Canada underwhelms in scoreless draw with New Zealand at Women’s World Cup

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EDMONTON, Alberta – Canada and New Zealand played a fast-paced match but ended in a 0-0 draw on a slick surface at Commonwealth Stadium on Thursday.

The match had to be halted four minutes in as rain poured down and thunder and lighting were heard and seen in the distance. The crowd of 36,544 spectators left disappointed after the scoreless draw, but Canada still sit atop Group A at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

New Zealand Amber Hearn hit the crossbar on a New Zealand penalty in the 33rd minute, and Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt also found the bar in the second half. Both goalkeepers — Erin McLeod and Erin Nayler — came up big for their teams.

“We kind of knew New Zealand was going to come out with a high press and it was going to be kind of a very chaotic game,” McLeod said. “I think considering that, we tried to keep our calm as much as we could. We tried to play around as much as we could and I think we did pretty well. We didn’t build up as much as normal out of the back. Mostly because that’s one of their strategies, to take advantage of that. I thought we varied it up, I thought we had more final acts than we’ve had in the previous game. Now we just have to start putting them away.”

Canada now sit at the top of Group A with 4 points, followed by China and the Netherlands with 3 poiints. New Zealand have 1 point.

Canada coach John Herdman, who managed New Zealand from 2006-2011, said prior to the match that Canada is a better team than New Zealand.

[ MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup ]

“I think regardless of what he says, you want to stick it to him anyway,” New Zealand captain Abby Erceg said. “Anytime you have an old coach going to a different team you just want to prove a point. Like I said, I think it was a fair result today. Obviously we’re out to win and we just couldn’t make it happen. We’ll have to wait until next time.”

Herdman was pleased with how his team performed. The defense for Canada was solid. Once again, scoring goals is something Canada can’t seem to do. For Herdman, their are more positive signs and it’s not all doom and gloom for Canada.

“I’m not going to protect the team, but the stats don’t lie,” Herdman said. “That was a decent performance from Canada. Don’t underestimate the opposition in our group. The women’s game has moved in a big way. You watch China today, completely dominate the Netherlands. The gaps aren’t the same that they use to be. We scouted New Zealand and Wilkinson didn’t get in that pocket. She didn’t score tonight, she got substituted. We dealt with that. The direct play, we knew it was coming. The free kicks and the corners, that’s what we had to deal with. I thought we defended resolutely tonight. We’ve only conceded three shots on target in two games. Two clean sheets. If our front five can start finding the back of the net, this Canada team is going to be decent.”

Coming out of the weather delay, New Zealand looked to be the sharper team. A Kadeisha Buchanan foul earned the Football Ferns a dangerous free kick in the 11th minute. Hearn was able to connect and send a dangerous header on goal, but Erin McLeod did well to push the ball over the net for a New Zealand corner. The Kiwis also had a free kick that threatened Canada.

Canada had a brilliant opportunity to open the scoring with a quick transition and teamwork. Melissa Tancredi fed Sophie Schmidt, who sent a cross into the New Zealand box. Jonelle Filigno forced Erin Nayler to come up with a diving save. Moments later Nayler came up huge and denied Sinclair after Ashley Lawrence sent the skipper in 1-v-1.

“It was a physical battle out there,” Sinclair said. “I thought that we created a lot of chances and we couldn’t put one away. I think we gave them a few too many chances in terms of set plays. We knew that was probably going to be the only way they were going to score against us. I think we were a little careless sometimes.”

A Buchanan turnover forced Allysha Chapman into a bad spot just past the half-hour mark. Chapman got a piece of Hannah Wilkinson inside the Canada box and referee Bibiana Steinhaus pointed to the spot without hesitation. Hearn stepped up and promptly fired the ball off the crossbar. Erin McLeod was beat, but the woodwork bailed out Canada and cost New Zealand a vital goal.

New Zealand controlled much of the opening 45 minutes and Tony Readings’ side was unlucky not to have found a goal in the final third. Canada weren’t able to get forward often enough and turned the ball over in the midfield, thus allowing New Zealand to get going on a counter-attack play.

Sinclair had her volley saved by Nayler and subsequently tipped off the crossbar after both teams returned for the second half. New Zealand also came close to scoring thanks to an attempt from Hearn that almost found the net.
Canada had a lot more possession, urgency and shape in the second half.

The crossbar challenge was on full display once again in the 70th minute, when Sophie Schmidt had her free kick strike the bar. Each side was getting desperate in search of a goal and the possibility of all three points. Herdman quickly used all of his substitutions in a span of 10 minutes. Kaylyn Kyle, Carmelina Moscato, and Adriana Leon entered the match for Filigno, Sesselmann, and Scott.

The trio of changes helped Canada create more offense despite not scoring. Tancredi came in off the left flank and had a tremendous opportunity to blast the ball past Nayler, but the New Zealand keeper was once again up for the task and stopped Tancredi point-blank.

Canada can win the group with a win over the Netherlands on Monday, but Canada hasn’t scored from open play this tournament. The hosts will have to do better in Montreal next week and beyond if they are going to become a serious contender to win the World Cup.

Canada Starting XI: Erin McLeod; Allysha Chapman, Lauren Sesselmann (Carmelina Moscato 67), Kadeisha Buchanan, Josee Belanger; Jonelle Filigno (Kaylyn Kyle 63), Desiree Scott (Adriana Leon 74), Ashley Lawrence, Melissa Tancredi; Sophie Schmidt, Christine Sinclair(C). 4-4-2.

New Zealand Starting XI: Erin Nayler; Ria Percival, Katie Duncan, Abby Erceg(C), Rebekah Stott, Ali Riley, Amber Hearn, Sarah Gregorius (Rosie White 79) , Betsy Hassett (Katie Bowen 77), Annalie Longo, Hannah Wilkinson (Jasmine Pereira 89). (4-3-3)

Alex Morgan out for season with knee injury

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We knew Alex Morgan was hurt. You could see it, I could see it, we all could see it. Yet she insisted all throughout the 2019 Women’s World Cup, “I’m ok.”

Now we confirmation that she wasn’t ok.

Morgan announced she will miss the rest of the 2019 NWSL season for the Orlando Pride with a knee injury, confirming she’s been dealing with the problem since the World Cup. “I’m disappointed I won’t be able to compete with the Pride for the remainder of 2019 due to a knee injury I’ve been managing since the World Cup,” Morgan wrote on Instagram, “and that I can’t be there to help my teammates and my club have more success.”

The Pride are bottom of the NWSL table, with just four wins in 21 matches this season. Morgan has played in just six of those, four before the World Cup and two after, without scoring or assisting a single goal. Orlando won just one of the six games Morgan appeared in, the most recent one on August 21 against second-placed Chicago. Meanwhile, they were shut out in four of the six games she appeared in, with Morgan registering just one lone shot among the six appearances.

“I have already started physical therapy in LA and am eager to get back on the field doing what I love,” Morgan said without offering any other details on her injury.

The 30-year-old USWNT star scored five goals in their opening match of the 2019 Women’s World Cup against Thailand, assisting three more as the U.S. won 13-0. However, she was a consistent target for physical play in the ensuing match against Sweden and was seemingly injured in the 33rd minute, leading Jill Ellis to withdraw the striker at halftime. Morgan did not appear herself over the rest of the tournament, scoring just one more goal the rest of the way and at times looking unusually off the pace. Opposing teams copied Sweden’s strategy, targeting Morgan throughout the tournament with repeated kicks, fouls, and physical play.

“his year has had the highest of highs but along with that comes challenges and sometimes even falling short of my goals I set for myself in 2019,” Morgan wrote in her announcement.

UCL preview: Messi back for Barcelona v. Dortmund, Liverpool visits Napoli

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The Champions League group stage is back. So is Lionel Messi.

Tuesday kicks off the 2019/20 Champions League in earnest, with a litany of powerhouse matchups dotting the landscape. Most notably, Barcelona’s five-time Ballon d’Or winner is in the squad for the trip to the Rhur valley to take on Borussia Dortmund, potentially set for his first appearance of the season after missing Barcelona’s first four matches of the season with a calf injury.

[ PST writers predict the CL group stage ]

Those two teams are both roaring back from disappointing league losses, and come into this match in good attacking form. Barcelona fell to Athletic Bilbao on the opening weekend of the La Liga season, but is unbeaten in their last three with 12 goals in those three games. Dortmund, meanwhile, fell to Union Berlin at the end of August but crushed third-tier Ergenie Cottbus in cup action before blowing out fellow Champions League participants Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 this past weekend. 19-year-old Jadon Sancho provided two assists in that most recent game and will get his first crack at the La Liga giants.

Defending champions Liverpool are on the road at Napoli, with the Italians having integrated Hirving “Chucky” Lozano into the squad. The Mexican international got his first start against Sampdoria over the weekend in a 2-0 win, playing 65 minutes. The Reds fell in this same fixture last season en route to the title, losing 1-0 at San Paolo Stadium in one of their worst performances of the season. This time around they are top of the Premier League through five matches – all wins – but will be without Divock Origi, Alisson, and Naby Keita through injury while Andy Robertson is a game-time decision.

[ Villa, West Ham meet in scoreless draw ]

Chelsea hosts Spanish side Valencia in an absolutely wide-open and loaded Group H that features four quality sides, meaning every game will be a significant challenge. The Blues’ defense has been quite poor so far this season, and will again be without Antonio Rudiger thanks to a groin problem picked up after just making his return over the weekend from knee surgery. Chelsea has never lost to Valencia in six European meetings, their joint-most games without losing against any European opponent.

On the other end of that brutal Group H, new-look Ajax hosts French side Lille. The visitors finished second in Ligue 1 last season and have three wins in their first five this campaign, proceeding without Nicolas Pepe after his sale to Arsenal this summer. Ajax has also lost highly valued young talent, with Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt having left for greener pastures, although they have thus maintained an unbeaten record this season, earning a berth in the group stage while proceeding through two qualifying stages.

Benfica hosts RB Leipzig in another brutal group, Group G that also features Zenit St. Petersburg and Lyon who match up in France. Leipzig leads the Bundesliga with an unbeaten first four matches, including a draw against defending champions Bayern Munich. Striker Timo Werner has a fabulous five goal haul through RB Leipzig’s first four league matches including a hat-trick against Borussia Monchengladbach. Benfica has also started its league campaign well with four wins in five, a solid sign after the loss of young star Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid.


Tuesday Champions League matches:

Inter v. Slavia Prague (12:55pm ET)
Lyon v. Zenit St. Petersburg

Ajax v. Lille (3:00pm ET)
Benfica v. RB Leipzig
Borussia Dortmund v. Barcelona
Chelsea v. Valencia
FC Salzburg v. Racing Genk
Napoli v. Liverpool

Pellegrini chastises Masuaku for red card against Villa

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Manuel Pellegrini said he was “very happy for the performance of the team” despite the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa that saw West Ham record just one single shot on target.

Still, he noted that he was less than pleased with the sending off of Arthur Masuaku, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the West Ham manager said the referee can be easily goaded into soft decisions against the away side by raucous fans. “It’s a typical sending off when you play away,” Pellegrini said in his post-match television interview. “With the pressure of the fans in every foul, of our players that had a yellow card – in this case Arthur Masuaku, Mark Noble, and another player in the first half, I don’t think this was a yellow card, but playing away it is very easy for the referee to send him off.”

Later, he noted that a discussion at halftime with Masuaku about his earlier booking was unsuccessful. “They [the home fans] try to do it with the pressure of the fans,” Pellegrini said in the post-match press conference. “They tried to do it with Mark Noble in the first-half, they try to get a second yellow. We [Masuaku] talked about it at half-time. We told him he must be careful.”

That didn’t pan out, as Masuaku was sent off for a second yellow card earned while fouling Ahmed Elmohamady who had just come onto the pitch moments earlier. The foul was deemed somewhat soft, but match commentator Martin Tyler pointed out – as Pellegrini seems to be indicating – that Masuaku’s mistake was giving the referee the opportunity to make the call for an otherwise needless foul.

Despite the one negative moment, Pellegrini was pleased with the team’s overall performance on the road.

“I prefer to talk about our team,” Pellegrini said when asked about the refereeing decisions. “I think we played a very good game. We had the personality to come here and try to win the game from the beginning, and the last action, the last play of the game we had a very clear chance to score. We played with 10 men exactly the same that we did with 11. We tried defending well, we tried to continue scoring a goal, so I am very happy for the performance of the team, for the personality of the team, and when you are playing away if you can’t win the game, don’t lose it.”

UEFA Champions League group stage predictions

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To have our crew predict it, the UEFA Champions League group stage should prove to be fairly straight-forward.

[ MORE: UCL score predictions, Wk 1 ]

Our three consulted staffers at Pro Soccer Talk have predicted 18 teams for the 16 spots in the group stage, including a healthy three seeded spots for Premier League sides.

GROUP A

Joe Prince-Wright: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge
Nick Mendola: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge
Kyle Bonn: Real Madrid, PSG, Galatasaray, Club Brugge

Zinedine Zidane to bring the UCL magic touch back to Spain? One of our three think so, while JPW and Nick both figure Mbappe and Neymar will be too much for the group.

GROUP B

Joe Prince-Wright: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Olympiacos, Red Star
Nick Mendola: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Olympiacos, Red Star  
Kyle Bonn: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Red Star, Olympiacos

There’s a gulf in class between the top two and bottom two, but be careful with overlooking Olympiacos; The Greek club was very difficult to break down in qualifying.

GROUP C

Joe Prince-Wright: Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb
Nick Mendola: Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb
Kyle Bonn:  Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb

The only team in the world averaging more shots per game than Manchester City this early season is Atalanta. Colombian attackers Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel have combined for six of the side’s seven Serie A goals this season.

GROUP D

Joe Prince-Wright: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow
Nick Mendola: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen
Kyle Bonn: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow

While it’s certainly more complex than Joao Felix against the previous Portuguese generation’s Joao Felix, Atletico Madrid will hope its young wizard has the goods to break down Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juve.

GROUP E

Joe Prince-Wright: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk
Nick Mendola: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk
Kyle Bonn: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk

The order of this group isn’t as interesting as the performances, as American eyes will be watching how Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch manages to get on versus two of Europe’s best.

GROUP F

Joe Prince-Wright: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague
Nick Mendola: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague
Kyle Bonn: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Prague

Is Inter Milan’s renaissance for real? Nick and JPW thinks so, while Kyle Bonn thinks Lucien Favre’s BVB will keep humming past the Serie A giants.

GROUP G

Joe Prince-Wright: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Nick Mendola: RB Leipzig, Lyon, Zenit Saint-Petersburg, Benfica
Kyle Bonn: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint-Petersburg

Anything could happen here, and only Nick believes Timo Werner and RBL can outlast Memphis Depay, Moussa Dembele, and Lyon to win a seeded place in the knockout rounds.

GROUP H

Joe Prince-Wright: Chelsea, Ajax, Lille, Valencia
Nick Mendola: Chelsea, Valencia, Lille, Ajax
Kyle Bonn: Chelsea, Lille, Ajax, Valencia

Massive names with equal-sized questions. In other years, this would look like a group of death, but Lille earned its place via now-sold Nicolas Pepe and Ajax sold a good part of a golden academy generation to Barcelona, Juventus, and others. Chelsea, oddly enough, may be counting its blessings.