Malmo FF

Associated Press

Chelsea top Malmo in Europa League

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Ross Barkley scored 30 minutes in, and that was all Chelsea needed as they picked up a solid first-leg advantage with a 2-1 victory over Malmo in Sweden.

The former Everton midfielder made a blistering run to reach Pedro‘s deep cross, losing his defender while collecting the ball and firing an off-balance shot into the back of the net on the half-hour mark. Olivier Giroud added the icing on the cake in the 58th minute as Willian sent the ball across the face of goal and the Frenchman was on hand to poke it in on the doorstep.

It wasn’t elementary for the Blues, as Malmo was dangerous throughout the match, especially in the start of the second half as blocks from David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta kept the home side out. Ultimately, despite holding just 33% possession, Malmo somehow outshot Chelsea 14-4 through the first hour of the match but could only put one of those on target. Anders Christiansen eventually grabbed a late goal for Malmo in the 80th minute to give the Blues something to think about in the second leg. The Danish international struck on the break as he beat Emerson to a through-ball and muscled him off for the finish.

Mateo Kovacic was the biggest influencer in the match for Chelsea, completing a hefty 115/117 passes and completing all three of his one-on-one take-ons. Barkley was the most dangerous going forward, scoring the first goal and then running the break before distributing to Willian ahead of Giroud’s finish.

The win for the Blues is a solid bounce-back from its embarrassing 6-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, as winning on the road in European play is always a positive result. It also means Chelsea has reached 10 straight European games unbeaten, with nine wins and a draw in that span.

Chelsea now heads home for the second leg on February 21, holding a solid advantage in the matchup. Malmo would need to outscore Chelsea by two goals and also score more than two goals to win in regulation.

USMNT’s Romain Gall strikes twice for Malmo

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With a pair of international friendlies coming up, Romain Gall may have earned himself a look at by the U.S. Men’s National Team once again with a strong showing for Malmo.

[ MORE: Where is it going wrong for Man United? ]

The 23-year-old French-American scored twice on Sunday in Malmo’s 5-0 win over IK Sirius, bringing his side up to fourth place in the Swedish Allsvenskan table.

For Gall, it’s his first goals of the season for Malmo, after making just four appearances for the club to this point.

The Paris-born midfielder opened his account in brilliant style in the 67th minute with a powerful left-footed strike from the top of the box, before doubling his tally with an even better finish from a right angle.

Gall has yet to earn a call up to the USMNT in young career, despite representing the Under-18 and U-20 national teams in the past.

UEFA Champions League qualifying draw

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The draw for the first two rounds of UEFA Champions League qualifying has been made in Nyon, Switzerland.

Scottish champions Celtic were among the seeds for the draw as Brendan Rodgers‘ men will arrive in the second qualifying round and face either Northern Irish champs Linfield or SP La Fiorita of San Marino.

Other seeded clubs in the draw include Malmo of Sweden, Rosenberg of Norway and Polish outfit Legia Warsaw.

Below is the draw for the first two rounds of qualifying in full.

The first round games will be played on 27/28 June and 4/5 July. The second round games will be played on 11/12 July and 18/19 July.


Champions League first qualifying round

Vikingur (Faroe Isles) v Trepca ’89 (Kosovo)

Hibernians (Malta) v Tallinn (Estonia)

Alashkert (Armenia) v Santa Coloma (Andorra)

The New Saints v Europa (Gibraltar)

Linfield v SP La Fiorita (San Marino)

Champions League second qualifying round

Group 1

Apoel (Cyprus) v Dudelange (Luxembourg)

Zalgiris (Lithuania) v Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria)

Qarabag (Azerbaijan) v Samtredia (Georgia)

Partizan (Serbia) v Budućnost Podgorica (Montenegro)

Hibernians (Malta) or FCI Tallinn (Estonia) v Salzburg (Austria)

Group 2

Sheriff (Moldova) v Kukes (Albania)

Astana (Kazakhstan) v Spartaks Jurmala (Latvia)

BATE Borisov (Belarus) v Alashkert (Armenia) or FC Santa Coloma (Andorra)

Zilina (Slovakia) v Copenhagen (Denamrk)

Hapoel Beer-Sheva (Israel) v Budapest Honvéd (Hungary)

Rijeka (Croatia) v The New Saints or Europa (Gibraltar)

Group 3

Malmo (Sweden) v Vardar (Macedonia)

Zrinjski (Bosnia and Herzegovina) v Maribor (Slovenia)

Dundalk (Ireland) v Rosenborg (Norway)

FH Hafnarfjördur (Iceland) v Víkingur (Faroe Islands) or Trepça ’89 (Kosovo)

Linfield or SP La Fiorita (San Marino) v Celtic

IFK Mariehamn (Finland) v Legia Warszawa (Poland)

VIDEO: Zlatan marks homecoming to his boyhood club with a goal

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has marked his homecoming to his boyhood club, Malmo FF in Sweden, with a goal (below video) for Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

The goal put the Parisians 3-0 ahead, but the story on the night is all about Ibrahimovic, who left the club in 2001 for Ajax, and upon his return this week paid out of his own pocket for the game to be shown in the main city square. Tickets for the event sold out in less than 30 minutes.

Ibrahimovic, on his return and what the city of Malmo still means to him — quotes from the Guardian:

“I am from Malmo, wherever I go I am representing Malmo. I have become who I am because of Malmo. Everything started in Malmo and I feel like a Malmo lad. I move in a Malmo way and I think I talk in a Malmo way. Everything is Malmo for me. It was there I went to school, there I was spending time with my friends, there I played silly pranks. That is where I was free. The ‘proper stuff’ hadn’t started yet. That is where my story is. Somewhere inside me that is still my team, even if I represent PSG, Juventus or the other clubs. Malmo is still my team, there is no other one for me.”

Zlatan hoping to impress in return to boyhood club Malmo

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Wednesday’s Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Malmo will be a special moment for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Zlatan started his professional career as a teenager with the Swedish side before becoming one of the elite strikers of his generation.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Since moving on from Malmo, he has played for top sides Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, and now PSG. Wednesday will be his first match in Malmo since leaving in 2001.

The greatest Swedish player of all-time, Zlatan’s return has been circled on the calendar since the schedule came out. While supporters will be hoping Malmo can pull off a miraculous win to stay alive in the Champions League, they will also be looking for a big performance from their former striker.

Speaking ahead of the match, Ibrahimovic wished the stadium was bigger to fit “all of Malmo,” and in typical Zlatan fashion, said he hopes to score a hat-trick against his old club.

If MFF’s stadium had been five times bigger, we’d still have been able to fill it. We want to fit all of Malmo in, but everyone can’t get in.

It’ll be a large screen in the square where everyone will have a chance to see the match live. It will be a special moment.

The perfect scenario would be if Paris win the match, I score three goals and everyone shouts my name.

With PSG heavy favorites in the match, it is more likely for supporters to see three goals from Zlatan than a Malmo win.

[ RELATED: UEFA Champions League scenarios for Premier League clubs ]

Already a legend in his home country, Zlatan scored three goals in two legs of Sweden’s EURO qualifying playoff last week to lead his country into the finals. Expect him to get a hero’s welcome, no matter the result.