Manchester United hold Bayern Munich, keep UEFA Champions League hopes alive

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Manchester United battled to a 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday at Old Trafford.

United went ahead midway through the second half, as defender Nemanja Vidic superbly flicked home a header from a corner to spark wild celebrations amongst United’s fans. Despite dominating vast swathes of possession — the half time stats read 78 percent possession in favor of Bayern — the Bundelisga outfit were struggling to contain Danny Welbeck on the break as United defended well.

However less than 10 minutes after the Red Devils went ahead, Bastian Schweinsteiger smashed in a stunning finish after he anticipated Mario Mandzukic’s knockdown to level things up.

For the rest of the game Bayern probed to get a winner, but a late red card for Schweinsteiger soured their evening as the Red Devils have a chance of advancing, against all the odds, when they visit Bavaria next Wednesday.

(MORE: Three things we learned from Man United and Bayern Munich’s draw)

Man United started brightly as Welbeck scored a stunning early goal, slamming the ball high into the net after lifting the ball over Javi Martinez… but referee Carlos Velasco Carballo pulled it back for a high foot by Welbeck. That decision looked harsh, as United came flying out of the traps.

After that initial positivity, Bayern dominated proceedings with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben cutting in from both flanks and causing plenty of problems. The German champions kept hold of the ball supremely well but United held firm with two solid banks of four doing their job.

In the 30th minute David De Gea was forced into a stunning save as Robben curled an effort towards the top corner but United’s ‘keeper tipped the ball around the post. After that chance for Bayern, the home side responded well with Welbeck running riot in behind and Wayne Rooney having an effort blocked after good build up play from Marouane Fellaini.

source: AP
Schweinsteiger equalized in the second half but was sent off late on.

For the rest of the first half United absorbed plenty of pressure and in the 39th minute Welbeck had a glorious chance to put them ahead when Rooney played him clean through. However, the England international got it all wrong and tried to dink the ball over the advancing Manuel Neuer, who batted the ball away as Old Trafford reflected on a missed opportunity for the Red Devils.

(MORE: Moyes – “We’ve given ourselves a great opportunity” as United dig in)

Just before the break more counter-attacking play from United saw Antonio Valencia have a shot which was deflected just over the bar as cautious optimism hung in the air in Manchester.

At half time United made a change as 40-year-old Ryan Giggs was replaced by Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa. That change didn’t effect the flow of the game too much, as Bayern still held onto the ball superbly after they’d dominated possession with 78 percent of the ball in the first half. Bayern continued to push for the opener, and some terrific last-ditch defending from Vidic thwarted Bayern’s attackers after a slick counter attacking just before the hour mark.

Moments later Vidic was the main man at the other end as United took the lead. Rooney’s out swinging corner was met by the Serbian defender, who glanced his header into the far corner to send the home fans wild. Bayern didn’t take long to respond, as ten minutes later substitute Mandzukic nodded the ball down to an onrushing Schweinsteiger who rifled the ball into the top corner to make it 1-1. United’s midfielders really should have tracked Schweinsteiger better, but that’s taking nothing away from the German midfielders fabulous finish.

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The game ebbed and flowed for the remaining quarter, as Robben ran at United’s defense and clipped a right-footed shot just wide of the far post as Bayern began to crank up the pressure. Two late yellow cards, including a second yellow for Schweinsteiger and one for Javi Martinez, sees both players suspended for the second leg as the visitors were upset with the calls going against them.

Despite all of that the Red Devils held on to draw, as the return game at the Allianz Arena on April 9 is poised perfectly in this huge Anglo-Germanic clash.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Buttner (Young, 74′); Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Giggs (Kagawa, 45′); Rooney, Welbeck (Hernandez, 85′)

Goal: Vidic (58′)

Bayern Munich: Neuer; Rafinha, Alaba, Boateng, Javi Martinez, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Ribery, Muller (Mandzukic, 63′,) Kroos (Gotze, 74′)

Goal: Schweinsteiger (66′)

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.