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Van Persie treble hands Manchester United incredible Champions League comeback win over Olympiakos

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A sensational Robin van Persie hat trick gave Manchester United a 3-0 win over Olympiakos at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, as the Red Devils secured a stunning comeback victory to make it through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League 3-2 on aggregate.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, United had a mountain to climb but RVP single-handedly cancelled out Olympiakos’ advantage with a penalty kick midway through the first half and then a cool finish right at the interval to make it 2-0. Those goals, especially the second, lifted the roof off of Old Trafford as the home fans believed a remarkable comeback was in the offing.

Five minutes after the break the incredible turnaround was complete, as RVP curled a free kick from 25-yards around the wall to wrong-foot Olympiakos ‘keeper Roberto and put United 3-0 up. Late on Olympiakos pushed for a goal that would’ve put them through on away goals, but United held on to seal a memorable win which sees them advance to the last eight for the first time since they reached the final in 2010-2011.

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Manchester United started nervously as Olympiakos whipped in some great crosses from the left that United eventually cleared, as tension began to build  early at Old Trafford.

In the 6th minute Rooney had United’s first effort of the game, as his bending free kick was acrobatically punched away by Roberto, then shortly after Robin van Persie had a half chance. After that the game went into a scrappy period as first Kostas Manolas was booked, then Antonio Valencia was involved in a clash of heads with Joel Campbell and when he got up the Ecuadorian was scythed down by Alejandro Dominguez who was also shown a yellow card. Shortly after Michael Carrick also got a yellow, as a real blood and thunder affair played out under the floodlights.

source: Getty Images
RVP bags his first goal from the penalty spot, as United’s Dutch striker came to the rescue.

Olympiakos had a gilt-edge chance to go 3-0 ahead on aggregate in the 15th minute, as Joel Campbell bamboozled Phil Jones then pulled the ball back to Perez… but he ballooned his effort over from six yards out. In the 17th minute Rooney then headed towards goal but Olympiakos ‘keeper Roberto tipped the ball onto the post and away to safety.

Then in the 23rd minute United were awarded a penalty, as RVP was nudged in the back by Jose Holebas and referee Björn Kuipers pointed to the spot. Van Persie stepped up and slammed home the penalty kick to put United 1-0 up, as the home fans started to dream of a monumental comeback. Just before the half hour Olympiakos whipped in a dangerous ball from the right which Carrick somehow managed to hook clear from danger, as the away side came back into the match before the interval.

Before the break United pushed to level the score up on aggregate, as Patrice Evra’s header was brilliantly clawed out of the top corner by Roberto. But right on half time RVP scored his and United’s second of the match to send Old Trafford wild. A beautiful chipped ball from Carrick found Rooney, and the Englishman found his strike partner RVP to slot home a cool finish as Old Trafford erupted just with United 2-0 ahead.

It took just six minutes after the interval for RVP to smash in a free kick from the edge of the box to make it 3-0 on the night,  giving the Dutchman a hat trick, as the Red Devils were battering Olympiakos and were in front for the first time in the tie. The Greek side tried to regroup but United looked comfortable defensively as a long-range effort from Dominguez flew over the bar. However inevitable tension began to build amongst the home fans as the clock ticked down in Manchester.

Despite pulverizing their opponents, United were stuck in a excruciating stick-or-twist situation as they held off from attacking but invited pressure from Olympiakos. David Fuster has a shot well saved by David De Gea, as Olympiakos chucked the kitchen sink at United in the closing stages with plenty of nervy moments for the home fans to endure.

With Moyes ferociously gesticulating from the technical area and spurring his team on, United sucked all the energy out of the game. However that nouse, coupled with RVP’s sensational display, was enough to seal their passage into the last eight of the Champions League, after a night that will live long in the memory.

Good times are back at Old Trafford, for now.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia (Young, 77′), Carrick, Giggs, Welbeck (Fletcher, 81′); Rooney, van Persie (Fellaini, 89′)

Goals: Van Persie (23′, 45′, 51′)

Olympiakos: Roberto, Maniatis, Holebas, Manolas, Marcano, Leandro Salino (Machado, 74′), N’Dinga, Perez (Valdez, 57′), Fuster (Vergos, 82′), Campbell, Dominguez

Pellegrini defends fielding “B” team in loss at Southampton

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Kelechi Iheanacho (72), Samir Nasri (C) and Wilfred Bony of Manchester City (R) looks despondent as Sadio Mane of Southampton scores their fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini does not regret fielding a weakened side at Southampton over the weekend as he prepares for City’s Champions League semifinal at Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Pellegrini chose to rest many of his top players at St. Mary’s, including Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, and Vincent Kompany. City were smashed 4-2 in one of their worst performances of the season.

[ RECAP: Saints 4-2 Man City ]

Pellegrini defended his lineup decisions after the match, saying he is willing to risk results in the Premier League to reach the Champions League final.

We knew before the game it was a risk to put so many players without football against a difficult team but we have to take those risks. If we had played on Saturday we could put more players out. I was disappointed with the team. It’s my responsibility for the starting 11.

I would do exactly the same again because we have an important game.

We play for the final in the Champions League. We continue in the Premier League what we are going to do in the next two games to be in the top four so that was a risk but one we had to take.

While you would expect a drop-off when the likes of Aguero and de Bruyne are not on the pitch, City’s poor performance was much more than just a team selection issue. With Raheem Sterling ($75 million) and Wilfried Bony ($45 million) in the starting XI, it was 19-year-old academy product Kelechi Iheanacho who was one of the few players to show any type of effort against Saints.

Pellegrini may be overlooking the end of the Premier League season, but his side still needs points to secure a top-four spot and berth in the Champions League next year. City currently sit four points ahead of Manchester United, but United have a game in-hand.

[ MORE: Burnley become first Championship side to clinch PL promotion ]

City travel to Spain for the second leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup against Real Madrid on Wednesday. After settling for a 0-0 draw in the first leg, City must put the Southampton debacle behind them and turn things around before the one of the biggest matches in club history.

Kiev willing to sell Yarmolenko to PL, but not to Stoke or Everton

UKRAINE, LVIV - NOVEMBER 14: Andriy Yarmolenko from Ukraine celebrates after scoring the first goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Play-off for Final Tournament, First leg between Ukraine and Slovenia at Lviv Arena on November 14, 2015 in Lviv, Ukraine. (Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)
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It looks like Andriy Yarmolenko may be on his way to the Premier League this summer, as Dynamo Kiev is willing to sell their star player after EURO 2016.

Kiev president Ihor Surkis has said he will accept an offer for Yarmolenko if the player agrees, but not if that offer is from Stoke City or Everton.

[ MORE: Vardy named FWA Footballer of the Year ]

According to Surkis, those sides are not “top clubs” worthy of signing a player of Yarmolenko’s quality.

If I get an offer that will suit Dynamo and Yarmolenko wants to go to this club, I’ll let him. All talk of a transfer will begin after the Euros.

He is already a top player, so he should go to a top club. My position is that we should not let Yarmolenko go to such clubs as Everton and Stoke City. Dynamo is Dynamo and Stoke City is Stoke. We’re playing in the Champions League, and Stoke City are fighting for survival.

I, as president of the club, had a winter offer from China completely arranged, but Yarmolenko did not even come to the meeting with the sports director of the Chinese squad.

Andriy said that dreams to play in the Bundesliga and the English Premier League.

While Stoke City is not in the Champions League, they are far from fighting for survival. The Potters have finished 9th in the Premier League each of the past two seasons, and are in line for a similar finish this year.

[ REPORT: Portland Timbers’ Fanendo Adi linked to Crystal Palace ]

Yarmolenko has been named Ukrainian Footballer of the Year each of the past three seasons, and his play for both Kiev and the national team have seen him linked to multiple Premier League clubs.

Surkis may not view Stoke or Everton as “top clubs,” but they certainly have top-club money to spend. Both have set record transfer fees on players over the past two seasons (Imbula to Stoke, Lukaku to Everton), and they could easily meet the reported $35 million it would cost to sign Yarmolenko.

Reports: Man City to trigger $60 million Laporte release clause

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 17: Luis Suarez (L) of FC Barcelona kicks the ball next to Aymeric Laporte (C) of Athletic Club during the Spanish Super Cup second leg match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on August 17, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
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Pep Guardiola isn’t in Manchester yet, but he’s already making plans for his side.

According to reports in Spain, Manchester City is ready to bring Aymeric Laporte to the Etihad, one of the most highly-rated defenders in Europe.

[ MORE: Burnley clinch PL promotion ]

The 21-year-old center-back has already made more than 100 appearances for Athletic Bilbao in La Liga, and City would need to pay nearly $60 million to trigger his release clause.

Guardiola has coached against Laporte while in charge of Barcelona, and it is believed he is Pep’s top defensive target to move in for the likes of Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis.

Named to the La Liga Team of the Year as a teenager in 2013-14, Laporte has been on the radar of all the major clubs around Europe. However, he saw his season cut short in March after suffering a terrible leg break on international duty with the France U21 side, ruling him out until August.

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League semifinal preview ]

Although he could miss the beginning of next season while still recovering from injury, bringing Laporte to Manchester would be a move that could set up the club defensively for years to come. Should City meet Bilbao’s massive release clause, Laporte would add to the magnificently expensive City back-line, joining Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi to form a trio of center-backs worth more than $150 million.

VIDEO: Post-match melee breaks out between Spurs and Chelsea

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Tensions boiled over on the touchline after Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham as players had to be separated while heading down the tunnel.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester City coverage ]

A testy match that saw referee Mark Clattenburg issue 12 yellow cards, the battle continued after the final whistle as a melee erupted in front of the benches.

It is unclear as to what caused the disruption, but it was not the first skirmish of the night. Earlier in the match, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino found himself on the pitch in the middle of a shoving match between players.

[ VIDEO: Leicester pubs erupt as Foxes clinch Premier League title ]

Seen in the video above, Spurs’ backup goalkeeper Michel Vorm seemed to be in the middle of things with who else but Diego Costa. Harry Kane and John Terry tried to quiet things down, but to little avail.

There are only two matches left in the Premier League season, but the FA will certainly be reviewing video of this incident and sanctions could come down on players or the clubs.