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Real Madrid 2-2 Bayern Munich: GKs the difference as Los Blancos reach CL final

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A wild game. On one end, spectacular play between the sticks to preserve a lead. On the other end, one of the worst goalkeeping mistakes you will ever see.

Bayern Munich was the better side, but Sven Ulrich inexplicably coughed up what proved to be the decisive goal just 28 seconds after halftime as a Karim Benzema brace secured a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu and sent Real Madrid to the Champions League final.

Neutrals would have been hoping for an early Bayern goal to make things interesting, and they got just that. The visitors scored a messy goal just three minutes into the game as Thomas Muller’s cross from the right cannoned off a pair of defenders and fell right to Josh Kimmich on the doorstep who poked it home.

However, the goal seemed to wake Real Madrid up, and the hosts began to build themselves and produced a response in the 11th minute. Marcelo delivered a delicious cross to the far post where Karim Benzema had lost David Alaba, and the Frenchman scored just his third Champions League goal of the campaign to bring Real Madrid back level. The goal featured 28 passes in the build-up, second to only a Barcelona group stage score for most in the Champions League this season according to Opta.

Both teams had plenty of attacking intent, but it was Bayern that had more chances up through the half-hour mark. Robert Lewandowski shanked one half-chance just wide on 20 minutes, and Franck Ribery was dangerous down the left, tearing up Lucas Vazquez who was filling in at right-back for the injured Dani Carvajal. The best chance came just past the half-hour mark as Alaba found Robert Lewandowski at a tight angle from the left. Lewandowski’s shot was saved by Keylor Navas, and the ball popped high into the air across the face of goal, and came down on the head of Muller, but that effort was blocked. The ball again fell to a Bayern player as James Rodriguez came streaking in at point blank range, but he agonizingly blazed the shot over the bar, a strikingly bad miss.

With the German side feeling confident after the break, their hearts were broken just 28 seconds into the second half. A back-pass from Corentin Tolisso came to Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulrich, and as he went down to pick the ball up under pressure from Benzema, he realized too late that he could not use his hands on a back-pass. The momentary brain fart saw Ulrich crumple into a heap as he tried to recover, allowing Benzema to tap the ball into the open net and leaving Ulrich to contemplate one of the worst goalkeeping mistakes in Champions League history.

Following the mistake, Bayern pushed forward knowing they needed two goals to advance. Keylor Navas made a spectacular save on David Alaba from a tight angle just moments after Madrid’s goal. Then down the other end Cristiano Ronaldo missed the target badly with his first chance of the game on a platter from Marcelo.

James Rodriguez grabbed a goal back for Bayern in the 63rd minute to even the score on the day. Niklas Sule sent in a cross from a deep right position, and it came to Rodriguez in acres of space at the penalty spot. His first shot was saved from front and center, but the rebound came back to him at a tighter angle, and he buried the chance, choosing not to celebrate against his parent club.

Keylor Navas again came up huge as Bayern continued to push. In the 73rd minute, Rodriguez hammered a volley from straightaway center but the Madrid shotstopper was there to acrobatically push it away. He again stopped an effort from Muller seven minutes later. Gareth Bale, on as a 72nd minute substitute, had an opportunity to seal the deal in the 86th minute, but he was beaten by Ulrich while one-on-one with the Bayern keeper. Navas was required one more time to stop Bayern from getting a shot off in stoppage time that would have been a sure equalizer, but the Costa Rican came off his line to scoop up the cross.

Eventually, the final whistle blew, and fans of the German side will know they let a fantastic performance on the big stage go to waste. On the other end, Real Madrid reaches its third consecutive Champions League final, all under manager Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: “We know what we want to do”

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Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.