Koke: VAR will give Atletico’s Morata a goal one day

Koke said the VAR will give Alvaro Morata a goal “one day” after the Atletico Madrid forward had his header ruled out by the video assistant referee in the Champions League victory over Juventus. 

Morata thought he had opened his Atletico account in Wednesday’s 2-0 last 16 first-leg triumph at home to Juventus in Madrid, however, the VAR intervened in the second half. 

The 26-year-old, who was denied by the VAR in the La Liga derby loss to Real Madrid on February 9, headed past Wojciech Szczesny and celebrated passionately but a review found he had pushed Giorgio Chiellini. 

Morata is yet to score since arriving from Premier League side Chelsea on an 18-month loan deal last month and asked about the Spaniard post-match, Atletico midfielder Koke told reporters: “In the end, VAR will one day give Morata a goal. 

“He has scored two goals that have been cancelled. If they cancel it, sometimes it is a goal and sometimes it is not. You have to respect the decisions. We respect the referees and we continue with the dynamic of trying to win games and score more goals in case they are cancelled.” 

Defensive duo Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin were the unlikely goalscorers for Atletico at Wanda Metropolitano. 

Atletico were unfortunate not to end the match with a greater advantage after Diego Costa spurned a golden opportunity early in the second half and Antoine Griezmann saw his shot pushed onto the crossbar by Szczesny. 

“Very happy for the victory but there isn’t anything done,” Koke said. “We know about Juventus’ quality, their potential… they’re one of the best teams in the world. We are happy with the result, but nothing is decided yet. It is going to be a great battle in Turin, like a war. We’ll need a perfect game to get through.

“Juventus are one of the best in the world, and you should never presume an Italian team dead, and neither Juventus. We are going to try to compete, to play a perfect game, as we did today, to be able to get through” 

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It proved to be a frustrating evening for former Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who was seen gesturing during and after the match . 

Ronaldo held up his hands to indicate the five Champions League titles he has won – four with Madrid and one with Manchester United – on the pitch and when he walked through the mixed zone. 

“On the field I did not see anything,” Koke added. “Maybe he was greeting someone. If you have five Champions League titles, then congratulate him. We cannot say anything else either.”


‘It wasn’t our best game’ – Tuchel unimpressed with PSG’s 5-1 rout of Montpellier

Thomas Tuchel said Paris Saint-Germain were not at their best, despite Wednesday’s crushing Ligue 1 victory against Montpellier.

PSG ran riot in a 5-1 rout at home to Montpellier in Paris, where the French champions extended their lead atop the table to 15 points.

Angel Di Maria’s stunning free-kick was the pick of the lot for PSG, with Kylian Mbappe, Layvin Kurzawa and Christopher Nkunku also on target, while Hilton turned the ball into his own net.

Despite the comprehensive win in the French capital, PSG head coach Tuchel was not completely satisfied post-game.

“We found more space in attack and made it hard for Montpellier to run with the ball,” Tuchel told reporters.

“It was a question of patience and of quality. A little bit of luck too. But we pressed well, we scored two goals in the game and then we had a lot of chances.

“We were a little careless defensively. Honestly, it wasn’t our best game. We weren’t aggressive enough, not close enough to the ball.

“But we were dangerous in attack and the victory is well deserved.”

Meanwhile, Montpellier boss Michel Der Zakarian added: “When you do not finish the actions, they punish you, they are talented players. We should have led the game.

“We do not fight in the same category as PSG but it is painful to concede five.”

The win ran PSG’s point total to 65 in Ligue 1 after just 24 games, the second-best tally in the history of the league behind only the Paris outfit’s output in the 2015-16 campaign.  

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The club have lost just one of their last 55 home matches in league play and have lost just once in their last 17 outings against Montpellier.  

PSG sit 15 points clear at the top of the league and will be looking to extend that lead with a win over Nimes on Saturday.  

They’re also alive and well in the Champion League, holding a 2-0 lead over Manchester United ahead of the second leg of their last-16 tie in Paris on March 6.


‘Ronaldo had a good game’ – Allegri backs Juventus star following first-leg loss

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri defended Cristiano Ronaldo after the forward’s subdued display in a 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Late goals from Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin gave Atletico a deserved win in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Ronaldo had just one shot on target – of Juve’s three – and Godin’s goal deflected in off him in the 83rd minute.

But Allegri backed the 34-year-old’s performance and said the clash would be beneficial heading into the second leg in Turin on March 12.

“Ronaldo played a good game,” he told a news conference.

“He is confident with these kinds of matches. He was not bad at all.

“We missed all the second half as a team. And this match will be useful looking forward to the second leg.”

Ronaldo failed to cover himself in grace following the match either, taunting the Atletico faithful despite being beaten. 

Walking through the mixed zone after the game he barked: “I have five Champions Leagues, you [Atletico] have none.”

The 34-year-old won the Europe’s top competition with Manchester United in 2008 before scooping it four times with Los Blancos – including twice at the expense of city rivals Atletico in the 2014 and 2016 finals.

Ronaldo also took the time out during the match to hold up five fingers in view of the Los Colchoneros support, to further emphasise his superiority in Europe’s premier club competition. 

Juve are 13 points clear at the top of Serie A and will be looking to turn around the tie with Atletico on March 12 when the return leg takes place in Turin.  

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The Italian giants have failed to win any the last five Champions League knockout ties in which they have lost the first match.  

But Allegri has called on his side to keep the faith and believes they can turn things around next month on their home ground.    

The club will return to action Sunday with a league clash against Bologna.


Columbus Crew 2019 season preview: Roster, projected lineup, schedule, national TV and more

In 2018, the Columbus Crew advanced one round fewer than they had in 2017 and suffered a much worse defeat in their eventual elimination. And yet, optimism and hope were to be found in far greater abundance at the end of 2018 than in the previous season. 

That’s because in 2017, the MLS postseason was accompanied by news the Crew were on the verge of being relocated to Austin. By the end of 2018, the Crew had new ownership and a commitment to the city of Columbus. 

The Crew have been saved, but there’s more change in the organization than just ownership from Anthony Precourt to the Haslam and Edwards families. Longtime coach Gregg Berhalter left the club to take up the role of United States national team boss with Caleb Porter filling the void left behind. 

And the former Portland Timbers and University of Akron coach finds a team that has an established core with the likes of Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain and Harrison Afful, along with a reborn Gyasi Zardes, but also has not made much in the way of big-name additions this winter. 

Will Porter be able to unlock a new level for this Columbus squad? Or will it be another struggle to fight for the MLS postseason? 

A jubilant fanbase awaits, knowing that whatever the answer, they’ll get to find out with their local club, rather than watching them from afar in Austin.

How did the Columbus Crew perform in 2018?

Gyasi Zardes Columbus Crew

2018 finish: Fifth in the Eastern Conference (14-11-9), lost in Eastern Conference semifinal 

The Crew finished level on points and wins with D.C. United in fourth but ended up fifth due to goal difference. It made no difference as they bounced D.C. on penalties in the knockout round. 

A 1-0 victory at home in the Eastern Conference semifinal first leg provided hope of an upset against the Supporters’ Shield winning New York Red Bulls, but the Crew were eliminated from the postseason after suffering a heavy 3-0 defeat in Harrison.

Columbus Crew’s key offseason losses

Gregg Berhalter Columbus Crew MLS 2018

The biggest change comes at the top, where Gregg Berhalter finally put an end to months of speculation at the end of the season and became the head coach of the USMNT. 

Zack Steffen signed with Manchester City in January, and though he currently remains with the Crew to start the season, he is expected to depart in the summer. 

While he did not leave the club, left-back Milton Valenzuela tore his ACL in preseason and has been lost for the year – a tough loss given how well he performed in his debut campaign. 

Cristian Martinez had been in the mix for a starting spot in previous campaigns but never could hold down a place in the XI. His contract option was declined. So too were the options on Mike Grella and Adam Jahn.

Columbus Crew’s key offseason additions

Caleb Porter Portland Timbers

With Berhalter departing, former Portland Timbers and University of Akron head coach Caleb Porter steps in with knowledge of the area and plenty MLS success under his belt. It was Porter’s Timbers who defeated Berhalter’s Crew in the 2015 MLS Cup final. 

Steffen’s impending departure leaves a potential hole in goal, and Joe Bendik, who was brought in from Orlando City, could be in a position to fill it. 

Robinho Barbosa arrives from Brazilian club Ceara and the 24-year-old will be looking to compete for playing time on the wings – a source of consternation for the team at times. 

Veteran Waylon Francis is back with the Crew and tasked with a difficult job of filling some of the void left behind by Valenzuela’s injury while new homegrown signing Aboubacar Keita will add further depth to the back line. 

First-round draft pick JJ Williams may provide numbers behind Zardes.

Full Columbus Crew roster entering 2019 season

Zack Steffen MLS Columbus Crew 11062018

Goalkeepers: Joe Bendik, Jon Kempin, Zack Steffen

Defenders: Lalas Abubakar, Harrison Afful, Waylon Francis, Aboubacar Keita, Connor Maloney, Jonathan Mensah, Gaston Sauro, Milton Valenzuela, Josh Williams

Midfielders:  Luis Argudo, Ricardo Clark, Artur, Niko Hansen, Federico Higuain, Hector Jimenez, Justin Meram, Pedro Santos, Robinho, Eduardo Sosa, Wil Trapp

Forwards: Patrick Mullins, Edward Opoku, JJ Williams, Gyasi Zardes

Columbus Crew’s projected starting lineup

Crew 2019 Projected XI

Former coach Berhalter tended to favor a 4-2-3-1 with the Crew though he did sometimes go with three at the back or a 4-4-2. 

New coach Porter proved himself versatile in Portland, but with the club’s key players back and well-established, tweaks to philosophy may be more likely than to formation. 

Steffen will remain in goal until he departs for Europe, while a backline of Afful, Mensah, Abubakar and Francis seems likely. Sauro could end up being preferred to Abubakar. 

Trapp will take one of the central midfield slots and if Porter elects to go with two deep midfielders, will likely play alongside Artur. Federico Higuain will be expected to be the team’s primary playmaker, as he has been for years. 

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Zardes will start up top, though him being joined by Patrick Mullins depends on if Porter wants a second forward. 

The wing spots offer the greatest question, with Robinho added to a mix that includes Pedro Santos, Justin Meram and Niko Hansen. Should Porter not like his options out wide, he could elect to play a formation that pushes Afful further forward, or opt for a more narrow formation.

Columbus Crew’s national TV coverage

Federico Higuain Columbus Crew Red Bulls MLS

  • Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution – Saturday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • FC Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew – Sunday, August 25 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1


Sane ‘a bit sad for Schalke’ after stunning equaliser against former club

Leroy Sane’s stunning free-kick equaliser and a subsequent winner from Raheem Sterling helped Manchester City to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Schalke in Wednesday’s Champions League round of 16 first leg clash, though the German claims he felt “sad” after helping down his former club. 

A pair of first-half penalties for Schalke had the Bundesliga side out in front following Sergio Aguero’s opener. A red card to Nicolas Otamendi on 68 minutes also left the Premier League outfit playing down a man as they chased the match. 

But Sane’s brilliant free-kick leveled matters in the 85th, before Sterling’s solo effort in stoppage time proved to be a winner for Pep Guardiola’s side, leaving Sane to praise the atmosphere at his former club even in defeat. 

“I was a little bit sad for Schalke, because the atmosphere was amazing like it always is,’ he told BT Sport following the win. “Schalke did really well, the way they defended made it difficult.

“At the end we did it, we scored three goals away – that was the most important thing.

“You can see the will is a lot, we never give up, we always want to keep fighting.”

Match-winner Sterling had no such sadness and was proud of his side from sticking together even through the adversity of going down a man and suffering through controversial VAR decisions. 

“A really tough game, we made it difficult for ourselves at times, but we stuck together, even with 10 men,” he told BT Sport

“For my goal, it was a little nudge in the back of the defender, and I took my opportunity and we got the three points – err, a win!

“We have had some difficult patches this season, you can’t win every game 2-0 or 3-0.

“These are the games in the Champions League we know the opposition can hurt you at any point and we’re going to be under pressure at times, but we’ve got to stay with it. 

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“We did that brilliantly and showed what a great bunch of lads we are and what we’re heading towards.” 

City are tied on points with Liverpool atop the Premier League and next face a Carbao Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday.  

They’ll host the return leg against Schalke on March 12.