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

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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.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

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Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

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The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.

League Cup preview: Man City, Liverpool, Everton look to make semis

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The Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday and Wednesday with five Premier League left among the last eight.

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Only one all-Premier League tie is set up with Southampton hosting Liverpool as Ronald Koeman pits his wits against Jurgen Klopp at St Mary’s in the tie of the round. Saints will be without captain Jose Fonte through injury, while Liverpool have Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge available but both may be used from the bench as they build up their match sharpness. Saints and Liverpool drew 1-1 at Anfield last month so expect another tight encounter down on the South Coast.

PL leaders Man City welcome Championship side Hull City to the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini aiming to win the League Cup for the second time in three years. David Silva could make his first start in over two months for City, but Joe Hart remains out injured as Steve Bruce‘s Tigers come to town.

Everton also face second-tier opposition in Middlesbrough with a tricky trip to the Riverside awaiting the Toffees. Roberto Martinez’s team have to shore up at the back after drawing 3-3 at Bournemouth in the league last weekend, as they face Aitor Karanka’s flying-high Boro who are pushing for promotion from the Championship. This one seems like the biggest banana skin for PL clubs.

Talking of banana skins, Stoke City host Sheffield Wednesday at the Britannia and although the Potters will fancy their chances of making the final four after they knocked out Chelsea in the last round, Wednesday comprehensively beat Arsenal last time out and the Owls will provide a stern test for Geoff Cameron and Co.

Below are the fixtures for the next few days, while you can click on the link above to follow all the last-eight games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET


Southampton vs. Liverpool – 2:45 p.m. ET

Arsenal still waiting on severity of Alexis Sanchez’s injury

NORWICH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  An injured Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (17) is given assistance during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Arsenal’s fans are sweating on news regarding Alexis Sanchez’s left hamstring injury and it seems as though the wait for a diagnosis will go on.

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Arsene Wenger has come under plenty of criticism for playing Sanchez, 26, despite the Chilean star complaining of a hamstring injury before the Norwich game on Sunday, and when he pulled up clutching his left hamstring in the second half Wenger’s face was one of anger and disappointment.

Multiple reports claim that Sanchez’s injury is still being assessed by Arsenal’s medical staff as Wenger faces an anxious wait to see how long his star forward is out for.

Here’s what Wenger had to say directly after Arsenal’s draw at Norwich, as the media questioned why he would play Sanchez if he was already struggling with a hamstring complaint.

“Nobody is scientifically developed enough, not even the press, to predict exactly when a guy will be injured,” Wenger said. “I would have rested him but he felt perfectly alright before the game. We declared that he had no problem. Despite all the tests he looked alright. The players are there to play football not to be rested when the press decides that they need to be rested. He [Alexis] says it is a kick on his hamstring but I believe that is not really the reality.”

The reality is that Sanchez — who has scored nine times in 20 appearances this season — could miss some crucial games for the Gunners, including their UEFA Champions League Group F showdown with Olympiakos next Wednesday in Greece. Arsenal need a win by a two-goal margin or any win by scoring three or more goals to advance to the last 16 of the UCL, but with Sanchez out and plenty of others struggling, the dreaded injury plague struck the North London club in November, a month they always seem to falter in, once again.

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Santi Cazorla suffered a knee injury against Norwich and like Sanchez it’s unclear how long the Spanish midfielder will be out for. The only piece of good news to come from Sunday’s draw in Norfolk is that Laurent Koscielny should be available to play against Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) after overcoming a hip injury which forced him off early last weekend.

However, with Francis Coquelin out long-term, plus Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs making their way back slowly and long-term absentees Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky out until January, Wenger’s squad is being stretched to the limit.

Report: Chelsea, Man United to battle for Muller

Telekom Cup 2015 - "Bayern Munich v FC Augsburg"

Chelsea are set to join Manchester United in bidding for Bayern Munich and Germany star Thomas Muller.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Muller, 26, has previously revealed he turned down a move to United but with Pep Guardiola’s future at Bayern unclear beyond the current season, the product of Bayern’s academy may feel now is the right time to move on even though he’s contracted to the German powerhouse until 2019.

If he does, Europe’s biggest teams will be lining up and according to a report in the Daily Mirror Chelsea want to sign Muller and will make an audacious move to make him their main striker as Jose Mourino and Diego Costa‘s fallout continued with the Spanish international left on the bench during the draw at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

With Costa sulking, Mourinho  has been linked with moves for a number of strikers in January and next summer with Jamie Vardy, Saido Berahino and Antoine Griezmann all mentioned in the gossip columns.

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In the past Muller has said that he turned down “astronomical offers” to join foreign clubs and United were his main suitors. With the man who gave him his debut at Bayern, Louis Van Gaal, now in charge at United and the Red Devils continuing to spend big, Muller has been constantly linked with a switch to Old Trafford but many Bayern greats are urging him to remain at the Allianz Arena to become a Bayern legend, or at the very least join the all-conquering Barcelona rather than head to England.

Muller’s predatory finishing alongside Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian certainly seems like a good fit at Chelsea and you can understand why they would want to break the bank to get him, but offloading Costa and others first must be the priority which is why any such deal for Muller seems unlikely to happen until next summer at the earliest.

If the man who has scored 141 goals in 325 games for Bayern is intent on leaving the Bundesliga after spending his entire career in Bavaria, then Chelsea and United will be falling over themselves to sign him.