Battling Arsenal bow out, as Bayern Munich reach UEFA Champions League quarters after 1-1 draw (3-1, agg.)

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Arsenal crashed out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, as they drew 1-1 with Bayern Munich away at the Allianz Arena, but lost 3-1 on aggregate in the last 16 tie.

Bayern took the lead early in the second half as Bastian Schweinsteiger slotted home Franck Ribery’s cross from the left, as the Gunners fell further behind. But to their credit Arsene Wenger’s side had a real go at it, as German international Lukas Podolski leveled things up in the 57th minute to give the Gunners hope.

However as the second half wore on Bayern looked more likely to score, as Arsenal struggled to break down the reigning European champions. It was a brave performance in Bavaria from Arsenal but after a disastrous second half of the first leg in North London, the Gunners simply left themselves with too much to do. Late on Thomas Muller saw his penalty kick saved by Lukasz Fabiansk in the dying moments.

After holding Arsenal at bay Munich advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the third-straight season, as the German powerhouse looks to be hell bent on defending their fifth European crown successfully.

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Early on Arsenal pressed high up the pitch to try and take the game to Bayern, but the home side had all of the early play as the Gunners tried to launch some counter attacks. One of those came from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was scythed down by Bayern defender Dante who was handed a yellow card.

Bayern dominated possession but Arsenal held firm and looked solid at the back, however in the 19th minute a lighting quick attack on the left saw David Alaba set up Franck Ribery who chipped the ball to the back post but an onrushing Arjen Robben hit his volley into the ground and over the bar.

In the 26th minute Bayern thought they’d gone ahead as Javi Martinez volleyed home from a free kick, but Arsenal’s defense held their line well to leave four Munich attackers, including Martinez, in an offside position. The Gunners got it right that time, but a nervy night continued.

source: AP
Podolski’s strike leveled things up to give Arsenal hope, but that was as good as it got for the Gunners.

Around the half hour mark Arsenal burst into life as an enterprising run from Oxlade-Chamberlain brought a sustained spell of pressure for the Gunners. The Ox was brought down in the 31st minute and from the resulting free kick Podolski’s effort was deflected off target for a corner. From that set piece Olivier Giroud rose highest but his header was saved well by Manuel Neuer.

Despite that bright spell for the visitors, Bayern midfielder Alaba ran through several defenders in the 35th minute but the Austrian international dragged his shot wide. Moments later the best chance of the first half came as Robben was found 12-yards out but scuffed his shot into the ground after being closed down by several defenders, then Mario Mandzukić sent a header just over the bar as Bayern’s offense started to click. Just before the interval Mario Gotze controlled and volleyed goalwards but Fabianski saved well down low to thwart Bayern as the teams went in level at the break.

After the interval Arsenal took the game to Bayern, as Arsene Wenger made one half time switch by replacing record signing Mesut Ozil, who had an extremely disappointing first half, with Tomas Rosicky in central midfield.

That switch didn’t do much, as Bayern took the lead in the 55th minute and effectively killed off the tie when Schweinsteiger slotted home from six-yards out after good work on the left by Ribery as the Gunners looked to be down and out. But as they trailed 3-0 on aggregate, moments later Arsenal pulled a goal back instantly through Podolski. The German winger played a great one-two with Giroud, before looking to have hauled down Bayern defender Lahm but the referee waved play on as everyone stopped and Podoslki lashed the ball home to make it 1-1 on the night.

Podolski’s goal gave the Gunners hope and soon after a last ditch tackle stopped Giroud from slotting home and then Oxlade-Chamberlain had a long-range effort saved by Neuer as Arsenal went for broke to keep their Champions League dreams alive. Bayern tried to get back on the front foot and should have gone ahead on the 68th minute as Thiago played in Mandzukić to slot home from close range but the Croatian international was stopped by the brilliant Fabianski. In

Arsenal, try as they might, just couldn’t engineer another decent chance and Munich missed a stoppage time penalty kick after Laurent Koscielny was adjudged to have taken down Arjen Robben, but Fabianski saved Muller’s spot kick superbly. Regardless of that late drama, Munich saw the game out to advance to the final eight of Europe’s elite club competition.

LINEUPS

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Dante, Thiago, Ribéry (Müller, 85), Martínez, Mandzukić, Robben, Götze (Kroos, 58), Lahm, Alaba, Schweinsteiger

Goal: Schweinsteiger (55)

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta (Gnabry, 77), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Flamini, 83), Cazorla, Ozil (Rosicky, 45), Podolski, Giroud

Goal: Podolski (57)

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir negotiations back on; Chelsea waiting on transfer targets; and more

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Could Liverpool get its star attacking midfield target after all?

That’s what seems to be the case, as the agent for Lyon and France midfielder Nabil Fekir told French TV channel LCI Monday evening that negotiations aren’t over between Liverpool and Lyon.

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“He didn’t sign because um… it is not over! This is not the end of the story,” Fekir’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes reportedly said.

It was just two weeks ago when Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas stated that Fekir, Lyon’s captain, would remain with the club for the upcoming season, after negotiations with Liverpool fell through. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds wanted a second opinion on a previous knee injury, and had balked at the $70 million price tag.

But now it appears Liverpool and Aulas could still be in conversations to try and find a mutually accepted fee.

At the same time, stirring up transfer drama is in Bernes interest, as it could drive other teams into the race to sign Fekir and raise his transfer fee, meaning more money to him, Fekir (if he gets a cut) and Lyon. Watch this space for more to come during and after the World Cup.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

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On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

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Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

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Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

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Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

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New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.