Friday, April 30, 2021

Premier League in Europe

Chelsea scored a critical away goal in their 1-1 Champions League semi-final draw with Real Madrid. Christian Pulisic scored in the 14th minute for a Chelsea side which dominated early before a first half tying goal by Real’s Karim Benzema. Timo Werner was again guilty of missing numerous chances, including an early golden opportunity from six yards out. Chelsea controlled second half play but was unable to find a winner. Manager Thomas Tuchel will be pleased with the away goal but also disappointed at a missed opportunity to take a win away from the rain drenched contest. But for an acrobatic effort by Benzema on his goal, Chelsea’s defense again impressed with Real Madrid launching just the one shot on target for the match. Pulisic is the first American to score in a Champions League semi-final. Benzema’s 71st Champions League goal ties him for fourth in the competition’s history behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Robert Lewandowski. 

Manchester City took advantage of a sloppy performance by PSG to post a 2-1 victory in Paris. Pep Guardiola’s side overcame an early headed goal by PSG’s Marquinhos to grab the away win on two errors by PSG. Keven De Bruyne’s cross bounced in the box and proceeded unmolested into goal as PSG’s defenders and goalkeeper were inexplicable bystanders. The second goal came on a Riyad Mahrez free kick which found its way to goal when PSG’s wall inexcusably parted.

Adding insult to injury for the beleaguered Parisians was a 77th minute red card assessed Idrissa Gueye. City’s victory was an 18th consecutive win in away matches across all competitions for the Premier League leaders. Manchester City heads to the Etihad for the second leg next week with the lead in the tie and two away goals to their account. PSG remains dangerous, particularly if Kylian Mbappe should awaken from his sleepwalking performance in the first leg. 

Manchester United shattered Roma’s hopes in a 6-2 victory at Old Trafford in the opener of the clubs’ Europa League semi-final. The Red Devils trailed at halftime before overrunning the outmatched Italian side with five second half goals. Edinson Cavani notched a second half brace, Bruno Fernandez added a penalty kick to his first half goal, and Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood each scored as part of the second half onslaught. The impressive win resoundingly ended a string of four consecutive semi-final defeats in all competitions by Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The six goals by United were the most scored by a club in a European semi-final since Real Madrid in 1964. The Red Devils are poised to reach their eighth European final. 

Arsenal were exceptionally fortunate to escape their opening Europa League semi-final match at Villareal with only a 2-1 deficit to be overcome at the Emirates. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette out of the starting lineup, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta employed Emile Smith-Rowe in a false nine position for the opening leg, a move which proved ineffective. Down two goals early, Arsenal went down to two men when Dani Ceballos received a red card in the 57th minute. Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno limited further damage to his undermanned team with two subsequent critical saves on Villa real star striker Gerard Moreno. Gunner hopes for the tie were then salvaged when Bukayo Saka was able to craftily draw a penalty which Nicolas Pepe converted. The crucial away goal keeps Arsenal in contention as the teams move on to the second leg at the Emirates.

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