Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at AC Milan 2, Barcelona 0

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If you think today’s result will just be a one-off, your memory’s short. This is how Chelsea did it last year. This is how Manchester United did it in 2008 and how Chelsea nearly derailed them a year later. This is how Barcelona goes out, but unlike recent years that saw opponents get a goal and hold out, Milan got two. And now one of the tournament favorites is on the brink of leaving UEFA Champions League before they’ve even managed to threaten their opponent’s goal.

That’s how surprisingly lopsided today’s match was, though that imbalance won’t be reflected in the possession stat. At 73 percent, Barcelona held even more of the ball than they’re used to. Yet paradoxically, their attack was far more feeble, only putting one shot on Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati. Barça never showed the will or ability to solve what’s becoming a surprisingly reliable formula.

That formula: Defend. It’s not complicated. Just keep defending to the extreme and wait for your chances, no matter how long it takes. If you stay focused, camp behind the ball, and force Barcelona to move through you, they can be beat. All you need is one moment – one good bounce, one swift movement – and you can derail one of the best teams in the world.

“The result is definitely unexpected,” Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo conceded after his team’s 2-0 victory. “We faced the best team in the world.”

Milan’s first moment came in the 57th minute, the first real chance of a game that had been chance-less. Off a restart near the edge of their attacking third, Milan let midfielder  Montolivo try from distance. His shot from 30 yards out hit a Barcelona player, went off the hand of Cristian Zapata, and fell for Kevin Prince-Boateng. The Milan attacker turned on his left foot and fired with his right from just inside the box, the bang-bang action leaving Victor Valdés flat-footed as the game’s winning goal flexed the right side of his net.

It was a stroke of bad luck for the Catalans, but sauntering through their road leg with the intensity of camel, Barça was ripe to be caught. It nearly happened in the 11th minute, when Milan broke with numbers after a corner kick. It almost happened in the 16th minute, when a poor touch from Stephan El Shaarawy is all that prevented a point-blank chance on goal. Thanks to long passes from Montolivo and the constant threat of El Shaarawy getting behind right back Dani Alves, Milan was always one movement away from taking the lead.

“We couldn’t create chances, Milan was well-organized,” Alves said before conceding, “We could have competed a bit better.”

Lightning stuck for a second time in the 80th minute when a ball chipped forward M’Baye Niang allowed the French teenager to find El Shaarawy in the box. The young Italian lifted a ball over the right side of Barça’s defense for an oncoming Sulley Muntari, whose finish back across goal put Barcelona on the edge of elimination.

“It was the most important goal of my career,” Muntari said afterward.

No doubt Barcelona controlled the match, but their command was passive, their assured but serene possession playing into Milan’s hands. With three compact midfielders, wingers tracking deep, and a defensive so far back they rarely had to worry about anything behind them, the Rossoneri willing ceded a control that never mattered. They may have only held 27 percent possession, but putting three shots on goal to Barcelona’s one, Milan were the more dangerous side.

“This is a very negative result,” Iniesta said after the match. “When you don’t show up for the game, this can happen.”

With their 2-0 victory, Milan proved more than opportunistic. They were the better side, one that leaves Barcelona needing two goals to have a chance of survival. But even before worry about converting chances, Barça needs to figure out who to create some.

source:  Man of the Match: Montolivo and El Shaarawy were key to how Milan set up, but Kevin Prince Boateng’s finish is what set Milan on their way. Not everybody would have gotten that shot on goal, let alone hit a ball so well that the opposition keeper was left flat-footed. Reflexively shooting as he turned on the ball, Prince allowed Milan to reap the rewards of an extreme but highly successful approach.

And the former Ghanian international did his part on the other end, too, coming back from his right wing position to set up in the area normally patrolled by Andrés Iniesta. The Barça star had a quiet day, and although it was unclear Boateng was the cause of that, his positioning and willingness certainly helped, particularly when he was called on to track Jordi Alba’s runs (as he memorably did to win a ball behind Milan’s line in the 43rd minute).

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Allegri, Milan have come a long way – In the wake of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-Thiago Silva sale, Milan got off to a terrible start to the season. They fell to the bottom half of the Serie A table while struggling to get through their Champions League group.

Now the team sits third and have a path into the Champions League quarterfinals. What happened?

Massimiliano Allegri was given time to figure his new team out, something that didn’t look certain to happen as the Rossoneri stumbled out of the gate. But slowly Allegri determined El Shaarawy was capable of carrying the scoring burden. He incorporated Montolivo, tweaked Prince’s role, and forged a viable central defense from Philippe Mexes, Cristian Zapata, and Mario Yepes.

Along the way, he moved away from Alexandre Pato. Robinho is no longer a major part of this team. Antonio Nocerino, a find last season, isn’t a vital cog in midfield.

Six months after fans were calling for his ouster, Allegri took apart Barcelona. That’s how far his team has come.

source: Getty ImagesWhere did Lionel Messi go? – The best player in the world was a complete non-factor. Milan was tight and compact through the middle, giving Messi no space to work, but even when the Balon d’Or winner started going wide right in an attempt to find room to work, he failed to have an impact on the game. Aside from a 29th  flash when he beat left back Kevin Constant, Messi might as well have been on the sidelines.

For only the second time this season, Messi was held without a shot on goal.

It’s not like Barcelona’s other stars were much better. Xavi Hernández and Andres Iniesta played a bigger part in the game, but that’s to be expected. Milan wasn’t crowding the areas were they operate. Cesc Fábregas and Pedro Rodríguez? Their names were rarely called.

Messi, however, usually finds a way to break through. Even when he’s off, he’s capable of finding a moment of brilliance. Tonight, he wasn’t even close.

A portable approach – Milan’s tactics weren’t complicated. They weren’t dependent on anything specific to the San Siro, and as we’ve seen in recent years, other teams have been able to execute this approach on the road. There’s no reason why Milan can’t replicate this performance in Spain. Carrying two goals out of the San Siro, they even have license to be more extreme.

Barcelona may be able to break through in Spain, but odds are they’ll lose if they don’t change things up. They know their recent history. They know they need a Plan B. They can’t just assume dogma will win out.

The question is whether they can change. Do they have enough diversity of talent within the team to make the necessary changes? Is there even enough familiarity with a different approach to make those tweaks viable? Is there the will to try?

Barcelona’s in big trouble, and their problems transcend the score. They’re not a team well equipped to address this kind of challenge. They may be left with no recourse but to play their normal style and hope this time it wins out.

Packaged for takeaway

  • Victor Valdés actually had a good day, particularly in the first half where a couple of aggressive reads helped him snuff out changes before they developed. But there was little he could have done to prevent either goal.
  • The matchup between El Shaarawy and Alves was a particularly interesting one, with the young Italian tasked with tracking the Barcelona wingback. Early, it became evident Milan was going to try and exploit Alves’s want to push forward, with Montolivo constantly firing diagonals behind the Barça right back. Though the matchup never really bore fruit, it still helped define how Milan set up.
  • Mario Balotelli is cup-tied, having appeared in the competition with Manchester City. He was seen celebrating on the sidelines during the match’s final moments.
  • Looking at Barcelona’s bench, it’s unclear how they could have significantly changed their team. Alexis Sanchez came on, and Javier Mascherano eventually replaced a cut Carles Puyol, but the rest of the team represents a series of more-or-less like-for-like options: Alexander Song, Cristian Tello, Martín Montoya, and Thiago Alcantera.

Stay with us throughout Wednesday as we take a look at the day’s other match, Turkish champions Galatasaray hosting Germans Schalke 04.

Bundesliga: Takeaways from Week 29

Bundesliga takeaways
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Two teams with American players going in two very different directions met Sunday in Gelsenkirchen.

Werder Bremen beat Schalke 1-0 via a wonderful Leonardo Bittencourt goal to give it plenty of hope of avoiding its first relegation in nearly 40 years.

[ Bundesliga: Fixtures, box scores ]

The win also gave plenty of misery to Schalke, who looks absolutely rudderless. David Wagner’s men are winless in 11 league outings with five draws and a total of three goals scored. Three of those losses have come to teams currently ranked 13th and lower on the table.

Schalke has produced nine shots on target in its four matches back from the break, with Weston McKennie’s diving header its only goal in 430 minutes. Next on the docket is a trip to Union Berlin before finishing with Bayer, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg, and Freiburg.

[ MORE: USMNT mid McKennie wears black armband ]

Bremen, on the other hand, can move level on points with 15th place Mainz by beating Eintracht on Wednesday.

There are still tough matches on the docket including Wolfsburg and Bayern — the latter of whom may have already won the league by that June 16 home match — but Eintracht, Paderborn, Mainz, and Koln… there are points to be had there.

Also encouraging: American forward Josh Sargent has started all three matches of Bremen’s unbeaten run. He’s getting valuable experience and mettle for a 20-year-old, even if the direction has been, “Run around like a maniac and make lives miserable.”

Sargent is covering the entire field from his striker position, and he’s being noticed by defenders. He drew five fouls in 70 minutes, won 10-of-17 duels, and posted two tackles, an interception, and a clearance (Sofascore).


Player of the Week: There’s little question here. Jadon Sancho’s return to the Starting XI was an unqualified success as the English winger collected his first hat trick in a 6-1 win over Paderborn.

It was 0-0 before Thorgan Hazard opened the scoring, but Sancho had shown signs of life even while kicking off first half rust.

Sancho went 90 minutes in getting his three goals (57′, 74′, 90’+1), completing three of his four take-ons while passing at an absurd 92 percent given he plays much of his match in the final third.

[ MORE: Sancho honors George Floyd after scoring ]

Additionally, Sancho registered five key passes, two of which were classified as big chances by Sofascore.

He’s one of four players in Europe’s top five leagues to have double digit goals and assists (Alassane Plea, Serge Gnabry, and Lionel Messi). His price tag, rightfully, is going to be absolutely nuts, pandemic or not.

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund recap and video highlights
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

BEST XI

Hradecky (Bayer)

Hakimi (Dortmund) — Torunarigha (Hertha) — Bender (Bayer) — Angelino (Leipzig)

Klaassen (Bremen)

Sancho (Dortmund) — Bittencourt (Bremen) — Thuram (Gladbach)

Plea (Gladbach) —  Lewandowski (Bayern)

Notes:

  • Klaasen joined Hoffenheim loanee Kevin Vogt in locking down the midfield against Schalke. Yes, we exhaustively covered Schalke’s offensive ineptitude but their steely performances won the day.
  • Thuram and Plea are a dynamic duo with power and skill. Plea is now one of the referenced four players with double-digit goal and assist seasons this year, while Thuram is likely to meet him there.
  • Twenty-two year old German youth international Jordan Torunarigha was very strong, making nine clearances, two blocks, an interception, and two tackles while passing at 85 percent.

SCORES

Freiburg 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen — RECAP
Mainz 0-1 Hoffenheim — RECAP
Hertha Berlin 2-0 Augsburg — RECAP
Schalke 0-1 Werder Bremen — RECAP
Wolfsburg 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt — RECAP
Bayern Munich 5-0 Fortuna Dusseldorf — RECAP
Borussia Monchengladbach 4-1 Union Berlin — RECAP
Paderborn 1-6 Borussia Dortmund — RECAP
Koln 2-4 RB Leipzig — RECAP


UPCOMING FIXTURES (Full season schedule here)

Week 24 reschedule
Werder Bremen v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Week 30
Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
RB Leipzig v. Paderborn — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Mainz — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Werder Bremen v. Wolfsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Union Berlin v. Schalke — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Augsburg v. Koln — Noon ET Sunday


STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 28 20 4 4 81 28 53 10-2-2 10-2-2 64
 Borussia Dortmund 28 17 6 5 74 34 40 10-3-1 7-3-4 57
 RB Leipzig 28 15 10 3 70 29 41 7-6-1 8-4-2 55
 Mönchengladbach 28 16 5 7 53 34 19 9-2-3 7-3-4 53
 Bayer Leverkusen 28 16 5 7 53 36 17 7-4-3 9-1-4 53
 VfL Wolfsburg 28 11 9 8 40 34 6 4-6-4 7-3-4 42
 1899 Hoffenheim 28 11 6 11 39 48 -9 6-1-8 5-5-3 39
 SC Freiburg 28 10 8 10 38 40 -2 6-2-5 4-6-5 38
 FC Schalke 04 28 9 10 9 34 45 -11 5-6-3 4-4-6 37
 Hertha BSC Berlin 28 9 8 11 41 50 -9 4-3-7 5-5-4 35
 1. FC Köln 28 10 4 14 44 52 -8 6-3-5 4-1-9 34
 FC Augsburg 28 8 7 13 40 54 -14 5-4-5 3-3-8 31
 1. FC Union Berlin 28 9 4 15 33 48 -15 6-2-6 3-2-9 31
 Eintracht Frankfurt 27 8 5 14 44 52 -8 6-4-4 2-1-10 29
 FSV Mainz 05 28 8 4 16 37 61 -24 4-2-8 4-2-8 28
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 28 6 9 13 31 53 -22 4-4-6 2-5-7 27
 Werder Bremen 27 5 7 15 29 59 -30 1-3-9 4-4-6 22
 SC Paderborn 28 4 7 17 31 55 -24 2-2-10 2-5-7 19

Serie A fixtures set for remainder of 2019-20 season

Serie A fixtures
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Serie A’s season will play out in 124 matches over 43 days between June 20 and Aug. 2.

The final day will see the two leaders in massive matches against traditional powers, as current leaders Juventus host Roma and second-place Lazio visits Napoli.

Those leaders also know when their final showdown with each other will take place. Lazio’s visit to Juventus is the only match on July 20.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Juve is seeking its ninth-straight scudetto and leads Lazio by one point, with the second-place side boasting a better goal differential by nine. Lazio beat 10-man Juve 3-1 in December.

The Coppa Italia semifinal second legs and final will be played in the week prior to Serie A’s resumption.

Napoli leads Inter after one leg in Milan, while Milan and Juve drew 1-1 at the San Siro. Juve had its four Coppa run broken by Lazio last season.

June 20
Torino v. Parma
Verona v. Cagliari

June 21
Atalanta v. Sassuolo
Inter Milan v. Sampdoria

June 22
Lecce v. Milan
Fiorentina v. Brescia
Bologna v. Juventus

June 23
SPAL v. Cagliari
Verona v. Napoli
Torino v. Udinese
Genoa v. Parma

June 24
Atalanta v. Lazio
Inter Milan v. Sassuolo
Roma v. Sampdoria

June 26
Juventus v. Lecce

June 27
Brescia v. Genoa
Cagliari v. Torino
Lazio v. Fiorentina

June 28
Milan v. Roma
Napoli v. SPAL
Sampdoria v. Bologna
Udinese v. Atalanta
Sassuolo v. Verona
Parma v. Inter Milan

June 30
Torino v. Lazio
Genoa v. Juventus

July 1
Bologna v. Cagliari
Inter Milan v. Brescia
Lecce v. Sampdoria
Fiorentina v. Sassuolo
SPAL v. Milan
Verona v. Parma

July 2
Juventus v. Torino
Sassuolo v. Lecce
Lazio v. Milan

The Turin Derby (Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

July 5
Inter Milan v. Bologna
Sampdoria v. SPAL
Cagliari v. Atalanta
Brescia v. Verona
Udinese v. Genoa
Parma v. Fiorentina
Napoli v. Roma

July 7
Lecce v. Lazio
AC Milan v. Juventus

July 8
Genoa v. Napoli
Fiorentina v. Cagliari
Atalanta v. Sampdoria
Bologna v. Sassuolo
Torino v. Brescia
Roma v. Parma

July 9
SPAL v. Udinese
Verona v. Inter Milan

July 11
Lazio v. Sassuolo
Brescia v. Roma
Juventus v. Atalanta

July 12
Genoa v. SPAL
Parma v. Bologna
Fiorentina v. Verona
Cagliari v. Lecce
Udinese v. Sampdoria
Napoli v. Milan

July 13
Inter Milan v. Torino

July 14
Atalanta v. Brescia

July 15
Sampdoria v. Cagliari
Bologna v. Napoli
Milan v. Parma
Lecce v. Fiorentina
Sassuolo v. Juventus
Roma v. Verona
Udinese v. Lazio

July 16
Torino v. Genoa
SPAL v. Inter Milan

July 18
Verona v. Atalanta
Cagliari v. Sassuolo
Milan v. Bologna

July 19
Parma v. Sampdoria
Genoa v. Lecce
Fiorentina v. Torino
Napoli v. Udinese
Brescia v. SPAL
Roma v. Inter Milan

July 20
Juventus v. Lazio

(Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

July 21
Atalanta v. Bologna
Sassuolo v. Milan

July 22
Parma v. Napoli
Torino v. Verona
SPAL v. Roma
Lecce v. Brescia
Inter Milan v. Fiorentina
Sampdoria v. Genoa

July 23
Udinese v. Juventus
Lazio v Cagliari

July 26
Milan v. Atalanta
Roma v. Fiorentina
Juventus v. Sampdoria
Cagliari v. Udinese
Verona v. Lazio
Brescia v. Parma
SPAL v. Torino
Napoli v. Sassuolo
Bologna v. Lecce
Genoa v. Inter Milan

July 29
Fiorentina v. Bologna
Verona v. SPAL
Udinese v. Lecce
Parma v. Atalanta
Lazio v. Brescia
Inter Milan v. Napoli
Cagliari v. Juventus
Torino v. Roma
Sampdora v. Milan
Sassuolo v Genoa

Aug. 2
Genoa v. Verona
Juventus v. Roma
Atalanta v. Inter Milan
SPAL v. Fiorentina
Bologna v. Torino
Napoli v. Lazio
Lecce v. Parma
Milan v. Cagliari
Brescia v. Sampdoria
Sassuolo v. Udinese


How to Watch Serie A

  • When: Begins June 20
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Stream LiveVia ESPN+

German federation explains review of players who honored George Floyd

George Floyd tributes in soccer
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BERLIN — The German soccer federation has defended its decision to assess whether four young Bundesliga players who made gestures in solidarity with George Floyd over the weekend must face sanctions.

The DFB also said on Monday that Jadon Sancho’s booking for removing his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the demand “Justice for George Floyd” had nothing to do with the message — rather, the yellow card was issued because the 20-year-old England forward broke a rule that says players who celebrate goals by taking off their jerseys or lifting them over their heads must be booked for “unsporting behavior.”

Borussia Dortmund teammate Achraf Hakimi, 21, who displayed the same message after scoring in the same game on Sunday, was not booked because he did not lift his jersey over his head.

The DFB control committee is looking into their gestures and those made by Schalke’s 21-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie and Borussia Monchengladbach’s 22-year-old French forward Marcus Thuram to see if the four players broke laws that prohibit players from displaying “political, religious or personal slogans.”

McKennie was the first to make a statement when he wore an armband with the handwritten message “Justice for George” around his left arm on Saturday.

Thuram on Sunday took a knee after scoring in Borussia Monchengladbach’s win over Union Berlin.

Sancho and Hakimi followed suit later Sunday.

Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died on Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee for several minutes on his neck. Three other officers were also at the scene. Chauvin has been charged with murder and all four were fired.

DFB president Fritz Keller on Monday showed his respect and understanding for McKennie, Thuram, Sancho and Hakimi’s gestures.

“If people are discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, it is unbearable. If they die because of their skin color, then I am deeply distraught,” Keller said in a DFB statement. “The victims of racism need all of us to show solidarity.”

Keller referred to meetings with victims of discrimination and representatives of organizations that have faced anti-Semetic, anti-Muslim or racist hostility, and said the DFB and German soccer was showing its clear rejection of all forms of racism, discrimination and violence.

Keller also praised both male and female players for taking a stand and showing their solidarity.

“I’m proud of them. I can completely understand the actions from the weekend. Nobody can be indifferent to what happened in the United States,” Keller said.

Former Mainz forward Anthony Ujah was just given a warning by the DFB in 2014 in regard to the ban on political statements when he displayed a T-shirt with Eric Garner’s name and the words “can’t breathe” and “justice,” in reference to Garner’s death after a police officer placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold.

Now playing for Union Berlin, Ujah on Thursday tweeted a picture of his protest from the time, but with Floyd’s name typed above in bold.

Floyd also said “I can’t breathe” before he died.

“If the DFB’s control committee wants to investigate, then I have to ask myself if we all have the same values,” Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert said. “It’s about a global issue here: The no to racism.”

Leipzig doubles up Koln behind Werner’s 25th

Koln v. Leipzig recap and video highlights
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Timo Werner hit 25 goals for the first time in his Bundesliga career and Christopher Nkunku continued his fine season as RB Leipzig overcame hosts Koln 4-2 in a Monday thriller.

Leipzig moves third with the win, moving onto 58, after Patrik Schick scored his ninth goal in 18 league matches to open the contest. Dani Olmo also scored for the victorious visitors.

[ Bundesliga: Fixtures, box scores ]

Jhon Cordoba and Anthony Modeste scored for Koln, whose top six hopes take a big hit. The Billy Goats remain 11th and are now closer to the drop zone than sixth.

Only Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich has scored more league goals (29) than Werner.

[ MORE: Sancho honors George Floyd after scoring ]

A great early save from Timo Horn on Timo Werner preceded Koln’s opener.

Elvis Rexhbecaj timed his run well and knifed to the near post, where he shot through the legs of Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

The ball hit the post and skittered into the box and Gulacsi could only get a piece of Cordoba’s left-footed attempt.

Leipzig leveled when Upamecano dribbled up the heart of the pitch before finding Man City loanee Angelino on the left for a perfect cross and Schick header. Angelino had an exceptional day on the left flank.

Leipzig took its lead in the 38th minute with a deft finish from Nkunku, who took Konrad Laimer’s perfect feed and popped it over a charging Horn for 2-1.

Werner finished off a lightning counter as Gulacsi collected a free kick and hit a perfect punt to the league’s second-leading scorer.

That was far from the end of the fun.

Modeste hit an absolute hammer to make it 3-2, but Leipzig restored the two-goal advantage when Olmo hit a seeing-eye shot through the traffic to cap three goals in seven minutes between the two sides.

French striker Modeste won a penalty that was denied by VAR with under 20 minutes to play, he then missed wide after beating the keeping one 1v1 break with four minutes to play.

Americans Abroad: American midfielder Tyler Adams continued his streak of playing in every Leipzig match since the break when he came off the bench just before the hour mark.

Adams hit 94 percent of his 18 passes, drawing three fouls, making an interception, and winning three of four duels.