Getty Images

Cazorla overcomes odds, returns to field after 21 months

Leave a comment

Santi Cazorla was facing the prospect of never walking again.

Now, he’s back where he belongs.

Cazorla made his incredible return to soccer 636 days after his last match, coming off the bench in Villarreal’s first preseason match of the season, a 1-1 draw with Hercules. Between his last game and now, Cazorla had to endure eight (8!) operations on his Achillies tendon, an infection to the tendon and his leg, and nearly two years on the sidelines as he contemplated and worried if he would ever play again.

[READ: Man United draws with Club America]

After years as a top player and 77 caps for the Spanish National Team, Cazorla is thankful to just put on his shirt and boots for a game.

 “To feel like a football player is very special,” Cazorla told Villarreal’s website. “Without a doubt, I stay with the affection of the people throughout this period. The fans have given me strength and accompanied me during difficult times. “

Cazorla’s last official game was on October 19, 2016 for Arsenal in a 6-0 UEFA Champions League drubbing of Bulgarian side Ludogorets. Cazorla played the first 57 minutes of the match but just before then, he picked up a knock to his right Achilles tendon and then-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger quickly pulled him from the match.

What was thought to be just a three-week spell on the sidelines turned into a nightmare. The 33-year-old midfielder detailed to Marca in 2017 that multiple surgeries to his Achilles tendon failed to heal, and by December 2016 doctors learned his leg was infected, which is understandable considering he had an open wound for two months.

Doctors in England said that if he could walk again, “he should be satisfied,” leading Cazorla to look for a second opinion in his native Spain. Although bacteria had reportedly eaten eight centimeters of his tendon, Dr. Mikel Sanchez of Vitoria led tendon reconstruction surgery and helped Cazorla on his rehabilitation process as he learned how to walk again, slowly making his way back to the field.

It seems fitting, then, that after being removed in the 57th minute of his last game, Cazorla would enter the field once more in the 57th minute, finishing the match and building match fitness as he starts a new campaign with Villarreal.

“Sometimes I am too demanding,” Cazorla said. “I do not enjoy what I am living as I should. I have returned to training with my teammates and played a good football match. For me, that was unthinkable a little over 20 months ago. I just think about finding myself 100 percent again and being able to do what I like, which is to play football.

“My gratitude is maximum to all football fans. I have received endless signs of affection. Especially, of the fans of Villarreal CF. They have always remembered me during my stay at other clubs. I was always clear that my farewell to the Submarine was not a goodbye, but a see you later. I have never given up the possibility of returning and, now, I have that possibility. Hopefully we can enjoy and relive great moments like we did in the past.”

Champions League wrap: Dzeko dominates again; Real wins (just)

Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Another terrific day in the UEFA Champions League saw goals, fine finishes, and star performances across Europe.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]


Roma 3-0 CSKA Moscow

Powerful striker Edin Dzeko scored twice and assisted Cenzig Under’s 50th minute marker as Roma joined Real Madrid on six points in Group G.

How about a little love for Dzeko, by the way? The Bosnia and Herzegovina striker has five goals for Roma in this season’s UCL, and has 17 goals and seven assists in 23 appearances for Roma in the competition.

[ READ: PST’s talk with Dzeko on Serie A chase ]

Manchester United 0-1 JuventusRECAP

A spirited second half wasn’t enough for Jose Mourinho’s men to overcome another sloppy start, as Paulo Dybala’s 17th minute goal holds up at Old Trafford.

Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Manchester CityRECAP

David Silva‘s star show could’ve produced 7 or 8 goals, but he’ll settle for the match winner as Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte also scored to send Man City atop its group.

Hoffenheim 3-3 Lyon

Talk about a back-and-forth affair.

Lyon led 1-0 and 3-2, in between overcoming a 2-1 deficit, but fell apart in stoppage time as Hoffenheim kept its UCL hopes alive via a Joelinton stoppage time finish.

Andrej Kramaric had the Bundesliga club’s other goals, while Bertrand Traore, Tanguy Ndombele, and Memphis Depay bagged goals for Lyon.

Hoffenheim and Shakhtar are three points back of Lyon and four behind Man City after three matches.

Real Madrid 2-1 Viktoria Plzen

Wobby Real built a 2-0 lead through Karim Benzema and Marcelo, but Slovakian midfielder Patrik Hrosovsky’s 78th minute goal gave the champions quite a fright at home.

Young Boys 1-1 Valencia

Michy Batshuayi struck first, but this one was all Young Boys. The Swiss side converted a 55th minute penalty through Guillaume Hoarau and out shot the La Liga side 18-8.

Ajax 1-0 Benfica

Dutch-born Moroccan right back Noussair Mazraoui scored in stoppage time to move Ajax level with Bayern Munich and in pole position to reach its first Champions League knockout round since 2005-06.

AEK Athens 0-2 Bayern Munich

Scoreless at halftime, Javi Martinez and Robert Lewandowski scored within a 3-minute run at Bayern. It was a fine leaping volley for Martinez.

Mourinho praises Manchester United effort, Juve center backs

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

In case you haven’t heard, Jose Mourinho wanted defensive reinforcements this summer and Manchester United was largely unable to deliver any.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-1 Juventus ]

Was Mourinho slyly pointing the finger again after Juventus beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League?

Maybe, or maybe he just really admires Juventus’ center backs.

The United manager mentioned center back Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini no less than three times in his recap of the loss, praising The Old Lady as well as his own side’s effort. From the BBC:

“Juventus is a different level of quality, I have to be honest. A level of quality, stability, experience, know how. The base of the team they have Bonucci and Chiellini.

“That’s the base that allows them to play with the freedom in attack. ‘Lose the ball, no problem, we are here’. We could deserve a goal for the effort of the boys but it was not possible. I have no complaints with my boys. I have a positive feeling for their effort.”

Bonucci admitted that United tried to sign him from AC Milan this summer before the 31-year-old opted for a return to Juventus.

United hosts Everton and goes to Bournemouth in the Premier League before heading to Turin for a rematch with Juventus. After that, it’s the tiny matter of a Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Man City atop group after blowout in Ukraine

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Leave a comment

David Silva shone once again as Manchester City dominated Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 at Donbass Arena in UEFA Champions League play on Tuesday.

Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte joined David Silva on the score sheet.

Hoffenheim’s late equalizer versus Lyon means Man City summits Group F at the midpoint, a point ahead of the Ligue 1 side and four clear of Hoffenheim and Shakhtar.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Andriy Pyatov stopped Gabriel Jesus on one of City’s numerous early chances.

It was all City, but the finish wasn’t quite there. Riyad Mahrez was perhaps the biggest culprit, as playmaker David Silva provided ammunition for several goals.

So Silva just went and did the thing himself, making it 1-0 in the 30th minute with a volleyed finish of a blocked shot.

Floodgates opened? It seemed so, as Laporte notched a 34th minute marker, but Shakhtar held into halftime.

Bernardo scored a 70th minute goal soon after subbing into the match.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Man Utd can’t find equalizer against Dybala, Juve (video)

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
Leave a comment
  • De Gea shines, as Juve dominates first half
  • Pogba strikes post
  • Dybala scores lone goal

Paulo Dybala’s 17th minute goal was enough to give Juventus a 1-0 win over Manchester United in UEFA Champions League play at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Valencia’s draw at Young Boys leaves United second in Group H, five points behind Juventus.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Both sides had inviting free kicks during the first dozen minutes, neither delivering on its promise.

Paulo Dybala headed a Juan Cuadrado cross wide of the frame moments later, but made it solid foreshadowing for the 17th minute.

Losing a collecting a languid Nemanja Matic, Dybala deposited a loose ball after Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross didn’t meet its mark.

David De Gea was busy, making a fine stop on Joao Cancelo moments later. He’d make a double stop, the second shot from Blaise Matuidi especially venomous, in the 38th.

United had a better hold of the match for long periods in the second half, and De Gea was needed more to deal with Juve’s counterattacks.

Paul Pogba just missed with a sensational attempt that beat Wojciech Szczesny and hit the post before bounding off the keeper’s face but avoiding the goal.

Anthony Martial coaxed a save out of Szczesny in the 90th.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]