Friday Kickoff: UEFA votes to give UCL place to Europa League winners; Tijuana squander lead in Libertadores; and more

ChelseaCelebrateEuropaLeague1 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

Starting next season, the UEFA Europa League champions will have a protected place in the Champions League the following season.

UEFA confirmed the news on Friday, hoping to give teams more motivation to play stronger sides in the competition. The decision would also ensure the winner of the Europa League a place in the Champions League despite where they finish in the league. Chelsea qualified for this season’s Champions League through last year’s dramatic penalty kick win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, despite finishing fifth in the English Premier League.

Prior attempts to raise the level of the competition included placing the third-place team from the Champions League group stages into the knockout rounds of the Europa League. Both Chelsea and Benfica, this year’s finalists, entered the competition in this fashion.

UEFA also chose Berlin’s Olympic Stadium to host the 2015 Champions League final.

Here are some more stories to lead off your Friday:

XOLOS BLOW TWO GOAL LEAD, DRAW MINEIRO

Club Tijuana squandered a two-goal advantage by conceding twice in the second half, drawing Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro, 2-2, in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals.

Tijuana opened the game’s scoring with a 32nd minute finish into the near post by winger Duvier Riascos. Forward Fidel Martinez, with his Neymar-like hairstyle, missed an open header just five minutes into the second half, but couldn’t miss from close range again, finishing into an open net in the 53rd minute to give his side a shock 2-0 lead.

In the 66th minute, Mineiro pegged one back as forward Diego Tardelli knocked a deflected corner kick just over the line, despite a desperate attempt to stop the ball by Xolos goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo. In the second minute of stoppage time, Mineiro completed the comeback, as Xolos defender Javier Gandolfi whiffed on a clearance attempt, allowing Mineiro substitute forward Luan to finish through Saucedo’s legs and into the back of the net.

The stage shifts to Belo Horizonte in Brazil, where the two squads will face off once more in the second-leg. Also in action on Thursday night in the Copa Libertadores, Boca Juniors drew Newell’s Old Boys, 0-0, in a battle of Argentine clubs. It’s the first of three meetings between the clubs in a week, two in the Copa Libertadores and one in the Argentine Primera Division.

CRUZ AZUL DEFEAT AMERICA IN CLASSIC BATTLE

Cruz Azul defeated Club America, 1-0, in the first leg of the Liga MX Clausura playoffs final on Thursday night.

Midfielder Christian Gimenez header into the far post off a corner kick in the 20th minute proved to be the only goal of the match, as Cruz Azul takes the advantage heading into the second leg in the Estadio Azteca on Sunday.

America’s forward pair of Christian Benitez and Raul Jimenez never got going in the Estadio Azul as Cruz Azul defenders Julio Dominguez and Gerardo Flores combined to keep the dangerous strikers off the score sheet.

The match was a physical battle, marked by two yellow cards to each side and nearly a sending off for Gimenez, whose theatrics after the slightest touch from America defender Aquivaldo Mosquera earned the big Colombian a yellow, but not Gimenez.

RAPINOE, LYON FALL IN WOMEN’S UCL FINAL

In her final game for French club Lyon before jetting back to America, Megan Rapinoe only made it through halftime before being substituted, watching her team fall to German side Wolfsburg, 1-0, in the Women’s UEFA Champions League Final.

Martina Muller of Wolfsburg scored the only goal of the match from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute, taking advantage after Lyon defender Laura Georges handled the ball in the box.

Lyon was considered a juggernaut as they won the last two Champions League finals, going undefeated in the competition with a 24-0-2 record in the last three years, but like in 2010, they weren’t able to win in the final match.

QUICK KICKS

Gibraltar have been given UEFA full membership, becoming the organization’s 54th member. (REPORT)

Inter Milan have sacked manager Andrea Stramaccioni after a poor season, leaving Inter out of European competition. (REPORT)

Real Madrid have offered $26 million plus Jose Callejon to Malaga for young starlet Isco. (REPORT)

Stoke City have contacted Mark Hughes to take over for Tony Pulis as club manager. (REPORT)

Manchester United have refinanced £178 million of their debt, which should save them on average £10 million per year. (REPORT)

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What do you make of these reports? Do you believe UEFA is making the right decision on the Europa League winners? Do you see Xolos scoring in Brazil? Do you see America winning at home?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in European Soccer, Featured, South American Soccer. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Friday Kickoff: UEFA votes to give UCL place to Europa League winners; Tijuana squander lead in Libertadores; and more

  1. HoboMike says:

    Three cheers to UEFA finally getting something right.

  2. slowleftarm says:

    Always thought the Europa league is a bit of a waste, at least since they opened up the Champions League/European Cup to non-champions. I think they could merge it and have a 64 team group stage but maybe just have the group winners go through. Or something else.

    • THomas says:

      As a Fulham fan, I can assure you that their run to the final was probably the best experience I’ve had since I began following the team. So no, the competition is not a waste.

      • fischy says:

        There ya go. The billions of Euros that have gone into this tourney haven’t been wasted, because some Yank was thrilled by the run of “his” team.

        • Ross says:

          As a soccer fan how can anyone think that the Europa Leauge is a waste? It’s more soccer to watch.

          • DCUnitedWillRiseAgain says:

            +1 for Ross. Tournaments are great because of the inevitable David vs. Goliath matchups they produce.

        • Ceez says:

          I never understood that!! It’s ridiculous.

          During my early childhood years, there was no MLS, not until 1996. I was 11 by then. But before MLS came around, I only watched what was on tv (Argentine League dominated in my house, the Peruvian league, and then the European leagues). I took a liking to ManU and Real Madrid. It was inevitable at the time.

          However, I can NOT call a team which I have never seen live “my” team. I have NO CONNECTION WHATSOEVER to European teams other than I watch them on tv. I now root for the Merseyside teams (both Everton and Liverpool draw me in) as well as any team with an American on its roster, obviously. But they are not “my” teams. It makes no sense. I only have one team that I can call “MINE”. It’s the team that I watch every single week (whether on tv or LIVE AT THE STADIUM), whose players’ names I know, whose starting roster I can predict week-to-week, whose front office moves I criticize with fervor, whose freshly cut grass I can actually smell. That team is the Red Bulls. Back in ’96, they were the MetroStars. How can I call a team “my” team when I have never had season tickets for that team?

          I never understood that. Never will.

          • Yevgeniy says:

            +1,000. If everyone in US was like you and me, MLS would be at Ligue1’s level today

            • bryan says:

              Nothing wrong with doing both! I have to say I find myself calling Madrid “my team” or saying “we” when discussing them.

              but i do the same thing with DC United, LA Galaxy…and most importantly…the USMNT.

          • Eric W says:

            Yeah I feel really similarly Ceez, if perhaps a little less emphatic about it. I yearned for soccer on TV as a kid and was so excited when I got season tickets to the inaugural season for the Revs. They’re my only team.

            I had a fondness for Arsenal after reading Fever Pitch as a teenager. And I like Barcelona largely for political reasons. But when I’m at a bar in California and Americans start talking about how the game is “1 – nil” or something happened on the “pitch” or acting like they actually have something at stake in a Tottenham vs Chelsea rivalry – I throw up a little bit in my mouth.

          • Betamale says:

            I think you’re missing something here though. Something that draws American fans to European soccer teams is the tradition & history that was created back at a time where sports was all about the passion as opposed to these huge corporate entities where fans are turned upside-down by the owners & sponsors until every penny is out of their pockets.

            The excitement you see in the stands is something that was built over decades & centuries of fans’ passion.

            We are naturally drawn to that, especially since MLS is hell-bent on squeezing people for all we are worth. Try going to a Galaxy game sometime. After the $50 ticket, $20 parking, $15 beer, $7 hotdog it sucks a bit of the passion out of you… especially when the regular season game you just spent $200 to bring your son to literally means nothing in terms of who wins the Championship.

        • FulhamDC says:

          Yeah, better to have another venue for Chelsea and Arsenal and the other big teams, cause they just dont get on TV enough.

  3. Findley is the American Bofo says:

    Actually, the Europa winner into the Champions League doesn’t start next season – the article says the 2015 winner will gain entry. Next season is 2013-2014 (2014 winners), so it will be yet another year before the automatic entry rule kicks in.

  4. WK says:

    argh- Xolos could’ve been in good/better position before heading back to brazil. now have to win away i suppose.

    • PBJOHN says:

      Xolos are dreaming BIG. You never know what can happen.

      • Increase says:

        Playing for a draw is always risky. They would probably want play for a win down there anyway. Now they just must play for a win.

  5. The Imperative Voice says:

    I’ll be interested to see what happens with Gibraltar on the presumed next step because FIFA has let in some regionally-admitted (ie, part of CONCACAF, UEFA) sub-parts but not others, yes to Puerto Rico, the individual parts of the UK, the Faroe Islands, etc., no to Martinique, etc.

  6. Sam says:

    Dan, I think you meant to write that Chelsea had qualified for this year’s champion’s league by winning it last year, not because they had won the Europa.

    • fischy says:

      He wrote “through winning it” — I suppose “it” was unspecific, but “it” was not a mistaken reference to Europa.

  7. The Imperative Voice says:

    If you just survived the drop, and parted ways with a decent albeit conservative coach in the process, I don’t know if picking up the coach who QPR fired 12 games into the season, without a league win, is very wise. He does have a sparkling player resume and some coaching success but Mark Hughes has just helped send down a team that was in a similar relegation risk.

  8. Chris Dos says:

    Edgar Castillo has got to start as LB for the USMNT. and FJ as LW…Castillo is playing at a high level right now, arguably one of the best players for Xolos last night.

    • PBJOHN says:

      He was pretty cool under fire. Kept posession well and passed great. Too bad he missed a sitter in the first half. That would have been something!

    • bryan says:

      he’s certainly making it interesting for JK. my guess is, between Beasley and Castillo, one will be used sparingly in WCQs in order to have them for the Gold Cup. i thought Castillo was destined for the Gold Cup but it’s no longer a clear decision.

  9. Shane says:

    Sounds like the Lyon loss was the coach’s fault. That’s what you get for taking off your proven big game playmaker – stupid, stupid, stupid. Hope Rapinoe gets herself out of France and never looks back.

    • ld says:

      Sounds like Rapinoe was not playing well and was subbed off – good coaching.

      • Shane says:

        Rapinoe nearly scored on a header and Lyon nearly scored off one of her crosses. Sounds as if she was playing well with the few looks she had of the ball due to the coach instructing her to stay very wide. She also scored in their two previous matches of the tournament, but by all means lets blindly say the coaching is good because you know he’s European.

  10. Travis says:

    Chelsea finished sixth last year in EPL, not a big deal but just an fyi

  11. bryan says:

    i truly hope madrid do not let jese or morata go. callejon…fine. but please don’t let the other two go. i already think we should get carvajal back.

  12. Eric says:

    “sarlet” is for a female. just saying.

  13. THomas says:

    So now that Gibraltar are admitted to UEFA and they have 54 members, UEFA qualifying groups can be an even (9) groups of (6) teams. That’s significant because now every result will count, even the games against minnows. No more dropping the results against the groups worst team for deciding who gets into the playoffs.

    Essentially, teams are going to thrash the minnows even more to run up goal differential. A victory for Gibraltar but good luck to San Marino and the Faroe Islands, it’s going to get worse than it already is.