Author: Richard Farley


Europe League roundup: Everton big winners at home; Spurs left with draw on the road

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Twenty-four games kicked off action in this year’s Europa League, and no, we didn’t watch them all. But thanks to the power of researchery and our friends who are at the games, we can keep you up to date on UEFA’s second club tournament. Here’s what happened on Matchday One:

Group A

Apollon Limassol (Cyrpus) 3-2 FC Zurich (Switzerland)
Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany) 1-1 Villarreal (Spain)

Fabian Johnson was back at left midfield as Gladbach welcomed the Yellow Submarine – one of the day’s more anticipated games. The home side went up through Patrick Hermann in the 21st minute only to see Ikychukwu Uche equalize after halftime. While both teams are expected to get out of this group, Villarreal took an early edge on the cluster’s top spot.

In Cyprus, Welsh referee Lee Evans produced two second half red cards, the first (to Apollon’s Marcos Gullon) unable to prevent the home side from breaking a 2-2 tie in the 87th minute. When Yassine Chikhaoui was dismissed for Zurich, the Cypriots were back to even strength, eventually taking full points to open their tournament.

Group B

Club Brugges (Belgium) 0-0 Torino (Italy)
FC Copenhagen (Denmark) 2-0 HJK (Finland)

Two second half goals from Nicolai Jorgensen gave the home team and opening night victory, one that would have been worse had Andreas Cornelius converted an early second half penalty kick.
In Brugges, the teams combined for three shots on target as Torino returned to Europe for the first time in 12 years with a draw in Belgium.

Group C

Besiktas (Turkey) 1-1 Asteras Tripolis (Greece)
Partizan Belgrade (Serbia) 0-0 Tottenham (England)

Wholesale changes by Mauricio Pochettino failed to produce a team capable of putting a shot on target. Fortunately for Spurs, the team’s defense nearly pulled off the same trick, holding its hosts to two tries on Hugo Lloris. With 63 percent possession, Tottenham eased to a point on the road.

Thanks to a first half goal from Gokhan Tore, Besiktas was minutes away from claiming an early lead in the group. With an 88th minute equalizer from Facundo Parra, however, the underdogs were able to take a result out of Istanbul, leaving four leaders at the top of Group C after one round.

Group D

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) 5-1 Astra Giurgiu (Romania)
Salzburg (Austria) 2-2 Celtic (Scotland)

El Arbi Soudani scored in the 17th, 24th, and 45th minutes for Dinamo, putting the Croatians in cruise control at halftime.
In Salzburg, a late equalizer from Jonatan Soriano pulled back Celtic’s second lead of the day. Despite putting only two shots on target (to their hosts’ 10), the Scottish champions escaped Salzburg with a point.

Group E

PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) 1-0 Estoril (Portugal)
Panathinaikos (Greece) 1-2 Dinamo Moscow (Russia)

One of the competition’s deeper groups saw PSV take care of business at home, albeit in a muted way. Luuk de Jong’s 26th minute conversation from the spot was the only goal for Phillip Cocu’s team.

In Greece, goals on either side of halftime by Alexander Kokorin and Aleksey Ionov had the visitors up two by the 49th minute, with only a score from Athanasios Dinas pulling the hosts within reach of salvaging a result.

Group F

FK Karabakh (Azerbaijan) 0-0 Saint Etienne (France)
Dnipro (Ukraine) 0-1 Inter Milan (Italy)

Danilo D’Ambrosio’s 71st minute goal against a 10-man Dnipro proved the day’s only score, with Group F’s quartets combining for only 11 shots on target across the two games.

Group G

Standard Liege (Belgium) 2-0 Rijeka (Croatia)
Sevilla (Spain) 2-0 Feyenoord (Netherlands)

The holders got off to a strong start against a Feyenoord team still regrouping from its offseason losses. Thanks to first half goals from Grzegorz Krychowiak and Stephane Mbia, the Sevillistas carried their two-goal lead for the match’s final 59 minutes.

In Beligium, the day’s goals came late, with Rijeka able to keep its hosts at arm’s length until the 74th minute. That’s when Laurent Ciman headed hom a corner for Standard, with Vinicius Araujo doubling his team’s lead just before full-time.

Group H

Lille (France) 1-1 FC Krasnodar (Russia)
Everton (England) 4-1 Wolfsburg (Germany)

An impressive European debut for Everton manager Roberto Martinez saw his Toffees up three goals by the 47th minute, with an early own goal from Ricardo Rodriguez giving way to scores by Seamus Coleman and, from the spot, Leighton Baines. Kevin Mirallas added further insurance in the 89th minute, with Rodrguez making late amends with a stoppage time score.

In France, Lille fell behind to Ricardo Laborde’s 35th minute opener, an advantage Krasnodar carried past the hour. In the 63rd minute, Danish international Simon Kjaer hit a free kick into Andrey Dikan’s lower right hand corner, giving Lille a result despite being limited to two shots on target.

Group I

Young Boys (Switzerland) 5-0 Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia)
Napoli (Italy) 3-1 Sparta Prague (Czech Republic)

The slow start to Rafa Benitez’s second season in Naples took a needed turn for the better, with his team rebounding from a weekend loss to Chievo with a victory in Europe. Though they fell behind early after a Josef Husbeauer goal, the partenopei came back with a penalty conversion from Gonzalo Higuain. Dries Mertens added two goals after halftime.

In Switzerland, five different goal scorers saw Young Boys put up one of the day’s most-lopsided results, though late scores from Adrian Nikci (80′) and Guillaume Hoarau (90′) exaggerated the gap between the sides.

Group J

Steaua Bucharest (Romania) 6-0 AaB (Denmark)
Rio Ave (Portugal) 0-3 Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)

Kept out of Champions League by the most surprising circumstances (opposing defender in goal during a penalty kick shootout), Steaua took its frustrations out on the visiting Danes, with Claudiu Keseru’s second half hat trick producing the day’s most one-sided result.

In Portugal, Ukraine powerhouse Dynamo got goals from Andriy Yarmolenko, Younes Belhanda, and Artem Kravets to keep with the group’s theme – favorites putting up landslide results.

Group K

PAOK (Greece) 6-1 Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)
Fiorentina (Italy) 3-0 Guingamp (France)

Goals from Stefanos Athanasiadis in the 11th, 16th, and 28th minutes had PAOK up 4-0 before the half hour mark, with Dinamo reduced to 10 men after Slobodan Simovic saw red in the second half.

In Florence, goals from Juan Cuadrado and Federico Berndeschi piled on after Mustapha Diallo’s red card left Fiorentina up a man and a goal at halftime. La Viola kept 68 percent of the ball.

Group L

Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine) 1-2 Trabzonspor (Turkey)
Legia Warsaw (Poland) 1-0 Lokeren (Belgium)

Former Milan defender Kevin Constant opened the scoring for Trabzonspor in Ukraine, though an equalizer near the hour-mark from Volodimir Gomenyuk seemed to destine the sides for a draw. Four minutes into stoppage time, Avraam Papadopoulos defied that destiny, scoring from close range to given the Turks an upset in Kharkiv.

In Poland, a match short on chances went into halftime scoreless, a tie that was broken in the 58th minute. Scoring from the middle of Lokeren’s area, Miroslav Radovic ensured Legia took full points and shares a spot at the top of the group.

It’s not too late for Major League Soccer to turn away from its new logo


For a young league, Major League Soccer has shown an amazing capacity to admit defeat. Closing the doors on Miami and Tampa. Changing the format for All-Star Games and MLS Cup finals. Saying “enough” to Chivas USA. Throughout commissioner Don Garber’s tenure, the league’s has been willing to embrace its missteps in a way we don’t see fromother leagues. It’s refreshing. At this point in the process, accepting sunk costs is a virtue.

Perhaps that virtue’s endemic to the task. When you start a new league with no proven template, you have to blaze a new trail. Sometimes that means taking a wrong turn, retracing your steps, and taking another crack from, often from where you started. Not every idea is going to be a good one.

There must have been a point when the league’s new logo seemed like a good idea. Else, why would they have unveiled it today? Though a half-empty crest screams “under construction,” the league has elected to go high concept. What you don’t see … is the league’s future.

Unfortunately, the art also speaks to the league’s present, but with far too much honesty for a branding exercise. If the MLSNext theme means emphasizing the league’s process, why settle on a product that screams we are half an idea. We are not the complete thing.

You should not consider us a full, major league.

It’s a harsh, perhaps incorrect presumption, but the early reaction has come to the same conclusion. Reception to the league’s new look has been so universally puzzled, it’s difficult to find a positive response from an established source. Alexi Lalas, Jeff Carlisle (as linked in our previous post) echoes the sentiment dominating the fringes of Major League Soccer: “What?”

The logo is not without its virtues. It has a tail, and as all puppies prove, everything is better with a tail. There are stars on the crest, because winners and patriots love stars. You can adapt the logo to conform to team color schemes, because really, who wants one, consistent way of representing the league? Crazy talk.

At the same time, posterity demands we cast some judgments: The logo is horrible. It’s high concept when simple and persuasive should work. The art looks half done because it is intentionally half done. Whomever sold MLS on paying the same money for half the work, bravo.

If opinions don’t change about the league’s new art, the best case scenario is people ignoring it. The worst: Every new person that falls in love with Major League Soccer comes up with a new, fresh take on why the logo is so bad – a new way of saying “you are half an idea.”

Granted, the view won’t be new. It won’t be fresh. We’re getting that out of our system now. But if MLS continues attracting new eyes, those new eyes are going to have to pass judgment on the look.

I can’t help but think those new eyes were overlooked in the process; or, if not overlooked, misconceived. MLSNext is about looking forward, making the case the league is reaching new heights. But to understand that case, you have to know context, and everybody who gets the league’s progress is already aware of the product. If you’re trying to tell the league’s story, a logo may be the worst way to do it.

If, instead, you’re trying to attract new fans, you want something that generates excitement. In MLS’s case, you also want something that implies stability and trust. You want something that can go on shirts, hats, jerseys, and bags without drawing the same furrowed brows that have scoffed at today’s reveal. Your art has to appeal to those targeted masses.

Maybe this logo will, but Major League Soccer should consider alternatives. The initial reaction has been so universally negative; the league should retrace its steps. They should ask if the quest to be new, progressive, and high-minded overtook more obvious goals. MLS should ask why a undergrad’s art homework is now the league’s new emblem.

And, if they end up agreeing with the fans, MLS’s executives should embrace the sunk cost. They should acknowledge the misstep and chalk it up to ambition and youth. Don Garber and the rest of MLS’s decision-makers should exercise that capacity for defeat that has served them so well over the life of the league.

We all learn from our mistakes. We’re all better for it. When it comes to its new logo, MLS should go back to the drawing board, and come back with a better product.

Arteta: Arsenal “didn’t perform well enough” at Borussia Dortmund

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The final score flattered Arsenal. Unable to deal with Borussia Dortmund’s counter attack, Arsenal’s 53 percent possession turned into a disadvantage, giving up 23 shots while BVB eased to a 2-0 win to open UEFA Champions League group stage action.

Following the game, Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta came to the same conclusion as the rest of the world, even if he was quick to cite the circumstances of his team’s defeat. Ultimately, the Gunners weren’t on the same level.

“We faced a top side in one of the most difficult stadiums to play in Europe. After you go 1-0 down here it is very difficult,” Arteta said after his team’s loss at the Westfalenstadion. “We didn’t perform well enough tonight.”

[ MORE: Arsenal outclassed | Liverpool survives ]

It’s a direct if obvious criticism, given his team only put one shot on target (Dortmund: 7). Though Arsenal were able to hold BVB to two goals, close calls in the second half for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (twice) nearly fueled a lopsided result.

Arteta, however, still saw some positives.

“They played with a lot of pace up front. We could not cope with that and we gave the ball away too much,” the veteran midfielder offered. “We had three or four very good chances but I think they were the better side tonight.”

Awed by his own team’s performance, Borussia Dortmund head coach Jurgen Klopp agreed with Arteta, if in his own superlative tone.

“For us it was nearly perfection,” he said. “If you see games like this it is the best job in the world.”

“We were brave, we were fast and we had everything we needed to win this game,” Klopp continued. “I enjoyed it from the first minute to the last.”