After the first leg of their English Championship semifinal playoff at Brighton, American owned Derby County have one foot in the Playoff final at Wembley on May 24.
Dubbed “the richest game in soccer” the winner of the Championship Playoff final will seal the third and final promotion spot to the Premier League for next season.
Derby beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 at The Amex on Tuesday night as they now head back to Pride Park with a one-goal advantage to their name and knowing they only need to avoid defeat in their semifinal second leg to set up a date with destiny. Derby were last in the PL back in 2007-08, after winning the playoff final, as that ill-fated campaign saw the Rams finish bottom as they only won once all season and accumulated just 11 points from 38 games.
Managed by former England boss Steve McLaren, Derby finished the season strongly with six wins from their last seven games in the Championship which sealed third place in the regular season. In stark contrast Brighton weren’t even in the playoffs heading into the final minute of the final day but a dramatic late goal got Oscar Garcia’s men to this point.
Brighton were in the ascendancy early on and inside 20 minutes they were 1-0 up as Jesse Lingard, on loan from Manchester United, got a second bite of the cherry inside the box and lashed an effort past Lee Grant in goal for Derby. Brighton continued to pour forward but Derby managed to gather themselves and drew level after 30 minutes.
Left back Craig Forsyth marauded forward and got the ball in the box but was scythed down by Matthew Upson as Derby were awarded a penalty that leading scorer Chris Martin coolly dispatched. On the stroke of half time Derby went ahead as Martin latched onto Johnny Russell’s lay off and crashed an effort off the bar that hit Brighton ‘keeper Tomasz Kuszczak on the back and went in for a bizarre own goal. The former Manchester United ‘keeper could do nothing about it, as the home fans were stunned by Derby’s comeback.
In the second half the Rams threatened on the odd occasion but Brighton did all the pressing yet just couldn’t find a way past an inspired Grant. Leonardo Ulloa’s shot was tipped onto the bar by Grant who made a string of fine saves late on to preserve Derby’s 2-1 lead heading into Sunday’s second leg in the Midlands.
If you love some Championship playoff action, the two sides who were relegated from the PL last season square off at the DW Stadium on Wednesday in their other semifinal as Wigan Athletic host Queens Park Rangers. We will have the latest news from that tie, right here on ProSoccerTalk.
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s Gremio has won the Recopa Sudamericana, beating Argentina’s Independiente 5-4 in a penalty shootout Wednesday night.
The two-legged final ended 1-1 on aggregate, with no goals scored after 120 minutes in the second.
The winners of last year’s Copa Libertadores overcame the holders of Copa Sudamericana after goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe stopped the last penalty of the series, taken by Independiente’s striker Martin Benitez.
The Recopa is played between the champions of South America’s two most important tournaments.
Independiente played most of the match down to 10 players after defender Fernando Amorebieta was sent off after 38 minutes.
The Brazilians made most of the pressure until the end of extra time, but failed to score.
Gremio also won the Recopa in 1996.
The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]
Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas
Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.
Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.
Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America
Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.
Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET
Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.
English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.
[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]
West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.
Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”
“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.
Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.
It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).
AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.
Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.
[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]
Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.
4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”
— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.
3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”
— Schoolboy errors!
2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”
— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.
1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”
— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.