Jose Mourinho recreates corner flag run, as Chelsea boss hails his Champions League heroes

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LONDON, England — As Demba Ba prodded home three minutes from full time to send Chelsea through to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, Blues boss Jose Mourinho sprinted 55-yards down the touchline to celebrate with his players near the corner flag.

Stamford Bridge erupted at the final whistle, as Ba’s goal sealed Chelsea’s passage into the final four in the most dramatic fashion with a stunning turnaround from their 3-1 first leg defeat in Paris. It brought back memories of when Chelsea lifted the famous trophy back in 2012, as during that succession run they overturned a two-goal deficit against Napoli.

Mourinho has now reached eight Champions League semifinals in his managerial career — more than any other manager and his fifth-straight final four appearance — but this latest charge towards Europe’s elite trophy was perhaps the most dramatic.

Asked afterwards by ITV why he charged down the touchline — which he did back in 2004 when his FC Porto team famously beat Manchester United at Old Trafford — Mourinho gave an answer nobody was expecting.

“I didn’t go to the corner flag to celebrate. I went to tell them the changes we had to make,” Mourinho said. “There were three minutes plus extra-time left and the way we were playing was too risky. I wanted Demba Ba to play in front of the defenders and Fernando Torres to defend Maxwell. I tried to use them in different jobs.”

(MORE: Chelsea stun PSG, late goal sends Blues into Champions League semifinals)

After the game when asked about his turn of pace down the line, Mourinho joked: “You could see that I can still run, no?”

Whether or not you believe the 51-year-old’s explanation, Mourinho’s side stuck to their task right until the end of the match as PSG hung off for dear life and Laurent Blanc’s men surely felt they’d done enough to reach the UCL semis. Mourinho believes Chelsea deserved to go through, as PSG defended solidly but offered little going forward.

“I think we did enough at beginning of the second-half to score before we did. In the second-half it was pure ball possession. But it was difficult for us to penetrate,” Mourinho said. “We did it in training yesterday, with three different systems, all of which we used. The players knew what they had to do. Demba Ba made a crucial finish for us. It was very much deserved that the team that tried to defend was punished. The team that played with their heart deserved to go through.”

Chelsea certainly played with heart and determination, as the Blues now wait to see who they get in the Champions League semifinal draw on Friday. Chelsea captain John Terry, who helped thwart PSG’s expensively assembled attack for the first-time in 17 UCL matches, was over the moon with the victory.

“We gave ourselves a chance by not conceding. We had to hit the big man [Ba] and he scores,” Terry said. “This competition means a lot to us. The experiences we have had keeps you fighting and believing. Winning it was the best feeling ever. These big performances are what we live for. Everyone doubted us tonight but we showed great character and fight to come back. It all paid off.”

Herrera: Ibrahimovic competitive drive insatiable in everything

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Ander Herrera is dishing the goods on his Manchester United teammates while on Spain duty this week, and was asked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede is a fierce competitor on and off the pitch, which Herrera jokes is an ever-present challenge to personal patience.

[ MORE: Deulofeu laments early Messi talk ]

It almost seems like there’s a bit of envy that Ibrahimovic can charge into public comments the way Herrera goes into tackles.

From Marca:

“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.

“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”

There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).

We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.

Gerard Deulofeu calls early Messi comparisons “detrimental”

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Players often like to brush off speculation or criticism in the moment by claiming they don’t read stories written about themselves, but we all know better.

Former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu confirmed that sentiment by citing specific comparisons he remembers as a youth with Barcelona, citing stories that compared him to Lionel Messi. Now 23 years old, Deulofeu reflects on those early comparisons and wishes the media wasn’t so quick to jump to conclusions about his career.

“In the end, [the comparisons] were more detrimental than beneficial,” he told weekly magazine Forza Milan. “Normally I don’t read newspapers, but that headline I remember well. It created too much expectation among Barcelona fans. There’s only one Messi.”

With expectations high, Deulofeu made just six senior team appearances without a goal or assist before loan spells at Sevilla and Everton saw him out of the club permanently. His time at Goodison Park was up and down as well, with his ability to dazzle a crowd punctuated by long spells of invisibility, failing to earn himself a consistent starting role.

Deulofeu is now on loan from Everton at AC Milan, looking to revitalize his career. He has started every league game since arriving, and has picked up a goal and three assists in 11 matches. There is speculation he could end up in Milan on a permanent basis this summer, but he’s not focused on that right now.

“My future? It’ll be seen to,” Deulofeu said. “My sights are in the present, from experience I know it’s best to leave the past behind and focus on the present. We’ll see what happens in the future. For now, I just want to enjoy the good time that I‘m having at Milan.”

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)