Paris Saint-Germain crush Chelsea in absorbing Champions League clash

Leave a comment

Paris Saint-Germain beat Chelsea 3-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie at Parc des Princes on Wednesday.

Ezequiel Lavezzi put PSG ahead but an Eden Hazard penalty made it 1-1 at half time, then an own goal from David Luiz put PSG 2-1 up early in the second half. However one of the major taking points from the game will be a hamstring injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as Paris Saint-Germain’s talisman limped off and his status for next Tuesday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge looks to be hanging in the balance.

However PSG now have a massive advantage heading into the return game, as substitute Javier Pastore danced past three Chelsea defenders in the 93rd minute and slammed the ball past Petr Cech to potentially put the tie beyond Chelsea. The 3-1 victory was the tenth in a row in all competitions for Laurent Blanc’s side and gives them a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg. Can Jose Mourinho rally his side for a Champions League comeback in West London?

(MORE: Chelsea on brink of Champions League elimination, are PSG the real deal?)

PSG took a deserved lead in the fourth minute, as Lavezzi capitalized on a poor defensive header from John Terry and half-volleyed the ball into the roof of the net to put Les Parisiens in front. That stunning start energized PSG, with the home fans baying for Chelsea’s blood as the English side were caught cold early on. Ramires was then booked for Chelsea after a bad tackle and will miss the second leg, with the marauding midfielder walking a tight-rope for the rest of the game.

However as the first half wore on Chelsea settled down and the West London side drew level in the 27th minute from the penalty spot. Oscar was brought down by Thiago in the box, as the Brazilian defender took down his countryman with a needless lunge in the box. Hazard stepped up and sent Salvatore Sirigu the wrong way, as Chelsea bagged a valuable away goal.

source: AP
Lavezzi gave PSG an early lead, as Les Parisiens have a one-goal advantage to take to London with them.

PSG still looked dangerous, with Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani causing plenty of problems. Yet it was Chelsea who came closest to going in ahead at the break, as Hazard met Willian’s right-wing cross with a perfectly executed volley across goal but the Belgian’s effort hit the foot of the post and PSG cleared.

(MORE: Zlatan injures hamstring, huge blow for PSG)

A hugely entertaining first half carried over into the second period, as Matuidi’s cross from the left was headed just over by Lavezzi as PSG started the second half superbly. A midfield battle then ensued, as Chelsea soaked up pressure and tried to hit the reigning French champions on the break.

However in the 61st minute PSG took the lead, as David Luiz gave away a cheap free kick on the left after a clumsy foul on Matuidi. Lavezzi then whipped in a delightful ball into the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ and amongst a whole host of bodies Luiz knocked the ball into his own net to put PSG back in front and compound the Brazilian’s misery.

After that setback Chelsea, predictably, surged forward time and time again as substitute Fernando Torres, Hazard and Oscar linked up to take the game to Paris Saint-Germain. Then in the 67th minute a pivotal moment in the tie arrived, as Ibrahimovic fell to the ground and clutched his hamstring after he lofted the ball forward but then struggled to accelerate. PSG’s Swedish talisman limped off the field, as the Ligue 1 club were dealt a huge blow ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge in just six days time.

(RECAP: Minute-by-minute updates from PSG 2-1 Chelsea)

PSG’s players were dropping likes flies late on as Marco Verratti was caught late and the Italian youngster also limped of, with Blanc forced into two quick-fire substitutions. Late on Chelsea pushed for an equalizer, but the home side almost extended their lead late on as Cavani worked some space on the edge of the box and curled a vicious effort just wide of the post. Substitute Pastore then scored a crucial goal, as he picked the ball up in the box and looked to be running down a blind alley. However the Argentine danced past three Chelsea players and rifled in a hammer blow to Chelsea’s hopes of advancing in the UCL.

The battle between two teams from either side of the English Channel will recommence in less than a week, with the French side sitting on a two-goal cushion as Chelsea have it all to do.

LINEUPS

Paris Saint-Germain: Sirigu, Jallet, Alex, Thiago Silva, Maxwell, Verratti (Cabaye, 76′), Motta, Matuidi, Ibrahimovic (Moura, 68′), Cavani, Lavezzi (Pastore, 85′)

Goals: Lavezzi (4′), David Luiz – Own Goal (61′), Pastore (90+3′)

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Terry, Willian, Ramires, Schürrle (Torres, 59′), Oscar (Lampard, 79′), Hazard

Goal: Hazard (27′)

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

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.

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

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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

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.