26th minute Bayern thought they’d gone ahead as Javi Martinez volleyed home from a free kick, but Arsenal’s defense held their line well to leave four Munich attackers, including Martinez, in an offside position. The Gunners got it right that time, but a nervy night continued.

source: AP
Podolski’s strike leveled things up to give Arsenal hope, but that was as good as it got for the Gunners.

Around the half hour mark Arsenal burst into life as an enterprising run from Oxlade-Chamberlain brought a sustained spell of pressure for the Gunners. The Ox was brought down in the 31st minute and from the resulting free kick Podolski’s effort was deflected off target for a corner. From that set piece Olivier Giroud rose highest but his header was saved well by Manuel Neuer.

Despite that bright spell for the visitors, Bayern midfielder Alaba ran through several defenders in the 35th minute but the Austrian international dragged his shot wide. Moments later the best chance of the first half came as Robben was found 12-yards out but scuffed his shot into the ground after being closed down by several defenders, then Mario Mandzukić sent a header just over the bar as Bayern’s offense started to click. Just before the interval Mario Gotze controlled and volleyed goalwards but Fabianski saved well down low to thwart Bayern as the teams went in level at the break.

After the interval Arsenal took the game to Bayern, as Arsene Wenger made one half time switch by replacing record signing Mesut Ozil, who had an extremely disappointing first half, with Tomas Rosicky in central midfield.

That switch didn’t do much, as Bayern took the lead in the 55th minute and effectively killed off the tie when Schweinsteiger slotted home from six-yards out after good work on the left by Ribery as the Gunners looked to be down and out. But as they trailed 3-0 on aggregate, moments later Arsenal pulled a goal back instantly through Podolski. The German winger played a great one-two with Giroud, before looking to have hauled down Bayern defender Lahm but the referee waved play on as everyone stopped and Podoslki lashed the ball home to make it 1-1 on the night.

Podolski’s goal gave the Gunners hope and soon after a last ditch tackle stopped Giroud from slotting home and then Oxlade-Chamberlain had a long-range effort saved by Neuer as Arsenal went for broke to keep their Champions League dreams alive. Bayern tried to get back on the front foot and should have gone ahead on the 68th minute as Thiago played in Mandzukić to slot home from close range but the Croatian international was stopped by the brilliant Fabianski. In

Arsenal, try as they might, just couldn’t engineer another decent chance and Munich missed a stoppage time penalty kick after Laurent Koscielny was adjudged to have taken down Arjen Robben, but Fabianski saved Muller’s spot kick superbly. Regardless of that late drama, Munich saw the game out to advance to the final eight of Europe’s elite club competition.

LINEUPS

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Dante, Thiago, Ribéry (Müller, 85), Martínez, Mandzukić, Robben, Götze (Kroos, 58), Lahm, Alaba, Schweinsteiger

Goal: Schweinsteiger (55)

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta (Gnabry, 77), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Flamini, 83), Cazorla, Ozil (Rosicky, 45), Podolski, Giroud

Goal: Podolski (57)

Money from Wembley replay will ‘support Rochdale for two or three years’

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Worst-case scenario for Tottenham Hotspur: drawing League One side Rochdale in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash; best-case scenario for the Dale: drawing the Premier League giants and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

For a club the size of Rochdale — 10,200-seat stadium, and never been above the third tier of English soccer — the financial impact of raking in half of the game’s gate receipts “will support the club for the next two or three years,” according to manager Keith Hill — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t know how much it is worth but a lot of money has gone into the new pitch. That was a heavy investment for us. Hopefully the money we make will support the club for the next two or three years. We will cut our cloth accordingly and we won’t be in debt.”

As for Steve Davies’ 93rd-minute equalizer, Hill was adamant that it was nothing short of what they “deserved”:

“It was a feeling of reward, not relief, because the performance deserved at least the opportunity for us to go to Wembley for a replay. I’ve always wanted to do that against a Premier League team and manager. Why not take them on and try to win? It could have been football suicide but I thought we gained their respect and to score the goal we did was tremendous. The players were magnificent.”

Tottenham Hotspur, soccer philanthropists.

Try, try again: Messi seeks 1st goal vs. Chelsea in 9th attempt

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LONDON (AP) As unlikely as it sounds, Lionel Messi is still waiting to score his first goal against Chelsea after drawing a blank in eight previous Champions League matches.

The five-time World Player of the Year is likely to get another chance to break his duck this week and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the past will count for little when Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“I hope we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player,” Conte said ahead of the last-16, first-leg Champions League game. “The most important thing is the present.

“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge. It won’t be easy because we know very well this player, we are talking about one of the best in the world.”

The teams have produced some epic games in the past although they have not met in the Champions League since Chelsea pulled off a remarkable backs-to-the-wall semifinal victory over Barcelona on the way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Messi missed a penalty in the second leg at the Nou Camp as the London club overcame the first-half dismissal of captain John Terry, and a 2-0 deficit, to draw the game 2-2 and secure an unforgettable 3-2 aggregate win.

Bayern Munich hosts Besiktas in Tuesday’s other game while the following day sees Manchester United traveling to Sevilla, and Shakhtar Donetsk playing host to Roma.

Two weeks ago, the prospect of a Chelsea win over Barca would have been unthinkable after Conte’s men had slumped to successive defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The London club was still smarting from a 3-0 home loss against Bournemouth when it traveled to Watford and succumbed to an embarrassing 4-1 reverse.

Chelsea has got back on track since then, though, easing past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the league last Monday before swatting aside second-tier Hull 4-0 in the FA Cup four days later.

Conte has several selection dilemmas. He must choose between captain Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger for a place at the back, and between Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud up front.

Cesc Fabregas will also be desperate to play against his former team but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Barca has lost only once in 38 matches this season since falling in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid in August. It has a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi is having another stellar campaign, scoring 27 times in all competitions, and he helped set up two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar.

Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Barca following his move from Liverpool.

Mourinho claiming injury crisis ahead of CL showdown

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The next three weeks will go a long way toward defining Jose Mourinho’s second season at Manchester United, with the Red Devils facing not only fellow top-four aspirers Chelsea and Liverpool, but also contesting their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Sevilla.

[ MORE: VAR provider admits incorrect graphic displayed on TV ]

Thus, it’s not exactly the most convenient time for the words “injury crisis” to rear their ugly heads yet again, but that’s the challenge Mourinho claims he faces ahead of Wednesday’s CL clash.

Paul Pogba missed Saturday’s FA Cup victory with a last-minute illness; Marcus Rashford is dealing with a leg injury and remains questionable, as are Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are all but officially out, according to Mourinho — quotes from ESPN.co.uk:

“I didn’t rest one single player so we had today every player available here. I didn’t rest anyone. I brought two kids that played on Friday 90 minutes [for the under-23s] because I don’t have another player, so we arrive at this crucial moment with some problems.”

“Can we recover some of them to Wednesday? I believe so. I think Rashford, Herrera, Valencia — I think they have a chance.

“Paul, I don’t know. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Marouane, Zlatan — I don’t think they have any chance.”

Mourinho dealt with a similar rash of injuries very late on last season, as his side barreled its way into, and eventually won, the Europa League final, securing a place in the CL this season. With a top-four finish all but out of reach at the time, Mourinho opted to rest his bare-bones group of first-team regulars in Premier League action and prioritize Europe’s “other” competition.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

This time around, United sit second in the PL table, just four points clear of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, and the path to winning the CL will prove far more difficult than taking on the likes of Saint-Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht, Celta Vigo and Ajax.

Serie A: Napoli, Juve hold serve in 1-point title race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona now 31 games unbeaten | Real Madrid 17 points behind ]

Napoli 1-0 SPAL 2013

The battle for Serie A supremacy isn’t ending anytime soon, as Napoli and Juventus continue to match one another (nine straight wins for each side) in Europe’s only remaining major title race.

On Sunday, they even traded 1-0 victories — Napoli at home to SPAL 2013, with Juve triumphing over Torino in the Turin derby.

Brazilian midfielder Allan bagged the only goal for Napoli after just six minutes, finishing off a mesmerizing, free-flowing move that’s become synonymous with Napoli this season. The video-assisting referee came into play just after the hour mark, when Marek Hamsik headed home to make it 2-0 before the VAR wiped it away for offside.

Napoli’s current nine-game winning streak is the longest in club history.

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Juve’s victory came at something of a cost, though, as star striker Gonzalo Higuain was lost to an ankle injury after just a quarter-hour (the injury occurred after just three minutes), followed by a potentially serious knee injury for Federico Bernardeschi, who replaced Higuain, in second-half stoppage time. Higuain isn’t expected to miss significant time, with the club calling it a twisted ankle.

In between the injuries came Alex Sandro‘s 33rd-minute winner, a tap-in from close range masterfully set up by Bernardeschi. One additional positive for Juve: Sunday also saw Paulo Dybala return after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Argentine star entered as a second-half substitute.

“Paulo played 30 minutes at a good level,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “I’m pleased with his and everyone else’s performance. This is a good result against a well-organized Torino side.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Atalanta 1-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Benevento 3-2 Crotone