UEFA Champions League Roundup: Arsenal held; Athletic takes 1-1 draw out of Naples

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Playing in Istanbul is never easy, part of the reason Arsène Wenger may take solace in his team’s result, but when Besiktas’s Demba Ba gave Arsenal scares at the beginning and end of the first half, a harsher reality set in for the talented Gunners: Tuesday’s game, the first of their two-legged, Champions League playoff, had to be able survival.

Limited to three shots on target, and out-shot 14-10 overall, Arsenal managed to survive, with the Gunners’ best chance coming through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 89th minute. Thanks to a save from Tolga Zengin (and some help from the post), the teams ended their first leg 0-0, leaving the sides as they started when they resume next week at the Emirates.

That’s not to say nothing’s changed. With two yellow cards, Aaron Ramsey earned himself a one game ban, with Slaven Bilic potentially joining him in the stands next Wednesday. The Beskitas head coach was sent from his bench late at Vodafone Arena, with the nature of the dismissal set to dictate whether the former Croatia boss will be on the sidelines in North London.

Whether he will or not, Bilic has to relish his team’s position. While it would have been ideal to see Ba convert one of his chances, Besiktas is still in a position to take advantage of the away goals rule. Though they’ll be heavy underdogs, a score draw next week will send Turkey’s third place finishers into the group stage.

Napoli 1-1 Athletic

Iker Munain’s goal just before half time sent Los Leones into halftime up one, with a Napoli team that held 56 percent possession throughout the opening leg spending the rest of the night in pursuit. In the 68th minute, that pursuit came good, with Gonzalo Higuaín pulling Rafa Benítez’s team even, but leaving the San Paulo on even footing, Napoli must now overcome an away goal at an Athletic side that’s never lost at home against Italian opposition.

Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Malmö

A match dominated by Salzburg tuned sour after miscommunication at the back in the 90th minute allowed a looping ball for Emil Forsberg to give the Swedes a crucial away goal. Though Salzburg ended the night with 27 shots while holding 57 percent of the ball, goals from Franz Schiemer and Jonatan Soriano could only craft a tenuous lead. The Austrians will go north knowing a 1-0 loss will send them to Europa.

Steaua Bucharest 1-0 Ludogorets

A game of few chances saw the Romanians salvage their home leg in the 88th minute when Alexandru Chipciu, who had missed a spot kick earlier, scored from close range. The goal also made up for the yellow card the forward drew in the first half, a booking that will keep him out of the second leg in Bulgaria.

Copenhagen 2-3 Bayer Leverkusen

A 5th goal from Stefan Kießling drew a quick response from the Danes, who converted on set pieces in the ninth (Zanka) and 13th (Daniel Amartey) minutes. Finishing an explosive first half, Bayer got goals from Karim Bellarabi and Heung-Min Son, allowing the visitors to take a one-goal lead into intermission. With neither team proving as clinical in the second half, the Germans take that edge back the BayArena, with Stale Solbakken’s team given the unenviable test of overcoming a one-goal deficit and three away goals.

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

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TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.