Three things we learned in Chelsea’s win vs. Paris Saint-Germain

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LONDON, England — Chelsea’s dramatic 2-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain, which sealed their spot in the last four of the UEFA Champions League, had plenty of talking points.

Jose Mourinho’s epic 55-yard sprint down the touchline when the pivotal goal arrived, PSG’s capitulation, plenty of top individual performances and much more.

(MORE: Mourinho recreates corner flag run, as Chelsea boss hails his UCL heroes)

Yet there were three things that stuck out more than most. Here they are, folks.

Magic of Mourinho never fails to disappoint

Rampaging down the line following Demba Ba’s 87th minute goal, Jose Mourinho delivered yet another stunning chapter in his remarkable tale. Scoring late to knock out Paris Saint-Germain on away goals, Mourinho’s boys had done exactly what he believed they would. Just. He has now reached more UCL semifinals than any other manager (8) and has five consecutive appearances in the final four under his belt. On a night where the home crowd drowned out a vociferous away following from the French capital, Mourinho sent out a statement with his marauding run down the touchline. Afterwards he insisted it wasn’t to celebrate, but to give his team instructions to see out the final few minutes of the game plus stoppage time. Yeah, right, we believe you, Jose. Now the Mourinho-inspired storylines stack up in the potential last four pairings, as his old club Real Madrid, a potential matchup vs. Pep Guardiola’s Bayern or David Moyes’ Manchester United, and either of his former fierce enemies Barcelona or Atletico Madrid await. UCL magic is alive at the Bridge, and it is alive because Mourinho is on the prowl for his third UCL crown, all at different clubs. Here’s what he said about his celebratory saunter down the sidelines.

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.”

 

source: AP
Mourinho, as only he can, ran over half the pitch to get a message across to his players after they scored.

PSG’s promise lacks punch, Zlatan

When you appoint Laurent Blanc as your boss, you know what your getting. Pragmatic, conservative and a defense-first approach rules the roost. Many times in the Champions League this season, PSG haven’t followed that model. But when it really mattered on Tuesday against Chelsea, the offense choked. Ezequiel Lavezzi was subdued, Edinson Cavani wayward, and Lucas Moura had no cutting edge to go along with his incredible pace. PSG had scored in every single UCL game they’d played in before their trip to Chelsea. Any real reason for that? Look no further than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the man who was injured in the first leg at Parc des Princes last Wednesday and was sorely missed in PSG’s biggest game of the season. Zlatan’s x-factor couldn’t bail out PSG in their biggest match of the season, as Les Parisiens are left to drown their sorrows on the Champs-Élysées when they return home.

David Luiz is a central midfielder. Period.

Time and time again, Chelsea’s eccentric Brazilian defender snapped in the tackle and disrupted PSG’s flow as Chelsea steamrolled their French opponents on Tuesday. Earlier in the season, Luiz seemed to be purely thought of as a center back by Mourinho. Now, he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet in the center of the pitch. Hassling and harassing PSG’s midfielder, Luiz totally nullified the impact of both Blaise Matuidi and Marco Veratti. Yes, he gave away cheap free kicks. But that’s part of his game. Apart from making persistent fouls, Luiz can also spray the ball around with aplomb and use the ball efficiently and carefully. He’s good on the ball and takes risks, and his driving runs from the engine room open up space for his teammates. Luiz will likely line up as a center back for hosts Brazil at the World Cup this summer, but if Luis Felipe Scolari had any sense, try Luiz in the holding role. It’s his best position by far.

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”