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Copa Lib: River Plate, Boca Juniors set for Superclasico finals

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SAO PAULO (AP) River Plate of Argentina reached the final of the South American cup on Tuesday after shocking defending champion Gremio of Brazil, setting up a possible championship match between two Argentinian teams in the Copa Libertadores for the first time in history.

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River beat the Brazilians 2-1 in Porto Alegre and advanced on the away goals rule to its first South American final since 2015. Last week, River lost 1-0 to Gremio in Buenos Aires.

Midfielder Pity Martinez scored the decisive goal in stoppage time after the referee awarded River a penalty following a video review that confirmed a handball by defender Matheus Bressan.

Leonardo scored for Gremio in the 36th minute and had a clear chance with Everton squandering an opportunity face to face against goalkeeper Franco Armani to make it 2-0 for the hosts at 66 minutes.

But River tied it in the 81st minute with a header by Colombian striker Rafael Borre, after a cross by Martinez, putting more pressure on the defending champions. After the match Gremio players said that goal should have been disallowed because of a Borre handball.

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“We were the only team on the pitch in the first half. They only had long balls. We had power and strategy. That’s why other teams respect us,” Martinez said.

River’s adversary in its quest for a fourth Copa Libertadores title will be known on Wednesday, when Boca Juniors defends its 2-0 first-leg victory against Brazil’s Palmeiras, coached by World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari.

If Boca survives, it will play its arch-rival in the final for the first time. Never before have two Argentinian clubs played for the Copa Libertadores.

River’s victory came amid some controversy. Footage at Arena do Gremio showed coach Marcelo Gallardo entering his team’s locker room at halftime despite his suspension for the game.

“Come, come, take a good picture,” Gallardo told journalists as he left the locker room. The coach was suspended for one game by South America’s soccer body because of constant delays by his team to return to the pitch after the first 45 minutes of several matches.

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Coaching assistant Matias Biscay, who replaced Gallardo, said the coach convinced River players they could turn the tables during the halftime talk when the score was 1-0 for the Brazilians.

“The players saw they could come back, even before they entered the locker room. Marcelo convinced they this win could not escape,” Biscay said in a press conference.

Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi said his team was “robbed” by the VAR referee, but not because of the penalty awarded to the Argentinians. He believes River’s Borre intentionally touched the ball with the hand as he scored River’s first goal.

“I would rather lose 5-0 than lose it like this. I can’t blame the referee on the pitch, but I can blame the VAR referee,” Portaluppi said. “Who was taking care of VAR? Was it Stevie Wonder? Everyone else saw it.”

Gremio goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe said the VAR decision wasn’t to blame for the loss.

“We didn’t take enough care. VAR is fair. If the referee said it is a penalty, it is a penalty,” Grohe said.

The Copa Libertadores finals will be played on Nov. 7 and 28.

Actors Reynolds, McElhenney bid to invest in Wrexham AFC

Wrexham AFC
Photos by Amy Sussman/Getty Images and Jim Spellman/WireImage
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“The Gang Buys a Football Team?”

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” actor Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds are said to be in talks to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, reports The Guardian.

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The Welsh club, nicknamed the Red Dragons, was founded in 1855 and made it to the European Cup Winners’ Cup eight times between 1972-96.

They’ve since been relegated out of the Football League, dipping out of League Two in 2008.

McElhenney and Reynolds have bid to take over the club, and the Wrexham Supporters Trust says 97.5 percent of their members voted to allow the actors to propose their vision for the club before a second vote.

From wst.org.uk:

As a result, talks with the proposed bidders will now continue and we are in a position to confirm the two people interested in investing in Wrexham AFC.

Rob McElhenney is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, best known as the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ryan Reynolds is an award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and business entrepreneur whose credits include Marvel’s Deadpool.

It’s gotta get McElhenney’s goat that Reynolds gets the “award-winning” adjective added to his name.

Either way, this is definitely an intriguing club for investment and the potential addition of Reynolds and McElhenney to the fray would only increase the interest in Wrexham AFC.

Deadpool and Mac would be quite a combo in the transfer market.

Arteta drawn into Ozil discussion, reacts to Liverpool doubleheader

Arteta on Ozil
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Mikel Arteta did his best not to give a soundbite that included Mesut Ozil’s name following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Leicester City in League Cup action on Wednesday.

Ozil, 31, has not played since assisting the lone goal in a March 7 win over West Ham and has since only twice even made the bench (June 20 and 25).

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Asked six times about the German, Arteta painted in broad strokes before mentioning Ozil in the second set of questions.

Arteta said that Ozil simply hasn’t warranted a place in an 18. This is how he responded when asked if he understood why there are so many questions about a player who has 44 goals and 77 assists in 254 appearances for the Gunners.

From Football.London:

“Of course I understand and I respect your questions but I have to try to do my job as fair as possible. I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition.”

Okay then.

As for Wednesday’s win, the Gunners broke through on a Christian Fuchs own goal before sealing the deal on Eddie Nketiah’s marker just before the final whistle.

Arsenal was outshot 15-10 but both teams were decidedly second-string. Now the Gunners get consecutive affairs at Anfield, as Liverpool is the hosts for a Monday meeting in the Premier League and a League Cup fourth round tie days later.

Arteta was asked how big of a test that will be for the Gunners.

“You can imagine, probably the toughest place to go in Europe or the world. That’s the fixtures, we have to go there. Let’s go first on Monday, let’s prepare well and see how it goes.”

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in July to deny the Reds a 100-point season, weeks after the Reds clinched the Premier League title. The Gunners again topped Liverpool in the Community Shield one month later.

The atmosphere and stakes will be high again next week. Surely Arteta can’t go 4-0 against Jurgen Klopp, right? Right?

Leicester City’s Rodgers: Gruesome Ndidi injury could cost him 12 weeks

Ndidi injury
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For every team, there’s an indispensible player and it’s difficult to argue against Leicester City’s player being Wilfred Ndidi.

The groin injury that kept the Nigerian out of Leicester’s 2-0 home loss to Arsenal in the League Cup could require surgery, said Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers after the game.

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One of the game’s top destroyers, Ndidi had played two matches at center back as Leicester opened the season 2-0.

Rodgers could hardly have made the injury sound more painful.

From The Leicester Mercury:

“We’re just waiting to hear more on that but it could be anything between six and 12 weeks,” Rodgers said. “It’s a groin abductor which may have come off the bone, which is quite a nasty one. We’re waiting to see if he needs an operation or not. If he does, it will be at least 12 weeks.”

Leicester missed Ndidi for five-of-six games in early 2020 and went 2D-3L, starting a skid that ended up costing them Champions League football.

The 23-year-old already has 34 caps for Nigeria.

The Foxes have Nampalys Mendy, Hamza Choudhury, and Daniel Amartey amongst their defensive midfield options.

They next face Man City, West Ham, Aston Villa, and Arsenal in Premier League play. Leicester will learn its Europa League group on Oct. 2 before beginning its UEL run the week of Oct. 22.

Champions League: Six-goal thriller in Norway; Marsch’s Salzburg lead

Champions League qualifying
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The UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round is delivering entertainment, with six first legs dotting the European landscape over the past 27 hours.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

American coach Jesse Marsch saw his Red Bull Salzburg take a first leg advantage home from Israel, while U.S. right back Henry Wingo and Molde played the game of the round so far against Hungary’s Ferencvaros.


Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg

The Austrian visitors were heavy favorites, especially with the hosts dealing with positive COVID-19 tests, but Maccabi took a ninth-minute lead through Dan Biton.

But young Dominik Szoboszlai’s Man of the Match showing began with a goal in the 49th minute and Masaya Okugawan gave Salzburg the lead eight minutes later ahead of next week’s second leg in Austria.

Molde 3-3 Ferencvaros

A thriller in Norway saw the hosts erase a 2-0 deficit only to hand a big away goals advantage to the Hungarian visitors with minutes to play.

Ferencvaros scored early in each half through Franck Boli and Myrto Uzuni. Both goals were set up by Endre Botka and Ferencvaros looked set to cruise through the first leg.

Molde snapped awake through former Manchester United, Cardiff City, and Seattle Sounders man Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who set up Leke James in the 55th minute before scoring a classy goal that was started on the right flank by fellow ex-Sounder and American export Henry Wingo.

Martin Ellingsen gave Molde its first lead in the 83rd, but Ihor Kharatin made it 3-3 four minutes later to send Ferencvaros back to Hungary with three away goals. A draw any less insane would be enough for them to head to the group stage.

Elsewhere

Gent 1-2 Dynamo Kiev
Olympiakos 2-0 Omonia Nicosia
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland

Second legs

Sept. 29
Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30 
Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv