Snap Judgments: Quick reactions to Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League results

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Three huge upsets on Champions League Wednesday fulfilled yesterday’s promises. In the process, English Premier League teams took a big hit. Arsenal and Manchester City’s losses combined with Chelsea’s defeat in Donetsk left Manchester United as England’s only mid-week winner.

Spanish and German teams combined for six wins in seven games, the only loss coming when the leagues’ champions faced off in Dortmund. English and Italian teams? One win in five games.

Group A

Porto 3-2 Dynamo Kyiv – Give credit to Dynamo, because this game wasn’t supposed to be this competitive. After Porto beat Paris Saint-Germain at home on matchday two, their visit from Ukraine’s runners up was expected to go smoothly. Oleh Blokhin’s team had different ideas, equalizing twice before Jackson Martínez’s second goal of the night gave Porto three points.

What a signing the Colombian’s turned out to be, scoring eight times in 10 appearances since moving from Mexico this summer.

Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 Paris Saint-Germain – On Monday, Carlo Ancellotti called for big games from Jeremy Menez and Javier Pastore. Menez responded with a goal and an assist. Pastore registered a helper of his own. Up two at intermission, the Parisians were never threatened, putting forth what’s become a typical, controlling PSG performance.

Impact – Porto stays perfect and on top of the group with only their 1-0 win on matchday two separating them from PSG. Dynamo Kyiv looks like the clear third-best team, but they’ve gotten their two hardest matches out of the way (at Porto, at PSG on matchday one). Playing better under Oleh Blokhin, they can still be a factor.

Group B

Arsenal 0-2 Schalke – An amazingly inept performance from Arsenal, who showed none of the qualities that fuel their reputation for playing one of the most attractive (and successful) styles in the world. They were bad, and Schalke took advantage. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar put them in front near the hour mark, with Ibrahim Afellay’s late goal ensuring Arsenal’s doom.

Montpellier 1-2 Olympiacos – A good performance by Montpellier was left unrewarded when substitute Konstantinos Mitroglou gave Olympiacos their first lead in second half stoppage time. The Greeks managed only two shots on frame, but both got past Laurent Pionnier. Montpellier held the lead and 63 percent of the possession but are left empty handed.

Impact – Arsenal could very well rebound in Gelsenkirchen, but Wednesday result puts Schalke in the driver’s seat. A draw in Germany and they likely win this group. The Gunners may have to be more worried about Olympiacos. With a loss in Germany, Arsenal bring the Greek champions into frame for second, with a trip to Pireaus still on the schedule.

Group C

Málaga 1-0 Milan – A dull game fell to the Andalusians when Joaquin made up for a missed penalty kick with a second half winner. Max Allegri’s shift to a 3-4-3 formation worked to limited degree, limiting Málaga to two shots, though his team is still unable to find ay consistency in attack. Except the rumors about Allegri’s job security to persist.

Zenit 1-0 Anderlecht – This was the absolute minimum Zenit should have expected against a team that still hasn’t scored in the competition. The Russians again failed to show their potential. If it weren’t for a Milan Jovanovic transgression, Aleksandr Kerzahkov wouldn’t have been able to win it from the spot in the second half.

Impact – We didn’t learn anything about Group C. We knew Málaga were the best team. We knew Milan was probably next in line. Though today’s results keep Zenit close enough to matter, it’s hard to get too excited about a team playing so poorly.

Group D

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Real Madrid – Breakthrough. Huge breakthrough for Jurgen Klopp’s team. They got a thoroughly deserved three points from one of the world’s elite teams, in the process making their 2011 group stage results off limits. No more “can they step up” analyses. Borussia Dortmund not only beat Real Madrid, they outplayed them. Thoroughly.

More: Breaking down BVB’s big day against Real Madrid.

Ajax 3-1 Manchester City – Congratulations are due Ajax, who score the biggest win of the Frank de Boer era, but Roberto Mancini deserves all the criticism he’s destined to receive. Beyond having the vastly more talented team, he didn’t have his players ready to match Ajax’s intensity. They were second best all night, and for a team that aspires to be a major factor in Europe, the performance was not only unacceptable, it played into the perception Mancini is not a good coach for this competition.

Impact – With Dortmund stepping up and City faltering, BVB and Real Madrid are destined to advance. It’s just a matter of deciding who wins the group.

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

Scott Heavey/PA via AP
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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.

Modric urges humility after big win, stunning goal (video)

AP Photo / Ricardo Mazalan
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There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.

[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]

Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.

The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.

Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”

That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni. 

Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.

“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”