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Three things we learned from Man City vs. Real Madrid

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MANCHESTER — A 0-0 draw played out at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday as Manchester City and Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League semifinal tie is balanced on a knife edge.

City started brightly and dominated the first half but Real grew into the game and hit the bar through Jese, while Joe Hart kept City in it with two superb stops late on.

It was a tight, tense encounter on a banner night for Man City. Everything is still to play for ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday.

Here’s what we learned from the Etihad.


HART HALTS REAL

Joe Hart didn’t have much to do for the opening 78 minutes but then he proved just how good he is. Hart first stopped Casemiro with his foot as his low header looked destined to go in.

Then three minutes later Hart went one better. His stop from Pepe was world class. After Gareth Bale‘s flicked header somehow found the Portuguese defender unmarked, five-yards out, Hart stood tall and did his best sprawling starfish impression as the ball cannoned off his chest and out. It was a stunning stop and City’s fans celebrated by singing “England’s No. 1!” There has been talk about Hart not being Pep Guardiola’s cup of tea and City’s incoming boss may look elsewhere next season.

Sure, Hart has dropped some clangers over the years but if you add up his mistakes and top-class saves — like the second one he produced at a pivotal moment of a UCL semifinal — I guarantee he’s in the plus column in his career. The 29-year-old seems like he’s been around forever and with performances like this on the biggest stage in City’s history as a club, he delivered,big time, to keep them level in the tie. If Real had scored an away goal it would have made this tie so much tougher.

A 1-0 deficit or worse would’ve been harsh on City. Thanks to Hart they go to Madrid next week with everything to play for and overall it was a memorable night at the Etihad as the home fans and owner Sheikh Mansour realized a dream. Having Real visit the Etihad and go home happy with a draw shows just how far they’ve advanced as a club.

Fernando, Fernandinho DOMINANT

In the first half City’s central midfield duo of Fernando and Fernandinho were especially on point. The Brazilian duo closed down Real’s midfield every time they received it with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric stifled.

Not only did Fernando and Fernandinho shut down the man with the ball but as soon as he was played it backwards or sideways they would charge out and stop Real’s defenders from having any time to regroup. It was relentless pressure, something which worked extremely well for them against Paris Saint-Germain in the last round and again on Tuesday.

Predictably they couldn’t keep that pressure up for the entire 90 minutes with Real making a switch at half time to bring Jese into the game for the static, and quite frankly 60 percent fit, Karim Benzema. Real’s full backs were allowed more space in the second half with Kroos and Modric getting on the ball more, but they only had luck out wide because the Brazilian duo of Fernando and Fernandinho locked midfield down. City looked solid in the central areas with Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi benefiting from a Brazilian shield in front of them.

RONALDO’S ABSENCE KEY

We knew Cristiano Ronaldo was struggling with a thigh injury but the three-time World Player of the Year was expected to still start on Tuesday. He didn’t even make the bench. Zinedine Zidane said this about Ronaldo and Benzema on the eve of the game.

“They have recovered really well, they are 100 per cent, we will test them, but the idea is that they will play,” Zidane said. “They have got to be 100 per cent fit to play, but I think they will be. We will see how they go in training but they are players who look after themselves physically and my idea is that they are both going to be fit to play.”

Just how did 31-year-old Ronaldo go from being 100 percent to not even being on the bench in 24 hours? As for Benzema, he was hooked off at half time after hardly touching the ball and his only effort of note was a shot he almost stuck in the second tier of seating.

Real grew into the game and finished the stronger of the two teams with Jese’s header, Bale going close and forcing Hart into two fine saves. They’ll be happy enough knowing they don’t have a 2-0 deficit to overturn like they did in the quarterfinal against Wolfsburg and at the Santiago Bernabeu they will fancy beating any team in the world. We don’t know the full extent of Ronaldo’s injury but it seems certainly the all-time leading scorer in the UCL will be back for the second leg.

One of City’s fans summed up it best on the train heading into Manchester before Tuesday’s game. Ronaldo led an incredible Real comeback against City at the Bernabeu in 2012 as the home side were 2-1 down heading into the final minutes and then won 3-2.

“He scared the s*** out of us every time he got the ball,” said the City fan. He’ll probably do the same next week, if he’s fit, and that could be the difference in this tie.

BONUS: Zidane also manage to split his trousers for a second-straight Champions League game. Can anybody help the Real Madrid and France legend out!?

USMNT’s Sergino Dest in Spain as Barcelona, Ajax sort payment (video)

Sergino Dest to Barcelona
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USMNT fullback Sergino Dest to Barcelona is nearly official, with the 19-year-old is in Spain as Ajax and Barca are reportedly taking time to sort out the payment plan.

The $27 million Dest is one of at least eight Americans in the transfer rumor mill this week and has been at the heart of a transfer scrap between Bayern Munich and Barca.

Dest was a late sub in Saturday’s win over Vitesse and other reports claimed he had been in Spain for a few days.

[ MORE: Thiago tests positive for COVID-19 ]

It wouldn’t have hurt Barca’s odds that U.S. youth teammate Konrad de la Fuente signed a senior contract this summer after impressing for Barca from the U-16 to U-19 levels.

De la Fuente played right wing in front of Dest at right back for Tab Ramos at the 2019 U-20 World Cup, where the Yanks reached the quarterfinals.

Dest was named Ajax Young Talent of the Year last season and a member of the 2020 Golden Boy shortlist.

He was successfully wooed to stay with the U.S. program despite Ronald Koeman recruiting him to play for the Netherlands. Now Koeman will manage the back at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona visits Celta Vigo on Thursday in its second La Liga match of the season. Ansu Fati scored twice and Lionel Messi once as Barca won its league opener 4-0 over Villarreal this weekend.

Tottenham ousts Chelsea from League Cup

Tottenham - Chelsea
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Tottenham – Chelsea: It took penalties to separate Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea during Tuesday’s League Cup fourth round match in North London, and the first player to miss sealed the result for second-choice Spurs.

Chelsea’s Mason Mount missed the 10th attempt of penalties to send Frank Lampard’s Blues out of the competition.

Erik Lamela’s second-half goal forced the spot kicks after Timo Werner’s first Chelsea goal had given the Blues an early lead at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Edouard Mendy stopped Erik Lamela and Sergio Reguilon on either side of halftime, but Reguilon and Lamela teamed up to level the score in the 83rd minute.

Spurs did not have Heung-min Son due to a hamstring injury and rested several stars to start but called upon Harry Kane, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and Lucas Moura off the bench. Chelsea was still without Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech.


Three things we learned

1. New boys Mendy, Werner impress: There will be better teams including better Spurs teams, butEdouard Mendy was not bothered by the task at hand on Tuesday as he made his first Chelsea appearance following a long-forming $28 million move from Rennes. He made two strong saves when called upon and was confident with the ball at his feet, only causing distress with a failure to cleanly corral a 69th-minute corner kick. There wasn’t much he could do when Emerson’s mistake allowed Lamela an equalizer and penalties are penalties.

It took 11 shots for Werner to get his first proper goal in a Chelsea shirt but the opening tally of his Blues career was certainly a memorable one. Werner smashed a 19-yard shot through traffic to open the scoring in North London and it’s difficult to find fault in any part of it. Coming against a London rival is a bonus.

2. Spurs’ new signing shows Mourinho’s intent: It was clear when Spurs signed Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon that Jose Mourinho wanted more from his fullbacks and the latter was very good on debut. Serge Aurier was on the right flank of Mourinho’s 3-5-2 and spotted Reguilon for a first-half chance denied by Mendy before Reguilon’s cross led to the equalizer. This “second-choice” lineup came right out of Mourinho’s wheelhouse and delivered a fairly vintage performance. Chelsea had more of the ball but Spurs more of the shots.

3. Tempers flare between old pals (Mou still has it): Frank Lampard is turning out to be a manager who loves a touchline argument and perhaps that’s something he learned from his old boss. Lampard famously traded barbs with Jurgen Klopp last season and Mourinho was happy to take his old midfielder up on the offer on Tuesday. You can imagine it might take a lot for Lampard to be surprised by Mou but also that the latter knows which pushed buttons can activate the Englishman (A report online claimed that Lampard might’ve irked Mourinho by becoming more vocal after Chelsea took the lead). The pair did shake hands before penalties but Spurs and Chelsea were growing a nice rivalry before the North Londoners dropped off a bit last year. We’re ready for it to regain its feistiness.

Man of the Match

Werner is always running and could’ve had two or three with a bit of luck or more sharpness. He edges a bunch of players who were not with their clubs in the summer: Mendy, Reguilon, and Ndombele (Wait? What’s that you say? Ndombele has been with Tottenham for some time?).


Tottenham – Chelsea recap

Werner got hold of a seeing-eye Cesar Azpilicueta cross in the 19th minute to open the scoring, lashing home from outside the 18.

Gedson Fernandes wanted a penalty when Kurt Zouma won a tight challenge in the heart of Chelsea’s 18, but none came for the Spurs man.

Then Jose Mourinho became a psychic, as Eric Dier left with injury a day after the boss said he expected more injuries to come to Spurs due to fixture congestion.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

A silky Erik Lamela turn forced Mendy into the first big save of his Chelsea career as it stayed 1-0 to the visitors in the 35th.

Mendy then made a strong stop when Serge Aurier’s cross through the box was laced by Reguilon in the 50th.

A big tackle from N’Golo Kante allowed Mason Mount to cue up Werner, but the German’s 73rd-minute low drive was smothered by Lloris.

Mourinho comically zipped down the tunnel to check on Eric Dier after the center back ran off the pitch and into the locker room only to return.

Dier was soon busy again, blocking Mount’s bid to set up Werner alone in the 18.

Spurs sub Harry Kane nearly made it 1-1 in the 81st but missed the frame.

But it was Lamela who spent the day as Chelsea’s threat and he was in the catbird seat when Emerson bungled Reguilon’s back-post cross.


Upcomimng League Cup fourth round kickoff times and odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Newport County (+560) v Newcastle (-230)  | Draw (+340)— 12:30 pm ET Weds
Burnley (+625) v Manchester City (-275) | Draw (+375) — 2 pm ET Weds
Brighton (+300) v Manchester United (-120) | Draw (+250)— 2:45 pm ET Weds
Everton (-145) v West Ham (+350) | Draw (+280)— 2:45 pm ET Weds
Brentford (+135) v Fulham (+185) | Draw (+225)— 12:30 pm ET Thursday
Aston Villa (-150) v Stoke City (+360) | Draw (+275)— 2 pm ET Thursday
Liverpool (-105) v Arsenal (+230) | Draw (+270)— 2:45 pm ET Thursday

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

WATCH: Timo Werner’s first Chelsea goal is a terrific one

Timo Werner first Chelsea goal
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Timo Werner’s 11th shot as a Chelsea player finally yielded his first goal.

The German hit a 19-yard effort past Hugo Lloris to open Tuesday’s League Cup fourth-round match at Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho branded Tottenham’s 18-yard box “a special box” this weekend and Werner will certainly agree after crafting this memory.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

Werner picked up a Cesar Azpicilueta cross that found its way through a sea of players to meet him centrally outside the 18 and powered home for 1-0 in the 19th minute.

The 24-year-old has 95 goals in his time with RB Leipzig, 14 with Stuttgart, and has 12 for the German national team.

This is likely the first of a great many for Chelsea. His first assist came in Chelsea’s Premier League opener against Brighton.

UEFA Champions League qualifying: How to watch, start times, odds

Champions League qualifying
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American defender Henry Wingo and manager Jesse Marsch face big weeks as the second legs of the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoffs take center stage Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wingo’s Molde drew Ferencvaros 3-3 in the first leg but those three away goals loom large as the American and his Norwegian club head to Hungary.

[ MORE: Champions League qualifying scores ]

Meanwhile, Marsch saw his Red Bull Salzburg come back from an early deficit in Israel to take a 2-1 advantage over Maccabi Tel-Aviv back to Austria.

Salzburg are very heavy favorites to win and advance to the Champions League group stage for another year.

Marsch has also been linked with an impending transfer for USMNT teen Brenden Aaronson, one of at least eight Americans to watch as the European transfer window reaches its conclusion next month.


How to watch the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Tuesday and Wednesday
Stream: CBS All-Access (subscription required)


UEFA Champions League playoff round matches

All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.

First legs (Roundup)

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK
Gent 1-2 Dynamo Kiev
Molde 3-3 Ferencvaros
Olympiakos 2-0 Omonia

Tuesday

Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Wednesday

Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv


UCL second leg odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Ferencvaros (+108) v Molde (+215) | Draw (+230)
Dynamo Kiev (-118) v Gent (+280) | Draw (+235)
Omonia (+325) v Olympiakos (-130) | Draw (+235)
Midtjylland (+170) v Slavia Prague (+155) | Draw (+195)
PAOK (+105) v Krasnodar (+220) | Draw (+235)
Red Bull Salzburg (-834) v Maccabi Tel-Aviv (+1300) | Draw (+600)

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links