Getty Images

Bayern extends Bundesliga lead; Leipzig, Dortmund both lose

Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) Robert Lewandowski scored twice for Bayern Munich to extend its Bundesliga lead on Saturday with a 3-0 win over an Eintracht Frankfurt side hit by injuries and illness.

Bayern, which stretched its unbeaten run to 18 games across all competitions, capitalized on second-placed Leipzig’s 1-0 defeat at home to Wolfsburg to stretch its lead to 10 points with 10 games remaining.

Frankfurt made the better start and Bayern needed defender Mats Hummels to make a goal-saving tackle to deny Branimir Hrgota early on.

Good work from Thomas Mueller on the right allowed Lewandowski to score a tap-in with Bayern’s first big chance in the 38th.

Mueller, who scored 32 goals in all competitions for Bayern last season, has only one league goal so far but this was his 10th assist.

Playing on the other side of the pitch, David Alaba sprinted clear to set up Douglas Costa for Bayern’s second minutes later.

Frankfurt had three big chances in the first half but couldn’t make them count.

Arjen Robben then crossed for Lewandowski’s second goal 10 minutes after the break, taking the Poland striker’s league tally to 21 goals this season.

Frankfurt’s troubles were compounded when captain Makoto Hasebe, the league’s most capped Japanese player with 236 appearances, was taken to hospital for stitches to a cut on his shin. Marco Russ came on in his place for his second appearance since returning from treatment for testicular cancer.

Bayern defender Jerome Boateng came on for the final 25 minutes to make his return from nearly four months out due to injury.

LEIPZIG 0, WOLFSBURG 1

Mario Gomez’ remarkable run of scoring in every game under coach Andries Jonker continued at Leipzig, where the Germany striker scored in the ninth minute.

Gomez, who played under Jonker in his five games as interim coach at Bayern, has 11 goals in seven games with the Dutchman in charge.

Daniel Didavi should have made it 2-0 in the second half only to hit the post, then the Leipzig keeper at the second attempt, before Gomez hit the post again from the rebound.

HERTHA BERLIN 2, BORUSSIA DORTMUND 1

Hertha held on to halt third-placed Dortmund’s four-game winning run in all competitions and consolidated fifth place with a typically gritty performance.

Captain Vedad Ibisevic crossed for Salomon Kalou to score early, and Dortmund was grateful to Raphael Guerreiro for clearing off the line from Kalou afterward as the home side maintained its good start. Kalou missed another good chance before the break.

Seconds after Lewandowski matched his 21-goal tally in Munich, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalized, first playing the ball to Guerreiro with his heel, then running to accept Shinji Kagawa‘s through ball to score his league-leading 22nd of the season. It was his eighth goal in four games in all competitions.

But Marvin Plattenhardt scored what proved to be the winner with a brilliant free kick inside the top corner with 20 minutes remaining.

DARMSTADT 2, MAINZ 1

The hosts played in special shirts with the logo, “You must fight, now more than ever,” in honor of Darmstadt fan Jonathan Heimes, who died of cancer in March last year.

Darmstadt raced into an early lead through captain Aytac Sulu’s header from a corner and Sidney Sam’s cooly taken penalty.

Heimes, who founded a charity for children with cancer, was a motivating factor in Darmstadt’s promotion in 2015.

Swedish midfielder Robin Quaison pulled one back and Darmstadt suffered a further blow on the hour when Mario Vrancic was sent off with his second yellow.

But Stefan Bell was sent off late for Mainz and the league’s bottom side held on for just its fourth win of the season.

FREIBURG 1, HOFFENHEIM 1

Three minutes after Maximilian Philipp put Freiburg ahead with a penalty, Andrej Kramaric equalized on the hour-mark.

Hoffenheim stayed fourth in the last qualification place for the Champions League, two points ahead of Hertha.

Ingolstadt was hosting Cologne for the late game.

Wenger: Sanchez likely to leave for Man United

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United is close to completion.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Sanchez is “likely to leave” for Jose Mourinho’s side, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan thought to be heading in the opposite direction plus a sizable transfer fee.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), Wenger revealed the deal for Sanchez is almost complete.

“I worked on transfers for 30 years so it is likely to happen, but at any moment it can break down,” Wenger said. “As long as it’s not over the line you have to accept it may not happen, these kind of things are not guaranteed. I have no problem with Sanchez’s attitude. He was in training fully committed. He is 29 years old and the next contract will of course be very important to him.”

So, there you have it. Sanchez to United is happening and with the numbers being mentioned, it’s easy to understand why he will leave. Sanchez will be paid $19.2 million per year, after tax, and he will also receive a $27.7 million signing-on fee and his agent will get $13.8 million.

United will get a new star No.7 in his prime and Sanchez getting a fresh start and being hungry to impress will certainly be music to the ears of Mourinho. Whether or not the Chilean international will have the same impact as Eric Cantona, who joined United in his late 20’s and helped led them to multiple PL titles, remains to be seen, but this deal does remind you of that circumstances. One player doesn’t make a team but a special player like Sanchez can make a heck of difference overall.

Wenger also spoke about the possibility of Mkhitaryan being part of the deal and it seems he is very keen on signing the Armenian international who almost joined the Gunners in the summer of 2016 before joining United instead.

“I like the player. We played many times against him when he was at Dortmund. He appreciated the quality of our games. The wages would not be a problem,” Wenger said.

It seems like everyone will be happy with this deal. Of course, Arsenal wanted Sanchez to stay and that’s why they didn’t sell him to Manchester City in the summer. Wenger couldn’t persuade him to sign a new deal and now, less than six months before he leaves on a free, they are getting a decent chunk of change and playmaker who, on his day, can unlock any defense in the world.

For United, Mkhitaryan is out of favor under Mourinho and they will get him off their wage bill, while they also get Sanchez in his prime and get one over on Man City where everyone thought he would end up.

All in all, this tricky situation seems to have worked out best for everyone, especially Sanchez and his agent.

Timbers sign Peruvian winger Andy Polo from Liga MX’s Morelia

Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Timbers have acquired winger Andy Polo on loan from Liga MX club Monarcas Morelia for the upcoming season.

The 23-year-old native of Peru played in 25 matches last year for Morelia and made six starts with two goals.

He’s also World Cup-bound, having appeared in Peru’s two-legged playoff against New Zealand in November. Peru won 2-0 on aggregate. Overall, he’s appeared with the Peruvian national team 15 times since his senior debut in 2016.

“Andy is a versatile, young player who will add another element to our attack, and we believe that he has further upside to his development,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said in a statement.

The Timbers used targeted allocation money and have a purchase option. Polo’s arrival is pending a physical and receipt of a visa.

He will occupy an international roster spot.

Can Man United still sign Sanchez without Mkhitaryan swap?

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The answer to the (first) titled question is, undoubtedly, yes.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

The latter question — the “will they?” — remains a relative unknown at this point, but if reports out of the UK are to be believed, Manchester United are just as likely to send $40 million (or so) Arsenal’s way in exchange for Alexis Sanchez, should Henrikh Mkhitaryan refuse the move by declining any contract offers from the Gunners.

[ MORE: Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies ]

The thinking, at least for the last few days since Man United somewhat unexpectedly entered the Sanchez sweepstakes, was that swapping the Armenian for the Chilean was the obvious — and, perhaps only — way forward. Call it special circumstances or an obvious audible, but that’s not necessarily the case — from the Guardian:

“It is understood that if Mkhitaryan does not leave Mourinho believes that, given the club’s robust finances, [Man United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward could still sanction a move for a player who would potentially vastly improve United.”

By the time Sanchez is signed, sealed and delivered, United will have also paid Sanchez and his agent, Fernando Felicevich, massive signing-on fees that could total another $30 million. No matter the order in which the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan saga plays out, United will come out ahead with a superior player at a massively discounted price — should Sanchez ultimately move to Old Trafford, of course.

Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
1 Comment

If the FA, English football’s governing body, is insistent upon testing video-assistant refereeing (VAR) as they have done in recent FA Cup and League Cup fixtures, Antonio Conte believes they should darn well use it.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Following his Chelsea side’s penalty-shootout victory over Norwich City in an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday, Conte was equal parts frustrated and confused by the fact that video-referee Mike Jones failed to prompt referee Graham Scott to consult the on-trial system on multiple occasions.

Most notably, Chelsea’s 92nd-minute (extra-time) penalty shout following Timm Klose‘s tackle on Willian. Scott, instead, booked the Brazilian for diving — one of three cards, all shown to Chelsea players, for simulation on the night — and that was that.

“If you watch the replay you see very clearly it is a penalty,” said Conte after the game — quotes from the BBC:

“I think that there was a penalty but not on [Alvaro] Morata — on Willian.

“With Willian, the referee heard what the other referee watched and decided to continue to play. If we want to try to use this new system, it is important for the referee to wait, especially in this incident that is not so clear.

“And then when the referee that is watching had a doubt, he has to call the referee to watch and he can make a decision. The referee on the pitch has to make the decision, not one off the pitch.

“We can improve it for sure but we need to try to take the best solution. The final decision is for the ref on the pitch. Otherwise, why is there this ref?

“The mistake wasn’t of the ref on the pitch but the person watching. When you see this, you have to call the referee.”

VAR was used in another third-round replay, on Tuesday, and helped to correctly rule Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho as being in an onside position when he scored his side’s second goal. While offside/onside calls are much clearer, cut-and-dry decisions to make — and with the aid of a natural stoppage in play — clearly much work lies ahead with regard to the process of determining whether the referee has made a “clear and obvious error,” which remains the threshold for using VAR, in instances of fouls/diving.