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Mbappé enjoys turning 21 with 2 goals as PSG routs Amiens

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PARIS — Kylian Mbappe celebrated turning 21 with a silvery-looking haircut and two more clinical finishes as league leader Paris Saint-Germain beat struggling Amiens 4-1 on Saturday.

It was a familiar sight as the lightning-fast France star with his new dyed hair – after his birthday on Friday – latched onto a long pass from Neymar and adroitly clipped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.

Mbappe has been involved in 15 goals in his last 12 league games – 11 goals and four assists – and his partnership with Brazil star Neymar continues to flourish.

Neymar danced in front of the home fans after tapping home from close range early into the second half. Mauro Icardi’s effort was blocked and the loose ball rolled kindly across to Neymar.

Angel Di Maria then set up Mbappe with a clever reverse pass down the right, with Mbappe drilling a low shot into the corner in the 65th.

However rampant in attack, PSG remains prone to lapses in concentration at the back and Colombian forward Steven Mendoza was left unmarked when he pulled a goal back five minutes later.

Icardi has been in prolific form since joining on a season’s loan from Inter Milan and notched his ninth league goal in only 11 games, showing his usual dexterity when sliding to the back post to volley in a cross from the left with minutes remaining.

The win kept PSG seven points clear of second-place Marseille heading into the mid-season winter break. PSG has played one game less and has a vastly superior goal difference.

Marseille enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 home win against 19th-place Nimes for a sixth win in seven games. Midfield schemer Dimitri Payet was involved in all the goals – and in another disallowed goal – after a tight first half.

Nimes players were exasperated not to get a penalty on the stroke of halftime, following a video review after center half Duje Caleta-Car appeared to impede Sofiane Alakouch.

Alakouch inadvertently sent the ball into his own net in the 47th after sliding to stop a cross from the right from reaching Payet.

Marseille then had a goal ruled out by VAR after Payet’s deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area clipped striker Dario Benedetto, who was in an offside position.

Benedetto’s next effort stood as he volleyed into the roof of the net from close range in the 66th, after midfielder Morgan Sanson’s saved shot from Payet’s pass bounced up invitingly to him.

Payet got an ovation when he was substituted soon after his well-struck goal in the 82nd. Payet was one of France’s best players at the European Championship in 2016, but then lost his place.

With Euro 2020 looming, he is pushing for a return to coach Didier Deschamps’ squad and has four goals and three assists in six games.

The French league resumes on Jan. 10.

OTHER MATCHES

Striker M’Baye Niang’s late goal gave Rennes a 1-0 home win against Bordeaux and moved it two points above Lille into third place.

Lille was routed 5-1 away to Monaco, despite Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen’s 10th league goal of the season giving Lille a 14th-minute lead.

The prolific Wissam Ben Yedder grabbed two second-half goals to take his league-leading tally to 13 – two more than Mbappe.

Nantes is two points behind Lille in fifth spot after losing 2-1 at home to Angers.

Midfielder Ludovic Blas celebrated his goal after a shot from outside the penalty area in the 18th. Goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle clumsily spilled what was otherwise a comfortable shot to stop.

Midfielder Antonin Bobichon leveled for Angers in the 51st and Algerian striker Farid El Melali pounced late on.

Lyon was missing top scorer Memphis Depay and attacking midfielder Jeff Reine-Adelaide to serious knee injuries sustained last weekend, but still took an early lead at sixth-place Reims through midfielder Lucas Tousart.

After midfielder Mathieu Cafaro leveled from the penalty spot for Reims in the 44th, striker Moussa Dembele missed a late penalty for Lyon in a 1-1 draw.

Center forward Gaetan Laborde netted twice as ninth-place Montpellier easily beat Brest 4-0.

Headers from Malang Sarr and Hicham Boudaoui put 10th-place Nice 2-0 up inside 20 minutes at home to last-place Toulouse, and a brilliant curling shot by midfielder Pierre Lees-Melou. also in the first half, made it 3-0.

Saint-Etienne slumped to a fifth defeat in the last seven games overall, losing 2-1 at 11th-place Strasbourg.

Dijon midfielder Romain Amalfitano’s first league goal since January 2016 was worth the wait in a 2-2 home draw with Metz. As the ball dropped on the edge of the penalty area he struck a superb volley into the bottom corner to equalize moments after Senegal striker Habib Diallo’s 10th of the season gave Metz a 15th-minute lead.

Metz had a player sent off in the second half but earned a point thanks to Habib Maiga’s injury-time goal.

Champions League wrap: Barcelona, Napoli hold group leads

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Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan got a necessary win, while several other notable teams had a lot of work on their hands on the way to three points in the UEFA Champions League.

Lionel Messi set another record, Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg put another scare into a big name, and both Lille and RB Leipzig puts difference-making wonder strikes on the board.


[ MORE: Genk 1-4 Liverpool | Ajax 0-1 Chelsea ]


Slavia Prague 1-2 Barcelona

Lionel Messi’s third minute goal didn’t send the Czech hosts running for cover, and Slavia Prague got a leveling goal through Jan Boril. It was deserved, too, with the hosts taking double the shots as their visitors when they made it 1-1. An own goal finished off the scoring in Prague.

Messi’s goal made him the first player to score in 15 Champions League tournaments. He’s good.

Red Bull Salzburg 2-3 Napoli

Jesse Marsch’s men know a bit about comebacks after last month’s memorable match in Liverpool, and Erling Braut Haland scored to make it 1-1 after Dries Mertens gave the favored visitors a lead. Haland answered another Mertens goal but the magic ran out for the hosts after Lorenzo Insigne provided the winner.

Lille 1-1 Valencia

Russian winger Denis Cheryshev looked like he’d see his goal stand up as a winner despite a late Valencia red card, but my goodness this equalizer from Jonathan Ikone:

Inter Milan 2-0 Borussia Dortmund

Make it six goals for Lautaro Martinez in 11 appearances for Inter Milan, who looked well-drilled at home under Antonio Conte. Roman Burki was sensational to keep the score 1-0, saving a penalty amongst several other timely interventions, but BVB couldn’t muster a goal. Antonio Candreva added the consolation marker.

Benfica 2-1 Lyon

Rafa Silva was in the right place to deposit a fourth minute goal, and Benfica rode the lead until Memphis Depay leveled in the 70th minute. Enter Pizzi, who scored with five minutes left to give Benfica a needed win. Last place Benfica is three points back of leaders RB Leipzig.

RB Leipzig 2-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg

Yaroslav Rakitskiy gave the visitors a halftime lead against the run of play but Konrad Laimer leveled the score line and then — clear the deck — Marcel Sabitzer did this:

Can Man United buy its way back to glory?

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By all accounts, Manchester United is having a woeful start to the Premier League season. However, the front office reportedly believes it can solve the crisis at the club with strategic purchases over the next two seasons.

According to a report in the Telegraph, Manchester United is looking to make eight signings spread through the next two summer transfer windows. The report claims they’ve already created a shortlist of targets and one may even be acquired in the upcoming winter transfer window in January. Players like Leicester City’s James Maddison and Ben Chillwell have been rumored to be on Man United’s radar in recent days, as it looks to improve its squad.

[READ: Maddison pulls out of England squad]

There’s no doubt that Man United’s team is in dire straights. From the days of Sir Alex Ferguson where the team had Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and many others, the current squad absolutely pales in comparison.

This summer was supposed to be a massive one for the club after another season outside the top four. And yet, the only major signing was Harry Maguire. Ironically, one of the summer’s first signings for current manager – for how long, who knows? – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Daniel James, has been very good when fit.

While on defense Man United is decent, in the final third, the Red Devils are woeful. With Anthony Martial still out injured and the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this summer, Marcus Rashford looks too under pressure to handle all the responsibility right now. Man United has only scored one goal from open play in the last five games, and it’s not looking like things will improve that much even when Paul Pogba and Martial return from injury.

So it raises the question: Can Man United buy its way out of trouble? The answer, is maybe.

Manchester City spent boatloads of money, and it did end up with a first Premier League-era title in 2012. Only Micah Richards was from the club’s youth system in the squad. The latest smart purchases from Man City has put the club on a path to long-term success.

And yet, it’s not like Man United hasn’t spent a ton of money over the last decade chasing success. Since Ferguson retired, millions were spent on signing so many players, some of whom turned out to be good, but none turned out to be great. There was Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. Then Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, and Angel Di Maria. Then Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Anthony Martial. Soon after it was Pogba and Eric Bailley and don’t forget Henrik Mkhitaryan. How much did Victor Lindelof, Lukaku and Sanchez cost Man United?

I could go on even further, but the point is made. Man United has spent tons, and it seems like with no plan.

The only way this new plan works is if they buy smart and buy players who fit well in a system, not just the ones who are shining in other systems.

UCL wrap: Suarez leads Barca comeback; Ajax rocks Valencia

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The UEFA Champions League has completed two rounds, and we have some surprise names atop the groups in Europe.

You could say they go from A to Z.

Ajax and Zenit Saint-Petersburg top their groups after two matches, while Borussia Dortmund has managed a tiebreaking lead over Barcelona.

Lille 1-2 Chelsea — RECAP

Liverpool 4-3 Red Bull Salzburg — RECAP | Salah reacts

There’s plenty of time to play, but the UCL showed us some more fun on Wednesday.

Barcelona 2-1 Inter Milan

Inter took an early lead at the Camp Nou, threatening to thrust Barcelona deeper into internal turmoil, but Luis Suarez showed that he’s got plenty in the tank.

The Uruguayan scored twice, the second off a Lionel Messi assist, to offset Lautaro Martinez’s second minute goal and send Barca level on points with Borussia Dortmund.

RB Leipzig 0-2 Lyon

Memphis Depay and Martin Terrier scored with Lyon’s only shots on target, a pretty fortunate win against Bundesliga opposition.

Zenit Saint-Petersburg 3-1 Benfica

Artem Dzyuba and Sardar Azmoun scored, with Zenit also collecting an own goal en route to a three-goal lead. Raul de Tomas scored late, but the damage had bene done and Zenit joined Lyon on four points.

Valencia 0-3 Ajax

Ajax sent a statement in Spain, getting goals from Hakim Ziyech, Quincy Promes, and returning Donny van de Beek to move to 2-0 on the campaign despite selling some top talents this summer. Dutch-American teen Sergino Dest went 90 minutes at right back for the visitors.

Genk 0-0 Napoli

Thirty-one shots produced nothing on the score board, as Genk joined Salzburg in telling the big boys that Group E isn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Slavia Prague 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

The Achraf Hakimi show saw the 20-year-old Moroccon cap off two lightning quick counters to move BVB onto the same footing as Barcelona after two match days.

Dest takes time to decide: USMNT or Netherlands?

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A Dutch-American defender not being called up to the U.S. men’s national team squad for their October games is causing quite a stir.

[ MORE: Full USMNT October squad ]

After making his USMNT debut last month Sergino Dest, 18, was not expected to be included in Gregg Berhalter’s squad for their CONCACAF Nations League games against Canada and Cuba this month.

The matches against Canada and Cuba are competitive, so if the Ajax academy product played he would be tied to the USMNT at international level.

[ MORE: Pulisic talks to JPW about Chelsea frustrations

It has been revealed that Dest and Berhalter have spoken at length about the situation and reports suggest that Dest said he would turn down a call-up for the October international window to keep his options open.

“I understand there is going to be a lot of attention surrounding the availability of Sergino in this next camp,” Berhalter said. “I’ve had conversations with Sergino, the conversations were positive, and the content of these conversations is going to remain private.”

The Netherlands are said to have spoken to Dest at length in recent weeks, with head coach Ronald Koeman meeting with him in Amsterdam.

Dest has played for the U.S. throughout youth international level, and his versatility has been key for both the U17 and U20 teams.

He has burst onto the scene this season for Ajax, becoming the starting right back for the Dutch champions.

With the Netherlands ranked 13th in the world and runners up in the UEFA Nations League tournament over the summer, the pull of playing alongside Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt for the foreseeable future may be too good of an opportunity to turn down.

Dest was born in the Netherlands but obviously has a strong affinity to the U.S. so this is not an easy decision. At all.

It is smart for him to take his time, and he isn’t likely to play for the USMNT again until March when their next friendly games roll around.

Sergino Dest may well end up being the ‘one that got away’ and USMNT fans will be muttering his name under their breath in years to come as their lack of depth defensively and in the full back areas is a real issue.

But just like Giuseppe Rossi playing for Italy, or on the flip side Jermaine Jones, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson playing for the USMNT, it is all about where Dest sees the best fit for him.

There’s no getting away from the fact that if he chose to play for the Netherlands it may take him a little longer to become a regular with Denzil Dumfries their starting right back. If he chooses to play for the USMNT he will be a regular for the next decade if his career continues on the current trajectory.

This isn’t an easy decision. But what would you do if you were Dest?

Play for one of the most storied national teams in history who look to be on the cusp of a golden generation with Memphis Depay, de Ligt, van Dijk and Frenkie de Jong all alongside you?

Or take a chance on a team which may well struggle to reach the 2022 World Cup and are probably as far away from being competitive on the world stage as they have been at any point in the last two decades?

If you back yourself to become a world-class center back, you pick the Netherlands.