China holds off debutantes Cameroon, returns to Women’s World Cup quarterfinals

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EDMONTON, Alberta – China is headed to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup for the first time since 2007 after defeating Cameroon, 1-0 on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Wang Shanshan scored the game’s only goal in the 12th minute, volleying the ball into the net in front of a hearty group of China supporters on a cool, breezy day in the tournament’s northernmost host city. Li Dongna settled the ball at the back post on a corner kick and sent it back into the mixer toward Wang, who placed it into the net with her right foot.

“This goal was important because it gave us the upper-hand early in the game, so we can take more initiative,” said Wang, who typically plays defender but lined up as a striker on Saturday. “We had more room to play in the second half of the game. [It] reinforced our defense.”

China, which finished runner-up to the United States at the 1999 World Cup, exited in the quarterfinals of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, but did not qualify for the 2011 edition, missing the tournament for the first time. Saturday’s victory came in the Round of 16, the first time that has taken place at a Women’s World Cup, which expanded to 24 teams for the first time.

Cameroon was playing it its first-ever Women’s World Cup, making the knockout stage after finishing second in Group C behind reigning world champions Japan. China finished second in Group A behind hosts Canada.

China will face either the United States or Colombia in the quarterfinals next week in Ottawa. Chinese players say that if they do meet the United States, the pressure will be on the Americans.

“We are already in the quarterfinal,” Wang said. “We obtained our initial objective, so we just need to go as far as we can. No more pressure.”

Cameroon controlled much of the match, out-shooting China 21-9, but failing to convert opportunities. Gaelle Enganamouit was active all night – as she has been all tournament – but failed to find the back of the net for Cameroon. Enganamouit best chance of the night came in the 64th minute, when her looping header hit the top of the crossbar.

Defense has been China’s calling card the entire tournament, and it held strong again on Saturday, to the frustration of Cameroon.

“There were good chances, but look at the statistics and they don’t usually score many goals,” Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu said of China. “They don’t score many goals, but they defend very well. We knew that if did concede a goal, it was going to be very difficult for us.”

China coach Hao Wei was suspended for the match after being ejected from the team’s final group game against New Zealand. Hao watched the match from the stands, but he can return to the bench for the quarterfinal match.

The pre-match messages, assistant coach Chang Weiwei said, were still clearly laid out ahead of the match despite Hao’s absence from the bench.

“Today all the players are wonderful,” Chang said. “They put on a spectacular performance, spectacular, resilient and brave. They are like warriors, fighting like warriors for over 90 minutes.”

Cameroon is only the second African team to qualify for the knockout stage of a Women’s World Cup, joining the 1999 Nigeria team.

Ngachu credited China’s experience – despite the team’s youth – for their victory. He rued Cameroon’s missed opportunities, but he didn’t appear overly dejected by the result.

“That is football,” Ngachu said on several occasions after the match.

On Saturday, football was in favor of China.

Lascelles admits Newcastle in for “long, tough season”

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Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles admits the players are prepared for a difficult campaign after dropping into the relegation zone early in the season.

After a third defeat in their first five Premier League matches, falling 3-1 to leaders Liverpool, the English defender labeled the upcoming match against Brighton & Hove Albion “our biggest game yet” and admitted this season could provide some trying times. “We have had a tough run at the start of the season, tough for any team. So it is going to be a long tough season. Ie have a good 11, a good squad and a lot of bodies. When we start finding the net we will get going.”

Newcastle will be buoyed by the knowledge that of those three losses, two came against Liverpool and Arsenal while the third came against a red-hot Norwich City side. The Magpies also topped Champions League finalists Spurs 1-0 and managed a draw against a struggling Watford side before falling to Liverpool last time out.

“We were in a decent position, a win against Spurs and draw against Watford,” Lascelles said after the Liverpool loss. “Now we need to push and get three points against Brighton. These games are six pointers at home to Brighton, we have to fancy ourselves. They will be big competition for us and Saturday is the right time to do that.”

Lascelles admitted that while the defensive form is a struggle at the moment having conceded eight goals through the first five matches with just one clean sheet – the win over Spurs – everyone is hoping to chip in up front as well, an attacking mentality that flows through the team. “We’re not happy conceding three against Norwich and Liverpool,” Lascelles said. “We are getting chances and creating a lot. When a couple of people start scoring the goals will be flowing and we have had a couple injured as well. It is important we all chip in with goals. I’d like to get a few. Fab [Schar] is a goal scoring centre half. He puts important points on the board. If we and midfielders can help out we will get to 40 points sooner than later.”

Lampard, players look to play down Chelsea penalty incident

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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and his players have come together in hopes of playing down the incident at the end of the game that led up to Ross Barkley‘s fateful missed penalty late in the 1-0 Champions League loss to Valencia on Tuesday.

Barkley appeared to take the ball off a host of other Blues players who wished to take the penalty, with Willian and Jorginho looking the most vocal. Jorginho conceded rather quickly, but Willian was more insistent in his wish to take the spot-kick, pulling up his socks in front of Barkley before finally conceding.

[ Azpilicueta also backs Barkley ]

According to Lampard, Barkley was indeed the designated penalty taker and his assistance was within protocol. “Ross is the penalty taker,” Lampard said in the post-match press conference. “He was pre-season, scored a couple, has been when he started, and was today when he came on and he missed it, clear story.”

“I don’t know what the conversation was,” Lampard continued about the confrontation, “but Jorginho and Willian were penalty takers on the pitch, but when Ross comes on he’s the penalty taker, and he’s missed it.”

[ MORE: Recap, 3 things from Chelsea loss ]

Barkley confirmed this as well after the match. “We’ve got a lot of good penalty-takers in the squad,” said Barkley. “On a sheet in the changing room, it says I’m on penalties when I’m on the pitch, otherwise it’s Jorginho.”

Willian, who was far more demonstrative on the pitch about taking the penalty, said he was disappointed to miss out, but he stands behind his teammate. “I wanted to take it but he (Barkley) was confident to take it. This is football. He missed the penalty but it could be me that missed, or Jorginho or whoever. So football is like this. But when we win, we win together, and when we lose, we lose together.”

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City