Lichaj

Americans Abroad Wrap: Guzan makes waves, Lichaj atop Championship

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(Cue big movie trailer voice) In a world… where Aron Johannsson and Terrence Boyd are recovering from injuries and Juan Agudelo is searching for a new club, which American players plying their trades overseas can provide us with goals and/or excitement in the Americans Abroad Wrap each week?

Ale Bedoya put two shots on frame in a full day’s worth of work, but neither he nor his Nantes teammates scored, meaning Radamel Falcao’s headed goal was enough to give visiting AS Monaco a 1-0 win at La Beaujoire. Nantes sits midtable with a tricky match-up looming next Saturday against Montpellier.

To the Premier League, where Jozy Altidore put up a strong 13 minutes in relief for Sunderland. He couldn’t find a goal but was effective in the counterattack as the Black Cats drew Manchester United 1-1.

Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan became the first Villa keeper since 1999 to boast shutouts in his first two matches, saving the scoreless draw late with a stinging save of Newcastle’s Siem de Jong.

[ RELATED: Guzan hails Villa’s new-look defense after successive clean sheets ]

Tim Howard did not have a great day for the Toffees, as Everton sacrificed a 2-0 lead to visiting Arsenal. The 2-2 draw mirrors the scoreline from opening day against Leicester City.

Stoke City might want to figure out what they are doing with or without mainstay Geoff Cameron. The allegedly-unsettled back played nearly every minute for the Potters in last season’s surprising run to the top half, and hasn’t played yet as Stoke have a solitary point to start the season. This weekend, it was 1-1 at Hull.

Fulham whiz kid Emerson Hyndman did not play as the Cottagers miserable start to life in the Championship continued with a 5-1 loss to Derby County. Hyndman was on the bench but unused by Felix Magath in the blowout.

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Ream

Tim Ream’s Bolton Wanderers are struggling, pulling just one point through four matches. Their latest effort had 90 minutes of the American defender, but Bolton fell 2-1 at Brighton and Hove Albion.

Birmingham City has five points through four matches after a 1-1 draw against Brentford, with American back Jonathan Spector going 90 minutes as usual for Brum. Birmingham was up a man for 75 minutes of the match but couldn’t pull a winner.

Eric Lichaj was a halftime addition for Nottingham Forest, which blasted atop the Championship in a 4-0 win over Reading. The defender made a key goal line stop for the Reds.

Americans didn’t feature much in the Bundesliga, as Julian Green, Timmy Chandler and John Anthony Brooks were unused substitutes on opening weekend. Bayern won 2-1 over Wolfsburg on Friday, while Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt beat SC Freiburg 1-0, while Brooks’ Hertha Berlin drew Werder Bremen 2-2.

[ RELATED: Green makes bench for Bayern’s Bundesliga opener ]

Fabian Johnson enjoyed the 73rd minute this week. After giving an assist for Borussia Monchengladbach at that minute in the Europa League on Thursday — he started and they won 3-2 over Sarajevo — Johnson came off the bench at that point in a 1-1 draw against Stuttgart in the club’s Bundesliga opener over the weekend.

Mix Diskerud went 90 minutes for Rosenborg as they beat Sarpsborg 2-0 in Norwegian play.

Sacha Kljestan did not play as Belgian power Anderlecht stayed in first place with a 1-0 win over Waasland-Beveren that was described as “weak” by the club’s web site.

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.