Cosmin Moti, the hero for Ludogorets

Champions League Roundup: Ludogorets defender saves penalty to put Bulgarians through

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Amazing scenes out of Bulgaria tonight where Ludogorets defender Cosmin Moti took the gloves as a makeshift goalkeeper and saved two penalties by Steaua Bucharest to help his side advance to the Champions League group stage.

Entering the match with the upper hand after a 1-0 victory in the first leg in Bucharest, Steaua appeared to be cruising until a 90th minute wonder goal from Wanderson forced extra-time for Ludogorets. Then, in the 119th minute, Ludogorets goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was shown his second yellow card of the match and with no substitutions remaining, Moti was forced between the sticks.

After punching away a late cross to ensure penalties, Moti went on to save penalties from Paul Pirvulescu and Cornel Rapa to hand Ludogorets a sensational 6-5 penalty shootout victory. In yet another amazing twist, it turns out that Moti played for Steaua’s arch-rivals, FC Dinamo Bucuresti, for seven years before joining Ludogorets. Thanks to his dramatics, the Bulgarian side are through to the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in club history.

Elsewhere across Europe…

Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0 (Aggregate: 1-0)

Arsenal reached the Champions League group stage for 17th successive season thanks to a 45th minute strike from new boy Alexis Sanchez. Things grew dicey for the Gunners in the 76th minute when full-back Mathieu Debuchy was sent off but Arsenal held their ground to confirm advancement.

Malmo 3 Salzburg 0 (Aggregate: 4-2)

Malmo became the first Swedish club to make it through to the Champions League group stage since Helsingborgs IF in 2000 when they defeated Salzburg 3-0. Markus Rosenberg notched a brace and Magnus Eriksson vollied home to hand Malmo the 4-2 win on aggregate. The victory caps a strong run of form for the Swedish side having not lost or conceded a goal in their last seven European home matches.

Bayer Leverkusen 4 Copenhagen 0 (Aggregate: 7-2)

Stefan Kiessling scored a brace and Son Heung-Min and Hakan Calhanoglu also made the scoresheet as Leverkusen cruised to a 4-0 home victory over Copenhagen. The shutout puts Leverkusen through to the group stage draw and sends Copenhagen tumbling into the Europa League.

Athletic Bilbao 3 Napoli 1 (Aggregate: 4-2)

Three goals in a 13 minute span earned Athletic Bilbao a 3-1 victory over Napoli at the new San Mames, sending the Basque club through to the group stage, 4-2 on aggregate. Marek Hamsik handed Napoli a lead with his 47th minute goal but goals from Aritz Aduriz in the 61st and 69th minutes followed by a 74th minute effort from Ibai Gomez confirmed Athletic’s spot in the Champions League.

On the up, off the pitch: Manchester United’s revenue continues to rise

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Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.

The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.

Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”

Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.

With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.