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Difference in strikers gives Toronto win over New York

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There’s always a danger of being too reductive when looking at professional soccer, and any attempts to see a 22-man game as a contrast between two performances will almost certainly be too narrow. After Saturday afternoon’s game at BMO Field, however, the difference between Toronto and New York paralleled their main goal-scorers’ performances. Whereas TFC’s Jermain Defoe’s blistering shot in the 12th minute showed the best of what Major League Soccer’s strikers have to offer, a huge miss from Bradley Wright-Phillips cost the Red Bulls. New York fell in Toronto, 2-0, thanks to a late goal from Luke Moore.

Defoe’s fourth goal of the season was reminiscent of his debut in Seattle, where a ball fed into a channel from high allowed him to finish near the edge of the penalty area. This week it was Bradley Orr, pressed into midfield in the absence of Michael Bradley, who found his fellow English league refugee for this devastating finish:

The goal set up a Ryan Nelsen special. While the Reds had some isolated chances late, they didn’t play as if a second goal might be important. Instead, the team played as if trained to flip a mental switch whenever they take a lead, no matter the time on the clock. While TFC didn’t bunker, they certainly seemed very risk averse.

The approach nearly cost them points when, in the 65th minute, Thierry Henry sent  a ball through the six-yard box from the byline left of goal. Bradley Wright-Phillips, alone at the right post, had time to square up a five-yard shot before it sailed into the stands, the league’s leading goal-scorer failing to convert after one of the season’s least explicable misses.

Two handball shouts for penalty kicks will also linger in Red Bulls’ memories, but when Jámison Olave was forced to save a second half chance off New York’s line, Toronto appeared as capable of producing the game’s next goal. In the 95th minute, as Luis Robles failed to play a ball he came to the edge of his area of claim, that potential came to fruition, with Moore marking his TFC debut by scoring into a vacated goal.

The score doubled Toronto’s lead, but Wright-Phillips’ miss still looms large, and not only because any goal changes a one-goal game. Had their leading scorer at least come close, the Red Bulls could have rationalized it as bad luck and kept pushing forward. That he didn’t made it even more difficult to accept, seemingly killing their momentum. With Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bednik momentarily injured, the only way Wright-Phillips doesn’t score is if he completely misses goal, yet from five yards out, that’s exactly what he did.

With all the good Wright-Phillips has done this season, it’s hard to dwell one miss. This particular miss, however, helped send New York to its second straight loss. Toronto, on the other hand, snaps its three-game slide.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.