Three things we learned from Real Madrid’s win v. Juventus

Getty Images
0 Comments

CARDIFF — Real Madrid secured back-to-back UEFA Champions League titles in style as the Spanish giants beat Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff on Saturday.

[ MORE: Cardiff delivers stunning final

Real have now extended their own record of being crowned Champions of Europe with 12 titles to their name and they’ve won three UCL crowns in the last four seasons as well as becoming the first team to retain the European Cup since AC Milan 1990.

Make no mistake, this is a dynasty.

[ MORE: Match recap | Mandzukic scores stunner ]

Cristiano Ronaldo scored first and last, while Casemiro’s deflected effort put Real Madrid 2-1 up after a moment of sheer magic from Mario Mandzukic leveled the game for Juventus. Late on Marco Asensio made it 4-1 with a tap in.

Zinedine Zidane has now delivered two Champions League trophies in his first two seasons as a manager. Not bad Zizou, not bad.

Here’s what we learned from the final in the Welsh capital.


RONALDO COMES UP WITH THE GOODS, YET AGAIN

For the opening 20 minutes Cristiano Ronaldo spent most of the game falling down and asking for free kicks.

Then, like he always seems to do in the big moments, he pounced. Real launched a rapid counter as Toni Kroos found Karim Benzema who found Ronaldo and he then played in the overlapping Dani Carvajal who returned the favor for Ronaldo to sweep home. Bang. 1-0.

It summed up this Real team who had started slowly and Juventus looked sharper, more focused and more capable in attack, but then their talisman struck and the entire mood of the game changed.

Ronaldo has now won four UEFA Champions League trophies, equaling Lionel Messi. The lines blurring the debate between who is greater, Ronaldo or Messi, have once again been further muddled.

The 32-year-old struggled in the run of play with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini marshaling him, and although he had an off day, like the vast majority of his teammates, Ronaldo came up when it mattered.

Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo were Real’s star performers but Ronaldo, as he always seems to do, stole the headlines as he was handed the Man of the Match award by his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson after the game.

Ronaldo isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but to come up with big goals in big games to win big trophies time and time again, the man is a machine. In the past 12 months he has won two UCL trophies, a La Liga crown, EURO 2016 with Portugal and individual honors with the Ballon d’Or and FIFA Best Player award.

With four Champions League trophies to god name and now 42 goals in the 2016-17 season, Ronaldo has proved he is once again the man for the big occasion.


A FINAL LIVES UP TO THE HYPE

I would’ve been fine if this game never had to end.

The first half was frenetic but composed. Tense yet fluid. Full of quality but also toughness. It had everything you’d want from a final.

Following Ronaldo’s fine finish after a flowing team move, Mandzukic came up with a wonder-goal to level things up.

In the second half tackles flew in as Juve tried to slow down the pace and disrupt Real’s flow. That only fired the Spaniards up and they never looked back after Casemiro’s shot deflected off Sami Khedira and in to make it 2-1.

Ronaldo flicked home at the near post three minutes later to make it 3-1 to all but end the encounter with 25 minutes to go. Ronaldo and substitute Gareth Bale both went close for Real and Alex Sandro flicked a header just wide for Juve with Gonzalo Higuain having a good chance from close range. Juan Cuadrado was sent off as Juve finished the game with 10-men as Sergio Ramos was up to his old tricks.

The game had everything and the quality of play on the pitch, despite Real finishing things off with over 20 minutes to go, was a joy to watch.


MANDZUKIC HAS CONTENDER FOR BEST-EVER UCL FINAL GOAL

This goal is a genuine contender for the best goal ever scored in a European Cup final. Even if Keylor Navas could’ve probably done a little better…

Zinedine Zidane’s volley for Real against Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow in 2001 is one of the best, as is Hernan Crespo’s dink for AC Milan against Liverpool in 2005 in Istanbul, but the audacity of Mandzukic’s strike at such a pivotal time stunned the Millennium Stadium crowd.

The fact that the ball didn’t touch the ground from Dani Alves cross-field ball to Alex Sandro’s ball in to Higuain who chested it down teed up Mandzukic made his miraculous finish even better.

Aesthetically it had everything. Adventurous play from full backs, a center forward playing in another attacker superbly and then Manduzkic with a ridiculous chest and finish to make it 1-1.

The only way this goal could be below Zidane and Co. is due to Navas’ positioning. The Real goalkeeper was caught out by the lack of power on Mandzukic’s shot and it looped over his head. Would a taller goalkeeper have got fingertips on it? Perhaps.

Juventus lost a seventh UCL final out of nine, but at least they have this gem to remember from another disappointing display as Gianluigi Buffon’s wait for a European title goes on.

UEFA Europa League, Europa Conference League live! How to watch, updates, schedule

0 Comments

The UEFA Europa League and Europa Conference League group stages are in full flow as Arsenal, Manchester United, and West Ham are all in action.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the Europa League group stage Arsenal have a lovely set of European cities to visit with PSV, Bodo/Glimt and FC Zurich their opponents, and are clear favorites to advance. United are also favored but have some long distances to travel as they play Real Sociedad, Sheriff Tiraspol from Transnistria and Cypriot side Omonia.

In the Conference League the Hammers have Anderlecht, FCSB (formerly known as Steaua Bucharest) and Silkeborg, as David Moyes’ side will be very happy with that draw.

[ LIVE: Conference League scores ]

The final of the Europa League will be played in Budapest, while the Conference League final will be in Prague.

Below are details on the Europa League and Conference League, including how to watch info, the group stage draw, dates and schedule.


UEFA Europa League, Conference League, schedule, dates, how to watch

Dates: Group stage to be played September to November
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: TUDN, Paramount+


Europa League group stage fixtures & results (all kick off times ET)

Matchday 3 – Thursday 6 October

Group A: Zurich vs PSV Eindhoven (12:45), Arsenal vs Bodo/Glimt (3:00)
Group B: Rennes vs Dynamo Kyiv, Fenerbahce vs AEK Larnaca (3:00)
Group C: HJK Helsinki vs Ludogorets (12:45), Roma vs Real Betis (3:00)
Group D: Malmo vs Union Berlin (12:45), Braga vs St Gilloise (3:00)
Group E: Sheriff vs Real Sociedad, Omonia vs Man United (12:45)
Group F: Sturm Graz vs Lazio (12:45), Midtjylland vs Feyenoord (3:00)
Group G: Freiburg vs Nantes, Olympiacos vs Qarabag (3:00)
Group H: Red Star Belgrade vs Ferencvaros, Monaco vs Trabzonspor (12:45)


Matchday 1 – Thursday 8 September

Group A: Zurich 1-2 Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven 1-1 Bodo/Glimt
Group B: AEK Larnaca 1-2 Rennes, Fenerbahce 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv
Group C: Ludogorets 2-1 Roma, HJK Helsinki 0-2 Real Betis
Group D: Malmo 2-0 Braga, Union Berlin 0-1 St Gilloise
Group E: Man United 0-1 Real Sociedad, Omonia 0-3 Sheriff
Group F: Lazio 4-2 Feyenoord, Sturm Graz 1-0 Midtjylland
Group G: Freiburg 2-1 Qarabag, Nantes 2-1 Olympiacos
Group H: Red Star Belgrade 0-1 Monaco, Ferencvaros 3-2 Trabzonspor

Matchday 2 – Thursday 15 September

Group A: Arsenal vs PSV Eindhoven (postponed), Bodo/Glimt vs Zurich
Group B: Dynamo Kyiv 0-1 AEK Larnaca, Rennes 2-2 Fenerbahce
Group C: Real Betis 3-2 Ludogorets, Roma 3-0 HJK Helsinki
Group D: St Gilloise 3-2 Malmo, Braga 1-0 Union Berlin
Group E: Real Sociedad 2-1 Omonia, Sheriff 0-2 Man United
Group F: Midtjylland 5-1 Lazio, Feyenoord 6-0 Sturm Graz
Group G: Olympiacos 0-3 Freiburg, Qarabag 3-0 Nantes
Group H: Trabzonspor 2-1 Red Star Belgrade, Monaco 0-1 Ferencvaros

Matchday 3 – Thursday 6 October

Group A: Zurich vs PSV Eindhoven (12:45), Arsenal vs Bodo/Glimt (3:00)
Group B: Rennes vs Dynamo Kyiv, Fenerbahce vs AEK Larnaca (3:00)
Group C: HJK Helsinki vs Ludogorets (12:45), Roma vs Real Betis (3:00)
Group D: Malmo vs Union Berlin (12:45), Braga vs St Gilloise (3:00)
Group E: Sheriff vs Real Sociedad, Omonia vs Man United (12:45)
Group F: Sturm Graz vs Lazio (12:45), Midtjylland vs Feyenoord (3:00)
Group G: Freiburg vs Nantes, Olympiacos vs Qarabag (3:00)
Group H: Red Star Belgrade vs Ferencvaros, Monaco vs Trabzonspor (12:45)

Matchday 4 – Thursday 13 October

Group A: Bodo/Glimt vs Arsenal (12:45), PSV Eindhoven vs Zurich (3:00)
Group B: AEK Larnaca vs Fenerbahce, Dynamo Kyiv vs Rennes (12:45)
Group C: Real Betis vs Roma (12:45), Ludogorets vs HJK Helsinki (3:00)
Group D: St Gilloise vs Braga (12:45), Union Berlin vs Malmo (3:00)
Group E: Man United vs Omonia, Real Sociedad vs Sheriff (3:00)
Group F: Feyenoord vs Midtjylland (12:45), Lazio vs Sturm Graz (3:00)
Group G: Nantes vs Freiburg, Qarabag vs Olympiacos (12:45)
Group H: Trabzonspor vs Monaco, Ferencvaros vs Red Star Belgrade (3:00)

Matchday 5 – Thursday 27 October

Group A: Zurich vs Bodo/Glimt, PSV Eindhoven vs Arsenal (12:45)
Group B: AEK Larnaca vs Dynamo Kyiv, Fenerbahce vs Rennes (12:45)
Group C: Ludogorets vs Real Betis (12:45), HJK Helsinki vs Roma (3:00)
Group D: Malmo vs St Gilloise, Union Berlin vs Braga (12:45)
Group E: Man United vs Sheriff, Omonia vs Real Sociedad (3:00)
Group F: Lazio vs Midtjylland (12:45), Sturm Graz vs Feyenoord (3:00)
Group G: Freiburg vs Olympiacos, Nantes vs Qarabag (3:00)
Group H: Red Star Belgrade vs Trabzonspor, Ferencvaros vs Monaco (3:00)

Matchday 6 – Thursday 3 November

Group A: Arsenal vs Zurich, Bodo/Glimt vs PSV Eindhoven (3:00)
Group B: Dynamo Kyiv vs Fenerbahce, Rennes vs AEK Larnaca (3:00)
Group C: Real Betis vs HJK Helsinki, Roma vs Ludogorets (3:00)
Group D: St Gilloise vs Union Berlin, Braga vs Malmo (3:00)
Group E: Real Sociedad vs Man United, Sheriff vs Omonia (12:45)
Group F: Midtjylland vs Sturm Graz, Feyenoord vs Lazio (12:45)
Group G: Olympiacos vs Nantes, Qarabag vs Freiburg (12:45)
Group H: Trabzonspor vs Ferencvaros, Monaco vs Red Star Belgrade (12:45)

Europa League groups

Group A: Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven, Bodo/Glimt, FC Zurich
Group B: Dynamo Kiev, Rennes, Fenerbahce, AEK Larnaca
Group C: Roma, Ludogorets, Real Betis, HJK Helsinki
Group D: Braga, Malmo, Union Berlin, Union Saint-Gilloise
Group E: Manchester United, Real Sociedad, Sheriff Tiraspol, Omonia
Group F: Lazio, Feyenoord, Midtjylland, Sturm Graz
Group G: Olympiacos, Qarabag, SC Freiburg, Nantes
Group H: Red Star Belgrade, Monaco, Ferencvaros, Trabzonspor


Europa Conference League group stage fixtures (all kick off times ET)

Matchday 3 – Thursday 6 October

Group A: Hearts vs Fiorentina, RFS vs Istanbul Basaksehir (3:00)
Group B: Anderlecht vs West Ham, Silkeborg vs FCSB (12:45)
Group C: Lech vs H. Beer-Sheva (12:45), Villarreal vs Austria Wien (3:00)
Group D: Slovacko vs Nice (12:45), Cologne vs Partizan (3:00)
Group E: Dnipro-1 vs Vaduz (12:45), AZ Alkmaar vs Apollon Limassol (3:00)
Group F: Molde vs Shamrock Rovers (12:45), Gent vs Djurgarden (3:00)
Group G: Sivasspor vs Ballkani (12:45), Slavia Prague vs CFR Cluj (3:00)
Group H: Pyunik vs Zalgiris (12:45), Basel vs Slovan Bratislava (3:00)


Matchday 1 – Thursday 8 September

Group A: Hearts vs Istanbul Basaksehir, Fiorentina vs RFS (18:45)
Group B: Anderlecht vs Silkeborg (12:45), West Ham vs FCSB (21:00)
Group C: Villarreal vs Lech, Austria Wien vs H. Beer-Sheva (18:45)
Group D: Slovacko vs Partizan, Nice vs Cologne (18:45)
Group E: Vaduz vs Apollon Limassol, Dnipro-1 vs AZ Alkmaar (3:00)
Group F: Molde vs Gent, Shamrock Rovers vs Djurgarden (3:00)
Group G: Ballkani vs CFR Cluj (12:45), Sivasspor vs Slavia Prague (3:00)
Group H: Basel vs Pyunik, Slovan Bratislava vs Zalgiris (3:00)

Matchday 2 – Thursday 15 September

Group A: RFS vs Hearts, Istanbul Basaksehir vs Fiorentina (3:00)
Group B: FCSB vs Anderlecht, Silkeborg vs West Ham (3:00)
Group C: Lech vs Austria Wien, H. Beer-Sheva vs Villarreal (3:00)
Group D: Partizan vs Nice, Cologne vs Slovacko (3:00)
Group E: Apollon Limassol vs Dnipro-1, AZ Alkmaar vs Vaduz (12:45)
Group F: Djurgarden vs Molde, Gent vs Shamrock Rovers (12:45)
Group G: Slavia Prague vs Ballkani, CFR Cluj vs Sivasspor (12:45)
Group H: Zalgiris vs Basel, Pyunik vs Slovan Bratislava (12:45)

Matchday 3 – Thursday 6 October

Group A: Hearts vs Fiorentina, RFS vs Istanbul Basaksehir (3:00)
Group B: Anderlecht vs West Ham, Silkeborg vs FCSB (12:45)
Group C: Lech vs H. Beer-Sheva (12:45), Villarreal vs Austria Wien (3:00)
Group D: Slovacko vs Nice (12:45), Cologne vs Partizan (3:00)
Group E: Dnipro-1 vs Vaduz (12:45), AZ Alkmaar vs Apollon Limassol (3:00)
Group F: Molde vs Shamrock Rovers (12:45), Gent vs Djurgarden (3:00)
Group G: Sivasspor vs Ballkani (12:45), Slavia Prague vs CFR Cluj (3:00)
Group H: Pyunik vs Zalgiris (12:45), Basel vs Slovan Bratislava (3:00)

Matchday 4 – Thursday 13 October

Group A: Istanbul Basaksehir vs RFS, Fiorentina vs Hearts (12:45)
Group B: FCSB vs Silkeborg, West Ham vs Anderlecht (3:00)
Group C: Austria Wien vs Villarreal (12:45), H. Beer-Sheva vs Lech (3:00)
Group D: Partizan vs Cologne (12:45), Nice vs Slovacko (3:00)
Group E: Apollon Limassol vs AZ Alkmaar (12:45), Vaduz vs Dnipro-1 (3:00)
Group F: Djurgarden vs Gent (12:45), Shamrock Rovers vs Molde (3:00)
Group G: CFR Cluj vs Slavia Prague (12:45), Ballkani vs Sivasspor (3:00)
Group H: Slovan Bratislava vs Basel (12:45), Zalgiris vs Pyunik (3:00)

Matchday 5 – Thursday 27 October

Group A: Fiorentina vs Istanbul Basaksehir (12:45), Hearts vs RFS (3:00)
Group B: Anderlecht vs FCSB (12:45), West Ham vs Silkeborg (3:00)
Group C: Villarreal vs H. Beer-Sheva, Austria Wien vs Lech (12:45)
Group D: Slovacko vs Cologne, Nice vs Partizan (12:45)
Group E: Vaduz vs AZ Alkmaar (12:45), Dnipro-1 vs Apollon Limassol (3:00)
Group F: Molde vs Djurgarden, Shamrock Rovers vs Gent (3:00)
Group G: Ballkani vs Slavia Prague, Sivasspor vs CFR Cluj (3:00)
Group H: Basel vs Zalgiris, Slovan Bratislava vs Pyunik (3:00)

Matchday 6 – Thursday 3 November

Group A: RFS vs Fiorentina, Istanbul Basaksehir vs Hearts (11:30)
Group B: FCSB vs West Ham, Silkeborg vs Anderlecht (3:00)
Group C: Lech vs Villarreal, H. Beer-Sheva vs Austria Wien (3:00)
Group D: Partizan vs Slovacko, Cologne vs Nice (3:00)
Group E: Apollon Limassol vs Vaduz, AZ Alkmaar vs Dnipro-1 (12:45)
Group F: Djurgarden vs Shamrock Rovers, Gent vs Molde (12:45)
Group G: Slavia Prague vs Sivasspor, CFR Cluj vs Ballkani (12:45)
Group H: Zalgiris vs Slovan Bratislava, Pyunik vs Basel (12:45)

Europa Conference League groups

Group A: Istanbul Basaksehir, Fiorentina, Hearts, RFS
Group B: West Ham, FCSB, Anderlecht, Silkeborg
Group C: Villarreal, Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Austria Wien, Lech Poznan
Group D: Partizan Belgrade, FC Cologne, Nice, Slovacko
Group E: AZ Alkmaar, Apollon Nicosia, Vaduz, Dnipro-1
Group F: Gent, Molde, Shamrock Rovers, Djurgarden
Group G: Slavia Prague, CFR Cluj, Sivasspor, Ballkani
Group H: Basel, Slovan Bratislava, Zalgiris, Pyunik


Ever Wonder why there is an actual cottage at Craven Cottage?

0 Comments

Our ‘Ever Wonder’ series will run throughout the 2022-23 Premier League season and focuses on key stories behind the history, tradition and culture of all 20 Premier League clubs.

[ MORE: Check out our ‘Ever Wonder’ series in full ]

Have you ever sat there and wondered why certain chants became iconic at a club? Why a team has a certain nickname? Why they play in those colors? How they were founded? Yep, us too.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

This season we will be digging deep to tell the stories of the rich history, tradition and culture from around the Premier League and give you the answers to things you want to know more about.


Ever Wonder why there is a cottage at Craven Cottage?

Fulham’s Craven Cottage is loved the world over. Their home by the banks of the River Thames is one of the most historic, and beautiful, stadiums in the game.

But have you ever wondered why there is an actual cottage in the corner of Craven Cottage?

And have you ever wondered what came first: the cottage or the stadium? Yep. Us too.


Fancy cottage and clientele

There has been a cottage on this site since 1780 when William Craven, who was the Sixth Baron Craven, built a cottage in a wooded area which is now on the site of Craven Cottage stadium.

It is also believed the site was previously used as Anne Boleyn’s hunting ground in the 1500s when she was the Queen of England. Fancy cottage indeed.

Legend has it that several famous writers also stayed at the original cottage for inspiration, and how could you not be inspired by this setting!?


Rebuild and Fulham’s arrival

A fire destroyed the original buildings in 1888 and the ground was left derelict until 1894 when Fulham (London’s oldest professional club as they being founded in 1879 at St Andrew’s Church in West Kensington) bought the land to build Craven Cottage stadium.

The stadium was updated extensively in 1905 by renowned football stadium architect Archibald Leitch.

If this doesn’t scream football history, I don’t know what does…


Why is there a cottage?

After Fulham’s first match in their gleaming new home there was one small problem to solve which explains why the cottage is there: there were no locker rooms built for players to use.

‘Not a problem, we will build a fancy cottage for that’ said Archibald Leitch, probably… And he did.

Today, the Cottage is still used for players to get changed in and directors of the club and players’ families sit in it to watch games from the balcony.

So, there you have it.


Incredible history remains

Craven Cottage the stadium was there before the actual cottage at Craven Cottage. But there has been a cottage on the site since 1780, and Anne Boleyn’s hunting grounds before that. That scent around Craven Cottage is history, folks.

Beautiful, magical, magnificent history.

Remember: when you next watch a game at Craven Cottage and see Antonee Robinson running down the wing, Anne Boleyn probably rode on a horse near that spot in the 1500s. Wild.

Lionel Messi: 2022 World Cup will be my last as a player

0 Comments

Lionel Messi says this year’s World Cup will be his last as a player, the 35-year-old bowing out of international football before the 2026 tournament in North America.

“This will be my last World Cup, for sure,” Messi told a reporter in Argentina, via Fabrizio Romano. “The decision has been made.”

[ MORE: World Cup 2022 schedule ]

Messi will turn 39 during the 2026 World Cup, so this isn’t a terrible surprise, but he’s still not far from the top of his powers regardless of what the Ballon d’Or voters take before coming up with the shortlist (The reigning and record Ballon d’Or winner is not on the shortlist for this year’s award).

Argentina’s in Group C with Mexico, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. It’s wild to consider that Argentina’s last game could be the last time we see the world’s greatest player on a World Cup pitch.

For more on Lionel Messi’s World Cup history, read on…

Lionel Messi’s World Cup history

Messi’s World Cup debut came in 2006, and it was an announcement to the world of international football.

It was eight days before his 19th birthday. Messi came into Argentina’s second group-stage game and recorded a goal and an assist in 16 minutes versus Serbia-Montenegro. He’d make two more appearances but did not play in a quarterfinal loss to Germany.

Argentina’s 2010 World Cup also ended in the quarterfinals against Germany, as Messi went 90 minutes in all five games. He only managed an assist against Mexico in the Round of 16, as Argentina beat Nigeria, South Korea, Greece, and Mexico.

2014 saw Messi in magnificent form, scoring in every group game — wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria — and then assisting the extra time winner against Switzerland in the Round of 16. Argentina then beat Belgium and the Netherlands before losing 1-0 in extra time to Germany in his lone World Cup Final to date.

The most recent World Cup nearly saw Argentina bounced in the group stage, but Messi scored in a 2-1 win over Nigeria to set up a Round of 16 match with France. Messi posted two assists in a 4-3 loss to the eventual champs. Current teammate Kylian Mbappe had two goals and drew a penalty to send Argentina home.

The Breakdown: Analysis, tactical focus on the Premier League

0 Comments

Throughout the Premier League season The Breakdown provides analysis, tactical focus and a deeper dive on some of the top plays from some of the best players on the planet.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

We are back for Season 3 of the Breakdown and Joe Prince-Wright will be joining you to discuss some of the things which stood out (or may not have, initially) in the Premier League.

Click play on the video above to watch the latest episode of the Breakdown, while below is the full archive of The Breakdown.

And feel free to send in your comments and questions to JPW via his Twitter feed (click below) if you want him to select any plays which caught your eye and he will then give them the Breakdown treatment.


The Breakdown – 2022-23 Premier League season

Matchweek 1

Matchweek 2

Matchweek 3

Matchweek 4

Matchweek 5 (Erling Haaland special)