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Borussia Dortmund left to rue missed chance in Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) After watching Bayern Munich win the Bundesliga title for the seventh straight year, Borussia Dortmund was left to rue its missed chance.

Dortmund held a nine-point lead over Bayern at one stage of the season and was league leader for 21 of the 34 rounds. After an outstanding opening half of the season when Dortmund played fast-paced, free-flowing attacking soccer, the young team threw its lead away in the second half.

“I know the chance was huge this season,” Dortmund captain Marco Reus said.

Bayern should have claimed its record-extending 29th German championship the weekend before but was held scoreless in Leipzig. Dortmund knew that victory at Borussia Moenchengladbach, where it won 2-0, coupled with a Bayern loss on the last weekend would give it its first title since 2012. It was a slim hope. Bayern routed Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 in Munich.

But Dortmund’s title challenge was derailed much earlier, not least in a 5-0 loss in Munich, where Bayern delivered a statement to the rest of the league.

Dortmund conceded three late goals to let Hoffenheim grab a 3-3 draw in February, when the team went through its first poor spell under coach Lucien Favre. A scoreless draw at Nuremberg followed, and then a 2-1 loss at relegation-threatened Augsburg.

Despite the setbacks, Dortmund remained in the title race even after the rout in Munich on April 4, but a subsequent 4-2 loss at home to a poor Schalke side and a 2-2 draw at Werder Bremen – where the team again conceded late – ended any realistic hopes.

“They were decisive, because otherwise we would have had another points-cushion coming to Moenchengladbach,” Reus said.

After the near miss, thoughts are already turning to next season.

“I’m a positive person. Next season, it starts all over again,” Reus said. “Then we’ll do everything we can to get back to the top again in the next years and win the title once again.”

Another offseason of changes awaits. United States midfielder Christian Pulisic is leaving for Chelsea after five years in Dortmund, while the futures of midfielders Julian Weigl and Mahmoud Dahoud are uncertain, and Portugal international Raphael Guerreiro is expected to leave.

Belgium international Thorgan Hazard and Germany midfielder Nico Schulz are expected to join from Gladbach and Hoffenheim, respectively, while speculation linking Bayer Leverkusen forward Julian Brandt with the club continues.

Brandt is an option thanks to a release clause in his contract, though the 23-year-old German has little reason to leave after Leverkusen clinched Champions League qualification after claiming 16 from a possible 18 points in the last six games under former Dortmund coach Peter Bosz.

“He knows what he has with us,” Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller said of Brandt.

Even if Brandt arrives, Dortmund probably won’t have a better chance to capitalize on what was a difficult season for Bayern Munich, which now has the chance to claim a domestic double against Leipzig in the German Cup final on Saturday.

“The disappointment is still there because we had the chance to be German champions this season,” said Sebastian Kehl, a former Dortmund captain who now works for the club. “On the other hand, you also have to see that we delivered fantastic games in a season that finished with 76 points, especially in the opening half. We achieved much more in this year than we dreamed of at the start of the season.”

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

Manchester United’s Solskjaer on Pogba, Rashford penalty duty

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has issued his verdict on Paul Pogba taking (and missing) an ill-fated penalty over Marcus Rashford on Monday in a 1-1 draw against Wolves at the Molineux.

[ MORE: Recap | Nuno reacts ]

The Manchester United boss says both players have been given authority to sort out who takes a penalty (He promises. He has proof on his computer).

Pogba won Monday’s opportunity, and his well-hit effort was parried by Rui Patricio. the score stayed tied, and United didn’t find a winner.

“The two of them are designated penalty takers, it’s up to them there and then – ‘this is mine’.

“Sometimes players just feel they are confident to score. Paul has scored so many for us and today it was a good save. You can see the slides on the Power Point [that prove both are PK takers].

“The two of them have been confident before. Marcus scored last week but Paul was also confident. I like players with confidence.”

As for Rashford, he’s not crying over Pogba’s spilled penalty.

“Paul wanted to take it, it’s that simple,” says Rashford. “Anyone can miss a penalty, he has scored so many penalties and it is normal to miss one.”

Instead, he’s finding a silver lining in a “disappointing” loss by focusing on the fact that United was absolutely worked over at the Molineux last season and arguably deserved all three points this go-round (Wolves beat United 2-1 that day).

“It is of course disappointing, disheartening, but we can’t let it get to ourselves early in the season,” Rashford said. “The last time we came to the stadium they were the much better team, but today was a different story. It has always been a tough place to come and today proved it again.”

United hosts Crystal Palace on Saturday before visiting Southampton on Aug. 31.

Wolves on VAR review of golazo: “I was hoping to stay happy”

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Nuno Espirito Santo issued the definitive quote of the VAR era after Wolves’ equalizer withstood video review in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Monday at the Molineux.

“I was hoping to stay happy.”

[ RECAP: Wolves 1-1 Man Utd ]

Espirito Santo saw VAR dramatically play a role in Wolves fortunes for the second-straight week, and the manager was not too happy with it on opening weekend when Willy Boly‘s handball was found to have assisted Leander Dendoncker‘s goal.

This time, VAR held up its end of the bargain in Wolves favor, as the cross that led to Ruben Neves’ incredible goal was found to be onside. From the BBC:

“I don’t know how they will solve it – it’s the emotion, you celebrate a goal so much and then you stay in silence. Don’t take that away from the people.”

The problem, of course, is money. So much is riding on qualifying for Europe, staying in the Premier League, etc. When sports became a big business, and managers aren’t complaining about their salaries, the science overtook the spirit.

Espirito Santo is correct that the wait to confirm a goal takes away from the joy of sport. It also will deny of us of the next “Hand of God” (and England would not have won its lone World Cup had goal line technology been around).

But ultimately, it will keep the correct score on the board. And that matters.

Pogba misses penalty in Man Utd-Wolves draw

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Ruben Neves scored an amazing goal and Rui Patricio stopped a Paul Pogba penalty as Wolves took a point from Manchester United in a 1-1 match at the Molineux on Monday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

United had two-thirds possession but could not find what would’ve been a deserved winner as Wolves flummoxed the Red Devils attack.

Anthony Martial scored for the second-straight match for United, who failed in a bid to go atop the Premier League.


Three things we learned

  1. Paul Pogba is to penalties as Shaquille O’Neal is to free throws – You just can’t understand how someone so good at his sport is so poor at what should be the easiest part of his game.
  2. Martial is a beauty, and is fully released from the shackles of Jose Mourinho. Whether he can take the next step is another story, but the Frenchman is a fitting winger for a Champions League club (even if United isn’t quite in the UCL).
  3. Patricio didn’t show the Premier League his very best last season, but has looked more like the Portugal national team goalkeeper so far in his sophomore PL campaign.

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men were content to let the visitors have the ball and work on the counter, and United quickly moved the ball in possession over the first stages of the game.

United took a deserved lead through Martial who ran onto a Marcus Rashford through ball and belted a rocket over a flailing Rui Patricio.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Neves brought Wolves level with a sublime bit of shooting, curling a majestic shot above and around the United back line to make it 1-1.

Watching the footage as it was being reviewed showed the margins so thin, but the goal held up and anyone hoping for some semblance of sanity was relieved.

United looked set to go back in front when Pogba drew a penalty off Conor Coady with a cutthroat move in the 18, but the Frenchman slammed his effort into the path of a diving Patricio.

WATCH: Ruben Neves spins an otherworldly ball over David De Gea

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Let us introduce you to your latest Goal of the Season contender.

Ruben Neves, who seemingly only scores beauties, struck again on Monday at the Molineux.

[ MORE: Neymar to Barca ]

The 22-year-old Portuguese playmaker loves to shoot as much as anyone, and set himself up clinically for his latest amazing marker.

Once Neves collected the ball atop the 18, he spun this magnificent effort over the flying David De Gea and off the underside of the bar to restore the deadlock in Wolverhampton.

De Gea may well have responded to this goal by quoting Ron Burgundy when Baxter ate the entire wheel of cheese.

Sensational.