Getty Images

Europa League Roundup: Liverpool draws at Dortmund, while Sevilla, Villarreal, and Shakhtar all win

Leave a comment

With the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals finishing up earlier in the week, the Europa Leg took the field Thursday as European play ramped up. Every single team playing got at least one goal, with plenty of late scoring.

Three of the four games saw a winner, with two of those three winners coming on the road. Here is a roundup of the action:

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool

Both teams had big moments just before the 20th minute. Dortmund nearly struck first when Marcel Schmelzer got around Simon Mignolet and cut back to Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the center of the box with the goal open, but Mamadou Sakho made a goal-saving block in traffic on Mkhitaryan’s shot. Liverpool then found a chance of their own on a set-piece after a Marco Reus foul, as Dejan Lovren tried to bounce a header over Roman Weidenfeller, but the goalkeeper was smart to it, earning a foul as Lovren looked to head back in the rebound.

Dortmund’s relentless press gave Liverpool plenty of problems in their own half, and Mkhitaryan was a monster in front of the box, but it was Liverpool that struck first against the run of play. Adam Lallana found Divock Origi in space up front, and one-on-one with Lukasz Piszczek, the 20-year-old turned and fired past Weidenfeller for a 35th minute lead. Weidenfeller had to make another save – off his face – on the last kick of the first half as Origi sprung free on another counter.

Just 2 minutes back after the break Mats Hummels equalized for the home side off a corner. Coutinho continued to cause the Germans problems, forcing a pair of saves, the first a quality low save after good Liverpool combination play. Dortmund poured attackers forward in the final 15 minutes, but were unable to find a way through a packed box and past Simon Mignolet. Liverpool remains unbeaten in the Europa League this season.

Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Sevilla

A pair of goals soon after halftime provided much of the action, but the winner came late as Vicente Iborra tapped home in the 83rd minute for a huge away win. Artiz Aduriz scored just two minutes after the break with a header from the far post across the face of goal putting Athletic ahead, but Sevilla leveled it back up nine minutes later through Thimothee Kolodzieczak who finished expertly into the top corner after Ever Banega sucked the Athletic goalkeeper out of net.

Iborra finished off a wonderful move from Kevin Gameiro, who tap-danced across the top of the box before threading a ball through three defenders to a streaking Iborra who ended up one-on-one Athletic goalkeeper Iago Herrerin. The win is the first of the entire season for Sevilla on the road in any competition outside of the Spanish Cup.

Villarreal 2-1 Sparta Prague

The home side dominated for much of the game, scoring three minutes through Cedric Bakambu in and should have had a few more, but the Czechs came back to even it up deep into first-half injury time as Jakub Brabec used his head to redirect a corner into the back of the net.

Roberto Soldado was a force up front, and Bakambu picked up his brace just past the hour mark on a layoff from Denis Suarez which Bakambu buried into the top corner. It’s the third brace in Europa League play this season from Bakambu, the first time that’s happened in four years.

Braga 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

The heavy favorites put themselves in good position after away goals from Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Facundo Ferreyra sent them through. The Ukranians weathered 20 shots from Braga – six on target – until the final few minutes when they conceded a header from Eduardo to give the home side a lifeline in the quarterfinal.

Lascelles admits Newcastle in for “long, tough season”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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