Chelsea v Paris Saint-Germain FC - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final

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.

Three takeaways from the Red Bulls CCL draw against the Whitecaps

New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, left, trips over Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston inside the Whitecaps box during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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With 90 more minutes to play up in Vancouver, this tie is far from over. However, Wednesday night’s clash at Red Bull Arena surely presented intriguing storylines ahead of leg two.

The Vancouver Whitecaps picked up a critical away goal in their 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal meeting.

While their CCL clash was the first competitive action for either side since 2016, both clubs showed glimpses of brilliance in the first of their two encounters in the competition.

Here’s a look back at three important takeaways from the Red Bulls’ draw against the Whitecaps.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Red Bulls still working out kinks up front

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been one of Major League Soccer’s most prolific goalscorers since joining the Red Bulls, but even the star striker struggled to find the ball in dangerous positions on Wednesday. The Red Bulls striker netted the game’s equalizer after 62 minutes, but chances were far and few between on the night for Wright-Phillips.

Despite dominating the possession for long spells of the match (as is the case much of the time), the Red Bulls found difficulty breaking down the Whitecaps when it mattered most.

Jesse Marsch’s side managed just two shots on target throughout the 90 minutes, while Sacha Kljestan’s penalty kick miss voided the host side from leveling up the first leg just after the halftime break.

The Red Bulls have wanted to toy with a two-striker set since early 2016, and Marsch finally got his wish with Argentine DP Gonzalo Veron match fit for the start of the campaign. Veron looked solid at times with his quality first touches and quick pace, but it was the final ball that was often lacking.

Sacha Kljestan and Daniel Royer interlinked well with one another behind the two strikers, and with Mike Grella and Alex Muyl also tabbed as rotational players in the midfield, Marsch will have a solid group to pick from to help his attack develop moving forward.

Manneh is coming into his own

He scored, facilitated and just looked all around dangerous against the Red Bulls. Kekuta Manneh has become one of the most intriguing MLS players over the past 12 months in large part because of his success in the league as well as the opportunity to represent the U.S. Men’s National Team.

While his goal wasn’t the prettiest six minutes before halftime, the Whitecaps attacker was in the right spot, just as he was for much of the night. His three shots on target led all players involved, but it was Manneh’s confidence under pressure that was most impressive.

The Whitecaps didn’t throw too many numbers forward on the night — with the second leg being north of the border — but Manneh and the Whitecaps attack thrived on the counterattack on several occasions.

With a number of players unavailable for Carl Robinson’s side, including Yordy Reyna, Christian Bolanos and Fredy Montero, the visitors played a strong opening leg, particularly after playing the final 20 minutes down a man when Cristian Techera was dismissed for a high tackle on Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo.

Youngsters show out for both sides

Experience is still the name of the game for both the Red Bulls and Whitecaps, but Wednesday night also provided a glimpse into the future with several stellar performances from the youngsters on the pitch.

Sean Davis was tasked with filling the hole in the central midfield after Dax McCarty was treaded away from the Red Bulls this offseason, and although the youngster has had experience in the past, he certainly didn’t disappoint for Marsch’s group. The 24-year-old looked confident in his distribution and defended well when called upon alongside Felipe.

Meanwhile, Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies continues to turn heads for a player that is only 16 years old. Davies only appeared in eight MLS matches last season for the Western Conference side, but looked like a seasoned veteran against the Red Bulls at times with his blazing strides and pinpoint passes.

The young attacker surely has room to grow, particularly in front of net, but hey, he’s 16.

New York Red Bulls 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps: BWP saves a draw

New York Red Bulls' Aaron Long, top, climbs over Vancouver Whitecaps forward Erik Hurtado while competing for the ball during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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  • ‘Caps nap road goal
  • Techera sent off in 71′
  • Return leg March 2

Kekuta Manneh and Bradley Wright-Phillips traded goals as the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls drew 1-1 in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

Cristian Techera sent the ‘Caps down to 10 men in the 71st minute when he connected with a kick between Sal Zizzo’s legs.

A deft touch by Wright-Phillips set up Sacha Kljestan for a fifth minute chance, but two sliding Whitecaps helped pressure the captain’s shot wide of the near post.

Vancouver had a chance two minutes later when Alphonso Davies played Russell Teibert down the right wing, and the Whitecaps wide man curled a shot wide of the far post.

[ MORE: Amazing beach soccer bicycle kick goal ]

The Whitecaps beat Luis Robles before halftime. Kendall Waston flicked a ball toward the net, and Kekuta used his head to turn the ball off Justin Bilyeu and behind Robles. 1-0, 39′.

A foul outside the 18 nearly saw Kljestan level it up with a 45th minute free kick.

Kljestan should’ve tied it up with a PK just after the break. He didn’t, barely chipping his Panenka attempt above shin level. Woof.

Wright-Phillips made it 1-1 in the 62nd minute, when Zizzo’s cross dropped at his feet. A quick reaction had the ball in the back of the net.

Sacha Kljestan stars in “When Panenkas Fail” (video)

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls heads the ball in front of Steve Birnbaum #15 of D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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When Panenkas don’t go well, players look foolish.

Sacha Kljestan looks foolish.

The New York Red Bulls captain strode to the penalty spot to level the score in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

Only he didn’t. Kljestan chipped his attempt barely a foot off the ground, allowing David Ousted to kick the chance away. Bradley Wright-Phillips blazed the rebound over the frame, and it remained 1-0 for the ‘Caps.

WATCH: Liverpool loanee nets hat trick for U.S. U-20 side

STEVENAGE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brooks Lennon of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the Premier League 2 match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at The Lamex Stadium on September 19, 2016 in Stevenage, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
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If Brooks Lennon brings this sort of scoring prowess to Real Salt Lake, he may just walk away Rookie of the Year.

On loan from Liverpool, Lennon is first on duty with the United States U-20 men’s national team in Costa Rica.

The U.S. opened U-20 World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 loss to Panama, and was under the gun when it allowed an early goal to Haiti late Tuesday evening.

[ MORE: Rooney’s agent in China ]

But Lennon scored a trio of goals and sent in the corner that Luca de la Torre eventually finished as the Yanks won 4-1. The U.S. has St. Kitts and Nevis in the final group match on Friday.

The top two teams from each group of four advance to the next round, in which four teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup. That tournament is set for May in South Korea.