Emil Forsberg

Photo by Pablo Morano/MB Media/Getty Images

Champions League wrap: Barca, Leipzig advance; Marsch’s Salzburg win again

Leave a comment

Only two teams in Groups E-H of the UEFA Champions League advanced to the knockout rounds on Wednesday, leaving the final match day packed with tension.

[ RECAPS: Liverpool-Napoli | Valencia-Chelsea ]

Barcelona and RB Leipzig are the teams in question, joining the six teams from Groups A-D to have clinched berths: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Juventus, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain, and Real Madrid.

Genk 1-4 Red Bull Salzburg

Jesse Marsch’s men aren’t messing around, and Liverpool won’t be caught off guard in Austria given the firepower on show. Salzburg now has 16 goals in five group stage matches, eight coming courtesy of 19-year-old Erling Braut Haland. Salzburg can only advance with a defeat of Liverpool that doesn’t come with three or more goals from the Reds.

RB Leipzig 2-2 Benfica

Down 2-0 and risking their knockout round status, Leipzig got a pair of Emil Forsberg goals in the final six minutes of play. High drama.

Zenit Saint-Petersburg 2-0 Lyon

Artem Dzyuba and Magomed Ozdoev scored near the end of each half as the Russians moved into second in Group G. Both sides have seven points. Lyon next hosts already-qualified RB Leipzig, while Zenit travels to Benfica, who has four points.

Slavia Prague 1-3 Inter Milan

Romelu Lukaku had a goal and set up Lautaro Martinez’s brace as the Italians moved level with Borussia Dortmund for second place in Group F. Dortmund hosts Slavia Prague on Dec. 10 while Inter hosts Barca.

Lille 0-2 Ajax

Hakim Ziyech and Quincy Promes scored, the former’s goal coming on a beautiful team goal started by a sensational flick from USMNT back Sergino Dest. Watch that here.

Barcelona 3-1 Borussia Dortmund

This is the sort of match that Barcelona imagined when it signed Antoine Griezmann this summer. Lionel Messi scored and set up Griezmann and Luis Suarez for markers before Jadon Sancho pulled one back for Dortmund off a Julian Brandt assist. That’s 16-straight knockout rounds for the Blaugranas.

Look at this pass, which he’s done 100 times. The best ever.

VAR, Granqvist penalty lead Sweden over South Korea

Getty Images
1 Comment

On Day 5 of the World Cup, VAR took center stage once again.

Referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador made the trek over to the video monitor in the 63rd minute after a no-call on a South Korea challenge in its own box, eventually reversing his decision and giving Sweden a penalty kick. Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist stepped up and sent his side in front before holding on for a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Monday morning in Nizhny Novgorod.

With the win, Sweden is joint top of Group F with Mexico on three points.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The key moment in the match took place in the 62nd minute, as Sweden’s Viktor Claesson got his foot on a loose ball first before South Korea’s Kim Min-woo went through Claesson to clear the ball away.

Aguilar initially waved the penalty claim away, but after about 20 seconds and a word from his assistant referees in his ear, Aguilar made the sign for VAR and ran over to take a second look. Around 20-30 seconds later, Aguilar reversed his decision, awarding the Swedes a penalty.

Granqvist, who plays his club football for FC Krasnodar in Russia, stepped up to the spot and with veteran poise, sent Cho Hyun-woo the wrong way for the 1-0 lead.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Sweden had chances in the first half to get on the board. Marcus Berg was alone on goal in the 20th minute but Hyun-woo stuck out a leg and deflected it away. Another chance from Berg led to another save from Hyun-woo as he kept South Korea in the match.

Following Sweden’s goal, Sweden sat deep and allowed Heung-Min Son to find space on the wings, where South Korea set up numerous half-chances. But the final pass was just missing, and Sweden was able to clear the ball out of the box on numerous occasions, holding on to victory.

It’s a big win for Sweden, which will face an angry and pumped up Germany side coming off a loss in its first match. Meanwhile, South Korea looks to rebound against Mexico, with its spirits higher than the clouds.

RB Leipzig boss on Liverpool target Keita: We won’t let key players go

Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

RB Leipzig is a new club with massive ambition. Much to the chagrin of many fans, Leipzig has gone from nothing to a UEFA Champions League club in under a decade.

When we say nothing, we mean nothing. Leipzig didn’t exist until 2008, but massive investment has helped the new boys rocket to second place in the Bundesliga, 18 points clear of fifth place.

Forward Timo Werner got a lot of the headlines, but it’s hard to look past influential midfield duo Emil Forsberg and Naby Keita as the prime reasons for Leipzig’s success.

The 25-year-old Forsberg is a left-sided player, mostly in the midfield, while 22-year-old Keita is a menace who functions anywhere in the midfield.

Even those who’ve never seen Keita play will know his name from the transfer rumor mill, with Jurgen Klopp said to be a massive admirer of the Guinean. Keita posted eight goals and eight assists last season, and reportedly has a release clause of more than $60 million that will go into effect next summer.

So, naturally, many expected Leipzig to cash in on both players. But Forsberg has a contract through 2022 and Keita, 2020. Keita reportedly wants a move to Liverpool, and a report claimed the Leipzig president wouldn’t stand in his way.

But sporting director Ralf Rangnick, who used to manage the club, says the opposite.

Sunday Transfer Rumor Roundup: Aubameyang to Arsenal, Liverpool lose Forsberg

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Things are officially open in the January market, and while things don’t usually get finalized this early in the window, some rumors do occasionally end up squashed as smaller clubs look to keep hold of their best players while the sharks circle.

Liverpool have been recently linked with 24-year-old winger Emil Forsberg, but Red Bull Leipzig have declared the Swede off the market. “Everyone can rest assured that we are not interested in any enquiries for Emil Forsberg,” said Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff via Twitter. “He is not for sale.”

Forsberg has five goals and four assists in 17 league appearances in the 2.Bundesliga this season as Leipzig, a club only established in 2009, leads the league table.

Meanwhile, Watford were also dealt a blow as Lazio striker Keita Balde Diao pledged his loyalty to his current club. It had been thought that the Premier League side could use their sister club Udinese as a conduit, but Diao told Sky Italy, “I am fired up, I work hard every day to improve with the objective of becoming an important player for Lazio. Coach Stefano Pioli knows he can count on me.”

Arsenal is on track to complete its first signing of the window as reports all across England indicate they will finish a deal for Mohamed Elneny in the next few days. While boss Arsene Wenger is known for spending few and far between, The Sun is reporting he could look for help up front by making a play for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The 26-year-old is one of the most in-form players in Europe this season, with 18 goals in 17 Bundesliga games, including goals in eight straight games to start the season. The report says “an intermediary” has been dispatched to speak with Dortmund about the idea, with a price tag of $62 million.

Another man not for sale is Bayer Leverkusen striker Javier Hernandez. The club bought Chicharito from Manchester United this past summer, and he’s been fantastic with 11 goals in 14 appearances. Bayer manager Rudi Voller has staunchly rejected any speculation

“We’re not selling Chicharito to Arsenal or anyone else,” Voller told Sky Sports. “‘He’s not for sale. It’s easy to reject offers when you are in a position in which you don’t need to sell. We are in such a position. We will keep the players we want to help us achieve our goals. Chicharito has played a big part in our success so far, through his style of play, through his goals. That’s why we brought him here. In the first half of the season, everything has worked out fine.”