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Pulisic “a bit lucky” on 20th birthday match-winning goal

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BRUGES, Belgium (AP) Christian Pulisic celebrated his 20th birthday by scoring on his return from injury to give Borussia Dortmund a late 1-0 win at Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.

“It was great to come back after injury to and to be back with the team,” said Pulisic, who also made his 100th appearance for the club.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The American, who hadn’t played since Aug. 26 due to muscular problems, came on with around 20 minutes remaining and scored in the 85th when Matej Mitrovic’s attempted clearance rebounded off his shin and looped in over Brugge goalkeeper Karlo Letica.

“It was a bit lucky but I’ll take it on my birthday,” said Pulisic, who had missed two Bundesliga games for Dortmund and the U.S. friendlies against Brazil and Mexico.

“I just saw the ball getting played through. I think the defender tried clearing it but I was in the right spot at the right time,” Pulisic said. “I think we deserved the goal at the time.”

Pulisic, who also netted against Benfica in March last year, is only the third American to score multiple Champions League goals after Fabian Johnson – who had two for Borussia Moenchengladbach – and DaMarcus Beasley, who scored six in stints at PSV Eindhoven and Rangers.

“I’m just going to enjoy the rest of the night with the team,” Pulisic said of his birthday celebrations.

Mario Goetze made a rare start for Dortmund but was unable to provide much of a spark against the spirited hosts. Leticia saved his effort in the first half. It was Dortmund’s only shot on target apart from Pulisic’s goal.

“It was a lucky win, a dirty win,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said.

The win means Dortmund has already bettered its Champions League campaign from last season, when it earned just two points in six group games.

Brugge was back in the Champions League group stage after a one-year absence and created the better chances.

In the other Group A game, Atletico Madrid beat Monaco 2-1.

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

Men in Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s day at Chelsea, stylish Arsenal, Tata leaving ATL

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Rog and Davo break down Chelsea’s last gasp draw against Manchester United and Jose Mourinho’s contentious return to Stamford Bridge. Plus, wins for City and Liverpool, Arsenal’s poetic football, and Tata is saying goodbye to the ATL.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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AP source: FIFA proposes annual Club World Cup

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A person with knowledge of the talks tells The Associated Press FIFA President Gianni Infantino is doubling down on his Club World Cup plans with a proposal for an annual tournament despite European soccer’s resistance to any competition that challenges the supremacy of the Champions League.

[ MORE: Premier League club power rankings ]

The revised proposal amends an initial plan to play a 24-team Club World Cup every four years. The new format will be discussed at the FIFA Council meeting in Rwanda on Friday, the person said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

UEFA has stymied Infantino’s attempts since March to gain approval for the new FIFA competitions, which will have $25 billion of income guaranteed by an international consortium including Japan’s SoftBank.

Is something amiss with Romelu Lukaku?

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Maybe he was sick. Maybe he was tired. Heck, maybe he’s still exhausted from the World Cup.

But something isn’t right with Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, and it was on full display in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Juventus in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Match recap | Mourinho reacts ]

Lukaku was fighting his touch, and just plain out-of-sorts, which is unusual for the industrious center forward.

The 25-year-old has just four goals for United in 13 matches across all competitions this season, all coming in the Premier League and none since a Sept. 15 marker at Watford.

Tuesday’s performance could be down to one bad night, but Lukaku has been much better for country than club in the same time span. The Belgian scored a pair against Switzerland on Oct. 12 and two more the previous month versus Iceland.

While Eden Hazard certainly isn’t unlocking defenses for him at Old Trafford, Lukaku has struggled in a few different ways. He’s getting less shots off per game, his key passes are down, and so are his dribbles.

Moreover, his offsides are higher than they’ve been since 2014-15, so perhaps he’s even cognizant of his struggles and trying to cheat a bit more.

If Harry Kane‘s post-World Cup struggles, relatively speaking, can be down to exhaustion, perhaps someone should check on big Rom.

Lukaku is still grinding through performances, for better or worse, and his four goals do lead United on the season. And it’s paramount to note that the side’s uncharacteristic 16 goals allowed per game (5th worst in the PL) is a bigger reason for its record than the 15 goals for (tied-7th).

A visit from former club Everton could snap Lukaku back into form, but perhaps the big man needs more than adrenaline right now. Mourinho hasn’t subbed him once this season in any competition, and he’s being leaned on heavily by Roberto Martinez at Belgium, too. After running him 90 in the 2-goal performance against the Swiss, Lukaku got another 45 in a friendly against the Netherlands.

Maybe this is where the loan for Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes into play, or perhaps Marcus Rashford should get some time running atop the United attack. Either way, it’s a good bet that the big man could use a respite.

Allegri: Juventus tried to ‘attack around Nemanja Matic’

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Max Allegri’s plan to attack without Mario Mandzukic got the job done.

Juventus took a 17th minute lead against Manchester United at Old Trafford and did not look back, deprived of a multi-goal halftime lead by United backstop David De Gea.

[ MORE: PL club power rankings ]

Without Mandzukic, his towering talisman, Allegri turned to less hold-up play and more active runs through the midfield.

And he wasn’t shy about the tactics, with the numbers showing that Nemanja Matic was a very busy man. From Football-Italia:

“Naturally we can play without Mandzukic, someone has to get into the box. It was important against Manchester United to keep the ball to ground and attack around Nemanja Matic.

“We still make too many mistakes on the final ball, as we had so many more chances and half-chances that we didn’t develop properly. A couple of times it was the player with the ball, another couple it was the player who didn’t peel away from his marker to reach the space.”

Allegri has long been said to be a fan of Matic’s, but Dybala shook the center midfielder on this goal.

The win was Juve’s first at Old Trafford since a 1996 visit in the Champions League. All told, Juve is 2W-2D-3L at Manchester United in its illustrious history.