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Three things we learned from Tottenham vs. Dortmund

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WEMBLEY — Tottenham Hotspur against Borussia Dortmund was one of the most eagerly anticipated games in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

It delivered. Big time.

[ RECAP: Spurs 3-1 BVB ]

Three stunning goals were scored inside the opening 15 minutes with Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane netting after driving runs, then Andriy Yarmolenko curling in a beauty at the other end. Dortmund had a goal incorrectly chalked out for offside and then Kane grabbed a second and Tottenham’s third in the second half to finish off the German side as Spurs won 3-1.

USMNT youngster Christian Pulisic caused havoc on Dortmund’s left and might have had a goal before half time but it was ruled out for offside, somewhat controversially.

These two teams epitomize the value of bringing through young, hungry players in a high-pressing system and the result was a pulsating clash.

Here’s what we learned at a lively Wembley.


KANE’S POWER UNSTOPPABLE

Harry Kane was at his very best on Wednesday as he scored twice to fire Spurs to victory, their first this season at Wembley as they got their UCL campaign off to a flier.

Kane, 24, has only played in four UEFA Champions League games in his career but he has now scored four goals as the England international proved he belongs on Europe’s biggest stage.

He epitomized Spurs’ endeavor to put right last seasons Champions League exit at the group stage as he chased, bullied and battered Dortmund’s makeshift backline.

Kane smelt blood and his first goal summed up his display. He bundled over two Dortmund players when the odds were stacked against him, then raced through on goal and hammered home at the near post.

His penchant to score goals of any kind saw him then calmly drill home with his left foot in the second half to seal victory and Kane is well and truly up and running in September with six goals in four appearances for club and country. He could have had a hat trick as he dragged another effort but the local lad was given a standing ovation late on as he was substituted.

The reigning two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner looks hungrier than ever.


ABSORBING, ATTRACTIVE ENCOUNTER

The only other time Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund have played one another was back in 2016 as Spurs were demolished 5-1 on aggregate in the Europa League Round of 16.

Spurs were completely outclassed on that occasion but Wednesday’s win proved how far they have come.

Since then Spurs have largely kept all of their important players plus invested wisely in the likes of Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Heung-min Son, while Dortmund have lost stars such as Ousmane Dembele, Mats Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan.

It showed, but Dortmund were well in this game up until the 60th minute when Kane made it 3-1.

As you can see from above, the first 45 minutes was largely dominated by Dortmund as they possessed the ball and forced Spurs to sit back. Mauricio Pochettino‘s men were patient and showed maturity to allow Dortmund to have the ball and were dangerous on the break. There really wasn’t much in this game.

Dortmund scored a perfectly legitimate equalizer through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just before Spurs made it 3-1 and had they made it 2-2, Spurs could hardly have complained.

This was an energetic, pulsating clash to watch as two of Europe’s most exciting teams collided.

With Real Madrid in Group H alongside them they will likely battle it out for second spot. With Dortmund having several defensive injuries for this game, the return leg in November at the Westfalenstadion will be a similarly lively, even and absorbing encounter.


PULISIC DOES EVERYTHING BUT SCORE

The kid just always has a way of making you shake your head in disbelief.

In the first half Christian Pulisic, just a week shy of his 19th birthday, tore Tottenham apart on multiple occasions as he found space between Serge Aurier and Toby Alderweireld.

Cutting in off the left the USMNT star produced a strong display, creating a chance for Aubameyang which was brilliantly cleared and then Pulisic couldn’t quite get on the end of a cross from Aubameyang to score himself.

He did score right on the break but it was disallowed for offside and he was a constant menace on the left flank. In the second half Aurier got more of a grip on him and Pulisic’s crosses were a little off but he was still dangerous.

With Ousmane Dembele sold to Barcelona, Pulisic now has a regular starting spot in Dortmund’s team and he is playing like a seasoned pro despite the fact this is only at the start of his second full season as a first-team player.

The Pulisic hype train left the station a long, long time ago but it continues to gather momentum, and passengers, each time he steps up to the big occasion. He did himself proud, once again, even though Dortmund lost.

Xhaka slams “bulls***” criticism of Arsenal

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Arsenal have been targets for a lot of criticism recently.

Granit Xhaka is usually at the center of it.

The Gunners captain came out all guns blazing after they lost 1-0 at Sheffield United on Monday, as he addressed Patrice Evra‘s comments that Arsenal are “babies” and always will be due to their mentality.

“We have to stop about mental [strength] bulls*** like this. For me, it is the same whether you play home or away – you have to win and show big character and a good game and not to always find the same excuse,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people they speak too much. It is not the first time he has spoken something about us. I have a lot of respect for him as he was a great player but you have to be careful what you say. But it is not only him – a lot of people speak a lot of bulls*** about us. It’s always the same.

“For me it is strange as they were in the same situation as us, they were players as well. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not always good but every week they speak bulls*** like this every week. I tell you the honest truth, I’m not interested in what people say and speak. We have to speak in our group to improve things and work hard and not listen to these people.”

Xhaka and Arsenal have only lost twice this season, 3-1 at Liverpool and 1-0 at Sheffield United.

But aside from being fifth in the table and two points outside the top four, pressure is being placed on Unai Emery and his squad as they’ve narrowly beaten Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle and Aston Villa so far. Their performances aren’t instilling confidence in anyone that they can seriously push for a top four finish this season.

Has much changed under Emery in the past 15 months? Nope. This is pretty much the same Arsenal team making the same old mistakes and looking vulnerable away from home. Nothing new here. Sure, some new players have arrived, but David Luiz, Pepe and Sokratis have all been hit and miss so far and it has been left to Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to try and rescue the Gunners each and every week.

Emery was supposed to change their style of play, develop them into a stronger team defensively and improve their chances of challenging for trophies once again.

None of that has happened, and it doesn’t look closer to happening. That is why the critics are circling around the Gunners. Monday was the perfect opportunity to prove their mentality had changed and they are a stronger, more balanced team under Emery. They aren’t and something drastic will have to change for them if Emery is going to win over the fans, and pundits, once again.

Ronaldo not ready for retirement: ‘Age is just a number’

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Cristiano Ronaldo reassured Juventus supporters and his legions of fans worldwide that at 34 he’s not ready for retirement yet.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

“Age is just a number. It does not mean that at 34, 35, 36 you are at the end of your career,” Ronaldo said at a news conference ahead of Juventus’ Champions League match against Lokomotiv Moscow on Tuesday. “I can show that with my performances, how I play, the way I play, the way I still feel good, sharp, thinking about the game, more mature. This makes the difference.”

In the second season of a four-year deal at Juventus, Ronaldo had sparked concern among his fans when he said in an interview published a few weeks ago that he was starting to enjoy seeing himself “outside of football, so who knows what will happen in the next year or two?”

Ronaldo recently scored his 700th goal as a professional while on international duty with Portugal and has been nominated for a record sixth Ballon d’Or award – which would break his tie of five with Lionel Messi.

But Ronaldo said he’s more interested in winning a treble with Juventus.

“We want to win Serie A, we want to win the Cup, the Champions League,” he said. “Juventus should think big. … We are going to try to win all the trophies, we know it will be difficult, especially the league and the Champions League, but I think it is possible. Everything is possible.

“In terms of individual, I have nothing to say as this is individual. It is not the most important thing,” Ronaldo added. “The most important is the collective awards. If you win the collective awards you have more chance to win the individual awards. … The Golden Ball is for me in second place.”

While retirement may not be on Ronaldo’s mind yet, family time is a big part of his life now.

“To win games, to score goals, to enjoy myself, to arrive home and see my kids happy and say, `Congratulations daddy for scoring a goal.’ That makes me happy,” he said. “This is my motivation to come to train, for the games, to entertain people and the fans with my passion.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Carragher apologizes to Evra over Suarez t-shirts

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Jamie Carragher has apologized to Patrice Evra after Liverpool wore t-shirts in support of Luis Suarez in 2011.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The day after Suarez was banned for eight games by the English Football Association, who found him guilty of racially abusing Evra, Liverpool’s players put on t-shirts with Suarez on the front and back during their warm up in a Premier League game against Wigan Athletic.

Carragher and Evra were both analysts for our partners at Sky Sports in the UK on Monday Night Football for the clash between Sheffield United and Arsenal, and discussed the current problems with racism in the game.

“There is no doubt we made a massive mistake; that was obvious,” Carragher said.

Liverpool’s former vice-captain asked Evra how he felt regarding the situation with Suarez, and the former Man United, Juventus and Monaco left back revealed his disgust at the way the situation was handled.

“When I saw it I was like, this is ridiculous. This is unbelievable,” Evra said. You put your own club in danger when you do those things. You always have to support your player because he is from your team but this was after the ban. If it was before and we were waiting for the sanction, I would understand. What message do you send to the world? Supporting someone being banned because he used some racist words.”

Click play on the video above for the full discussion between Carragher and Evra.

Italy women’s team awarded for ’emancipating’ female game

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ROME (AP) The Italy women’s national soccer team was awarded the Foreign Press Association’s Invictus award Monday for promoting and “emancipating” the female game in the country with its run to the World Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Head coach Milena Bertolini and forward Barbara Bonansea were given the award during a ceremony at the Rome-based association.

With soccer dominated by men in Italy and few opportunities for girls, Bertolini recounted how she had to dress up as a boy to play as a kid.

“Now things are changing, thanks to the Italian federation’s school programs,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini and Bonansea lamented that female players are still not considered professionals and therefore are not permitted to earn more than $33,500 per year by Italian law.

“It’s not about the money, it’s a question of rights,” said Bonansea, who also plays for Italian champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

While Italy’s men’s team is a four-time World Cup champion, the women had not played in a World Cup for two decades and entered as a prohibitive underdog during its opening match against Australia in France in June. But the Azzurre came back from a goal down for a 2-1 win courtesy of Bonansea’s two scores , with her second coming in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

“That goal shaped our World Cup, both in terms of results and in terms of promoting women’s soccer in Italy,” Bertolini said. “The strong emotions on the field were transmitted to everyone who was watching. I still get goosebumps now just thinking about that goal.”

The Azzurre went on to win their group then beat China in the first knockout round before losing to eventual finalist the Netherlands.

In a country of 60 million people, a total of more than 20 million spectators watched Italy’s five matches on RAI state TV, setting audience records for women’s soccer game after game.

The Invictus award is dedicated to “promoting the positive effects of sports in terms of integration and emancipation by the vulnerable sections of society.”