Manchester City comeback ends Bayern Munich’s record run; defending champions still win Group D

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Bayern Munich’s record 10-match winning streak in UEFA Champions League is no more, with a rotated Manchester City team overcoming a two-goal deficit to produce one of the most surprising results of this year’s tournament. After goals in the first 12 minutes from Thomas Müller and Mario Götze, Bayern appeared to be on their way to a perfect group stage, yet a City team starting six reserves got goals from David Silva, Aleksandar Kolarov, and James Milner, handing the defending champions their first Champions League loss in nine months.

Though the 3-2 defeat at the Allianz Arena won’t cost Bayern Group D — FCB’s two-goal win in Manchester giving them the tiebreaker over the Citizens — it was Bayern’s first home loss under Pep Guardiola, the club was without a defeat at home since March’s 2-0 Champions League loss to Arsenal. In all competition, Bayern were unbeaten since their German Super Cup loss to Borussia Dortmund (July 27), today’s loss ending a 27-match undefeated run.

For the Citizens, a team that had already confirmed their knockout round spot, the win does nothing for their position in the competition, but with a short history of pronounced disappointment in this tournament, the result marks City’s biggest win in Champions League. And for a man whose Real Madrid team fell short of glory in Spain at the boots of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, Manuel Pellegrini is sure to savor a victory that quells any notion the Chilean can’t beat his former La Liga adversary.

With a multi-goal win, Manchester City had a chance to take the group from Bayern Munich, and opportunity City’s boss seemed to pass on before the opening whistle. Joe Hart was back in goal for Costel Pantillimon. The long forgotten Joleon Lescott came in at Vincent Kompany’s expense, with Micah Richards starting at right back. James Milner was deployed out left while the returning David Silva got a start up top along side Edin Dzeko. Add in Javi Garcia in midfield for the suspended Yaya Touré, and this was an XI picked to rest its stars, not win a Champions League group.

Against a Bayern team that saw Philipp Lahm return from injury, the approach had all the success you’d expect. Five minutes in, the defending champions were on the board, a drilled diagonal from Dante finding Thomas Müller behind Aleksandar Kolarov, with the German international’s second touch sending a ball behind Joe Hart for the opening goal. Seven minutes later, Mario Götze was abandoned at the edge of the six-yard box on a corner kick, a ball from Mario Mandzukic finding the Bayern midfielder for an easy second goal. The quarter-hour pole still minutes away, the route appeared to be on.

Be it through Bayern complacency or City’s ascendance, the visitors soon found their way into the match, trading attacks with their hosts instead of merely absorbing the holders’ advances. Whereas Bayern’s pressure high through the middle had troubled City at the outset, the team chasing a two-goal deficit had adapted and were soon creating chances of their own.

In the 28th minute, City broke through, halving Bayern’s lead through Silva. Off a cross from Jesus Navas, Milner came in from wide left to head back toward the middle, with an acrobatic play in front of goal from Silva allowing a high leg from the Spanish international to turn the ball toward goal. Beating a transitioning Manuel Neuer, Silva brought City within one.

Going into halftime, Bayern had regained full control, and while that didn’t translate into goals, they were keeping City from threatening Neuer. Near the hour mark, however, two mistakes quickly turned Bayern’s one-goal lead into a one-goal deficit, putting the defending champions’ 10-match Champions League winning streak in jeopardy.

source: AP
Controversially given, Aleksandar Kolarov’s 59th minute penalty kick drew Manchester City even. Three minutes later, James Milner scored the winner in City’s 3-2 win at Bayern Munich. (Photo: AP Photo.)

In the 59th minute, Dante was judged to have brought down Milner in the far left of the penalty area. Though the Bayen defender didn’t appear to have committed foul before hearing David Fernández’s whistle, City was still given a chance for their equalizer, with Kolarov’s conversion making it 2-2.

Three minutes later, Milner went from supporting cast to lead actor, curling a right-footed shot from wide left inside Neuer’s far post, giving City’s rotated side an unlikely lead. Playing a cross from Jesus Navas that had eluded Jerome Boateng, Milner opened his right foot onto a ball from well wide of goal. Catching Neuer moving back to the left post, Milner curled his shot toward the far upright, his spin on the ball sending the shot diving into the far netting, putting City up, 3-2.

From there, Manchester City were able to start packing it in, central midfielders Fernandinho and Garcia sitting deep to protect the defense. While the game became more one-sided, a Bayern team “held” to 58 percent possession now monopolizing the ball, the dynamic didn’t yield chances. City were ready to hold out for the upset.

By match’s end, Bayern hadn’t found a way to threaten Hart, a smiling Pep Guardiola readily conceding defeat at the final whistle. Though the Bayern boss’s regret was surely tempered by the knowledge his team had won their group, his congratulations seemed earnest, the former Barça head coach embrace the hand of a man who’d just found his first victory over a rival.


Goals

Bayern Munich: Thomas Müller 5, Mario Götze 12

Manchester City: David Silva 28, Aleksandar Kolarov 59 (p.k.), James Milner 62

Lineups

Bayern Munich: Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Dante, David Alaba; Thiago Alcántara; Thomas Müller, Mario Götze (Javi Martínez 55), Toni Kroos, Franck Ribéry; Mario Mandzukic (Xherdan Shaqiri 68)

Substitutes: Rafinha, Diego Contento, Daniel van Buyten, Claudio Pizarro, Tom Starke

Manchester City: Joe Hart; Micah Richards (Pablo Zabaleta 16), Martín Demichelis, Joleon Lescott, Aleksandar Kolarov; Jesus Navas, Javi Garcia, Fernandinho, James Milner; David Silva (Álvaro Negredo 73), Edin Dzeko

Substitutes: Jack Rodwell, Vincent Kompany, Dedryck Boyata, Sergio Agüero, Costel Pantilimon

Olivier Giroud signs new contract at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud‘s meaty French forehead will remain in the Premier League for at least another season.

Giroud, 32, was set to be out of contract this summer but he has signed a new deal at Chelsea which is a big relief given their FIFA transfer ban for the next two transfer windows.

Reacting to his contract extension, the 2018 World Cup winner was delighted to remain at Stamford Bridge.

“I am very happy to sign a new contract. I really wanted to stay at least one more year – I have felt a part of the team, the family, since the beginning and hopefully there will be more trophies to come,” Giroud said.

This is a good deal for everyone involved. Giroud had options from across Europe and the Premier League for next season, and he will still have those next summer, but it feels like he has been underused so far during his time at Chelsea as Alvaro Morata was their main man in 2017-18 despite his struggles up front.

Giroud has proven himself as a reliable striker at Chelsea following his move from Arsenal — where he scored 105 goals in 253 appearances and won three FA Cups across six seasons — in January 2018 and helped the Blues win the FA Cup in 2017-18.

He has mainly been used in the Europa League and cup competitions during the 2018-19 season and has scored 10 times in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League final (he is the leading scorer in the competition) against Arsenal next Wednesday.

Giroud has scored 17 times in 62 appearances since making the move across London, which is a decent return considering he has mostly been used as a substitute.

Gonzalo Higuain will likely not be returning for a second spell on loan at Chelsea from Juventus, so Giroud will get more minutes in the 2019-20 campaign and he’s shown he can slot into this Maurizio Sarri side seamlessly. His intelligent hold-up play has seen him develop a telepathic understanding with Eden Hazard and even if Hazard leaves, as expected, this summer, you can see Giroud striking up a similar rapport with Christian Pulisic next season.

Giroud is probably one of the most underrated strikers in the world game, as he is third all-time leading goalscorer for France, behind only Thierry Henry and Michel Platini. If you whip a dangerous cross into the box, he will get on the end of it and often finish it.

Arsenal’s Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final

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Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be available to play in the UEFA Europa League final against Chelsea.

The final on May 29 is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan and that country has no diplomatic relations with the country of Mkhitaryan’s birth, Armenia. Hence, Arsenal cannot guarantee the safety of their playmaker who is also the captain of the Armenian national team.

Despite the ambassador assuring Mkhitaryan will be safe, the Gunners have decided he will not be able to travel with the squad over those safety concerns.

“We are very disappointed to announce that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the squad for our Uefa Europa League final against Chelsea,” the north London club said in a statement.

Due their conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, tensions are high between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Mkhitaryan did not travel for Arsenal’s Europa League game against Qarabag in Azerbaijan earlier this season.

He will now not be available for the final despite being a key part of Arsenal’s run to the Europa League final, which they must win to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. UEFA had previously said they would help with the situation, but this is the latest problem in holding the final in Baku as only 5,000 fans of both Chelsea and Arsenal are expected in the 67,000 capacity stadium due to their being no direct flights and other issues getting to Azerbaijan.

Arsenal released the following statement on the situation regarding Mkhitaryan.

We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party. We have written to Uefa expressing our deep concerns about this situation. Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.

We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career. Micki will continue to be part of our preparations until we depart for Baku at the weekend.

Mkhitaryan responded by saying “it hurts a lot” to miss the final, but added that “we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad.”

Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

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ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.