The Indy Eleven return to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on North Carolina FC at 7:00 p.m. this Saturday night. I am guessing the roof will be closed for this – just 2nd home Saturday night game of the season. Tickets are available for as low as $15 at IndyEleven.com/Tickets. The 11 tied league leaders Tampa Bay, the lone undefeated team in the East, 0-0 at home Wednesday night despite playing almost 70 minutes with only 10 players. Eleven standout defender Paddy Barrett received his 2nd yellow card 20 minutes in and the Eleven battled but couldn’t quite pull off the win at home down a man. Also this week the bill allowing the Indy 11 New Stadium and Indy Park passed the senate and the bill is now on the way to the Governor’s Desk. Great news for the future of professional soccer in Indy!!
Champions League & Europa League
Wow Messi. What else can you say – he’s simply magisterial as my favorite color guy Rocky Ray Hudson on beIN Sports says. Two goals including one spectacular free kick to make it 3-0 at home over Liverpool his 600th goal by the way. The thing is after a 1-0 first half – Liverpool really outplayed Barca in the 2nd half – but GK Ter Stegan came up with huge saves, along with a lucky save off the line followed by a Salah shot off the post that could have made it 2-1. Even Klopp echoed the statement – that Liverpool actually played well – especially in the 2nd half down 1-0 – they had multiple chances to score but somehow gave up 2 goals against the run of play. It will take a magical performance to make up a 3 goal deficit heading home to Anfield next Tues at 3 pm. Of course the youngsters at Dutch side Ajax continue their attack on the history books as they took a 1-0 win at Spurs Tuesday – a game that could have easily be 2 or 3 to zero. Tottenham should have their talisman Son back up front Wed at 3 pm on TNT – for the away leg as he missed the home stint having received 2 yellow cards last round. (the stupidest rule is sports be the way !! 2 yellow cards in 6 games and you sit the next game – can you imagine the NFL sitting Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game?) In the Europa League Semi-finals Arsenal used the home field to a 3-1 lead over Valencia while Chelsea tied Frankfort 1-1 on the road. The 2nd legs of both semi-finals will be next Thurs at 3 pm on Univision Desportes. Remember the winner of Europa gets a Champions League entry next year which could help both EPL squads as they battle for top 4 position. Finally – Prayers out to one of the best GK’s ever Iker Casillas, 37, who had a heart attack at training with Porto Wednesday. See GK section below for all the Great Saves from Champions League/Europa & More this week.
Man United managed to blow its home chance vs Chelsea as they ended in a 1-1 tie at Old Trafford last Sunday – that leaves Man United on the outside of the top 4 with just 2 games left. Man City maintains its 1 pt lead over Liverpool for the top slot after they scored a goal by 30 millimeters last weekend. NBCSN did a great job chronicling that the EPL Title Race might just come down to 75 millimeters – as Liverpool were denied a goal by 45 or so millimeters in their 2-1 loss (there only loss of the season) at Man City earlier this year. Ah goal-line Technology !! Still with just 2 games to go it’s a spectacular race for the top and the top 4 slots (Champions League Qualification) in the EPL. Liverpool travels to New Castle United Sat at 2:45 pm on NBCSN in the game of the week, while Tottenham travel to Bourmouth and US youngster Emerson Hyndman at 7:30 am NBCSN Sat and Chelsea host Watford at 9 am Sunday. Also Sunday Man U travels to Huddersfiled at 9 am NBCSN and Arsenal host Brighton at 11:30 am NBCSN. Finally Man City, on an 11 game winning streak in the league, will host Leicester City (who’s still battling for Europe) on Mon at 3 pm on NBCSN. EPL Table Here’s a Quick Glance at all the European Leagues and Standings with 2 games to go.
Good Luck to all those Carmel FC and other teams playing Cup games this Weekend oh and May the 4th Be With You!
Sat, MAY 4 (American’s in parenthesis)
7:30 am NBCSN Bournmouth vs Tottenham (American Mid – Emerson Hyndman)
9:30 am Fox Sport 2 Bayern Munich vs Hannover 96
10 am NBCNS Fulham (Tim Ream) vs Wolverhampton
12:30 pm Fox Sport 2 Werder Bremen vs Dortmund (Pulisic)
12:30 pm NBCSN Cardiff vs Crystal Palace
2:45 pm NBC New Castle United (Yedlin?) vs Liverpool
2 pm ESPN NY Red Bulls vs LA Galaxy
7 pm ESPN+ Indy 11 vs North Carolina (Lucas Oil)
10 pm ESPN+ San Jose vs Cincy
10:30 pm ESPN+ LAFC vs Chicago Fire
Sun, MAY 5
7:30 am Fox Sport 2 Schalke (McKinney) vs Ausburg
9 am NBCSN Chelsea vs Watford
9 am CNBC Huddersfield Town vs Man United
10:15 am beIN Sport Real Madrid vs Villarreal
11:30 am NBCSN Arsenal vs Brighton
9 pm Fox Sport 1 Sporting KC vs Atlanta United
Mon, MAY 6
3 pm NBCSN Man City vs Leicester City
Tues, May 7 Champions League SEMI-FINALS Leg 2
3 pm TNT Liverpool 0 vs Barcelona 3
Weds, May 8 Champions League
3 pm TNT Ajax 1 vs Tottenham 0
Thur, MAY 9 Europa League SEMI-FINALS Leg 2
3 pm Uni Desportes/BR Live Chelsea 1 vs Frankfurt 1
3 pm Uni Desportes/BR Live Valencia 1 vs Arsenal 3
Weds, May 29 Europa League Finals
Sat, June 1 Champions League Finals
Liverpool made Messi Angry and Paid for it Mark Odgen ESPNFC
Indy 11 Soccer Camp – Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Field June 17-20 9-12 noon.ages 6-14 $135
CHS Boys Soccer Skills Camp – Murray Stadium July 15-18 8:30-10:30 am ages 8-14 $85
INDY ELEVEN RETURNS HOME, EARNS POINT FROM 0-0 DRAW VS. TAMPA BAY
By IndyEleven.com, 05/01/19, 11:15PM EDT
Down a Man for 70 Minutes, Boys in Blue Start Month-long Homestand with Gritty Result versus Rowdies
Indy Eleven’s homecoming didn’t go according to script after going a man down 20 minutes in, but the Boys in Blue rode a stout defensive effort to earn a point from a 0-0 draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Lucas Oil Stadium. The first draw of the season for Indy Eleven (4W-2L-1D, 13 pts.) moved Indiana’s Team into a sixth place tie in the Eastern Conference, while Tampa Bay (4W-0L-5D, 17 pts.), the lone remaining undefeated team in the East, pushed into a second-place tie on the conference table.“To go down to ten men in the early minutes made it so difficult,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “For the first 20 minutes I thought we were really good. We were on the ball. We were energetic. I don’t really have any question about whether we have a good team or good players, but today I got the answer about how much character and fight we have. The guys worked hard. Everybody did their job. Nobody slacked off.”Eleven forward Thomas Enevoldsen asked the first question of the evening in the eighth minute, ending a counter attack with a thumping shot from the left edge of the area that made Rowdies goalkeeper John McCarthy retreat to his near post for a save. That began a flow of one-way traffic towards the Tampa Bay goal – at least for the next 10 minutes. Eleven defender Paddy Barrett put McCarthy to work again with a header off a corner in the 12th minute – and one minute later picked up a caution for unsporting behavior prior to the ensuing corner.Unfortunately for the home team, Barrett would see a second yellow card in the 20th minute for a late tackle on Sebastian Guenzatti, putting the Boys in Blue a man down for the first time in 2019. The rest of the first half was largely uneventful, with Tampa Bay unable to put any of its four shots on frame. Guenzatti’s effort from 10 yards that missed jut wide right in stoppage time marked the only serious threat of the first half for Tampa Bay despite the man advantage.The second half began with Eleven forward Dane Kelly looking to catch McCarthy off guard in the opening seconds, his shot from 30 yards out not missing the left post by much. Rowdies midfielder David Najem tried his own luck from a similar distance five minutes later, a chance that Eleven ‘keeper Evan Newton had covered as it whistled over the crossbar.Indy Eleven did well to absorb pressure and pick moments to push forward, the approach nearly paying off in the 70th minute when Kenney Walker’s flicked ball was headed back into the Rowdies area by defender Abdoulaye Diakite. Kelly got behind the Tampa Bay backline and was there to meet the ball at the same time as an onrushing McCarthy, who appeared to injure his right arm in the ensuing collision but would stay in the contest after receiving a few minutes of medical attention. In the 81st minute it was Enevoldsen again looking to sneak one in from distance, but the Danish striker’s attempt from 30 yards was collected by McCarthy.The last five minutes saw the squads trade chances, Guenzatti dragging a good look wide left while Karl Ouimette got on the end of a corner kick with a header that veered left of frame. It was Guenzatti getting one last go of it in the final of four minutes of stoppage, his free header straight out from nine yards skipping wide right, allowing the Boys in Blue to breathe easy – and come out of the proceedings with a point.Indy Eleven is back home again during its month-long homestand this Saturday, May 4, on “Brad Ring Night” against North Carolina FC. Kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium is set for 7:00 p.m., with the match airing live on WISH-TV and streaming live on ESPN+. Tickets remain available for as little as $15 at IndyEleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.
USL Championship Regular Season
Indy Eleven 0:0 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Wednesday, May 1, 2019 – 7:00 p.m. ET Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.
IND – Paddy Barret (Yellow card) 12’
IND – Paddy Barret (Yellow card) 20’
IND – Paddy Barret (Red card, second caution) 20’
TBR – Leon Taylor (Yellow card) 88’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Evan Newton (GK); Neveal Hackshaw, Alex Crognale, Paddy Barrett; Ayoze Garcia, Tyler Gibson, Kenney Walker, Matthew Watson (captain); Dane Kelly (Alioune Diakhate 75’), Thomas Enevoldsen (Nico Matern 93+’), Tyler Pasher (Karl Ouimette 26’)
IND Substitutes: Jordan Farr (GK), Lucas Farias, Macauley King, Ilija Ilic
Tampa Bay Rowdies lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): John McCarthy; Caleb Richards, Abdoulaye Diakite, Mohamed Kone; Leo Fernandes Brandon Allen 81’), Jordan Doherty (Leon Taylor 45’), Dominic Oduro, David Najem (Antoine Hoppenot 63’); Juan Tejada, Andrew Tinari, Sebastian Guenzatti (captain)TBR Sustitutes: Chris Konopka (GK), Tarek Morad, Kwadwo Poku, Zach Steinberger
Premier League sprint to the finish: Title race, Champions League chase, relegation battles in focus
Apr 28, 2019Dale JohnsonMark Ogden
The Premier League season is set for a frantic conclusion at both ends of the table, with the battles for the title, top four and relegation set to go down to the wire.With permutations updated after each game, we run through what is left to play for and ESPN FC senior writer Mark Ogden offers his thoughts and predictions.
RACE FOR THE TITLE
Still to play: Leicester (h), Brighton (a)
Victory at Man United meant the way was set clear for Man City to retain the title. They know that by winning their final two matches the trophy will remain at the Etihad. They are out of the Champions League, will those free midweeks prove key for their sharpness and results?
In short: City are guaranteed to win the title with two victories
Ogden: The long-awaited derby clash at United was successfully navigated, and that should leave a home run to the title.
Still to play: Newcastle (a), Wolves (h)
Liverpool have set a new club record for Premier League points, but they will need a favour from Leicester or Brighton if they are to win the title. They also have to navigate a two-legged Champions League semifinal against Barcelona while Man City rest.
In short: Liverpool must win both their remaining games and hope Man City fail to win one of theirs.
Ogden: Jurgen Klopp’s team have done all they can do, but their fate now lies in the hands of others. Even if Liverpool win their final two games, as they probably will, it may not be enough. The time has come for one of City’s remaining opponents to deny them a win and, looking at City’s remaining fixtures, it may be a forlorn hope.
RACE FOR THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
The top four in the Champions League will qualify direct to the group stage, with fifth and sixth into the Europa League.
Still to play: Bournemouth (a), Everton (h)
Saturday’s loss to West Ham was a setback for Spurs, who conceded the first goal at their new stadium. But the poor results of those below them mean Spurs, with their goal difference, need at most two points to confirm a top-four finish. A trip to lacklustre Bournemouth and a home game against Everton should provide that. It would be remarkable if they were to mess it up from here.
In short: Spurs need one win to be mathematically certain of the top four, but goal difference means two points will almost certainly suffice.
Ogden: Back-to-back defeats for Manchester United and Arsenal, and the win at home to Brighton, have kept Spurs in control of their own destiny despite the derby loss to West Ham. They now have daylight to the chasing pack.
Still to play: Watford (h), Leicester (a)
Maurizio Sarri’s men looked to be outsiders a few weeks ago, but now have their destiny in their own hands. The draw at Manchester United, combined with another defeat for Arsenal, made it a good weekend for the Blues. But you feel there might be some more twists yet. Along with Arsenal, they have the chance to reach the Champions League via winning the Europa League; Chelsea face Eintracht Frankfurt in the semifinals.
In short: Chelsea need two wins to be certain of finishing in the top four, but four will be enough unless Arsenal win both their remaining games.
Ogden: A big week for Chelsea began with a disappointing home draw against Burnley. The draw at Old Trafford might go a long way to sealing a top-four finish.
Still to play: Brighton (h), Burnley (a)
Arsenal’s away form has been their Achilles heel with only two wins on the road in five months, going back to Nov. 25. Any kind of decent recent away record and a place in the Champions League would already be theirs. Instead, the defeat at Leicester makes it incredibly difficult. Help is now required from Chelsea’s remaining opponents, Watford and Leicester. They also have a tough Europa League semifinal — the competition winners earn a UCL place — against Valencia to navigate.
In short: Arsenal must pick up at least two more points than Chelsea. If they win both their games, and Chelsea draw one, Arsenal could finish fourth on goal difference but it would be very tight.
Ogden: Losing at home to Palace and also to Wolves and Leicester has put Arsenal’s top-four chances in real jeopardy. Arsenal may regret a horrible week at a crucial point of the season.
Still to play: Huddersfield (a), Cardiff (h)
United have suffered a dramatic collapse in form just at the wrong time, but their rivals haven’t fared much better. Failure to win at home to Chelsea has just about killed off their top-four hopes, three points behind Chelsea who have a far superior goal difference. Already-relegated Huddersfield and struggling Cardiff are left to play but wins in those games will surely too little, too late for the Champions League.
In short: United must win both their remaining games to have any realistic chance. Due to their inferior goal difference they would also need Chelsea to pick up no more than two points and Arsenal a maximum of four.
Ogden: A disastrous run of results has seen United slip down to sixth place and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are now needing others to drop points if they are to sneak a top-four finish. Nothing less than six points from their final two games will be enough, but the ship has probably already sailed.
The bottom three teams will be relegated, and it looks as though one of these sides will join the already-relegated Fulham and Huddersfield in the Championship. Southampton confirmed their safety on April 27 with a frenetic 3-3 draw at home to Bournemouth coupled with Cardiff’s loss at Fulham. This leaves two teams fighting to avoid the final relegation place…
Still to play: Arsenal (a), Man City (h)
A late Pascal Gross goal saw Brighton earn a crucial point in a 1-1 draw against Newcastle on Saturday to give them a four-point cushion over Cardiff in the race to beat the drop. However, a pair of tough remaining fixtures means safety is far from assured for Chris Hughton’s side.
In short: Brighton’s superior goal difference means they need two points to secure survival.
Still to play: Crystal Palace (h), Man United (a)
The South Wales side need some serious help if they’re to remain in the Premier League following a 1-0 defeat to Fulham. Oh, and Cardiff still have Man United to play at Old Trafford, on the final day no less.
In short: Cardiff must win both of their remaining games and hope Brighton pick up no more than one point.
Ogden: A harsh 1-0 loss to Fulham saw Cardiff stay stuck on 31 points, four behind Brighton, but the home game against Crystal Palace gives Neil Warnock’s team hope of taking the survival battle to Old Trafford. They’ll need to win both matches and hope Brighton drop points.
- FULHAM (23 points from 35 games) Sad to see my Fulham America and US Defender Tim Ream – go back down L
Fulham were relegated April 2.
Huddersfield were relegated March 30.
W2W4: Will De Gea cost Man United again? Can Rodgers help Liverpool?
3:46 AM ETNick MillerESPN.com writer
W2W4 previews the penultimate weekend of Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines …
The pride of Rodgers could be Liverpool’s big hope
It’s impossible not to find it delicious that this weekend Liverpool’s chances of winning their first Premier League title in 29 years is at least in part in the hands of two former Liverpool managers. The two men in charge the past two times they had a realistic chance of the title, in fact.On Saturday night, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle host Liverpool. Then 48 hours later, Manchester City host Leicester City, managed, of course, by Brendan Rodgers. One of the things that is often quite annoying, even unpalatable, about Rodgers is that he’s not happy just to be a good manager — he wants to be seen as a good manager and wants people to know why he’s a good manager.
In his last full season at Liverpool, when the team had recovered from a tricky spell to go on a good run of form, a clutch of extremely well-sourced newspaper articles appeared detailing how, why and when Rodgers had come up with the plan to turn things around. Alas for Rodgers, Liverpool lost the next game and things spiralled, they never really recovered and he was sacked near the start of the following season.But while that hubris was detrimental to Liverpool then, it might be their saviour now: Rodgers will want the world to know he is still a good manager, and what better way to do that than beat Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City? If nothing else, Liverpool can be confident their old boss’ determination will be strong.
How big will the psychological impact of Messi be on Liverpool?
The sports writer Paul Hayward had a nice line about what it’s like to face Leo Messi this week: “You can’t insure against acts of God.” Liverpool were largely terrific against Barcelona, their finishing aside, but were beaten by an otherworldly genius and his friends. There isn’t much you can do about that, but putting your plan into operation and still coming away with nothing must be demoralising at a point in the season when they can’t afford to be demoralised.Jurgen Klopp’s big task ahead of their game at Newcastle this weekend is to ensure that doesn’t impact on their performance, in what could still be a tricky game even if you discount the Benitez factor. If Liverpool win their last two games and still don’t finish top of the league, you’d imagine they will be able to just about live with that. But imagine if they didn’t win their last two games and City slip up.For the better part of a decade, the idea that a Manchester United manager might drop David De Gea has been unthinkable. However bad they have been at various stages since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, things would have been much worse without De Gea in goal. But his recent spell of bad form has led to the serious notion that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could leave him out.
Solskjaer has confirmed that De Gea will start against Huddersfield on Sunday, mainly because backup goalkeeper Sergio Romero is injured, but with a place in the top four at stake the last thing he needs is a No. 1 whose confidence is so shaky.
Still, one could argue that a De Gea who makes the odd mistake is still better than anyone else. And showing faith in him now is perhaps most important in the long term, as dropping the Spain international would make it much less likely that he would sign a new contract in the coming months.Solskjaer has enough to worry about right now, so he could probably do without this added conundrum. But if he can somehow return De Gea to his former self then it will rank among his best achievements since landing the job.
Which way will Pochettino gamble?
Football frequently doesn’t make sense. We all know this, but it’s always good to be reminded of it every now and then. To that end, it’s worth pointing out that in the past 10 league games, Tottenham have collected 10 points and are still third. That’s partly down to the inconsistency of those beneath them, and partly down to their general excellence in the first two thirds of the season.– Miller: Spurs emerge from Ajax defeat with one thing: Hope
They will probably still finish in the top four, being four points ahead of Arsenal with two games to go and basically need to win one game: either at Bournemouth this weekend or against Everton on the final day.Between those two fixtures is the second leg of their Champions League semifinal against Ajax, a tie that, despite them being 1-0 down at the halfway stage, is still winnable. So it will be fascinating to see how Mauricio Pochettino approaches this weekend’s game: Does he rest everyone he can ahead of the trip to Amsterdam and gamble on either his second string beating Bournemouth or winning against Everton a week later? Or does he reason that they have only three, hopefully four, games remaining and try to cling on by their fingernails? Or some midpoint between the two?
One last chance for Cardiff
Hopefully Cardiff aren’t the superstitious type. Their opponents this weekend are Crystal Palace, who have relegated three teams in the past three seasons. The latest was Huddersfield a few weeks ago, last season it was Stoke, and before that it was Hull. And what’s more, Patrick van Aanholt has scored the final goal in all three games.Of course, it won’t be any odd quirk of coincidence that sends Cardiff down, more the lack of quality in their squad and to a lesser extent some curious choices by Neil Warnock, the most prominent at the moment being his tactics last weekend against already-relegated Fulham. He has no choice but to go for it against Palace: They might not even survive if they win (if Brighton beat Arsenal on Sunday, then it’s game over), but they certainly won’t if they don’t.
Messi delivered magic for Barcelona but Liverpool had no plan for Alba; Ajax present beats Ajax past
Michael CoxESPN.com writer
The week’s two Champions League semifinal first legs were very different matches, but both offered plenty of tactical intrigue. Here’s a key tactical talking point from each.
Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool: Left-backs make inroads
On one hand, this home win was all about Lionel Messi. But in a tactical sense, Liverpool managed to deny him space effectively: He found himself in the right position for a fortunate rebound in front of an open goal, and then curled in yet another majestic free kick. On the other hand, the battle here was all about the left-backs. Jordi Alba has probably been Barcelona’s second-best performer this season, while Liverpool’s full-back pairing have recorded a steady stream of assists. With Trent Alexander-Arnold omitted and the more defensively solid Joe Gomez coming into the side on the right, this meant Andy Robertson would carry the attacking threat.Ernesto Valverde’s decision to play Arturo Vidal might have been designed to stop Robertson. He was used instead of the more technical Arthur, which meant Ivan Rakitic played a left-centre midfield role, and Vidal played on the right of midfield, tasked with shutting down Robertson. He didn’t always do this particularly effectively, however, and in the first half, Liverpool’s bright moments came when Robertson overlapped aggressively. With Sadio Mane‘s speed worrying Sergi Roberto, Liverpool looked dangerous down that side.
Jurgen Klopp made no such attempts to contain Alba, aside from the concession of starting Gomez. His team selection, including a fourth midfielder because of Roberto Firmino‘s injury, hinted at using a defensive-minded right-sided player — Milner, perhaps — to track Alba. Instead, Milner played as a right-centre midfielder, and Alba was often unmarked, with Mohamed Salahstaying higher up the pitch.
Alba’s trademark assist is getting to the byline and cutting the ball back for his pal Messi, and on 13 minutes, they nearly combined in typical fashion. It took a superb challenge from Robertson, covering expertly and matching Messi’s run, to stop them.But Alba remained the key player. On 24 minutes, he nutmegged substitute Jordan Henderson, played the ball inside to Messi and sprinted in behind for the return pass — the type of run he has been making for several years, most memorably for Spain’s second goal in the 4-0 Euro 2012 final win over Italy, when he did something identical to this with Xavi before finishing smartly. This time, however, Joel Matip read the danger and intercepted. The ball ended up out wide with Salah, and Alba sprinted back across to dispossess him and concede a throw.
From the next move, Barcelona switched play to Philippe Coutinho, he laid the ball back to Alba, and the left-back produced an absolutely brilliant cross/through ball that met Luis Suarez‘s perfectly timed run for the Uruguayan to put Barcelona ahead.
Liverpool rallied at 1-0 down before Messi’s double. But the crucial tactical change was Valverde turning to Nelson Semedo, a second right-back, midway through the second half and deploying him in tandem with Sergi Roberto to shut down Liverpool’s left. From then, Robertson had less opportunity to push forward, and Liverpool were far less dangerous.
Tottenham 0-1 Ajax: The Dutch defenders come out on top
The most intriguing clash in the first Champions League semifinal was the battle between the defensive trios: It was Ajax past versus Ajax present.Tottenham’s trio of Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghenreceived their defensive tutoring in Amsterdam, while Ajax’s current triumvirate is Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind and Frenkie de Jong. From the outset, it was the current Ajax generation who came out on top .Fittingly, considering the Dutch interpretation of defensive play, the superiority of the Ajax trio wasn’t really about defending. It was more about their ball-playing ability. Ajax silenced the crowd by keeping possession expertly, and a crucial factor was the ability of the centre-backs, in particular Blind, to fire line-breaking passes into the feet of midfielders and attackers. One early pass into De Jong bypassed Spurs’ press easily, while another similar ball toward Dusan Tadic cut through both sides’ entire midfields. For the first five minutes, the atmosphere at Spurs’ new ground was hugely impressive. Quickly, however, Ajax silenced the home support.De Ligt was capable of something similar, and he emerged victorious from his physical confrontation with Fernando Llorente. It’s rare to see any young centre-back so commanding in the air, let alone a centre-back who is so technically gifted and still only 19.But the real star was De Jong, who played as Ajax’s deepest midfielder but often dropped back into the defence to help Ajax play out from the back, turning their 4-3-3 into a 3-4-3. His calmness with the ball at his feet is remarkable, and he exudes a physical presence with his body positioning, belying his slenderness and relatively short stature.Without the ball, De Jong was often performing two roles simultaneously. His primary responsibility was watching the runs of Dele Alli, who endured a quiet game. But De Jong was also always checking over his shoulder, assessing the positioning of Llorente and covering the passing lanes so Spurs couldn’t hit balls into the feet of the Spaniard. De Jong was helping to nullify two of Spurs’ three primary attacking threats, demonstrating tremendous tactical intelligence. It’s also notable how often De Jong finds himself in position to intercept cut-backs from the byline.Spurs’ defenders were solid enough, though Vertonghen was forced off toward the end of the first half after he suffered a nasty blow to his head. That forced Spurs to reorganise and use a diamond midfield, which prompted an improvement, as the energy of substitute Moussa Sissoko helped them compete in the centre of the pitch and carry the ball forward toward goal more directly.But Spurs struggled to create clear-cut chances, and even when they mounted spells of pressure in the second half, they found that Ajax’s defenders were capable of doing the ugly stuff too. Alderweireld and Vertonghen had a great partnership together in Amsterdam and have reprised it in the colours of both Belgium and Spurs. Nevertheless, with De Ligt and Blind plus De Jong dropig back between them, this is a superior central defensive base.
Liverpool made Lionel Messi angry and paid the price as Barcelona take charge
May 1, 2019Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC
The best way to deal with Lionel Messi is to treat him like football’s version of the Incredible Hulk: Don’t make him angry and you might just be spared an ordeal of pain and humiliation.Liverpool midfielder James Milner did not get the memo, judging by his crude first-half barge on the home side’s No. 10 during Barcelona’s 3-0 Champions League semifinal first-leg win Wednesday at the Nou Camp, and it is fair to say that the Premier League side went on to reap a whirlwind of two-goal Messi’s annoyance.”In these moments, he is unstoppable,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said afterward of Messi. “My boys didn’t show him too much respect or treat him harshly to try to stop him, but he is a world-class player and he showed that again tonight. What else can I say?”For Milner, perhaps there was a sense of déjà vu. Back in March 2015, while playing for Manchester City, the former England international inadvertently became a YouTube sensation when he was nutmegged by Messi during a Champions League round-of-16 tie against Barcelona.On that occasion, the Argentine forward played the ball through Milner’s legs and left his opponent sliding on his backside before scampering away on another of his mazy runs. Four years on, Milner saw the opportunity to exact revenge.Bad move. Although referee Bjorn Kuipers did not issue the yellow card that Messi demanded, in that moment Barca’s talisman went from being a threat to a man possessed, and the full force of his fury was played out in the second half, when his brilliance left Klopp’s team hanging on in their attempt to reach a second successive Champions League final.Liverpool actually played well — Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made several fine saves, while Mohamed Salah hit the post with a glorious chance — but ended up beaten by the same score as Manchester United, who were much less impressive during their own 3-0 defeat two weeks ago.Messi was ultimately the difference between the two sides, scoring his 599th and 600th Barcelona goals in the process, but former Liverpool forward Luis Suarez laid the foundations for victory with a stunning finish from Jordi Alba’s pinpoint 27th-minute cross.
Gerard Pique rolled back the years with a majestic performance in defence, while Arturo Vidal was an incessant bundle of energy in midfield for Ernesto Valverde’s team. But in truth, while others deserve their honourable mentions, this game was all about one man.Klopp joked in his pregame news conference that Messi sounded as though he was issuing a “threat” in August when he insisted Barcelona would make up for last season’s quarterfinal exit to Roma by going all the way in the Champions League this year. On Wednesday, the Liverpool manager saw at first hand that the 31-year-old had not been joking.Messi played like a man on a mission against United, and Liverpool got the same treatment. His first goal, a tap-in after Suarez had hit the bar, came after a period of Liverpool pressure early in the second half; his second, seven minutes later, was a jaw-dropping free kick from 30 yards that is up there with the best he has ever scored.It prompted 90,000 Catalans to bow as they chanted his name, but as ever, there was so much more to Messi’s display. Perhaps the best example of his genius was borne out in the final seconds of second-half stoppage time when, after breaking clear, he teed up Ousmane Dembele with a sumptuous reverse pass inside the penalty area.The French winger simply had to hit the target from 12 yards to make it 4-0, but Dembele somehow shot directly at Alisson, whereupon Messi threw himself to the ground in disbelief at his teammate’s wastefulness.Playing alongside Messi must be a dream, even for the likes of Dembele, who is nowhere near being on the same wavelength. Every pass is perfectly weighted into the path of a teammate, and he creates so much space by dragging opponents away when he has the ball that it is not unusual to see three Barcelona players unmarked in attacking positions.Messi coasted through this game at times, coming alive only in short bursts, but so destructive were those contributions that Liverpool are in need of a footballing miracle if they are to overturn this deficit Tuesday.Anfield has been the venue for several tales of the unexpected on European nights, but for all the magic of the old stadium, it will struggle to compete with that which exists in Messi’s boots.”It’s football, so we have a chance,” Klopp said. “But we had a better chance before the start of this game.”
Ajax exit Tottenham with vital away goal, clean sheet in first-leg win
Apr 30, 2019Reuters
Ajax’s Donny van de Beek grabbed an early goal to secure a precious 1-0 victory at Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.The 22-year-old struck in the 15th minute to give Ajax a crucial away goal and leave Spurs facing a daunting task in Amsterdam if they are to reach the final for the first time.Ajax, having already knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus en route to their first semifinal in Europe’s elite competition since 1997, were too pacey for a labouring home side, especially in a first half in which they could have put the tie to bed.Tottenham improved after the break but Ajax defended their lead diligently to restrict the home attack and almost scored a second goal late on when David Neres hit the post.Erik ten Hag’s youthful Ajax side started the match full of energy and purpose with Spurs barely able to escape their own half as they spent the early stages chasing shadows.Ajax showed just why they had eliminated European giants Real and Juve in the previous two rounds as they sliced through Tottenham’s labouring ranks almost at will.The visitors needed only a quarter of an hour to go ahead as Hakim Ziyech‘s threaded pass found Van de Beek and the midfielder calmly placed his shot past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.There was a suspicion of offside but unlike in Tottenham’s epic quarterfinal win over Manchester City, when Raheem Sterling‘s stoppage-time goal was ruled out, VAR could not save the London side this time as the Ajax fans celebrated.Van de Beek should have made it 2-0 from Dusan Tadic‘s pass as Ajax dominated and when Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen was replaced by Moussa Sissoko after a clash of heads with team mate and fellow former Ajax player Toby Alderweireld, it seemed nothing was going right for the hosts.A Tottenham attack missing the injured Harry Kane and suspended Son Heung-min had looked blunt, with Spaniard Fernando Llorente wasting their best chance when he headed wide from Kieran Trippier‘s cross.The introduction of midfield powerhouse Sissoko, deemed not fit enough to start, injected some much-needed energy into Tottenham and he fizzed a shot wide from Llorente’s knockdown just before half-time.Spurs pushed on at the start of the second half and finally began to test the Ajax defence by applying some sustained pressure, with the crowd packed into the stadium responding by raising the decibel-level inside their new ground.Dele Alli, on the periphery in the first half, volleyed straight at Ajax keeper Andre Onana, then headed over the bar.Christian Eriksen, yet another former Ajax player in Tottenham’s ranks, then played in the overlapping Danny Rose but the left back’s shot was charged down.Spurs were vulnerable to the counter however and Ajax came agonisingly close to doubling the lead, and leaving Tottenham with a near-impossible task in the second leg, when Tadic linked up with Neres whose side-footed shot rebounded off the post.Considering the way Tottenham struggled at the start of the game, they will still travel with hope next week, especially with their prolific South Korean striker Son available again.
Tottenham’s Vertonghen did not suffer concussion in bloody collision vs. Ajax
Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen did not suffer concussion during Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg loss against Ajax Amsterdam, the north London club said on Thursday.The 32-year-old Belgium international collided with team mate Toby Alderweireld while challenging Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana for the ball.
After speaking to the Spurs medical staff, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz allowed Vertonghen to return to the pitch but he soon had to be substituted.”Following a thorough review over the past 48 hours by our medical staff as well as by an independent neurologist with special interest in sport-related concussion today, it has been concluded that Jan Vertonghen did not suffer a concussion,” Spurs said in a statement.”The Belgium defender suffered an injury to his nose due to a challenge during the game which resulted in heavy bleeding.”He was deemed fit to continue playing after an on-field assessment. All Football Association concussion guidelines were followed.”Vertonghen was withdrawn after the he informed the medical staff the he was struggling to stand up. The club has been advised that this was “the result of a presyncopal episode, a near faint.””The specialist has recommended that the player undertakes a brief period of rehabilitation before returning to training,” the club added.Spurs face Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday before they look to overturn a 1-0 deficit at Ajax in the return leg of the Champions League semifinal on Wednesday. (GOOD TO HEAR – IT LOOKED BAD – They still need to change the rules on players with Head Injuries having a Sub come in for 5 to 10 minutes while the player is fully evaluated ! So says the OBC)
W2W4: Zlatan goes coast to coast; Vela earning Tata’s attention
8:00 AM ETArch Bell
It’s a battle between the coasts as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy make the cross-country trek to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), and later that night Minnesota United welcomes the Seattle Sounders to Allianz Field, plus Carlos Vela and LAFC host Chicago.
Zlatan goes coast to coast
Major League Soccer has changed in many ways throughout the years, with new teams and new rivalries, but a New York Red Bulls-LA Galaxy meeting still conjures some great memories of the league’s adolescence, specifically the thrilling 5-4 Red Bulls win in August 2007.
It was David Beckham’s first start in MLS with the Galaxy, and the game lived up to the hype, as more than 66,000 in attendance watched as the home side eked out a late win against Beckham’s bunch. Now, almost 12 years later, another global superstar with the Galaxy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, will make his first appearance in New York.On the field, Ibrahimovic continues to dazzle, scoring the winner in last week’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake, but like everything else with the Swede, there is more to the story. The former Manchester United man got in the face of RSL’s Nedum Onuoha after scoring, and then promptly had his apology rejected postmatch. Oddly enough in last season’s home win over RSL, Ibrahimovic had an almost identical on-field brush with Stephen Sunday, issuing a few curt words after a goal.It’s a reminder that Ibrahimovic isn’t one to shirk from jawing with anyone around him, and while it won’t be the 66,000 that greeted Beckham in 2007, he is certain to get his fair share of attention from the fans in New York, which should make for quite the spectacle.
Vela earning Tata’s attention
Everywhere he goes, Mexico head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino is asked about Carlos Vela. After not calling up the LAFC striker for Mexico’s two March friendlies, the first matches for El Tri with the Argentine at the helm, Vela has responded with 11 goals and five assists in 10 games to start the season.It was slightly ironic that two weeks ago the Gold Cup draw was held at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium, as Martino dutifully responded to a countless number of questions that all basically asked the same thing: “Hey, are you gonna call Carlos Vela or what?” One would have to think that Martino will breathe a sigh of relief when he likely calls in the scorching-hot striker for Mexico’s Gold Cup campaign, thus ending that firing line of questions.In the meantime, Vela keeps finding the back of the net about as much as his NBA heroes, notching another goal in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw up in Seattle. He’ll probably get another chance to flash his goal-scoring grin Saturday night (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) against a Chicago Fire side that has limped to two straight shutout losses. The Fire have a weird knack of playing everyone close but not winning that much. Chicago head coach Veljko Paunovic could really use a win against the league’s top team to quiet any hot-seat talk. class=”imageLoaded lazyloaded” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1025″>play
Statement time in Minnesota
It seems that whenever a team in MLS opens a new stadium, a string of good results follows, and Minnesota United has been no different. Since the debut of Allianz Field on April 13, Minnesota has gone unbeaten in three homes games, with two draws and its first win in its new digs last weekend against D.C. United.
The singing of Oasis hit “Wonderwall” by the home fans is a great spectacle, but the team is also doing its part, amassing four wins and sitting in sixth in the Western Conference. You could say that for the first time, Minnesota has the upper hand on its expansion sibling Atlanta United.
Star striker Darwin Quintero is still yet to find the back of the net in Minnesota’s new home, but that could well come on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) against a Seattle defense that has been uncharacteristically leaky so far in 2019 with 12 goals allowed.With the 2019 MLS season at the quarter pole, a home clash with perennial contender Seattle on a week of rest is the perfect kind of statement game for the Loons.
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