Serge Gnabry

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Lewandowski’s brace helps Bayern rescue opening-day draw (video)

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BERLIN (AP) Amid reports that Brazilian winger Philippe Coutinho was to join the club, Bayern Munich was held to 2-2 by Hertha Berlin in the opening game of the Bundesliga on Friday.

[ MORE: Barcelona, Bayern Munich agree deal to loan Philippe Coutinho ]

Robert Lewandowski scored twice for the seven-time defending champion, but Bayern failed to make the most of its chances and will rue the setback after Hertha capitalized on two mistakes to score twice in a three-minute period.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac congratulated counterpart Ante Covic after making his league debut in charge of the visitors.

Lewandowski did not have to wait long before opening his league account in the 24th minute, sliding in to convert Serge Gnabry‘s cross after Joshua Kimmich was given plenty of space to surge through the middle.

A rout looked possible as Hertha’s defense continued to look shaky, but Dodi Lukebakio struck against the run of play in the 36th for the visitors, the Belgian’s shot from distance taking a big deflection off Vedad Ibisevic’s back to give Manuel Neuer no chance.

Marko Grujic stunned the home fans when he made it 2-1 three minutes later, winning a duel against Benjamin Pavard before running onto a through ball from Ibisevic and rounding Neuer to score.

“A bit surprising,” Germany coach Joachim Low said of the halftime scoreline.

Bayern started the second half as it had the first, before VAR intervened after Grujic dragged Lewandowski’s shirt from behind and the striker fell.

Lewandowski dusted himself off to equalize from the spot on the hour-mark.

Bundesliga season preview: Bayern aims for No. 30

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Bayern Munich’s got another fight on its hands when it comes to the Bundesliga.

Sounds insane, we know; The eight-time defending league champions have seen five teams finish runner-up in Germany’s top flight, and shook off a quality challenge from Borussia Dortmund — the last team to win the league — last season to claim its 29th title.

Niko Kovac is back in the fold, as are the top stars of the team, but it’s still going to be feel a bit different with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Mats Hummels leaving town and a pair of World Cup winners — Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard — arriving at the Allianz Arena.

Robert Lewandowski is still there, as is Joshua Kimmich, and most of the club’s top minute eaters from last season’s title run. Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, and Kinglsey Coman will play even bigger roles, the club has quality young hotshots like Canadian teen Alphonso Davies, and Thiago Alcantara will be the straw that stirs the drink for young and old alike.

But BVB.

Dortmund has only lost Christian Pulisic, who’s headed “back” to Chelsea, and has again claimed an impressive summer haul (even if we knew a lot of the names prior to the end of the season).

Hummels is back, and Paco Alcacer’s loan has been made permanent. Oddly enough, those two moves might be the least impactful of the handful, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Gladbach’s Thorgan Hazard true difference makers in the midfield and Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim) a true hope for the back line.

Dortmund also added U.S. youth wunderkind Giovanni Reyna, though it’ll take time for the 16-year-old to run through the ranks.

The bookies think BVB is the only club with a prayer of claiming the title in place of Bayern, as reflected by 3/10 odds to the holders and 4/1 to the runners-up.

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig are 33/1 odds, but that feels a little too much considering the additions of Ademola Lookman and Christopher Nkunku to go with Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu and Red Bull Salzburg star Hannes Wolf.

Bayer is a distant fourth, and has to hope that Kerem Demirbay’s move from Hoffenheim helps offset the loss of Brandt to BVB.

From Bayer on-down there’s a lot of uncertainty, as seemingly everyone lost a star of three. Eintracht Frankfurt sold Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller and is hoping Dejan Jovelijc turns out to be their next big capture from Serbia. Hoffenheim sold Demirbay, Schulz and Joelinton (Newcastle) and is yet to really address the goals aside from lower league scorer Sargis Adamyan.

Gladbach sold Hazard and is betting on a breakthrough from Schalke purchase and former next big thing Breel Embolo. Speaking of Schalke, they could be in trouble again and will need a big show from U.S. international Weston McKennie.

All of this stands to claim the following: Though surprises are possible, the league is downright unpredictable heading into the season aside from spots 1, 2, and maybe 3.

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Americans Abroad: John Brooks will lead Wolfsburg’s back line, the aformentioned McKennie is going to be terribly important to Schalke’s hopes, and Tyler Adams returns for a first full season at RB Leipzig.

Josh Sargent is hopeful to make himself a league mainstay with Werder Bremen, and

Timothy Chandler’s still on the books at Eintracht Frankfurt, Fabian Johnson remains at ‘Gladbach, and Alfredo Morales is still at Fortuna Dusseldorf along with Man City loanee and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

German born U.S. U-20 defender Lennard Maloney has been promoted with FC Union Berlin, while former NYCFC striker Khiry Shelton is with fellow new boys Paderborn.

And there’s an MLS connection to join Adams, Davies and Shelton: Augsburg has added FC Dallas playmaker Carlos Gruezo.

The new boys: Union Berlin has bought enough talent to rise up the table a bit, while Paderborn and Koln have more questions than Union but still some guile in their ranks. Koln in particular might have the best shot to stay up on pedigree alone.

Bayern seals loan move for Ivan Perisic

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Bayern Munich announced Tuesday morning the signing of Inter winger Ivan Perisic on a season-long loan deal with an option to buy next summer.

The German club had been pushing hard for a winger this summer after the dual retirement of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. They were heavily linked to Manchester City winger Leroy Sane for much of the summer, with an increase in sincerity over the past few weeks, but the German international tore knee ligaments in the Community Shield, ruining any potential deal.

That led Bayern to the doorstep of Perisic, bringing on the 30-year-old winger who was a critical component of the Croatian side that reached the 2018 World Cup final. Perisic was a regular for Inter all four years in Italy, making at least 34 league starts in every season at the club. Last season he scored eight goals in Serie A action, but his assist numbers were down, feeding a teammate just four times after recording 11 assists each of the last two seasons.

Perisic is familiar with the Bundesliga, having spent two and a half years at each of Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg, moving between the two in January 2013. The Bayern winger ranks still remain incredibly thin, as Perisic will compete with Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, and Alphonso Davies for time on the flanks.

“I’m very glad to be back in Germany,” Perisic said in the official club release. “Bayern are one of the biggest clubs in Europe. “We want to go on the attack, not only in the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup, but also in the Champions League.”

The 30-year-old arrives at Bayern having played in the Champions League just once since leaving Dortmund, with Inter bowing out of the competition in the group stage this past campaign. Still, with 82 caps for Croatia and 23 international goals, Perisic is a seasoned veteran at the highest stage.

Bayern Munich kicking the tires on big Zaha bid

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A sensational report is linking Wilfried Zaha not just with a move away from Crystal Palace, but a move clear of the Premier League altogether.

90min.com says that Bayern Munich has turned to Zaha, having been rebuffed in their pursuit of Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.

Palace wants $100 million for Zaha, but so far has only received a $50 million offer from Arsenal for his services. Reports Monday said Arsenal is upping its bid, and offering a loan of Reiss Nelson as a make-good. Palace has had good Fortune with loans from the big boys of the PL, in particular with Ruben Loftus-Cheek two seasons ago.

A lot of this makes sense for all parties, apart from Sane, and it will be interesting to see if the report brings a bigger bid from the Gunners.

Zaha is a sensational player, and has created chances year-after-year for the Eagles. He wants to taste the Champions League, but Palace is not willing to let him go for (much) less than its asking price given its sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United.

Bayern will spend less on Zaha than it would on Gareth Bale or Sane, and get a determined player who is very much in his prime. Zaha would also get the chance to showcase himself with actual breathing room on the pitch, thanks to Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and others.

And Palace, of course, will end up with between $80-100 million and the knowledge that it won’t need to mark Zaha on a Premier League pitch. More importantly, the money raised from Zaha and Wan-Bissaka will allow them to strengthen at nearly every position (above what they have now, not above AWB and Zaha).

Euro 2020 qualifying: Germany routs Estonia, Belgium knocks off Scotland (video)

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Euro 2020 qualifying wrapped up for the summer on Tuesday, but not before some wild scorelines and impressive results.

Here is a rundown of the top matches:

[READ: USWNT thrashes Thailand in World Cup opener]


Germany 8-0 Estonia

Like Thailand for the U.S. Women’s National Team, Germany had its way on the field against Estonia at the Opel Arena in Mainz, Germany, as Die Manschafft rolled to an 8-0 victory. Estonia’s backline was too easily broken and was too weak to stand up to Germany’s strong attack, which found a way to score from close range time and time again. The match was punctuated with Marco Reus’ terrific free kick in the 37th minute, giving Germany its first five-goal first half since the famous 7-1 over Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semifinals. Leroy Sane late put the finishing touches with a quick strike that took Estonia’s goalkeeper Sergei Lepmets by surprise. Sane’s teammate Ilkay Gundogan also scored, along with a brace from former Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry and a goal each for Timo Werner and Leon Goretzka. With the win, Germany move three points back (with a game in hand) from Northern Ireland, which has remained unbeaten and holds a perfect 4-0 record so far in qualifying.

Belgium 3-0 Scotland

Romelu Lukaku has had a rough season in the Premier League and multiple reports state he could be leaving, but on Tuesday, he showed everyone what he’s capable of. Lukaku scored a brace, the first on a header just before halftime and the second on a rebound off a save by Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall. Lukaku nearly grabbed a third a few minutes later, flashing a strike on his weaker right foot just wide of goal. An abject Scotland side were constantly under pressure on the road and after many near-misses, Kevin De Bruyne fired a low missile home from outside of the box to put the finishing touches on the game. With the win, Belgium move to the top of Group I with 12 points while Scotland, with their second loss of qualifying, sit in fourth place behind Kazakhstan and Russia.

Here are the rest of the results around Europe on Tuesday:

Belarus 0-1 Northern Ireland

Azerbaijan 1-5 Slovakia

Hungary 1-0 Wales

Albania 2-0 Moldova

Andorra 0-4 France

Iceland 2-1 Turkey

Kazakhstan 4-0 San Marino

Russia 1-0 Cyprus

Greece 2-3 Armenia

Italy 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Liechtenstein 0-2 Finland