nilla_fischer_marta

Four-goal second half sees Wolfsburg topple another big spender, defend Champions League title

Leave a comment

Handed a two-goal deficit after 30 minutes, defending UEFA Champions League winners VfL Wolfsburg scored four times in the second half, with Martina Müller’s second goal giving the Germans a 4-3, title-defending win over Tyresö.

The Swedes struck first and twice within a three-minute span in the first half, with goals by Marta and Veronica Boquete giving the first time finalists a 2-0 lead at half time. Within minutes of the second half’s kick off, Alexandra Popp cut Tyresö’s lead in half part of a four-goal, second half onslaught that saw Verena Faißt complement Müller’s brace en route to the title.

With the win, Wolfsburg becomes the competition’s second back-to-back winner in its five-year history. Including winners of the tournament’s predecessor, the Champions Cup, Germany has won six of 13 European titles.

The win also gives Wolfsburg a chance to defend its title next season. After finishing third in the Frauen-Bundesliga this season (albeit one point off of first), Ralf Kellerman’s team needed a win on Thursday to qualify for next year’s competition. With Müller’s 80th minute goal, Wolfsburg won its chance to become the first team to win three-straight European titles.

“We played a fantastic game in the first half – we did everything we were supposed to do,” Marta, five-time FIFA Player of the Year, said after her team’s disappointment. “We were a bit slower after the break – maybe we thought it was over at 2-0. We played a good game on the night, but Wolfsburg were stronger than us in the end.”

Thursday’s match in Lisbon stood in stark contrast to last season’s final in London, one that was decided by Martin Müller’s late second half penalty. Though Wolfsburg’s early play hinted today’s match could play out similarly to that 1-0 win over Lyon, first half goals two minutes apart from Tyresö create a more open affair.

source: Getty Images
U.S. international Christian Press set up Tyresö’s second goal but was kept out of the game during Wolfsburg’s four-goal second half. (Photo: Getty Images)

Taking advantage of a Wolfsburg turnover in the 28th minute, Marta converted her first of the match, her right-footed shot from 14 yards out, to the right of goal, beating Almuth Schult far post for the opening goal. Two minutes later, a long diagonal for Christian Press saw the U.S. international cut across the defense at to the byline before chipping back toward Veronica Boquete, whose volleyed finish at the edge of the six-yard box gave the Swedes a 2-0 lead.

The lead left Tyresö poised to capitalize on investment that’s brought the club to the brink of extinction. With the purchase of a number of players, most notably Marta, the Swedish club has funded an ascent up the Swedish and European ladders. In the process, though, the club has gone into administration, with its status in the Swedish league brought into question by its finances. With quick start against Wolfsburg, Tyresö was on track to reap a final reward before the teams torn apart.

With its second goal, Tyresö closed a dominant stretch that saw the energy Sweden’s 2012 champions carried out of the dressing room give the team control of the defending champions. Though Wolfsburg would respond, generating a half-chance for Müller before intermission, the team went into halftime down two, its Champions League reign 45 minutes from its expiration date.

Less than two minutes into the second half, Wolfsburg began resetting that date, with Popp’s goal 77 seconds after kickoff cutting Tyresö’s lead to one. Six minutes later, the Tyresö defense was beaten badly as Müller, moments after failing to convert a breakaway, produced an equalizer, giving the holders 37 minutes to find a title-defending goal.

In the 56th minute, Marta’s second stanched Wolfsburg’s momentum, with the five-time FIFA Player of the Year’s cutback onto her right foot in the left of the penalty area producing a perfectly placed shot inside Schult’s far post. The cure proved short-lived, though, with two more Wolfsburg goals completing the champions’ inspired retort.

In the 68th minute, Verena Faißt got inside substitute Madeleine Edlund on the defense’s right to give Wolfsburg its second equalizer, exploiting a team temporarily playing with 10 women after right back Meghan Klingenberg limped off. Twelve minutes later, midfielder Nadine Keßler, UEFA’s woman of the match, took advantage of Line Røddick and a fatigued Tyresö to produce Müller’s second, allowing the Germans to claim back-to-back titles.

In doing so, Ralf Kellerman’s team built on the smash-and-grab that halted the would be OL dynasty – one that prevented France’s big spenders from claiming a third straight title. On Thursday, handed an early two-goal deficit, Wolfsburg added a four-star triumph to last year’s groundout crown, again proving the limits of money’s influence.

Xavi backs Dybala, Verratti to succeed at Barcelona over Pogba

TURIN, ITALY - JANUARY 24:  Paulo Dybala (R) of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Paul Pogba during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AS Roma at Juventus Arena on January 24, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Paul Pogba linked with a possible summer move to Barcelona worth more than $100 million, one legend at Camp Nou believes Pogba may not be the right signing.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

After making more than 700 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi knows the club as well as anyone, and he prefers Pogba’s Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala for a move to the Catalan giants.

Xavi also praised the play of Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, saying that while Pogba is a star player, Dybala and Verratti have “Barca DNA.”

There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala.

They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.

[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.

Both Pogba and Dybala are 22-years-old, while Verratti is 23. All three players have been among the elite young talents in the world, with Pogba earning the most praise of the group and always linked with a big-money move to Europe’s top clubs.

[ RELATED: Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career ]

Dybala is enjoying a breakout season at Juventus, currently with 13 goals and eight assists in Serie A play. In Paris, Verratti is part of a PSG side that hasn’t lost in 25 matches and holds a 24-point lead at the top of the table.

Vincent Kompany set to make Manchester City return this weekend

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Manchester, England.
Getty Images
1 Comment

Vincent Kompany is set to make his first appearance for Manchester City since Boxing Day as the defender has returned from injury.

City’s captain and center-back missed more than six weeks with a calf injury before Christmas, and then reaggravated the injury just minutes into his return at the end of December.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

However, Kompany has been back in training and manager Manuel Pellegrini said he is fit to play this weekend when City host Tottenham in a huge top-four matchup.

We’ll see what the starting XI is tomorrow – we’re not just thinking about one player and one game, we’re involved in a lot of competitions. Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don’t play well but I’m happy with the squad over the whole season.

Every player must play a game when they’re 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he’s ready to play.

Kompany’s presence in the City back-line has been pivotal this season. In the eight Premier League games Kompany has started, City have kept seven clean sheets. In the 18 matches without the big Belgian in the starting lineup, City have kept just five.

[ RELATED: Diego Costa suffers broken nose in Chelsea training ]

With City just a point behind Tottenham, Kompany returns from injury just in time for one of the biggest matches of the season. Tasked with slowing down Harry Kane and Spurs’ high-flying attack, Kompany’s play could prove crucial to the Citizens getting a result.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

Leave a comment
  • CFC unbeaten under Hiddink (W5, D6)
  • Newcastle have just 6 away goals all season
  • Diego Costa: 6 goals in his last 7 PL matches

Chelsea look to extend their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink to 12 matches on Saturday when the Blues host relegation-threatened Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Blues’ last loss came under Jose Mourinho in December.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Chelsea are up to 13th on the table, currently riding a run of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Guus Hiddink is yet to suffer a loss after taking over for his second stint at Stamford Bridge in December, although draws have kept Chelsea from climbing further up the table. Diego Costa has had the hot-hand with six goals in his last seven appearances, but the Spanish striker will be forced to play with a mask after suffering a broken nose in training.

[ MORE: Hiddink has “no fear” of playing youngsters in Zouma’s absence ]

For Newcastle, the Magpies sit 17th on the table just one point above the drop. Their away form has hurt the club all season, as Steve McClaren‘s men have scored a league-low six goals on the road this year. The Magpies are coming off of a win over West Brom, and supporters will be hoping the club’s new January signings continue to produce. Seydou Doumbia could make his Premier League debut on Saturday, which would be a massive boost to the attack.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “The status of being unbeaten sounds good but realistically we would have wished to have more victories, especially at home. And we have an opportunity to do so against Newcastle. They improved their squad with substance, some good signings, and they are more competitive now.”

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: “In our home games we are starting to get a consistency in our performance and the way we play. We need to start transferring that to our away games and picking up points away from home – we owe it to the fans.”

Prediction

Newcastle have just two wins in their last 18 league matches away from home, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. Chelsea have looked a new team with Guus Hiddink in charge, and they stay unbeaten under the Dutchman. Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United.

Pochettino enjoying best spell of career ahead of massive clash at Man City

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Mauricio Pochettino (R) Manager of Tottenham Hotspur is seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.

The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.

When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”

[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]

Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.

Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.