MLS Review: Ibrahimovic and Galaxy earn LAFC date; Union win seven-goal thriller

LA Galaxy set up a blockbuster El Trafico derby showdown with rivals Los Angeles FC in the MLS Western Conference semi-finals after edging Minnesota United 2-1.

Second-half goals from Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan dos Santos saw the Galaxy past hosts Minnesota in the first round of the play-offs on Sunday.

After a scoreless first half at Allianz Field, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Galaxy broke the deadlock via Lletget – who bounced on a deflected shot by the former Manchester United striker with 19 minutes remaining.

Dos Santos doubled the lead four minutes later with a curling effort beyond Minnesota goalkeeper and ex-Arsenal shot-stopper Vito Mannone.

Jan Gregus scored a late goal for Minnesota, but the Galaxy were not to be denied as they look ahead to a mouth-watering clash against Supporters’ Shield champions LAFC.

In Sunday’s other play-off match, Philadelphia Union prevailed 4-3 against New York Red Bulls after extra time in an historic victory.

The Union overcame the Red Bulls in a thriller for their first play-off victory, having lost their four previous post-season matches.

Philadelphia trailed 2-0 and 3-1 but rallied on both occasions to force extra time as Marco Fabian’s 106th-minute goal sent the Union through to the next round.

Next up for the Union are defending champions Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference semis.

Guardiola: Manchester City still not ready to win Champions League

Manchester City are still not ready to win the Champions League, according to manager Pep Guardiola.

City responded to their shock Premier League loss to Wolves prior to the international break with a 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Two-time reigning Premier League champions City are six points adrift of unbeaten leaders Liverpool ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League fixture against Atalanta.

Having conquered English football, City covet European glory but Guardiola believes his team are not close to reigning supreme in the Champions League.

“The people say about the Champions League, that target. We still are not ready,” said Guardiola, whose City have lost in the quarter-finals in each of the past two seasons.

“We create a lot, don’t concede, but can improve. We’ve scored a lot over the last two seasons and I don’t have doubts about that, but we have to keep going, work on that.”

Gabriel Jesus scored in the victory at Selhurst Park, where the Brazil forward netted his 50th City goal since arriving from Palmeiras in 2017.

“He [Jesus] will have a long career and with his mentality always he will have success. He is hungry, he will become an important striker around the world and we are lucky to have him,” Guardiola said.

“Gabriel was always good from the beginning. Unfortunately he had the two tough injuries. Last season it was tough for him, after the World Cup it was not easy, but he is strong.

“He is a number nine for Brazil. The club brought an incredible, young player for an incredible price. One of the best signings.

“To compete with Sergio [Aguero] is maybe the most difficult thing. Sergio is a legend, an outrageous player – amazing, but Gabriel is so calm.

“He is a competitor, he accepts the decision and every training session he fights like an animal, but he is so young and can improve.”

Spurs still ´fighting´ for Pochettino, insists Alderweireld

Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld insisted Spurs are still “fighting” for manager Mauricio Pochettino amid the club’s struggles.

Spurs were held to a disappointing 1-1 Premier League draw by Watford on Saturday, leaving Tottenham without a win in three matches in all competitions.

Pochettino’s future has come into question as Tottenham languish in seventh position, while they were humiliated 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League prior to the international break.

However, Alderweireld said Spurs are behind Pochettino, who led Tottenham to the Champions League final last season.

“There is a team on the pitch and you see us fighting,” Belgium international Alderweireld said.

“Everyone is behind the club and the manager otherwise we could not have put the effort we put in.”

Alderweireld added: “I think we didn’t make the right decisions. At the end they had one long ball and they scored. It’s difficult, not positive, but in the second half we changed the game.

“We did a lot better. We could have scored a lot more goals. We need to improve and improve and improve. It’s the same players [as last season] and we have to get out of this.”

Tottenham host Red Star Belgrade on matchday three in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Glazers have no plans to sell Manchester United – Woodward

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said the Glazer family do not want to sell the Premier League giants amid reported interest.

Woodward addressed speculation linking Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman with a takeover bid for United.

The Glazer family have owned United since 2005 and are not prepared to sell, having reportedly turned down two offers from Bin Salman already.

“Based on what I see, they’re in it for the long-term,” Woodward told the United We Stand fanzine of the Glazers. “With regards to offers or asking prices, my understanding is that there have been no discussions for a price for the club or anything like that. Every conversation we have is based on the long-term.

“The debt is a long-term, structured and similar to some other football clubs. It’s a fixed amount for a fixed period of time which results in it being fairly cheap to service.

“It’s just under two per cent of our annual revenue each year, so it doesn’t really have any impact on us.”

Woodward watched from the Old Trafford stands as United held unbeaten Premier League leaders Liverpool to a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Marcus Rashford’s first-half opener was cancelled out by Liverpool substitute Adam Lallana in Manchester, where the Reds’ streak of 17 successive Premier League wins came to an end.

It was an improved display from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United, who have gone four matches without a win and languishing in 13th position – 15 points behind Liverpool.

Birthday boy Pioli laments Milan mistakes as Lecce spoil debut

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli bemoaned his team’s mistakes in a disappointing last-gasp draw at home to lowly Lecce, though he believes the Rossoneri can learn from the result.

Pioli’s reign as Milan coach got off to an underwhelming start following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Lecce at San Siro, where the visitors scored a stunning 92nd-minute equaliser.

The appointment of former Inter boss Pioli to replace Marco Giampaolo was an already unpopular decision among fans and the 54-year-old’s debut in the Milan dugout did little to endear himself to the Rossoneri faithful.

Reflecting on his bow, which looked on track thanks to goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and substitute Krzysztof Piatek before Marco Calderoni’s stoppage-time leveller, birthday boy Pioli told Sky Sport Italia: “It’s a pity, there were positives, but we wanted the win and didn’t get it because of our mistakes. I saw some good moves, quality and spirit, but if you leave the game open, you can have a nasty surprise at the end.

“Milan players are well aware of their capabilities and the fact they are wearing a prestigious jersey. They will be able to judge their own performances and we’ll analyse them carefully, but in a way we paid for our generosity, as we ran after the ball and didn’t keep an eye on other players. I think we had deserved to win it.

“Some of the positions we took were positive, others not so much. We tried to build from the back with a three-man defence, but that can change with a different opponent such as Roma next week.

“After only a few days of training, I did see some of the ideas we had worked on and that bodes well for the future, even if there is a lot of work to be done. I had hoped for a gift this evening for my birthday, but I saw some good things and I hope we can learn from these mistakes.”

The result left Milan with just one win from their past five league fixtures and languishing in 12th position – six points adrift of fourth-placed Napoli.

“We lacked a little collaboration on the final equaliser,” Pioli added. “Calderoni hit it well, but we had several opportunities to close that Lecce move earlier and if we had, we’d be here talking about a deserved victory.

“In the news conference yesterday [Saturday], I was asked many questions about how I found the team. I tell you after this match, there are many positives. The big error was that a side like Milan have to kill games off. We could’ve even held on for 2-1 and kicked it out of play rather than misplace those passes.

“This match will help us learn a great deal, for what we did and what we should’ve done. On the penalty, there were too many of us going after the ball and we left gaps. We weren’t set out well at all.”

Newcastle to go after Lille forward

Newcastle United are ready to make a rebuild! That is what The Chronicle are claiming these days, as the Magpies do not want to flirt with relegation every year and they want to become a regular team in the top half of the Premier League standings. They have already signed players like Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin, but now another newcomer is on the radar.

According to the same source, Newcastle have set their sights on Lille forward Victor Osimhen, as they want to start the rebuild as early as January 2020. Reportedly, Newcastle have already sent scouts to watch the 20-year-old. Osimhen started the new season in a very strong fashion, as he won Ligue 1’s Player of the Month award for September. He scored two goals and made two assists in those five league matches.

In ten appearances in Ligue 1 this season, he is already at seven goals and two assists and Newcastle need to be fast before bigger European sides start paying close attention.

Rashford´s ´big six´ haul, Reds fall short of Man City´s record – the key Opta facts from Man United

Manchester United stopped the rot at Old Trafford and slowed Liverpool’s Premier League title charge with a battling performance in a tightly contested 1-1 draw.

Marcus Rashford opened the scoring in contentious fashion with his first goal for United in over a month to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s much-improved side hope of a memorable victory.

United’s hope faded with five minutes remaining, however, when Adam Lallana struck for the first time in the Premier League in over two years to claim a share of the spoils Liverpool’s second-half display deserved.

Jurgen Klopp’s men went into the game as favourites but had to settle for a draw, and the key Opta facts marked significant milestones on both sides of a fierce rivalry which rarely delivers a dull game.

Reds’ run falls short of City’s record

Victory at Old Trafford would have seen Liverpool equal Manchester City’s record of 18 consecutive Premier League wins, set in 2017, but they were denied at the last hurdle.

It was the first time Klopp’s side failed to win a Premier League match since their goalless draw with Merseyside rivals Everton in March.

Rashford relishes big-game pressure

Though he made an inauspicious start to the game, wasting early opportunities to attack, Rashford – who scored a wonderful goal in England’s thumping win over Bulgaria in Euro 2020 qualifying – made amends when he converted Daniel James’ cross after 36 minutes.

It was the England forward’s 31st Premier League goal for United, of which 11 have come against ‘big six’ opponents, and his third against Liverpool.

Lallana ends two-year drought

Few Liverpool fans would have held out hope of Lallana grabbing an equaliser after his 71st-minute introduction given that his previous Premier League goal came against Middlesbrough in May 2017.

The 31-year-old was in the right place at the right time to turn Andy Robertson’s cross home for his first goal in 29 top-flight appearances.

Solskjaer left to rue more dropped points

While United’s performance was warmly received by the Old Trafford crowd, it was not the first time Solskjaer’s side have faltered when in a winning position this season.

Indeed, no side has dropped more points from winning positions than United, who have squandered eight, though Solskjaer is the only manager Klopp has faced more than once in the Premier League and failed to beat

Klopp’s fighting spirit lifts Liverpool

After a frustrating first half in which they had 56.9 per cent of the possession, Liverpool dominated the second and enjoyed a 77.5 per cent share.

Lallana’s late equaliser was the 28th goal Liverpool have scored in the final 15 minutes of Premier League matches since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Man United halt Liverpool´s winning streak as Man City close the gap – the Premier League Data Diary

Premier League leaders Liverpool’s winning start to the season was brought to a halt as they drew 1-1 against fierce rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

Marcus Rashford’s contentious goal looked set to claim all three points for United in the clash at Old Trafford, but substitute Adam Lallana hauled Liverpool level late on.

The Reds are still unbeaten in the league this season and lead the way, although Manchester City’s victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday means the gap is now six points.

Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino will not have been pleased by another unconvincing Tottenham display despite Dele Alli rescuing a point for Spurs against Watford.

Chelsea overcame Newcastle United, while Leicester City got back on the winning trail following their heartbreak at Anfield.

Marco Silva’s Everton claimed a much-needed win over West Ham, with Aston Villa beating Brighton and Hove Albion late on. Wolves drew with Southampton and Norwich City held Bournemouth in Saturday’s other encounters.

Our Premier League Data Diary sheds some light on the detail behind the big stories of this weekend’s big games.

 

SEVENTEEN AND OUT FOR LIVERPOOL

Lallana may have scored his first league goal since May 2017, but it was only enough to earn Liverpool a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, as the Reds failed to win for the first time in 18 Premier League matches.

It means, with 17 straight victories, the top-flight leaders fall just short of the Premier League record set by City in 2017.

Jurgen Klopp was furious that Rashford’s opener was allowed to stand, though the goal means the England forward has now scored 11 times against “big six” opposition.

It was backs-against-the-wall stuff for United for much of the match, with the Red Devils registering their second-lowest possession figure (32.1 per cent) in a Premier League home match since 2003-04.

Five of the last seven Premier League meetings between the north west rivals have ended level – just four of the previous 36 encounters had been drawn.

Rashford - cropped

JESUS RISES TO THE CHALLENGE AS CITY BOUNCE BACK

City’s slip-up before the international break allowed Liverpool to open up an eight-point gap, but Pep Guardiola’s side responded in confident fashion on Saturday.

Gabriel Jesus scored his 50th City goal to put the champions ahead at Selhurst Park, with the Brazil international becoming the seventh player to reach that milestone while being coached by Guardiola, joining Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Thomas Muller and Pedro on an illustrious list. 

David Silva added City’s second, just 93 seconds after Jesus’ opener as Palace succumbed to a 10th home league defeat since the start of last season.

City have now won 12 of their 14 away Premier League games in 2019, three more than any other club this calendar year, while in all competitions they have won 16 of their previous 19 meetings with Palace, scoring 47 goals.

Jesus has been directly involved in 58 goals in his 64 starts across all competitions for the club, including scoring 21 in his last 20 games when featuring in the starting XI.

Jesus - cropped

ALLI SAVES A POINT BUT SPURS’ SLUGGISH RUN ROLLS ON

A mix-up between Kiko Femenia and Ben Foster may have allowed Alli to salvage a point for Tottenham against Watford, but Spurs have now won just three of their last 12 Premier League games, keeping just one clean sheet across those games.

Lowly Watford thought Abdoulaye Doucoure’s early goal was going to be enough, but the Hornets remain winless in the Premier League this season, failing to win their opening nine league games for the first time since 2006-07, when they went on to finish bottom.

Spurs made seven changes to their starting XI for this match, with Alli rewarding Pochettino for his faith as he scored his fifth league goal against Watford.

Watford lost Danny Welbeck to injury in the fourth minute – the earliest substitution of a starting player in a Premier League match since Daniel Sturridge for West Brom against Chelsea in February 2018.

Alli - cropped

IT’S…… JAMIE VARDY

After their late defeat at Anfield, Leicester returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Burnley, albeit it was a triumph not without some controversy as Sean Dyche’s side had a late goal harshly disallowed by VAR.

Jamie Vardy cancelled out Chris Wood’s opener, heading home a cross from Harvey Barnes, who later became the second youngest player to provide two assists in a Premier League game for the Foxes when he teed up Youri Tielemans’ winner.

Since Brendan Rodgers’ first Premier League game in charge of Leicester on March 3rd, Vardy has scored 15 top-flight goals – two more than any other player.

In-form Leicester have now won four consecutive home Premier League matches for the first time since winning five in a row in May 2017, while the Clarets have won just 16 times from Burnley’s 100 away matches in the top tier.

Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool: Lallana salavages point at Old Trafford

Liverpool’s winning run in the Premier League came to an end on Sunday evening as the Reds battled to a 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Adam Lallana came off the bench to secure a point as he cancelled out Marcus Rashford’s first-half strike as Jurgen Klopp’s men extended the lead at the top of the Premier League table to six points.

Rashford gives Red Devils first-half lead

It was a tame opening to the match in Manchester but Liverpool should really have claimed the lead as Sadio Mane raced down the right-flank and picked out Roberto Firmino. Faced with David De Gea, who was an injury doubt before the match, the Brazilian could only produce a weak shot that the United stopper smothered.

Jurgen Klopp’s troops were seemingly made to rue that missed opportunity as United claimed the lead with ten minutes of the first-half remaining. Victor Lindelöf produced a crunching tackle on Divock Origi, that Liverpool protested furiously but play continued with the ball eventually finding its way to Daniel James. He powered down the right-flank and tossed an excellent cross into Rashford. The striker stayed cool to poke it underneath the returning Alisson. Despite VAR checking the foul, the goal stood.

VAR controversy mars game yet again

The European champions thought they had equalised though as Mane got beyond Lindelöf and stroked the ball underneath De Gea with a great finish but the goal was ruled out for a handball in the build-up.

Rashford could have compounded their misery in the second-half as he was afforded too much space on the edge of the area but could only shoot marginally wide of the Liverpool goal.

Liverpool do get their equaliser

The league leaders were not to be denied however and it was Lallana who was the man to strike the latest blow against Manchester United. Introduced for skipper Jordan Henderson with only ten minutes left on the clock, he ghosted in at the back post to turn Andrew Robertson’s cross into an unguarded net.

They could even have stolen maximum points right at the death as United tired but Alex Oxlaxde-Chamberlain put his effort just wide as both side’s went away with hard-earned and potentially deserved points.

Final Thoughts

This really wasn’t the match that most were expecting before the match. United started the better and probably deserved the advantage after Marcus Rashford had given them the lead. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men tired after the break and did not know how to cope with their opponents. In the end, both sides will potentially be happy with their points for different reasons. Liverpool will reflect on a match where they did not exactly play their best football but still earned something and United will be happy having notched a draw out of what could potentially be their hardest assignment this season.

Match Report

Manchester United: de Gea (7); Rojo (6), Lindelöf (6), Maguire (7), Wan-Bissaka (7), McTominay (6), Fred (7); Young (6), Pereira (7) (Williams (N/A), 90+4′); James (7); Rashford (7) (Martial (N/A), 84′).

Liverpool: Alisson (6); Robertson (7), Matip (6), van Dijk (6), Alexander-Arnold (7); Henderson (6) (Lallana (7), 71′), Fabinho (7), Wijnaldum (6) (Keita (N/A), 82′); Mane (6), Firmino (6), Origi (5) (Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), 60′).

Goals: Rashford (36′), Lallana (85′)

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Yellow Cards: Fabinho (70′)

Red Cards: N/A

AC Milan 2-2 Lecce: Pioli denied winning start by spectacular late strike

Stefano Pioli’s reign as AC Milan coach got off to an underwhelming start as Marco Calderoni’s stunning late equaliser secured struggling Lecce a 2-2 draw in San Siro.

Krzysztof Piatek had seemingly secured former Inter boss Pioli – who replaced Marco Giampaolo during the international break – a debut win with his 81st-minute goal, but Calderoni struck in stoppage time to ensure Milan dropped points for the fifth time in eight games this season.

The impressive Hakan Calhanoglu powered Milan ahead with a fine strike following Lucas Biglia’s pass, but they struggled to maintain their lively start and faded towards half-time.

Khouma Babacar found the net from close range after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved his penalty in the second half, and then Piatek’s strike was cancelled out by Calderoni’s long-range drive to prevent Milan from moving back into the top half of the table.

A fast start from Milan saw them go close twice inside the first two minutes through Rafael Leao, who was denied by goalkeeper Gabriel and then found the side netting.

Calhanoglu was more clinical, however, giving Milan the lead in 20th minute when he emphatically found the roof of the net from an acute angle inside the penalty area.

It was nearly 2-0 soon after, but Gabriel did well to push Suso’s low curling effort around the post.

Lecce capitalised on previous let-offs just past the hour – Babacar netting despite seeing his initial penalty saved by Donnarumma following Andrea Conti’s handball.

Substitute Piatek thought he had secured victory nine minutes from time when steering home after Calhanoglu’s clever run and cutback.

But after six minutes of time was added on, Calderoni let fly from 25 yards and his ferocious effort left Donnarumma with no chance, denying Pioli a victorious maiden outing with Milan.

 

What does it mean? Pioli with much to improve

Pioli should be encouraged by the football Milan played during the early exchanges. They got the ball forward quickly and looked dangerous, if a little wasteful, in attack.

But in failing to make the most of their chances, they allowed Lecce a way back in and, although Calhanoglu impressed, they have slumped to a draw in a game they should have won. 

Calhanoglu stakes his claim

Turkey international Calhanoglu has not met expectations at Milan, with recent speculation suggesting the club are open to selling him, but he showed his quality on Sunday. His goal was well taken and he was generally a creative threat in a roaming role, setting up Piatek’s goal as well.

Leao fades after bright start

The young Portuguese talent looked in the mood in the first few minutes, going close twice as he troubled the right side of Lecce’s defence. But thereafter he offered precious little and was hooked for match-winner Piatek in the 67th minute.

Key Opta Facts

– Milan have lost five points from leading positions, with only Brescia (six) having surrendered more in Serie A this season.
– Milan scored two goals from open play, as many as in the other seven Serie A games this season.
– Krzysztof Piatek scored his first Serie A goal as a substitute.
– Milan had six shots in the first 15 minutes of play.

What’s next?

Pioli will hope it is second time lucky as he looks for a first win when Milan face Roma in the capital next Sunday, while Lecce host champions Juventus the day before.