Thomas Meunier

Getty Images

Early Euro qualifiers: Belgium, Netherlands, Russia all win

Leave a comment

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.

UCL wrap: PSG runs over Real; Atalanta clobbered on debut

GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League goals, and Angel Di Maria go together pretty well.

[ MORE: Man Utd extends Lindelof ]

The man who scored a decisive goal for Real in a UCL Final scored two as Paris Saint-Germain throttled the 10-time champions in France without Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, and Neymar.

PSG 3-0 Real Madrid

If it’s possible for Zinedine Zidane to feel heat under his seat, it’s probably happening right about now.

Real Madrid was absolutely cooked by a clinical PSG missing its trident, with Di Maria scoring two goals in the win.

Juan Bernat was exceptional in the win, and set up two goals including Thomas Meunier’s late insurance tally.

Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 Atalanta

The Serie A visitors made their UEFA Champions League debut, and boy did it fall flat.

Down 1-0 early on a Marin Leovac opener, Atalanta surrendered a hat trick to Mislav Orsic in the loss. The 26-year-old midfielder is fresh off his first cap for Croatia. More seem on the horizon, yeah?

Considering their group includes Man City and Shakhtar Donetsk, La Dea won’t appreciate losing four goals in the differential column against a perceived bottom dweller for the group.

Elsewhere

Olympiacos 2-2 Tottenham — RECAP, Pochettino reaction
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City — RECAP
Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus — RECAP
Club Brugge 0-0 Galatasaray
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayern Munich 3-0 Red Star Belgrade

PSG fails to wrap up Ligue 1 title after 5-1 humiliation by Lille

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Paris Saint-Germain came to Stade Pierre Mauroy on Sunday with a chance to seal the Ligue 1 title in dominating fashion. They left with nothing but a humiliating 90 minutes to show for the trip.

The French giants went behind just seven minutes in, and slumped to a humiliating 5-1 defeat by second-placed Lille, PSG’s biggest league defeat in 10 years. In addition to the loss, PSG also saw oft-injured Thiago Silva leave injured after just 16 minutes, while Thomas Meunier also departed injured just eight minutes later.

Things got started in the seventh minute as Meunier looked to cut out a cross from Jonathan Ikone, but instead stuck his foot out and poked the ball into the back of his own net under little pressure. Juan Bernat equalized four minutes later to bring PSG back level as he tapped in at the far post after receiving a deep cross from Kylian Mbappe. Bernat, however, was sent off just past the half-hour mark as he tugged on Nicolas Pepe on a breakaway, leaving referee Benoit Bastien to show Bernat the red card for soft a last-man foul.

After halftime, playing a man down, PSG absolutely caved. Pepe put Lille up again in the 51st minute on a breakaway with a shot through the legs of Alphonse Areola, and it was all hosts from there. Jonathan Bamba, Gabriel, and Jose Fonte all found the scoresheet after the hour mark, and the rout was on. Bamba’s goal was the most embarrassing for the PSG back line as he simply out-paced the defenders before beating Areola at his near post in a performance to forget from the PSG goalkeeper. Presnel Kimpembe and Thilo Kehrer provided little to no resistance on Gabriel’s 71st minute header, while Fonte completed the heavy scoreline with a header of his own as Kimpembe was again beat in the air.

PSG still needs just one victory to wrap up the Ligue 1 title, still owning a massive 17-point lead, but they have dropped points in each of their last two league games and are limping to the finish line, still with a Coupe de France final against Stade Rennais to come on April 27.

Transfer rumor roundup: Allan to PSG, Meunier to Everton

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Paris Saint-Germain is at the heart of a trio of transfer rumors, including their long-term pursuit of Everton midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye.

Thomas Tuchel’s club is hoping to improve their midfield in a few ways, linked with Gueye, Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches, and Napoli’s Allan.

Everton’s play involves getting a big name player at Goodison Park, with the Toffees said to need Gueye and cash to pry Thomas Meunier away from PSG (and help with Financial Fair Play).

Meunier is two years younger than Gueye, 30-times capped by Belgium, and plays right back. Everton upgraded its left back spot with Lucas Digne in the summer, and 30-year-old captain Seamus Coleman currently mans right back.

PSG is also said to be hopeful of getting Allan for around $70 million. The 28-year-old Brazilian leads Napoli with 3.6 tackles per game and only Kalidou Koulibaly and Marek Hamsik have the ball more than Allan.

Sanches, 21, is the youngest of the bunch and has been used regularly as a sub for Niko Kovac’s Bavarians.

Calcio Mercato says Fulham, Newcastle United, and Cardiff City’s hopes for defensive reinforcements include Cameroonian defender Michael Ngadeu.

The 28-year-old Ngadeu has 18 months left on his contract at Slavia Prague, and is a regular for Cameroon.

And a former Newcastle man is being linked with a move back to the Premier League, as Rangers’ captain James Tavernier is said to be interesting Southampton to the tune of a $10 million purchase.

Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.

Kylian Mbappe scores four as PSG thumps Lyon

Associated Press
Leave a comment

It was a close game at halftime in the French capital. And then, in a flash, it wasn’t.

Neymar’s ninth-minute penalty was the difference at the break, but Kylian Mbappe stole the show in the second half, scoring a whopping four goals in a 5-0 demolition of Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday as Paris Saint-Germain remained a perfect nine-of-nine in Ligue 1 play.

Mbappe was the man taken down in the box to lead to Neymar’s spot-kick, and PSG led early.

He then scored all four of his goals in a thirteen-minute span after the break, starting just past the hour mark as he popped up in all the right places. Both teams had a man sent off before the break, with PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe the first man to go thanks to a check of VAR. The 23-year-old charged in studs up on Tanguy NDombele, but was shown a yellow at first before the video review. Just before halftime, Lucas Tousart picked up his second yellow for Lyon and had to go.

With both teams down to 10 men, PSG began to press the Lyon box and Mbappe took advantage. He scored his first in the 61st minute as Neymar weaved through defenders but was tackled before getting a shot off, and the ball fell to Mbappe near the penalty spot for a cool, uncontested finish in off the post. Five minutes later, Marco Verratti’s good work was rewarded as he sprung Marquinhos down the right, and past the back line he crossed easily to Mbappe for the sliding tap-in.

Already on a 3-0 lead, the Lyon defenders looked tired and barely challenged Neymar and Mbappe three minutes later for his hat-trick. Neymar rolled down the left with two defenders simply shading him across the halfway line, and his easy ball to Mbappe down the middle saw him finish his long distance one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

He would close the book on the scoreline in the 74th minute in a scramble as Thomas Meunier saw his initial effort down the right closed down by a charging Anthony Lopes. The rebound fell to Mbappe who found Neymar, and his shot was blocked, and it again fell to Mbappe who would finish it off.

PSG now has 27 points on the season thanks to nine wins from nine matches. That gives them an eight-point advantage at the top of the table, a significant early lead with the bulk of the season still to go.