At halftime: Brazil with chances but no goals against Mexico — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: An energetic start from Mexico gave way to Brazilian control, with a lack of quality in the middle of the park leaving El Tri unable to build anything going forward. Brazil, on the other hand, fully stressed Mexico’s defense, though missed chances from Fred and Neymar led the teams scoreless at halftime. While Mexico started to assert itself before intermission, it still finished the first period without a shot on target.

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Goals (and how they happened): They didn’t.

Other key moments:

11′ – After an energetic start from Mexico, Brazil gets its first chance down the left, where Oscar has been moved the absence of the injured Hulk. Cutting into the penalty box, the Chelsea midfielder plays a ball to the edge of the six with the outside of his right foot, giving Fred a chance from close range. The Brazilian striker fails to convert, leaving the match scoreless.

13′ – El Tri’s worst nightmare? That hamstrung midfield failing to take care of the ball. Early on, that fear almost came to fruition. Giving Neymar possession at the edge of the attacking third, the Mexico defense watched as Brazil’s most dangerous player was given a chance to choose between targets. When the play ultimately broke down, Mexico were spared, but more questions about the team’s midfield had emerged.

26′ – Mexico gets caught on a counter, but after Neymar’s ball from the left is cleared from the penalty area, Guillermo Ochoa looks like he’ll go untested. Dani Alves, however, thought otherwise, getting to the ball first and hitting a cross to the far corner. There, Neymar out-leaps Rafa Marquez to put a shot at Ochoa’s right post, with a lunging stop allowing Ochoa to keep the match scoreless.

41′ – What’s this? Mexico threatening? Just before halftime, it actually happened. After a clearance from an Andres Guardardo cross is worked back to the middle of the field, Jose Juan Vazquez takes a chance from 28 yards out. For a moment, it looks like the shot could curl inside the right post, but going just wide, the try left César without a save over the first 45 minutes.

43 – A restart fired into the Mexico box sees Paulinho deflect a ball behind the Mexican defense. As El Tri’s line pushes up the field, three Seleçao players are left in front of Ochoa. David Luiz gets to the ball but can’t get it past the Mexican keeper, failing to convert the team’s best chance of the half.

Lineups:

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva (c), David Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Ramires, Luiz Gustavo

Mexico: Ochoa, Rodriguez, Marquez (c), Herrera, Layun, Dos Santos, Moreno, Guardado, Peralta, Aguilar, Vazquez

Key players:

  • Neymar, Brazil – Oscar is having a great tournament, thus far, but with Luiz Felipe Scolari putting his star in the middle of the formation, it’s clear everything revolves around Neymar.
  • Oribe Peralta, Mexico – If Brazil maintains control, Mexico’s hopes will hinge on Peralta stealing a goal. The Santos striker won’t need many chances, but against Thiago Silva and David Luiz, the question is whether he’ll have any.

Numbers to know:

55-45: Possession goes in Brazil’s favor. If effective possession was a thing, the numbers would be even more lopsided, but thanks to Mexico coming into the match by the halftime whistle, the real numbers don’t look so lopsided.
4-0: Shots on target, in Brazil’s favor. In fairness, Hector Herrera had a try from distance that should have been recorded as a shot on target, but with the officials failing to see Júlio César’s touch, Brazil was awarded a goal kick.
11-6: Tackles won, in favor of Brazil. Oscar alone has disposed Mexico five times.

Question for the second half:

  • Does Mexico change it up? And if so, how? Miguel Herrera has done a good job of stabilizing this team, but he hasn’t been able to install a Plan B. If El Tri does change it up — and based on the first half, they’ll need to — it will may be more about personnel than approach.
  • Is Brazil waning? After a spirited Mexico stormed out of the gates, Brazil eventually took control, enjoying 20-25 minutes or primacy. But the end of the half, however, Mexico had started to get a grip on the game. Is that a pattern, or a blip?

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”