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At halftime: France up 1 on Honduras as Benzema scores, Palacios sent off just before break – FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: France was clearly on top the whole first half, but it took them 44 minutes to produce a goal, at great cost to Honduras.

Wilson Palacios shoved Paul Pogba in the back in the box, not only conceding a penalty but also earning himself his second yellow card in the process.

Karim Benzema blasted home the ensuing penalty for the 1-0 lead, and now Honduras has a massive task in front of them.

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals:

45′ – Wilson Palacios, physical the entire first half, threw his body into the back of Paul Pogba.  It was a costly foul for Honduras, conceding a penalty just before halftime and seeing himself sent off.  Karim Benzema powerfully charged the ball into the top left on the finish.

Other key moments:

12′ – With France clearly on top early on, they had a pair of free kicks just outside the Honduran box. They botched the first with a weird attempt at a predetermined play, but came close with the second, only foiled by a strong Valladares punch.

15′ – Another dangerous French set piece saw the ball into the box sail just over 3 attacker’s heads, but fell to a wide-open Blaise Matuidi who struck powerfully.  The ball was touched by the fingertips of a diving Valladares and ricocheted onto the crossbar.  By far the closest chance yet.

23′ – France continued to pummel the Honduran third, and Patrice Evra’s cross into the box found the head of Antoine Griezmann, who clattered the ball against the crossbar.

25′ – All France but no goals. Mathieu Valbuena received the ball on the right edge of the box with no defenders in sight but a bad angle, so he cut back for Karim Benzema, who headed just over.

28′ – Double yellow for Paul Pogba and Wilson Palacios as the pair get into a midfield scuffle and trade kicks/steps. Tempers flare. The ref stands and watches before producing the cards.

LINEUPS:

France – Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra; Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba; Valbuena, Benzema, Griezmann.

Goals – Benzema (pen) 45′

Honduras – Valladares; Figueroa, Bernardez, Izaguirre, Beckeles; Palacios, Espinoza, Najar, Garrido; Bengtson, Costly.

Key players:

  • Patrice Evra – A key component in France’s attack, they powered down the left side on multiple occasions, and the former Manchester United defender was right there to deliver.
  • Karim Benzema – Didier Deschamps left Olivier Giroud on the bench in favor of Benzema isolated at the front, and the French striker has had plenty of freedom to move across laterally.  He’s the man they’re looking for to score, but it remains to be seen if Deschamps will keep it that way.
  • Wilson Palacios – Honduras’s main man in the middle of the pitch, the hard-hitting Stoke player has tried to be a physical presence to hold France down, and it’s worked thus far. However, he has to be careful now that he’s been booked in the Pogba incident.

Numbers to know:

70.8% – Amount of possession France has had.
5 – Number of yellow cards handed out in the first half, one being Wilson Palacios’s second.
15 – Number of clearances Honduras has been forced to make, compared to just four by France.
0 – Number of losses France has in the World Cup when leading at the half. They have won 17 and drawn 3.

Questions for the second half:

  • Will Honduras go for the shock equalizer or play for goal differential? Down to 10 men, it remains to be seen if coach Luis Suarez will now look to close up shop and concede defeat as to not concede any more goals, or if he will leave things open to try and pick up a man-down goal.
  • Can France continue pedal to the metal?  If there’s one thing above all else that’s been France’s weakness the last decade of disappointment, it’s mental fortitude.  Up a man and in control of the match, sometimes those situations are the hardest to remain focused. It never hurts to have a good goal differential, and they’ll want to cash in on the mistake by Honduras.

Europa League: Mourinho says targeted Man Utd must win; Saints shorthanded

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United makes his way to the tunnel after the final whistle  during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Europa League goes into its second day of group play with the onus on the biggest club in the tournament to pick up a win.

Don’t believe us? Ask Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.

“To be honest, I think we have to win,” Mourinho said at his pre-match press conference. “If we don’t win, I would say we’d have to win all the last four matches, which is difficult, so I think it is very important that we win this game.”

[ MORE: Wenger excited at Arsenal’s chances ]

United fell 1-0 at Feyenoord to open the group stage, and now hosts Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk at 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday. He knows its the equivalent of a massive Cup match for the visitors.

“The Europa League is a competition Man United isn’t normally in, so when these teams have a giant like Man United in front of them, it’s a huge moment for them and they come to the game with incredible motivation.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will start for United, as there’s a chance that Anthony Martial will rejoin the side. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is out, and Wayne Rooney (back) and Luke Shaw (illness) may not play.

The other Premier League side in play is Southampton, as the Saints take a long flight to Israel for a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff against Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

Saints handled Sparta Prague at home, and now face the Camels, who went to Inter Milan and won. Southampton is without Charlie Austin, Jose Fonte, Ryan Bertrand, and Steven Davis.

Should be a very decent match from Turner Stadium in Be’er Sheva.

Elsewhere

all times ET

Mainz at Gabala — 11 a.m.
Young Boys at Astana — 11 a.m.
Osmanlispor at Zurich — 1 p.m.
Red Bull Salzburg at Schalke — 1 p.m.
PAOK at Liberec — 1 p.m.
Qarabag at Fiorentina — 1 p.m.
Villarreal at Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m.
Nice at Krasnodar — 1 p.m.
Standard Liege at Ajax — 1 p.m.
Braga at Shakhtar Donetsk — 1 p.m.
Panathinaikos at Celta Vigo — 1 p.m.
Inter Milan at Sparta Prague — 1 p.m.
Konyaspor at Gent — 1 p.m.
Sassuolo at Genk — 3:05 p.m.
Zorya at Manchester United — 3:05 p.m.
Anderlecht at Saint-Etienne — 3:05 p.m.
Apoel Nicosia at Olympiacos — 3:05 p.m.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv at Dundalk — 3:05 p.m.
Feyenoord at Fenerbahce — 3:05 p.m.
Rapid Wien at Athletic Bilbao — 3:05 p.m.
Viktoria Plzen at Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m.
AZ Alkmaar at Zenit Saint-Petersburg — 3:05 p.m.
Astra Giurgiu at AS Roma — 3:05 p.m.

Wenger after UCL win: This year’s Arsenal has “interesting potential”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Arsenal FC and FC Basel 1893 at the Emirates Stadium on September 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is growing in confidence when it comes to his Gunners’ chances in England and Europe, and it’s not hard to see why.

Four days after Arsenal battered Chelsea 3-0 in Premier League action, the Gunners went out and handled FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

Theo Walcott scored both goals in the 2-0 win, and there could’ve been so many more. Arsenal was fast, deliberate, creative, and dangerous. The finishing was not ideal, but the promise was massive.

Perhaps more important, the Gunners posted a third-straight clean sheet and have allowed just four goals in eight matches since the 4-3 loss to Liverpool that opened the PL season.

And Wenger acknowledges that his side can do big things, provided it doesn’t get too full of itself after solid performances. From Arsenal.com:

“It looks like the team has interesting potential. We have to be ambitious and, as you know, keep our feet on the ground to continue to develop. We know exactly how we want to play football and we have to continue to stick to that and get better at it. That demands big focus and some leadership inside the squad. It also requires humility.”

Arsenal has a very winnable run in the Premier League, and could be right there with Manchester City by the end of October. And with a winnable UCL group, who knows what the Gunners could do with a decent knockout round draw?

Bayern can’t break down Simeone’s Atleti: “We played too slowly”

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 28:  Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Bayern Muenchen looks on before the UEFA Champions League group D match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on September 28, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich sits second in Group D of this season’s UEFA Champions League after losing its toughest match of the bunch: a trip to the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico Madrid won 1-0 when Antoine Griezmann linked up with Yannick Carrasco for a first half goal and Diego Simeone’s stubborn defense lived up to its reputation in blanking the Bavarians.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup ]

Manager Carlo Ancelotti has been frustrated by Simeone in the past, perhaps most notably in his brief stint at Real Madrid. But the Bayern boss says the loss was down to speed.

“We tried to get back into the game but we played too slowly, which is why we did not have many chances to equalize,” Ancelotti said. “It’s never nice to lose.”

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer also acknowledged a lack of speed in a way, pointing at urgency when he said, “Atlético showed a killer instinct tonight and we didn’t.”

Bayern hosts PSV Eindhoven in its next UCL match on Oct. 19.

Guardiola, Rodgers left to unpack thrilling Celtic-Man City draw

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Brendan Rodgers, Manager of Celtic issues instructions to his players next to Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Celtic FC and Manchester City FC at Celtic Park on September 28, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
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What a match in Glasgow.

The UEFA Champions League group stage returned to Celtic Park on Wednesday, where the hosts thrilled their crowd by taking a trio of leads before settling for a 3-3 draw with mighty Manchester City.

[ MORE: JPW on Walcott’s Arsenal heroics ]

The draw is the first competitive game City hasn’t won under Pep Guardiola, but the manager didn’t feel much like complaining after his team rallied.

From the BBC:

Guardiola: “It was difficult for us. I’m happy with the reaction from the players, it’s not easy to score three goals away.

“I don’t know how many the chances they had after the third goal. We should have won it.”

As for Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, he was tickled. After all, Celtic had fallen 7-0 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou during their first outing.

From the BBC:

Rodgers: “We were brilliant, the pressing and the energy. Every time we went forward we looked like we could score.

“Apart from the Barcelona game these players have been operating at a high level this season. Now, to do it against that team, it was a magnificent performance.”

Celtic Park was loud on Wednesday, and both sides gave the crowd plenty of oohs and aahs. It’s hard to imagine Celtic could do the same again, and City did give away a pair of goals (one own goal from Raheem Sterling, one gaffe from Aleksandar Kolarov).

But for one afternoon, who cares about anything other than an entertaining 90 minutes?