Jasper Cillessen

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Chelsea draws Valencia despite Pulisic goal

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The Chelsea defense was shambolic, but Valencia’s finishing was worse, and it seemed that Christian Pulisic‘s goal and Kepa Arrizabalaga’s penalty save would be enough. Then Daniel Wass produced a moment of sheer brilliance good enough to keep the Spanish side’s Champions League hopes alive.

Valencia missed a host of big chances that should have won them the game, but in the 80th minute Wass arrived to deliver a goal worthy of points from acres away to secure a 2-2 draw.

Valencia were on the front foot the first 30 minutes, but they were left empty-handed as Maxi Gomez missed a blinding chance on 20 minutes that left the home fans stunned. A wonderful cross form Rodrigo on the break fell right to the feet of Gomez, but the Uruguayan completely whiffed while sliding in awkwardly at the far post, a surefire miss of the season candidate.

Gomez again was left begging on the half-hour mark as the cross from Dani Parejo was too far for Ferran Torres but reached Gomez at the far post where his effort was saved by a charging Kepa Arrizabalaga despite the goal gaping.

Chelsea began to push after that, and worked a pair of chances with N’Golo Kante firing over the bar and Tammy Abraham forcing an exceptional save from Man of the Match Jasper Cillessen who tipped his poke over the bar. Just as the Blues were getting going, Valencia finally found the back of the net. From the right flank Rodrigo delivered a fabulous lofted cross into the middle of the box and Carlos Soler volleyed it home past Arrizabalaga.

The Blues responded right away, with Mateo Kovacic delivering a speculative turn-and-shoot from the top of the box that squirted inside the left post past a diving Cillessen for the Croatian’s first Chelsea goal. He nearly had a second before halftime as he rifled in a silky Pulisic delivery from the far post and Cillessen saved. Chelsea suffered a blow just before the break as Tammy Abraham landed awkwardly and was in serious pain, holding his left hip. Abraham was replaced by Michy Batshuayi upon the second-half restart.

Just moments after the whistle blew, Pulisic put Chelsea in front 2-1 as he nodded home Kurt Zouma‘s header with a toe poke. It was initially ruled out for offside, but after an extremely long VAR review, the goal was given as technology proved Pulisic was just level with the defender. Ezequiel Garay was booked for dissent after the goal was given, appearing to argue that he was fouled by Zouma on the aerial challenge.

Yet again the Chelsea defense was let off as Valencia should have scored, but Torres missed over the goal with a chip attempt as the Blues scrambled and Arrizabalaga was out of his net. Chelsea again allowed Valencia through as Jorginho was harshly whistled for a penalty in a clash with Jose Gaya, but after VAR allowed the call to stand, Arrizabalaga made a spectacular save to maintain the lead.

The game remained wide open as Chelsea nearly doubled the lead through Willian whose feed from Batshuayi left him alone with a charging Cillessen who saved well. Valencia began to pour on the pressure, and ultimately it bore fruit. A feed to the right by Parejo was dummied and left to Wass whose cross (it was absolutely a cross) stunningly found the top corner and into the back of the net off the woodwork.

Chelsea nearly found a winner thanks to a massive deflection on a Batshuayi shot, but Cillessen somehow managed to make a kick save despite already having gone to ground to meet the initial hit. For good measure, Valencia missed a sure winner at the death, with Rodrigo mishitting at the far post from a Gaya cross along the face of goal.

The two points lost for Chelsea were valuable ones in a crowded Group H, with the trio of Chelsea, Valencia, and Ajax all coming into the day level on seven points. With the Blues still to play Lille while Valencia has to take on Ajax, they will still believe to be holding the upper hand, but it will all come down to the final match day.

Early Euro qualifiers: Belgium, Netherlands, Russia all win

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In the early slate of Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifiers, there were little surprises as Belgium, Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Scotland all found the winner’s column.

Liverpool midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum bagged a first-half brace, including an absolute rocket, as the Netherlands held on for a 2-1 win over Belarus. BATE Borisov midfielder Stanislav Dragun grabbed one back for Belarus soon after halftime, but the visitors held on in Minsk.

[ WATCH: Wijnaldum scores ripper for Netherlands ]

Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt partnered in defense yet again, as they have for 17 of the last 19 Netherlands games, conceding just 17 goals in those 17 matches. Thanks in part to that stellar partnership, Jasper Cillessen had little to do, with Dragun’s headed goal the only shot on target for Belarus in the match, while the Netherlands put seven of their 21 shots on frame.

Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier both found the back of the net as Belgium topped Kazakhstan 2-0 in Astana to remain perfect in qualifying action and keep pace with Russia in Group I. Batshuayi was filling in for an injured Romelu Lukaku, and he latched onto a low back-post cross from Dennis Praet for the opener 21 minutes in. Meunier’s 53rd minute poke came off an absolutely stunning long delivery from Eden Hazard to the far post placed perfectly over the head of the defender. Belgium held 66% possession throughout the match, and while they were only able to put three shots on target, they scored on two of them and held the hosts to just one. Belgium has now scored 30 goals in Euro qualification while conceding just one.

Russia also continued to surge ahead in Group I play one game back of Belgium with a 5-0 demolition of Cyprus in Nicosia. Denis Cheryshev struck nine minutes in to put Russia ahead as he pilfered the ball off the Cyprus back line. The hosts lost Standard Liege defender Konstantinos Laifis to a straight red card, and the rest was elementary. Magomed Ozdoev, Artem Dzyuba, and Aleksandr Golovin all found the back of the net before Cheryshev finished it off with his second of the game in stoppage time. Russia and Belgium have both qualified for the finals, with Russia sitting in second three points behind the perfect group leaders.

Hungary scored 10 minutes in and hung on for a 1-0 victory at home over Azerbaijan. 30-year-old Mihaly Korhut struck a long-distance ripper from well outside the box that appeared to catch goalkeeper Emil Balayev off guard, and the Hungary defense did the rest. RB Leipzig captain Willi Orban and Sporting Kansas City defender Botond Barath held Azerbaijan to just four total shots, including two on target. Meanwhile, despite splitting the possession nearly halfway, Hungary ripped off 23 shots, putting six on target.

Scotland hammered San Marino at home 6-0 behind a first-half hat-trick from Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn. In the pouring rain in Glasgow, McGinn opened the scoring 12 minutes in for his second international goal on a simple cutback and shot from Ryan Christie which clipped McGinn on its way inside the far post. He hit for a second just before the half-hour mark as he poked home a cross by Scott McTominay that was saved into no-man’s land by a diving San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini. The third featured the highest degree of difficulty as a set-piece delivery into the box was headed by Stuart Findlay towards the far post and McGinn ripped it home on the doorstep under pressure. Lawrence Shankland, Findlay, and Stuart Armstrong finished off the scoreline in the second half, although Scotland has still long been eliminated from qualification in the top-heavy Group I.

Barcelona sign Neto in goalkeeper swap with Valencia

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Brazilian goalkeeper Neto will sign a four-year contract with the Spanish champions.

The transfer completes a swap a day after Barcelona sold Jasper Cillessen to Valencia.

Barcelona says it is paying 26 million euros ($29.5 million) plus possibly another 9 million euros ($10.2 million) in variables for Neto. Valencia paid Barcelona 35 million euros ($40 million) for Cillessen.

Neto will replace Cillessen, who played as a backup for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Champions League and the Spanish league and only regularly started in the Copa del Rey.

The 29-year-old Neto helped Valencia qualify for the Champions League with a fourth-place finish for the past two seasons in Spain. He also played in Italy at Juventus as a backup to Gianluigi Buffon and at Fiorentina after starting at Brazilian club Paranaense.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Jasper Cillessen completes move to Valencia

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After spending three seasons at Barcelona mostly as a backup, goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen will now have the opportunity to earn significant playing time as the Dutchman has reportedly completed a move to Valencia, with Neto going in the opposite direction.

Hector Gomez of Valencia-centric show Tribuna VCF reports that Cillessen has completed his medical with Valencia.

According to a number of Spanish reports, including AS and Dario SPORT, the two deals will be done separately and completely at slightly different times for equal amounts of money to help out Valencia in financial fair play. Neto will move to Barcelona before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, while Cillessen’s deal will be officially completed after the start of the 2019/20 fiscal year on July 1, helping Valencia bank the $34 million transfer fee in the recently completed season before sending that money right back officially part of next season.

The 30-year-old Cillessen has been with Barcelona since joining from Ajax in 2016, making just five La Liga appearances for the club while backing up Marc-Andre ter Stegen. He did serve as the regular domestic cup goalkeeper, helping Barcelona to Copa del Rey titles in 2016/17 and 2017/18 before losing last season to Valencia in the final. Despite not playing much for Barcelona, Cillessen is still the starter for the Dutch national team and has been since mid-2017 when he won the job back from Jeroen Zoet and Maarten Stekelenburg.

Neto, meanwhile, presumably returns to a backup role he served at Juventus for two years, stuck behind Gianluigi Buffon. He was the starter for Valencia the past two seasons, helping the club to two consecutive fourth-place finishes in La Liga play.

Cillessen to replace De Gea at Man United?

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Jasper Cillessen has emerged as a leading candidate to replace David De Gea at Manchester United.

De Gea has just one year left on his contract at United and the Spanish goalkeeper has yet to commit his future to the Old Trafford club. It is believed De Gea wants a new deal matching the $635,000 per week wages United’s top earner Alexis Sanchez is on.

A report from the Daily Record in Scotland states that Cillessen, 30, wants to leave Barcelona this summer and the Catalan club want $32 million plus performance based add ons for the Dutch international goalkeeper.

Would this be a good move?

It is clear DDG went through a rough spell at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, but he was named the PL’s best goalkeeper in five of the past seven seasons and United’s player of the season in four of the last five campaigns. His quality is undoubted and it is quite possible his poor recent form is due to uncertainty around his future.

But if it seems unlikely that De Gea will sign a new contract, United should cash in this summer. Real Madrid aren’t too happy with Thibaut Courtois and that seems like the most likely destination for DDG. That way United get at least $30 million for De Gea, and probably more if they play their cards right, and don’t run the risk of losing him for nothing next season.

As for Cillessen, the former Ajax star has spent three seasons as a back up for Marc-Andre ter Stegen at the Nou Camp and at his age he now needs to start playing regularly. He is good with his feet and is a regular starter for the Netherlands on the international stage.

De Gea has enjoyed an incredible career at Old Trafford and in recent seasons his heroics have kept United within touching distance of the top four and in the hunt for trophies.