UEFA Champions League play-offs continued on Wednesday with a series of tight contests headlined by a 1-0 victory for FC Porto at Lyon.
The Portuguese side grabbed the advantage heading into next Tuesday’s second leg when Hector Herrera scored the only goal of the match after 61 minutes.
Lyon nearly went level through Sebastien Corchia but were unable to capitalize and will need to score at least twice next week to overcome the deficit.
Standard Liege 1 Zenit St Petersburg
Andre Villas-Boas’ side came into Belgium and dominated the first leg but failed to capitalize beyond a one-goal win. The decisive strike came in the 16th minute after Oleg Shatov took a perfect cross from Hulk and buried it into the left corner. Zenit went on to register 17 attempts on target, 9 more than their counter-parts.
Maribor 1 Celtic 1
It took only five minutes for Glasgow Celtic to open the scoring in Slovenia on Wednesday as Callum McGregor finished from close range after some nice flank play from Jo Inge Berget. Ten minutes later, however, Maribor was level when Damjan Bohar found himself through after he beating the offside trap, collecting Zeljko Filipovic’s slick pass and neatly finishing past a sprawling Craig Gordon.
Both sides traded chances throughout the remainder of the match with Charlie Mulgrew, Virgil van Dijk and Stefan Johansen all coming close for Celtic while Maribor’s Ales Mertelj unleashed a hovering 30-yard shot that Gordon did well to tip wide.
Aalborg BK 1 Apoel Mariposa 1
Danish side Aalborg BK jumped out to an early lead on Apoel Mariposa when left midfielder Nikolaj Thomsen scored in the 16th minute. The home side held the lead until the 54th minute when Brazilian center-midfielder Vinicius Oliveira Franco leveled for the Cypriots making it all square heading into next week’s second leg.
SK Slovan Bratislava 1 Bate Borisov 1
SK Slovan Bratislava found themselves in a first-half hole when defender Tomas Jablonsky finished into his own net to give Borisov the lead. Jablonsky was bailed out in the second half, however, when Robert Vittek struck with ten minutes to go for the hosts to leave on even-footing with the Belarusian champions.
John Terry is the last of the old guard at Chelsea, and club legend Frank Lampard thinks he deserves to stay at Stamford Bridge.
Speaking with the web site ShortList.com, Lampard also said he’d welcome the defender to Major League Soccer with open arms, and checkbook.
[ MORE: Premier League’s Top Five story lines for Week 26 ]
Saying he’d “I’ll get his plane ticket and get him over here,” the New York City FC midfielder called Terry “quite comfortably” the best defender he’d ever played with during his career.
“What John offers is a link with the fans and an appreciation of the young players who he would want to help come through. He’s Mr Chelsea. Those are the sorts of players you need at the club. Without telling the club what to do, I think Chelsea are looking to change the old nucleus we had, what with myself, Ashley [Cole], Didier [Drogba] and Petr [Cech] gone, John’s almost the last one standing. But I don’t think he’s going to be an issue with that – he’ll even help the transition with helping the younger players.”
Even given Terry’s dicey at times off-field reputation, there’s merit to that story (After all, you can’t be okay with Ryan Giggs guiding the youth of Manchester and opposed to Terry leading at the Bridge).
As for MLS, plenty of England’s old guard is here already. From the 2010 World Cup roster alone, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard are in L.A., Lampard’s in New York City, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is with RBNY. That’s already half the number of U.S. players in MLS who played in the 2010 tournament.
Another member of FIFA’s embattled corps has learned his punishment for egregious ethics violations.
Jerome Valcke, the longtime secretary general of football’s governing body, is going to be away from the game for 12 years, banned from the sport by FIFA’s independent ethics committee.
[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]
The 12 years are less than a lifetime but more than the recommended nine years. Valcke was dismissed from his post in January.
From the BBC:
The decision has been made by Fifa’s independent ethics committee following allegations of potential misconduct related to sales of World Cup tickets.
During the investigations, several other acts of potential misconduct arose, including travel expenses policies and regulations.
Valcke’s ban is four years longer than the ones issued to Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini.
Sam Allardyce knows a relegation battle when he sees one, and even an injury crisis has him nervous about using inexperienced USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin.
The speedy American wingback is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, and Sunderland’s table position has its manager wondering if he can afford to use the 22-year-old.
[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]
Billy Jones is injured, and the Black Cats did not firm up their right back depth in the transfer window. Ex-Celtic back Adam Matthews is among the other options, and played 150 times for the Bhoys.
And Yedlin had just 56 professional appearances and was less than three years removed from two years at Akron when he moved to London.
From the Sunderland Echo:
“We’ve got Billy who has a lot of experience, and obviously we’ve got DeAndre, who has very little experience at this level.
“DeAndre has a lot of qualities, but without that experience, it’s a massive ask to perform at the consistent level that you need to at this stage of the season, particularly with the pressure we’re all under.”
You have to love that following his train of thought would continue with, “but we don’t have any better options, so let’s see what happens!” It’s not quite Guus Hiddink saying of Chelsea youth like Matt Miazga, “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in“, but Allardyce is right in saying the relegation plight is a different pressure than Chelsea’s much safer spot.
This is a big chance — and a big ask — for Yedlin, who replaced Jones in last week’s comeback draw with Liverpool and has only seen Spurs improve since he went on loan. How has Yedlin fared this season? In terms of overall stats, he hasn’t been very good at all, though advanced stats site Squawka says he is slightly better than Jones.
But in terms of straight-up defending, the USMNT man has done the job a lot better.
It would be classic Big Sam to improve his lot in the Premier League safety race because injury forced him to remove Jones.
Go get ’em, kid.
Chelsea hosts Newcastle United this weekend, its first game since the season-ending injury to young defender Kurt Zouma.
The 21-year-old Frenchman has arguably been Chelsea’s best center back when it comes to marking and defending this season, and manager Guus Hiddink has to find an alternative for the big man.
[ MORE: Klopp updates Sturridge, Coutinho fitness; Backs owners ]
While Gary Cahill and John Terry have the familiar names of the bunch, Hiddink won’t limit himself to veteran replacements. Certainly he could slide Cesar Azpilicueta inside, though that would sacrifice about a half-foot, and Newcastle likes to use big striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
He also has 20-year-old USMNT back Matt Miazga — who’s been given squad No. 20 — and said the following in Friday’s pre-match press conference:
“We have no fear of bringing youngsters in.”
Could we see Miazga in the fold on Saturday? Hiddink’s comments sure sound like he’d rather not, but all it takes is an injury or an inkling.
Miazga gave an interview to Chelsea’s web site last weekend where he described his play.
“I really like it, it is a higher level, the ball moves much faster but yeah, it is good. All the guys are very welcoming and I am really enjoying it.
“My game is definitely built on winning aerial challenges and tackles. As a centre-back you have to have an aerial presence and win a lot of headers, and my job is to win duels and not let opponents score, so every time I try to get a good tackle in and make my opponent know that I am there and it is not going to be an easy time trying to go by me.”
The ball moves much faster, and we’re hoping to see Miazga move with it sooner rather than later. Will it be this weekend.