Zlatan Ibrahimovic

UEFA Champions League: Liverpool, Man City win, Dortmund out (video)


If Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League action kinda played to the script, Wednesday made sure to remind us to be thankful for the competition.

[ MORE: Premier League injury report ]

Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and Sporting Lisbon found their ways to the knockout rounds, but there’s so much left to decide thanks to AC Milan and others handling their business.

Already into the Round of 16 were Manchester City, Liverpool, Ajax, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Juventus.

Club Brugge 0-5 RB Leipzig

Jesse Marsch and his men stayed alive for the Europa League in style, as Brugge is going to need some serious good fortune to find its way into third above the Bundesliga outfit.

USMNT midfielder Tyler Adams was suspended from the match, but Leipzig’s firepower might’ve won with the entire defensive backbone missing, as Christopher Nkunku had a goal and two assists while Emil Forsberg bagged a brace.

Man City 2-1 PSG

Kylian Mbappe put PSG ahead just after halftime at the Etihad Stadium, but Gabriel Jesus stepped in to remind the world that Man City does have a center forward option.

It helped that PSG couldn’t handle crosses into tight areas, as Jesus assisted Raheem Sterling’s equalizer before taking a Bernardo Silva touch and putting Man City atop the group.

Clinical work of a difficult finish for Jesus on his goal.

Atletico Madrid 0-1 AC Milan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic subbed in for an injured Olivier Giroud and played a big role in Milan collecting a huge win at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Franck Kessie assisted Junior Messias’ winner late in Spain to push Milan above Atleti on tiebreakers and a point back of Porto in Group B.

Milan hosts already-qualified and seeded Liverpool on Dec. 7, while Porto hosts Atletico Madrid.

Liverpool 2-0 Porto

Thiago Alcantara scored a borderline intoxicating goal to lead a heavily-changed Liverpool past its Anfield visitors on Wednesday.

Mohamed Salah scored off a Jordan Henderson assist before leaving the match in the 70th minute, as Jurgen Klopp handed significant minutes to several unusual players.

Takumi Minamino, Neco Williams, Ibrahima Konate, and 19-year-old Tyler Morton went 90 minutes in the win. Morton entered the match with two League Cup appearances and six whole minutes of Premier League experience.

Besiktas 1-2 Ajax

Erik ten Hag’s Ajax will be seeded as a Sebastien Haller equalizer and match-winner drove the Dutch heroes past their Turkish hosts.

Rachid Ghezzal went ahead through a 22nd minute penalty but is now a few weeks away from finishing a group stage without a goal.

Sporting Lisbon 3-1 Borussia Dortmund

It’ll be the Europa League for BVB, who already trailed 2-0 on a Pedro Goncalves double when Emre Can was sent off for violent conduct.

Pedro Porro made it 3-0 after his penalty was saved, and BVB only managed a Donyell Malen goal in stoppage time to settle into third with six points.

Inter Milan 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk

A brace from Edin Dzeko has Inter in play for a group title with a match to play.

Inter’s 10 points are two back of Madrid but the Italians will host Real on Dec. 7 where a win will send them atop Group D.

Sheriff Tiraspol 0-3 Real Madrid

Predictably, Sheriff’s Cinderella story will have be best told In the Europa League, as Real avoided a second setback against the Moldovan set.

Here’s a Karim Benzema goal on the day he learned of a suspended jail sentence.

Zlatan injury update: Knee will cost Ibrahimovic season, EURO


Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out for the remainder of AC Milan’s quest for Champions League qualification and EURO 2022, the Swedish FA confirmed Saturday.

The 39-year-old ended a four-year international absence this season, assisting in a pair of World Cup qualifying wins in March.

[ MORE: Lewandowski matches 49-year-old record ]

Sweden’s attack still has Robin Quaison and Alexander Isak amongst its forward corps as well as veteran Marcus Berg, but this will ask more of the midfield including 21-year-old Dejan Kulusevski of Juventus and RB Leipzig star Emil Forsberg.

Zlatan had 17 goals and three assists in just under 2,000 minutes for AC Milan this year, missing three-or-more matches on three different occasions.

Milan has a two-point advantage on fifth in the race for UCL qualification.

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UEFA World Cup qualifying: Greece vexes Spain; Zlatan assists on return


The first rule of World Cup qualifying, especially given the way UEFA draws its groups, is to avoid the many upsets bids while handling your business at home.

The first-place team from each group in Europe becomes the only automatic qualifier to the World Cup and the second-place team gets into the playoffs.

[ USMNT-JAMAICAThree things learned | Player ratings ]

That’s why France’s 1-1 draw with Ukraine on Wednesday was an eyebrow-raiser, as was the Netherlands’ 4-2 defeat at Turkey (that one an away setback, at least).

Well, well, well, look what we had Thursday.

Spain 1-1 Greece

Greece had just over 20 percent of the ball and only one shot attempt in Spain.

The problem for Spain? That shot came off a wildly controversial penalty and it also went in the goal.

Anastasios Bakasetas’ 57th-minute penalty was awarded when Inigo Martinez’s sliding clearance ended with his cleats stuck into a Greek leg.

That goal answered Alvaro Morata’s first-half opener as Greece not only took a point from La Furia Roja but did it in the away fixture to hand Luis Enrique an opening day headache.

Spain now goes to Georgia on Sunday before hosting Kosovo on Wednesday.

Sweden 1-0 Georgia

It took less than 35 minutes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden return to put his name on the scoresheet, thought Sweden would’ve wanted more than a 1-0 home win over Georgia to start qualifying.

Ibrahimovic chested down a big cross from the right and chopped an in-tight pass to Viktor Claesson for the opening goal of Sweden’s UEFA World Cup qualifier with Georgia on Thursday.

The 39-year-old is still a prime offensive force after nearly five years away from the national team, where he posted 62 goals and 17 assists in 116 caps between Jan. 2001 and the end of EURO 2016.

Ibrahimovic has 17 goals in 23 appearances for AC Milan this season, including six Serie A braces.

England 5-0 San Marino

The Three Lions knew they’d win their group opener. The question was by how much, given that six previous meetings between the two produced a combined 37-1 scoreline in favor of England.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin was on the mark twice for Gareth Southgate’s men, while James Ward-Prowse and Raheem Sterling also scored with assists going to Jesse Lingard and Chelsea trio Mason Mount, Reece James, and Ben Chilwell.

Ollie Watkins scored off the bench and on debut for England to make it 5-0.

Germany 3-0 Iceland

Serge Gnabry set up goals for Leon Goretzka and Ilkay Gundogan, sandwiched around Kai Havertz’s finish of a Leroy Sane feed as Joachim Loew’s men led 2-0 after seven minutes and never looked back.

The Germans had 81 percent possession and needed just two saves out of Manuel Neuer in emphatically answering the 6-0 smashing at the hands of Spain in Nations League play on Nov. 11.

Germany also joined Norway in making a gesture ahead of a controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar that has not lost any of its controversy years after it was given to the Middle Eastern nation.

Hungary 3-3 Poland

Seven of 19 shots were on target and six went into the goal as Robert Lewandowski rescued a point for Poland on Thursday.

Hungary led 2-0 through Roland Sallai and Adam Szalai, but Krzysztof Piatek and Kamil Jozwiak scored a minute apart at the hour mark to level the match.

Willi Orban restored the hosts’ lead before Lewandowski scored on one of his few chances of the night to take a point back to Poland.


Bulgaria 1-3 Switzerland
Italy 2-0 Northern Ireland
Israel 0-2 Denmark
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Scotland 2-2 Austria
Andorra 0-1 Albania
Germany 3-0 Iceland
Liechtenstein 0-1 Armenia
Romania 3-2 North Macedonia

Europa League three things: Pogba sparks Man Utd; Rangers self-destruct

Manchester United
Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t have to lambaste his Manchester United the way Jose Mourinho roasted his sleepy Tottenham Hotspur.

Manchester United joined Arsenal in the Europa League quarterfinals with a Paul Pogba-led win over AC Milan, the super sub scoring three minutes after halftime.

[ MORE: Tottenham implodes | Arsenal, Granada, Roma advance ]

Solskjaer also needed Dean Henderson to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but we’ll get to all of that below as the Red Devils joined Villarreal, Slavia Prague, and Ajax in sealing late afternoon wins.

1. Pogba returns in glorious fashion as Henderson stops Zlatan’s hero bid

Paul Pogba needed less than three minutes of his first match since Feb. 6 to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a statement win in the Europa League.

Pogba’s 48th-minute goal lifted Manchester United past AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro on Thursday, the midfielder entering at halftime for Marcus Rashford and swinging the tie in the visitors’ favor after a 1-1 draw in Manchester.

This was an even match; United had a 13-10 shot advantage but the teams shared 50 percent possession.

A goalless draw would been enough for Milan, but the deficit meant a 65th-minute introduction for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The ex-United forward nearly leveled the score with a trademark leaping backpost header, but Dean Henderson made a great save.

With Tottenham also departing the tournament, United can taste the end of their semifinal curse If they can advance two more rounds and play in what could be their only final of the year.

We’ll find out whether that’s true on Sunday, when United and Leicester City meet up in the FA Cup quarterfinals.

2. Rangers’ win streak ends in ugly, decisive fashion

Steven Gerrard’s Scottish champions rarely lose but when they lost in a very loud manner with a nine-man, 2-0 second-leg loss to Slavia Prague on Thursday in Glasgow.

The aggregate scoreline finished 3-1, Slavia adding Steven Gerrard to a victim list that includes Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City from the Round of 32.

The Scottish side trailed 1-0 in the second leg on a Peter Olayinka goal when the game turned dramatically in the Czechs’ favor.

Rangers striker Kemar Roofe was sent off for a hideous studs-up lunge to poke a ball past the keeper that instead caught Ondrej Kolar in the face, sending both players out of the game.

The hosts were only down a man for 12 minutes, because they were then down two when Leon Balogun made an unnecessary challenge and gave away a free kick to Nicolae Stanciu. The Romanian playmaker sent it home and Gerrard’s men were done.

Rangers are unbeaten in Scottish Premiership play, winning 28 of 32 league matches, and were previously unbeaten in nine Europa League matches. A December 16 loss to St. Mirren in the Scottish League Cup is Gerrard’s only loss this season.

3. Villarreal, Ajax have no problems avoiding upset bids to complete power-packed final eight

Villarreal beat Dynamo Kiev 2-0 at home and Ajax held off Young Boys 2-0 in Switzerland to complete straight-forward Round of 16 wins.

That means the quarterfinal draw sees six names from big leagues in Arsenal, Villarreal, Manchester United, Ajax, Roma, and Granada to go with plucky Slavia Prague and Dinamo Zagreb.

All of the ties will be interesting. Could Unai Emery and Villarreal be paired up with old pals Arsenal? Might Chris Smalling, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Roma match wits with Manchester United?

Bring on the final eight.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes out of retirement for Sweden


Zlatan Ibrahimovic has come out of retirement and will play for Sweden once again.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Ibrahimovic, 39, last played for Sweden in the summer of 2016 at the European Championships but he has been named in their national team squad for World Cup qualifiers in March.

Janne Andersen has been keen to get Zlatan back in the squad for some time, even though some suggest his superstar presence could disrupt the group.

The all-time leading goalscorer for Sweden has been rolling back the years for AC Milan this season in Serie A, scoring 16 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions and he has 27 goals in 41 games since returning to Milan last season.

Since he last played for Sweden he has played for Manchester United, LA Galaxy and now AC Milan at club level and he’s been very successful at all three despite suffering a serious knee injury in 2017 while with the Red Devils.

What impact with Zlatan Ibrahimovic have for Sweden?

Whatever you think about Zlatan’s behavior on and off the pitch (his recent comments about LeBron James lost him a lot of admirers), there’s no doubt he’s a difference maker.

Ibrahimovic will provide Sweden with a cutting edge at the European Championships this summer as they qualified by being tough to beat, solid defensively and they have a smattering of skilled attacking midfielders in Emil Fosberg and Dejan Kulusevski who create chances.

What Sweden have been missing is someone to put them away, and that is where Zlatan comes in. He has scored 62 goals in 112 appearances for Sweden across a 15-year career and Marcus Berg is the only current Sweden striker who has scored double figures.

Sweden reached the World Cup quarterfinals in 2018 without Zlatan, where they lost to England, and it was rumored he would be called up for that tournament but they did just fine without him. They also qualified comfortably for the European Championships this summer, but Zlatan will offer something a little different in attack.

Now that he’s back, and assuming his fit, the European Championships (Sweden is in Group E with Spain, Poland and Slovakia) just got even more interesting this summer.