Late Portugal equalizer leaves United States with just one point after 2-2 draw

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The United States was on the verge of securing a place in the knockout round, but a late header by Varela secured a point for Portugal and denied Jurgen Klinsmann all three points, leaving the US with a gut-wrenching feeling after a roller coaster ride in Manaus.

It appeared that Clint Dempsey had given the US a stunning victory with a goal in the 81st minute, but Portugal remained alive in the “Group of Death” by snatching back a point.

The match started with a gut-wrenching moment for the United States. Just five minutes into the game, Geoff Cameron went to make a routine clear on a ball into the box, but he flubbed it, and the ball fell right to Nani at the back post, and the Manchester United winger didn’t miss with a howitzer into the back of the net for an early Portugal lead.

The Seleção were strong in the early going, both before and after the goal, and the United States struggled to hold any sort of possession.

[ MORE: Man of the Match rankings | Talking points | How the U.S. can advance ]
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But the US held off any more danger from the opponents, and slowly built themselves into the game, proving the more dangerous side by the 15th minute.

It stayed that way for much of the first half, with the US coming close a number of times.

Clint Dempsey had the two early chances for the US on set pieces, first in the 13th minute on a free kick that he blazed just over the bar, and then on an 18th minute corner when the ball dropped to Dempsey on the back post and the striker looked to chip the keeper, just missing over the top again.

A pair of chances then fell to Michael Bradley, and he just missed as well. He struck one over in the 24th minute,and four minutes later skimmed a slow-roller wide, beating Beto the goalkeeper but beating the post as well.

Tim Howard was called upon as the half wore down, and performed admirably to keep the game at just 1-0. A pair of counter-attacks for Portugal proved dangerous, with Howard saving well off a Nani smash three minutes before the break.

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Jermaine Jones’s curling goal drew the United States back level to restore order after Portugal’s early lead.

He’d best that save two minutes later though, as another counter got Nani another shot, which he crashed into the post. The rebound found substitute Eder, who looked to loop the ball into the far corner, but Howard got up from his spot on the ground and tipped the ball wide acrobatically.

The second half began a tactical chess match, but the US had the first true chance 10 minutes after the break. Fabian Johnson bombed down the right flank, and brought the ball all the way to the end line before cutting it back brilliantly into the middle of the box, drawing Beto out in the process.

The ball came to Bradley, and with the goal gaping, he smashed his shot into the knee of Ricardo Costa who cleared off the line, breaking US hearts.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s bunch continued to ask questions of the Portuguese defense, and they got their breakthrough for their patience. A corner ping-ponged through the box before coming out to Jermaine Jones at the top of the key, and with nobody expecting him to shoot, he fired a strike that Beto never saw, and it nestled into the far corner for the equalizer.

As the country caught its breath, Portugal put on a response, with Raul Meireles and Nani bagging half-chances in the next five minutes. Portugal manager Paulo Bento, having already made an early injury change and a halftime sub, then used his final substitution in the 69th minute to pull Meireles for Varela, using all three of his changes before the US had used a single one.

Things shut down for a bit as the US looked to be on their heels a bit, but it would all fall to them in the final 10 minutes.

An attack down the right side through substitute DeAndre Yedlin proved fruitful. The 20-year-old burst all the way down the flank and to the end-line before cutting back into the box.  It bobbled to Bradley, who tried an off-balance shot, but he scuffed it and it fell to Zusi on the far side. The US winger cut the ball back into the middle, and Demspey crashed the box and chested it home for the 2-1 lead.

The Americans were forced to defend as the clock wound down, as Portugal looked to stave off elimination by throwing everything forward.  It went down to the last moment, and a cross from Cristiano Ronaldo found Varela for an open header, and he put it home on literally the last touch of the game.

With the point, the United States remains in second place in the group, level with Germany on points.  Portugal remains alive in the group with the draw, although they trail a qualifying spot by three points and own a -4 goal differential, five fewer than the US.

LINEUPS:

United States – Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya (Yedlin 72′), Bradley, Zusi (Gonzalez 90+1′); Dempsey (Wondolowski 87′).

Goals: Jones 64′, Dempsey 81′

Portugal – Beto; Bruno Alves, Pereira, A. Almeida (William 46′), Costa; Veloso, Meireles (Varela 69′), Mourinho; Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga (Eder 16′).

Goals: Nani 5′, Varely 90+5′

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
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Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


NO DRAMA NECESSARY, BAYERN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS EARLY

Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


CHELSEA’S ISSUES STILL AT THE BACK

For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


BAYERN’S END-OF-SEASON FORM IS TERRIFYING

Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.

VIDEO: Messi shreds Napoli to score fantastic solo goal

Lionel Messi goal video
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Lionel Messi has done, once again, as Lionel Messi is known to do: he has scored another fantastic Lionel Messi goal (video below) in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Andrea Pirlo named Juventus manager | Sarri sacked ]

One, two, three, four, five defenders in his way? So what, says Messi.

One or two decent attempts to tackle the ball away — and perhaps even succeeding on at least one occasion? Again, so what?

He’ll have the ball back, continue on his merry way and tuck the ball just inside the far post, all while falling down, getting back up and falling down again. The goal put Barcelona 2-0 ahead on the night (3-1 on aggregate). Prior to this post being published, he scored again, but the goal was taken away for a perceived handball upon video review.

Surely we’ve discovered a superhuman soccer league we can send him to by now, just to level the playing field a bit more for the actual humans walking planet Earth.

Anyway, here’s the latest head-shaking, smirk-inducing Messi goal video you came to see.