Chelsea edge past Malmo


Chelsea took a huge step towards the Champions League knockout stages with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Malmo in Sweden on Tuesday.

Thomas Tuchel’s side, without forwards Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner because of injury, were frustrated in front of goal and found a breakthrough hard to come by until Hakim Ziyech converted Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cross in the 56th minute.

Until then the Champions League holders had laboured in front of a noisy home crowd at the Eleda Stadion, creating several opportunities but not clear-cut chances.

Thiago Silva saw an effort cleared off the line as Chelsea pushed for a second and Kai Havertz, in the de facto striker role, had a shot saved by Malmo goalkeeper Johan Dahlin.

Malmo’s best chance of the second half fell to Erdal Rakip in the 64th minute, but he ignored several teammates in better positions before blazing a shot harmlessly over the crossbar.

The United States international Christian Pulisic returned from injury to make the bench for Chelsea, coming on as a 74th-minute substitute to get his first minutes since August.

Chelsea move onto nine points from four games in Group H and level with Juventus, who play Zenit St Petersburg later on Tuesday.

Courtesy: ESPN

Bayern Munich steamroll Benfica

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick, set up another goal and missed a penalty in his 100th Champions League appearance as Bayern Munich crushed Benfica 5-2 on Tuesday to cruise into the knockout stage with two Group E matches to spare.

Lewandowski headed in his first goal in the 26th minute and chipped in another just past the hour after also setting up Serge Gnabry for a sensational backheel flick in the 32nd minute.

The striker missed a penalty in first-half stoppage time but sealed his hat trick in the 85th minute. It was his 81st goal in the competition.

Benfica cut the deficit before the break with Morato’s 38th-minute header which, was the first goal conceded by Bayern in four Champions League matches, but a superb Leroy Sane shot early in the second half ended any hopes of a comeback. The visitors scored again in the 75th with Darwin Nunez.

Bayern are top on 12 points following their fourth win in the group, with Benfica stuck on four. Barcelona moved into second place on six after beating Dynamo Kyiv, who are last with one point.

The top two teams advance to the knockout stage.

With Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann back on the bench after a two-week absence due to a COVID-19 infection, it was Benfica who had a better start when they put the ball in the net but the effort was ruled offside.

Lewandowski punished them not long after when he headed in a Kingsley Coman cross at the far post to open his account.

Before Benfica had time to recover, Bayern, who a week ago suffered their heaviest German Cup defeat ever with a 5-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach, struck again as Lewandowski set up Gnabry whose backheel left goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos frozen.

The visitors pulled a goal back when Brazilian Morato rose to head home seven minutes before the break and they grew more hopeful when Lewandowski’s tame penalty was saved by Vlachodimos in stoppage time before the interval.

But the hosts moved into turbo drive after half-time with Sane thundering in a half-volley to make it 3-1 before setting up Lewandowski for a delightful chip over the keeper in the 61st.

The hosts were caught napping when Darwin Nunez was left in space to pull a goal back with 15 minutes left. But Lewandowski was not yet done, bagging his fourth Champions League hat trick in the 85th to book Bayern’s spot in the Round of 16.

Courtesy: Reuters

Juventus book Round of 16 spot

Juventus booked their spot in the Champions League last 16 with two group games to spare after a double from Argentine striker Paulo Dybala steered them to a 4-2 win over Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday.

Knowing they only needed a point against Zenit to be assured of a knockout-stage spot in Group H, Juve raced into a deserved early lead through Dybala, who hammered the ball into the roof of the net in the 11th minute.

The hosts had several chances to make it 2-0 before Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci put through his own net in the 26th minute to draw Zenit level.

Dybala benefited from a slice of good fortune to put Juve back in front in the 58th minute, as he converted a penalty at the second attempt after the referee had ordered his first effort, that he dragged wide, be retaken.

Goals from Federico Chiesa and Alvaro Morata made sure of the victory late on as Juve made it four wins from four in this season’s competition to top Group H, three points ahead of holders Chelsea in second.

Sardar Azmoun netted a stoppage-time consolation for Zenit, who must win both of their remaining group matches to have any hope of reaching the knockout stages.

“The team had a good game, we were also impressive technically,” Coach Massimiliano Allegri said.

“Our intensity and courage were important and we did not lose our flow when we conceded the goal.”

“It was almost all positive. We passed the ball around, but the last five minutes are where we need to improve. Those minutes are the emblem of who we are – we made three counter-attacks and we conceded a goal.”

While things have not gone well in Serie A this season for Juventus – they are ninth in the standings, 16 points behind leaders Napoli – Massimiliano Allegri’s side have had no issues on the continent.

Three wins from three, including a 1-0 success over Chelsea in September, put them on course for the last 16 ahead of Zenit’s visit, and it looked like it was going to be a comfortable progression after Juve made a lightning start.

Dybala and Chiesa were both denied by smart saves from away goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk in the opening exchanges before Dybala was clinical on his 50th appearance in the Champions League.

Morata wasted a glorious chance to double Juve’s lead before Zenit grew into the contest and levelled things up, with Bonucci’s attempt to clear a cross looping into his own net.

From that moment on, however, it was all Juve, with Dybala and Chiesa a constant menace.

Chiesa’s trickery won Juve a penalty to give his side the opportunity to retake the lead, which Dybala seemingly wasted.

The referee, however, insisted Zenit players had encroached in the penalty area, giving Dybala another chance, which he did not pass up.

The relentless Chiesa got the goal his performance deserved as he darted into the penalty area before drilling into the bottom corner and Morata finished well under pressure to put Juve out of sight.

Juve have now won each of the opening four group stage games of a Champions League campaign for the third time, having also done so in 1995-96, when they went on to win the competition, and 2004-05.

Courtesy: Reuters

Villarreal on course for Round of 16

Villarreal boosted their hopes of reaching the Champions League knockout stage after goals from Etienne Capoue and Arnaut Danjuma gave the Spanish side a 2-0 home win over Swiss rivals Young Boys in Group F on Tuesday.

The result left Villarreal second on seven points from four games, behind Manchester United on an inferior head-to-head record and two ahead of third-placed Atalanta. Young Boys have three points and only a slim chance of advancing.

The home side, who won the reverse fixture 4-1 last month, were made to work harder this time as Young Boys always looked dangerous on the break and missed a string of chances.

Capoue delighted the home fans in the 36th minute when he knocked in his own rebound from close range after visiting goalkeeper Guillaume Faivre parried the French midfielder’s header straight back into his path.

Young Boys dominated the second half and had the ball in the back of the net in the 55th minute, but Christian Fassnacht’s header was scrapped after a VAR check deemed Nicolas Buergy offside in the build-up.

The home side’s defender Raul Albiol then headed a long-range Fabian Rieder lob off the line before Faivre parried Danjuma’s fierce shot and Capoue fired inches wide of the far post at the other end.

Young Boys pressed in the closing stages as Meschack Elia came close but they were caught cold in the 89th minute as Danjuma pulled away from his marker and slipped the ball past Faivre to seal Villarreal’s win.

Courtesy: Reuters

Lille win at Seville

Jonathan Ikone scored a second-half winner as Lille fought back to claim a 2-1 victory over hosts Sevilla in their Champions League Group G clash at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Tuesday.

Lucas Ocampos put Sevilla ahead inside 15 minutes, but Jonathan David equalised from the penalty spot just before half-time and Ikone scored a second to hand Lille a potentially crucial win, their first in the competition in 13 matches stretching back to 2014.

Salzburg lead the group with seven points from their four games, with Lille are ahead of Wolfsburg in second place on goal difference. Both teams have five points, while Sevilla are on three.

Lille will host Salzburg in the penultimate round of the group stage on Nov. 23, while Sevilla welcome Wolfsburg with the top two places in the group still wide open.

The night started well enough for Sevilla, who took the lead as Ocampos turned home the rebound after Lille goalkeeper Ivo Grbic could only parry a Rafa Mir shot into his path.

They were fortunate not to give away a penalty just a minute later when David appeared to be upended in the box by a sliding challenge from Thomas Delaney, but the on-field match officials and video assistant referee saw nothing wrong.

Delaney might have got away with that one, but he did concede a spot-kick five minutes before halftime when his flailing arm caught Jonathan Bamba in the face.

David converted the penalty for his first Champions League goal and the teams went into the break level at 1-1.

The visitors looked the more lively at the start to the second period and grabbed the lead when Ikone, who had earlier missed a one-on-one chance with Grbic, crashed the ball into the net after Zeki Celik’s shot came back off the post.

However, the fizz went out of the game and Lille comfortably held on to their advantage.

Courtesy: Reuters

Wolfsburg stun Salzburg

Wolfsburg stunned Champions League Group G leaders Salzburg 2-1 on Tuesday to rekindle their hopes of a top-two finish and a spot in the knockout stage.

The Wolves, with new coach Florian Kohfeldt making his debut in the competition after taking over last week, struck once in either half with Ridle Baku and Lukas Nmecha to climb up to five points, two behind the Austrians.

Sevilla, who face Lille later on Tuesday, are on three with the French team on two.

Salzburg teenager Karim Adeyemi had a first big chance after only two minutes but he could not quite control his shot and fired wide.

Only two minutes later it was Wolfsburg who scored with unmarked Baku slotting in at the far post.

Salzburg, looking to seal their first-ever knockout stage spot with a win, drew level when Maximilian Woeber beautifully curled a left-footed free-kick over the wall and past keeper Koen Casteels on the half-hour mark.

Adeyemi then squandered another golden opportunity four minutes after the restart when he raced into the box, held off his marker but saw his low shot roll just wide of the post.

Wolfsburg, however, scored once more against the run of play, with Nmecha latching onto a pinpoint Maximilian Arnold cross, chesting the ball down and thumping it in from the tightest of angles to secure their first win in the group.

Courtesy: Reuters

Barcelona win

Barcelona’s Ansu Fati scored a superb second-half goal to secure a crucial 1-0 Champions League win at Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday.

Barca’s 19-year-old prospect rescued his team in the 70th minute with a fierce volley from inside the area after the home defence failed to clear Oscar Mingueza’s cross from the right.

However, the Ukraine champions gave Barcelona a hard time in a frantic game, with both teams missing several chances.

The victory put Barca into second place in Group E with six points, two ahead of Benfica. Leaders Bayern Munich have qualified for the knockout stage with 12 points after beating Benfica 5-2.

It was Barca’s first away win in all competitions this season.

“We all knew that we had to win at any cost. The players were nervous before the game and you look at them now and their faces are different. Winning always helps and I hope we keep the momentum for the next game,” Barcelona’s caretaker coach Sergi Barjuan told reporters.

After losing Sergio Aguero for three months following a cardiac evaluation, Barca welcomed back Fati and Ousmane Dembele from injury and both showed, alongside fellow forward Memphis Depay, that they can bring the spark the team desperately need.

After dominating the first encounter at Camp Nou and winning 1-0, Barcelona faced a much-improved Kyiv at their home ground.

Playing with a deep defensive line and relying on counter-attacks, Dynamo threatened the visitors goal and came close to opening the scoring at least three times in the first half.

Viktor Tsygankov used his speed to harass Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba throughout the game and Mykola Shaparenko missed two one-on-ones with keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Ter Stegen made a critical save at the end of the first half after a powerful shot from outside the box by Carlos de Pena.

Barcelona were also probing, with Depay and Fati involved in their attacks, but only managed to get close to Dynamo’s goal in the second half when Dembele came off the bench.

Referee Ovidiu Hategan awarded Barca a penalty for a foul on Fati but changed his decision after a VAR review. However, it was not long before Fati scored the winner with his close-range blast and Barcelona managed to see out the victory.

Courtesy: ESPN

Cristiano Ronaldo saves Manchester United, again!

Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice, including a stoppage-time equaliser, as Manchester United came from behind twice to earn a 2-2 draw away to Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Atalanta took a 12th-minute lead when Duvan Zapata cut in from the left and fed Josip Ilicic whose low drive crept under the body of United keeper David de Gea.

United, forced to reorganize after defender Raphael Varane went off injured, drew level with a superbly worked goal on the stroke of half-time – Ronaldo firing home after a flowing exchange of passes including a backheel from Bruno Fernandes.

Atalanta restored their advantage in the 56th minute when Zapata broke past Harry Maguire, burst into the box and beat De Gea. The linesman’s flag was raised for offside but after a lengthy VAR review the decision was overturned and the Italian side had the lead.

But Ronaldo pounded on a loose ball on the edge of the box in stoppage time and blasted home a volley to earn a precious point for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

His second of the night – a crisp finish from Mason Greenwood’s flick – came in the 91st minute leading Solskjaer to draw comparisons with Jordan.

“He is incredible and if there is anyone you want the ball to fall to in the last minute it is him,” Solskjaer said.

“He is the best goal scorer alive and it is hard for me to say that because he just went past me with these two goals, now he has one more goal for Manchester United than me.”

“That last goal must be a Michael Jordan moment when he wins championships in extra time.”

Meanwhile, Ronaldo said United were “lucky” to come away with a result.

“It was a difficult game, I know when we play in Bergamo it is always difficult, but we believe until the end and I am so happy,” Ronaldo told BT Sport.

“We never give up; we believe until the end, it is a good result for us. We were a little bit lucky in the end but that is football.”

The last-gasp goal was particularly welcome for Solskjaer, whose future is still the subject of intense scrutiny.

The performance in Italy will not silence the doubters but Ronaldo insists the squad still needs time to gel.

“We have to improve, we have different players, a different system, we have to adapt with each other, but it will take time; we have time to improve and be better,” he said.

Solskjaer is sweating on the fitness of Raphael Varane ahead of Manchester City’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday after the Frenchman was forced off with a hamstring problem.

The United boss replaced Varane with Greenwood — who set up Ronaldo’s equalizer – as well as Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek, both of whom made an impact in the closing stages.

“Cristiano is just incredible if there is anyone you want a chance to fall to and a difficult chance, it is just incredible,” Solskjaer said.

“That is football, no one can question the character of these players, because they don’t ever give up and give in, they just keep going. We had to make changes and they worked.”


Courtesy: ESPN

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