Ivanovic Stars As Zenit Dump Celtic Out Of Europe


Zenit Saint Petersburg’s defender Branislav Ivanovic (L) vies with Celtic’s midfielder Ross McLaughlin during the Europa League Round of 32 second leg football match between Zenit Saint Petersburg and Celtic in Saint Petersburg on February 22, 2018.  Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP


Branislav Ivanovic starred as Zenit St Petersburg knocked Celtic out of the Europa League on Thursday by overturning a first-leg deficit in the last 32 with a 3-0 victory in Russia, while RB Leipzig held off a late Napoli comeback.

Celtic have now failed to reach the last 16 of a European tournament since the 2012-13 Champions League, while Zenit are still hoping to repeat their UEFA Cup success from 10 years ago after the 3-1 aggregate win.

Former Chelsea centre-back Ivanovic wasted little time in wiping out Celtic’s first-leg 1-0 lead, powering home a header in the eighth minute to mark his 34th birthday with his third goal in the competition this season.

The Scottish champions found themselves behind in the tie before the half-hour mark, as Daler Kuzyeyev crashed a swerving, long-range strike past Celtic goalkeeper Dorus de Vries.

Roberto Mancini’s Zenit secured their place in Friday’s last-16 draw in the 61st minute with Serbian international Ivanovic again playing a key role as his low cross was bundled in by Aleksandr Kokorin at the back post.

Serie A leaders Napoli gave Leipzig a serious fright in Germany, but a 2-0 win was in vain as last week’s 3-1 loss proved too much to come back from.

Visiting coach Maurizio Sarri, who was given his own smoking room by Leipzig, named a strong team, and Piotr Zielinski’s first-half goal gave Napoli hope.

The fightback looked as though it wouldn’t materialise, but Lorenzo Insigne’s strike with four minutes to play set up a tense finale.

Leipzig held on to continue their debut European campaign with Napoli left to focus on defending their one-point lead over Juventus in Italy.

“We were one step away from the miracle,” said Napoli’s Brazilian midfielder Allan. “It’s an important victory for us after the lost first leg.

“There is a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth for the elimination, now we have to concentrate all our strength on the championship and have a great finale to the season.”

Lazio, who sit in the fourth and final Champions League spot in Serie A, thrashed FCSB 5-1 with Ciro Immobile scoring a hat-trick to brush off the surprise 1-0 first-leg defeat in Romania.

Nice were made to pay for their first-leg collapse as a 1-0 defeat at Lokomotiv Moscow saw the Russian side through 4-2 on aggregate.

Lokomotiv had come back from two goals down to win the opening game in France, and Igor Denisov grabbed the only goal of the return match in the 30th minute.

“We could have achieved a much better result if we had been better in front of goal,” said Nice coach Lucien Favre.

“But frankly, after a 3-2 defeat on home turf, we were in a difficult position.”

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid completed the formalities of their tie with FC Copenhagen, winning 5-1 overall after Kevin Gameiro scored in a 1-0 victory on the night.

Last season’s semi-finalists Lyon won 1-0 at Villarreal to go through 4-1 on aggregate, while Sporting Lisbon and Viktoria Plzen also reached the last 16.


FA Cup: Liverpool Crash While Arsenal, Chelsea, City Advance

Liverpool Crash Out Of FA CupChampionship side Wolverhampton Wanderers held on to oust Liverpool and reach the FA Cup fifth round with a deserved victory at Anfield.

Richard Stearman put the visitors ahead after only 53 seconds and Helder Costa set up Andreas Weimann to double Wolves’ lead later.

Divock Origi scored a late consolation for the largely subdued Liverpool.

The result is the second defeat in cup competition in four days for Jurgen Klopp’s side after they lost to Southampton in the EFL Cup semi-finals on Wednesday.

However, it was a massive win for Arsenal in spite of the manager Arsene Wenger’s touchline ban.

A Danny Welbeck brace, followed by a Theo Walcott hat trick ensured that the Gunners trashed Southampton 5-0 at the St Mary’s Stadium.

In other FA Cup matches played on Saturday, Sean Dyche’s Burnley knocked out championship strugglers Bristol City with a 2-0 win  at Turf Moor, while league leaders Chelsea put four goals past Brentford with Willian,  Pedro, Branislav  Ivanovic and Michy Batshuayi all getting on the score sheet.

Elsewhere, Manchester City put their troubles in the league behind them to beat Crystal Palace 3-0.

Blackburn Rovers also defeated Blackpool 2-0 while League One side, Oxford pulled off the biggest upset in the round with an impressive 3-0 victory over promotion chasers Newcastle United.

Stewart Downing’s superb 69th minute strike sent Middleborough through to the next round as Aitor Karanka’s men beat Accrington Stanley 1-0.

Tottenham came back from behind to beat League Two side Wycome Wanders 4-3 as South Korean forward Son Heung-Min scored a stoppage-time winner.

Season not for Barcelona – Pep Guardiola

Barcelona Coach; Pep Guardiola has so much to worry about this time as his exceptionally gifted team Barcelona failed in their bid to reach the final of the Champions league last night against Chelsea when they lost by aggregate 3-2 to Chelsea.

Guardiola told a post-match news conference he did not know what else Barca could have done but their elimination from Europe’s elite club competition highlighted the fact that when their flowing passing game fails they have little scope to adjust their tactics.

With only defenders Carles Puyol or Gerard Pique able to challenge the imposing Chelsea players in the air, pumping balls into the box was not much of an option, especially after the latter went off with concussion midway through the first half.

This has come as no surprise for some pundits going by the unimpressive performance displayed the Spanish club in their last three games as it has not be up to the standard bar of display the club has set for itself.

Guardiola was left musing on whether luck was simply against the club this season following a spectacular run of success that has yielded 13 trophies since he took over in 2008.

The was not able to pinpoint what why the team lost to Chelsea last night which would have passed as his third champions league finals in four years and sadly enough Barcelona who fell to the sword of Chelsea are the holders of the title and would also have passed as the first club to win back-to-back European titles since Ac Milan in the year 1990.

Barcelona could not defend themselves at Stamford Bridge during the first leg of the champions league game against Chelsea as they fell by a lone goal despite their high percentage of possession and array of chances created which could not be converted to goals.

In the El-Classico, Barcelona fell against their Spanish arch-rival Real Madrid in a game that ended 2-1 last week also after their unlucky performance against Chelsea.

Last night at Nou Camp in a game where Barcelona was touted to carry the day as it is in the tradition of the Barcelona to turn tables around, dramatically Barcelona never knew what hit them as they were not able to pin down Chelsea even after getting a 2-0 lead and making Chelsea play with one man down after Chelsea Captain John Terry was red-carded and will be missing the final coming up May 19th, Terry was sent off 8 minutes before the halftime whistle was blown.

Barcelona forward man Lionel Messi who serves as the eye and wonder man for the Spanish club couldn’t add to the tally of his 63 goal season after he was availed a penalty spot kick and he whistled it against the bar just after coming back from the first half break, he also missed a screaming chance which flowed off the post.

Chelsea at this point believed in themselves and within the team on filed encouraged their fighting spirit despite playing with a man down went for the killer strikes as they came from 2-0 to make it a final 2-2 draw with a Fernando Torres breakaway and a quick dribble of goalkeeper victor Valdes to seal the equalizer minutes to the end of the second half.

With Barcelona’s dismal performance this season Barca coach admitted that this season is not Barca’s and their focus now will be on the King’s cup as Real Madrid are inching close to lifting the La Liga title and the coach’s future with the Barcelona is right now shady as he would be speaking club president Sandro Rosell days to come.