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Conte, Courtois, Alonso know why Barca beat Chelsea: Messi

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Marcos Alonso gave a lot of answers in his post-match comments following Chelsea’s ouster at the hands of Barcelona on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

Turns out he only really needed the first four words.

[ MORE: Match recap | Quarterfinal field set ]

“They have Lionel Messi and I think they were the better team even though we competed well in both games. If we concede easy goals and miss the chances, then it is very difficult against this team,” Alonso said.

Messi had two goals and an assist in the 3-0 second leg win, and scored in the first leg after entering the tie goal-free in his career versus Chelsea.

In a word, he was incredible.

Italian defender Alonso was one of several players, with Willian and N'Golo Kante sure to be mentioned by many, to put in industrious efforts in the loss, but the critical focus will be on a near invisible Eden Hazard and off-balance goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Both of Wednesday’s goals were put between the legs of Courtois. He wasn’t pleased.

“I don’t think we deserve to be out, but individual mistakes cost us in both legs. The first goal, I did not expect Lionel Messi to shoot from that angle and I was too late in closing my legs. It was a mistake on my part.

“I played against Messi a lot of time. I have already conceded goals like that before. The weakest point is between the legs or a goalkeeper, it is annoying, I cannot hide inside, I have to be a man and come out. I made some good saves too but we go out with conceding four goals from four mistakes.”

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte pointed to a possible penalty when Alonso was taken down in the box, but mostly lavished praise on the Argentine wonder.

“Tonight (and) in the two legs, Lionel Messi made the difference,” Conte said. “We are talking about the best player in the world.”

“Over the two legs we were a bit unlucky,” he continued. “We hit the post four times. In our best moment today they scored. They were very clinical. We created many chances. We are talking about a player (Messi) that every season he scores 60 goals. We are talking not about a top player but a super top player. He made the difference. We have no regrets. I must be pleased for the commitment. They gave everything tonight. We didn’t deserve to lose 3-0.”

In the film “Billy Madison,” Billy forces an awkward noise out of his instrument and points to his rival Eric after the latter’s virtuoso violin performance and just says, “He’s good.”
Something like that.

Moore takes hold of West Brom’s promotion bid

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Darren Moore‘s spell as West Brom caretaker manager couldn’t quite pull off a miraculous run to Premier League safety, but the promise it contained has helped him to the first chance at earning promotion back to the top flight.

West Bromwich Albion announced Moore as its new manager on Monday, with the boss promising his Baggies would play attractive football while also being a side “that’s willing to fight and scrap for every ball.”

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Moore is also happy to carry a flame for minority coaches — called BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) — in England.

“If it does inspire others, I would be extremely proud,” he said. “I don’t just speak on behalf of BAME coaches but the young, aspiring British coaches across the board.”

Moore, 44, only lost one of his six PL matches as WBA boss, winning three times and inspiring many to wonder what would’ve happened had the Baggies’ pulled the plug on Alan Pardew — and Tony Pulis before him — earlier.

A center back in his playing career, Moore spent 18 seasons between a number of clubs including West Brom, Derby County, and Doncaster Rovers. He won promotion as a player twice with West Brom, and again with Derby.

Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan

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BRUSSELS (AP) Belgium left midfielder Radja Nainggolan out of its World Cup squad despite a standout season with Champions League semifinalist Roma.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has long had a difficult relationship with the stormy midfielder. But after being called up for a warm-up game in March against Saudi Arabia, expectations had been that he would be on the 28-man roster announced Monday.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

On top of the troubled relationship, Nainggolan was also the victim of the unparalleled wealth of talent the small nation has produced over the past few years.

Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were all named in the squad, which will be cut to 23 before the World Cup.

Nashville MLS expansion club snares ex-Liverpool CEO Ayre

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Former Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre is moving from Merseyside to the Music City.

The Tennesseean’s Joe Rexrode says Ayre is set to take the reins of Nashville SC as the first CEO in club history when it makes its debut in the 2020 MLS season.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Liverpool hired ex-EA Sports executive Peter Moore to replace Ayre in 2017 after the latter, 54, spent six years with the club as managing director and then CEO.

From the Tennessean:

“The MLS has huge ambitions to be one of the biggest and leading leagues in the world, and is on that trajectory,” Ayre said. “Both as a soccer fan and an executive in the industry, it’s something I’ve had my eye on because it’s important. … You talk about MLS and its growth, I think it’s becoming easier and will become easier to attract the right talent to something that’s exciting and developing. And if you have a reputation of being involved in a club like Liverpool, you hope that stands for something when you start to try and attract talent.”

The timing of Ayre’s addition hearkens back to that of former Tottenham executive Darren Eales at Atlanta United. If it has the same success, Nashville will be proud.

Report: Lampard interviews twice with Championship club

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Steven Gerrard‘s longtime England midfield mate Frank Lampard could soon be joining him in a management.

While Gerrard is tasked with rebuilding Rangers’ Scottish title push, Lampard’s reported new gig would entail leading Ipswich Town back to the Premier League for the first time since 2002.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Sky Sports says Lampard has already interviewed twice with Ipswich Town ownership in a bid to earn his first senior management gig.

Lampard, 39, played for Chelsea, Man City, New York City FC, West Ham United, and Swansea in a sparkling 20-year playing career.

Town finished 12th in the Championship, 15 points back of a playoff spot and 19 clear of relegation.