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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

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:

Six young stars of the early season in Europe

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Erling Braut Haland’s UEFA Champions League coming out party has the teenage striker’s name on the tip of the transfer market’s tongue.

The 19-year-old is being linked with Liverpool after scoring against the Reds last week to join his group stage opening hat trick against Genk.

[ MORE: USMNT players in focus ]

Haland has — no, we’re not kidding — 18 goals and five assists in 785 minutes for Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg and is going to cost someone a pretty penny.

Here are some other top performers to start the season, names certain to move from whispers to shouts in January and beyond.

Donyell Malen, PSV Eindhoven — The 20-year-old has 10 goals in the Eredivise alone, five of which came against Vitesse, and has chipped in another six across European competition. The smallish striker — 5’9″ — is an elite passer and finisher.

Victor Osimhen, Lille — Another 20-year-old, the 6-foot plus Osimhen scored against Chelsea in the UCL and has seven goals and two assists in league play. He’s had no problems making the transition from RSC Charleroi in Belgium to Ligue 1.

Tiemoue Bakayoko, Monaco — There was no room for Bakayoko in Frank Lampard‘s midfield at Chelsea, so he’s on loan again and thriving back at Monaco. With 4.2 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game, he’s showing even better than he did when Maurizio Sarri sent him to AC Milan last season. He’s not a baby, but it might surprise you to read he’s 25.

Eberechi Eze, Queens Park Rangers — At 21 years old, Eze is chewing up minutes for QPR and boasts four goals and three assists. The R’s are a point off the playoff places in the Championship, and the free-dribbling attacking midfielder is a big part of the operation.

Aleksandr Sobolev, KS Samara — The Russian 22-year-old has reportedly caught the attention of Arsenal and Manchester United. At nearly 6-foot-4, the youngster has bagged 10 goals and three assists in 12 matches.

Willian’s vicious volley gets Chelsea win at Lille

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Chelsea earned a hard-fought 2-1 win over Lille on Wednesday in France, taking their first three points of the UEFA Champions League campaign.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Tammy Abraham and Willian scored for the Blues, while Fikayo Tomori had a strong day at the back and also produced an assist.

Willian’s goal came on his 300th Chelsea appearance.

Victor Osimhen scored Lille’s goal, the Ligue 1 side still without a point following a 3-0 loss to Ajax in the group stage opener.


Three things we learned

1. Tomori is the true story: The Calgary-born defender was everywhere for Chelsea, and he has to be getting a phone call from Gareth Southgate at some point soon. His assist on the goal was obviously important, but he held sway over the game with five tackles and 13 duels won.

2. Willian delivers the win: You know how sometimes a ball is hit so hard it appears to shrink in size? That’s the sort of venom-dripping volley Willian delivered for the win.

Mason Mount didn’t have his best day, but substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi cued up this goal for Willian as a pair of wingers delivered the difference.

3. Pulisic, Barkley left home: Frank Lampard had a laugh about Ross Barkley‘s off-field issue with the cops over the weekend, but left the Englishman behind for the trip to France. Christian Pulisic was also out of the 18 after admitting to our own Joe Prince-Wright that he wasn’t sure what he needed to do to get into the Starting XI. Not a good time right now for the American star.

Man of the Match: Tomori


Either Abraham or Mason Mount could’ve scored the opener, beating the line to Fikayo Tomori’s incisive cross.

But set pieces can really sting, and Jonathan Bamba’s corner kick was met by a powerful Osimhen header to make it 1-1.

The Blues controlled the proceedings in France, but needed Willian’s vicious late volley to deliver the three points.

Report: Nicolas Pepe agrees to Arsenal move

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Nicolas Pepe is set to become an Arsenal player this week in a club-record transfer.

The Ivory Coast international, 24, has returned from his break following the Africa Cup of Nations and Lille are said to have agreed $87 million deals with both Arsenal and Napoli to sell him this summer.

Pepe is also said to be attracting a late bid from Paris Saint-Germain, but Sky Sports say that Pepe has decided he will move to Arsenal. The report adds that he will undergo a medical in London in the coming days.

What’s that? Oh yes, we thought Arsenal didn’t have any money to spend this summer. Apparently they do.

The $87 million deal for Pepe will be paid in several instalments by Arsenal in order to fit into their financial plans, with Unai Emery‘s side winning the race for his signature.

Pepe scored 22 goals in Ligue 1 last season as Lille finished second behind PSG, and only Kylian Mbappe was involved in more goals as the tricky winger (who can also play as a center forward) added 11 assists in the league.

But do Arsenal really need another attacking player? It would appear the one area of their squad which is well-stocked with options, but when a player of Pepe’s ability, and potential, becomes available then you have to snap him up.

The Gunners never got close to the $100 million valuation Crystal Palace wanted for Wilfried Zaha, but it is clear that Emery wants a speedy winger to link up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in attack. What this means for the futures of Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan remains to be seen, but Pepe’s arrival is a major coup as Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich were all linked with signing Pepe.

If the signing of Dani Ceballos on a season-long from Real Madrid excited Arsenal’s fans, this deal for Pepe will knock their socks off. In addition, signing highly-rated teenage center back William Saliba from Saint-Etienne for $33 million then loaning him back for this season is another positive move. That last transfer doesn’t help Arsenal where they need help most (defense) this season, and that is still the concern regarding their chances of finishing in the top four.

They conceded 51 PL goals last season, the third most of teams who finished in the top 10, and they’ve also seen club captain Laurent Koscielny refuse to go on their U.S. tour during preseason as he wants a move away from the club. However, Rob Holding‘s return from injury is a big boost and Hector Bellerin is also set to come back soon after a lengthy spell out.

Emery has to deliver a top four finish this season and now that he’s had an entire campaign to bed in his ideas, he must deliver a return to the Champions League for the Gunners. Pepe will help that push in a big way, but Arsenal must get better defensively if they’re going to be a success under Emery.