Portugal

At halftime: Early defensive mistake haunts US against Portugal, but 1-0 deficit by no means a mountain – FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the game:  The game started exactly the opposite of the US’s first game against Ghana, as Portugal struck first on a gift of a goal.

The US slowly built itself into the game, and by the 10th minute they were relatively on top, with Portugal content to defend and counter.

Portugal put together a few solid, dangerous counters, but the United States will be happy with how they found spaces in the Portuguese defense. Unfortunately, their accurasy passing or shooting was not exactly up to snuff, but they outpassed the Seleção over the course of the 45 minutes.

There’s much work to be done for the United States, but after the early goal, they are by no means out of this match.  A draw will be a positive result (somewhat), but they’re still definitely looking for the win.

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Goals:

5′ – A gut-punching moment for the United States, as a simple clear for Geoff Cameron gets flubbed and falls directly to Nani at the back end of the attack, and he pokes home easily.

Other key moments:

13′ – Fabian Johnson earns a free kick in a dangerous position atop the Portuguese box, and Clint Dempsey hits a venomous strike that skims just over the crossbar.

16′ – Portugal was forced to make an early change, as they lost another striker in Helder Postiga to injury. With Hugo Almeida down with injury after the first game, Eder was the man to come in.

18′ – The US – to no surprise – looked most dangerous from set pieces. A corner from Graham Zusi fell to Dempsey at the far post who tried a chip that again grazed just over the crossbar.

24′ – Again the US came close. Jermaine Jones picked out Michael Bradley trailing the play, and his shot from well out – again – skimmed just over.

28′ – The United States remained the more dangerous side in the past 15 minutes, and a Michael Bradley shot slow-rolled past a diving Beto, but also just past the post. Again close for the US.

39′ – Water break! The first ever?

42′ – Kyle Beckerman missed a tackle in the Portugal half, and Ronaldo broke with numbers. Nani’s howitzer was saved well by Tim Howard.

45′ – TIM HOWARD. The post stopped a first-time shot from Nani, and the follow-up from Eder looked destined to loop into the corner. However, Howard scampered over and got his fingertips to it, keeping the game at 1-0.

LINEUPS:

United States – Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey.

Portugal – Beto; Bruno Alves, Pereira, A. Almeida, Costa; Veloso, Meireles, Mourinho; Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga (Eder 16′).

Goals: Nani 5′

Key players:

  • Clint Dempsey – The man to replace Jozy Altidore at the front, Dempsey was by far the most dangerous American attacker.
  • Fabian Johnson – The US right-back bombed down the right flank on numerous occasions, and was often in space. He received 25 passes from teammates, many of which led to positive buildups.
  • Joao Moutinho – 34 of 37 passing, and he was the clear creative force for Portugal in their midfield. He’s struggled defensively, however, completing just one of four tackles. The US may look to run at him on their attacks.

Numbers to know:

  • 9 – The number of shots the US took at Beto’s goal, more than they had all game against Ghana. Portugal had nine as well.
  • 31 – The number of attacking-third passes the US completed after the 10th minute.  Portugal had just 26.
  • 3 – Ronaldo’s touches in the Portuguese attacking third.

Questions for the second half:

  • Can the US find a way through the porous Portugal defense? There were some clear spaces in Portugal’s back four.  The US hasn’t made it all the way through just yet, but they came agonizingly close on a number of occasions.
  • Can the United States stand up to the Portuguese counter? After their goal, Portugal looked like they would be the most dangerous on the counter. Tim Howard made a few stunning saves to keep the game at 1-0, meaning the US will need to deal with the break better. It could be something they will need to risk going forward if they don’t get a goal early in the second half.

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.