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England downs emotional Cameroon 3-0 amid VAR decisions

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Cameroon had the opportunity to become the first African side to advance in the Women’s World Cup knockout stages, but were pegged back by VAR decisions on numerous occasions and fell to England 3-0. The Cameroon players were emotionally effected by the multiple VAR decisions, and it spilled out onto the field on a number of occasions.

Cameroon got away with one just four minutes in as Yvonne Leuko landed a brutal elbow to the face of Nikita Parris down the right flank but the referee showed Leuko just a yellow card for the incident which absolutely could have deserved more, but VAR did not intervene. It was a harbinger of what would come for the African nation as they looked bright at times on the ball but also proved childish when faced with adversity.

England bagged its early opener on a controversial decision as Cameroon defender Augustine Ejangue intercepted an England cross and goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom collected. That caused the referee to award an indirect free-kick for an intentional back-pass about five yards from goal, and while there was no question Ejangue intentionally played the ball, there was uncertainty whether her touch was intended as a pass to the goalkeeper.

Much of the focus of this game concerned the reaction of the Cameroon players to their on-field adversity. During the immediate aftermath as Cameroon protested the decision, replay showed Ejangue spitting on the forearm of England attacker Toni Duggan, and Duggan efforted to make the referee aware of the situation, to no avail. It was unclear whether the spit was intentional as Ejangue was not looking at Duggan but at very close range, and VAR yet again did not play a part.

Eventually, England stepped up for the attempt and Cameroon put every player on the goal line, but that would not stop captain Steph Houghton from blasting the indirect attempt inside the far post for the game’s first goal just 14 minutes in.

After the goal, England remained dominant in possession but Cameroon proved dangerous in spurts on the counter. England was the team in charge, however, and they would double the lead through Ellen White deep in first half stoppage time as she took a feed from Lucy Bronze through the back line and rifled a blistering finish into the top corner for a 2-0 lead. The goal was initially flagged for offside but VAR confirmed it was a good goal as White was level with her defender on the feed. The referee struggled to get the game restarted after Cameroon insisted on holding a team meeting at midfield before finally returning to their positions after multiple pleas. The referee had a high level of tolerance not to show any cautions, and the halftime whistle came soon after the eventual restart.

After the break, Cameroon seemed to have redirected their petulance into purpose, taking advantage of a sloppy giveaway by England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Ajara Nchout blasted a powerful finish. However, VAR struck again and its Hawkeye technology determined that Nchout was just a hair offside on the turnover, nullifying the goal and providing the game with its most controversial moment. The Cameroon players were an emotional wreck at the decision, with a number of them crying and head coach Alain Djeumfa was reduced to plead with his squad to continue the match. Even England head coach Phil Neville came over to lend an emotional hand before play finally restarted.

Another mistake at the back by England’s Alex Greenwood let Alexandra Takounda have a free path at goal but Bardsley saved well in the one-on-one. Greenwood made amends and picked up England’s third in the 58th minute off a set-piece and the game was for all intents and purposes over with Cameroon all over the place. England continued to pour on the attack and came close to a fourth on multiple occasions. In the 82nd minute England broke but a shot was cleared off the line by Estelle Johnson who raced back to save Cameroon from  conceding again. Cameroon pushed for a consolation strike late but could not find the moment.

Deep into stoppage time, VAR again was consulted to show Cameroon substitute Alexandra Takounda a yellow card for a studs-up tackle on Houghton on a decision that could have again resulted in a red. Cameroon players again reacted petulantly to Houghton’s injury, screaming at her and the referee during the VAR check.

Mercifully, the final whistle came and England moved on to the quarterfinals where they will take on Norway, a rematch of a knockout stage match four years ago. Cameroon bows out and it remains that no African team has won a World Cup knockout stage game.

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

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The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

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So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

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Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

[ MORE: Key battles for Real-Man City ]

Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.

Lampard: Chelsea first leg loss ‘quite sobering,’ ‘harsh lesson’

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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard isn’t sugarcoating his side’s 3-0 first-leg loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday.

“Sometimes you have to be brutally honest about it,” he said in televised remarks after the loss. “It’s quite sobering.”

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Lampard admitted that Bayern was firing on all cylinders at Stamford Bridge, and proffered tepid support for the idea of an unlikely comeback in Germany next month.

“The level of team they showed that they are, hence why they challenge in the Bundesliga and the Champions League,” he said, via Football.London. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t do better against them. It’s a reality check. Don’t look at anyone else apart from yourself.”

“We should never say the door is closed because our fans would never accept that. I’m more concerned with the bigger picture here. There’s a lot to be done.”

Sure is.

Chelsea leads fifth-place Manchester United by three points in the top four race and has a four-point edge on sixth-place Spurs in the scenario that fifth is enough for Champions League football.

That’s important because the UCL path back to the tournament looks like a massive ask. And Lampard said the players need to use Tuesday’s blowout loss at home “as a positive effect” moving forward.

But he also put it pretty plainly during his post-match comments.

“It was a harsh lesson,” Lampard said. “This is Champions League football.”