Lun. Abr 15th, 2024

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Another weekend of European soccer has gifted us plenty of talking points, drama and goals.

The FA Cup took off like a rocket this weekend. On Sunday, Manchester United pulled off an improbable 4-3 win over Liverpool in extra time, which dashes the hopes of manager Jurgen Klopp to win a quadruple in his final season with the Reds, all while Erik ten Hag bought himself more time leading Man United. Elsewhere, Coventry City and U.S. men’s national team midfielder Haji Wright stole the headlines in a last-gasp win over Wolverhampton Wanderers to go through to the semifinals.

Before that, Fulham stunned Tottenham Hotspur to win 3-0, a result that could potentially end Spurs’ hopes for a top four finish in the Premier League. And in the Women’s Super League, league leaders Chelsea made light work of Arsenal to keep their spot at the top of the table, only for Manchester City to do the same against Brighton the following day, keeping the WSL in a stalemate.

In LaLiga, Vinícius Júnior showed once again why he’s one of the most in-form wingers in the world after scoring twice in Real Madrid’s victory over Osasuna. And Barcelona are now on quite the streak ever since coach Xavi Hernandez announced he would step down at the end of the season.

In the Bundesliga, Harry Kane reached personal and club milestones after they hammered Darmstadt 5-2. Let’s recap the weekend!

– Stream on ESPN+: FA Cup, LaLiga, Bundesliga and more (U.S. only)

SUNDAY REVIEW

The lead: Klopp’s quadruple hopes ended by Manchester United

There were times during Liverpool’s FA Cup quarterfinal match against Manchester United when it looked like Jurgen Klopp was going to get his fairytale final season in charge.

The quadruple was on and Klopp’s final game as manager could have been an FA Cup final against long-time rival Pep Guardiola at Wembley. Twice Liverpool went ahead, but then United staged one of the greatest cup comebacks ever. With two goals in the final eight minutes of extra time, Man United finished it off via Amad Diallo’s stunning winner in the 121th minute of an incredible, pulsating affair.

It won’t be much consolation to Klopp, but it will go down as one of the greatest and most thrilling games of his Liverpool tenure.

His hopes of winning four trophies before he walks off into the sunset are over, but his job now is to refocus his team before the season’s final stretch. After such a stinging disappointment, it’s perhaps a good thing that there’s an international break before the Premier League restarts and Klopp can only hope that his squad return fit and healthy ahead of the run-in for the title race.

Liverpool could yet end the season with the Premier League and the Europa League to add to the Carabao Cup trophy, which would represent a remarkable achievement and still afford Klopp a fitting send-off. — Rob Dawson


Sunday talking points around the leagues

Barcelona are peaking at the right time

Whisper it, but Barcelona may be peaking at just the right time this season.

After reaching the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2020 in midweek, Barça swatted aside an Atlético Madrid team on Sunday that had not tasted defeat at home in LaLiga in 25 matches — since losing to Barcelona back in January 2023.

Robert Lewandowski inspired the 3-0 win, scoring once and setting up the other two goals. The Polish striker laid on the first for João Félix, who netted against his parent club for the second time this season, after good work from Ilkay Gündogan at the end of the first half.

Félix’s every touch had been jeered by the home fans, who don’t appreciate comments he has made about the club’s style of play in the past. But he opted for a low-key celebration this time round, unlike when he scored the winner in this fixture in December.

Lewandowski then scored his 20th goal of the campaign in the 47th minute, firing low into the bottom corner from Raphinha‘s pass. Fermín López sealed the win, heading in Lewandowski’s cross just after the hour mark.

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Lewandowski fires in the goal to double Barcelona’s lead

Robert Lewandowski hits the back of the net to give Barcelona a 2-0 lead over Atletico Madrid.

Barça are now unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions since coach Xavi Hernández announced he will step down in the summer. Sunday’s victory took them ahead of Girona, losers at Getafe this weekend, into second place.

Their upturn in form may come too late to hunt down Real Madrid, who remain eight points clear of them at the top, but it will fuel belief something special is possible in Europe — especially after Friday’s Champions League draw. If they can beat Paris Saint-Germain in the last eight, they will face either Atlético or Borussia Dortmund for a place in the final, with Madrid, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Arsenal all in the other half of the draw.

With Lewandowski re-finding his shooting boots — that’s seven goals in nine games — youngsters Pau Cubarsí and Lamine Yamal consistently delivering performances that defy their teenage years and Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Ferran Torres all due to return from injuries in the next month, there is no reason Barça should not continue to get better. Atlético, too, will also cling on to the hope of doing something in the Champions League. Beat Dortmund and they will be in the final four, but they also have work to do domestically. While there is relatively little pressure on Barça in terms of the title race, there is plenty on Diego Simeone’s side to finish in the top four.

Defeat on Sunday, capped off by Nahuel Molina‘s late red card, saw them drop out of the top four. They are a point back from Athletic Club, seven behind Girona and nine away from Barça with just nine games to play. — Sam Mardsen


Man City nab must-needed win against Brighton to stay level atop the WSL table

Whether you’re going for the title or trying to avoid the drop, we’ve officially hit «every game is a cup final» territory across some of Europe’s major women’s leagues, not least the English WSL.

After Chelsea’s Friday night win over Arsenal, Manchester City’s only option was to take all three points off of Brighton to keep themselves level on points with the current champions.

Although City have only dropped eight points so far in the league this season, there will be no deeper frustration for the title-chasers than the 1-0 loss they suffered at home to the Seagulls in November. Registering 35 shots that match, few could believe the hosts failed to find the back of the net, let alone, threw all three points away against Brighton.

But that was then, and this is now, Brighton having gotten rid of Melissa Phillips, the manager who led them to an unlikely success, only to replace her with an interim, Mikey Harris, promoted from Brighton’s youth set-up. Man City made light work of Brighton on Sunday, winning 4-1 after a stoppage-time goal from Lee Geum-min gave the Seagulls a consolation goal in an otherwise one-sided affair.

The match ultimately went the way many would have expected with City making their dominance count in the forward areas to hit the hosts for four with Lauren Hemp, Mary Fowler, Bunny Shaw and Laura Coombs all finding the back of the net. For City, the win was vital, not just in keeping step with Chelsea but having been dispatched from both domestic cup competitions last week, and with the league title the only remaining silverware available to them, another loss would have been fatal.

In Crawley, the stoppage time goal for Brighton provided not just something to lift their spirits but so too, a blow for Man City, who only sit behind Chelsea on goal difference. From here on out, both City and Chelsea will rue any missed opportunity to capitalise on advantages presented to them with six games of the season left. — Sophie Lawson


Inter Milan can’t shake off bad week against Napoli

Four days after an underwhelming Champions League exit against Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan finished their week with another disappointing and unexpected result, drawing at home against Napoli at San Siro.

After 13 wins in a row in all competitions prior to their visit to the Spanish capital, it is now back to earth for manager Simone Inzaghi and his players with the loss on penalties in midweek and the two more points dropped on Sunday.

Inter, the current Serie A leaders, against last season’s champions, Napoli, looked promising on paper. Inter surely wanted to keep their lead atop the table at 15 points over AC Milan, who won earlier at Verona, and put their Champions League exit behind them.

But instead it was a cagey affair that lacked standout moments. The expected goals — a measure of chance creation were relatively low (1.45 for Inter, 1.12 for Napoli) and the draw is probably a fair result.

Matteo Darmian opened the scoring just before the break with a perfect Inter goal: starting from Yann Sommer in goal and finishing with a cross from centre-back Alessandro Bastoni for right wing-back Darmian.

But Napoli never gave up. Their manager decided to bench Victor Osimhen and Piotr Zielinski, who won’t be there next season, and he may have regretted that decision in the end. But Napoli came back late with a Juan Jesus goal on a corner badly defended by Inter.

Napoli stay in seventh place in the table, six points behind Roma in fifth while this result leaves Inter with a 14 point-gap at the top and nine games to go. Inter are firmly in the driver’s seat to win Serie A, but this will still go down as a no good, very bad week. — Julien Laurens


Americans Abroad: Pepi scores a late game winner for PSV, assisted by Tillman; Pulisic scores again

U.S. men’s national team striker Ricardo Pepi came off the bench to score a stoppage-time game-winner for PSV Eindhoven on Sunday against Twente. The goal was assisted by fellow USMNT teammate Malik Tillman.

The 96th-minute winner ensured PSV maintains their comfortable lead at the top of the Eredivisie table, 10 points clear of second-place Feyenoord.

Pepi came on as a substitute in the 80th minute and he now has seven goals for PSV this season, plus one assist. Tillman now has six assists and six goals.

Another American featured for PSV in the match as well with Sergiño Dest playing the full match at left-back.

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Tillman sets up Pepi for 96th minute PSV winner

USMNT stars Malik Tillman and Ricardo Pepi link up to score a last-minute winner for PSV Eindhoven against FC Twente.

Meanwhile, USMNT captain Christian Pulisic continues to enjoy a strong season at AC Milan, scoring in his fourth straight game as Milan beat Hellas Verona, 3-1. With the result, AC Milan move three points clear of third-placed Juventus on the Serie A table.

All four USMNT players — Pepi, Tillman, Dest and Pulisic — will join the USMNT for the Concacaf Nations League semifinal against Jamaica on Thursday. — Caitlin Murray


News of the day


And finally, on Sunday …

Almería were the best winless team you’ve ever seen. But on Sunday, their claim to fame ended and they finally got their first win of the LaLiga season, barley eking by Las Palmas, 1-0.

All good things must come to an end, but we’re guessing Almería are fine with shedding the «best winless» tag.

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Almeria grabs first LaLiga victory of the season vs. Las Palmas

Leo Baptistao’s first-half goal propels Almeria to a 1-0 victory against Las Palmas in their first LaLiga win this season.

SATURDAY REVIEW

The lead: Chelsea sock it to Arsenal in title-clash

The stage was set on Friday night for the WSL’s most played fixture as Chelsea welcomed Arsenal to Stamford Bridge, still smarting from a 4-1 thrashing dolled out at the Emirates earlier in the season. There was far more than just pride on the line for the Blues however, as a win for the Gunners would have seen them go level on points with the champions, allowing Manchester City to leapfrog the both of them into first with a win on Sunday.

The narrative could have been about the title race, Chelsea’s injury woes, or even the fall-out from Emma Hayes’ pre-match comments about player-coach, or specifically, player-player relationships in the women’s game — something Hayes addressed after the match. Or even just the parity between the two over the years, in their 27th league meeting — there have been more than enough cup clashes, too — the scales were balanced at 10 wins a piece with six shared draws.

Yet so much of the football fell away with start delayed due to a kit clash noticed only minutes before kick-off, and then for half an hour the only conversation was about Arsenal’s white socks, and however much they had to spend at the Stamford Bridge megastore to purchase Chelsea’s blue and black away socks for the whole squad to allow the match to start. It brought a certain joviality with it, almost setting the tone for the bizarre nature in which the Sjoeke Nüsken netted her first half brace.

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Lawson: Wrong socks and wrong tactics from Arsenal!

Sophie Lawson analyses Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Arsenal after the game was delayed due to kit socks clash.

For Arsenal, it wasn’t just about wrong socks as much as wrong tactics, the shape of their midfield unbalanced through the first-half allowing the hosts to attack them with ease, to find spaces to exploit and to dictate play. Lauren James again put in a starring performance — a running theme whenever the Blues play at the Bridge rather than their usual Kingsmeadow home. After James’ opener, there was Nüsken’s first that the German thrust a toe-nail at to divert into the bottom corner, then a second that bounced off of her backside, wrong-footing Manuela Zinsberger to make the lead an unassailable one.

For Chelsea’s dominance, the finishing was arguably not the best from the hosts, especially in the second half with the game already won, yet they were clearly the team getting the rub of the green. But the tactics from Hayes, the shape and idea of using Nüsken in a center-forward role — just a week after deploying her at center-back — was one that worked perfectly, and their lead was entirely deserved thanks to a sterling team performance.

Arsenal’s second-half conciliation was just that, something for the red wall of away fans to cheer, but more of a footnote for the team now six-points off of the top. For Chelsea, who have oscillated between dazzling and grinding so far this season, the game was a side-stepped banana-peel and although they still have City snapping at their heels, they remain in control of the title fight. — Lawson


Saturday talking points around the leagues

More goals and another yellow card for Vini Jr

Two more goals for Vinícius Júnior, this time in Real Madrid’s 4-2 win at Osasuna on Saturday. This was a complete performance from the Brazilian — «he could have scored four goals today, easily» said coach Carlo Ancelotti — and even included a now trademark yellow card for the forward, for arguing with referee Juan Martinez Munuera before halftime.

This was yet another demonstration of Vinicius’ increasingly versatile, unpredictable attacking game. «I’m trying to play more on the inside, to score more goals,» he told Real Madrid TV. The result: six goals in his last four appearances. Two against Valencia, one each against RB Leipzig and Celta Vigo, and two here at El Sadar. Eight of his 12 league goals have come since late January, his early-season injury problems forgotten.

In another recent trend, he’s also been yellow carded in each of his last four games. That means he’ll be suspended for Madrid’s next match, hosting Athletic Club on March 31. Fortunately that coincides with the return from suspension of the team’s other outstanding goal threat, Jude Bellingham. Ancelotti admitted Vinícius «could control the pressure a bit more» in terms of how he reacts to situations, but backed him to improve over time, saying «he’s humble and intelligent.»

Vinícius now won’t play for Madrid for three weeks, as the international break is followed by the Athletic game in LaLiga, and then the league taking a week off for the Copa del Rey final. After that, it’s Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals on April 9, the biggest test yet of this season’s edition of Real Madrid.

They’re good enough to overwhelm and befuddle Osasuna — «they have quick players on the outside but play without wingers, with Vinícius, Rodrygo [Goes] and Brahim [Diaz] coming inside. At times [Ferland] Mendy and [Dani] Carvajal join them. It’s a very flexible system,» their coach Jagoba Arrasate said — but Pep Guardiola’s City will be a very different test. — Alex Kirkland

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What made Vinicius Junior ‘unplayable’ vs. Osasuna

Alex Kirkland and Ale Moreno reflect on a superb two-goal performance for Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid’s win over Osasuna.

Bayern and Darmstadt deliver another spectacle as Kane breaks Bundesliga goal record

Meetings between Bayern Munich and Darmstadt always appear to have box office potential. The German champions walloped the side from Hesse 8-0 in October and cruised to a 5-2 win at Darmstadt on Saturday, keeping their slim hopes of defending the domestic championship alive.

Just like in October, Darmstadt genuinely enjoyed a few moments when it looked like they could emerge triumphant, but eventually they had to succumb to Bayern’s onslaught. Early on, Darmstadt, who remain rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga table, acted quite smart in not allowing Bayern to create any kind of meaningful goalscoring opportunities, despite the visitors enjoying almost 80 percent ball possession at times. To make things even more intriguing, Mathias Honsak capitalized on a rebound from Eric Dier by fooling a few Bayern defenders before setting up Tim Skarke for the go-ahead goal.

But Bayern, as opposed to outings earlier this season, remained patient and did not deviate from their game plan. They continued to break down Darmstadt methodically, eventually opening up the spaces to not only score the equalizer but also take the lead before the half-time break. Bayern’s second goal was also Kane’s 31st of the season which marks a new Bundesliga goal record for a player in his first season. The previous record was set by Uwe Seeler in 1963-64 which was also the first Bundesliga season in history.

Two standout players were Jamal Musiala and Aleksandar Pavlovic. Both will meet up again in a few days when they travel with the Germany squad during the international break, and midfielder Pavlovic is expected to make his debut for the country of his birth. Both the German FA (DFB) and national team coach Julian Nagelsmann remain keen to ensure Pavlovic does not play international football for Serbia.

The only thing that could mess up Nagelsmann’s cunning plan is the head injury Pavlovic suffered in the second half which led to his substitution. With his replacement Konrad Laimer on the pitch, Bayern continued to dominate and added a further three goals before Darmstadt’s Oscar Wilhelmsson made it 5-2 deep into stoppage time. With their 19th win of the season in the bag, Bayern are seven points behind table leaders Bayer Leverkusen who play at Freiburg on Sunday. — Constantin Eckner

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Kane makes Bundesliga history with 31st goal of debut season

Harry Kane sets the record for most goals in a debut Bundesliga season with a header to put Bayern 2-1 up on Darmstadt.


Americans Abroad: Wright shocks Wolves in FA Cup quarterfinals

Haji Wright put on a late, late show today to send Coventry City through to the FA Cup semifinals after beating Premier league side Wolves. With this team down 2-1 going into injury time, the 25-year-old stepped up to not only assist the equalizer but put the game to bed after scoring the winner. That’s the magic of the FA Cup!

And just to give you all some historical context, Coventry hadn’t reached the FA Cup semifinals since the 1986-87 season, when it won the whole thing. Meanwhile, Wright becomes the second American to score in a quarterfinal or later in the FA Cup since 2007 (Christian Pulisic scored in the 2020 final). Not only that, he’s has scored four goals in a four-game span for the first time with Coventry City and the first time overall since Aug. 2022 with Antalyaspor.

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Coventry score 2 goals in stoppage time to stun Wolves in FA Cup

Coventry scored twice in stoppage time to win 3-2 at Wolves in an incredible FA Cup quarter-final at Molineux.

In Germany, Brenden Aaronson scored the deciding goal for Union Berlin against Werder Bremen to help them secure a much-needed 2-1 win in the fight to stay clear of the relegation zone. Aaronson was not selected in the USMNT’s roster for the Concacaf Nations League, but will hope to find form to be selected ahead of the summer’s Copa América.

In England, Antonee Robinson assisted the opening goal for Fulham (he has a club high of six assists this season) against Tottenham Hotspur with a beautiful cross to striker Rodrigo Muniz, who finished emphatically. Robinson has been crucial for the West London side, who sit 12th in the table.

Meanwhile, Josh Sargent‘s incredible season continues after scoring his eighth goal in nine games (and 13th for the season) for Norwich City, who put three past Stoke City. Can he do the same in the Nations League later this week? — SherShah Atif


News of the day

  • Chelsea boss Emma Hayes has said she let herself down by calling intrasquad player relationships «inappropriate» and added that she will no longer be providing «clickbait headlines.» Hayes, who takes over as coach of the U.S. women’s national team in June, expressed her disapproval of romantic relationships between players on the same team Thursday, adding that it would be «ideal» if she didn’t have to deal with them. «I want to be clear to everybody in the room, I don’t want to create any more clickbait headlines for you guys. I think sometimes that becomes the case when we have honest conversations about things,» Hayes said at a news conference.

  • Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández has said Paris Saint-Germain’s finances make them favorites in their Champions League quarterfinal tie after the Spanish and French champions were pitted against each other in Friday’s draw. «Perhaps I’d say PSG are favourites. History aside, because we’ve won more Champions Leagues, financially right now it’s not the same, with what they’ve spent and what we’ve spent. But you have to perform on the pitch,» Xavi said. It’s the Catalan club’s first Champions League quarterfinal since 2020, after they were eliminated in the group stage in 2022-23.

  • FIFA raised president Gianni Infantino’s base salary by 33% last year to make his total pay package worth more than $4.67 million, world football’s governing body said in its financial report released Friday. Infantino’s pre-tax base salary payment rose by more than $565,000 last year to reach more than $2.78m. His annual bonus was worth $1.87m, the same as in 2022 when the men’s World Cup was played in Qatar. The previous FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, had a contracted bonus worth $12m for the 2014 World Cup on top of a $3m basic salary and annual bonuses.


And finally, on Saturday …

Fulham ended their nine-match winless streak against Tottenham in the Premier League after Saturday’s 3-0 victory. And to put the icing on the cake, the Cottagers’ Muniz joins Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Ollie Watkins for most goals scored since Feb. 1.



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