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Europa League: Dzeko rampant, Ajax held, Fiorentina wins

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The first leg of the Europa League knockout phase came and went, and gave fans a picture to what will likely come.

For Premier League sides, Tottenham looked poor on the road in Belgium en route to a 1-0 to KAA Gent.

[ MORE: Listless Spurs falls to Gent as goal drought continues ]

Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored three of his less impressive goals as Manchester United survived at home against French side St. Etienne thanks to the striker’s hat-trick.

[ MORE: Manchester United wins 3-0 behind a trio from Zlatan ]

Elsewhere around the Europa League, Edin Dzeko looked unbeatable as he scored a hat-trick to put Roma through by a whopping 4-0 score on the road at Villareal. Brazilian youngster Emerson scored the opener just past the half-hour mark, but Dzeko took over in the second half as Roma made the second leg in the Italian capital a formality.

Alexander Lacazette scored twice as Lyon took command of their matchup with AZ Alkmaar thanks to a 4-1 road win in the Netherlands. Lyon fans have turned on Lacazette since he announced he would leave the club in the summer, but goals and wins assuage all problems, and his pair has the French side close to a berth in the final 16.

Fiorentina snatched a big 1-0 away victory at Borussia Monchengladbach despite the German side’s attacking intent. Federico Bernardeschi scored the game’s only goal in the 44th minute with an absolute peach of a free-kick from a good distance outside the top of the box. Dutch giants Ajax were held to a 0-0 draw on the road in Poland. Ajax held 64% possession but could only put five shots on target against Legia Warsaw, and were reduced to 10 men with six minutes to go as 21-year-old full-back Kenny Tete was shown as second yellow card.

Athletic Bilbao won 3-2 over Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia, but the visitors bagged an important second away goal in the 89th minute via Giannis Gianniotas on a superb one-two with former Gladbach and Hoffenheim striker Igor de Camargo. Anderlecht picked up a 2-0 home win over Russian giants Zenit thanks to a pair from 23-year-old Ghanan international Frank Acheampong.

FINAL SCORES:

Manchester United 3-0 St. Etienne
KAA Gent 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
AZ Alkmaar 1-4 Lyon
Villareal 0-4 AS Roma
Borussia Monchengladbach 0-1 Fiorentina
Legia Warsaw 0-0 Ajax
PAOK 0-3 Schalke
Anderlecht 2-0 Zenit St. Petersburg
Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Apoel Nicosia
Olympiacos 0-0 Osmanlispor
FC Krasnodar 1-0 Fenerbahce
Celta Vigo 0-1 Shaktar Donetsk
FC Rostov 4-0 Sparta Prague
Astra Giurgiu 2-2 KRC Genk
Ludogorets 1-2 FC Copenhagen
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 1-3 Besiktas

Transfer rumor roundup: Chelsea in for Pjanic; Lozano to Juventus?

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Pro Soccer Talk examines some of Thursday’s top transfer stories, including a Premier League giant looking to add to its midfield.

[ MORE: Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Luis Suarez ]


Chelsea could be set to join Barcelona in the race for Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, according to the Daily Mail.

The Blues and new manager Maurizio Sarri are said to be open to looking to Serie A to solve some of the team’s troubled areas, including in the center of the park to join France international N'Golo Kante.

Sarri is already said to be keen on signing Napoli star Dries Mertens, whom he has coached for several years at the Stadio San Paolo


Meanwhile, Juve has interest in a World Cup star, with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano attracting significant looks from around the world.

Lozano scored for El Tri in their 1-0 victory over Germany to open their 2018 World Cup campaign, and has become an instant star in the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven.

PSV would reportedly be willing to complete a deal if the Serie A champions shell out over $40 million.


Sticking with Juve, Emre Can‘s move to the Turin side appears to be close to finalization.

Can is set to have a medical in Italy on Thursday, as the 24-year-old anticipates completing a five-year contract with the Serie A giants.


Finally, West Ham United is looking to add to its attacking options next season, and the club could be nearing a record move.

Lazio winger Felipe Anderson is reportedly set to come to the London Stadium in 2018/19 as the Hammers prepare a $46 million deal.

Anderson tallied four goals in 21 Serie A matches last season for the Biancocelesti.

RB Leipzig names Julian Nagelsmann future manager

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Julian Nagelsmann won’t take over at his new club until the 2019/20 season, but Red Bull Leipzig has put a lot of confidence in one of the youngest managers in global football.

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

On Thursday, the Bundesliga side announced the appointment of the Hoffenheim coach, who will continue in his current capacity for the upcoming 2018/19 German campaign.

Nagelsmann signs on with Leipzig until the conclusion of the 2022/23 season.

The 30-year-old has spent two seasons managing Hoffenheim, guiding the club to back-to-back top-four finishes in the Bundesliga.

Leipzig is currently without a manager ahead of the next season, so it remains unclear who will take over until Nagelsmann assumes his role in 2019.

France eliminates Peru en route to knockout phase

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Peru’s loss was France’s gain on Thursday, as Les Bleus reached the Round of 16 with one match remaining in Group C play.

The French knocked off Peru, 1-0, as Didier Deschamps and his side eliminated their South American foe from the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Both Denmark and Australia — who drew 1-1 earlier on Thursday — are still alive in their efforts of advancing to the knockout rounds.

He looked to be one of the best players on the pitch once again, and Kylian Mbappe rightfully scored a tap in to give France the lead beyond the half-hour mark following a deflected cross from Olivier Giroud.

Paul Pogba was at the center of the goal as well, after nicking the ball away from Peru’s Paolo Guerrero inside the South American side’s half of the field.

Gallese made his first crucial stop in the 16th minute, when a link-up between Giroud and Antoine Griezmann forced a kick save from the Peru goalkeeper.

The Peruvians began to use their pace as the first half wore on, and Guerrero nearly scored his first goal of the tournament in the 31st minute, but Hugo Lloris was positioned well to make a save.

Paul Pogba came right back the other way just two minutes later though, and played a brilliant lofted ball into Mbappe, who couldn’t flick it past Gallese.

The Peruvians didn’t waste any time in the second stanza, and nearly came out to a flying start as Pedro Aquino struck woodwork with a brilliant outside-the-foot technique from distance.

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France closes out Group C play with a meeting against Denmark, while Peru hopes to spoil Australia’s chances of qualifying for the knockout phase.

Video: Mbappe taps home to give France first blood

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The match is really opening up now, and France has begun to assert itself with an opener just beyond the half-hour mark.

[ MORE: Denmark, Australia draw, leaving Group C wide open ]

Kylian Mbappe has given Les Bleus a 1-0 lead over Peru after a deflected Olivier Giroud cross found the Monaco attacker just in front of goal for a tap-in finish.

The sequence began after Paul Pogba dispossessed Peru deep in their own half, before dishing the ball off to Giroud.

The goal for Mbappe is his first at a World Cup, as the 19-year-old continues to impress for both club and country.