Champions League Roundup: Ludogorets defender saves penalty to put Bulgarians through

1 Comment

Amazing scenes out of Bulgaria tonight where Ludogorets defender Cosmin Moti took the gloves as a makeshift goalkeeper and saved two penalties by Steaua Bucharest to help his side advance to the Champions League group stage.

Entering the match with the upper hand after a 1-0 victory in the first leg in Bucharest, Steaua appeared to be cruising until a 90th minute wonder goal from Wanderson forced extra-time for Ludogorets. Then, in the 119th minute, Ludogorets goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was shown his second yellow card of the match and with no substitutions remaining, Moti was forced between the sticks.

After punching away a late cross to ensure penalties, Moti went on to save penalties from Paul Pirvulescu and Cornel Rapa to hand Ludogorets a sensational 6-5 penalty shootout victory. In yet another amazing twist, it turns out that Moti played for Steaua’s arch-rivals, FC Dinamo Bucuresti, for seven years before joining Ludogorets. Thanks to his dramatics, the Bulgarian side are through to the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in club history.

Elsewhere across Europe…

Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0 (Aggregate: 1-0)

Arsenal reached the Champions League group stage for 17th successive season thanks to a 45th minute strike from new boy Alexis Sanchez. Things grew dicey for the Gunners in the 76th minute when full-back Mathieu Debuchy was sent off but Arsenal held their ground to confirm advancement.

Malmo 3 Salzburg 0 (Aggregate: 4-2)

Malmo became the first Swedish club to make it through to the Champions League group stage since Helsingborgs IF in 2000 when they defeated Salzburg 3-0. Markus Rosenberg notched a brace and Magnus Eriksson vollied home to hand Malmo the 4-2 win on aggregate. The victory caps a strong run of form for the Swedish side having not lost or conceded a goal in their last seven European home matches.

Bayer Leverkusen 4 Copenhagen 0 (Aggregate: 7-2)

Stefan Kiessling scored a brace and Son Heung-Min and Hakan Calhanoglu also made the scoresheet as Leverkusen cruised to a 4-0 home victory over Copenhagen. The shutout puts Leverkusen through to the group stage draw and sends Copenhagen tumbling into the Europa League.

Athletic Bilbao 3 Napoli 1 (Aggregate: 4-2)

Three goals in a 13 minute span earned Athletic Bilbao a 3-1 victory over Napoli at the new San Mames, sending the Basque club through to the group stage, 4-2 on aggregate. Marek Hamsik handed Napoli a lead with his 47th minute goal but goals from Aritz Aduriz in the 61st and 69th minutes followed by a 74th minute effort from Ibai Gomez confirmed Athletic’s spot in the Champions League.

Spain gets win after Iran loses equalizer to VAR

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment
  • Spain goal: Costa (54′)
  • Iranian goal disallowed
  • Next: Spain-Morocco, Portugal-Iran

Iran had an equalizer taken away via Video Assistant Referee and Spain picked up its first win of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win in Kazan on Wednesday.

Diego Costa scored Spain’s goal, as La Furia Roja joined Portugal atop Group B on four points. Iran has three, while eliminated Morocco has yet to get a result.

Team Melli lost their chance to sit atop the group when Saeid Ezatolahi rebound was ruled to have come after an offside touch from a teammate.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Spain certainly had its chances in the first half hour, capped off by an attempted overhead kick from David Silva.

Man City’s 32-year-old attacker had a great deal of chances in the contest, and would see a deflected rip bound wide of the goal during three minutes of first half stoppag time.

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

After Gerard Pique missed an in-tight chance to start the second half, Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand made an outstanding punch save on Isco before punching away the rebound bid.

Iran found its first true chance of the match in the 53rd minute, with Karim Ansarifard lashing into a shot from 15 yards that tore into the outside of the goal.

It was moments later that Spain went ahead, Costa getting a goal when a clearance bounding off his shin and into the net.

Mehdi Taremi flicked a header wide of the goal, and Iran thought it had an equalizer through Saeid Ezatolahi only for VAR to step in and call offside on the previous Iranian to touch the ball.

It was off, but only just.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Beiranvand was again on the scene for a 70th minute goal mouth scramble following a drawn-up corner kick by Spain.

Taremi pounded a header over the goal after a Vahid Amiri nutmeg of Pique led to a back post cross.

Transfer rumor roundup: PL duo eyeing Asensio and more

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

The ongoing World Cup hasn’t halted the transfer talk across global soccer, and on Wednesday there are a number of potentially intriguing storylines.


Two Premier League sides are chasing Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio, including Chelsea and Manchester United, while they will have to battle Paris Saint-Germain as well.

Although Asensio is prepared to stay in Spain next season, he wants to be assured of playing time under new manager Julen Lopetegui, who recently joined the club.

The 22-year-old scored 11 goals in all competitions last season for Los Blancos.


Juventus continues to have several players at the center of transfer rumors, and Miralem Pjanic is a name that keeps popping up.

The midfielder won’t come cheap though, with Juve reportedly set to ask for $92.6 million in the event that a club wants to acquire Pjanic.

Barcelona is rumored to be seeking a move for Pjanic with Andres Iniesta now heading to Vissel Kobe in the J-League.


New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is reportedly looking to bring several of his former Napoli players to Stamford Bridge, including Belgium star Dries Mertens.

The Blues are seeking more attacking options ahead of the fall, and the veteran Mertens has become a proven commodity in front of goal over the course of his Serie A career.

Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Suarez

Dan Mullan/Getty Images
1 Comment

The first two nations have advanced to the knockout phase out of Group A.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Uruguay reached the Round of 16 on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia, who has been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.

Hosts Russia will also reach the knockout rounds with the Uruguay win, thus eliminating Egypt as well.

The Barcelona striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute, after a poor read from Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.

Suarez was given a wide-open finish at the far post off the corner kick for his first goal at the World Cup. The 31-year-old had scored a combined five goals during his last two World Cup appearances (2010 & 2014).

The Uruguyans dictated the tempo throughout much of the match, but Saudi Arabia’s back line held strong for the majority of the game.

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

Uruguay will close out group play against Group A leaders and hosts Russia on June 25, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt will tango that same day.

Video: Goalkeeping error grants Suarez, Uruguay gift

Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
1 Comment

Luis Suarez was clearly upset with his lack of finishing in Uruguay’s opener last Friday, but the Barcelona man is finally on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup.

[MORE: Ronaldo’s early header gives Portugal win over Morocco ]

The veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute after a close-range finish off of a corner kick.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais came out to try and collect the cross, however, he was slow in his reaction, allowing the ball to slip through to Suarez for the easy finish.

The Uruguayans will reach the Round of 16 with one match remaining if they hold on to their 1-0 lead.