MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-1 Columbus Crew

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAX-zkbW0q0]

One game, 100 words (or less): Chicago’s plague of draws continues, with the Fire managing to drop points from after scoring first for the eighth time this season. Today, a first half penalty conversion from Mike Magee gave them temporary hope, but a goal seconds after the teams returned from the locker room pulled Columbus even. Thanks to a big stop early in the second half from Sean Johnson, the Crew were prevented from building on their equalizer, with Chicago left to endure its 13th draw of the season.

Goals

Chicago: Magee 37′
Columbus: Higuaín 46′

There moments that mattered:

36′ – Ball to … oh, wait. Nevermind – This type of play usually draws a number of “ball to hand” appeals, but Tyson Wahl had both arms outstretched when Grant Ward hit his cross. When the ball found Wahl’s right arm, Silviu Petrescu pointed to the spot, with little doubt behind the call that put Chicago up one.

46′ – 10 seconds? – Jeff Larentowicz jumps into midfield, Patrick Ianni ends up on his backside, and next thing you know, Columbus is even, with Federico Higuaín’s goal coming before Chicago’s sen any second half possession. Straight out of the locker rooms, the Crew have their equalizer, with the corresponding momentum leaving Chicago on the edge of a deficit.

53′ – The leg of Sean – After the equalizer, Columbus looked ready to take over, with the field apparently tilted toward Sean Johnson’s goal. In the 53rd minute, that advantage was set to pay off when Ben Speas ran unto a layoff from Higuaín, but with a kick save worthy of Dominik Hasek, Johnson kept the Fire even, leaving the teams destined to play out a half of few chances.

Lineups

Chicago: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Larentowicz, Gonzalo Segares; Grant Ward (Harry Shipp 57′), Matt Watson, Chris Ritter (Logan Pause 81′), Alex (Razvan Cocis 63′); Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa

Columbus: Steve Clark; Michael Parkhurst (Eric Gehrig 91′), Giancarlo Gonzalez, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchiani, Wil Trapp, Ben Speas (Jusitn Meram 66′); Federico Higuaín; Adam Bedell (Aaron Schoenfeld 66′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Larentowicz in the back still a work in progress – It’s not so much that the defense was bad. After all, Chicago only gave up one goal. It’s just a matter of how soon it clicks. Today, Larentowicz did play a small part in the goal, coming out of defense but failing to win the ball. At the same time, the rest of the defense, specifically Patrick Ianni, didn’t make the play behind him. How much can you really fault him for the goal?

In that way, the change leaves Chicago no better off, with the Fire defense still exhibiting a tendency for random error. Will that tendency continue into the future? In theory, time can only help the Fire’s new center back.

2. The value of Sean Johnson – Johnson used to be known for a hyper-athleticism that offset his inexperience, a quality that led to some eye-opening errors in goal. Over time, however, those errors have started to fade, while the high points have become more frequent. Bill Hamid may be going to Portland, but you can see why Sean Johnson remains slightly higher in Jurgen Klinsmann’s pecking order (for now).

3. Drawing out the season – 21 games, only eight of which have ended with a winner. That’s Chicago’s season, and while it’s admirable the Fire have avoided more than five losses, they play in a three-point world. At some point, preferably while the playoffs are still a distant hope, they need to become a three-point club.

Where this leaves them:

  • With the draw, Chicago remains five points back of the playoffs, albeit in eighth in the East.
  • As for Columbus, the point allows them to move clear of New England – one point into the East’s top five.

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.”