Borussia Dortmund cruise into Champions League’s final eight, eliminate Shakhtar Donetsk

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In some ways, the match seemed the same as the one Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk played out three weeks ago, a game that ended tied, 2-2. Dortmund was again exerting control, but whereas last month’s match in Donetsek saw a quick Shakhtar side threaten BVB in transition, the German champions had an easy go of it on Tuesday. First half goals from Felipe Santana and Mario Götze had the Germans up two at half and when  Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski scored early in the second, Dortmund had their margin of victory. Making surprisingly easy work of a talented Shakhtar team, Dortmund moves into the final eight, winning on aggregate 5-2.

Most of us who had been following this Shakhtar team expected more, especially with Taison having capably replaced the departed Willian. But Mircea Lucescu’s side lacked the verve they showed in Ukraine. Before settling in after their third goal, Dortmund had heavy advantages in possession, shots, shots are target — the crude measures we use to describe the match’s tenor.

Whereas Shakhtar was able to use their counterattacking game to threaten BVB three weeks ago, today they were muted. This played out as your typical big league titan against a mid-sized league’s aspirant. Donetsk was never in the game.

It took Dortmund 31 minutes to open their account, with Santana — starting for Mats Hummels — heading a near post corner above the post-guarding defender to put BVB up 3-2. Six minutes later, a Robert Lewandwski cross was redirected inside Andriy Pyatov’s right post by Götze, giving Dortmund a 4-2 lead.

Just after halftime, a Götze shot spilled in front of goal gave Blaszczykowskia chance at an easy put back, Dortmund’s 5- 2 lead extinguishing any hope Shakhtar had of upsetting the German champions.

For a team that’s transcending their league, Donetsk’s loss leaves little tangible reward for what’s been a remarkable year. At 18-0-1, Shakhtar’s 13 points up in the Ukrainian Premier League, a circuit that used to be hotly contested between them and Dynamo Kyiv. Now left to gauge themselves against Europe, Shakhtar’s been shown to be significantly behind the continent’s best. It’s not a surprising verdict, but it’s one that leaves the club with little to show for their obvious quality.

For the victors, the decisive result is another sign they’re viable Champions League contenders. While BVB’s recent loss to Bayern was a reminder there’s still progress to be made, not many teams would have hung a three-goal victory on Shakhtar Donetsk. That they did reaffirms the idea they’re among UEFA’s best.

Some may see this result as reason to dream of an all-German final. Until BVB proves vulnerable in Champions League, there so reason that dream can’t come true.

Atlanta leads way with six All-Star Fan XI selections

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It may be hard to believe with all the World Cup festivities going on, but the Major League Soccer season is nearly halfway over.

[ MORE: Toronto FC’s 2018 has been far from their cup-winning 2017 ]

And that means it’s almost All-Star time.

The MLS All-Stars will continue their recent tradition of facing a European superpower in August, with Juventus being welcomed to the United States in early August.

But, which players from MLS will we see in action?

Last season’s expansion sweetheart Atlanta United leads the way in the fan voting with six players from the Eastern Conference side voted into the Fan XI, including attackers Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender/captain Michael Parkhurst also made the team from Atlanta.

In all, only five clubs were represented based on the Fan XI, with the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman, Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi and Portland Timbers star Diego Valeri each rounding out the squad.


Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United)

Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)

Forwards: Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club – EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge)

Saudi Arabia steals late win over Egypt in Group A finale

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Saudi Arabia pulled off a late 2-1 win against Egypt on Monday in their Group A finale, as the two nations ended their 2018 World Cup run in the group stage.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Salem Al Sawsari scored in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time to give the Saudis a late winner in the match, as the attacker struck the post in the dying moments before the ball crossed the line.

The Pharaohs took the lead in the 22nd minute, after a tremendous run from Mohamed Salah and lob over the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper.

Salah has two goals at the World Cup for Egypt, who were already eliminated heading into Monday’s match.

Saudi Arabia was granted a chance to equalize prior to halftime, however, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary brilliantly stopped Hattan Bahebri’s penalty kick in the 41st minute to preserve the Egypt advantage.

El Hadary became the oldest player in World Cup history to appear in a match at the age of 45.

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

The Egypt keeper wasn’t as lucky the second time around though, with Salmon Al Faraj converting a penalty kick in the 51st minute.

Saudi Arabia finishes group play in third place on three points, while Egypt goes winless in its three matches.

Uruguay tops Russia & Group A with perfect record

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The host nation looked strong in its opening two matches, but they ran into a far superior side on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Uruguay finished atop Group A with a 3-0 win over Russia in Samara, behind goals from Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and an own goal from Russia’s Denis Cheryshev.

With the victory, the South Americans win Group A with nine points, while Russia finishes runners’ up with six points.

Suarez gave the Uruguayans the lead after just 10 minutes, when the Barcelona man struck via a free kick on the edge of the penalty area.

The goal for Suarez is his second of the World Cup, which leads Uruguay.

The lead was quickly doubled in the 23rd minute, when Diego Laxalt unleashed a shot from distance that took a wicked deflection and went beyond goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

Laxalt’s effort hit Russia attacker Denis Cheryshev before gliding towards the near post for the own goal.

The fortunes for Russia just got worse as the first half wore on, and the hosts were reduced to 10 men just beyond the hour mark when Igor Smolnikov was sent off after picking up his second yellow card.

Meanwhile, it had been a disappointing start to the World Cup for Edinson Cavani, but the PSG man finally got a goal for his country in the late stages of the match to extend the lead to 3-0.

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

Uruguay will face the runner up in Group B, while Russia will await the Group B winner in the Round of 16.

El Tri star Lozano staying focusing amid Barcelona rumors

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Hirving “Chucky” Lozano was a player everyone needed to pay attention to heading into the 2018 World Cup, and through two matches, the El Tri star has been every bit the price of admission for his country.

[ MORE: Group scenarios heading into the final group stage matches ]

Mexico sits atop Group F with six points at the moment, and much of the team’s success can be attributed to Lozano’s endless motor and creative attacking vision when he finds space down the wing.

The PSV Eindhoven attacker has been linked with various big clubs, including La Liga giants Barcelona, but that hasn’t halted Lozano’s pursuit of guiding Mexico to an unprecedented run at the World Cup.

“The important thing is to focus on the next [Mexico] game, do as well as possible and go step by step,” Lozano said.

Despite winning their first two games, El Tri needs at least a point in its final Group F match to ensure qualification without any complications.

Mexico will take on Sweden on Wednesday, as Juan Carlos Osorio’s side aims to remain perfect in the group stage.

Meanwhile, Andres Guardado — who has been a mainstay of the Mexican national team for years — only confirmed the work ethic of his teammate and hopes that a dream move becomes a reality for Lozano in the near future.

“It makes me very proud to say he is a kid that is very centered, despite everything he is going through,” said Guardado after Saturday’s 2-1 win over South Korea. “He is conscious that he has to continue like he’s not achieved anything.”

“He’s the same kid I met the first time he came with us,” continued Guardado. “Hopefully he stays like that and the rumors about a possible transfer to a big team become reality. It would be marvelous, he’s a great teammate.”