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Champions League wrap: Dortmund’s epic comeback to beat Inter

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Tuesday saw its fair share of crazy encounters across the continent — from Chelsea’s 4-4 draw with Ajax, to Borussia Dortmund’s amazing comeback to beat Inter Milan, to Barcelona’s helpless 0-0 draw with Slavia Prague.

[ RECAPS: Chelsea 4-4 Ajax | Liverpool 2-1 Genk ]

A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in the world’s preeminent club competition…

 

Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Inter Milan

Dortmund trailed 2-0 after 50 minutes, at home, before flipping the script on Inter Milan and completing an epic comeback to win 3-2.

Lautaro Martinez scored a sensational solo goal put the visitors ahead after just five minutes, only to be upstaged by an even more delightful team goal in the 40th minute.

It was 2-1 far too early for Inter to hold on, though, thanks to Achraf Hakimi’s close-range finish in the 51st minute. Julian Brandt made it 2-2 with a strike from a nearly impossible angle in the 64th, and there was only ever going to be one outcome.

Jadon Sancho got the ball atop the penalty area and slipped it through to Hakimi. The Moroccan international had no trouble locating the goal and picking out his spot inside the far post.

Dortmund now sit second in Group F, just a point behind Barcelona for top spot. The victory over Inter avenges their 2-0 defeat at the San Siro last month and puts them in prime position for a place in the knockout rounds.

Barcelona 0-0 Slavia Prague

Barely three months into the 2019-20 season, it’s already been a campaign to forget for Barcelona. With three losses from 11 league games, including a 3-1 hammering by Levante on Saturday, a third straight La Liga title is far from a forgone conclusion. Now, Ernesto Valverde is under even more pressure after failing to beat Czech side Slavia Prague on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi went closest to breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute, but the Argentine found only the corner of the goal frame. Slavia Prague goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar made six saves and turned in a man-of-the-match performance.

On the bright side, Barca extended their run of 34 home games without a defeat in Champions League play, an all-time record which dates back to 2013.

Valencia 4-1 Lille

Group H is as tight as it realistically could be after four rounds of play, with Chelsea, Ajax and Valencia all sitting on seven points, thanks to Valencia’s 4-1 thrashing of Lille on Tuesday.

The visitors went ahead through Victor Osimhen in the 25th minute, but Valencia hit back for four straight goals beginning in the 66th minute. Dani Parejo converted from the penalty spot, followed by an own goal turned home by Adama Soumaoro in the 82nd minute. Geoffrey Kondogbia made it 3-1 in the 84th and Ferran Torres completed the scoring six minutes later.

What’s left on the schedule for Los Ches? A visit from Chelsea and a trip to Ajax.

Elsewhere in UEFA Champions League action

Chelsea 4-4 Ajax — FULL RECAP
Liverpool 2-1 Genk — FULL RECAP
Napoli 1-1 Red Bull Salzburg
Zenit St. Petersburg 0-2 RB Leipzig
Lyon 3-1 Benfica

MLS Playoffs Preview: 1st round kicks off on Saturday

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After a two-week break, MLS is back, and with some outstanding matchups as the first round of the playoffs kicks off on Saturday.

Here’s a closer look at Saturday’s matchups in the Western Conference and Eastern Conference.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


2. Atlanta United v. 7. New England Revolution — Saturday, 1 p.m. ET

Atlanta United begins its title defense against the most successful coach in MLS history, Bruce Arena.

Atlanta United heads into the match at home a bit shorthanded. Miles Robinson suffered a left hamstring strain while on international duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team, leaving veteran centerback Michael Parkhurst to start alongside Leandro Gonzalez Pires. There’s also some questions over whether Ezequiel Barco and Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez will start together in midfield.

All that being said, Atlanta is still one of the best teams in MLS and as long as they have Josef Martinez, they’ll be a threat to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Revs have been a revelation since Bruce Arena took over in May, and no one knows the MLS playoffs more than he. Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou have been terrific this summer for the Revs while the defense, anchored by centerbacks Andrew Farrell and Michael Mancienne and 25-year-old goalkeeper Matt Turner have kept opponents off the board.

Atlanta certainly has the edge here, especially at home, but never count out a Bruce Arena team.

2. Seattle Sounders v. 7. FC Dallas — Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Unlike in previous years, the Seattle Sounders never needed to make a patented late-season push to make it into the playoffs. This time, the Sounders were solid throughout, especially thanks to a start that included five wins in six games. With Jordan Morris in peak form and Roman Torres and Kim Kee-Hee patrolling the middle of the backline, Seattle sure looks like an MLS Cup contender. Of course, they’d have to get past LAFC first, no small task.

For FC Dallas, in a way, they’re just happy to be here. It seems like forever, but was less than a year ago when club legend Oscar Pareja left for the Club Tijuana manager spot. In his place was local soccer legend and former FC Dallas academy director Luchi Gonzalez, and with a mostly young squad of players, Gonzalez has proven he could guide them to the playoffs. It doesn’t hurt though that one of the few veterans, Zdenek “Cobra” Ondrášek, has been on fire the last two months and just scored for the Czech Republic against England. The Sounders should take care of business at home, but Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal can create something out of nothing and could make Saturday’s match interesting/

4. Toronto FC v. 5. DC United — Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

With the regular season concluded and the start of single-elimination matches, we’re on the verge of saying goodbye to Wayne Rooney at any moment, and it could come as early as Saturday.

Thanks to a win and some other favorable results, Toronto FC jumped up in the standings and earned a home playoff match. It doesn’t hurt that it’s been very solid to close out the season, going unbeaten in its last 10 matches – though to be fair, that span only included four wins. Worryingly for TFC is that striker Jozy Altidore didn’t practice on Thursday after missing the international break with yet another muscle injury. However, his Canadian international teammates Jonathan Osorio, Liam Fraser, and Richie Laryea are returning to the club side on a high after beating the U.S.

For D.C. it’s been an up and down last few weeks. They picked up huge wins over Portland and Seattle in the final two months of the season, only to settle for scoreless draws against the porous New York Red Bulls and abject horror show in FC Cincinnati. As always, there will be plenty of pressure on Rooney to produce some magic, and his side will need it if they want to keep their season alive. Toronto, playing at home, has the edge here.

3. Real Salt Lake v. 6. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

Mike Petke was fired by Real Salt Lake in mid-August after serving a two-week suspension for berating the referee – and saying some unacceptable terms – after a Leagues Cup game in July. In his place, interim coach Freddy Juarez has done quite well with the squad, winning seven games in the final three months of the season to cruise into a top-three place and earn a home game in the playoffs.

Former Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers defender Nedum Onuoha has been a rock at the back alongside youngster Justin Glad, and RSL may have the most underrated attack in the league. Albert Rusnak, Damir Kreilach and Jefferson Savarino have all been brilliant at points this season. If the trio put it together, RSL could be a dark horse for the title.

The Timbers beat expectations a year ago as Giovanni Savarese led his team to another final – his fourth straight final as a coach. It will be an incredible achievement if they make it this time around. Portland has elite offensive capabilities when everyone is firing on all cylanders. Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, and even Dairon Asprilla can create moments of magic, while Jeremy Ebobisse has had a breakout season with 11 goals, though he’s missed a few he’ll want back. The issue is the team defensively, and they’ll have to be on their game to slow to RSL’s front three on the road.

Of course, the Timbers did win both matchups against RSL this season, so even on the road, they should be confident they can get it done again.

Golden Boy Award shortlist includes Lainez, Davies, drops Weah

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Canadian winger Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich and Mexican winger Diego Lainez of Real Betis join a host of Premier League youngsters on the shortlist for the 2019 Golden Boy Award, honoring the best European-based footballer under the age of 21.

American playmakers Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah were finalist last year, but Chelsea’s Pulisic has aged out of the competition. Lille’s Weah is no longer on the list despite being on the summer’s 100-man watch list.

[ MORE: Spurs shocked at Colchester Utd ]

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a Chelsea player here, as Mason Mount makes the cut.

So does ex-Man City Academy man Tom Dele-Bashiru, now of Watford, and current City midfielder Phil Foden.

Arsenal places Reiss Nelson and Matteo Guendouzi on the list, while Everton’s Moise Kean slides into the shortlist after his move from Juventus.

That said, the competition already feels winnowed to Matthijs de Ligt of Juventus versus Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund the field, with De Ligt a heavy favorite.

Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix will also like his chances of spinning a surprise outcome.

Previous winners include De Ligt, Kylian Mbappe, Renato Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba, Isco, Mario Gotze, Mario Balotelli, Alexandre Pato, Anderson, Sergio Aguero, Cesc Fabregas, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, and Rafael van der Vaart.

Golden Boy Award shortlist

Benoit Badiashile (Monaco)
Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)
Michael Cuisance (Bayern Munich)
Tom Dele-Bashiru (Watford)
Matthijs De Ligt (Juventus)
Krépin Diatta (Club Brugge)
Giuanluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
Denis Dragus (Standard Liege)
Eljif Elmas (Napoli)
Florentino Luís (Benfica)
Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Mattéo Guendouzi (Arsenal)
Erling Braut Haaland (RB Salzburg)
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad)
Joao Félix (Atlético Madrid)
Dejan Joveljic (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Boubacar Kamara (Marseille)
Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
Moise Kean (Everton)
Justin Kluivert (Roma)
Ibrahima Konaté (RB Leipzig)
Rodrygo Goes (Real Madrid)
Alban Lafont (Nantes)
Diego Lainez (Real Betis)
KangIn Lee (Valencia)
Andriy Lunin (Real Valladolid, on loan)
Donyell Malen (PSV)
Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Nehuén Pérez (Famalicao)
Reiss Nelson (Arsenal)
Abdulkadir Omur (Trabzonspor)
Strahinja Pavlovic (Partizan Belgrade)
Rafael Leao (AC Milan)
Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)
Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord)
Jean-Clair Todibo (Barcelona)
Ferran Torres (Valencia)
Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma)

Ex-Mexico coach denies involvement in match-fixing in Spain

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MADRID (AP) — Former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre has denied taking money that was allegedly used to fix the result of a Spanish league game eight years ago.

Aguirre testified Thursday in the match-fixing trial involving a game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season.

Aguirre, Zaragoza’s coach at the time, is one of more than 40 people who could face two years in prison and a six-year ban from soccer if found guilty.

Prosecutors said there is evidence that 965,000 euros (nearly $1 million) was paid to Zaragoza’s squad and later transferred to Levante’s players to lose the match in the final round of the season.

Zaragoza won 2-1 to avoid relegation. Deportivo La Coruna was demoted as a result.

Former Zaragoza officials said the money was paid to motivate players, not fix the result of the game.

Aguirre and some of the players who have testified denied Zaragoza’s version that the money was paid as an incentive.

Aguirre said he received a deposit without his consent and returned the money to the club because it was not part of his contract.

Some of the players said they were asked as a favor to the club to withdraw the money deposited into their accounts and return it in cash, which they said they did. A few players said they kept the deposits because they believed the money was owed to them.

Among the 36 players accused are Ander Herrera, now with Paris Saint-Germain; former Leicester midfielder Vicente Iborra; former Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez; River Plate midfielder Leonardo Ponzio; Serbian defender Ivan Obradovic; Lazio forward Felipe Caicedo; Itailan defender Maurizio Lanzaro; and Uruguay striker Cristhian Stuani.

Herrera, Ponzio and Fernandez were among the players who testified on Thursday.

Former Levante player Xavi Torres was asked why he went more than two months without making any cash withdrawals following the match against Zaragoza. The midfielder said he didn’t need to make any withdrawals because he was on vacation, travelling to different countries and at his parents’ home.

Torres, who played the whole match against Zaragoza, denied the result was fixed.

“You can see during the match that we created several scoring opportunities and tried to win,” he said.

Prosecutors said players on both teams were aware of the alleged match-fixing. They said they found evidence the money was transferred to Levante players after analyzing tax reports and banking transactions at the time.

A lower court had shelved the case but it was reopened last year after an appeal by prosecutors in Valencia, where Levante is based and where the match was played.

Even if found guilty, it’s unlikely that those being accused would face actual prison time because sentences of two years or less for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

Zaragoza returned to the second division in 2014. Levante is currently in Spain’s top league.

Torres beaten by friends Iniesta, Villa in final game before retirement

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Fernando Torres made the final appearance of his 18-year career as a professional footballer on Friday, as his Sagan Tosu side suffered a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Vissel Kobe, led by friends and international teammates Andres Iniesta and David Villa.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines: Matchweek 3 ]

Torres, 35, starred for a handful of Europe’s biggest clubs — Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and AC Milan — and was a key figure during the Spanish national team’s run of winning back-to-back European Championships (2008 and 2012) either side of the 2010 World Cup. His 110 international caps rank ninth all-time for Spain, while his 38 goals put him third behind only Villa (59) and Raul (44).

Ahead of Torres’ farewell, Iniesta spoke glowingly of his dear friend in an open letter published in El Mundo:

“Football brought us together more than 20 years ago, when we were children. Well, you will always be El Niño. And it will never separate us.

“We began away from spotlights and cameras until we came to share thousands of experiences before winning a World Cup for our country.

“When we meet in Spain, I’ll show you that shirt, that treasure that nobody else discovered. Although, it is true, there is no greater treasure than your friendship, Fernando.”

Torres announced in June that he would play his final game on Friday, given the opportunity to say goodbye after sharing the field with Iniesta and Villa one last time.

“To say goodbye to football next to my dear friend Iniesta is something I could never imagine. Also my friend David Villa, with whom I share probably the best moments in Spanish football history.

“I tried to find an iconic moment to play my final game and I think that is perfect timing.”