Atlético through to all-Madrid final, eliminates Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Leave a comment

This year’s final will be an all-Madrid affair after Atlético Madrid’s win at Stamford Bridge set up the biggest Derbi Madrileño in history. With goals from Adrián López, Diego Costa, and Arda Turan reversing Fernando Torres’s first half opener, La Liga’s leaders marauded into next month’s final, with the Colchoneros’ 3-1 win leaving Atlético to battle rival Real Madrid for this year’s UEFA Champions League  title.

Torres opened the scoring in the 36th minute after his shot from 10 yards out found a defender’s leg on its way toward goal. Just before halftime, Atlético responded through Adrían López, with a second half penalty conversion by Diego Costa putting the visitors in front. Just under 20 minutes from time, Arda Turan’s goal from just outside the six-yard box eliminated all doubt Diego Simeone’s side would reach its first final in 40 years.

Having eliminated the 2011-12 champions, Atlético is one step away from the team’s first European title, with only the club’s biggest rivals standing in its way. After a 4-0 win yesterday in Munich, Real Madrid earned its right to compete for a 10th European title, doing its part to set up the first inner-city matchup in a Champions League final.

More: Three things we learned from Atlético’s win in London

Atlético nearly claimed its away goal in the fifth minute when the second ball in from a corner saw Koke test Mark Schwarzer’s woodwork. Attempting to play a cleared ball back into the six-yard box, the Atleti midfielder’s chip cleared the Chelsea keeper and went off the crossbar. After coming down and hitting Gary Cahill, the ball sailed back over the bar, leaving the match scoreless.

After a half-hour of Chelsea control in an otherwise even game, the Blues got on the board. With a run from the middle of the field, Willian streaked behind the defense’s left and onto a through ball rolled toward the corner. Cesar Azpilicueta, getting a surprise start at right wing, ran into the vacated space and onto his teammate’s pass, where the Spaniard found Torres 10 yards from goal. The former Atlético striker declined to celebrate after his one-timed shot deflected into the left of goal, leaving Thiabult Courtois no chance to prevent the tie’s opening goal.

The home side’s lead would only last eight minutes, however, thanks to a lapse by Eden Hazard. In the 44th, the Colchoneros moved the ball from deep on the left back toward the middle, where Tiago found Koke racing past Hazard toward the far post. A cross volleyed across the six by Koke found Adrián at the other upright, with the forward’s shot bouncing into the top corner for the away goal.

More: Jose Mourinho blames “injuries, suspensions” as Chelsea come up short

source: AP
Chelsea players wait to kick off after Diego Costa gave Atlético Madrid a 2-1 lead at Stamford Bridge. (Photo: AP Photos.)

Eight minutes into the second half, Chelsea nearly went back in front when a restart from Willian met John Terry near the penalty spot. The captain’s header was hit well toward Courtois’ line, but the Chelsea loanee was able to get down to his left to maintain Atlético’s edge.

In the 59th minute, Samuel Eto’o committed the error that sealed Chelsea’s fate. Taking down Costa just inside the penalty area, the Cameroonian, who had just come on five minutes earlier, gave the Spanish international a chance from the spot. After drawing a yellow card while having trouble placing the ball, Costa finished high into the left side of goal, giving Atlético a 2-1 lead.

Five minutes later, David Luiz’s header off another Willian restart went off Courtois’s right post, giving the Bridge faithful hope their side was prepared to respond. In the 71st minute, however, Atlético was able to recreate its first goal, with a Juanfran’s run behind Hazard producing an opportunity for Arda Turan, who put the day’s final score into the right side of goal.

More: Your Champions League Final: Real Madrid goes for No. 10; Atlético goes for No. 1

With the 3-1 win, Atlético Madrid completes the first ever Champions League final between clubs from the same city. It’s also the second time two Spanish clubs have played for Europe’s title and the fifth time teams from the same federation will play for club soccer’s most prestigious honor.

On May 24 in Lisbon, however, most of those finer details will be irrelevant. The battle for Madrid will be in focus, as will Real Madrid’s quest for its coveted decima at its rival’s expense.

For Atlético, however, Lisbon will give the club a chance to finish its quick rise to European elite. Beat their rivals at the Estadio da Luz, and Atleti will claim their first Champoins League title.

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Chelsea 3-3 Roma – Thrills at the Bridge

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment
  • Luiz, Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0
  • Kolarov, Dzeko brace flip lead
  • Hazard nabs equalizer
  • U.S. U-20 mid Scott on bench for Chelsea

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea overcame the sacrifice of a 2-0 lead and the Blues drew AS Roma 3-3 at Stamford Bridge in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday.

David Luiz also scored for Chelsea. Ex-Man City men Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov starred for Roma, with Dzeko scoring twice and Kolarov adding a goal and an assist.

Chelsea has seven points to lead Group C, two more than Roma and five ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The sides will meet again in Rome on Halloween.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Luiz started the scoring with a delightful strike. Call it a second bite at the proverbial apple if you must, but then admit he sunk his teeth into it.

Eden Hazard made a darting run to double Chelsea’s lead, but Kolarov pulled Roma within one with a deflected strike past Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Perotti curled a shot that hardly troubled Courtois in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea keeper just leaving his feet collect it.

Dzeko and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Then the former Man City striker struck again, seeing a long diagonal ball over his shoulder and whizzing a perfect left-footed volley through the flailing arms of Courtois.

Dzeko then made a late move before a Kolarov free kick to lose his mark and nod home a go-ahead goal.

It wasn’t over, as Hazard found his way to space and a cross from Pedro.

The Belgian headed his chance beyond a diving Alisson, and it was 3-3 with 15 minutes to play.

American-English midfielder Kyle Scott did not make his Chelsea bow. The 19-year-old has represented England at the U-16 level and the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester United: Match-winner Rashford injured

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment
  • No shots on goal for Benfica
  • United puts four on frame
  • Man Utd out-passes Benfica 522-237.

Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal of the match, then limped off injured in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Benfica in UEFA Champions League action at the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday.

United is close to wrapping up a knockout round berth with the win, leading Basel by three points, CSKA Moscow by six, and Benfica by nine.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho got his managerial start at Benfica when he replaced now-Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes in 2000.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Rashford’s free kick from the left fooled young Benfica backstop Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and was caught out of goal.

While retreating toward his end line, his two-handed catch carried him and the ball into the goal despite the efforts of his outstretched paws.

Report: Landon Donovan mulling U.S. Soccer presidential run

3 Comments

Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has been all over the turmoil at United States Soccer since the men’s national team’s embarrassing World Cup qualifying ouster last week.

The latest is that many interested observers are encouraging American legend Landon Donovan to run against Sunil Gulati in February’s presidential election.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Donovan retired from playing for a second time in 2016. He’s invested in Premier League club Swansea City and tried his hand at broadcasting as well.

According to Wahl, Donovan issued no comment when asked whether he is seriously considering a run for president. Gulati didn’t confirm that he’d run for a fourth term — the maximum tenure — during his post-World Cup failure conference call, but strongly lauded his credentials for another stint.

Wahl had previously reported that lawyer Steve Gans has the required letters of nomination to run against Gulati.

While Gans would challenge Gulati and perhaps make for interesting debate and a bellwether of the appetite for change amongst the constituency, Donovan’s name would likely be enough to swing some voters regardless.

Without making any judgments about the job Donovan would do, think of it as a big entertainment name like Dwayne Johnson amongst Democrats or Donald Trump amongst Republicans who might upturn eyebrows amongst folks thinking, “Maybe we need something different.” The name value isn’t the same but perhaps it’s less polarizing to compare the runs of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, or Jack Kemp and Steve Largent instead.

A Donovan run would likely keep U.S Soccer’s cozy relationship with Major League Soccer while perhaps emboldening those who seek big changes within the youth structure (Donovan was part of the U.S. residency program which was recently canceled in a sort of “We did it” nod to academies). His experience is varied and his network exceptional.

Donovan for President? Maybe!