Getty Images

Three things we learned from Tottenham vs. Dortmund

1 Comment

WEMBLEY — Tottenham Hotspur against Borussia Dortmund was one of the most eagerly anticipated games in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

It delivered. Big time.

[ RECAP: Spurs 3-1 BVB ]

Three stunning goals were scored inside the opening 15 minutes with Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane netting after driving runs, then Andriy Yarmolenko curling in a beauty at the other end. Dortmund had a goal incorrectly chalked out for offside and then Kane grabbed a second and Tottenham’s third in the second half to finish off the German side as Spurs won 3-1.

USMNT youngster Christian Pulisic caused havoc on Dortmund’s left and might have had a goal before half time but it was ruled out for offside, somewhat controversially.

These two teams epitomize the value of bringing through young, hungry players in a high-pressing system and the result was a pulsating clash.

Here’s what we learned at a lively Wembley.


KANE’S POWER UNSTOPPABLE

Harry Kane was at his very best on Wednesday as he scored twice to fire Spurs to victory, their first this season at Wembley as they got their UCL campaign off to a flier.

Kane, 24, has only played in four UEFA Champions League games in his career but he has now scored four goals as the England international proved he belongs on Europe’s biggest stage.

He epitomized Spurs’ endeavor to put right last seasons Champions League exit at the group stage as he chased, bullied and battered Dortmund’s makeshift backline.

Kane smelt blood and his first goal summed up his display. He bundled over two Dortmund players when the odds were stacked against him, then raced through on goal and hammered home at the near post.

His penchant to score goals of any kind saw him then calmly drill home with his left foot in the second half to seal victory and Kane is well and truly up and running in September with six goals in four appearances for club and country. He could have had a hat trick as he dragged another effort but the local lad was given a standing ovation late on as he was substituted.

The reigning two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner looks hungrier than ever.


ABSORBING, ATTRACTIVE ENCOUNTER

The only other time Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund have played one another was back in 2016 as Spurs were demolished 5-1 on aggregate in the Europa League Round of 16.

Spurs were completely outclassed on that occasion but Wednesday’s win proved how far they have come.

Since then Spurs have largely kept all of their important players plus invested wisely in the likes of Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Heung-min Son, while Dortmund have lost stars such as Ousmane Dembele, Mats Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan.

It showed, but Dortmund were well in this game up until the 60th minute when Kane made it 3-1.

As you can see from above, the first 45 minutes was largely dominated by Dortmund as they possessed the ball and forced Spurs to sit back. Mauricio Pochettino‘s men were patient and showed maturity to allow Dortmund to have the ball and were dangerous on the break. There really wasn’t much in this game.

Dortmund scored a perfectly legitimate equalizer through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just before Spurs made it 3-1 and had they made it 2-2, Spurs could hardly have complained.

This was an energetic, pulsating clash to watch as two of Europe’s most exciting teams collided.

With Real Madrid in Group H alongside them they will likely battle it out for second spot. With Dortmund having several defensive injuries for this game, the return leg in November at the Westfalenstadion will be a similarly lively, even and absorbing encounter.


PULISIC DOES EVERYTHING BUT SCORE

The kid just always has a way of making you shake your head in disbelief.

In the first half Christian Pulisic, just a week shy of his 19th birthday, tore Tottenham apart on multiple occasions as he found space between Serge Aurier and Toby Alderweireld.

Cutting in off the left the USMNT star produced a strong display, creating a chance for Aubameyang which was brilliantly cleared and then Pulisic couldn’t quite get on the end of a cross from Aubameyang to score himself.

He did score right on the break but it was disallowed for offside and he was a constant menace on the left flank. In the second half Aurier got more of a grip on him and Pulisic’s crosses were a little off but he was still dangerous.

With Ousmane Dembele sold to Barcelona, Pulisic now has a regular starting spot in Dortmund’s team and he is playing like a seasoned pro despite the fact this is only at the start of his second full season as a first-team player.

The Pulisic hype train left the station a long, long time ago but it continues to gather momentum, and passengers, each time he steps up to the big occasion. He did himself proud, once again, even though Dortmund lost.

Griezmann: “No regrets” rejecting Man United move in summer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After flirting with the idea of moving to Manchester last summer, Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann is in one of the worst goal-scoring droughts in his career.

It’s been seven games since he last scored and with just three goals total, it’s been an underwhelming season so far for the Frenchman. But Griezmann doesn’t regret turning down the chance to join Manchester United last summer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“I don’t regret staying at Atleti,” Griezmann told French TV program Telefoot. “It was my decision and I’m happy with what I chose to do – even if I have gone seven games without scoring”.

Griezmann was booed off the pitch in Atleti’s scoreless draw with city rivals Real Madrid, as both clubs dropped to 10 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona in the standings. There have been rumors swirling that Griezmann could even leave Atletico in January, with Diego Costa set to join the club.

On his game, with good service from midfield, Griezmann is one of the best attackers on the planet. But with Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and more, Manchester United already has the firepower to compete with the top of the Premier League

LIVE, UCL: Liverpool, Man City in action; Dortmund-Tottenham

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Three Premier League teams are in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday with Liverpool knowing a win at Sevilla will see them qualify for the knockout stage for the first time since 2009.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Jurgen Klopp‘s side head to Spain in good form after three consecutive wins in the Premier League and are in a very healthy position in Group E.

Tottenham Hotspur head to Borussia Dortmund with Spurs’ place in the last 16 already secured and Dortmund (Christian Pulisic is out of the squad with an injury) needing a win to keep their faint hopes of reaching the knockout stage alive with Real Madrid heading to APOEL Nicosia in Group H.

Manchester City have also secured their spot in the last 16 and host Feyenoord in Group F. The Dutch side have lost all four of their UCL games so far this season but have taken a huge number of traveling fans to Manchester and they can still qualify for the Europa League via finishing in third spot ahead of Shaktar Donetsk.

Elsewhere Monaco host RB Leipzig in a pivotal clash in Group G.

Click on the link above to follow commentary on all the action, while below is the full schedule as we will have reaction and analysis on all the UCL action on Tuesday.

All games kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday’s UCL schedule

Group E
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Maribor – FT
Sevilla vs. Liverpool

Group F
Manchester City vs. Feyenoord
Napoli vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

Group G
Monaco vs. RB Leipzig
Besiktas 1-1 FC Porto – FT

Group H
Borussia Dortmund vs. Tottenham Hotspur
APOEL vs. Real Madrid

FIFA bans 3 soccer officials for life for taking bribes

Getty Images
Leave a comment

GENEVA (AP) Three soccer officials who pleaded guilty in American courts to accepting bribes were banned for life by the FIFA ethics committee on Tuesday.

They include former FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai of Guam, who testified in federal court that the source of his bribe money was Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait.

“His guilty plea related, amongst others, to schemes in which he received bribes in exchange for his support in relation to the FIFA presidential elections and to gain control and influence within the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA,” the soccer body said Tuesday in a statement.

Sheikh Ahmad referred his own case to the ethics committees of FIFA and the International Olympic Committee in April after Lai’s guilty plea was revealed. The Kuwaiti royal also withdrew from an election to retain his seat representing Asia on the FIFA Council.

Two former soccer federation presidents, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, were also banned for life Tuesday. They were arrested in Zurich in May 2015 in early morning raids on luxury hotels and later extradited to the United States.

FIFA said its ethics judges imposed “appropriate fines in relation to the amounts of the bribes that they have admitted having taken.”

Lai has agreed to pay “more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in April.

In court, the American citizen pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking about $1 million in bribes, including at least $850,000 from Kuwaiti officials.

Esquivel agreed to forfeit $16 million a year ago when he pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy linked to the awarding of contracts for the media and marketing rights.

Esquivel’s name was cited Monday in Brooklyn during testimony in the trial of three other South American soccer officials who deny corruption charges.

One witness who formerly worked for a marketing agency in Argentina said he kept a ledger of payments to officials, including a $750,000 payment to Esquivel for “Q2022.” Prosecutors did not specify if the payment was linked to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Rocha was a FIFA staffer and was working for its development department when he was arrested in 2015. He agreed to forfeit nearly $300,000 after admitting to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges last December.

PL Playback: Pogba the key for Man United

1 Comment

POGBACK

Paul Pogba‘s snake hips goal celebration had been dearly missed by Manchester United’s fans.

So too had his marauding runs from midfield since he injured his hamstring in early September. Jose Mourinho had previously said United were a totally different team without Pogba and his display in the 4-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday proved it.

Speaking to MUTV after the game, Pogba shared his belief that if all of United’s players stay fit they can challenge Manchester City for the title.

“The season is really long so we have to be fit – not only me but all the players,” Pogba said. “To win the league we need all our players. When you have one injured here, one injured there, it doesn’t help. It’s always better to have a full team. Zlatan’s back and Marcos after a long injury. It was hard for them but they kept believing and worked hard to come back. We need them to win the league and we’re really glad they’re here.”

Even if he didn’t jinx past Newcastle’s defense to clip in a wonderful cross for Anthony Martial to head home United’s first, or then make a 60-yard sprint to get on the end of Marcus Rashford‘s knockdown to make it 3-1, Pogba’s presence was felt.

His return gave United’s entire squad, and fanbase, a lift and everything is set up rather nicely for him to battle it out with Kevin De Bruyne in the Manchester derby on Dec. 10 at Old Trafford.

With Pogba this season United have played five games, winning four and drawing one.

Without Pogba United have played seven, won four, lost twice and drawn once in the Premier League.

His influence on this team is key to the way it has been assembled by Mourinho and his power, all-action displays and strong character get the best out of those around him. Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku tick because Pogba is linking the midfield and attack effortlessly with his energetic displays. Over the past two months there’s been a main reason why Lukaku had done seven games without scoring for United before last weekend: Pogba.

Pogba’s comments about United pushing City for the title if they stay fit appear misguided but if he stays fit then there’s no doubt United are the best version of themselves.


INFURIATING ARSENAL

When they play like they did on Saturday, the only team Arsenal will finish below this season will be Manchester City.

Seriously.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from the North London derby ]

The Gunners destroyed Tottenham Hotspur with a ruthless display in the first half as Mesut Ozil unlocked Spurs’ midfield and defense, Alexis Sanchez ran them ragged and Alexandre Lacazette played on the last shoulder of Tottenham’s disheveled defense.

Arsene Wenger was rewarded for a bold, attack-minded team selection and with Shkodran Mustafi back fit he now has his first-choice starting lineup at his disposal. If the Gunners stay fit, they can make real charge up the Premier League table in the coming weeks with a bunch of winnable games.

In four of their next five Premier League games they should beat Huddersfield, Southampton, West Ham and Newcastle, with the big tests at home against Man United (Dec. 2) and Liverpool (Dec. 22) showing just how far they’ve come so far this season.

The Emirates, so often the site of protests and fan unrest in previous seasons, is become a fortress for Arsenal who have now won 11 PL games there on the spin, their best-ever run of consecutive wins at the stadium.

Between now and Dec. 22 we will get a very good idea as to what way this season will go for Arsenal.

If Wenger’s players stay fit and he remains positive in his team selection, the Gunners could be rewarded with not only a place back in the top four but much more.


WEST BROM’S GAMBLE

Tony Pulis is the man you want in a relegation battle. So, why did West Bromwich Albion sack him?

A run of two wins in 21 Premier League games sealed Pulis’ fate but what exactly did West Brom’s owners expect would happen?

Pulis’ short-term bump from taking over in January 1 2015 wore off midway through last season and his methods, although lauded by many for preserving his proud record of never being relegation from the Premier League, wear players down over time. Even the wily old crew he had assembled at West Brom (they had the oldest average starting XI in the PL) couldn’t cope with it anymore.

[ MORE: Baggies sack Tony Pulis. but what next? ]

The old adage “losing the dressing room” is frowned upon by folks in the industry but it is clear that’s what happened here. Players believe they are better than perhaps they are, most of the time, and get sick and tired of being told to just clip the ball long, stay compact and try to score from set pieces. Most of Pulis’ training session focus on team shape and denying the opposition the ball. Having the ball is an afterthought. That’s too much for some to handle day in, day out.

And we all know, despite the Baggies being a solid midtable club for seven years in the PL now, that getting rid of one manager is much easier than a squad of players.

Getting rid of Pulis was the only available option.

Yet, after a summer where they did some great business to bring in Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kieran Gibbs, Ahmed Hegazi and Jay Rodriguez, things seemed to be on the up. Yet that recruitment and losing the likes of Darren Fletcher caused issues in the squad balance and Pulis all of a sudden had too many newbies on board who either took too much time to get used to his methods or didn’t want to adjust their game to do so.

All in all, West Brom are now left with very few options to replace Pulis other than appointing someone extremely similar to him. Sam Allardyce is from the area (a boyhood Wolves fan, West Brom’s bitter rivals) is the bookmakers favorite and he would seem to be the perfect firefighter against a Premier League relegation battle.

But, like many PL clubs who have sacked their managers so far this season (hello, Everton, Crystal Palace, West Ham) or are contemplating it (Swansea, Southampton and maybe Stoke) the alternatives to their current boss aren’t plentiful. Keeping hold of Pulis was no longer an option West Brom had but, over time, it may seem like the correct one.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here