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Portugal keeps winning in Nations League without Ronaldo

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — No Cristiano Ronaldo, no problem. European champion Portugal sparkled on Thursday despite the absence of its star forward, defeating Poland to move a step closer to the last four of the UEFA Nations League. In two friendly games, Kylian Mbappe scored late to salvage a 2-2 draw for the world champions at home to Iceland, while two-goal Paco Alcacer helped Spain rout Wales 4-1 in Cardiff as the team claimed a third win in a row under new coach Luis Enrique. With young Sevilla striker Andre Silva scoring again, Portugal won 3-2 in Chorzow to take control of Group 3 of the top-tier League A in Europe's newest competition. Portugal now has six points from two games, five points ahead of Poland and Italy. Only the group winner advances to June's last four. A draw between Poland and Italy in Chorzow on Sunday will guarantee Portugal as the group winner. Portugal plays a friendly in Scotland the same day. "Overall we dominated," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "Poland started well and scored, but we were able to take control and were deserved winners." It was Portugal's third straight game without Ronaldo, who hasn't played an international since his transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus in the summer. Ronaldo has also been the recent subject of rape allegations. The 33-year-old forward denies any wrongdoing. Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek, Serie A's leading scorer, gave Poland an 18th-minute lead with his first international goal. The visitors equalized with a close-range effort from Silva after a pass from Pizzi Fernandes in the 32nd. It was his seventh goal in Portugal's last six competitive away games. Portugal made it 2-1 just before halftime with an own goal from defender Kamil Glik. "The two goals we conceded in the first half damaged our confidence and heavily influenced the game," Poland coach Jerzy Brzeczek said. Bernardo Silva added the third goal with a long-range shot in the 52nd minute before Jakub Blaszczykowski marked his record 103rd cap for Poland by pulling one back with a low volley in the 77th. Blaszczykowski has now eclipsed Michal Zewlakow on the all-time list of Poland appearances. Robert Lewandowski made his 100th appearance but was unable to add to his tally of 55 Poland goals. "It's not the result we were looking for," Poland defender Jan Bednarek said. "We wanted to make our fans proud. We had good moments in the game but bad ones too." RUSSIA STAYS TOP In the only game of the night in the second-tier League B, Russia drew 0-0 with Sweden in Kaliningrad. Russia, unbeaten against the Swedes since 1994, stayed ahead in Group 2 with four points, one more than Turkey and three ahead of Sweden. All the teams have played two matches. Russia hosts Turkey on Sunday in Sochi. ALL EVEN Israel's 2-1 home win against Scotland left all three teams in Group 1 of the third-tier League C tied on three points after two matches. Scotland is ahead on goal difference, followed by Israel and Albania. Israel hosts Albania on Sunday. In Group 4, Serbia stayed ahead with a 2-0 win in Montenegro, while Romania remained second with a 2-1 victory in Lithuania. LOWER LEAGUE In Group 3 of League D, Kosovo is top after a 3-1 home win against Malta, while Azerbaijan jumped to second with a 3-0 victory in the Faroe Islands......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnOct 11th, 2018

Soccer s big clash of nations not only at World Cup in 2018

By Rob Harris, Associated Press Footballing supremacy between nations will be determined in 2018, just maybe not in the way expected. The World Cup remains the ultimate prize in sport, and a Russia buffeted by doping scandals and geopolitical rifts will open up like never before to welcome thousands of fans. When the tournament reaches its climax in Moscow on July 14, the biggest global television audience of the year is likely to see the World Cup handed over. Will Germany be the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962? Can Neymar inspire Brazil to a record-extending sixth success? Will the players who have shared major individual honors for a decade — Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Lionel Messi (Argentina) — finally become world champions? But it became clearer in 2017 that appearing at the World Cup is no longer the only vehicle — or preferred means — for countries to validate their status and strength in the world's biggest sport. That isn't much of a reassurance, though, for Italy, the Netherlands and the United States who failed to qualify for Russia. The international soccer landscape is being reshaped by the Gulf state-funded clubs, and their clout reached new heights in the last year. Just as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates became ensnared in a diplomatic standoff, the jewels in their soccer crowns slugged it out in the transfer market pursuing the top talent. Around $300 million was spent in the summer transfer window alone by both Manchester City, which is owned by the UAE's Abu Dhabi, and Paris Saint-Germain, which is funded by 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar. The biggest statement came from PSG which more than doubled the previous transfer record by splurging 222 million euros on Neymar — an unexpected windfall for Barcelona but a deal that solidified the power shifts. Both PSG and City have already obliterated the field in their French and English leagues respectively and are racing toward regaining their domestic titles. The true test of power in this intriguing rivalry between energy-rich Gulf powers should be determined in the Champions League. The competition has been won in three of the last four years by Real Madrid, and the holders now stand in the way of PSG reaching the quarterfinals in March. Madrid and Barcelona remain in the control of their fans, a structure able to resist foreign ownership, although both teams have accepted injections of cash through UAE or Qatar sponsorships. The future spending capabilities of the nascent forces at PSG and City will be determined in the coming months. However wealthy their ownership, unfettered spending remains subject to curbs in an often forlorn attempt to maintain a competitive balance in competitions and prevent them stockpiling players. The ultimate threat hanging over PSG is exclusion from the Champions League unless it balances the books by cashing in on stars in the January transfer window. PSG's legal team is already preparing to take the fight to UEFA over its implementation of Financial Fair Play rules, having faced an earlier round of punishments — along with City — in 2014 that led to limits on the squad size and financial penalties. UEFA has also served notice on AC Milan that sanctions could be looming after around $250 million was spent in the summer by new private Chinese investors. Milan is an illustration of why authorities don't want clubs risking their financial health in the pursuit of success. Despite the investment, Milan is closer to the relegation zone than the top four Champions League qualification places halfway through the Serie A season. City is in a more advantageous position than either PSG or Milan due to its cut from domestic television rights. The Premier League is banking 8.3 billion pounds ($11 billion) from broadcasters under the current three-year deals, far eclipsing European counterparts. One of the early defining moments of 2018 in soccer won't happen on the field but in the Premier League's negotiations over the 2019-2022 rights. The winning outlets will provide an indicator of the vitality of traditional networks in an era of fragmented viewing habits where streaming platforms are luring viewers. The value of the deals will also influence the spending power of clubs in the coming years and the destination of the players. The flow of cash from Abu Dhabi since 2008 has already produced the dominant City team imagined by Sheikh Mansour. At the start of the second half of the season, Pep Guardiola's side enjoys a commanding lead over the previously pre-eminent Manchester United. How rapidly fortunes change in soccer. Guardiola, a serial title winner at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, was facing doubts over his managerial prowess as he opened his City reign with his first trophyless season. He remains on course for a quadruple at the second attempt. Across Manchester, it was Jose Mourinho buoyant in the first half of 2017 after collecting the Europa League and League Cup to offset a sixth-place domestic finish. But Mourinho enters 2018 in sullen mood, seething with envy about the lavish investment from Abu Dhabi that enabled Guardiola to remodel his squad. It's another indicator that with all the cash pumped into soccer by Gulf ruling families, the World Cup can no longer be relied on to determine the true kings of soccer in 2018......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

LOOK: Six must-see matches at 2018 World Cup

By James Ellingworth, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Next year's World Cup sees an old rivalry revived as Spain and Portugal meet in the group stage. Defeat for either 2010 World Cup winner Spain or reigning European champion Portugal means they would need to be careful against fellow Group B nations Morocco and Iran to avoid early elimination. Meanwhile, reigning champion Germany starts its defense against Mexico at Moscow's vast Luzhniki stadium in another centerpiece game. Here are six World Cup group stage games to watch: ___ RUSSIA vs. SAUDI ARABIA June 14, Moscow It may look more like a friendly than a show-stopping World Cup opener, but the first game of the tournament is always special. Ranked 63rd and 65th in the world respectively, the Saudis and Russians are the worst teams in the tournament according to FIFA. At least they're evenly matched, which could make for an exciting spectacle. Saudi Arabia won their only previous meeting 4-2 in a 1993 friendly. ___ PORTUGAL vs. SPAIN June 15, Sochi For many, this will be the game that really kicks off the World Cup in style — Cristiano Ronaldo against Andres Iniesta, the reigning European champion against the 2010 World Cup winner. Spain beat Portugal at the 2010 World Cup, and again in the semifinals of the 2012 European Championship, going on to win the tournament both times. Their World Cup meeting on the Black Sea coast may not be a thriller, though — the 2010 games finished 1-0, and the second was a goalless draw decided on penalties. ___ ICELAND vs. ARGENTINA June 16, Moscow The smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup has a huge reward. Lionel Messi's Argentina risks becoming the latest victim of the Icelanders, who beat England and drew with Portugal at last year's European Championship, winning the hearts of neutral fans across the continent along the way. If Argentina drops points, it will be under more pressure to beat tenacious Croatia and Nigeria in its next games. The stadium in Moscow has a capacity of 45,000 — or more than 10 percent of Iceland's population of around 330,000. If last year is anything to go by, there will be a huge exodus of Icelanders heading to Russia. ___ GERMANY vs. MEXICO June 17, Moscow The title defense begins here for Joachim Loew and Germany. The venue — Moscow's 81,000-capacity Luzhniki — befits a world champion, while Mexico brings quality opponents like forward Javier Hernandez and midfielder Giovani dos Santos. Anything less than a win will be a disappointment for Germany, which beat Mexico 4-1 in the Confederations Cup semifinals in June. Germany showed its immense strength in depth by winning that tournament with an experimental team lacking some of its biggest stars. Sweden and South Korea are on hand in Group F to take advantage of any dropped points. ___ SERBIA vs. SWITZERLAND June 22, Kaliningrad Switzerland is a long way from the Balkans, but there could be a Yugoslavian rivalry in Group E. The Swiss have several players of Kosovan and Albanian heritage in their squad, such as midfielders Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, while the coach is Vladimir Petkovic, who comes from a Bosnian Croat background. That won't escape the attention of the Serbian fans, whose games against other Balkan nations routinely require heavy security because of the region's long-running rivalries between ethnic groups. With Brazil the heavyweight in Group E, both teams will likely fight for second place, with Costa Rica also in the mix. ___ ENGLAND vs. BELGIUM June 28, Kaliningrad It's almost an English Premier League game when England meets Belgium in their final group stage game. England coach Gareth Southgate predicts "banter" at various Premier League clubs, thanks to Belgium's Premier League stars like Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku. Belgium's coach Roberto Martinez is a Premier League fixture too from his time with Everton and Wigan. If both England and Belgium have won their preceding games against Panama and Tunisia, the meeting could lose its edge — but if either team risks elimination it will be a crucial fixture......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 2nd, 2017

Rejuvenated Dutch strike late, into Nations League s Final 4

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press The Netherlands' recovery from one of the lowest ebbs in its history continued with a last-gasp qualification for the Final Four of the inaugural UEFA Nations League on Monday. Virgil van Dijk volleyed home a 90th-minute equalizer to seal a dramatic Dutch comeback in a 2-2 draw in Germany, allowing Ronald Koeman's rejuvenated side to top its qualifying group on goal difference ahead of France, and join fellow group winners Portugal, England and Switzerland in a five-day finals competition in June. So instead of seeing Kylian Mbappe, France's new wonderkid and star of the team's World Cup triumph in Russia in July, vying for another piece of international silverware, soccer fans will get to see if the Netherlands truly has turned the corner. The slump of the Dutch has been profound since they finished third at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. They failed to qualify for an enlarged European Championship in 2016 and also didn't make it to the World Cup this year. Three coaches — Guus Hiddink, Danny Blind, and Dick Advocaat — came and went. And with Dutch soccer at club level also in strife, debate swirled as to how one of the long-time heavyweights of the world game could recover. Under Koeman, though, the future of the Oranje looks bright. Youngsters like center midfielder Frenkie de Jong and center back Matthijs de Ligt are regarded as two of the most promising players in the world; Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum have returned to their best form over the last 18 months; and, in Van Dijk, the Netherlands has one of the best defenders around. A rock for Liverpool this season and last, Van Dijk — soccer's most expensive defender following his $99 million move from Southampton in January — sidefooted in a cross from the left to follow up an 84th-minute goal from Quincy Promes that gave the Dutch a glimmer of hope in Gelsenkirchen. The Germans had gone 2-0 up after 19 minutes thanks to Timo Werner's dipping shot from 25 meters and Leroy Sane's deflected effort from just inside the area. They couldn't hold on, though, and finished group play with no wins, just two points, and in something of a crisis. They didn't get out of their group in Russia in a dismal defense of their World Cup title, while relegation to League B of the Nations League — featuring Europe's second-tier teams — had already been confirmed after failing to win any of their first three group games. Germany coach Joachim Loew opted to stay in the job after the World Cup, but is now under mounting pressure. The Nations League, a new competition devised by UEFA to replace unpopular international friendlies with competitive matches between teams of a similar level, appears to have won over the skeptics, and the lineup for the Final Four is intriguing if hardly a marketer's dream. Portugal, which will be playing on home soil, has a superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo who should be back in the team after an extended absence from international soccer since the World Cup. England has Harry Kane, the top scorer at the World Cup, and a talented, dynamic group of young players under forward-thinking coach Gareth Southgate. Switzerland, which hasn't reached a quarterfinal of an international tournament since 1954, will be the outsider. The Netherlands, at No. 15, will be the lowest-ranked team in the competition but should not be discounted. This victory came three days after the team produced one of its best performances in years to beat France 2-0, while it beat Portugal 3-0 in March and Germany by the same score at home in the Nations League. The draw for the Final Four, which comprises of two semifinals and then a third-place playoff and final, will take place in Dublin on Dec. 3. Some other loose ends were tied up in the Nations League, which offers teams a second chance to qualify for the European Championship in 2020. The 16 group winners in Leagues A, B, C and D — or the next best-placed teams who have not already qualified via the European qualifiers starting in March — will progress to the Nations League playoffs and compete for the last four qualifying places for Euro 2020. NORWAY, MACEDONIA PROMOTED Norway was promoted to the second-tier League B after finishing top of Group C3 with a 2-0 win at Cyprus. The Norwegians started the final round of group play tied for points with Bulgaria, which could only draw at home to Slovenia 1-1. Macedonia went up to League C after beating Gibraltar 4-0 to top Group D4. Armenia, the only team that could have finished above Macedonia, ended up second after drawing at Liechtenstein 2-2. SLOVAKIA RELEGATED Slovakia was relegated to League C after losing at neighbor Czech Republic 1-0, with Patrik Schick scoring the winner in the first half with a deft lob over the goalkeeper on a counterattack. Denmark was already guaranteed promotion to the top tier and Ireland was sure of being relegated before they drew 0-0 in Aarhus......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 20th, 2018

England avenges Croatia WCup loss to get shot at new trophy

By Rob Harris, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Harry Kane's goalless streak was only five minutes from extending to eight games when the captain finally found the net again for England. As Ben Chilwell floated a free kick into the penalty area, Kane slid in, stretched out his right foot and nudged the ball into the Croatia net. It came four months too late to secure a place for England in the World Cup final. But the World Cup Golden Boot winner ensured England went some way to avenging the Moscow semifinal loss to Croatia by turning the tables with a 2-1 victory at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. While England advanced to the final four of the inaugural UEFA Nations League, Croatia was relegated to the second tier. Any doubts about what soccer's newest international competition means to England were dispelled in the relief and glee on Kane's face as he darted toward the crowd in celebration before being leapt on by Jesse Lingard as the Wembley crowd roared. Rarely in the 11 years since English soccer's national stadium was rebuilt has there been such tension for an international game. Not, perhaps, since the opening months when England was beaten by Croatia and denied a place at the 2008 European Championship. "I've never seen (Wembley) like this in an England shirt," the 25-year-old Kane said. "We are going to enjoy it so I hope the fans do too." For a competition that only debuted in September — to replace some largely meaningless friendlies — it has been quickly embraced in soccer's often-cynical heartland. The comeback from such a young side demonstrated a fortitude so often missing from a country that hasn't won a major title since the 1966 World Cup. "The most important thing is the connection with the fans," England coach Gareth Southgate said. "The energy that came back to the team in those difficult moments helped us get over the line." Now England has seven months to contemplate just how meaningful winning the Nations League would be in June. Portugal secured the hosting by winning its group on Saturday. Switzerland sealed the third spot on Sunday night by beating Belgium 5-2, before France or the Netherlands complete the lineup on Monday. "It's another semifinal, two wins away from winning a trophy," Kane said. "We showed that we can beat the big teams. Croatia and Spain are two of the very best in the world. So this is kind of our next step after the summer." Croatian players have said since July that they were inspired in the semifinal by what they perceived as arrogant undertones in the "Football's Coming Home" lyric in the "Three Lions" team anthem. Croatia went on to lose to France in the World Cup final. The song was played immediately after the final whistle on Sunday and even cited by Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic to congratulate England. "It's coming home," Dalic said in his only post-match comments in English. "Very soon." Fatigued after going the distance to beat Spain on Thursday, Croatia was unsettled throughout the first half by England's pace. But Croatia found its stride in the second half, taking the lead after 12 minutes after cutting through England down the right. Josip Brekalo played in Nikola Vlasic, who cut the ball across to Andrej Kramaric. Switching the ball between his feet, the midfielder twisted unchallenged before raising a shot into the roof of the net, via a deflection off Eric Dier's thigh. "We let a soft goal in," Southgate said, "and it is a real test of resilience and patience." The game turned on Southgate's double substitution in the 73rd minute that saw Jadon Sancho and Lingard enter. The impact was felt within five minutes and the set pieces that served England so well on the run to its first World Cup semifinal in 28 years proved decisive again. Joe Gomez's long throw-in was headed down by Kane through the legs of Hrvoje Millic and Lingard tapped in from close range for his second goal in two games after scoring in a 3-0 friendly win against the Unites States on Thursday. At the other end, Lingard came to England's rescue. Domagoj Vida's header had beaten goalkeeper Jordan Pickford but Lingard cleared off line. Parity was maintained but England was still facing relegation from Group A4. Only a win would secure top-tier status and with it a place in the semifinals. For the first time since the last-16 World Cup game against Colombia, and after 747 frustrating minutes, Kane found the target in an England shirt again. "Harry is the best goalscorer in the world," Southgate said. "We have huge belief in him. He is so hungry to lead the team on and further.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 19th, 2018

Portugal qualifies for finals, Italy earn positives in draw

By Daniella Matar, Associated Press MILAN (AP) — No Cristiano Ronaldo, no problem. Portugal drew with Italy 0-0 on Saturday to pick up the point it needed to qualify for the UEFA Nations League finals and confirm it as host of the first Final Four in June. Ronaldo is taking a break from the national team and wasn't present at San Siro, just as he wasn't in Portugal's first two Nations League matches — both of which they won. "There's a lot of satisfaction at having reached the final phase," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "It was a difficult match, much more than we thought it would be. When we had the ball it was difficult to build and that was merit to Italy and demerit to us. Italy had a great game." Poland has already been assured of finishing last in Group A3 and will be relegated to League B, and Italy will finish second. However, a year after Italian football's darkest moment, there are positive signs for the Azzurri. Italy dominated and had the better of the chances in front of a packed crowd in Milan but ended with a sixth successive home draw. The Azzurri have also scored only twice in four matches in the competition — but only conceded as many. "I don't think there's so many problems up front, it's a question of five centimeters here, 10 there," Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. The Azzurri almost took the lead as early as the fifth minute. Lorenzo Insigne unleashed a scorcher from distance which Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio did well to bat away, and Ciro Immobile fired the rebound over from point-blank range. There was a lot of good interplay from the hosts with crisp, efficient passing in the best performance seen by an Italy side in a long time. It was a far cry from Italy's last match at San Siro, when it drew with Sweden 0-0 last November and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. "Little by little we'll manage to sort out the attack, too," Mancini said. "Having so much possession in their half is something very significant. We're a step further ahead than we thought we'd be. We have to resolve this small problem (of scoring) but we will." The fans are also starting to fall back in love with the Azzurri, with 73,000 spectators at San Siro. LEAGUE B Sweden kept alive its hopes of promotion with a 1-0 victory at Turkey, which was relegated to League C. Andreas Granqvist netted the only goal with a second-half penalty after Okay Yokuslu brought down Marcus Berg. Sweden will be promoted on Tuesday if it beats Russia, which leads Group B2. LEAGUE C Scotland will win Group C1 if it beats Israel on Tuesday following a 4-0 victory over 10-man Albania in Tirana. Ryan Fraser scored his first international goal shortly before Albania captain Mergim Mavraj was sent off. Steven Fletcher doubled Scotland's tally from the penalty spot, and James Forrest netted a second-half double. Serbia beat Montenegro 2-1 despite Aleksandar Mitrovic missing a penalty and will win Group C4 if it beats Lithuania on Tuesday. Mitrovic scored Serbia's second, two minutes after Adem Ljajic opened the scoring, before chipping over from the spot. Lithuania lost 3-0 at Romania, which will go up if it beats Montenegro and Serbia fails to win. LEAGUE D Kosovo beat Malta 5-0 and Azerbaijan beat the Faroe Islands 2-0. The teams set up a winner-takes-all clash when they meet on Tuesday in Group D3, although a draw would be enough for Kosovo. The Nations League also offers a second chance to qualify for the European Championship in 2020. The 16 group winners in Leagues A, B, C and D — or the next best-placed teams who have not already qualified via the European qualifiers starting in March — will progress to the playoffs to compete for the last four qualifying places......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 18th, 2018

Lloris out of France squad with thigh injury

By SAMUEL PETREQUIN,  AP Sports Writer PARIS (AP) — France captain Hugo Lloris will miss upcoming matches against Germany and the Netherlands because of a muscle injury. The Tottenham goalkeeper, who did not play in his team's 2-1 loss at Watford over the weekend in the Premier League, has been ruled out of the two UEFA Nations League games this week. France coach Didier Deschamps called the uncapped Benjamin Lecomte as a replacement on Monday. The 27-year-old Lecomte, who plays for Montpellier, is regarded as one of the most promising goalkeepers in the French league. With Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda also out injured, Paris Saint-Germain keeper Alphonse Areola is expected to make his first appearance on Thursday in Munich. France then hosts the Netherlands at the Stade de France on Sunday for its first home game since winning the World Cup in July. Areola has been regularly called up by Deschamps over the past three years and was part of the World Cup squad in Russia. "He has been improving constantly with PSG," Deschamps said Monday. "He had a very, very good season and is now experiencing a new situation following the arrival of Buffon." Areola established himself as PSG's No. 1 keeper last season but the arrival of Gianluigi Buffon has revived competition for the top spot. With the exception of Mandanda and Lloris, Deschamps will be able to count on all the other players who won the tournament in Russia, including Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Raphael Varane. The trio failed to make the FIFA world player of the year shortlist on Monday. "A Frenchman would have deserved to be there, not only because of the world title, but also because of their whole season," Deschamps said. "I'm disappointed for them. They deserved to be among the three." Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Mohamed Salah made the final three while Lionel Messi was left off the list for the first time since 2006......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 4th, 2018

Ronaldo relies on teammates for winning league start at Juve

By Daniella Matar, Associated Press VERONA, Italy (AP) — A smile, a wink and a thumbs-up: Cristiano Ronaldo didn't seem too perturbed at not scoring on his Juventus debut. The 33-year-old forward appeared relaxed after Saturday's 3-2 victory against Chievo Verona and, although Ronaldo did not stop to speak to reporters, he responded with those gestures when asked how he felt his debut had gone. His coach wasn't too troubled either. "Cristiano Ronaldo had a good game. He had several shots on goal. Today he didn't score because clearly it was written somewhere that he wouldn't score," said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri with a smile. For the thousands of fans who descended on the medieval city of Verona, this was one of the rare occasions when the five-time world player of the year couldn't score. Ronaldo had scored in both pre-season friendlies he played for Juventus since his surprise 112 million euro (then $131.5 million) move from Real Madrid but could not find the back of the net on his competitive debut. And it was up to Federico Bernardeschi to rescue Juventus, with a stoppage-time winner as the Bianconeri fought back from a goal down to beat Chievo and get their pursuit of an eighth straight league title off to a winning start. Ronaldo should make his home debut next week against Lazio and there were encouraging signs for Juventus from this game. He linked up well with Douglas Costa, notably in the 18th minute when Ronaldo's effort went just the wrong side of the left post. Ronaldo also fired narrowly over from a tight angle on the half-hour, while he drew several smart saves from Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino, who is still going strong at the age of 39. The Portugal international almost scored the winner at 2-2, but Sorrentino got down quickly to beat away his angled free kick. "(Ronaldo) moved well at times but he wasn't picked out by his teammates," Allegri said. "He's a different footballer, you can see that. He's integrated into the team with ease." BALL TRICKS The excitement had been building in Verona since the fixtures were announced. The match at the Stadio Bentegodi was sold out and long queues to get in formed more than three hours before kickoff. The team bus carrying Ronaldo and his Juventus teammates was greeted by huge cheers, with fans crowding onto the balconies of the stadium. Ronaldo warmed up with crowd-pleasing ball tricks and Juventus fans cheered his every touch. BONUCCI BACK Juventus took the lead after just 162 seconds as Chievo failed to properly clear a free kick and Sami Khedira fired Juventus in front. The Bianconeri wasted chances to double their lead, with Ronaldo going close on several occasions. Mariusz Stepinski headed Chievo level shortly before halftime and Emanuele Giaccherini converted a penalty after being brought down by Juventus debutant Joao Cancelo. But Leonardo Bonucci marked his return to Juventus with a role in the equalizer after the Italy defender spent just one season at AC Milan. Bonucci headed in a corner in the 75th. The goal, which went down later as an own-goal from Chievo defender Mattia Bani, was met with a mix of cheers and jeers by the visiting fans. Mario Mandzukic's goal was ruled out by the video assistant referee shortly before full time following a foul on Sorrentino which led to an anxious few minutes as the goalkeeper received medical treatment on the pitch. ___ LOOK WHO'S BACK Carlo Ancelotti had a winning start to his return to Italian football as his Napoli team fought back to beat Lazio 2-1. Ciro Immobile scored a stunning opener for host Lazio but Arkadiusz Milik leveled in first-half stoppage time and Lorenzo Insigne netted the winner in the 59th. The 59-year-old Ancelotti took over from Maurizio Sarri at Napoli, who finished second last season, four points behind Juventus. Ancelotti has not worked in Italy since leaving AC Milan in 2009 after leading the Rossoneri to a number of trophies, including two Champions League titles......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 19th, 2018

Kompany exits early as Portugal holds Belgium to 0-0 draw

BRUSSELS (AP) — European champion Portugal held Belgium to a tame 0-0 draw Saturday, a result overshadowed by fears that defender Vincent Kompany may have sustained an injury early in the second half. Without waiting to be substituted, the injury-prone Kompany walked off shortly after the break after appearing to overstretch while making a defensive challenge. It was not immediately clear if he was injured or left the field as a precaution. The Manchester City defender's career has been blighted by injuries, but he appeared fit ahead of the pre-World Cup friendly at the King Baudouin stadium. Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne said it was too early to say whether 32-year-old Kompany was seriously hurt. "Maybe he only has something small to deal with," De Bruyne said. Kompany's departure was the major talking point in a disappointing goalless draw which underscored that Belgium's star-studded squad still has work to do if it is to live up to its billing as one of the favorites to win the World Cup in Russia. Belgium fans jeered their team off the pitch at full time. Portugal was without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was rested after winning the Champions League a week ago with Real Madrid. Without him, Portugal missed the handful of chances it managed to carve out. Portugal faces neighbor Spain, Iran and Morocco in Group B at the World Cup, while Belgium is in Group G alongside England, Panama and Tunisia. Belgium opened strongly, outplaying Portugal in the midfield, but could not turn its pressure into a goal. Portugal weathered the early storm and gradually took control. In the closing minutes of the first half, Bernardo Silva saw his powerful shot deflected just wide by City teammate Kompany and Gelson Martins shot across the face of the goal as Portugal came close to breaking the deadlock. Belgium's only serious effort of the opening half came when Yannick Carrasco shot just wide in the 31st minute. Belgium coach Roberto Martinez made four changes in the break, but the substitutes could not change the team's fortunes. Despite the Red Devils' wealth of midfield and attacking quality, it was left back Jan Vertonghen who came closest after the break. The Tottenham defender nearly marked his 100th appearance for Belgium with a goal, but saw Portugal goalkeeper Beto tip his effort over the bar just before the hour mark. "It wasn't bad, but we could do better," De Bruyne said. "We still have two or three weeks to get ready.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

Ronaldo and Portugal head to World Cup looking for more

em>By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press /em> Cristiano Ronaldo is headed to the World Cup with Portugal, and some of his teammates are already expecting another title. Ronaldo, as usual, was the country's key player as it won nine straight qualifiers to reach the tournament in Russia. And that came after the Real Madrid forward led the way to winning last year's European Championship, Portugal's first major trophy. 'Portugal always plays to win, and just like we did at Euro 2016, we are going to try to win the World Cup as well,' Portugal midfielder Bernardo Silva said after the 2-0 win over Switzerland at the Stadium of Light. Here's a look at some of the reasons why Portugal will be among the favorites at next year's World Cup: ___ strong>DECISIVE RONALDO /strong> Portugal again relied on the talent of Ronaldo, who thrived from the start of qualifying and finished with 15 goals in nine matches. He was one goal short of the qualifying record set by Poland striker Robert Lewandowski this year. Ronaldo scored in every qualifier he played but two — the win over the Swiss on Tuesday and the 1-0 win at Hungary in September, when he earned an assist with a perfect cross for Andre Silva's winning header. He didn't start in the 2-0 win at Andorra last week because he wasn't fully fit, but he came off the bench in the second half and scored the team's first goal and set up Andre Silva's second. Ronaldo didn't play in the team's opening loss at Switzerland because he was still recovering from a knee injury sustained in the Euro 2016 final. ___ strong>BALANCED SQUAD /strong> Portugal cruised after the opening setback at Switzerland, outscoring opponents 32-4 and finishing with the fourth-best qualifying campaign among all teams, behind Germany, Belgium and Spain. Only those three teams scored more goals than Portugal, and Spain and England were the only two nations which conceded fewer, three each. 'Portugal showed that it has a quality squad that can face any team out there,' Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. Among the team's victories were consecutive 6-0 routs of Andorra and the Faeroe Islands. It also defeated third-place Hungary 3-0 at home and 1-0 in Budapest. 'Even after the loss to Switzerland, we never doubted that we were going to finish first in the group,' Portugal midfielder Joao Mario said. 'We just had to do our job.' ___ strong>TIGHT GROUP /strong> Santos said he feels he has a unique group of players in his hands. 'I have a special relationship with the players,' he said. 'I have a lot of faith in my players and they know that. It's not easy to have 25 players with this mentality, generating such a fantastic atmosphere.' Bernardo Silva said they feed off the coach's confidence, and Mario said that all the players are behind him no matter what. ___ strong>KICK-STARTING PREPARATIONS /strong> Portugal is expected to begin its World Cup preparations with a friendly at neighboring Spain in November. The match is expected to be officially confirmed in the coming days. 'We are looking forward to having a good run in the World Cup,' Portugal midfielder William Carvalho said. 'But right now it's time to enjoy what we just did.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Napoli keeping pressure on Ronaldo-dependent Juventus

By Daniella Mata and Andrew Dampf, Associated Press MILAN (AP) — Last season Napoli pushed Juventus all the way in the Italian league before ultimately finishing second as the Bianconeri clinched a record-extending seventh Serie A title. This campaign, second-place Napoli is already six points behind Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Juventus. But the destination of the title is far from a foregone conclusion. Juventus proved it is not infallible when it dropped its first points of the season against Genoa last week. It also appeared lethargic in the first half at relegation-threatened Empoli on Saturday before rallying to win 2-1 — with two goals from Ronaldo. And the Bianconeri are arguably becoming too reliant on the Portugal superstar to rescue them when things aren't going their way. The 33-year-old Ronaldo has scored Juve's past four league goals as he shows little sign of being affected by a rape allegation in the United States. Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada last month claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. Ronaldo denies any wrongdoing. Ronaldo's two goals at Empoli — one a penalty and the other a 20-yard strike — maintained Juve's unbeaten start to the season. Napoli dropped vital points on Saturday as it needed a last-minute goal from Dries Mertens to snatch a 1-1 draw against Roma. However, coach Carlo Ancelotti believes his Napoli team is showing increasing signs of maturity. "I'm happy and proud," Ancelotti said. "We had a constant pressure despite conceding early, we created so many opportunities." FULLY FIT Just a few months after he thought he might have to quit football, Josip Ilicic is back to his best. Ilicic netted a hat trick in his first start of the season for Atalanta last week and did everything but score in his team's 3-0 victory over Parma on Saturday. The 30-year-old Ilicic spent most of the summer in and out of hospital with a bacterial infection. "As a man, the illness changed me a great deal," Ilicic said. "I want to thank everyone who stood by me during this difficult time. I look at the world differently now. I thought many times that I might have to give up football." SERIE B CHAOS A stay of execution has again upended a verdict in the lengthy saga over deciding which clubs belong in Serie B. On Wednesday, a regional appeals court overturned an Italian football federation decision from August that had reduced Serie B from 22 to 19 clubs. The earlier decision by the federation's emergency commissioner Roberto Fabbricini was made following the bankruptcies of Avellino, Bari and Cesena. Virtus Entella, Novara, Pro Vercelli and Ternana — the four clubs relegated at the end of last season — plus Catania and Siena, which lost in the Serie C playoffs, are all arguing for a place in the second division. However, on Saturday an appeal by the Serie B league temporarily overturned the decision from the regional appeals court. A final decision could be made at an Italian football federation board meeting on Tuesday. ___ Dampf reported from Rome......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 29th, 2018

El Clasico fires up La Liga on S+A

The La Liga gears up for another “El Clasico” match that will surely provide all the fireworks this weekend for Filipino football fans as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid face off for pride and glory this Sunday (October 28) LIVE on ABS-CBN S+A at 11:10 pm. Before the storied rivals take the field in Camp Nou, the English Premier League (EPL) will pit Leicester and visiting West Ham at 12:25 am on Sunday (October 28), to serve as appetizer for the main meal later in the day. Another EPL match-up will air on Tuesday (October 30), as Tottenham hosts the 2017-2018 EPL champions Manchester City LIVE at 3:55 am. However, all eyes will be on the age-long rivalry between Spain’s two biggest, and most successful, professional football clubs in Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barca leads the Los Blancos in their match-up with 112 wins against Real Madrid’s 99. This coming “El Clasico,” however, will be played without football greats and usual headliners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The pride of Portugal has transferred to the Italian side Juventus in the offseason, while ultimate rival Messi suffered an arm injury recently. Still, fans will have a lot to watch with Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez leading the attack line of Barcelona while the Los Blancos have Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, as well as 2018 Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year Luka Modric in the midfield. Meanwhile, French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germaine and Marseille will get on their own rivalry match in the Ligue 1 fixture airing LIVE on S+A on Monday (October 29) at 3:55 am. Brazilian star Neymar Jr. and 2018 FIFA World Cup star Kylian Mbappe, who has been a scoring machine with nine goals in six matches, looks to lead the Red and Blues against the Olympians bannered by Florian Thauvin, who has scored seven goals this season in the French clasico known as “Le Classique.” S+A and LIGA, sports channels of ABS-CBN Sports, were also the country’s official broadcasters of the recent the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. S+A also airs selected matches and highlight shows from top European club football leagues such as the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, and Italian Serie A through a partnership with Hong Kong-based holdings company Triple CH, as part of ABS-CBN Sports’ efforts to promote love and appreciation for the most popular sport in the world in the Philippines. Don’t miss the intense action in La Liga and the EPL this week as S+A brings the “El Clasico” between Barcelona-Real Madrid LIVE on Sunday (October 28) at 11:10 pm. Meanwhile, the EPL sees Leicester take on West Ham on Sunday (October 28) LIVE at 12:25 am while Tottenham hosts Manchester City on Tuesday (October 30) LIVE at 3:55 am, all on S+A. French premier football will take center stage on Monday (October 29) as PSG faces Marseille LIVE on S+A at 3:55 am. For sales and advertising inquiries, please contact ABS-CBN Airtime Sales at (+632) 415-2272. For more information and stories, visit ABS-CBN’s sports hub sports.abs-cbn.com and follow ABS-CBN Sports on Facebook and Twitter. For updates, follow ABS-CBN PR on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or visit www.abscbnpr.com......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 24th, 2018

Italy leaves it late to earn 1st competitive win in a year

By Andrew Dampf, Associated Press ROME (AP) — Italy is finally showing signs of emerging from its crisis, nearly a year after failing to qualify for the World Cup. Cristiano Biraghi's goal in stoppage time earned the Azzurri a much-needed 1-0 win in Poland on Sunday in the UEFA Nations League. Playing in Group 3 of League A, Poland became the first team to be relegated in the new European competition. Italy also hit the crossbar twice in the first half, first with Jorginho then with Lorenzo Insigne. Still, the match appeared headed for a scoreless draw until Biraghi slid in to redirect a corner inside the far post two minutes into injury time. "We dominated the game completely and should have scored earlier," Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. "A 0-0 would have been an unfair result. We played very well but we can still improve a lot. In football you only need time and hard work; magicians do not exist." It was the first national team goal for Biraghi, a full back at Fiorentina. Biraghi celebrated by making a No. 13 with his fingers, a dedication to former Fiorentina captain and Italy defender Davide Astori, who died from cardiac arrest in March. Astori wore the No. 13 shirt. "Astori is a part of me," Biraghi said. "I dedicate my goal to him because if I'm here it is only thanks to him and all the things he taught me when we played together." It was Italy's first competitive victory in more than a year, since beating Albania 1-0 in World Cup qualifying last October. It also ended a five-match winless streak in all competitions and gave Italy a slim chance to catch group leader Portugal. Portugal leads with six points, two ahead of Italy, while Poland is last with one. Italy hosts Portugal in its next and final match but then Portugal has another game at home against Poland. RUSSIA RISING World Cup quarterfinalist Russia needs only one more point to be promoted into League A following a 2-0 win over visiting Turkey in Sochi with goals in the Group 2 game from Roman Neustadter and substitute Denis Cheryshev. Turkey will be relegated from League B if it loses to Sweden on Nov. 17, while Russia can move up with a draw in Sweden three days later. GOALKEEPER ASSIST A long pass from goalkeeper Ariel Harush set up Israel's first goal by Tomer Hemed in a 2-0 win over visiting Albania in League C. Harush also made a series of saves before Israel got its second from Dia Seba. Israel is three points ahead of Scotland and Albania atop Group 1. Also in League C, Romania played the entire second half with 10 men and still drew 0-0 with Serbia. Serbia, which had captain Dusan Tadic miss a penalty, stayed atop Group 4, one point ahead of Montenegro, which won 4-1 in Lithuania. Romania is two points back. UNBEATEN KOSOVO Kosovo held on for a 1-1 draw in the Faeroe Islands to remain unbeaten atop Group 3 in League D. After Milot Rashica's early opener, Rene Joensen equalized after the break for the Faeroes. In the same group, Azerbaijan and Malta also played to a 1-1 draw, with Araz Abdullayev's second-half equalizer canceling out Rowen Muscat's opener for Malta......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2018

Dutch humiliate Germany in Nations League, Gibraltar wins

By The Associated Press Germany's UEFA Nations League campaign took a humiliating blow after a 3-0 loss at old rival Netherlands on Saturday. Germany remains without a win in the top-tier League A and has yet to score a goal. In the second-tier League B, the Czech Republic got its first win in the new competition — beating host Slovakia 2-1 — and Ireland and Denmark drew 0-0. In League D, Gibraltar won its first competitive game on a memorable night for the tiny territory. Here's a look at Saturday's games. NO GOALS FOR GERMANY Following its disastrous World Cup defense in Russia, Germany has been under pressure to show some progress but it didn't come at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Saturday night. The Germans failed to score for the third straight competitive game, including a humiliating 2-0 loss to South Korea in Russia and a 0-0 draw with France at home in the Nations League. Captain Virgil van Dijk scored only his second international goal before Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum added two more as the Dutch ran riot late in the game. The comprehensive defeat left Germany at the bottom of Group 1 with a single point, days before it heads to Paris to take on group leader and World Cup champion France. France leads the Dutch by a point at the top of the standings. The result also heaped more pressure on Germany coach Joachim Loew, who opted to stay in the job after the 2014 world champion crashed out of the summer's World Cup in Russia at the group stage. "Why are we not scoring? That's difficult to answer, we have clear chances," Loew said. "Had we lost 1-0, it would have been acceptable but breaking apart like this in the last 10 minutes is not good." Germany's scoring woes were personified by Loew's decision to play Mark Uth as a lone striker despite the 27-year-old Schalke player failing to score a goal this season. Uth didn't impress and was substituted in the second half. A corner from the right by Depay exposed German defensive frailties in the 30th. Ryan Babel rose between Jonas Hector and Mats Hummels to head against the underside of the bar and the ball bounced up invitingly for the unmarked Van Dijk to head in. Depay doubled the lead in the 87th, calmly finishing after a quick break down the right by substitute Quincy Promes. The Olympique Lyon striker then hit the crossbar in extra time before Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum made it 3-0 with virtually the last kick of the match as Germany crumbled. CZECHS WIN Substitute striker Patrik Schick scored the winning goal for the visiting Czech Republic to beat Slovakia 2-1 in Trnava. All the goals were in the second half. Three minutes after coming off the bench, Schick rose in the area in the 76th minute to head in a cross from captain Borek Dockal for his second goal in two matches. It was the first win for the Czechs in the competition after losing to Ukraine. Ukraine leads Group 1 in second-tier League B, with three more points than the Czechs. Slovakia remains pointless. Playmaker Marek Hamsik marked his record 108th appearance for Slovakia with his 22nd goal, a rebound after a corner, after Czech striker Michael Krmencik scored the opener following a through ball from Dockal. Ireland drew with Denmark in Group 4 in the only other game in League B later Saturday. Denmark tops the group with four points, one more than Wales in second. Ireland has one point. BULGARIA LEADS Ole Selnaes scored the only goal for Norway to beat Slovenia 1-0 in Group 3 of League C for its second win and trail leader Bulgaria by three points. Bulgaria rallied from a goal down to beat Cyprus 2-1. Cyprus has three points while Slovenia is on zero. GIBRALTAR ENDS LOSING STREAK Gibraltar's national team has recorded its first victory in a competitive match, a 1-0 win at Armenia, after losing its previous 22 competitive games. Joseph Chipolina got the historic winner from the penalty spot in the Group 4 game in League D. Gibraltar players had to listen to the national anthem of Liechtenstein before the match, a mistake for which Armenia FA apologized. Gibraltar hosts Liechtenstein on Tuesday. Macedonia kept a perfect record in the same group with a 4-1 victory over Lichtenstein to lead with nine points. The other three teams are tied on three points. In Group 1 of League D, Georgia made it three wins in three by beating Andorra 3-0 to dominate the standings with nine points. Andorra, Latvia and Kazakhstan all have two points after Latvia and Kazakhstan drew 1-1......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 14th, 2018

Galanza, Nabor earn National team spots

A mix of returning players and new blood will carry the nations pride in the AVC Asian Cup in Thailand. Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. released Friday a tentative lineup for the tournament set to run from September 17 to 23 in Nakhon Ratchasima. Top hitter Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado of Creamline will banner the Nationals, who will miss the services of six of core players that suited up for the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games last month. Back for another tour of duty are team captain Aby Marano, Mylene Paat, Cha Cruz-Behag, Maika Ortiz, Denden Lazaro and Mika Reyes. Making her return in the National squad are Grethcel Soltones, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Risa Sato and libero Mel Gohing while debuting for the tricolors are Jema Galanza and setter Jasmine Nabor. The six new members will replace injured playmaker Kim Fajardo, sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat and the De La Salle University trio of Kim Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron and prized libero Dawn Macandili. The Santiago sisters are set to debut in their respective clubs in Japan’s top tier league while Dy, Baron and Macandili will fly to New York as part of the Lady Spikers’ incentive for winning the UAAP Season 80 title.  The squad will fly to Thailand on September 14.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles       .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 7th, 2018

Serie A deadline day: Milan signs Laxalt, Marchisio exits Juve

MILAN (AP) — AC Milan signed midfielder Diego Laxalt from Genoa on the last day of the Italian transfer window Friday, while forward Gervinho returned to Europe with Parma and Juventus released veteran midfielder Claudio Marchisio. Laxalt won plaudits for his play on the left side of midfield as he helped Uruguay to reach the World Cup quarterfinals and scored four goals in 34 games for Genoa last season in all competitions. Spanish winger Samu Castillejo is also headed to Milan. Castillejo arrives from Villarreal, where he scored six goals in the Spanish league last season. Two Milan players moved in the opposite direction. Colombia forward Carlos Bacca went to Villarreal and Italian forward Gianluca Lapadula to Genoa. Both Bacca and Lapadula spent last season at those clubs on loan. Following a takeover last month by American hedge fund Elliott Management, Milan previously signed forward Gonzalo Higuain on loan from Juventus and also brought in midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko on loan from Chelsea. The former Roma and Arsenal forward Gervinho ended a two-year spell playing in China by signing for Parma on Friday. Parma said the 31-year-old Ivory Coast international signed a three-year contract. Juventus pulled off the biggest transfer of the summer in Europe by signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid. But a popular Juventus player left on deadline-day. Marchisio, who joined 25 years ago as a seven-year-old, departed after what the club called "the agreed termination of his contract." The industrious Marchisio played nearly 400 games for the club, scoring 37 goals and winning seven Serie A titles, but has been less prominent since a cruciate ligament injury in 2016. He played 15 times in Serie A last season. Napoli brought goalkeeper David Ospina from Arsenal on a season-long loan. The Colombia international — who played at the World Cup — fell down the pecking order at behind Peter Cech and Bernd Leno at Arsenal. Another player left the London club for Italy, with Joel Campbell joining newly-promoted Frosinone. The Costa Rica forward had been an Arsenal player since 2011 but spent most of his time on various loan deals, including with Real Betis last season, and hadn't played a competitive game for the Premier League club since the 2015-16 season. Atalanta added to its midfield options by signing Argentine player Emiliano Rigoni from Zenit St. Petersburg on loan. The Russian team said the loan deal includes an option to buy Rigoni......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 18th, 2018

Atletico beats Real Madrid 4-2 after extra time in Super Cup

By Frank Griffiths, Associated Press TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Atletico Madrid finally got the better of Real Madrid on the European stage, scoring twice in extra time to win 4-2 in the UEFA Super Cup final on Wednesday in its rival's first game without Cristiano Ronaldo. Atletico got off to a flying start with Diego Costa scoring the competition's fastest goal just 50 seconds in, but Madrid came back to take a 2-1 lead as Los Blancos tried to prove they can still win trophies without Ronaldo and with a new coach. But Costa equalized late in the match with his second goal before Saul Niguez and Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion sealed the victory in extra time on a cool night in Estonia's capital. Atletico's victory over its crosstown rival had added significance after it lost two Champions League finals to Madrid in 2014 and 2016. Diego Simeone's team was also eliminated by Madrid in the 2017 semifinals. "I'm elated," Costa said. "Real Madrid has always beaten us in these finals. It was our turn to win a final." The loss leaves new Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui still having to prove that there is life after Ronaldo, who scored 450 goals in 438 matches before joining Juventus this summer and helped lead the club to three straight Champions League titles. "I'm sad. I'm frustrated. It's a final that we lost," Lopetegui said. "But I also know that we will have to wake up and prepare ourselves for our first league match and start the season on the right foot." Gareth Bale showed glimpses of his pace and skill, but couldn't mimic Ronaldo's ability to decide a game on his own. Instead, Costa was the one who dominated at the Lillekula Stadium in Tallinn. He overpowered Madrid's center backs in the first minute after a long ball from Stefan Savic, first winning a header against Sergio Ramos and then muscling past Raphael Varane to cut into the area where he beat goalkeeper Keylor Navas at the near post. Karim Benzema equalized in the 27th minute, heading in a pinpoint cross from Bale, who was able to break away from Lucas Hernandez on the right and curl the ball into his fellow forward's path. Bale, who was given a freer role than he's used to, caused trouble for Atletico's defense in the first half as he switched between wings. He was Madrid's main creative spark at that point, with his teammates constantly trying to feed him the ball. He faded in the second half, but Lopetegui was pleased with Bale's performance. "Gareth has played very good. In this moment of the season, all the players are not in the best physical way," the coach said. "We are happy with his performance and we hope he's going to put in deserved performances in the next matches." Sergio Ramos scored a penalty in the 63rd minute after Juanfran Torres handled in the area as the ball flew over him from a corner. Juanfran made up for it in the 79th by taking the ball off Marcelo near the touchline and then passing to Angel Correa. The substitute then skipped past a couple of Madrid defenders and cut the ball back from the byline to Costa, who poked the ball into the roof of the net. In extra time, substitute Thomas Partey set up the decisive goal when he stripped the ball off Varane and played a one-two with Costa before dribbling toward the byline. Partey then cut the ball back to Saul Niguez, who volleyed the ball first-time to send the ball past Navas to make it 3-2 in the 98th. Koke finished Madrid off with a cool finish in the 104th. Lopetegui, who joined Madrid in controversial fashion and was fired as Spain coach just before the World Cup, will need to show that he can build on the success of predecessor Zidedane Zidane and can win with new tactics. At times, Madrid looked uncomfortable playing under the new possession-based system and seemed to miss Ronaldo's flair and proficiency. "We need to improve on the all the phases of the team," Lopetegui said. "We don't like to make mistakes." Madrid had to play without new goalkeeper Thibault Courtois, as the former Atletico player didn't even dress for the match. Spanish media reports said the team didn't register him in time with UEFA following his transfer from Chelsea. For Atletico, the victory gives the team a boost before the season starts, Simeone said. "The club is growing. We have a new stadium," he said. "We have players who want to join us, players who don't want to leave us. I think this speaks volumes.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 15th, 2018

Ibrahimovic joins Ronaldo in skipping MLS All-Star Game

By Paul Newberry, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — The MLS All-Star Game will feature one of the world's most storied clubs. Unfortunately for the more than 70,000 fans expected at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Cristiano Ronaldo is not along for the ride. After Portugal's elimination from the World Cup and his transfer from Real Madrid, the five-time FIFA Player of the Year took time off rather than accompany Juventus on its American preseason tour, which includes Wednesday night's game against top players from Major League Soccer. The decision will surely be a disappointment to the big crowd that had hoped Ronaldo would make his unofficial debut while touring the United States with the Italian club that has won seven straight Serie A championships. Juventus acquired the 33-year-old from Real Madrid on July 10 in a deal his new club said was worth 112 million euros ($131.5 million) — the largest for a player older than 30 . Also sitting out the U.S. tour, which includes three other exhibitions, is Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain. He is coming off a scoreless World Cup in which he didn't start in the round of 16 loss to eventual champion France. "Obviously these guys are world-class players," said Atlanta United's Brad Guzan, a goalkeeper for the MLS team. "With or without them, it will be a difficult game. But their names alone bring a lot of attention. It's a shame for everybody on the outside. For me, personally, hopefully it makes for an easier night." Most players take three weeks off after the World Cup. Juventus opens its Serie A schedule at Chievo Verona the weekend of Aug. 18-20 . "We are sorry not to have the Ronaldo, and Higuain as well," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said through a translator. "Unfortunately, they played in the World Cup. They needed some days to rest." Ronaldo and Higuain won't be the only big names missing from the game. One of MLS' top new stars, LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, announced Monday that he's skipping the All-Star match rather than make a cross-country trip to Atlanta. The 36-year-old Swede cited the grind of playing three matches in an eight-day span, including Sunday night's 4-3 victory over Orlando City in which he scored his first MLS hat trick. Ibrahimovic ranks second in MLS with 15 goals. He played with Juventus from 2004-06. "I am disappointed to miss the 2018 All-Star game against Juventus, one of my former clubs," Ibrahimovic said in a statement. "I want to thank the fans for voting me to the team. My main focus is to score goals and help the LA Galaxy to the playoffs." The Galaxy (10-7-5) are unbeaten in nine games and have climbed to third place in the Western Conference. Per MLS rules, Ibrahimovic will also have to sit out LA's next match Saturday against Colorado, one of the league's worst teams. New York City forward David Villa also will skip the All-Star Game after missing six matches with a knee injury. Ibrahimovic and Villa were replaced on the MLS roster by Minnesota forward Darwin Quintero and New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams. Atlanta United coach Gerardo Martino, who will be guiding the MLS team, said the timing of the game does pose problems. "In reality, I recognize it's a little bit of a challenge for coaches who have players participating," Martino said through an interpreter. "Some players are coming from teams where they've played three games (in the last week). Some had a long trip to get here, like from Vancouver. I understand it's a very beautiful spectacle for the league and the United States. But I think what we have to look at in the future is to have it at a different time, either before or after the season. "We have to make sure the players arriving here in good condition are also returning to their teams in good condition." But MLS is eager to show off its most compelling success story. Atlanta shattered the MLS attendance record in its debut season, averaging 48,200 per game, and is on pace to break that mark this year at nearly 52,000 per game. The club already has the five biggest stand-alone crowds in MLS history — each more than 70,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The league expects another record crowd for its All-Star Game, breaking the mark of 70,728 in Houston for the 2010 match in which Manchester United defeated the MLS squad 5-2. An extra 1,500 tickets have been put on sale to meet the demand. "It's been fantastic to see the support that the city has given the club," Guzan said. "There's not many cities around the world that have what we have here in Atlanta. I'm happy to have the opportunity to showcase this to everyone.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 31st, 2018

Deschamps joins Zagallo, Beckenbauer as champ player, coach

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Didier Deschamps walked into the interview room in the bowels of Luzhniki Stadium and prepared to answer questions for the first time as coach of a World Cup champion. A noise to his right caused him to turn, and his players rushed in. A bare-chested Benjamin Mendy jumped onto the table in front of Deschamps, and Florian Thauvin leaped up, too. Olivier Giroud and probably a dozen more giddy buddies sprayed their boss with bubbly, beer, cola and water. "This is third time I got changed, and I still smell just as bad," Deschamps said through a translator. He lifted the trophy as his nation's captain following the first title at Stade de France in 1998, and now he watched Hugo Lloris raise it in a Russian downpour following Sunday's 4-2 win over Croatia. The 49-year-old joined Brazil's Mario Zagallo (1958-62 as a player, 1970 as a manager) and West Germany's Franz Beckenbauer (1974, 1990) as the only men to play and coach a world champion. "Well, I don't really like to talk about myself, but I'm going to be forced to do so a little bit, of course," Deschamps said. "I had the immense pleasure and immense privilege to live through this as a player 20 years ago, and it was in France, so of course it will be marked in my memory forever. But what the players did today is just as beautiful, is just as strong." His players had to be brawny. They lifted Deschamps after the match and flung him into the air, over and over. "They've always been a little bit mad, my players," he said. Deschamps was a defensive midfielder for Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia from 1985-2001, winning the Champions League with Juve in 1996 and the 2000 European Championship with France in addition to the World Cup. He coached Monaco, Juventus and Marseille before taking over France in 2012. His national team coaching career included a quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Germany at the 2014 World Cup and a 1-0 defeat to underdog Portugal in the Euro 2016 final. It seemed like film noir — he said there's an upcoming documentary coming out. "Two years ago, it was so, so painful to get past this opportunity of being European champions," Deschamps recalled. "But maybe if we had been European champions, then we would not have been world champions today. I did learn a lot myself through this final." Now the story arc includes happiness. He posed for photos on the field with wife Claude and Dylan, cradled one of the hardest trophies to win in sports. He hugged son Dylan as the 22-year-old waved a French tricolor. "When we were world champions, he was too young to understand," Deschamps said. "And today there are young people who are maybe 15, 16 years old, and they've lived through that. They had this happiness, to be able to live this event with us — of course maybe to be crazy and a little bit mad." Based on the losing experience of 2016, he revamped the team's routine ahead of the final. Player relaxation was at the forefront. And it worked. "They had to get that star, that shining star," Deschamps said, referring to the symbol that goes above a national team's crest to indicate a World Cup won. "I'm proud for them, and I'm also proud of myself — with all the humility, of course.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 16th, 2018

Vive la France! And a lot of other nations, too

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Antoine Griezmann's father emigrated from Germany, and the France forward's mother is of Portuguese decent. Paul Pogba's parents arrived from Guinea. Kylian Mbappe's dad is from Cameroon, his mom Algerian. Immigrants, sons of immigrants and grandsons of immigrants bonded together with scions of families that have been French for generations, all for the rouge, blanc et bleu. And for only the second time, France is the World Cup champion. About two-thirds of Les Bleus' roster included players with immigrant backgrounds, a mini-United Nations of soccer talent. "That is the France that we love," Griezmann said through a translator after Sunday's 4-2 victory over Croatia ended the most exciting World Cup final in decades. "It's beautiful to see it." Griezmann's free kick was headed in by Mario Manduzkic for the opening own-goal in the 18th minute, and then he converted a penalty kick for a 2-1 lead in the 38th after video review spotted a handball by Ivan Perisic. Mbappe's speed led to the third goal in the 59th . He added a goal of his own in the 65th , at 19 becoming the second-youngest scorer in a World Cup final behind 17-year-old Pele in 1958. Vive la diversite! A day after Bastille Day, the party was on. "The diversity of the squad is in the image of this beautiful country that is France," midfielder Blaise Matuidi, whose parents are from Angola and Congo, said through a translator ahead of the match. France won on a humid night in Russia, with thunderclaps during play and a downpour during the trophy presentation. Quite different from that indelible summer evening at Stade de France in 1998, when fans in the arena and throughout Paris sang "La Marseillaise" until dawn and young teenagers drove cars while their intoxicated parents sat in passenger seats. People called that team "Black, Blanc, Beur," noting how white, black and North African players came together. Zinedine Zidane, a son of Algerians, headed in a pair of first-half corner kicks against heavily favored Brazil. Patrick Vieira, born in Senegal, fed Normand-born Emmanuel Petit for the third in the 3-0 win. This year's team was perhaps even more diverse. Defender Samuel Umtiti was born in Cameroon and backup goalkeeper Steve Mandanda in Zaire. Others descended from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Mococco and Senegal, plus Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. "There may be players who come from different origins, but we do have the same state of mind," Griezmann said. "We all play for the same jersey, the cockerel. For our country, we give everything we have. As soon as you wear the jersey, we do everything for each other." He scored the go-ahead goal after the first video review-created penalty kick in a World Cup final. During a delay of about four minutes that might have unnerved less-composed players. Griezmann told himself to pretend it was a league match. "Carry on and do the same thing as I normally do," he remembered thinking. At 27, he in his prime but in the penumbra of Spanish soccer at Atletico Madrid, toiling in a league that Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate. He led the 2016 European Championship with six goals and tied for second with four at the World Cup, three on penalty kicks, earning the Bronze Ball as third-best player behind Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Belgium forward Eden Hazard. Griezmann kissed the trophy, knowing his generation will be revered in the same way Zidane, Petit, Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram and Fabien Barthez remain renowned from Calais to Cannes. "From tonight on, I'm sorry for them, but they are going to be different," coach Didier Deschamps said. "Those 23 players will be linked forever, forever. Whatever happens — they might follow different paths, but they will be marked forever and they will be together thanks to this event." Griezmann, man of the match in a World Cup final, will be on posters throughout the republic, asked for endorsements, a mainstay of commercials. He will asked for autographs for the rest of his life. "I'm going to be in the history of French football with my team," Griezmann said. "We don't quite realize it yet. Our children will very proud to have our names.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 16th, 2018

Ronaldo, Portugal unable to continue great run at World Cup

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo couldn't carry the team by himself this time. The five-time player of the year, who scored four goals in his opening two matches at the World Cup, was eliminated from the tournament on Saturday after Portugal lost to Uruguay 2-1 in the round of 16. "We gave our best," Ronaldo said. "The team played well. As the team captain I am proud of this group." Portugal won the 2016 European Championship and came to Russia with high expectations following the surprise title in France two years ago, its first in a major tournament. Ronaldo started off this year's tournament with a hat trick against Spain and then added another goal against Morocco. But on Saturday, it was Edinson Cavani who scored twice to earn victory for the Uruguayans. "No team can win with one player alone," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "He tried. The team didn't win because Uruguay scored twice." Portugal hasn't reached the World Cup quarterfinals since 2006, when a young Ronaldo led the team to the semifinals. Back then, Portugal lost to France and eventually finished fourth after losing to Germany in the consolation game. Ronaldo, now 33 and still playing some of the best soccer of his life, failed to provide the spark Portugal needed against Uruguay. Ronaldo's great start in Russia allowed him to surpass the combined total of three goals he had scored in his previous three World Cups. He also joined Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler as the only players to score in four World Cups. The four early goals in this year's tournament had put him in position to contend for the "Golden Boot" trophy, but he was surpassed by England striker Harry Kane's five goals in the group stage. Despite his fast start in Russia, Ronaldo missed a penalty in the 1-1 draw against Iran in the third game. He also was nearly given a red card when his elbowing of an opponent was reviewed on video. Prior to the World Cup, Ronaldo led Real Madrid to its third straight Champions League title, but he arrived in Russia surrounded by distractions about his club future and a tax fraud accusation back in Madrid. He had said he would talk about his club future after joining the national team, but avoided the subject from the start. He only spoke briefly with the media in Russia. "Now it's not the time to talk about the future," Ronaldo said. "I'm sure that the national team will remain as one of the best in the world. We have great players, a fantastic group.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 1st, 2018